Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Mets Need to Make Some Changes

By Nicholas Stix

The Lineup:

1. Jose Reyes (thus ending the disastrous experiment with him in the three slot);
2. Luis Castillo (stand pat);
3. Angel Pagan (down from leadoff; he entered last night’s game hitting .389 with runners in scoring position, best on the team);
4. David Wright (up from fifth);
5. Jason Bay (down from cleanup, where he has been ineffective);
6. Ike Davis (stand pat);
7. Rod Barrajas (up from eight, where he sees two few runners in scoring position, which over the past month has for him included runners on first base); and
8. Jeff Francoeur (down from seventh, where he has been ice cold for weeks).

Carlos Beltran

If Beltran does make it back this year, it is not likely to be before the All-Star break. The team mishandled his injury so badly last year that it’s not a sure bet that he’ll ever play in the big leagues again. If he does make it back, and can find his stroke after a year on the shelf, he would be a perfect three or four hitter, as in the past. By then, Barrajas will likely have cooled off (and be sent back to the eighth spot), but hopefully Reyes, Wright, Bay and Francoeur will have come out of their respective funks, giving the team one of the league’s most potent lineups. (If by then, Barrajas’ mounting injuries keep him out of the lineup, his replacement, ……. Thole, a Punch-and-Judy hitter, will mean a decrease in power, but an increase in average.) If by June Bay still hasn’t started knocking in runs, however, and Davis still is, the two should be flip-flopped in the fifth and sixth slots.

Oliver Perez

Oliver Perez has only two problems: He’s lost velocity on his fastball (from 93-94 to 91-92), and he’s wild both in and out of the strike zone. Thus, at $12 million per season, he is baseball’s most expensive batting practice pitcher. Bye-bye, Ollie. Give his spot on the rotation to Hisanori Takahashi or Fernando Nieve (who for about three weeks last season, before his season-ending hamstring injury, was the club’s best starter, but who has been less effective this season out of the bullpen), or bring up Pat Misch, and give it to him. The $20 million the team still owes Perez is on Minaya’s head.

It was foreseeable that Oliver Perez + John Maine = one starter, if that, because last season each was at most a five-inning pitcher, and both have been injury-prone. Perez has been healthy this season, but has been only a three-inning batting practice pitcher.

Maine has lost even more velocity on his fastball (from 94 MPH in 2007 to about 87-88) than Perez, yet relies more than ever on his fastball, rarely throwing the slider that was once one of the best in baseball. Facing the possible end of his career, Maine made a conscious decision: To go down in a blaze of fastballs. If his career was over, it wouldn’t end with junk.

And Maine has gone from requiring 100 pitches, in order to make it through the fifth inning, to sometimes needing 100 get through the fourth. And yet, with a higher pitch count, Maine has been a revelation. Maine is a gamer; Perez isn’t.

A cornucopia of talented free agent pitchers was available during the offseason, some healthy, and some who were reclamation projects coming off of major injuries (e.g., John Lackey, Jason Marquis, Jon Garland, Randy Wolf, Joel Pineiro, Doug Davis, Jarrod Washburn, Mark Mulder, Eric Bedard, Ben Sheets, Chien Ming Wang, et al.). Mets GM Omar Minaya made no serious plays for any of them, nor did he last season, when Brad Penny was available for about … a penny. And that’s just one more reason Minaya is the poster child for executive diversity.

Jerry Manuel

I never thought that Manuel would get an honest shot at managing the team, as long as Minaya remained GM. After all, Minaya and his Latin Mafia crony Tony Bernazard did everything in their considerable power to sabotage Willie Randolph’s managerial tenure, and did so with Manuel, as well, through last season.

However, prior to this season, Mets son-in-chief Jeff Wilpon neutralized Minaya by making him a figurehead, and the real GM, though without the title, may be assistant John Ricco.

The good news is that the team is playing its heart out for Manuel. The bad news is it is losing—three in a row, as of this writing. And just as Manuel gets much for the credit for the team hustling, he bears much of the blame for its slump, particularly through his ingenious idea to put Jose Reyes in the three-slot, and his misuse of the relief corps. It was bad enough that in one game he ran Nieve out in relief for the third straight night, and he promptly blew the game, but the very next night, as if to emphasize his inability to understand his mistake with Nieve, he ran Pedro Feliciano out for the fourth straight night, and Feliciano gave up a dinger to blow the game on his first pitch!

Nieve had told Manuel that he was ready and able to pitch every night. That sort of pride is nice to hear, but a sensible manager is obliged to ignore it. The pitcher is simply saying that he’s a gamer, just like the starter who’s at the end his tether when you visit him on the mound in the seventh inning, yet who insists, “I can get through this inning, Skipper!”

You smile, take the ball, give him a whack on the butt, and send him off to a nice ovation. Otherwise, you leave him in too long, and you and him both end up being serenaded with boos, and your judgment being questioned.

With Feliciano, things are somewhat different. Two years ago, he made a new record for appearances by a Mets pitcher, with 86, and broke his own record last year, with 88, but that was back when he was a specialist. He’d get brought in to pitch to one left-handed batter, and then be replaced with a righty specialist.

Last season, however, Feliciano showed increasing success in getting right-handed hitters out, and so this season, Manuel has been using him for entire innings, and in at least one instance, for one and two-thirds innings. When a man is pitching to so many more hitters in each appearance, he cannot make nearly as many appearances. Manuel doesn’t seem to have gotten that point. If he doesn’t get it soon, he’ll ruin Feliciano for the season, and maybe for his career. And if that happens, Feliciano, with his big mouth, will never let anyone forget that it was Jerry Manuel who ruined him.

* * *

A sane businessman who hires an executive who does everything imaginable to destroy the firm, fires him. Not so under the racist insanity that is diversity. Under diversity, you instead re-hire him to a new, even fatter contract, cut his power, and surround him with non-diverse non-fuck-ups who will do his job for him, but without their getting the credit or the big bucks.

Of course, no real business could do this. They can’t afford to pay three people to do one job. But under the regime of diversity, big businesses are successful based not on their ability to provide goods and services of better quality and lower price than their competitors, but due to the existence of monopolies and cartels, whose owners and managers wield political power that make the need for quality, efficiency, and competitive prices unnecessary (think bailouts, stadiums financed through confiscating the taxpayers’ money, TV contracts, and Congress’ protection of the big leagues from the antitrust laws). Meanwhile, the majority of smaller businesses offering quality, efficiency, and price but lacking political pull routinely fail.

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