Tonight's game, a 5-3 extra inning loss to the hated Cardinals, which ended the Mets' one game winning streak against the Redbirds at Shea, was a failure on many levels despite the unlopsided score.
One ought to view this failure in three parts: the failure of the entire team to hit Todd effing Wellemeyer, who has all of eight major league wins to his credit (alongside an utterly sterling career 5.51 ERA), the failure of Scott Schoeneweis to do anything that could possibly help this team at any point in time, and the respective failures of Omar Minaya and Willie Randolph on this night and others.
You might say I'm overreacting, but the Mets' offense, in deslumpifying itself, managed only one run against Oakland on Saturday, one run in the first nine against St. Louis last night, and only three in the first nine tonight. You might remind me that I am forgetting two blowouts against Oakland in the Mets' favor, but then I will remind you that they faced Lenny DiNardo and Joe Kennedy in those games.
So, the Mets didn't fare too well against a replacement level starter tonight. They didn't last night, either. What can I do? There's nothing to second-guess: Delgado looks atrocious at the plate (1-for-5, 4 LOB, including a crucial groundout with men on first and third), and when Jose Reyes isn't hitting (1-for-5 tonight), he isn't stealing bases, and the Mets' offensive wheels aren't turning. No Met had a multi-hit game tonight, and six hits in eleven innings isn't a winning pace. Oh, well.
But, really, that's been a trend of late. The Cardinals don't hit all that much either, despite having one of baseball's top sluggers on their roster. (TAGUCHI!) They have Albert Pujols, too. Yet they manage to circumvent offense and win at the same time, at least when facing the Mets.
How does that happen? Two words: Scott Schoeneweis. He's awful. Totally horrendous. I can't really think of a time, save for a few April and Spring Training games, where I was able to heap praise on Schoeneweis. You might recall this post (scroll down a little), where I discussed and criticized the initial signing. However, I'm not sure there was anyone who expected Schoeneweis to be an instant curse upon entering the game.
Schoeneweis can't be used. Baseball Prospectus lists his VORP as -1.7 runs, which is pretty terrible, and that doesn't even include tonight's poor showing, including a home run ball served up to a rookie who most likely idolizes David Eckstein's power production. His ERA is 5.86, and he seemingly walks/allows a home run to each and every batter he faces.
Perhaps I'm exaggerating: the Mets' record is only 1-5 in the last six games in which Schoeneweis has pitched, and he really wasn't directly responsible for any of those losses, except tonight's. He claims to be injured, but it wasn't that mysterious severed leg tendon serving up the 3-2 meatball to Brendan Ryan.
Even in a best-case scenario, Schoeneweis is a mediocre pitcher who has little place on a major-league roster aside from a left-handed specialist role. And Pedro Feliciano already fills that role like convicted shakedown artist Tony Sirico as Paulie Walnuts on the Sopranos. Schoeneweis can't be a mop-up guy: that's Sele's job. Maybe he and Julio Franco could take a ride in a late model Yugo driven by Duaner Sanchez's cabby. I'm just saying.
But we have become accustomed to Schoeneweis' failure: he is the Mets' version of a white flag, at least in the minds of the fanbase. Why hasn't the coaching staff gotten that memo yet? We're putting new cover sheets on the TPS reports, too.
This is why much of the onus for the loss must be put on Willie 'n Omar, Omar 'n Willie, the inseparable duo who brought Scott Schoeneweis and Julio Franco into our Mets family, and who now refuse to cut their losses and acknowledge the mistakes. Even George Bush (a friend of Minaya and Franco, I smell a conspiracy!) knew it was time to pull the plug on Rumsfeld and Ashcroft at some point.
What was Willie thinking when he took Wagner out after a nine-pitch tenth? I understand he would have had to go two innings on back-to-back nights, but it would have been more like one and a half after that stress-free frame. It's not as though he had to bat, or as though their most feared hitters were due up in the next frame.
If he is so hell-bent on saving his closer, then what exactly was his reasoning behind selecting Schoeneweis to pitch the next frame? Although his four best relievers were out (although it shames me to include Mota and Heilman in that assessment), he did have Joe Smith to go to. Even Aaron Sele has been better this season than Schoeneweis.
That decision didn't pan out well, and the degree to which it was so poorly rewarded might have overshadowed the even more questionable decision to pinch-hit Julio Franco in the ninth with men on the corners. Franco hasn't had a pinch-hit in three weeks, and his .196/.333/.261 line doesn't exactly instill confidence in anyone.
While utilizing Ramon Castro in that spot probably wouldn't make sense, Willie would have been much better off using Damion Easley instead of Franco. Either option was 0-for-his career against Izzy, but at least we can recall Easley having hits in this millennium that were not bloop singles to right field.
In fact, Willie could have opted to leave Carlos Gomez in to bat for himself against the closer, who had lost all control of his curveball, and then sent up Ledee to bat for Mota. The game had already been tied, and Gomez has been getting on base at a higher clip than Ledee this year.
Instead, Ledee walked, and Julio "Out Machine" Franco went up and was a role model to all the young players, showing them how to overstay their welcome and how to minimize their bat speed and, simultaneously (!), maximize their outmaking potential. The jokes make themselves with Julio on the field. He is absolutely useless, and it befuddles me why Willie chooses to use him as his "ace" pinch-hitter.
Randolph might say that it's nice to have a bullet like that for late in the game: the Mets play Russian Roulette with themselves when the amazing egg-white guzzler steps up to the plate. By the way, did you know that Julio is older than Ron Darling? Almost two full years older? Ron retired in 1995. Hell, Franco's only three years younger than Lee Mazzilli.
Those two decisions are where Willie's at fault: Franco shouldn't be in any major league games at all, and Schoeneweis should be in even fewer than that. But it's someone's fault that these two found their way onto the roster in the first place, and that blame falls squarely on the shoulders of our beloved Omar.
Some have found significant fault with his offseason dealings, and I count myself in the crowd that only vilifies him for a couple of those moves. He deserves praise for passing on Barry Zito's ridiculous price tag, and outfielders like Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Lee. He showed incredible foresight in making both Maine and Perez parts of this year's rotation, and the Moises move might even turn out well, if his legs can be reattached.
But Minaya's failures this offseason lie in a few atrocious moves: two trades and one signing. The signing was Schoeneweis at 3 years, $11 M, just for the hell of it, apparently. The Mets passed on one of their relief aces from '06, Chad Bradford, at an almost identical clip, and he has a 3.49 ERA in 40 games for the Orioles this season. He's younger than Schoeneweis, too. That move has been discussed to death, and with good reason.
Minaya's two trades were even worse: Royce Ring/Heath Bell to the Padres for Jon Adkins and Ben Johnson, and Matt Lindstrom/Henry Owens to the Marlins for Adam Bostick/Jason Vargas.
Lindstrom has a 3.52 ERA in 33 games for Florida; Owens a 1.96 clip in 22 games (4 saves) for the Fish, before going down with an injury. Heath Bell has a 1.42 ERA in 36 games with San Diego, and Ring (right) hasn't given up a run in his four games of MLB work, alongside a 4-0 record and 1.23 ERA in 25 games for AAA Portland.
Three of the relief pitchers the Mets sent away have ERAs under two, and the other still has a respectable 3.52. Do you want to know what the Mets got in those trades?
Adam Bostick has a 3-5 record and 6.71 ERA at AAA N'awlins. Vargas made one forgettable start for the Mets and has a 6-4 record to go with a 4.35 ERA on the farm. Jon Adkins is the gem of the bunch, with his 3.68 ERA in 29 games for the Zephyrs. Ben Johnson posted a downright adorable .185/.233/.222 line in 27 AB for the Mets, and has fared rather middlingly at AAA, with a .264 average and zero power (.368 SLG).
Might it be a little bit more than a coincidence that the Mets have lost or been aided in their losing of several games due to spotty middle relief? The Mets traded away four dynamite major league relievers for nothing. Zero contribution to the big club for the Mets' acquisitions. Ahem, there was actually less than zero contribution as Vargas and Johnson combine for a -3.8 VORP at the plate and on the mound.
It pains me to say that the players the Mets chose to give up have been worth 34.9 runs over replacement level to their teams. Considering that the Mets gave up about 40 runs in two trades, and that a win is worth about ten runs, the Mets cost themselves four wins to this point during the season in these trades. Four wins extra and four losses subtracted would have given the Mets a 46-29 record, which would have been tops in the NL and third in major league baseball.
I hope that this doesn't sound like an excessively impassioned rant, but at this point in the season, there has to be some blame assessed for a 2.5 game lead that could have been 6.5. Minaya has time to remedy his mistakes: promote Willie Collazo (the AAA squad's best reliever, as long as Ambi "The Lorax" is disabled) and 1B Andy Tracy (.311/.418/.571, 18 HR, 58 RBI) while DFAing Julio Franco and DLing Schoeneweis.
Just a humble suggestion, but one that's intended to avoid all too certain failure.
Two quick notes:
-Check for an article regarding Delgado, Franco, and Andy Tracy by me (!) on Mike's Mets tomorrow. I will be writing there weekly, for the foreseeable future, but I'll still be here to provide you coverage on my usual semi-semi-regular posting schedule.
-I'm going to tomorrow night's game (Anthony Reyes and his 0-9 record and 6.69 ERA vs. Tom 296, 7:10 p.m.) and hope to fare better than I did last time. If I don't, be sure to keep your cursor on that refresh button to indulge yourself in my horror.
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