The Mets Are In It For The Now

With the Christmas holiday mere days away, the Mets remain without the frontline starting pitcher they so desperately require. Frustration is beginning to sink deep within all of the Amazin’s faithful followers. Without a defined ace toeing the rubber, or one who has the potential to become just that, the Mets outlook for 2008 is looking gloomier as each day passes.

Omar Minaya has seemingly begun a personal caravan the last three weeks to publicly “amp” up his two young studs in John Maine and Oliver Perez. By now I’m thoroughly convinced both are going to win 25 games this season, at least you would believe that by the way Minaya speaks of both. In the midst of all of this, he will tell the media and anyone else who will listen to his rubbish that he is pleased with the team he has constructed, and would have full confidence in this squad as it appears at the present time.

Why? What would lead him to believe such a thing? The team we fielded in 2007 was not good enough to get the job done then. Following an off-season in which I believe the team has downgraded at multiple positions, I just don’t understand what is running through Omar’s head. My patience as a die-hard fan is beginning to wear thin, perhaps more frustrating is the fact that the organization is unwilling-willing to part with a large package of prospects to reel in a big time hurler.

You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Do you want Santana and a World Series title in 2008? Or would you rather stand pat and hope these five or six kids who will have no substantial impact for at least two or three seasons will bring you a title when the core of our current team is past their prime? They are dubbed prospects for a reason. They have potential, but more often than not they don’t usually fulfill their promise, particularly coming from the Mets farm system

When I was made aware of the news that Minaya had exiled one-time untouchable prospect Lastings Milledge to the nation’s capital, disgust began to set in. Not so much for what we brought back in the deal, which was a joke in its own right, but rather, what could have been brought back for him even just a season ago. He was going to be the next Gary Sheffield, so we got a catcher who batted 230 and an outfielder nearing 30 years of age who has never been a full time major league player. Sounds like the Mets for sure; do I hear Scott Kazmir chuckling somewhere?

Reflecting back to the glory days of 2006, when Minaya could have had Barry Zito for the young but troubled outfielder. Certainly Zito probably still would have caught dollar signs in his eyes and bolted for the bay, but in reality, with Barry Zito in the rotation in 2006, the Mets probably have a ticker tape parade through the streets of New York celebrating a title. It’s a mute point now, but I would have unquestionably sacrificed Lasto at that point if I knew it would bring me a title, even if I got a rent a player to accomplish just that, especially after seeing what his value would become not too far down the line.

Another thought that should be put to bed and stifled like Edith Bunker is the notion of summoning Aaron Heilman back into the starting rotation if Minaya doesn’t’t come through with an effective starter. Worse then the rotation is the Mets bullpen, there is no way past it. Heilman is the most reliable and effective relief option the Mets possess. He is knocked and bashed at a constant rate, but believe it or not, Heilman is coming off the best season if his career. I thought for certain he was much better in 2006, but statistically all of his numbers were improved in 2007 His ERA went from 3.62 to 3.03. He appeared in 81 games, 7 more than he did in 06. His WHIP also dropped from 1.16 to 1.07. Heilman is the bright spot in an otherwise putrid bullpen.

His struggles come when his pitch selection is exposed. He has become far too predictable, but isn’t capitalized on nearly enough because of his smaller role. When you pound the zone with 2 straight fastballs and you’re a 2 pitch pitcher, as a hitter you are going to sit on a changeup, and that’s where Heilman gets into trouble. Moving a pitcher with such a weak arsenal into a spot that commands six plus innings of quality every five days would diminish the value of Heilman, and also weaken the most fragile aspect of the team at the same time.

We will see what comes of Minaya and the Mets roster as the off-season gradually turns into spring training, there is still an outside chance Santa Claus will embark on a trek to Flushing with Spanish man named Santana guiding his sleigh, though he doesn’t have a red nose, he has a hell of a left arm. That would make for a very Merry Christmas, if only he could come to town with Anna Benson, but let’s not get greedy.