Mailbag: Waiting on Delgado
Beat reporter Marty Noble answers Mets fans' questions
My puzzlement continues with Willie Randolph's "sticking" with Carlos Delgado. On Thursday night against the Padres, Delgado's series hitless streak increased to 12 at-bats and his runners left on base to 15 runners. He's now batting fifth in front of a much better hitter in Moises Alou. What is it going to take for Randolph to drop Delgado closer to ninth in the order?
Delgado has killed rallies and is only now starting to hear the Wrath of Shea. He's had ample opportunity to right himself and come through in clutch situations, but to no avail. He's a rally killer. It's very frustrating to watch him. You can see in his face that he lacks confidence and his swings are terrible, popping up balls weakly, etc.
His season-long slump may be a hint that his better playing days are behind him and that it's time for the Mets to find a new first baseman. He cannot catch up to fastballs and seems, at times, very undisciplined at the plate. With the postseason approaching, will Randolph be so hard-headed as to stick with this guy batting fourth, fifth or at all?
-- Gary S. New Providence, N.J.
How long are we going to have to endure Carlos Delgado hurting us not only offensively, but also defensively? He has had a terrible year. When will Randolph sit him down and play someone else like Shawn Green at first? It seems that Carlos just has struggled all year. Even when he gets a pitch to hit, he's not hitting it well. Is there a chance he's hurt and he's not saying anything?
-- Adam X., Danbury, Conn.
First, allow me to point out that both e-mails were sent before the weekend series against the Dodgers.
No question Delgado has been a disappointment offensively and defensively. The hyperextended left knee he suffered in Pittsburgh undermined what had been his most extended streak of productive hitting since April. But don't think for a minute that anyone is displacing him at first base. Remember the Mets are in first place, so they can risk playing a struggling player in hopes of him "finding it" because the risk-reward ratio favors doing so.
We already have seen Jeff Conine start games at first base against left-handed starters, but if Delgado is healthy and cold, chances are he'll play first base. Green gives them so maneuverability, but come on, Delgado has a chance for 90 RBIs. Green has a chance for 50.
And you have noticed that Delgado has batted sixth lately. Right? So it isn't as though Randolph is blind to the year-long and recent struggling.
I know the three pitchers the Mets need to solve their middle relief and fifth starter problems: Chad Bradford, Heath Bell, and Brian Bannister. I wrote to you before the season began that Omar's pitching moves in the offseason made no sense.
Do you think Omar even considered the statistics of the pitchers he was letting go and taking on before making his moves? Bell and Bannister had great Minor League careers. Bradford has terrific Major League stats -- and he was the most reliable reliever the Mets had last season.
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Minor League stats are the best indication of how a pitcher will pitch in the Majors -- not "great stuff" or what his radar gun numbers say. How about this for a measuring stick on a pitcher's "potential": does he get batters out?
The pitchers the Mets took have had little success at any level. Have you seen Schoeneweis' Major League career stats? He's had exactly one good year. Yet they chose to pay him the exact same amount Bradford was asking for. Can somebody explain this to me? One more question. Has a GM ever admitted to making a mistake?
-- Paul A., address withheld
First of all, no aspect of performance in the game is more fleeting and fickle than setup relief pitching. Look how Joe Smith's season evolved, how Aaron Heilman can dominate hitters for four appearances sandwiched between two losses that are his responsibility. Look how Billy Wagner went from being the Mets most consistent performer to struggling recently.
That said, you have made some points. The amounts the Orioles agreed to Bradford and the Mets agreed to Schoeneweis for three years, $10.5 million and $10.8 million, are comparable. Pitching for a lesser team in small ballpark in the American League, Bradford has produced better numbers than Schoeneweis in a role different from Schoeneweis' because he is right-handed.
We all know Heath Bell feels he wasn't given a chance by the Mets. But a reliever, pitching late in games for a team with championship aspirations has little margin for error. Bell didn't light it up when he did have opportunities the last two seasons, and chances are his opportunities wouldn't have increased this season. Not that Jon Adkins and Ben Johnson, acquired for Bell and Royce Ring, have proven to be such wonderful acquisitions for the Mets, but the trade isn't one to stew about.
I'm guessing the trade of Bannister for Ambiorix Burgos is the one that frosts you. I thought it was a pity that Bannister essentially missed last season because of injury. Now he's having a real nice season for the have-not Royals. A 10-7 record and a 3.28 ERA that is well below the league norm speaks to Bannister's skill. That is the most lamentable of the Mets moves. We can assume 10-7 in Kansas City translates to 12-5 or thereabouts in Flushing.
All clubs say they want pitchers who "know how to pitch," but most are readily seduced by velocity and stuff. And I suspect the Mets' desire for a dominating bullpen force prompted them to deal Bannister.
Note to Paul A.: If, as you suggested, "Minor League stats are the best indication of how a pitcher will pitch in the Majors," there would be no need to scout or evaluate. It ain't that easy to determine which player will succeed.
With Guillermo Mota's struggles, will the Mets recall Joe Smith prior to Sept. 1 to make him playoff-eligible? It would give them an alternative should Mota not turn things around over the next six weeks.
-- Jerry G., New York, N.Y.
Smith need not be recalled before Sept. 1 to be eligible for the postseason.
Is Rickey Henderson responsible Jose Reyes' recent stolen-base surge, or was this all Reyes' own doing?
-- Matthew L., Blairstown, N.J.
Henderson, the presence of Luis Castillo in the second place in the batting order, the success rate Reyes has enjoyed recently, the Mets' recent offensive surge -- stealing is more likely when a team is leading -- and happenstance have contributed to the recent surge -- 21 in 22 attempts in the first 23 games of August after no more than 20 attempts and 17 steals in any other month this season.
In late innings, when most the Mets reserves have been used, there's often talk about pinch-running for one of the slower members of the team when he represents the tying run. Tom Glavine and Orlando Hernandez already have served as pinch-runners this season, and Thursday, when Sandy Alomar Jr. reached first and then second base in the 10th inning, the SNY announcers suggested using a pitcher again. I wonder whether there isn't a pitcher in the bullpen who might be a better candidate for pinch-running than a starting pitcher. El Duque generally comes up in such discussions, but might someone like Guillermo Mota -- tall, athletic, a one-time infielder -- be a better option? Frankly, Mota is much less valuable than El Duque, in my opinion, and I'd like to see an aggressive move that favors tying the game.
-- No name submitted
First of all, only El Duque and John Maine have been used as pinch-runners this season. Each is a starter, and there's a message in that. Even with two outs in 10th inning, there's a chance of tying the score. Mota might be needed to pitch in a subsequent inning. Four relievers already had been used.
I just read that the Astros have retired Jeff Bagwell's number. The article said that this is the eighth number they have retired, and I was wondering why they have retired five more numbers than the Mets, despite entering the league the same year? Personally, I would like to see Mookie Wilson, Gary Carter, Keith Hernandez and, when he retires, Mike Piazza.
I think I'm a little biased because those were my favorites when I was growing up. What's your opinion on which former Mets are worthy of such an honor?
-- Daniel C., Smithtown, N.Y.
Well, there is no minimum requirement for uniform number retirements for franchises born in 1962. The Astros, in my eyes, haven't been particularly discriminating in their decisions in these matters. Mike Scott was a critical figure in their successes for several seasons, but he didn't play even 10 seasons with them -- 10 years in the big leagues is required to be eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot -- and began his career with the Mets. In contrast, Jerry Koosman pitched 12 season for the Mets, played a major role in their 1969 World Series championship, and his No. 36 never was retired.
Indeed, the Mets have retired only one number, Tom Seaver's No. 41, for a player. Their other two retired numbers, 14 and 37, were retired for managers Gil Hodges and Casey Stengel.
I believe the only number the Mets should retire now is 17, for Keith Hernandez. He was the most critical figure in the most successful period in franchise history. And I don't quarrel with the Astros' decisions to retire Bagwell's 5 or Larry Dierker's 49 and to use number retirement as a means of honoring players who have died. And, of course, the Jackie Robinson tribute -- retirement of his No. 42 -- is appropriate.
And when Craig Biggio's No. 7 is retired, I will applaud.
With Moises Alou back and hammering the ball, do you think the Mets will approach him about coming back next year and cross their fingers that he'd play 120-plus games, or do you think that Omar Minaya envisions Lastings Milledge and Carlos Gomez in left and right next year?
-- Brendan M., Oswego, N.Y.
The Mets have an option on Alou's contract for next season. If he wants to play, I suspect they will exercise it. I'm not convinced Gomez will start next season in the big leagues.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.