It is too early to judge definitively, but we have finally seen and heard things which seem to show that the organization realizes exactly how awful the current predicament is.
We stand eight games behind the Phils, and six behind the WC leader Giants, but there are unfortunately six teams between us and the SF Cain/Lincecums (the rest of the team is 29-37). When one looks at the NL WC race, one cannot help but think that this is not exactly the AL WC race. No team between us and the WC seems remotely as good and as solid as the Yankees or the Rays. It is hard to picture us leapfrogging all of those teams ahead of us, but is anyone really that impressed with the Giants, Marlins, Cubs, Braves, Astros, etc.? I think not.
I am not saying that it is time to start saving money for playoff tickets, but as some of our more levelheaded brethren on this site often state, there is a lot of baseball left.
Jerry used the suicide squeeze last night, a great play when you have a reliable bunter like Castillo, and I am not sure when I last saw a Met suicide squeeze. This is a great play, and was the first time I can remember recently where I really had to take my hat off to Jerry. I would definitely love to take my hat off to him again and again until it starts falling apart, so I do think this is a goodâ€”small, yes, but goodâ€”sign. We have little to lose right now and everything to gain by using every weapon at our disposal, and with speed on the bases and a player like Slappy who can be counted on to lay down a bunt, this is hopefully a sign of things to come. Letâ€™s steal more, sacrifice less, squeeze when we can, and take some risks. We literally have nowhere to go but up.
I also liked Jerryâ€™s commenting and joking about Sheffield having to have surgery. I am sure the front office did not appreciate it, but it is about time someone verbalized what everyone outside of the organization seems to realize is a very strangeâ€”to say the very leastâ€”situation when it comes to playersâ€™ health. We have been through it again and again, and my opinion certainly has not changed, but it must be refreshing for the players to know that Jerry is aware that something is wrong, and it certainly heartens me as a fan to see an embryonic sign that at least SOMEONE with the Mets knows that there is something amiss.
I like the Francoeur trade. A lot. I really like it. OK, not as much as a talk radio guy likes Inge, but I like it a lot. I liked the Milledge trade and still do. I still think Milledge is the second coming of Ryan Thompsonâ€”i.e., a guy who looks good, makes some fine plays occasionally, but will go from team to team and never really make it. Church, however, is soon to be 31 and other than one pretty good 530 PA season in Wash., he has never come close to being a really productive everyday player. He cannot stay healthy, he is very streaky, and he swings at pitches that my 2 year old niece would take. And she generally swings at everything.
Francoeurâ€™s OBP is indeed really scary, but he is 25, and has certainly put up a couple of seasons more productive than anything Church has accomplished. And Frenchy has played every day every year thus far in his career. I would argue that, especially considering our recent health disasters, this may be the most important issue. Church may be loaded with potential, but he will soon be 31, and is often hurt. Frenchy is 25, and has actually had a couple of productive years playing every day. I say this trade was a really good one, which, should Frenchy recover what he had in his first two full seasons, could be a great one. Finally, consider next yearâ€™s lineup: He might hit 6th, depending on offseason moves, which means he will potentially have loads of RBI chances with Beltran and Wright on base in front of him. He also might often be pitched around, which, should he develop a tiny amount of patience, could mean a great improvement in OBP.
Dumping Redding is another really good sign. No, it is not dumping Slappyâ€™s many more millions, but Slappy is having a good season. Jettisoning Redding now is great because he is absolutely awful, and it shows, again in an embryonic but hopeful way, that the team is ready to start eating money to improve. Lugo is not a star, and surely will not be signed to a pricey long-term deal as some of the Nattering Nabobs of Negativity have suggested as a club to bash Omar, but Cora is not an everyday player. He is a very valuable bench guy, and if Jose is gone for another month or longer, adding Lugo instantly improves the everyday lineup somewhat, but improves the bench tremendously by returning Cora there, where he belongs. Lugo is aging and in decline, but has had some good years as an everyday player, and will come very cheaply, a la Shef. This is, in all likelihood, another good move, albeit for the short-term.
With twelve days left until the trade deadline, it is very hard to assess what we might do. This team should not be sellers, and even if they were so inclined, we canâ€™t move injured stars, and trading Wright, Johan, or KRod is out of the question. Maineâ€™s injury and Pelfâ€™s rather disappointing season lower their value dramatically, and Ollie and Slappyâ€™s contracts make them next to untradeable. Sending a package of prospects somewhere for a star took a huge hit with FMartâ€™s 86th injury of his young career.
So where does that leave us? Not in an enviable position. We would basically have to create a basket of our three or four or five next best prospects to land a Halladay, Holliday, Oswalt, etc, assuming they are even available to us. However, the financial issue could once again be our savior. Only the most negative and unreasonable fan could think that Omar is not busy working the phones like mad, both to other GMs and to the Wilpons, seeing what is available, and how much salary Fred and Jeff might be willing to take on. We must remember that no one thought we would get Johan, and we did, largely due to financial reasons. Delgadoâ€™s and Wagnerâ€™s salaries come off the books after 2009, and barring a miraculous return to form by JJ, so will his. Combining this with the hopeful desire of the Wilpons to finally play some meaningful October games might just put us in position to land someone who we are not expecting to be available to us.
Overall, this has surely been a horrifying last month. One of the worst in recent memory, and I have a long recent memory when it comes to the Mets. I still feel that we need wholesale changes in our medical and training staffs, and I really hope that we see Showalter or Bobby V or even someone like Tim Teufel in Jerryâ€™s office next year. But I still feel that the â€œthe coreâ€ is outstanding and can definitely win with a healthy group of complimentary players around it. Unless we see excellent finishes by at least two of Pelf, Ollie, and Maine, I would have to say that another starter is our top need for 2010. But Jose, Wright, Beltran, Johan, and KRod fill perhaps the biggest needs a team can have, for an ace, a closer, a good leadoff hitter, and two very productive middle of the lineup guys who excel in pretty much every area of the game. We need better players to fill out the rotation and the bottom of the order; we do not need to change â€œthe core.â€
I have to say that as dispiriting as this season has been lately, I have not totally given up hope. No one is tearing up the NL other than the Phils and the Dodgers. We probably will miss the postseason for a third straight extremely disappointing season, but we must take a breath and realize that 2009 is not the last two years. Omar is NOT to blame. Injuries are.Â Maybe we will put together a 10-game winning streak late in August, and feast on the Marlins and Nats for once in September, and create the possibility of a miracle finish. Probably not. But regardless, we have seen some signs that the organization realizes that things are amiss, and we will very likely see more of this in the coming two weeks.
Maybe it is too late for 2009, and maybe this is getting to be a broken record, but we still have a great young nucleus, and if we do not become healthy enough to save 2009, we should as fans be willing to give Omarâ€”if not Jerry and the medical/training personnelâ€”one more year to cobble together enough support for â€œthe coreâ€ to finally get back to where we were before the 9th inning of Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS.