- Flashpoint time for the Mets:
This season has gone remarkably well considering the doom that was predicted by the shark infested waters of the media, many of whom would have liked nothing better than to see the team crumble to the depths only inhabited by the Pittsburgh Pirates. So invested were they in the Mets downfall that it became a cause célèbre in which they exercised an angry mob mentality and joined together in a gutless and arbitrary fashion to try and get the club ownership to clean house of everyone from GM Omar Minaya on down through the entire coaching staff and a large chunk of the players.
Adam Rubin hates Omar Minaya; Mike Francesa loathes David Wright; Joel Sherman despises the Mets; Michael Kay is....well, I'm not quite sure what Michael Kay is and does.
But it hasn't been that simple.
Rather than have a season in which the decisions were made for them, the team has performed brilliantly at times and looked like the worst team in baseball at others. This has been a boon and a detriment. Clarity is transient in such a circumstance. Clarity makes life easier.
Are they a team that should hesitate before dumping manager Jerry Manuel? Wait before trading marketable veterans like Pedro Feliciano? Pause prior to testing the market for Carlos Beltran and make it a prerequisite that any team that wants Beltran also has to take Luis Castillo?
Or is it time to abandon any hope that Jeff Francoeur will ever learn to have some patience? Time to replace Manuel and give the new manager a head start for 2011? Start playing more youngsters to join with the impressive array of Ike Davis, Jonathon Niese and Josh Thole?
This week will determine what they should do. Back-to-back trips to play the first place Braves and the contending Phillies will direct the course of the club. If things go well (4-2), the Mets should hold their fire (literally and figuratively); wait, see what happens and hope they can stick around in contention in anticipation of another hot streak and possibly steal a playoff spot; if they go poorly (2-4 or worse), it's time to start moving toward 2011 and, more importantly, 2012.
This team is in a similar situation as the clubs from 2005 and 1983-84. Low expectations, but improving; money available and the ability to sneak up on people; a surprisingly fertile farm system ready to bear fruit. Unless the club utterly collapses like the Orioles have in the second halves of recent years, they should not do something drastic like firing GM Omar Minaya with two years remaining on his contract. Truth be told, he doesn't deserve to be fired given the way the system is now producing.
Mets fans don't want to hear that. They repeatedly implore bold changes without a realistic solution to the problems. There are pie in the sky wishes that the great Billy Beane will bring his Moneyball "magic" to New York; that someone, anyone from the Red Sox organization will replenish the club in the same way as the Red Sox have become an annual contender; that Gene Michael will come out of semi-retirement to rebuild; that Kevin Towers will take over; then there are the ridiculous and agenda-driven notions like Sandy Alderson, Paul DePodesta (yurgh), or someone with a stat-based theory.
Number one, Minaya's not getting fired; number two, the Mets don't hire that way. For better or worse, they do not import outsiders. It's always someone who's currently with or came up through the organization. For the most part, the team's had success in recent years and it's not a ridiculous way to run things.
If a change is made, it won't be any of the aforementioned names. Beane's star has crashed and burned and he's exposed as a mediocre GM and relentless self-promoter with little in the way of practical success to bolster him any longer; the Steinbrenners will not allow Michael to take over the Mets; Towers has become quite popular with the way the Padres have risen after his firing, but he's not the savior he's portrayed to be, in fact, he's quite mediocre historically and is living off a few smart moves that worked out well; Alderson and DePodesta? Uh, no.
If a change is made, it will either be assistant GM John Ricco taking over or they'll bring Gerry Hunsicker in from the Rays. To me, the only choice would be Hunsicker; and it would be a good choice.
At any rate, Minaya is not getting fired! He'll receive----and deserves----2011 to redeem himself.
Regarding the manager, the Mets appear to be prepared----again barring a total collapse----to let Manuel finish the year in a similar way as they did Art Howe after Minaya took over as GM. He'll be fired, but he'll finish the year. It does and doesn't make sense. Also, baseball edicts decree that a minority candidate must be interviewed when making a new hire.*
*Does that still apply if the manager who's being fired is a minority? If the manager who's being fired replaced a minority? Baseball probably wouldn't have an answer to that.
The fans want blood, but it's easier and less controversial to wait until the end of the season and dismiss the manager and some of the coaching staff. On the other hand, it also makes sense to install the new manager on an interim basis (presumably Bob Melvin, a respectable manager strategically and in the clubhouse) with Terry Collins as the bench coach and let them see what they have for 2011; after that, go through the process of interviews----Eric Wedge, Fredi Gonzalez, Chip Hale----before deciding on a permanent replacement with Melvin having a leg up.
If things go poorly on this trip, I'd make the change immediately.
Regarding the players, I can't continue to defend Francouer. His smile and enthusiasm are to be admired; he's well-liked in the clubhouse, plays hard every day and his talent is undeniable; but it's as if he starts to slump and goes right back to square one with his impatience. He almost openly says, "this is how I do it, sink or swim" and it's mostly sink. From early in the season when he tried to show more selectivity and didn't swing at anything and everything, he's lapsed into the same bad habits that got him run out of Atlanta and isn't putting up a pretense of trying to wait for a good pitch to hit.
Another bad week and it's time to sit or trade Francoeur and let Fernando Martinez get a chance to play regularly for the rest of the season.
Martinez has been hitting in the minors and is healthy (for now); the Mets have brought up their younger players to impressive results and need to see what they have in F-Mart. That time is a week away.
The Mets did the right thing by holding off on any capricious trades at the deadline and the fans are agreeing with the reluctance to trade the likes of Jenrry Mejia and the other youngsters to rent a player who isn't going to make that much of a difference one way or the other----that's exactly what the Mets have been ripped for in the past and put them in the predicament they were in when Minaya took over. They have to continue to be smart; and being smart is giving their formerly most-prized prospect----Fernando Martinez----a good long look in the big leagues; and replacing the manager.
We'll know the direction by next week.
I'm confident they'll do the right thing.
- The Chone Figgins chronicles:
Whom to believe?
As the trade deadline approached, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN said on Twitter that the Mariners approached the Braves about taking Chone Figgins off their hands.
Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times said it was the other way 'round; that the Braves asked about Figgins and were told no.
I respect Crasnick and think Baker is a pompous and condescending dinosaur with an agenda, but that has nothing to do with my believing Crasnick in this case.
If the Braves approached the Mariners about Figgins, would Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik---lauded for his cold-blooded business approach to running his team and fearless aggressiveness----have dismissed the thought out of hand with a curt "no"?
Would the Braves----a club with payroll constraints----have taken the Figgins contract even if the Mariners agreed to pay a portion of it? Figgins has been a train wreck on and off the field for the toxic wasteland that is the 2010 Mariners and they'd undoubtedly love to be rid of him; they would've engaged the Braves in trade talks and presumably taken very little back in order to get out from under the Figgins albatross.
The contract pays Figgins a guaranteed $25 million after this year (with, by my estimation, approximately a bit less than $4 million remaining on this year's salary), and a vesting option for 2014 that will kick in if Figgins reaches 600 plate appearances in 2013; and I can tell you right now that if Figgins is in a bodycast, he'd find a way to "mummy" his way up to the plate to reach that number of plate appearances.
Would the Braves absorb that deal? And play Figgins where? He can play center field, but hasn't been out there regularly since 2006 and isn't particularly good at it; so where? Second base? What would they do with Martin Prado? I suppose they could play Figgins wherever as a roving utilityman. But he's a speed player who's entering his mid-30s; chances are that by 2012 he's going to be pretty much useless. The duration of the contract was ridiculous to begin with before getting to the money and I said so at the time.
Zduriencik's reputation as a "genius" is taking a flogging this year; Braves GM Frank Wren isn't exactly Branch Rickey, so anything is possible. Logically, I find it hard to believe that the Mariners wouldn't have jumped at the chance to rid themselves of Figgins for anything the Braves were willing to give them.
Because of that, I'm with Crasnick that it was the Mariners who floated Figgins's name to the Braves and not vice versa.
- Viewer Mail 8.2.2010:
The good news on the Wood trade (at least for me) is that when a guy comes to NY and doesn't work out (Randy Winn, LaTroy Hawkins, etc), the Yankees don't wait around for results. They just move on to somebody else. So if Wood can't get it done, dump him.
I agree that it's no-risk, but I can't believe the Yankees think this will work considering how bad Wood's been in the past two years. If they do, then their arrogance in thinking their coaches can fix anyone and everyone is beyond the scope of sanity.
Adrian Gonzalez..(side-bar) ~ San Diego was the first NL team to get 60 wins this year. This is the team Kevin Towers got fired for building. Are we really sure S.D. won't come up with some cheddar and retain him? Gonzo just might give em a little home town break if they keep up their pace of play.
My honest opinion bout the Yankee moves ~ these were the type of clutter-some, one move too many, moves that make players on the bench get lost in space; the kind that caused the Yank's early eliminations from '02 thru '08.
Did you catch how at the winter meetings past, Omar said how much other teams liked our prospects. Those were his exact words he used this time around at the deadline almost verbatim. Is that being frank or believing your own lies? LOL.
I'm reluctant to give Towers as much credit as everyone else is for the Padres; he did some brilliant things (Gonzalez; the Jake Peavy trade; and Heath Bell); he did some utterly stupid things like claiming Randy Myers off waivers from the Blue Jays in 1998, having the Blue Jays say, "he's yours" and getting stuck with the remainder of Myers's contract----Towers almost got fired for it.
Firing him after last year was a strange thing to do for the Padres especially after letting him conduct the negotiations to trade Gonzalez and trading Peavy, but owner Jeff Moorad has a right to bring in the GM he wants; he'd inherited Towers and wanted Jed Hoyer; I can't blame him for that. Towers will not be the next Mets GM. If I had to bet, I'd say he ends up with the Cubs.
Gonzalez has said he wants to get paid and he appears ambivalent about playing in his hometown. He's not giving a discount and he will get traded.
As much as people make fun of some of the things Minaya says and does, it turns out he was right about many things this past winter. Fans wanted Jason Marquis (injured for the Nationals); they wanted Ben Sheets (injured for the Athletics); Jon Garland (better than John Maine and with a flashy record for the Padres but still mediocre); Joel Pineiro (even though he's hurt, I still say that's the one they missed); and Bengie Molina (no thanks). Jason Bay hasn't been good, but no one thought he'd have 6 homers in August. Matt Holliday was not coming to the Mets; he didn't want to leave the Cardinals and the Mets weren't coming close to matching the Cardinals offer.
The system is looking quite good now. Give Omar a break.
I'll also be a guest tomorrow to talk about the trades among other things; listen to the last appearance if you quite literally....can....not....wait to hear my voice. I'll understand. I love hearing my own voice too. I'm addictive.