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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

And so Willie is done
Posted by Jill | 5:36 AM
In the wee hours of this morning, the Mets stopped playing Henry VIII, waiting for the swordsman to arrive from Calais, and fired Willie Randolph.

Like this is going to make one damn bit of difference.

Mets announcer and former #2 starter during the Glory Days Ron Darling had some thoughts last week about why this team is SO godawful:

“We’re back to the days where 35 is old again,” Darling said. “Except for the last 10 years, when a player reached his mid-30s, he was done, he was old. And old players play like horse-[bleep]. That’s the tradition of the game for the last 50 years.”

I'm sorry to see Willie go, because I don't think this team's problems are his fault. I was happy to see the Mets be the first New York team to hire a black manager, and I would hate to think that the next manager may be just another old white retread who's knocked around the majors for decades. While I got tired of listening to Willie's platitudes too, he is a classy guy and he deserves a better team than the Mets organization gave him to manage. But it's an unfortunate reality of baseball that the manager gets too much glory when teams win, and too much blame when they don't.

Those of us who have been following the Team in the Toilet (I mean Flushing) for decades remember the likes of George Foster and Vince Coleman and Eddie Murray -- aging stars who were brought in during Times of Mets Suckitude in an attempt to get something going. I wonder just how Fred Wilpon, who in theory was around when they brought in Frank Cashen, who quietly stocked the organization's minor league system with young pitching and young players like Darryl Strawberry and Wally Backman and Lenny Dykstra and ignored the yowling of the New York sports press until he could display these prizes for all the world to see, could possibly stand by while Omar Minaya stocked this team with retreads and scrap heap reclamation projects. Of course I don't believe for one minute that they stood by, I think they DEMANDED players who would "win now" -- players like Pedro Martinez and Moises Alou -- proven veterans who were good, solid players but on the down side of their careers.

The problem with "Win Now" as an organizational philosophy is that you end up with this -- a team with too many old, big names, and not enough young talent -- and no guarantees. This team was built to win now, but now was 2006, and they came in just shy of the goal. Now how much of this is Omar Minaya's fault and now much is the Wilpons, only those who were flies on the walls in the organizational meetings know for certain.

But this much IS for certain: the departure of Willie Randolph isn't going to make one damn bit of difference. Oh, this team will win a few games in a row now, like they did in Anaheim last night. But that won't change the reality that Carlos Delgado is essentially done, and Luis Castillo has no legs left, and Ryan Church may never be the same and it's questionable if someone who had two concussions in a month should even be playing. It won't solve the mystery that is Carlos Beltran and it won't magically create a left fielder to replace the ancient and always-on-the-DL Moises Alou. The bench is adequate, but Damion Easley can't play a half-dozen field positions at the same time, and even HE's 38. Endy Chavez isn't an everyday player, and Fernando Tatis was in AAA a month ago.

The reality is that there's no patching this team. There's no late-season comeback and triumphant return to the playoffs for this bunch of gimpy, if valiant, old warriors, a brilliant but mystefying young shortstop, a few young pitchers, and David Wright. So it's time to close the curtain on 2007 and look to the future. And it it means you have to field a AAA team around Wright, José Reyes, John Maine and Mike Pelfrey, so be it. Castillo, Delgado, and Alou are, I think gone after this season anyway. So are Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez, if the latter comes off the DL. That potentially makes the team younger right there.

Metsgrrl has a list of 10 things she wants to see the Mets do right now.

I would add the following:

1) If you're going to fire Omar Minaya, hire Ron Darling to be the General Manager of this team. This idea comes from Mr. Brilliant, and I think it's a good one. Darling is an educated guy who's been watching this team for over twenty years (yikes). He's become a terrific announcer, not because he's such a great schmoozer, but because he clearly knows this game inside and out. He's a legacy of the Glory Years and he'd be embraced by a fan base that's pretty disgusted right about now. The Wilpons understand the Power of 1986, or they wouldn't have kept Howard Johnson as one of only two of Willie Randolph's staff to keep their jobs.

2) Start. Trading. Now. Start with the Yankees, who are in desperate need of starting pitching, with Chien-Ming Wang on the DL. Forget the crosstown rivalry. The Yankees may yet catch up, but the Mets have to look ahead. Swallow your pride and offer up Pedro Martinez (who's still a reasonably solid, smart, if fragile pitcher) and Oliver Perez (who's gone after this year anyway) for, say, four or five really solid, nearly-major-league-ready prospects. The Yankees are always a "win now" team, and this trade gives them two things -- a young pitcher that they can keep in the fold for a long time with enough money, and another old Red Sox player that they can use to taunt Boston down the stretch.

Assume that the nucleus of the Future Mets is David Wright, José Reyes, John Maine, and Mike Pelfrey. EVERYONE else is on the block. A team needs a closer? Billy Wagner can still throw 96 miles an hour and probably needs a change of scene right about now. You want a marquee center fielder? How many top-of-the-line prospects will you give us for Carlos Beltran? EVERYONE.

Yes, the Mets will suck royally for a year or two. But I'm always reminded of Frank Cashen taking Keith Hernandez down to Tidewater when Hernandez was so miserable after being traded to the Mets, to show him what was sprouting down there -- kids named Gooden and Darling and Fernandez and Terrell and Dykstra and Backman.

"Win Now" only works if you're the Yankees and have unlimited money and a seemingly unlimited ability to strongarm other teams into giving up their players for a song to plug holes in your lineup. The Mets aren't that team, and God knows this team is never, ever, ever going to "win now" as currently configured.


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Anonymous K said...
It's been an incredibly depressing year.

Anonymous D. Potter said...

Omar Minaya seems to be the Guy Who Won't Read Moneyball. (I take it from this report that Santana is not working out.)

Left-field question: Isn't Mookie Wilson coaching somewhere? He might be good. (Speaking of Spirit of '86.)

Right-field question: What happened to the Mets blog blogroll? I miss it.

Blogger Jill said...
The way the Mets played are what happened to the Mets blog blogroll. would YOU want to advertise that you follow such a team? Your best bet is to pay a visit to Metsgrrl, who for my money has the best Mets blog out there. She also has the links.

Anonymous D. Potter said...
Ah. Thanks.

I'm an ex-Met fan (I root for the A's now) but I always like to know what the old gang is up to.

And I'm sorry about Willie Randolph. I had high hopes there...

Anonymous PhysioProf said...
I suggest you give it up and become a Yankees fan. It's a lot more fun!

Anonymous D. Potter said...
Sorry, Phys, but I was a Yankee fan for a year, back when they had Mantle, Maris, Elston Howard, Al Downing, Whitey Ford, the Boyer brother not in St. Louis (memory says Clete), and does Moose Skowron ring a bell?

And if they couldn't keep me, you think I'd sign on with the current crop? Please. We knew Giambi before the steroids.

(NB: They're OK; there aren't too many days that I take up Steve Gilliard's cry. But they're Not My Team.)