The Mets are 8-10. They’re in fourth place, but only 3 games behind the struggling first-place Marlins.
This week, the Mets take on the Marlins and the Phillies. A strong showing can put them back into first place. But if they struggle, the Mets could end the week 5 or 6 games back. If that happens, heads could start rolling.
The Unusual Suspects
Who gets fired? Let’s first look at who will NOT be fired:
- Jeff Wilpon will not be fired. He’s the boss’s kid, after all.
- Omar Minaya will not be fired. Jeff Wilpon has too much invested in Omar to cut him loose.
- Jerry Manuel will not be fired this early. At worst, Jerry will get the Willie Randolph treatment – he’ll dangle for a few more weeks while ownership insists he is their guy. Then they’ll cut him loose, but only if the Mets continue to scuffle at or below the .500 mark.
- Howard Johnson is a likely candidate for firing. The Mets have been miserable with RISP. However, the team batting average is .283 and they have five regulars hitting over .300. Besides, the Mets may be reluctant to fire a coach with such strong ties to the team’s past – especially with recent fan reactions to the Wilpon’s lack of respect for the organization’s history.
Dan’s the Man
That leaves pitching coach Dan Warthen. Warthen replaced Rick Petersen last season and his old-school approach to pitching has been praised by ownership, fans and the media. Keep in mind, though, that Petersen was generally considered to be a pitching guru by ownership, fans and the media – until he was fired. The point is, Dan Warthen is not untouchable.
Pitching is the Problem
We’re all well aware of the Mets pitching problems. Johan Santana has been dominant, but the other four starters have been inconsistent at best and downright awful at times. Santana is 3-1 with a 0.70 ERA, while Pelfrey, Perez, Maine, Hernandez and Nelson Figueroa are 3-5 with a 7.32 ERA.
What are the Options?
When a team is struggling, the easiest move is to do nothing. The second easiest move is to fire a pitching or a hitting coach – the GM and manager save their jobs and no players are traded. At best, the move could shake things up enough to ignite a team. At worst, nothing really changes. It’s a fairly clean process and there is only one victim. Just ask Bob Apodaca or Rick Down.
So how does an organization go about firing a pitching coach? If you’re the Mets, you lay the seeds early. From today’s NY Times Blog:
“The Mets are high on Buffalo’s pitching coach, Ricky Bones. Should they decide to demote Perez, it would be interesting to see whether Bones could correct Perez’s flaws while also easing his psyche. No one enjoys being sent to the minors, especially those who have had success at the major-league level. Myers was humbled by the demotion. The Mets hope Perez would be, too. But that happens — the Mets’ worst-case scenario — Perez will get one more start to prove he belongs in the big leagues.”
Geez, Ricky Bones may be a great pitching coach, but this reeks of a leak from somewhere within the Mets front office.
To recap, here’s what the Mets have done:
- Announce an isolated problem (Perez)
- Create a worst-cast scenario (Perez gets sent to the minors)
- Create a potential savior (Ricky Bones)
The Worst Case Scenario
If Perez gets sent down, you can assume the Mets will still be struggling. Fans will be calling WFAN and demanding that SOMETHING be done.
Let’s say Perez has a few dazzling starts in AAA. It’s not hard to imagine that Perez could fan 15 batters in AAA – he really only has to stay in the strike zone and he should dominate down there. When that happens, word will start to circulate that Perez is back on track. Ricky Bones’ name will be mentioned in the papers, on SNY and on WFAN.
Oliver Perez will return from AAA with Ricky Bones. Dan Warthen will be out. And ownership can say they gave the fans what they asked for.
Of course, Warthen’s job is safe if the Mets go on a winning streak. But it’s nice to know the front office is ready to make him a scapegoat, just in case.