baseball gods productions

Thoughts about baseball, from the perspective of sports psychology and the role of sports in society. It includes team and player analysis, predictions, and what I think needs to be changed in Major League Baseball. Brought to you from the heart of baseball, Brooklyn, by baseball gods productions.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Post Memorial Day Reality Check

The baseball season is about one third complete, and it's a good time to assess what has happened so far, and look towards the future. The biggest surprises so far are still the Marlins and the Cardinals on the overachieving side, and the Indians, Tigers, Mets, Mariners, Rockies on the underachieving side. I am surprised the Royals are playing so poorly, and that the Reds aren't doing a little better, but maybe these teams need another year to make the transition to competitive young teams under new managers. I'm not surprised at how well the Rays are playing, and I still think they have a decent chance to make the playoffs as the wild card.

In the National League, it looks like the Phillies are once again getting more out of their talent than the Mets are. The Braves are a little worse than I expected, but are certainly in a good enough position to make a playoff push. The Marlins will drop down to 4th place or even 5th most likely, but you have to give Fredi Gonzalez a lot of credit for keeping them over .500 for so long.

The Cubs and Diamondbacks still look like locks for their division championships, with less competition than expected. The wild card will probably come from the East, and the question will be whether the Mets can make themselves relevant again, or will the Braves and Phillies battle it out for the two playoff spots.

The Mets are a .500 team until they prove otherwise. This has been going on for a year now, so it's no longer a slump or a collapse, it's who they are. A popular benchmark of competitiveness is to get to 10 games over .500, so if and when the Mets get to that point, I might consider them a contender this year. The way I see it, big changes need to be made before that will happen.

If I were running the Mets here are some things I'd consider:

* Sign Scott Hatteberg and release Carlos Delgado.

* Send Mike Pelfrey to New Orleans when Pedro comes back Tuesday. Pelfrey is killing them and needs to go back and work on his pitches and his mental approach.

* Trade for Kevin Millar, Xavier Nady, and/or Jason Bay. These names are bouncing around all over the trade rumors and the writers are correct that one or two of these guys would help, without costing too much. Millar isn't much better than Delgado, but he might just be the fiery leader they have needed for the past couple of years. It's time to cowboy up. A platoon of Millar and Hatteberg, with the other available for pinch-hitting, would be more productive and less miserable than Delgado.

* Trade Oliver Perez if they can get a young starter in return. He's leaving after the season anyway, and he just is not reliable enough. I'd much rather have a less-talented, more consistent pitcher this year. Kind of like Brian Bannister.

* Send Raul Casanova back to New Orleans, and recall Argenis Reyes. They should have done this even before Castillo got hurt again. That injury was beyond inevitable, given that Castillo has been playing practically every inning of every game for way too long now. As has Reyes, Wright, and Beltran, by the way. How long before Beltran pulls something?

* Sign Freddie Garcia to be the fifth starter when he is ready to pitch again.

* Release Orlando Hernandez. That ship has sailed.

* Add Jose Valentin to the coaching staff, with the major task of teaching Jose Reyes how to be a winning baseball player instead of just a great talent. Reyes is getting on base, but he is not sparking the team the way he did in the past. He is also not backing up bases and doing the little things that winning teams do. I wish he would model himself after the younger version of Derek Jeter and today's Jimmy Rollins, because that's what the Mets need from him. He makes too many physical and mental errors, and the Mets aren't good enough to keep overcoming them.

I would fire Randolph and Rick Peterson and start over, but since they chose to stay the course, the players need to be shuffled until they find an effective combination.

Carlos Delgado needs to go, and not just because he is not performing on the field. The fact is that Delgado does not seem at all comfortable playing for the Mets, and in New York. I think he hates the fans for booing him ruthlessly even before he became a Met. When he was with the Marlins, the fans booed him for his refusal to stand for God Bless America, and for his comments about the way Omar Minaya tried to recruit him as a free agent.

I don't think he ever wanted to play for the Mets, and he looks conflicted and unhappy all the time. The media is pressuring him to be a vocal leader, and he doesn't want to, mostly because he knows that he is not playing well enough to lead by example. The best thing for all concerned is to release him and let him play somewhere else.

It's really unfortunate, because he is one of the most intelligent and cultured players in baseball, and deserves a better end to his wonderful career. I always respected him before he came to the Mets, and nothing has changed that. He just isn't a good fit for the Mets now, and they need to admit they made a mistake in trading Mike Jacobs for him.

In the American League, one point that needs to be made is that the Yankees are incredibly fortunate that most of the teams that were predicted to contend have played below expectations. The Mariners, Tigers, and Indians were supposed to be much better, thus making it more difficult to win the wild card. Instead, the main competition for the wild card looks like the A's, Blue Jays, and Rays, and it gives the Yankees a decent shot at making the playoffs even though they probably aren't all that good, as their record shows.

Before the season I thought the Mets had a better chance to make the playoffs than the Yankees, but the way it is playing out, the Yankees have a better window of opportunity due to the weakened competition in the American League. Joel Sherman of the NY Post has written about why the National League has seemed to surpass the American League as the dominant league this year, and he made some good points about the NL being younger and less home run happy. He connects it to fear of being outed for steroid use, and I would add that the younger players have had to succeed despite tougher drug testing in the minor leagues.

The answer for teams that want to win now is to get younger. Since that has always been the answer for teams that are rebuilding, it will put an even greater premium on young talent, making it much harder to acquire young stars. The team with the best scouting and player development systems will dominate from here on out. In other words, Brian Cashman is on the right track with the transition to young pitching, and Omar Minaya may have given up too much young talent recently, causing the Mets to fail in their quest to be a dominant team in the near future.

Judy Kamilhor © 2008


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