The Zionist Conspiracy
Monday, October 01, 2007
The Worst Team Money Could Buy: The Collapse of the New York Mets
A generation goes and a generation comes ... What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.
The title of this post has already been taken by Bob Klapisch to describe the Bobby Bonilla led early 90's Mets, but it aptly describes the 2007 New York Mets, an arrogant, listless, underachieving group led by an overrated GM and a clueless manager.
Contrary to the media reaction, the Mets stunning failure to hold a seven game division lead with 17 games to play was not the worst possible outcome. It would have been much worse for the Mets to have held on, won the division, and then lost in the NLDS. The magnitude of the Mets failure will hopefully demonstrate that significant changes must be made.
The remaining readers of The Zionist Conspiracy should not be at all surprised by the performance of the 2007 Mets. Prior to the season, I sharply criticized Omar Minaya's offseason moves, particularly with respect to the Mets pitching staff, especially the bullpen. I therefore wrote, on March 29, that:
The 2006 Mets blew the team's best opportunity in 18 years to win a World
My prediction was very slightly off - the Mets finished 88-74, and in third place in the wildcard race.
After the Mets opened with a good start, Elster wasted little time mocking my preseason analysis, particularly my attack on Minaya's bullpen moves. Throughout the season Elster took a contrarian view to any Mets-related criticism I proffered, either for the sake of being contrary or because he is simply unable to apply his intelligence to rational analysis of sports.
The person most responsible for the September fiasco is Minaya. He built this Mets team, made numerous offseason moves that hurt the team and very few that helped, and could not acquire anyone other than Luis Castillo and Jeff Conine (for whom he traded two prospects!) down the stretch. Minaya was responsible for the Mets using a 6 man rotation so as to give Pedro Martinez extra rest, resulting in Brian Lawrence and Philip Humber losing one game after another down the stretch. Minaya's trades for highly paid veterans resulted in Humber and Pelfrey being the Mets sole remaining major pitching prospects above A ball - and neither of them met expectations. Minaya learned nothing from Orlando Hernandez's 2006 breakdown, instead giving him a 2-year contract at $6 million per, and not only left the Mets unable to replace El Duque when the 2007 breakdown occurred, but failed to obtain any decent number 5 starter, instead trading away potential AL Rookie of the Year Brian Bannister. Minaya, who hired Willie Randolph, fired Randolph's hitting coach, and stuck cardplayer extraordinaire Rickey Henderson onto the coaching staff. He also left Randolph with few bullpen options and a starting pitching staff that rarely could get to the 7th inning even on a good night.
But Minaya is going nowhere, so Mets fans can only hope that Randolph takes the fall. Anyone who has watched the Mets these past three seasons knows that Willie is not exactly a master strategist. He even remains mystified about how to pull off the double switch. We were told, however, that he is a "winner" and a motivator for whom players will play hard. The reality is that Randolph not only completely lost this team, he led the collapse himself, by repeatedly insisting that the Mets were the best team in the NL and insinuating that their talent entitled them to the pennant. It was hardly surprising that the Mets never demonstrated a sense of urgency as their lead disappeared.
With the Wilpons having ceded complete authority over baseball decisions to Minaya, I think Randolph will be back, but I hope I'm wrong. I doubt he'll be managing the Mets in 2009.
There must be wholesale player changes, as well. Tom Glavine had a great career. He is done. The end comes suddenly for lots of pitchers, and the Mets cannot again pay $13 million to a pitcher who begged the Braves to take him back, gave his team no chance to win in his last three starts, and then expresses nonchalance after mailing it in yesterday.
The bullpen mess won't be completely fixed this offseason, but the Mets can look to sign Turk Wendell and Dennis Cook type workhorses who can pitch 70+ games and give them much more than they got from Scott Schoeneweis and Guillermo Mota. Scott Linebrink is hardly a star, but he fits that mold.
Unfortunately, Billy Wagner has now performed poorly late in two consecutive seasons, yet he will be the Mets 2008 (and 2009) closer.
Carlos Delgado also appears to be nearing the end. His bat speed is not nearly what it was, yet with a huge salary, he is untradeable. So he too will be back.
Jose Reyes had a disgraceful last month of the season. He suddenly turned into a bum, failing to run out grounders and picking a fight Saturday that motivated the Marlins yesterday.
Little help can be expected from the Mets farm system, which is severely depleted so that guys like Jeff Conine could finish their careers in a Mets uniform.
With the Phillies loaded with young talent and the Braves likely to be contenders, the future may be bleak for the Mets.
The man who can best fix the Mets is the anti-Willie, Bobby Valentine. He is a brilliant baseball man who plays the best players and refuses to give free passes to veterans, gets a lot out of marginal players, and will not accept lackadaisical play. Unfortunately, Bobby V leading the Mets probably will never again be more than a memory or a pipe dream.