Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane, who sometimes thinks he invented the game, once broke down a baseball season like this — the first two months, you evaluate your team and see what it needs. The next two months you go out and fill those needs. And the seemingly perfect team plays the last two months. We’re only a month into the season, but let’s see what the Mets need:
The Mets bench is horrible. Your not going to win when your bench/spot starters are Fernando Tatis, Frank Catalanotto, Gary Matthews, Jr., and Alex Cora. I know these guys bring veteran leadership and positive vibes to the clubhouse, but they bring virtually nothing to the actual game. Here’s what I say they should do:
— Get rid of Matthews, and bring up Fernando Martinez. I said at the start of the season that Matinez should be starting in center field until Carlos Beltran comes back (whenever that happens). It’s time to see if the kid can live up to his hype. If not now, when?
— Get rid of Catalanotto and bring up Chris Carter. The guy had a great spring, and is tearing it up in Buffalo — five homers, 18 RBIs, batting .337. Like Catalanotto, Carter can play first base and the outfield. And it appears he can actually hit.
— Get rid of Tatis when Daniel Murphy is ready to go. Now that Ike Davis is fully ensconsed at first base, the reason for Tatis — to platoon with Murphy — is gone. The only reason to keep him around now is that he can spell David Wright at third base. Well, Murphy was a third baseman. He can probably handle an occasional game there. He proved last season he’s much better playing the infield than the outfield.
— We’re stuck with Cora because Omar Minaya inexplicably gave him a $2 million contract. Was anybody offering even close to that? Cora is not bad to have around if other bench players are better.
One major problem with my scheme is that Martinez, Carter, and Murphy — as well as Cora — are all left handed hitters. But there’s still righty Henry Blanco and the switch-hitting Angel Pagan on the bench. And besides, I think the whole righty-lefty thing is a bit overrated.
The starting pitching has actually fared pretty well. And the bullpen has been solid. So what’s the problem? Mets starters average fewer than six innings a start. And that means the bullpen is carrying a heavy workload. Every day. That will mean a burned-out bullpen by the time the stretch run comes in September. And besides, I don’t have long term faith in Oliver Perez or John Maine.
The Mets need to go out and get a workhorse starter who will pitch deep into games, to give the bullpen at least one day of rest. This is a tough task to pull off during the season. It’s much easier to do it in the off-season, but again, Minaya inexplicably did not do it when he could.
There’s really nothing the Mets can do here — they are pretty much set, especially after Beltran comes back (whenever that happens). But the team is still missing that one hitter to put them over the top. Maybe Jason Bay will be that guy when he comes out of his season-long funk. Or maybe it will be Beltran after he comes back (whenever that happens).
So far in the early going, the Mets have shown they are a streaky team. It would be nice to win consistently, but I think we’re going to have to put up with the ups and downs all season. Nobody ever said this was going to be easy.