With the Hot Stove season almost in full tilt, teams have until November 14th to resign all of their free agents. This is the time when teams are planning their new rosters, signing free agents and making trades, building their farm systems and generally setting up the best teams they possibly can under their budgets. I love this part of baseball, but to truly understand what teams are going through you first have to look at what teams did to get to this point. So before I go buck wild on the Hot Stove, being a New Yorker, I'm going to look back at the Yankees and Mets of the 2008 season. Somehow, I'm going to try to write multiple Bes-Ball Talk columns, starting with the 2008 Mets, before the November 14th deadline, so we're all ready for the Hot Stove to really heat up.
First off, The Mets. They had a tumultuous season. They came in with a lot of hope after 2007's collapse. Carlos Beltran made the bold statement that they were the best in the NL East, cocky because of that collapse, I guess getting Johan Santana will do that, but a bad move none the less. I never understand why you would bother, especially since you have so much to prove already. Needless to say, they did not come out strong. Manager Willie Randolph bore the brunt of this, exposing a weak side of the former Yankee that did not endear himself to his players and upper management. The player side of things seemed to really deteriorate with guys like Carlos Delgado completely not playing for him, and people said Manny was bad! Delgado was just more subtle. Jose Reyes, my least favorite of the Metropolitans, was another player that didn't seem to respond well to Randolph, who was trying to make him into a more respected player. This finally all came to a head when Randolph was fired by General Manager Omar Minaya in terrible fashion. They actually had Willie fly off to Anaheim, and did it after the Mets won game one of a three game series with the Angels. The Mets, especially Omar, looked really bad here. I don't even agree with the firing honestly as I think Randolph could of turned this ship around just as easily as Jerry Manuel did.
So bench coach Jerry Manuel took over the team in a coup that seemed planned from within. As much as Manuel endeared himself to everyone that Willie didn't, this guy rubbed me the wrong way by being involved in Willie's firing. The point though was that Manuel did turn the ship around, firing up his team where Willie could not. Delgado played like an MVP the rest of the year and the Mets seemed poised to get to the playoffs and do some damage. Unfortunately, their pitching all but broke down.
Johan Santana started off slow, but the traditional late season bloomer did so in a big way, pretty much putting the team on his back and almost single handed putting them in the playoffs. Mike Pelfrey can be commended as well. I think this pitcher was another bad season away from being banished to minor league obscurity, but he turned it up; becoming a horse of a pitcher. This guy has the right attitude on the mound, and reeks of confidence now; a major turnaround from the guy we saw last year and early on this year. After that though things became questionable. Oliver Perez was as inconsistent as ever, doing well against the better teams and stinking it up against the bad teams, strange. John Maine seemed to take a step back from his near ace performance of 2007, eventually getting injured and missing close to the last two months. And Pedro Martinez was again injured, and never really gained his composure when he returned. I think Pedro's done honestly. Their bullpen, which at first seemed shaky, became way worse when closer Billy Wagner went down with what eventually became a season ending injury. The rag tag bullpen blew an astronomical amount of saves down the stretch, and their collective ineffectiveness can easily be blamed as the number one reason for their second collapse in a row.
Another giant, glaring reason was their inability to score the big runs towards the end. This pretty much excludes Delgado, but guys like Reyes and David Wright did horrible despite turning in more than respectable numbers. Numbers don't mean much though. Carlos Beltran didn't do so bad, but I like this guy's overall play, and still don't understand why the Yanks didn't pick this guy up when they really needed a center fielder. As for the rest of team, Luis Castillo was a total bust at second, and now the Minaya has the real dilemma of how to get rid of the guy. Ryan Church had a pair of concussions that ruined his season, and apparently making him hate the team. Some nice surprises were the return of Fernando Tatis, comeback player of the year, and the emergence of rookie David Murphy. I like this kid, he seems to play ball the right way, and the Mets can use that. Catching was a bad position for the Mets with new backstop Brian Schneider unable to hit, not to mention, boring me each week on Joe Benigno and Evan Robert's talk show, and Ramon Castro injured as always.
Once the late inning problems began for the Mets after Wagner's injury, things seemed like they began to go downhill for the team fast, and the Phillies, enroute to a World Series championship, were able to catch up and surpass them. The Mets looked afraid towards the end of the season, maybe the pressure of falling apart two years in a row were too much for them, which wouldn't be surprising. That's a pretty tough thing to overcome, however maybe the pieces didn't have the proper makeup to really get tough in the clutch. These are all questions that need to be answered before next season. It'll be interesting to see if they realize what the questions really are, or if they'll look at rebuilding just the pieces that are obvious, like the bullpen.
I'll take a look at the Yanks' past season next time, and then really dig in to the Hot Stove. So stick around, it should be a packed week of Bes-ball Talk here!