Speed, Pitching and Defense, But What About Fundamentals?

An article by posted on September 3, 2009

The New York Mets have released a statement that they will not be altering the dimensions of Citi Field for the 2010 season based on the recommendations of Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel.

Ed Eagle of Mets.com writes,

The Mets’ franchise legacy has been built upon strong pitching, and they’ll need to continue to focus on that aspect of their team-building to be successful in their new home in the future.

Citing a team source, the New York Daily News reported Thursday that the Mets plan to keep Citi Field at its current pitcher-friendly dimensions for the 2010 season upon the recommendations of general manager Omar Minaya and manager Jerry Manuel.

I’m actually a little surprised by the news and I thought for sure the Mets would shorten the height of portions of the wall. Either way, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal, and personally I like the dimensions and the uniqueness of Citi Field.

One of the things that caught my attention was the following quote by Jerry Manuel which was included in the article.

“We’re going to try to build a team with speed and defense and pitching,” Manuel told the newspaper. “I think that fits that style.”

I have a few issues with that quote…

First, he says that we are going to try and build a team. So does that mean we are officially in rebuild mode?

If that’s the case, than what direction are the Mets going in heading into this off season?

Manuel says, and I agree with him, that the Mets will focus on speed, defense and pitching.

I think we can all agree that with a healthy Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Luis Castillo and David Wright, the Mets will continue to be one of fastest teams in the league. The emergence of Angel Pagan will play into it as well.

Defensively, the Mets have some work to do.They are fifth in the league with 82 errors and their star third baseman leads the team with 13. Before Jose Reyes went on the DL, he was on the verge of a woeful defensive season, and in 35 games played, he already had five errors to go with a career worst .966 fielding percentage. Obviously, Dan Murphy has improved some since taking over at first base, but he still ranks in the bottom when compared to all first basemen and he doesn’t make up for it with his bat. Leftfield has been a carousel of bad defenders which started with the inept Dan Murphy. Angel Pagan might be a glimmer of hope, but I want to see more of him before drawing any definitive conclusions.

Now we come to pitching. I would love to know exactly how the Mets will play this hand. Here you have a pitching staff that is fortunate enough to pitch in one of baseball’s largest parks, and yet they lead the league in walks. Somebody please explain that to me because it doesn’t compute if you were to apply the laws of logic. In a post by Ed Leyro on this site, there is a good debate on the virtues of Dan Warthen. If job performance is still judged by results, and last time I checked most teams west of the East River still operate that way, than the question is why is Dan Warthen still here? Not one pitcher has stepped up on his watch and in fact you could safely assert that every Mets pitcher has declined under his tutelage. As one reader writes, that includes K-Rod, Santana, Pelfrey, Perez and Putz.

Will the Mets go out and revamp the rotation as they did the bullpen last off season? In 2008, Minaya failed to address the concerns in the bullpen and said “they simply had a bad year”. He was wrong and was forced to revamp the entire bullpen after the season.

Will he do the same in 2010? Will he simply say that Pelfrey and company simply had a bad year and do nothing? Is next season riding on the questionable returns of Oliver Perez, John Maine, Johan Santana and Jon Niese who are all coming back from surgery?

The Mets have a ton of work to do if they want the ideal pitching staff to compliment the dimensions of Citi Field. However, I am convinced this off season will feature a bunch of hot air from Mets management that the Mets already have that ideal pitching staff, and that they will comeback healthier and better in 2010. If they do revamp the rotation, we might have to wait yet another year as we did in 2008 with the bullpen. The Mets are notorious for not learning from past mistakes.

Finally, why is it that the Mets higher-ups never mention the word “fundamentals”?

If you’re going to build a team that you hope will come out on the winning end of a 2-1 ballgame, shouldn’t fundamentals be the number one priority?

Think about how many fewer errors, and fewer baserunning mistakes, and fewer walks the Mets would have had this season if they simply used their heads out there on the field. I bet you could easily add 8-10 mores victories to the win column if only they had a coaching staff that focused on elevating this team’s baseball IQ.

Unless you have a fundamentally sound team, it doesn’t really matter how good your speed and pitching is. Your mental mistakes will always find you in this game. If the Mets are banking on going toe to toe in mostly one-run and two-run games,  they can start by overhauling their approach to the game, because in the end Yogi Berra was right,

“Baseball is ninety percent mental. The other half is physical.”

By the way, it was great to see Yogi take part in the festivities last month when we honored the 1969 Mets.

About the Author ()

I'm a lifelong Mets fan who loves writing and talking about the Amazins' 24/7. From the Miracle in 1969 to the magic of 1986, and even the near misses in '73 and '00, I've experienced it all - the highs and the lows. I started Mets Merized Online in 2005 to feed my addiction and interact with other passionate Met fans like you. Follow me on Twitter @metsmerized.

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