A change is good (cont'd)
Posted: Sunday September 30, 2007 11:30PM; Updated: Monday October 1, 2007 9:49AM
Perhaps the Mets didn't simply choke, as is being widely portrayed in New York these days. Perhaps they were gassed, the result of advanced age. They were a veteran team, we were told over and over. But by the end, they looked just plain ancient. Pedro Martinez returned just about the same time that Orlando Hernandez went down. And Tom Glavine, who found the Fountain of Youth in time to win his 300th game, and then three more, finally realized that he, too, was over 40.
If they can't trade Carlos Delgado and his $16 million '08 salary (breaking his hand in the finale didn't help toward that end), Randolph needs to consider sitting him against tough lefties. Delgado's .378 slugging percentage against lefthanders was poor and should have warranted more benchings. While Delgado is bright and trouble-free, he has proven to be no sort of clubhouse leader, leaving those responsibilities to younger players like Wright and even the notoriously quiet Beltran.
The trades didn't work this time. Minaya, who batted close to 1.000 with his deals before the 2006 season, was no better than hit-or-miss last winter. The moves that worked included importing Luis Castillo, Damion Easley and Jorge Sosa. The ones that didn't included Bannister to Kansas City for awful Ambiorix Burgos, Bell to San Diego and Lindstrom and Henry Owens to Florida. Letting Bradford go to Baltimore wasn't a great idea, and bringing back Guillermo Mota with a backloaded $5-million deal (to pay around his steroid suspension) was an even worse idea.
A firing sent a bad message. The Mets were 4½ games up and doing fine offensively when Minaya decided that hitting coach Rick Down, a Randolph man, had to go. This was a bad idea, as Down is a professional hitting coach who had succeeded in every big-market town (Los Angeles, Boston, Baltimore and the Bronx). But what made it worse was that it sent the wrong message, that it's OK to fire a man who works from sunup to sundown on knees ravaged through 20-plus operations, and what's more, it's also OK to replace him with Hall-of-Fame talent/flake Rickey Henderson, who is recalled in Queens for failing to run out a lot of balls. Henderson distinguished himself as coach by playing cards with the players.
Reversing course and firing Henderson is probably a given. But it's probably too much to ask Minaya to admit error and return Down. Instead, he'll probably make a bid for a personal favorite, Texas hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, which would allow Howard Johnson to move to another coaching spot.
Randolph communicates well but didn't seem to connect with some of the players as far as motivating them this year. The players will say they blame themselves for the collapse, but they don't often offer passionate support for Randolph. His low-key approach is over-criticized publicly, but while it's also OK to be "a non-confrontational type,'' as one Met called him, Randolph's tougher treatment of Reyes appeared to have backfired as the young prodigy went into a shell late in the season.
The abysmal 41-40 home record, which included 13-20 and 1-6 finishes at home, shouldn't merely be chalked up to happenstance. A conscious effort was made to keep the grass high to protect the pitchers, according to club sources, and perhaps that led to poor performance. It certainly didn't help. For instance, the Mets were 8-1 in Florida but were 3-6 at home against the young Marlins.
The Mets' young stars look like they could use some seasoning, at the very least. Lastings Milledge, who was determined to be an untouchable at the trade deadline, needs to grow up or be sent out. Carlos Gomez, another untouchable, appeared overmatched. While young stars like Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy are blossoming across town, the Mets' pitching prospects Mike Pelfrey and Phil Humber didn't overwhelm anyone. Getting younger is a great goal. The problem is, not one of the Mets' youngest players showed that they are ready to help.
Paul LoDuca has two feet out the door already. Mets people wanted to upgrade the defense, anyway, and LoDuca, 35, didn't deliver the same sort of offense that he did the year before (plus, he's neither fast nor a power hitter), so being feisty isn't going to carry the day. The temptation may be to go for Ivan Rodriguez, who turns 36 next month, and word is that the Tigers seem prepared to buy him out for $3 million unless he accepts a pay cut from the $13 million his option calls for (no way he will). The guess here is the Mets give I-Rod a two- or three-year deal, which doesn't make them younger but makes them better.
Is Dusty in Dodger forecast?
While people close to the Dodgers say they believe manager Grady Little is still safe, a couple also say that Little will enter next season in a tenuous position, and that they could envision Dusty Baker as an eventual replacement. Baker recently came to Dodger Stadium to throw out a first pitch, along with ex-Dodger teammates Steve Garvey and Ron Cey, and word is getting around that Baker is considered a possible replacement for Little.
The Dodgers' clubhouse was nothing short of a disaster this year, with Jeff Kent, Luis Gonzalez and other veterans pitted against the kids, notably Matt Kemp and James Loney. The veterans believe that the kids didn't show them the proper respect, and there's probably some truth to that. But Kent was wrong to air the dirty laundry in the first place, and he's generally no treat to be around. As for Gonzalez, he blamed bad communication for the team's bad season, seeming to point a finger at the decisionmakers, Little included.
The truth lies somewhere in the middle. The kids probably do need to mature in some cases. But a couple of the veterans were also on the selfish side. That's a recipe for dissension.
2 of 2