Sep 28

Reflections of Willie

With the Milwaukee Brewers in town, and Jerry Manuel presumably in his last week as Mets manager, it is not surprising the attention being placed on Willie Randolph and the inevitable comparisons to his successor.

RANDOLPH: Looking back.

I covered Randolph in 2006 until 2008 when he was unceremoniously fired, and found him to be knowledgeable but sometimes too thin skinned. I won’t use the word paranoid because I’m not a psychiatrist and believe that’s too harsh and unfair an assessment.

I attributed Randolph’s demeanor to it being his first job and his inability to let go of being passed by for other opportunities.

And, to be fair, Randolph had reason to be cautious as the Mets presented him with several untenable obstacles. Willie spoke highly of Omar Minaya the other day, but part of that was being a gentleman. Fact is, there was an uneasy tension between Randolph and the front office caused in large part by the constant undermining presence of Tony Bernazard, who literally was a management spy and who fed information to players that caused a gap in the clubhouse.

Minaya was at fault for letting that situation develop and not pulling in the reigns on Bernazard. Eventually, Bernazard did himself in and his reputation has kept him from landing another baseball job.

That Carlos Delgado sabotaged Randolph’s relationship with the Latin players, and it was allowed to happen by the front office, was distasteful and really despicable. Delgado’s presence undoubtedly hampered Randolph’s relationship with Jose Reyes to name one. It was information fed by Bernazard to Delgado that damaged whatever relationship the player could have with his manager.

The Mets came within one hit of reaching the World Series in 2006, then collapsed in 2007. The collapse that summer was historic, but traceable to the front office not addressing the needs of starting pitching and not bringing back the bullpen that was a strength of the 2006 team. The collapse would have happened sooner, and perhaps not been as dramatic, if not for the strong start that spring.

The bullpen was again a problem in 2008, but the Mets hung around until the final weekend. There was another collapse that year, but not as dramatic. The team hung around long enough for the interim tag to be removed from Manuel.

The Mets have addressed needs piecemeal, from Johan Santana to Francisco Rodriguez to Jason Bay, but never gave Randolph a full deck after 2006. The feeling was that they came close and to take the next step with essentially the same team. Hoping for improvement is not the same as adding the proper pieces to improve.

Gradually, by sticking with Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez too long, by not rebuilding the bullpen after Duaner Sanchez’s injury described in his EMR (electronic medical record) as a  fractured coracoid bone in the shoulder, by misjudging the progress made by Oliver Perez and John Maine after 2007, by hamstringing the bench with the likes of Julio Franco, poor contracts given Perez, Franco and Moises Alou, and numerous injuries, the window has slammed shut on the Mets and it doesn?t matter who is manager.

Had Randolph stayed, he couldn’t navigate through this mess, and Manuel has proven to be less capable. Let’s face it, today’s Mets are a house of cards. Their record will be better this year, but in some respects the team overachieved because of RA Dickey and Hisanori Takahashi, and Mike Pelfrey’s step forward.

With the payroll as it is, the injury to Santana and questions in the pitching staff, and the health issues of Carlos Beltran and Bay, this team could go south again next year.

Randolph deserves another chance to manage in the major leagues, but bringing him back isn’t the best idea. Been there, done that. Just like with Bobby Valentine.

Randolph has his faults as does Manuel, but the fact is this front office will be going on its fifth manager in ten years next season, a sure sign that the instability that comes from up top.

Mar 11

Mets release Sanchez ….

I wrote at the beginning of spring training Duaner Sanchez’s health was a key, that if he rebounded from shoulder surgery he could become a viable set-up reliever. He was hit hard in his first appearance and has done little to change the feeling impending doom.

Sanchez was released by the Mets after failure to reach 90 on the speed gun in Monday’s game against Baltimore. Sanchez gave up two runs on three hits and a walk. He’s walked six in five innings, an indication not only his speed is gone, but he velocity as well.

Said Minaya: “We looked at his overall performance based on last year to what we see now and we didn’t see the improvement we felt was needed to be effective in the major leagues.”

The beneficiary of Sanchez’s demise is Bobby Parnell.

Feb 26

Good and bad signs ….

Luis Castillo drove in four runs with two hits yesterday, but Duaner Sanchez walked two hitters on nine pitches.

It’s only one game, so let’s not get carried away either way, but both are key issues for the Mets this season.

Sanchez might never regain his pre-accident form, but something close is imperative if he’s to become a key set-up again. Wildness is not a good way to do that.

A lot has already been written about Castillo. He’s Jerry Manuel’s pet project this spring. Manuel believes leadoff might jumpstart Castillo. It worked yesterday. But, I still have my doubts. I think he’s more ideally suited to hit second with Jose Reyes batting first.

Dec 13

Mets tender five ….

CHURCH: Arbitration case.

CHURCH: Arbitration case.

The following Mets were tendered contracts and will go through the arbitration process:

1. Ryan Church (30): Hit .276 with 12 homers, but was ineffective after sustaining a concussion in late May. He’s the projected right fielder.

2. John Maine (27): Season was cut short with shoulder injury that required surgery. Reports have him ready for spring training He’s the projected third starter.

3. Pedro Feliciano (32): Is the primary situational lefty following the trade of Scott Schoeneweis to Arizona.

4. Duaner Sanchez (29): Had problems coming back from two shoulder surgeries. Acquisition of J.J. Putz takes off the pressure. Was pitching brilliantly before injured in 2006.

5. Jeremy Reed (27): Acquired in 12-player deal this week. Is expected to assume departed Endy Chavez’s role.

These players can file from Jan. 5-15. The Mets have to exchange their salary offer by Jan. 19. The hearings are from Feb. 1-21.

Dec 13

Building the Mets’ 25-man roster ….

K-ROD: Fills Mets' biggest void.

K-ROD: Fills Mets' biggest void.

METS 25-MAN ROSTER

The Mets have several holes to fill before spring training, beginning with a starter. I still see them re-signing Oliver Perez.

There will be competition for two bullpen spots. This could change depending on if they open the season with four or five starters. There’s also a need for a reserve infielder. Marlon Anderson is the closest to somebody who can play both infield and outfield, but in the infield it’s first and second. They are talking about Alex Cora as a back-up shortstop.

Another outfield bat would be nice, but it’s not imperative.

Assuming Jon Niese is the fifth starter, I’m seeing four spots to be filled: fourth starter, two relievers, back-up infielder.

STARTERS
1. Johan Santana
2. Mike Pelfrey
3. John Maine
4. TBD:  Oliver Perez, Jason Marquis, other
5. Jon Niese

BULLPEN
6. Francisco Rodriguez
7. J.J. Putz
8. Pedro Feliciano
9. Duaner Sanchez
10. Sean Green
11. TBD
12. TBD

In system options: Connor Robertson, Darren O’Day, Rocky Cherry, Carlos Muniz, Brian Stokes, Bobby Parnell, Ed Kunz,

CATCHERS
13. Brian Schneider
14. Ramon Castro

INFIELD
15. Carlos Delgado
16. Luis Castillo
17. Jose Reyes
18. David Wright
19. TBD: Alex Cora

OUTFIELD
20. Carlos Beltran
21. Ryan Church
22. Daniel Murphy
23. Fernando Tatis
24. Jeremy Reed
25. Marlon Anderson