Recently, in an interview on WFAN, Cole Hamels was asked if the Phillies view the Mets collapse as a choke and he didn't back down.
"For the past two years, they've been choke artists," the pitcher said, drawing the ire of Mets fans and giving the Mets' bulletin board material for the upcoming season. Still, Cole Hamels has a point and the Mets now have an opportunity to upend the world champions and silence all the talk if they can right there own ship first.
What we learned from the Phillies is that they can walk the walk and Hamels has the hardware to prove it. If the Mets got anything out of last year, it's that Johan Santana can't pitch in 162, 81, or even 50 games. When it came to the last weekend of the season, Santana tried to drag the Mets across the finish line while the big bats suddenly came up short.
Minaya, to his credit, has done an excellent job addressing the issues of the eighth and ninth inning and has broken up the middle relief core, but not much has been made of the fact that the Mets lack depth in the rotation.
To date, the rotation as follows is headed by Johan Santana, John Maine, and Mike Pelfrey. Oliver Perez is still unsigned and may not be due to contract terms and length and the fact that he is a Scott Boras client. The Mets have not shown interest in bringing back Pedro, and in essence, he has done his part in rebuilding the franchise, but injury and age have taken a toll. That leaves the Mets looking at other options.
It is possible that Perez will come back. Recently at the winter meetings, Minaya said the chances were “50-50.” Perez, however, does seem more attractive since the Phillies added left handed hitter Raul Ibanez to go along with big lefties Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. It also helps that as inconsistent as Perez is, he seems to be the best pitcher in the Major Leagues when he pitches against the Yankees, Phillies, and Braves.
Other options are also Derek Lowe, but his price tag is free to soar now that C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett were bribed to come to the Bronx. So Lowe, who statistically is better than Burnett and a healthier option may not be around. That leaves a more inexpensive option, such as Tim Redding, Randy Wolf, and possibly Freddy Garcia.
The Mets also have to worry about a lineup, which seemed more erratic at times than stats let on last year. It’s hard to say a lineup needs more when you have names like Carlos Beltran, David Wright, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Delgado in it, but the Mets were prone to droughts and were missing big hits coming down the stretch run.
Delgado may have had a blistering second half, but will he continue that as he turns 36. In left, the Mets are going to go with a platoon of Daniel Murphy/Fernando Tatis. Murphy is unproven and it is unknown if Tatis will be able to duplicate his surprise numbers from last year.
They also have a man who appears 10 years older than he really is in Luis Castillo at second base. Brian Schneider makes a lot of money for an automatic out and so-so defense. So, where do the Mets go from here?
It does not seem that much is out there to help besides, maybe, an Orlando Hudson, but that would require someone to take on Castillo’s contract. “Met Killer” Pat Burrel is floating out there, as well as the solid Bobby Abreu, yet the Mets do not seem inclined to add more payroll.
In the end, had Wagner’s arm held up, Cole Hamels might not be on WFAN blasting the Mets. Maybe, we’d be talking about the Mets, or the Rays, or some other team no one expected. However, the collapse happened and like Hamels said "we believed and I think we're always going to believe that (the Mets are choke artists) until they prove us wrong.” No one’s proved anything yet, but if the Mets want to prove Hamels wrong, let’s hope they can fix the holes and finish the season as well as K-Rod finishes games.