The Mets have been struggling of late; there's no question about that. Losing three of four to the Nationals then, a week later, losing five straight, including four in a row to their division rivals--I classify that as struggling.
To be the postseason caliber team that their payroll and resident talent suggests they should be, the Mets need to make a few big changes.
1) Willie Randolph. He's been the subject of much debate of late, and I agree that he isn't doing his job properly. I think he's too soft spoken with players; as a result, they have become comfortable with failure.
Prime examples are Carlos Delgado and Aaron Heilman. Delgado has been "slumping" for a year and a half now, but no drastic measures have been taken. It is a manager's job to motivate players, and Delgado just doesn't seem motivated.
What I'm not so sure about is whether firing Willie and bringing in someone else will save the season. Usually, a team doesn't perform well if given a new manager mid-season.
Randolph's replacement would have to be someone the players already know and respect. I am glad, though, that Randolph is getting a lot of heat from the media. I think maybe he will be motivated to perform better.
I remember in previous years, reporters would defer to Randolph while interviewing him rather than challenge his mistakes. Conversations went something like:
Sports writer: Willie, you are the greatest manager ever and you have never even contemplated taking a course of action that could be possibly, by some remote circles, construed as a mistake. Elaborate on that.
So I think it's a good thing that Willie's position is being challenged, but I think firing him at the end of this road trip would be premature.
2) Carlos Delgado. I spoke about him briefly above: he looks comfortable with his own failure. I'm sure, as an individual, he'd rather be successful than not. However, as part of a team, he has consistently failed his teammates and shows no signs of getting better.
I think the idea of trading him should be floated. Not in an official sense, but just a few comments here and there letting the world know that Delgado is on the market. It might stimulate him to get his act together and, if not, who knows? Maybe someone will bite. We could at least get a 1B-man who can field his position, even if he bats poorly. Delgado bats poorly and fields poorly.
3) Luis Castillo. I've always liked Luis. He's a useful player to have around because, even though he rarely hits the ball hard, he does get on base a lot. He walks frequently and gets infield singles, bloop singles, bunt singles--you name it.
However, his knee injuries hamper his play a bit. (To me, it always looks like his knees are going to go out on him. As he walks out to second base. In the first inning.) I think Castillo is coming to the end of his career and that, over the next few years, his speed is going to disappear and, with it, his infield singles and his range at second base.
However, he is signed to a four year contract. Do the Mets really intend to start this aging veteran in 2011? Jose Valentine will probably never have another season like his 2006 one and Damien Easley is not especially good, so I think the Mets need to be looking around for a new second basemen.
4) Aaron Heilman and Duaner Sanchez. Heilman has been abysmal so far this season and Sanchez has been unreliable. If Sanchez can get his velocity back and actually start throwing fastballs again, then he'll be an asset.
My question, though, is if he can barely throw fastballs and he can't break 85 MPH, why is he in the Bigs? If he needs more time to work and get his strength back, why doesn't he stay down and work? And, for that matter, why isn't his strength back?
Wasn't he trying to shoot for opening day and then decided to wait a bit? Opening day was almost two months ago. Duaner needs to determine if he even can help a big league club, and then do whatever it takes to get into a position to do so, even if that means taking a little time off to finish his rehab.
And Heilman... if he lets up one more home run in a close game, I say just send him to the minor leagues.
He clearly cannot be an asset to a big market team, and he needs to know that consistent failure will not be tolerated. The problem partially resides with Randolph, who keeps Heilman on a ridiculously long leash when he really should be holding his collar.
5) Damien Easley. Damien Easley is not a good hitter. He has never been a good hitter. He has a mediocre .328 OBP. The problem is that Randolph develops first impressions immediately, and then takes years to lose them. Someone needs to tell him that Easley is about as valuable as any infielder from AAA New Orleans, and way more expensive.
6) Jose Reyes. Reyes has been struggling on and off for the better part of a year now. I'm not suggesting that we trade him. That would be foolhardy. I just think that a different tactic is needed when it comes to instructing him.
I remember hearing that Reyes speaks with his dad after almost every game to discuss his performance. I hate to say it, Jose, but maybe your dad doesn't know best because you don't seem to be performing all that well, especially compared to your 2006 season.
He needs more plate discipline and he needs to either learn how to bunt properly or stop bunting at the first pitch he sees every game. At best, it's a free strike.
Reyes also tends to get under the ball a lot, which is bad. A ground ball in the hole between short and third is a base hit for him even if the shortstop can get to it. He needs to try to take the ball the opposite way, especially when he's batting lefty, and stop popping it up.
7) David Wright. I put him all the way down here because I'm not actually worried about him. He hasn't delivered of late, but he'll break out of it. For the Mets to be a contender this year, though, he needs to break out in one hell of a way.
Ever honestly assessing alterations,
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