Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Pardon the Interpretation

Good afternoon, everybody. I’m Michael Wilbon.

Thanks for tuning in for this very special Mets roundtable edition of PTI. Today, we are joined by Bryan and Dave, who are here from Mets Lifer, as well as Brad from Bugs & Cranks, who is phoning in from a trip to an apparently monochrome zoo. We will also be joined later by a guy who claims he’s been doing internet posts about the Mets since the team’s inception, a good 35 years before the concept of blogging even existed.

Thanks for joining us, guys. How are you all doing?

Bryan: Doing great, Mike. How’s the ticker?

Wilbon: Ummm, not bad.

Dave: Where’s Woody Paige?

Wilbon: Wrong show. Brad, are you there?

Brad: [static] I’m standing next to a camel. It smells like a retirement home during a blackout. But, you should see the size of –

Wilbon: –moving right along, I thank you all for coming to this special Mets edition of PTI. Since the beginning of the season, the New York Mets have taken fans on a roller coaster ride, hovering around .500 most of the first half, firing the beleaguered Willie Randolph in a strange fashion and making a turnaround that some are calling the biggest surprise of the 2008 season.

Brad: Dude, this thing just spit on my Dippin’ Dots!

Wilbon: Let’s start with the resurgence of much-maligned first baseman Carlos Delgado. What’s your take on the comeback, and his importance for the Mets now, and in the future?

Bryan: Last month, I would have personally piggy-backed this guy to Puerto Rico if it meant not seeing him in a Mets uniform ever again. Today, I want to pick him up and HUG the graying bastard. It is no coincidence that the Mets are hot during Delgado’s hitting spree. Tatis has been a flat out super hero, but you’d have to be a backalley crack addict to think he’ll sustain this level of play.

Wilbon: Nice visual. Dave, 30 seconds - go.

Dave: For much of the spring, Carlos Delgado was my personal piñata. He was the easy target and I thought he was headed to his next career in Just for Men commercials. I still think it’s sad that a former pitcher, Rick Ankiel, has better power numbers (22 homers, .547 SLG) than anyone in the Mets lineup, but without Delgado’s recent production the Mets would be still be floating in the .500 sea of mediocrity.

Brad: The Lifers are spot on. I’ve been as guilty as anyone of trashing Delgado this year, even going so far as to say they should release him and take a run at Richie Sexson — and yes, I drink a lot. Do I think he’ll keep it up all summer? No. But his newfound ability to take pitches the other way is making a lot of teams reconsider the shift.

Wilbon: Okay, let’s discuss the upcoming trade deadline. With so many prospects being shipped off to Minnesota for Johan Santana, what are the Mets’ chances of making an impact move come the deadline?

Dave: I have some great moves for the Mets to make, but the only catch is that other teams have to agree to them.

Wilbon: That’s usually how it works, Dave.

Dave: I suppose. Honestly, I’m not sold on Matt Holliday. The fact that we were talking about how great it would have been to get Xavier Nady is just mind boggling given the fact that we had him two seasons ago and nobody really cared. I actually wouldn’t mind a deal for Ken Griffey, Jr. if it didn’t involve top prospects. He’s struggling and aging, but I think a pennant race could revitalize his swing.

Bryan: No question, the Mets need to take care of their needs in the corner outfield positions. If Church remains a non-factor, then they have to get someone – Ibanez, Bay, (Holliday is a stoner’s dream). I would not trade F-Mart for either, so Omar will have to be creative. One outfielder I’d like them to target is Randy Winn. He’s a solid fielder, hits .300 with RISP and would be a perfect #2 hitter – which could be just as valuable as a power bat. Not sure what he would cost – could be a salary dump for the Giants so maybe two mid-level prospects?

Brad: Give me a break, guys! We’ve donated enough talent for player rentals in the past. Everyone keeps saying that they can’t win with Tatis and Easley, but no one gave those guys the memo. Whoa — some kid just threw a bagel at this giant penguin. And it’s ticked.

Wilbon: That’s exciting, Brad. Last week, the Mets’ bullpen got a scare with Billy Wagner’s arm, and subsequently gave up six runs in a disasterous ninth against the Phillies. Who picks up the slack in the bullpen, if Wagner is out?

Dave: Any closer the Mets put out there is destined to hurt us. It’s a curse. I think we’d have to go with a platoon. I like Duaner Sanchez, but I feel like he’s one notch below a reliable stopper. I can’t even believe I’m saying this, but Aaron Heilman might be our next best option. He’s been throwing some serious gas lately and when you mix that with his changeup that’s a nasty combination to adjust to in the ninth inning.
Just because it’s totally outrageous and is guaranteed to never happen, how hilarious would it be to trot out El Duque in the 9th inning. Nothing like a high leg kick and an eephus pitch to mess with opponent bats for 3 outs.

Wilbon: That’s positively insane.

Dave: Thank you.

Bryan: D-U-A-N-E-R! Very simple. Problem here is that you weaken the middle relief. Heilman scares the bejeezus out of me so while Sanchez can fit right in, this could be a problem for us, in spite of Wagner’s perfect replications of the works of John Franco and Armando Benitez.

There is some word that the Mets are interested in Huston Street, whom I would like to have, but we all know he will come with a hefty price tag. Having said that, he would be perfect to take the closer role from Wagner after he vomits from the pressure in September.

Brad: Wagner is fine. The bullpen issues run a little deeper than closer, no? Feliciano, Sanchez and Muniz show more personalities than a late night chat with Herschel Walker and Margot Kidder. I think Heilman is the heir apparent to the closer job, but he takes his lumps too.

Wilbon: Interesting. Anything to report at the zoo?

Brad: No, why do you ask?

Wilbon: Alrighty then. We’re still waiting for that long time Mets fan to chime in. In the meantime, following an offseason where the Mets committed a large sum of cash to often injured second baseman, Luis Castillo, the replacements have come in and seemingly tripled the production out of that position. Who gets the job when Castillo returns?

Bryan: All my talk about acquiring a #2 hitter should tip you off that I have zero faith in Luis “Get the Gimp” Castillo. Does anyone really care if this guy returns or not? Nope. Damion Easley has been doing a fine job, and he’s a consummate professional. Easley could be a nice #2 hitter. He’s patient, he’s seasoned, doesn’t get rattled in big spots, and he mashes lefties. In fact, I’d bat him second now, and push Chavez to 7th.

Dave: Luis Castillo is still on the Mets? I thought we sent him away with Willie Randolph. Man, am I glad we have him locked up for another 3 seasons. So-o-o-o-o worth it. I’d platoon A. Reyes and Easley unless someone can name one thing special Luis Castillo brings to this team. I know you can’t.

Brad: Damion Easley, no question. Of course, the other Reyes is making a nice name for himself. But compared to Castillo, anyone looks good. Easley wins, and the Mets shop this offseason.

Wilbon: Getting back to prospects. All Mets trade talk begins and ends with F-Mart. Is Fernando Martinez the real deal, or is he worth dealing now for more proven talent?

Brad: I think a seagull just disemboweled on my hoodie. Someone hold my pretzel…
Wilbon: Brad, please watch the language, this is a family show.

Brad: Yeah, well my family just got treated like a park statue by one of those flying rats. I need a minute. Bryan, you go…

Bryan: I’d only trade F-Mart in a deal for Holliday. I’d be tempted to do this straight up for Bay, but not sure. Bay is a good player and would immediately upgrade this lineup. With him, the Mets would be (dare I say), NL East favorites. And I think he has another year on his contract so he’s not just a rental.

Dave: Um, does the name Scott Kazmir ring a bell? How’d that work out for us? I think trading F-Mart is too much of a risk for the Mets. I think Bryan has a bit of a man crush on Holliday, but I think Jason Bay returning to the Mets organization would be the second coming of Jeromy Burnitz. You can mark my words on that.

Brad: Okay, I’m back. Sorry ’bout the outburst. The Mets should not only keep F-Mart, but promote him the instant we get a concrete verdict on Church’s health. He’s a legit hitter, and even if he’s not the stud everyone predicts, he’s going to be productive.

Wilbon: One month later: Where did Willie go wrong?

Dave: Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” If that is not the ultimate definition of Willie Randolph’s managing, I don’t know what is. He was hoping — praying even — that something would turn this club around. He messed with the lineup every chance he could. Young talented players were forced to take a backseat to struggling veterans. Randolph went to the same well too many times and ended up drowning in it. I was a huge fan of Randolph coming to the Mets, and I was an even huger fan of seeing him leave.

Brad: “Huger” isn’t a word.

Dave: Look it up, monkey boy.

Brad: Can we please stay focused? Willie went wrong the instant he handed over control of his team to a weak cast of bench coaches. By the end, he had zero credibility in the clubhouse, and even less with upper management. Perception trumps reality, and even if I’m 100% wrong about Willie’s management abilities, the internal and external perception of Willie’s weakness more than justified his termination.

Bryan: It wasn’t the botched double switch in his second game as manager, nor was it his love affair with Guillermo Mota. Randolph went wrong in 2005, when he yanked Mike Piazza after the 7th inning in his last game as a Met. He was due to hit in the 8th. Fans didn’t even realize Mike was out of the game b/c he pulled him between innings.

Wilbon: Guys, we’re wrapping this up soon. Who on the Mets is the team MVP thus far?

Dave: This is tough. You look at the team and you want to say David Wright. His numbers are great, but I just don’t get the feeling that he’s the MVP yet. I’m going with Jose Reyes. He’s gone from batting in the .240’s to an average over .300. His OBP and OPS are higher than they’ve ever been in his career, and there’s no denying when he gets on base, the Mets win games. All that and the guy is the first in MLB history to have 10 homers, 10 triples, 20 doubles and 30 stolen bases before the All Star break.

Bryan: I agree. Any time someone does something that no one has ever done in the history of the game – as Reyes had at the All Star break – he has to be team MVP. His fielding has been a concern for sure, but let’s face it, Reyes is an offensive animal. Love him (and I do!) or hate him (fat head and the mad puppy) or fight him (Keith Hernandez), this guy is the catalyst. Bottom line: If he doesn’t produce, the Mets can’t win.

Brad: My MVP is Johan Santana. His mediocre record is irrelevant, since he was robbed of no less than 8 wins by a weak bullpen and no run support. He almost always leaves you with a chance to win, something that can’t be said about any of his colleagues in the rotation. I still expect him to have 17-19 wins by the time this whole shebang is over.

Wilbon: Okay guys. Looks like our mystery caller missed the show, but he did send a text message to our producers — “U GTA BLVE” — Hopefully we’ll get to talk to him next time. I’d like to thank our panelists, Bryan and Dave from Mets Lifer, as well as Brad from Bugs & Cranks.

Bryan: Thanks, guys.

Dave: Always a pleasure, Mike.

Brad: Thanks Mike. Are you related to Fred Wilpon?
Wilbon: Join us next week, when we’ll be discussing the state of the Yankees with George Steinbrenner, his nurse, and his sock puppet. Take care everybody!

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