Monday, May 16, 2005

The First Test

Now we'll find out how new these Mets really are.

With the return of Kaz Ishii to the Mets rotation on Tuesday, there is speculation on who will ultimately be banished from the rotation. And not only is the choice down to two players, it's down to two ideas and two philosphies.

On one hand, you have Aaron Heilman, the can't-miss prospect turned reclamation project turned renaissance man. Heilman's 3-3 record, 4.37 ERA, OBA of .239, 39 K's and 14 walks are good enough for a spot in the back end of the rotation. On the other hand, you have Victor Zambrano, the can't miss prospect turned reclamation project turned...Zambrano's 2-3 record, 5.45 ERA, OBA of .293, 31 K's and 25 walks are good enough for a spot in the back of an IHOP flipping pancakes. So it would make perfect baseball sense that Heilman stays, Zambrano goes, right?

Well that would be if the decisions were solely based on baseball. Zambrano represents the old way of Mets thinking, which was to trade your best project for a pitcher because the pitcher is cheap, locked up, and someone that your pitching coach claims he can "fix in ten minutes". It's a move that Omar Minaya would never make, because his decisions have been based on baseball...on cleaning up a mess created by the Wilpon family via their puppet, Jim Duquette.

You often see players stay in the lineup longer than deserved because management tries to justify a large contract. The problem is that while Zambrano's contract may be minimal in monetary value, the price to acquire him was high. Demoting Zambrano to the bullpen would be an admission of failure on the deadline day deal that brought him here. But the failure certainly doesn't lie with Willie Randolph or Omar Minaya, who weren't here last season. The failure does lie with the Wilpons, who are still here. And that's what's troublesome.

One would hope that the Mets, who have been making baseball decisions and not monetary decisions since Minaya was brought back, would make one more baseball decision on Willie Randolph's watch. One of the smartest things the Wilpons ever did was not only to bring Minaya back, but to actually hand him the reigns and let him use his judgement, which they never, ever did with Duquette. Now, the Wilpons need to let new manager Randolph use his judgment as well, and make the right move.

The move here is to demote Zambrano to the bullpen for the good of the team on the field. If Heilman is demoted, then you know things really haven't changed all that much...that the New Mets are the Old Mets in sheep's clothing...that the Mets are still run by the same type of corporate pinstriped suits which have choked the life and the spirit out of most big corporations of America, making decisions about money and ego and about saving face rather than the product. The product wears the only pinstripes that Met fans care about, and the product is wallowing around the .500 mark as the Braves start their rampage towards a division title, which they last lost during the 13th century or so it seems.

We'll see if this product is as new and improved as promised.

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