|The New York Mess - Fixing the Mets|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on May 07, 2003
1) Fire Steve Phillips. The man has been made of Teflon and has not had to account for any of his bad deals. Well, the bad ones outnumber the good ones by a fair margin, and it’s more than obvious to anyone with half a brain that the performance of this team was not Bobby Valentine’s fault.
2) Move Piazza to First Base: Before the ink was even dry on the Sports Illustrated interview in which Piazza said he’d move to first if the Mets asked him to, I would have had him taking grounders.
While I like Mike and believe from what I’ve heard that he is smart guy and could be fun to talk to, he’s a liability as a catcher and costs the Mets too many games with his arm. His critics say that will prevent him from throwing to second for a double play to which I say two things 1) the distance between bases is only 90 feet not the 120+ feet he throws from the catcher position to second, so the throw is easier 2) and he will no longer have to come up from the crouch but will have more time to make the throw.
Those who say that he won’t be a good first baseman should consider that even though he calls a good game because of his arm he’s not that good as a catcher either (actually one of the worst defensively in the game). The biggest advantage of it would actually not be defensive but on the lesser amount of wear and tear Mike would take each season.
If he can’t play first its time for Mike to be moved to an AL team who can DH him. The Mets simply are not good enough to concede runs to any team with speed, which essentially shows their contempt for Piazza’s arm.
3) Get rid of the dead wood: Especially Alomar. He obviously doesn’t want to play here. He is indifferent on the field and fails to pay attention.
Vaughn simply can’t play anymore. Offer him around and pick up a chunk of his salary (ideally based on his production for the new team - so if he does well, the Mets would get to pay less). Someone might think he would make a good DH. If not take the financial loss and give him a seat with Bobby Bonilla.
4) Gather prospects: The Mets are not a barren team with nothing in the farm system; they’ve got a handful of kids who are pretty damn promising including Justin Huber, Pat Strange, Aaron Heilman, Jae Weong Seo, Mike Bacsik, Marco Scutaro and Jose Reyes, and some kids who are still up and coming. The veterans who need to be dumped might bring some talent in return.
5) Roger Cedeno: Ask Cedeno to spend some time in the minors and work on rediscovering his contact stroke - He’s worthless to everyone as he is and he is virtually untradable. His speed is still here so what he may need is a mentor - and though I bite my tongue to say it, Rickey Henderson might be the man - even if you have to make him a player/coach (his defense cannot at this point hurt the team). The best year Cedeno ever had was one where he shared a bench with Henderson and was Henderson’s devout pupil. If Cedeno can ever hit .270 again, he can be salvaged.
6) Consider trading from their strengths. The Mets have one strength, veteran pitching. Benitez, Stanton, Strickland, Lloyd, Trachsel, Astacio, Glavine, and even Leiter have value to other teams especially with the state of major league pitching, IF the Mets are ready to concede this season. Their prospects provide a staff of Seo, Heilman, Strange, and Bascik already if they decide to really rebuild. However doing this while Steve Phillips is still the GM would be a mistake.
7) Stop using a win this year at any costs type of plan. Age and depth are both enemies, trying to catch guys in the last years of their career (Vaughn, Burnitz, Alomar, Glavine) is not a long term strategy, it’s a short term one and very short-sighted when it comes to building a franchise successful over a number of years. Look at the Braves, A’s, Mariners, Twins, and Cardinals as examples of teams doing it right.
8) Spend more money: Money needs to be spent on player development, scouting and the farm system instead of major league salary. Long term you’ll turn out better players from your own organization instead of buying them on the open market.
9) Stop buying older players, except to fill holes, or if they can be had for one season cheaply - Reggie Sanders, Kenny Lofton. Etc. Losing draft choices for these geezers as compensation is why the team develops so few players. Young free agents are the only ones worth big money, or big risks on the kind of money being paid for Vaughn or Burnitz could probably have gotten Beltran who will have at least a decade of production.
10) Play to the strengths of Shea Stadium: The team who would be ideal for this park would have fewer sluggers, more speed, and could count on defense to protect runs. Its the best pitchers’ park in the majors so you can let the young pitchers develop while home run hitters find it a hard park to really crush the ball in. Playing old style, let’s steal a lot of bases kind of baseball, with a couple of sluggers would bring in more fans in the short term for a lot less money while the team developed.
Lastly, stop competing with the team in the Bronx. Put a fun team on the field who makes games interesting and the fans will come - especially if we can see a decade of greatness down the pike.