Originally, this was going to be a list of things to look for in the final two months of the 2005 season, but then I decided that rather than predicting what Willie Randolph and Omar Minaya may do, I’ll tell them myself. So without further ado, my demands for the remainder of the 2005 season.
1. Hey, it’s about time we get a little younger out there.
The recent rash of injuries that have beset the Mets is a perfectly acceptable excuse for the necessity to employ replacement level talent on the Major League roster. Only problem is that the Mets have been utilizing replacement level talent at a handful of their starting spots. There’s two catches to this: a. The players they are using are below replacement level and b. The players that they are using are above the age of 35.
Sorry, when you’re out of a playoff race, that does not fly. We moaned and groaned when Gerald Williams was recalled on June 9, 2004 and here we are, more than a year later and he is now the starting centerfielder. Bad. There are a few younger outfield options down in the minors, however I would not advocate going the Pagan or even Milledge route until September 1 when rosters expand and arbitration clocks can stay on hold.
Jose Offerman may have been a serviceable veteran pinch hitter for a team in the Wild Card race, but on these new Mets, there should be no home for a 36-year-old position player who can hardly play the field.
In the bullpen, Danny Graves and Jose Santiago are taking up oxygen. Sure they don’t pitch often, but in three weeks Norfolk’s season could be over and Heath Bell, Royce Ring and Blake McGinley won’t be pitching at all.
2. Mets trainers: listen to your heart, not the injured player.
Carlos Beltran is hurt. Carlos Beltran is being paid around $104 million over the next six years. The Mets are not in contention. Carlos Beltran should not play hurt for the rest of 2005. He’s already played hurt and look what it did. Remember when you listened to Jose Reyes? Yeah, he was healthy, uh huh. Do not make the same mistake again.
3. Commence the auditions for the 2006 catcher.
When the clock hits 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, September 1, the Mets should promote Mike Jacobs from Double-A Binghamton. Going into the offseason, the biggest uncertainty will be the position of catcher and would it hurt to get Jacobs, considered the best in-house option, some Major League plate appearances? The answer is no and his four weeks in the Majors could go a long way in helping determine the catcher’s situation for ‘06.
The Mike Piazza Farewell Tour will be in full swing during the month of September, but it is important that the Mets be conscious of the impending hole. Ramon Castro should get increased playing time in addition to Jacobs’ recall.
4. Promote Petit for a playoff run - in Virginia.
The organizational policy of the New York Mets has always been to send minor leaguers to a lower level for the playoffs, but last year the team violated its own unwritten rule and experimented with Yusmeiro Petit in Binghamton for the Eastern League playoffs. This year Binghamton won’t be going back to the playoffs, but Triple-A affiliate Norfolk holds the second-best record in the International League at 70-51. Move Petit up one level for the Triple-A playoffs and keep a very close eye on him.
Headed into Spring Training ‘06 he will have had a full season in Double-A and experienced some time in Triple-A. Not a bad resume for a pitcher who will be 21 in March 2006.
5. Keep Jae Seo in the rotation and do not allow Tom Glavine to reach his option.
Warning, pipe dream to follow: Sure it’s a stretch, but it is also a no-brainer. Do I like Tom Glavine? Yes. Am I impressed by his recent performances? Yes. Do I want him back next year with the money he’ll be earning if the option vests? No. Do I want Tom Glavine back next year? Sure, at the right price.
Glavine very well may make the perfect fifth starter in 2006, but last time I checked, fifth starters don’t earn $10.5 million. And if one of the younger starters emerges in 2006 (Bannister, Petit, etc.) the Mets would find themselves trapped underneath the massive contract.
I would advocate bringing Glavine back in 2006 for lesser money, if given the chance, but the Mets should restrict him from reaching 164.1 innings in any way possible. Whether it is a demotion to the bullpen or a trade, now that he has cleared waivers it is a second option and should be explored.
Jae Seo deserves a better fate within this organization. When Trachsel comes back, he should at least be guaranteed a spot in the bullpen, where perhaps he can take the Aaron Heilman route. Unfortunately, the better option for both the Mets and Seo at this point is to showcase him and explore an offseason trade when his value is at its peak.
6. Okay, since number five is not happening, how about a six man rotation Willie?
It’s not every season where you remove your third best starter from the rotation twice - but there is the possibility it could happen to Seo. In a playoff race or not, both Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine (even if he insists no) would benefit from an extra day between starts.
Steve Trachsel is a fine Major League back-end starter, but how many fifth starters will comprise of the Mets rotation? And is there anyone who rationally believes that Trachsel can replicate the sparkling performances that Seo has demonstrated in 2005?
Bobby V did it with an aging rotation in 1999 and went 14-13 with the six man setup during September and October. Do you remember that twenty-seventh game? Al Leiter pitched that beauty.
7. Speaking of Aaron Heilman, what’s up with him?
One of the most intriguing players of 2005 has been Aaron Heilman. In what will be his first full season in the Major Leagues, Heilman has gone from throwing the one-hitter in April, to accepting a different role as a relief pitcher, to successfully adapting to that role, and now to a mystery. Heilman’s outstanding peripherals (78/23 K/BB, 1.65 G/F ratio, 5 HR in 80.1) detail what should be a very solid reliever, but during the entire season Heilman has displayed the propensity to self-destruct in critical situations.
A goal of the Mets for the final eight weeks of the season should be to give Heilman increased roles in the bullpen, such as eighth innings or even a save situation ninth inning here or there in order to see how he responds. Let’s face it, Roberto Hernandez does not have a future on this club and he should be used far less, and in entirely different situations for the remainder of the season. Plus, are we sure that Braden Looper will be closing games at Shea in 2006? Maybe Heilman should be explored in the closer’s role.
8. Give Mike Pelfrey whatever he wants and have him locked up and ready to go for AFL.
Here’s where the Mets went wrong in the signing process of now-injured Phil Humber. Negotiations with Humber and his agent went on so long that the Mets signed him past the deadline required to place a player on an Arizona Fall League roster. Pelfrey has not pitched in a few months and it would be in the Mets’ best interest to get him on the mound during the fall in order to not have him completely rusty for March. Simple as that.
9. Discover the sure-fire way to neutralize the The Kaz Matsui Effect.
Ah yes, we’ve come to what very well could be the biggest conundrum facing the Metropolitans. Kaz Matsui, with one year remaining on his three year, $21 million contract, has convinced many, time and time again that he is not a Major League everyday player.
So, what should they do with him?
That is the hardest question. The good news is that once they figure what to do with KazMat, there are plenty of eligible replacements for the starting second base job - and none of them are named after a fish, or the capital of Egypt.
Anderson Hernandez and Jeff Keppinger both are enjoying eye-opening seasons in the minors, both are second basemen and both come from a very different background heading into 2005. Keppinger, notoriously a sound hitting prospect, played much of the last month of 2004 in New York and showed some flashes of everyday material, but not nearly enough. Keppinger has recently been fighting an injury that has surely cost him about a month’s worth of Major League time in ‘05.
Hernandez was acquired for backup catcher Vance Wilson and burst onto the Met organizational scene in 2005 with a brilliant offensive year in Binghamton and now in Norfolk.
Cairo and Anderson are backups, and good backups at that. They should stay as backups.
10. Lock David Wright up until the year 2022. Keep David Wright in the three hole and don’t move him down in the order until the year 2021 or so.
The final two months of 2004 was The David Wright Show and with each passing day in 2005, Wright accumulates more and more godlike qualities.
Wright recently celebrated one year of service in the Majors. Just in case you were wondering, it went something like this:
162 GP, 593 AB, 96 R, 41 2B, 28 HR, 89 RBI, 54 BB, 104 K, 14 SB, .292/.356/.509