BY: Jonathan M. Szenics Jr., INDEPENDENT WRITER
EDITED BY: Jonathan Tomevi & Tracy Riker, INDEPENDENT WRITERS.
For the first couple of weeks of the 2008 season, the New York Mets had us wondering when they would kick their season into high gear.
Now, almost half-way through the season, they have us wondering, could they possibly finish in last place in the National League East?
By far the biggest disappointment in the National League, the Mets are now 32-35, in fourth place, and seven games out of first, in the NL East. This has fans of the team up in arms even more than at the end of last season.
This is quite an accomplishment, considering they choked away the biggest division lead ever with almost no time left in the season to the Philadelphia Phillies to conclude last season, and couldn't manage a playoff appearance.
Speculation ran amok as to what the team should have done to correct the problem. Some called for the firing of manager Willie Randolph, while others wanted the under-performing, high-priced players as Carlos Delgado and Luis Castillo to be taken off of the payroll.
Some even suggested firing General Manager Omar Minaya, who is the architect of the team.
With time running out in the offseason, the Mets seemingly struck gold in possibly one of the most amazing trade heists of all time. Johan Santana was traded to the club for a package of prospects that was not top-notch, minus one Carlos Gomez, now the center fielder for the Minnesota Twins.
This gave the team a two-time Cy Young award winner who would be the ace of a quickly aging pitching staff.
The expectations soared, and many publications had the Mets going all the way to the World Series and then winning it.
Boy, how wrong did these publications end up being?
Instead of coasting in the National League, they are barely staying above water. You name an issue right now, and they have it.
The team is too old.
The team is not staying healthy.
The team does not have a clubhouse leader.
The team is not playing to the level that it should be, which is why Omar Minaya got them all together in the first place.
The team is not responding to manager Willie Randolph.
This last issue is the one that has most Mets fans calling for the firing of Randolph again, even without a great replacement lined up.
What should the team do, and when should they do it?
Let’s look at what would happen if Randolph was fired less than halfway into the season.
Jerry Manuel, currently the bench coach, would probably take over, and what would he provide? Next to nothing seems to be the general consensus.
Let’s face it, Manuel is a Randolph clone. Both men are laid back in their managerial styles, and this is not what the Mets need right now. The Mets need a manager who will bench an under-performing star or stars if they are not providing what they need to for the team to be successful.
With this though comes another problem. The team could go outside of the organization to hire somebody, but who is out there currently?
Again, the answer is not much. Larry Bowa would be a great fit for the job, but would Joe Torre let him leave his Dodgers staff? Even more importantly, would Bowa be willing to leave Los Angeles for New York less than one year after leaving the area with Torre? Probably not, which makes this option a virtual dead end.
Then there is the ultimate wild card candidate, one Bobby Valentine. The former manager of the Mets is currently managing in Japan, and out there, he is a God. With an ego like his, would he be willing to leave all of the love behind for a position that would call for his firing with one simple losing streak?
One more time, the answer is probably not, so what can the Mets do?
There is only one option, which is keeping Randolph through the end of the season no matter what happens from here moving forward. In his tenure with the Mets, he is above .500 with his record, and he has gotten them to within one game of the World Series.
If it wasn’t for one Yadier Molina, who made a name for himself in that ill-fated seven game series where Carlos Beltran looked at strike three from Adam Wainwright to end a great season, the Mets would have played the Detroit Tigers in the World Series that year, and who knows, the Mets may have actually won that series, which would have made Randolph virtually immune to any possibility of losing his job.
Unfortunately, none of these events occurred, which has led to the Mets being in this terrible dilemma.
Firing Randolph though will cause more problems then it will fix. An inferior manager will not lead this team to the playoffs, which is obviously the goal.
The only feasible thing to do is to keep the team as it is right now. Eventually, all of the talent has to take over, right?
Even if it doesn’t, things cannot get much worse. The Mets only have one place to fall in the standings, and even if this does not happen, and they still do not make the playoffs, the last season at Shea Stadium will be remembered as an utter disaster anyway.
This makes the only solution to keep Randolph until the end of the season. If he fails in getting the team to the playoffs, then get rid of him, and quickly at that. If they somehow right the ship though, and pull off a miracle, the issue should then be revisited at the end of the season, which is the most sensible thing to do.
Sensibility is the key here. No quick moves will fix this bunch, only hard work, and the pushing of the right buttons will. Give Randolph the chance to finish what he started before the season began.