To start off on a rather obvious note, game recaps are supposed to say something about the game you just watched, or missed, or fell asleep during, or were going to watch and didn't and now feel guilty about it. Let's dispense with tonight's game in relatively brisk fashion, then:
1. Mike Pelfrey was bad. Again.
2. Daniel Murphy had a miserable night against a tough lefthander, then it got worse. He wasn't even in your picture when Anderson Hernandez confidently fired the ball to first base in an attempt to complete a double play. The play would have been funny if it had happened to the other guys.
3. The totality of the Met highlights was Fernando Tatis cracking a triple off the center-field fence.
4. The wreckage of the 2009 Mets are easy prey for even an average major-league baseball team on most nights.
Earlier today a friend of mine inquired — with polite hesitation — what I thought the Mets' offseason considerations should be. It's a subject I warmed to almost instantly, in this year that can't end soon enough.
Such questions generally come down to positions that need filling; in deference to the form, I'll try my answer that way, while warning up-front that in my view these questions are not the ones that should be uppermost in the minds of Mets executives when they gather in conference rooms overlooking an empty Citi Field.
Corner Outfielders: Jeff Francoeur is overrated and an adequate player at best, which makes him essentially the inverse of Ryan Church, for whom he was traded — Church was underrated, but also an adequate player at best. Either way, this leaves the Mets in much the same situation in 2010 as they were in 2009: expecting big things from a right fielder whom you doubt can deliver. And as with 2009, that puts more pressure on left field.
The Mets' response to this question last winter was to assume there was an answer from some combination of an old player coming off a very good year (Fernando Tatis), a young player out of position (Daniel Murphy) and an older player who'd become a DH (Gary Sheffield). Tatis has been merely OK, Murphy was a disaster, and Sheffield has been far better than expected (and a model teammate, contrary to the bleatings of Wally Matthews and others) but still fragile and defensively challenged.
So what happens in 2010? Presumably the Mets realize neither Tatis nor Sheffield is an answer — though that's a dangerous thing to say about a team that thought another round of Gerald Williams and a mummified Moises Alou was a good idea. An obvious answer is to chase Jason Bay or Jermaine Dye, but the Mets resisted obvious answers (Manny Ramirez, Adam Dunn) a year ago. Looking internally, it's hard to imagine Fernando Martinez being ready, or Angel Pagan's bat being sufficient. My question: How is this not the time to give Nick Evans an extended audition?
Daniel in the Lions' Den: As was just amply proven, Murphy has some lessons to learn at first base. But mental lapses aside, he's shown soft hands and confidence there — certainly he's looked far better than he did in left field. But even if Murphy evolves into a .290 hitter and a high OBA guy (by no means a sure thing), can he put up sufficient offense to play first? Second would make more sense based on his numbers, but that brings to mind horrible visions of Gregg Jefferies stumbling from position to position, trailed by errors and vindictive teammates. I like Murphy, but one gets the feeling he makes the most sense as a DH.
Thanks Luis, But…: Luis Castillo has had a much better year than I'd expected, and shown admirable toughness after the wreck of 2008 and again after his dropped pop-up became the lowlight of the season (so far) and a dreadful memory that will be seared into our memories forever. Hats off to him. That said, he's still essentially useless in the modern game, with no power, poor range and a dreadful contract. His value will never be higher, which is to say he might fetch a AA prospect turned suspect if the Mets paid a good chunk of his salary. Do it. The idea of watching Luis trying to hit a sac fly in September 2011 makes me want to break stuff.
Soft in the Middle: Even assuming John Maine returns from injuries to be effective again, the middle of the Mets' rotation is suspect at best. Barring a startling reversal (and, perhaps, a brain transplant), Oliver Perez will be front and center in discussions of bad free-agent signings for years to come. And Mike Pelfrey has been simply terrible: 2009 has been the season we expected him to have in 2008. Given that the season is what it is, losing the chance to get a good long look at Jonathan Niese is another misfortune in a season that hasn't lacked for them. Here's hoping nothing jaw-droppingly awful happens to Bobby Parnell. At least then we might learn something, and have some hope besides a season in which Johan Santana is repeatedly followed by four rainouts.
So that's the positional questions as I see them. But as I said above, I hope the Mets turn to those after asking some more fundamental questions this winter. (Which is to say, starting right now.)
Evaluate the Architects: The Mets' freakish run of injuries had given Omar Minaya a pass until he lost his mind and decided to attack Adam Rubin for revealing that Tony Bernazard was basically a psychopath. The Mets should take a hard look at their GM and ask if he truly deserves a pass. The front office can't manage a roster, is rumored not to listen to team doctors, has a fetish for hobbled, faded veterans peddling the suspect tonic of “leadership,” and can't even handle a simple, richly deserved firing. I don't know if the problem is Omar himself, his lieutenants, interference by ownership or something else, but it's something to be tackled head-on.
Doctor's Orders: You could fold this one into the question above, but let's go over it anyway. The Mets either have incompetent doctors or competent doctors whose recommendations are ignored by incompetent baseball executives. It's one or the other, and neither answer is acceptable. The question isn't why there have been so many injuries, but why so many injuries seem to have been misdiagnosed and/or mishandled, leaving guys sliding with excruciating slowness from Day-to-Day to We Don't Know to Being Re-evaluated to Finally on the DL to Still on the DL to Out for the Year. The Mets have consistently taken the field with 22 or 23 guys available, which is a dereliction of someone's duty. Fix. This. Now.
The Curse of Next Year: Let's assume Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes and John Maine all return healthy next spring. Those guys plus David Wright, Johan Santana and Frankie Rodriguez are a formidable core, no doubt. But is that team really one free agent or trade away from beating the Phillies and holding off the resurgent Marlins and Braves? I'm not so sure. If the Mets aren't sure either, stop trying to plug holes with pieces made of sawdust. Think about 2011, and figure out how 2010 positions us best for that year.
New York baseball fans have a reputation for treating such advice like it's cowardice, but that's talk-radio yip-yap. I'd like some confidence that there's a plan beyond hoping players are magically healed, veterans slurp from the Fountain of Youth and Prozac can be slipped into all the reporters' coffee. Give me that, and I will be patient. No, constructing a realistic blueprint and trying to make it work isn't shameful. What we've put up with for the last four months, on the other hand, fits the definition perfectly.
A key part of 2010: Enjoying Faith and Fear in Flushing: An Intense Personal History of the New York Mets, available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or a bookstore near you. Keep in touch and join the discussion on Facebook.