The sting of the Mets late season debacle has been softened by the immediate post-season. The Phillies got swept by the Rockies juggernaut, a fate the Amazin's would have endured had they won one more game and shlumped into the playoffs. Then things got even better.....the Yankees went out meekly against Cleveland. Now we are all enduring the big Joe Torre story, a big old "what....ever".
Enduring the the Mets demise was painful. It was a monumental and extended team slump. We still have a nucleus of young, talented and exciting players. So, doctor, what went wrong? What can we learn? What should we do next year?
I didn't think I would be able to talk about it so soon, but the Phillies and Yankees exit, and all the sickening Yankee talk, has me ready to say my piece. Here is my Met post-mortem, and some suggestions:
1. Baseball is not only about statistics, you have to watch the games too. The last six weeks Jose Reyes was worse than his poor statistics. He was physically and mentally exhausted. I thought he looked thin too. Once his swing went a little bad (as happens to all players during the season), he could not get it back. For this team to win, they need him playing well.
Next year: more days off, less stolen bases, strict attention to hitting fundamentals (ie: If he is hitting a lot of fly balls, this MUST be addressed.)
2. As horrendous as the middle relief was, they were only the symptom of the real problem....starters who go 5 innings and stress the pen. The entire pen was shot, and they are not such a bad bunch...OK, some were horrendous, but they won't be back. I think we found a good 7th or 8th inning guy in Jorge Sosa. I thought Schoenweiss was the only reliever who pitched well at the end, and he should get his knee fixed and try again. Wagner may not be the best closer, and he has some "Benitez" days, but he is OUR closer, and we can win with him. My big pen move will be.....get Heilman out of there and make him a starter!!!
3. Speaking of watching the games, when your team is in a deep malaise, and you have Shawn Green in right field and Lastings Milledge on the bench, what game was Willie watching? I think Willie gave Lastings a bum deal most of the season. Granted, he is immature and ticks off the other team sometimes, but this guy can flat out play, and will only get better. I'm sure Shawn Green won't be back, and I'd give the starting rightfield job to Lastings. I saw enough of Carlos Gomez to say he has some ability too, but I'm not convinced he's a major leaguer.
4. I wish we had Moises Alou a few years ago, in lieu of Cliff Floyd. Moises was outstanding this year, and I'd try another year with him, realizing he gets hurt and will call your fourth outfielder into service.
5. I'm fine with Paul LoDuca leaving. I know a lot of people like him, but I find that rah-rah macho stuff annoying. Watching the games, he was worn out and useless by season's end, primarily because his machismo tells him to tell Willie he has to play every day. It should not be that way. Twenty less games from Paulie, played by Castro or DeFelice, and we'd have won it.
6. Bye bye Tom Glavine.....I'd say it was fun, but it wasn't. He always needed the umps to give him those borderline pitches, and when they don't he is awful. When he got slightly off his game due to age, he was not able to get it done. Ron Darling made a great point in the last game...."When you are hitting your spots and making your pitches, and they are still hitting you, that's a problem".
7. I love El Duque, but we can't rely on him. Thank you and good bye.
8. Gotta keep Marlon Anderson though. Would you like to have a few of those early season Julio Franco at-bats back, and have Marlon up there instead?
9. I thought John Maine and Oliver Perez showed a lot this season, and I like them with Pedro as a strong 1-2-3. I'd go Heilman 4, and let all the young pitchers (Pelfry, Humber and anyone else they can try) compete for #5. In hindsight, they should have tried the young guys all those times they went with borderline veterans. I hated when they did that.
10. We should watch Carlos Delgado carefully. If he wasn't hurt, he seems to be declining. There were also times he didn't run balls out. Willie should never tolerate this, and it would have made sense to sit Delgado when this happened. In fact, from the first day of camp, Willie should make this team policy....you don't run out a ground ball, or pop-up, or drive to the outfield that you assume is a home run but isn't, YOU ARE OUT OF THE GAME.
It wasn't Willie's fault, and I'm glad they didn't scapegoat him.
Bottom line.....we have a strong nucleus. We can recover and be right in it next season.