As the Mets limp home after an awful 2-5 West Coast swing–including a four-game sweep by the lowly Padres–the calls for Willie Randolph’s managerial head will undoubtedly get much louder. Unfortunately, it’s really not his fault. Willie is no Miller Huggins, but he’s a solid game manager who relies heavily on his veterans. And as last September proved, these overpaid “clubhouse leaders” are not to be relied on. You would think that throwing the NL East into the toilet last season would teach them a lesson. It didn’t. Unless Willie Randolph and general manager Omar Minaya make some changes, this last season at Shea Stadium will go down as the worst in Mets history, which is really saying something. The main culprits in a bad group: Billy Wagner, Carlos Beltran, and Carlos Delgado.I think I speak for a lot of Mets fans when I say we’ve had just about enough of Billy Wagner. The 2nd most overrated closer in baseball (Trevor Hoffman is #1) is almost guaranteed to let you down at the times you need him most. During last year’s debacle, Wagner blew key games against the Phillies, and didn’t even take the ball late in the year in a big game against Florida due to “back spasms”. I won’t judge anyone on injury, but the Mets were going down in flames, and ol’ Billy wouldn’t even try to gut it out. Come to think of it, that was probably for the best. Take Sunday for example: After losing three straight 2-1 games, Randolph brought Wagner into a close game in the 8th inning to face Padre heavyweights Jody Gerut and Tony Clark. Not surprisingly, he left the mound with the Mets down 8-6. Hey, he’s only making $10 million. Maybe if the Mets paid him $15 million, they could get a four-out save once in a while, or close out a game in a non-save situation.
The other problem with Wagner is that he won’t shut up. He seems to have on opinion on just about everything except his awful pitching and unreliability. From commentary on the front office to problems with his teammates, Wagner has proven that he’s no friend to anyone but himself. He ran himself out of Philadelphia by declaring that the 2005 Phillies had no chance to make the playoffs. He should have made that statement last year about the Mets. At least he would have been right about something for once.
Let me take that back–Wagner was right earlier this year about some of the Mets hiding from the media, namely the brothers Carlos, Delgado & Beltran. Apparently, when Carlos Beltran signed his big contract with the Mets, it didn’t include a clause stating he’d have to be forthright in the media, or come up big in a clutch spot. Most Mets fans are still haunted by the image of Beltran looking at Adam Wainwright’s 0-2 curveball in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, then walking dejectedly to the dugout with his bat still on his shoulder. It’s not that he hasn’t done good things, putting together great seasons in 2006 and 2007, but it just seems when you need a big play or a big hit, he’s nowhere to be seen. His defensive skills are highly overrated–he plays too deep and rarely gets a good jump on the ball, and when he does, it’s often in the wrong direction. He let a key line drive go over his head vs. the Phillies in September last year, and there have been countless times balls have dropped in front of him these last four years. It just seems like for him, every big play is followed by two disappointing ones–especially in a big spot– which is just not good enough for a player of his talent and salary.
The other Carlos doesn’t even have Beltran’s productivity to fall back on. Carlos Delgado will go down in Mets history as yet another power-hitting infielder flop, along with NY legends such as Bobby Bonilla and Mo Vaughn. This guy brings almost nothing to the table except his surly demeanor with the press, when he talks at all. He is a terrible fielder, a home run hitter that doesn’t hit home runs. He is on record stating he would be against a platoon role, which shows he won’t do the things necessary to help the team win. He pouted when he was dropped in the batting order, despite the fact that he can’t hit lefties or righties. He doesn’t stand at times when God Bless America is sung. He’s just a disaster–one that the Mets actually traded for, giving up Florida 1B Mike Jacobs among others. Last I looked, Jacobs was outhitting Delgado in almost every offensive category. Delgado had a productive 2006, but it was not good enough to pay for all of the headaches and problems he has caused since.
These three noodleheads are not causing all of the Mets problems, but they are certainly some of the biggest contributors to the Mets’ year-long slide. There is nothing you can do with Delgado except bench him; Randolph should just bite the bullet and do it–at least the bench players try. As for Beltran & Wagner, their contracts are fairly reasonable for 2008 standards, and Minaya would do well to see if he could rid his team of these problems and surround David Wright and Jose Reyes with younger talent. These are Omar’s guys, but he will probably get the rest of the year and beyond to fix this mess.
Willie Randolph won’t get that chance.