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.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Time To Start Over, Mets

Now that Johan Santana has admitted he has been pitching with elbow pain, it is time to assess the future of the New York Mets organization. It is undeniable that the problems with the team go all the way to the top, and the solution must start there, too.

Here is my recommendation: ask Jeff Wilpon to remove himself from baseball operations, and hire Bobby Valentine as President. Give him full authority to hire the baseball operations staff, starting with a new General Manager. This new General Manager will get to hire a new manager.

It is clear that the team needs to focus on talent evaluation and development, and all hires should have proven expertise in player development, including draft specialists, scouts, and statistical analysts.

Spending smart has to be the approach, focusing on getting younger and more athletic, rather than spending most of their money on big-name veterans, the Omar way.

What Went Wrong This Year

1. Solving last year's problems with this year's moves.

Yes, fixing the bullpen was necessary, since 2008 proved that a weak bullpen can sink any ship. However, Omar Minaya did not look forward to analyze the 2009 roster's strengths and weaknesses, such as injury-prone position players (Reyes, Beltran, Delgado, Castillo, Church, Pagan, Schneider, and Castro) and a questionable starting rotation after Johan Santana.

In the end, he fixed the main 2008 problem by acquiring Francisco Rodriguez, J. J. Putz, and Sean Green, but he did not anticipate the 2009 problems well enough, even though many writers and fans were screaming about the need to improve the rotation, and to consider trading Delgado while he still had marquee value.

2. Injuries.

First of all, I don't believe in bad luck when it comes to injuries, any more than I believe in bad luck with relationships. You create your own luck by being physically, mentally, and emotionally prepared to show up to work for a full season of competing.

The Mets have somehow collected a bunch of guys that are not willing or able to do whatever it takes to show up from the beginning of Spring Training to the last out of the season. They have many players that are not capable of handling one or more of the following key challenges of a baseball season: adversity, opportunity, success, and pressure.

The energy of this team is so bad that even guys that I would say are total gamers, like Alex Cora, Johan Santana, David Wright, and Jeff Francoeur, have succumbed to injuries.

If I were the Mets' sports psychologist, I would diagnose the team as afraid of sustained success. With success comes responsibility to maintain that success, which leads to pressure. Pressure is trying to hold on to a 7 game lead with 17 games to play, and watching it slip away.

It is my contention that the same mentality that caused the team to collapse the past two seasons manifested physically this year as all the injuries. A mental breakdown that turned into a physical breakdown.

The only way to avoid it would have been to change the team's core during the off-season, which many people were demanding. The best move, of course, would have been to fire Omar Minaya and brought in someone fresh, but the Wilpons are either fiercely loyal or fiercely cheap.

3. Top-Heavy Roster Construction

Too much money has been invested in too few players, leading to a top-heavy team with a weak bench and Triple A roster. Once a few core players got hurt, the Mets were doomed. Teams like the Yankees and Red Sox have been better able to replace key guys, and it's not just money, it's also planning ahead.

Too many prospects have been traded away the past few years, and not enough effort has been put into replacing those prospects. Over hyping their prospects has been a classic Met move since Gregg Jefferies, if not before, and the team seems to forget the truth about their young talent.

4. Poor Roster Management

Joel Sherman has recently pointed out that losing Darren O'Day was a big blunder early in the year, but to me, this is just another example of a basic fault of Omar Minaya, the inability to be prepared for unforeseen circumstances. Losing Jesus Flores to the Nationals in the Rule 5 draft a few years ago was another blunder that continues to haunt the team.

Talented youth simply has to come before holding onto veterans, some of whom were never any good to start with. I've said it over and over, baseball is a young man's game again, and Omar Minaya is an old man's GM. It's a miracle the Mets never signed Barry Bonds.

5. Not Getting Rid of Veterans When They Had the Chance

How is Gary Sheffield still on this team? How is Billy Wagner still here? How come Minaya couldn't get something, anything, for Livan Hernandez back when he still looked useful?

The only thing I'm not sure about is how to approach the rest of the season. Some fans seem to want to call up a bunch of minor leaguers to finish out the schedule instead of the guys the Mets currently have. I think the team needs to find some guys that really want to be there, who are willing to give themselves fully to winning as many remaining games as possible.

Clearly, Gary Sheffield does not fit that description, so he needs to go. On September 1, so he can't sign with another team and be eligible for the post-season roster. Yes, it's vindictive, but he deserves it.

I would love to see some of their prospects get the call for September, and see how they handle the opportunity in a relatively low-pressure situation. I'd like to see Nick Evans back, and Brad Holt in the bullpen, and any other top prospect who is over 21, not injured, and up for a challenge.

The Mets need some enthusiasm to carry them through the dog days that will stretch all the way to the end of September this year. Good luck.

© Judy Kamilhor 2009



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