Thursday, September 27, 2007

Who made the Mets mess?

Why are the New York Mets in the mess they're in?

It begins with their starting rotation. The Mets had only three starters available for most of the season: Glavine, Maine, and Perez; however, since the All-Star break, Maine has pitched noticeably poorer than he did before the break.

The fourth starter, Orlando Hernandez, has been ailment-prone. He's only been able to pitch 145 innings this season, but only 66.2 since the All-Star break. He's been out of action with a bunion since his last start on September 11 when, in three plus innings against 19 batters, he gave up eight runs on six hits and four walks. In comparison, Tom Glavine, their most reliable starter, has pitched 200 innings.

Compounding their starting pitching problems is the fact that the Mets were never able to stabilize the fifth slot, rotating a variety of pitchers through it, including Vargas to Brian Lawrence to Mike Pelfrey. Pelfrey got the most fifth-slot starts, 13; but this season, his luck's been like his number of starts. His ERA is 5.57 and his WHIP is 1.71.

When you have a unstable rotation, that places more stress on your bullpen.

The Mets bullpen wasn't built to last. It's like a Mercury that I owned in the 1970s. After only a few years of use, with its mileage under 50,000, the car started going downhill faster than an Olympic skier.

By September, Billy Wagner -- when he was available -- wasn't the same pitcher he was earlier in the season. And it's not because he was overused. He's only pitched 67.1 innings. His ERA for August was 6.23; for the last seven days, it's been 13.50.

The Mets hoped September call-ups, such as Carlos Muniz and Willie Collazo would strengthen their bullpen. They didn't.

Willie Randolph said that Guillermo Mota would get over his "buzzard luck." He couldn't.

And ex-starters such as Aaron Sele and Jorge Sosa, whom the Mets relegated to the pen, couldn't perform better there then they did as starters.

Add to that the mistakes that Mets manager Willie Randolph has made with his relievers and starters, sometimes, for example, leaving them in too long, and the mess worsens.

But the biggest mistakes were made by Mets GM Omar Minaya. He assembled this cast of characters. Of course, he couldn't predict that Duaner Sanchez would miss this whole season from an off-field injury he suffered last season. But he either got rid or or didn't re-sign players who've made a difference this season on other teams, Heath Bell, Matt Lindstrom, Royce Ring, and Chad Bradford, players that couldn't have pitched any worse than have Mota, Sele, Sosa, and Schoeneweis.

Bell, Ring, and Lindstrom are gone because Mets' pitching coach Rick Peterson couldn't develop them as well as their current pitching coaches have. So Peterson also needs to share the blame. The same fate should befall him as happened to hitting coach Rick Downs, Bell, Lindstrom, and Ring. As soon as the season ends, Peterson should become an ex-Met.

Minaya will most likely be back next season. What he does in the off-season to strengthen the pitching staff will indicate whether he has the skill to place back on the right track a Mets team that's derailed.

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