Questions in Queens: Jerry Manuel on Hot Seat?

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Questions in Queens: Jerry Manuel on Hot Seat?
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The 2010 Major League Baseball season is almost two weeks old, and already, there are naysayers that speculate New York Mets' skipper Jerry Manuel could be on the verge of unemployment.

Granted, the Mets come into play Friday last in the National League East, but is that really a reason to start panicking, this early in the season?

There were a lot of expectations, as there usually are, for the Mets to come out of the gate strong after another disappointing season in 2009. They currently sit at 3-6, and have lost every series they have played so far in 2010. But the Angels are 3-7. The Dodgers are 4-5. And the Astros have won one game all season. Should Mike Scioscia, Joe Torre, and newcomer Brad Mills be canned already also? No.

Manuel is doing the best he can with the cards he has been dealt. Jose Reyes is still in Spring Training mode after missing a chunk of time with a thyroid condition. Carlos Beltran won't be available until May at the earliest following knee surgery. Johan Santana can't pitch 162 games a year. If there is anyone to blame for their struggles, perhaps the finger should be pointed at the men on the field.

Don't get me wrong. I have nothing but respect for guys like John Maine, Daniel Murphy, and Oliver Perez. The problem, I believe, comes from the front officemost notably General Manager Omar Minaya.

It was clear that the Mets' strongest need was starting pitching. And while the crop of free agent pitchers may not have been the best, it was better than the team is currently throwing out there every four of five days. I love the signing of Jason Bay, but I think I would have loved it more if they already had a No. 2 starting pitcher.

Instead of signing Bay to a 5-year, $60 million contract, why not sign John Lackey? Sure, he's had arm troubles in the past, but he's a horse who can get people out. He was arguably the best starting pitcher on the market, and the Mets let him go. Now, twice through the rotation, the Mets are seeing the consequences of going with what they got.

Perhaps Lackey's demands were a tad high. But after a 92-loss 2009 season, and heartbreaking endings to the '06, '07, and '08 seasons, Minaya needed to do something to make his fans happy - and to keep them coming to CitiField. And not to take anything away from Bay or David Wright or Jose Reyes, but the fans want to see pitching that can at least compete with the rest of the division. Right now, the team does not have that.

So what's the answer?

Well, for short term, find a trading partner for Gary Matthews Jr. Trading for him made no sense, and seeing how few at-bats he's getting to open the season makes it even more of a head-scratcher. Send Jenrry Mejia back down to Triple-A to stretch his arm out and make him a starting pitcher. Once he's ready, you can slot him and the pitcher received in the hypothetical Matthews deal into the rotation in lieu of John Maine and either Oliver Perez or Jon Niese.

I'd also like to see the team rid themselves of Mike Jacobs and give Ike Davis a trial period in the big leagues. Let him and Murphy (once he recovers from sprained right MCL) split time at first base and see what this kid can do. He's currently mashing away in Triple-A Buffalo.

For the long term, I think it's time to see the Mets have a new General Manager. Omar Minaya made some good moves (Pedro, Beltran, Carlos Delgado). But recently, it seems he hasn't made the smart moves. And with a farm system that is not very deep, it's imperative that the moves at the big league level can actually support the team.

If Jerry Manuel's seat is hot, then Omar Minaya's seat has to be completely burnt up as far as I'm concerned. The Mets need someone to put out that fire.

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