A topic not much discussed in the wake of the signing of Michael Cuddyer, is the lineup flexibility he provides to Terry Collins. If you’re sold on Lucas Duda as your everyday first baseman, and I’m not, he’s going to have to show marked improvement against left-handed pitchers. Last year, in what was clearly a breakout season, Duda only hit .180 in 111 at bats against lefties with only two of his 30 home runs coming against them. If that lack of production against left-handed pitching were to continue in 2015, I would think that Collins would be wise to shift Cuddyer to first base and sit Duda against lefties. The Cuddyer signing was an excellent one. He lengthens the lineup, is widely regarded as a good presence in the clubhouse, provides lineup and defensive flexibility and bides time for last year’s first round pick, Michael Conforto, to develop in the minors and not get rushed through the system. This was a move that instantly made the Mets a better team and the only downside is Cuddyer’s recent spate of injuries but that was not reason enough to not make it. Oh, and he wanted to be here! When was the last time we heard a player say that? Now let’s just hope that we don’t see a repeat of last off-season, when General Manager Sandy Alderson made a quick early splash into free agency by signing Chris Young and didn’t make any other moves of significance thereafter.
I certainly was not surprised by the move to fire Willie Randolph and have even campaigned for it, however, how is it that the move I was yearning for has left me with an empty feeling? A feeling that the ownership and front office for the team I root for is lacking in class, is paranoid, and just might very well be clueless!
The way this situation was mismanaged affirms the results we have seen on the field over the past 175 games, dating back to last season, where this team actually has a record that is a few games under .500. It was easy for Omar to take this team from where they were in 2004 to where they were in the Fall of 2006. All it took was the open checkbook the Wilpon’s provided him with. What has proven much more elusive is how to close the gap between playoff contender to championship contender.
With an opportunity to set the record straight and send a message to the team and fan base, it seemed as though Omar was more intent on proving that this decision was solely his and assert his control over the baseball operation. He repeated this thought countless times during his rambling and sometimes incoherent press conference. He must be great one-on-one because he is not a polished public speaker and his constant stammering makes it clear that he is not able to adequately translate his thoughts into words. His Mike and the Mad Dog radio interview on WFAN after the press conference was even more painful to listen to.
Message to the Wilpon’s….if this is the way that the man you entrust with your baseball team is going to handle your team’s affairs, it’s time that you take some of his control away. It’s time for you to step in and begin vetoing moves he wants to make or the manner in which he wants to make them. How Willie Randolph went from villain to martyr is something that you have to examine very closely. The blood of this embarrasment is on your hands and you have your man Omar to thank for that. You better do something real quick because I’m sure that nothing will be more embarrassing than empty seats next year in your beautiful new stadium. This team is beginning to be hated right now and this team was put together by your man Omar.
The spotlight now shifts to Omar and the remainder of this season will be a referendum on him. He ridiculously fires Rick Down last year and brings in Rickey Henderson and Henderson is not even a part of the coaching staff this year (we all know the reason why….it’s the same reason that everyone questioned his hiring last year). He then attempts to clean house and start fresh with these firings but only half the staff is let go. With all of this time to prepare for the eventual move, Jerry Manuel was the best that he could do? He’s either clueless or there just may be something to the ethnic favoritism claims that continue to be mentioned. There are also the questionable baseball moves that he has made in trying to get this team over the championshio hump and his complete disintegration of a bullpen that has gone from the team’s strength to its weakness.
The bloom is off of the Minaya rose and the negative side of the ledger is beginning to fill in much more quickly than the positive side. This is your team Mr. Wilpon and the way the organization conducts itself off of the field is a direct reflection of you. Omar has embarassed you on the field and now he’s forcing everyone to question the class of your organization off of it. Don’t think that free agents will not be apprehensive about signing with a perceived Mickey Mouse operation. That’s a perception that you have to change and that can only change with the decisive leadership that your man Omar does not seem capable of providing. Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock……that’s the sound of the clock possibly running out on another lost season where expectations were so high and on the tenure of Omar Minaya.
How much longer will it take to make the obvious move and cut ties with Willie Randolph? Do you consider that comment to be piling on? Well let me count the ways that this can be the only conclusion to come to.
1. This is a sub-.500 team going back to last June 1 (nearly a full season’s worth of games). When do you stop thinking that you’re better than you are and begin to realize that this is exactly what you are?
2. After experiencing the agony of one of the worst collapses in baseball history, you would think that would be enough to change Willie’s managerial style, however, he still manages the same exact way! He relies too heavily on his bullpen, leans too much on his veterans and rarely makes a move that leads to a win from the bench. When was the last time he made a move that directly led to a win? He invoked Herman Edwards’ name recently and he’s a lot like him in the fact that they both were abject failures are managing in-game situations. At least Edwards was a good motivator of his players off the field.
3. Willie goes and does exactly what he admonished Billy Wagner for and creates a unnecessary distraction for his team with his stupid and idiotic comments to Ian O’connor in hinting that race has something to do with the criticism he’s received recently. It has nothing to do with race and everything to do with his clear failure to progress and grow as a manager during his time at the helm.
4. His failure to realize that maybe he has to do something to light a fire under his team and get their attention. If the blown Delgado home run call in the Yankee game last Sunday night wasn’t enough to get him fired up and ejected, nor was the ejection of his bench coach who was clearly told by the umpire to “shut up,” then nothing will ever cause him to take a stand for his players or do something that’s out of character for him in an effort to spark this team.
Willie talks all about how he knows his team and how he knows NY because that’s where he comes from. Could have fooled me because why does he go small town and criticize the fans for their reaction to this pathetic, lifeless and overpaid team? Everything he has done has been a miscalculation and he has no clue how to go about reversing the course that this season is taking. He just continues to roll out the same lineup and bear witness to the same mind boggling results. Move Delgado down to the 6th spot….window dressing. How about doing something much more drastic and dropping Reyes down in the lineup and making him earn his way back to the leadoff spot? How about not continuing to depend on the same pathetic relievers when you continue to see failure on their part? How about letting your starting pitchers get out of late inning jams, even if they have already thrown 100 pitches? How about changing your managerial style because it’s clearly not working? How about realizing that while you may like to treat your players like men (a common phrase of his), there comes a time when they may need to be treated like babies and kicked in the rear end, especially when they’re not responding to your professional and adult minded attempts at motivation? How about doing something that shows you want to keep your job because you realize that your season is at a crossroads and desparate times require desparate measures?
It must be that Willie’s just in denial. Remember, this was the same guy who showed such great leadership late last year that he continually stated that the free fall the Mets were in was only going to make the champagne taste that much sweeter. He’s lost as a manager and he’s lost his team. As a result, the team has lost its fan support. The team has to be met when it returns from this dreadful road trip tonight and informed that their play has cost their manager his job. It’s time for ownership to make the bold move that Minaya appears unwilling to and take control of this situation before another season is lost.
With the final Opening Day @ Shea upon us and the hated Phillies sitting in the visitors dugout, it’s time for the Mets to step up their intensity and play like the championship caliber team they believe that they are.
Anyone can win a series from Florida and with the starting pitchers the Mets faced, they should have won all three games to begin the season. Then they go to their familiar house of horrors in Atlanta and get swept in an abbreviated series. Don’t think that didn’t reinforce Atlanta’s good vibes about their offseason beliefs that they had closed the gap in the division.
The non-alarmists will forever say “it’s still too early,” however, I look at a team that’s basically been a . 500 team for the better part of half a season dating back to last year and think that they better get it going in this series and defend their home turf. It will not take much for the boo birds to appear and then can the “fire Willie” chants be far behind? It may very well be early but Willie has a very short leash this year. He will not be allowed to mis-manage away another playoff appearance and with Pelfrey going on Wednesday, Opening Day becomes a pretty important early season game. Important to avoid an early three-game losing streak and important to send a message to the Phils and home faithful about putting last year in the rear view mirror.
The season should be able to begin to develop a rhythm now with the Mets only having one more off day the rest of the month and their remaining home for 15 of their next 22 games. Now is the time to begin playing well and put the rest of the NL East on notice!
With the start of the 2008 baseball season one week away for our beloved Mets, I wanted my first post to focus on the last time I will talk about last season’s historic collapse and the person I blame most for it….Omar Minaya.
Sure, Willie deserves more than his fair share of the blame but that will come in due time should the team struggle out of the gate to begin this coming season. However, Minaya is my target for the extreme lack of organizational depth we were witness to last September. Phil Humber? Mike Pelfrey? Brian Lawrence????? Yep, these were guys making critical starts and pitching critical innings for us in September.
I would expect any GM to be able to acquire quality players if his boss opens up the checkbook as the Wilpons did in allowing Minaya to sign Pedro, Beltran & Wagner. When an owner does that it’s not difficult to turn a 90-loss team into a 90-win team. What is proving much more difficult for Minaya to do is to take a playoff contending team and make it into a championship contending team.
A big reason for that might be his complete fumbling of the bullpen. Heath Bell wasn’t good enough to be a set up guy for us but he’s now shutting things down in San Diego leading up to Hoffman, while we wonder if Duaner Sanchez can get back to his 2006 pre-cab ride role. Henry Owens and Matt Lindstrom were forces in the 1st half for Florida last year before injuries befell them. Don’t forget about the wonderful three-year contract given to Schoenweiss and the confusing two-year guaranteed contract given to Mota on the heels of his steroids suspension.
There have been other examples and I just shudder at the state of our organizational depth now that we acquired Santana (a trade which had to be made and which I was in complete favor of). We’re already seeing this problem rear it’s ugly head with Alou and Delgado. We have infielders playing outfield and are depending on journeyman like Angel Pagan and Brady Clark to fill the void.
Things better break right for us this year because there isn’t much in terms of reinforcement on the way. Minaya gets the benefit of the Santana trade to buy him more time and Willie will be the sacrificial lamb should things not go well this season. However, I’ll continue shining the light on the fringe moves that Minaya makes or doesn’t make that completes this team and gives them what they need to get over the hump.