Welcome to the first addition of my State of The Union Address, where I'll give you my thoughts on the previous week of games played by the Amazin's.
I'll break this bad boy up into three categories—The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly—and players, games, or post-game quotes (see: Wagner, Billy) will fall under one of these three categories. I'll write about the week's games from Sunday to Saturday, so tonight's game against the Yankees will be included in next week's column.
I'll also respond to any comments I've gotten on my articles for the week, as well as give my overall impression of the team's direction and what I'd like to see more of as a die-hard fan.
Without further adieu, let's get this party started with the first-ever State Of The Union Address.
Even though my first two articles ripped the boys from Queens and their management, I really do love this team, and will be the first to write about the great things they do.
Friday's team meeting and Saturday's subsequent win over the Yankees.
The team held a 35-minute, closed-door meeting Friday, and I'm sure I could have devoted an entire column to what was said (obviously a sarcastic take). Whatever was said, though, it certainly looks like it cleared the air.
The Mets came out on Saturday with the emotion and fire that fans have been begging for since last September, and it immediately paid dividends with a 7-4 victory over the Yanks. The bench was alive, players were pumping their fists, and the team erupted when Wagner got the final out of the ninth inning. You could almost hear their collective sigh of relief through your television.
This team needed a win like this in the worst way. Hustle, emotion, timely hitting, good pitching, and solid bullpen work—we were once again reminded of the tremendous things this team can do, and hopefully this was a win that can carry them for a long stretch of good baseball.
Granted, the Yanks are in last place and missing A-Rod and Posada, but a win is a win.
Santana's as good as advertised.
The thought of Hank Steinbrenner sitting in his owner's box, seething as he watched Santana beat his team after he easily could have traded for him this winter, has made my week.
No. 57 wasn't at his best on Saturday, surrendering three homers—but he settled down nicely and kept his team in the game. The thing that has made me the happiest is the fact that this man is not even close to being in midseason form.
Santana is known as a pitcher who picks it up in the second half. I can see how he's gotten that reputation now that I watch him pitch every fifth day. He misses up in the zone frequently with his off-speed stuff—if you notice, the home runs he has given up have been mostly on off-speed pitches that he's missed with up in the strike zone.
These sort of things tell me he's not quite in mid-season form yet. And he's still 5-2 with a 3.30 ERA, and could make a case for being 7-1. When this guy really hits his stride, watch out.
Back-end of the rotation has great week.
Nelson Figueroa struggled in his final start for the Mets, but the other two starts from the back end of the rotation were phenomenal. Mike Pelfrey was outstanding in his start against the Nationals, but came out on the short end of a 1-0 loss. He took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, and surrendered only one run on three hits in seven and two-thirds innings of work.
When he trusts his stuff and challenges hitters with his fastball, Pelfrey shows why the Mets took him with the ninth pick in the draft.
Also outstanding was Claudio Vargas, who made his first start for the big club on Wednesday night, and was equally impressive. He earned himself another start by turning in six and one-third innings of work, while surrendering just two runs on three hits.
14 innings and three earned runs from your fourth and fifth starters is a great turn through the back end of your rotation. If the Mets keep getting outings like that, they can certainly get on prolonged winning streaks.
Carlos Beltran has a pulse!
It looks like Beltran is finally starting to come out of his season-long funk. No. 15 went 10 for 27 this week, with a homer and six RBIs. More importantly, he's trusting his hands and letting the ball get deep, which can be seen by the amount of balls he's taking up the middle and the opposite way. If he can start to pick it up, the Mets can start to get on a roll.
Billy Wagner's Post-Game Tirade.
I'm not usually one to condone players calling each other out through the media—I think it's ridiculous and should be taken care of in-house. That said, I thought Wagner was 100 percent right. There is no reason why he should be standing there after a game he didn't pitch in, being asked a million questions about it.
Granted, he is one of the more outspoken players on the team, so reporters will go to him for a good quote, and he certainly didn't let them down. But he was right in what he said—these players need to be accountable for the way they have played, and they need to stand there and take the questions whether they go 0-4 or 4-4.
This has been a hot topic on talk radio and in the media in the past couple of days, and it was almost certainly what prompted the team meeting. If it took Wagner saying that to get this team playing the way it did on Saturday, how as a fan can I not approve?
See? I CAN be positive!
While there were several good things that happened this week in Metland, there were even more bad things.
A homestand to forget.
This title doesn't even do it justice. Aside from Carlos Beltran realizing he's actually a really good player, and the two starts from the fourth and fifth starters, this homestand was the most frustrating one to date, even prompting this particular fan to write a column in the heat of of a post-game meltdown.
3-4 against the Nationals and Reds? Come on, guys. Losing three out of four to the Nationals? At home? Inexcusable. What's more, Pelfrey and Vargas's outtings were wasted, as the Mets' bats didn't show up for either game.
If this team is truly going to be the great group they think they can be, they need to beat the teams they're supposed to beat. They cannot play down to the level of their opponents. This is a scary trend that needs to stop, or this team won't go anywhere.
Jorge Sosa says goodbye.
The Mets have lost a valuable long man out of the bullpen in Jorge Sosa, who was designated for assignment. Or, at least, he used to be a valuable long man.
Sosa has regressed significantly this season, and his last outing against the Nationals sealed his fate. If he clears waivers, hopefully the Mets will send him down to Triple A and let him work out his problems. If he can get right, he could become a valuable part of the pen down the stretch.
Thursday's game against Washington saw several boneheaded mistakes on the basepaths, all of which were inexcusable.
Players not running out flyballs hard, not understanding the situation, and aggression on the basepaths to the point of stupidity—these types of things should not be tolerated from players of this caliber.
There's simply no excuse. The easiest thing to do on a baseball field is run, and you should do it hard on every play. A famous manager whose name escapes me is responsible for that quote, so I cannot take the credit, but it needs to be reiterated to this club. Mistakes like that are a sign of complacency, and that is certainly not a good thing.
Good God. It's just painful to watch this guy throw right now. As a pitcher myself, I understand when you're struggling the best way to come out of it is to keep throwing, and know your manager has the confidence in you to keep going to you.
Still, this man simply cannot be placed in a close game anymore. He came in Wednesday night's game against the Nationals with the score tied, and surrendered four runs—three credited to him, one to Vargas—on three hits, in only a third of an inning. Not exactly a lights-out setup man.
Heilman needs to get some work in in non-pressure situations so he can build up his confidence. Willie should be placing him in situations where he can succeed, and starting him at the beginning of innings so he has a clean slate.
Unless the entire pen has been used and is unavailable, he should not be the set-up man right now. Joe Smith has been lights out, and right now he can be more than a situational righty. Randolph's misuse of the bullpen, Heilman in particular, has been particularly bad recently. Which brings me to...
Nationals 1, Mets 0.
This game sent everybody over the edge, including myself. It even prompted me to write an entire column devoted solely to ripping anyone in my path—mainly Willie Randolph. I'm off the ledge now, and while I'm not as heated as I was, I still feel strongly that this game embodied every reason why Randolph is not the right manager for this club.
Poor baserunning, an outrageous call having Beltran going on contact in the ninth inning with one out and trailing by a run, and one of the more emotionless efforts turned in this season by the Amazin's was the breaking point for me.
Yes, Randolph called the team meeting that eventually cleared the air, but it only lead to one Mets victory. The fact of the matter is this team is still 21-19, and vastly underachieving.
Thoughts on Your Comments
I wanted to thank everybody for commenting on my columns, positively or negatively. As an aspiring sportswriter, feedback is what I'm searching for, so keep the comments coming!
The main comment that stuck with me was the one about my "passion blinding my logic and judgement" or something like that, in regards to me leaving out my thoughts on replacements for Randolph.
The article was intended to show why Randolph should be fired, with another column dedicated to his replacement coming later.
With that said, it's a part of the column that should have been included, and leaves my case incomplete. So for that I say thank you for the comment and if you want my take on a replacement for Randolph, just keep reading.
Unless the Mets go deep in the playoffs, I doubt very strongly Randolph will be the Mets manager in 2009, and he may not even last the season if they keep playing the way they are playing. I personally think a change needs to be made sooner—as in now—rather than later.
Yesterday's game aside, this team has showed no fire and no sense of urgency aside from a few players. Jose Reyes has creeped into the dreaded realm of "overrated." His approach at the plate is horrible for the most part, he has a .317 on base percentage, and he makes stupid decisions on the basepaths.
Randolph is considered "stoic." He rarely shows emotion and is always even-keeled, and his team follows suit. He has managed the team to a 75-75 record since June 1, 2007, and was at the wheel for the worst collapse in franchise history at the end of last season. I simply think his style breeds complacency with this particular group of players, and a new approach is needed.
Do the Mets need a Lou Piniella-type? I don't think so. I do think, however, they need someone whose intensity, and more importantly, enthusiasm is VISIBLE to them, every day. I'm not saying Randolph's not intense or enthusiastic, he just doesn't show it.
So, who is out there who's an enthusiastic and charismatic type who will show his emotions and help this team bring the intensity to the park every day?
As ESPN baseball writer Buster Olney wrote a couple of days ago, there really is no clear-cut replacement for Willie right now. But I can think of two names who could be great choices: Bobby Valentine, and Gary Carter.
Now, I'm sure there is no way Bobby V. is leaving Japan. He is a god over there, and he's having success. Still, would it kill the Mets to make the call? His enthusiasm is contagious, and he could be a shot of life, and rid the clubhouse of the complacency that has become a staple.
Gary Carter is much the same type of guy. Known for his enthusiasm as a player, Carter was a great game-caller behind the plate, and has had success as a manager in the Mets minor league system.
Carter's not managing in the Mets system this year, largely due to Omar Minaya refusing to move him up in the ranks. But if the Mets came calling with a major-league managing job, I'm sure The Kid would jump at the chance.
Lack of experience would be a downside for Carter, but Randolph had never managed a game when the Mets hired him. Carter has managed in the minors and had success, so why not give him a shot?
What started out as the week from hell could end up being the turning point for the Mets. Beltran is starting to look like the All-Star that he is, and Saturday marked the first time the Mets showed the fire and emotion we've all been waiting for.
Could the team meeting be what the Mets needed? Will they put forth that much effort and emotion into every game from here on out? Only time will tell, but the early returns on the meeting have been good.
I hope this column is well-received cause it's a lot of fun to write. If there's anything else you'd like to see in here feel free to leave a comment.
That's it for the first State of The Union Address. I'll leave you with this quote from Colonel Sanders:
"I'm too drunk to taste this Chicken."
Goodnight everybody, drive home safely.
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