New York Mets GM Sandy Alderson Should Build Around David Wright

December 12, 2011

Pretty much all major sports, but especially, baseball, are copycat sports. If something works for one organization, then others follow the lead. However, due to the long history of baseball and the ingrained ideas and traits, it often takes longer for new ideas to be implemented.

Billy Beane began using low cost players who had high value qualities, but after MoneyBall came out, every team followed suit. And because Beane doesn’t know much about on field talent, the Oakland A’s stink once again.

Since the Yankees were always in the playoffs, they have not had many top of the draft picks. Brian Cashman began taking high upside talent in later rounds, then offering them bigger bonuses to sign. David Robertson was one such pick in 2006, and Dellin Betances was plucked away from a Vanderbilt scholarship using that same method in the same ’06 draft. Teams then began following suit with higher bonuses for top talent taken in later rounds.

The Texas Rangers have made the World Series for two consecutive seasons, with a potent offense and a good bullpen, but without a true ace pitcher who can be the proverbial shutdown guy, thus helping to avoid long losing streaks. Most of the best teams in baseball have an ace, but Texas won the past two seasons without one. C.J. Wilson was not an ace and the Rangers pounded their opponents into submission quite often.

Many people believe the 2012 New York Mets will not contend for a playoff spot, and include me as one of them. Not because they are devoid of talent, because some of their young guys are pretty good, but primarily due to the strength of the other teams within their division.

The Phillies have a great rotation and despite some aging, no current shortstop, and injury issues to Chase Utley and Ryan Howard (likely out for the 2012 season), they still have enough talent to earn a postseason spot. Plus, GM Ruben Amaro appears to make moves which improve their team, like signing their homegrown talent, trading for three top pitchers, and then signing Lee again last year.

The Atlanta Braves have good young talent, and except for a late season collapse, would have made the postseason. And they have good young pitching in the minors, and are willing to give them ample chances to pitch. They are good like that. Maybe Fredi Gonzalez shouldn’t overwork his top three bullpen guys as much, though.

The Washington Nationals are improving, have a good young mound duo in Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann, both of who came back very strong from Tommy John surgery. They also have an owner with a ton of money and an itch to win before his D-Day. They could use a young, lefty power bat…

The Miami Marlins are also better with the three big free agent splashes in Heath Bell, Jose Reyes* and Mark Buehrle joining a young core of Hanley Ramirez, Logan Morrison, Gaby Sanchez, Chris Coghlan, and Mike Stanton.

*It is amazing that the Mets lost one of their franchise players and are not even getting a first round pick back in return. Since the Marlins have the 9th pick in the 2012 draft, that pick is protected. The Mets will get the Marlins 2nd round pick plus the supplemental pick. Biggest problem with not trading Reyes at last year’s trade deadline was Sandy Alderson not seeing the variable of a bad team with a top pick signing Reyes. Tough thing to predict, but doesn’t a GM and his people have to look for every possibility?

Since the Mets were not so good last season, lost Reyes, and are unsure whether Johan Santana (a huge Minaya mistake) will pitch in 2012, they are not supposed to be good this year either. With those factors and with every other team in the division having better rosters, it is a perfect time to stick with the kids who began to produce last year and made the 2011 Mets somewhat fun to watch.

Since the team might be a last place squad, many Mets fans and pundits want the last bastion of their quality teams from 2006-2008, David Wright, to be traded. They want more trades like the Carlos Beltran for Zack Wheeler deal; to get younger, cheaper talent to try and win in 2014 and beyond. The Mets GM is actively looking to make trades but has indicated David Wright is not getting dealt.

And that is a very smart move.

Sandy Alderson has seen what has recently helped teams win. In 2010, it was a very strong top three in the rotation (and dominant bullpen) which propelled the San Francisco Giants, and then he saw the Arizona Diamondbacks use good, young starters (and a dominant bullpen) to win the NL West in 2011.

And he also saw the aforementioned Texas Rangers win with a solid, but not great rotation, great power lineup (and dominant bullpen) to win the AL Pennant the past two years. He also saw the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Rangers in the 2011 World Series with a mediocre rotation and a dominant bullpen.

As I mentioned earlier, MLB is a copycat league. Without a solid top three in the 2012 rotation, Alderson has smartly used his limited resources to secure a solid bullpen. He signed former closer Jon Rauch and current closer Frank Francisco and traded for Ramon Ramirez, who was a big part of that 2010 Giants World Series bullpen.

The Mets 2011 bullpen had a 4.33 ERA, ranked 28th of the 30 major league teams. These bullpen additions should help improve those numbers. With holdovers Bobby Parnell and Pedro Beato, who will not be pressured to get key outs late, the Mets now have a nice stable of power arms.

And despite Reyes’ departure, Alderson also sees a pretty good power offense. With Ike Davis (ankle), Lucas Duda (concussion) and David Wright (back) healthy again, and Jason Bay (another Minaya mistake) still in the fold, the Mets have four sluggers who might combine for 80-100 HRs. Add in a healthy Daniel Murphy, who is a solid hitter, and there are five guys who can drive in runs.

The key is health as none of the above players, except Bay, had 450 plate appearances in 2011.

Alderson performed magic when he shortened the Citi Field dimensions, likely adding power numbers to each of the hitters, but especially Wright, who has acknowledged the previously larger dimensions have hurt his numbers. By stating that Wright was not available in a trade and moving the fences in, Alderson clearly has indicated he wants Wright to remain a Met. Look for Alderson to try and extend Wright early next year.

And like the Texas Rangers have with Elvis Andrus, the 2012 will have a young shortstop, known for his glove, but has improved on the other side of the ball. His on base skills have clearly improved and he showed a knack for getting key hits.

Ruben Tejada should not be forced to win the shortstop job in spring training. He should be given the job prior to spring training. Let him have the knowledge that he will be the glue of a solid infield, which will give him immense confidence. Keith Hernandez always said the key to his 1979 NL MVP season was that his manager, Ken Boyer, told him no matter what happened early in the season, he was still going to be the Cardinal first baseman.

The overall key to the Mets future is definitely the young starters still in the minors, guys like Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jeurys Familia, Jenrry Mejia and possible Michael Fulmer, last year’s second round pick.

But to win now and stay competitive in 2012 and 2013, the Mets need to punish opponents on offense, keep the game close and win it late with a solid bullpen. That formula will not work every time in Citi Field, but it has shown to consistently win games for teams around the league.

But the offense needs to stay healthy, too, and Wright needs to wipe away his past demons and know he has a pretty good supporting cast, and need not do it alone.

The time to trade Wright was a few years ago, when the Boston Red Sox desperately needed a third baseman and actually had quality young talent to trade. Here is a Wright trade proposal I made two seasons ago.

Not moving Wright is just another sickly feather in Omar Minaya’s cap, probably the worst GM in the history of baseball.

Since Wright can void the last year of his current deal if he is traded, if the Mets tried to trade Wright they would not get a Beltran-type return, let alone a Dan Haren or Mark Teixeira type return. While, those types of trades could occur as recently as two years ago, those deals are never going to happen anymore as teams are over-valuing their young players. Wright is best served to stay in New York.

Alderson knows this and is making the smart move, for the team this season and for the Mets future.


New York Yankees Were An Inch Away from Taking the Subway Series

May 24, 2010

CC Sabathia worked around trouble in the first inning last night against the New York Mets, stranding the bases loaded when he struck out David Wright (#59 on the season), and induced Angel Pagan on an inning-ending pop up.

The second inning did not work out nearly as well, as Alex Cora fisted a two-out, two-strike Sabathia 93 MPH fastball into right-center for a two-run single and a 2-0 Mets lead.

Two batters later the score was 4-0 as Jason Bay finally connected on his second home run, a deep drive to left center which cleared the 65 foot wall* at Citi Field.

* The fence is not 65 feet high, but being as high as it is (15 feet), that far from home plate, the fence plays much higher. I also believe the left center markers are incorrect and that left field is further from home plate than is listed.

The close call to Cora was a strike, but not called a strike by Marvin Hudson, last night’s home plate umpire. I have seen a few Pitching f/x type of images, all of which show the pitch within the zone.

But the real reason why it was a strike was that Francisco Cervelli wanted the pitch on the inside corner, and Sabathia threw the ball right to the glove.

Throwing to the inside corner on a same side hitter (lefty-to-lefty or righty-to-righty) is the toughest pitch to make in baseball, especially when a guy like Cora is on top of the plate.

I umpire in college level and men’s level baseball leagues, both wood and metal bats. When a pitcher makes that pitch to the inside corner of the same side hitter, I give that call to the pitcher because of the difficulty of the pitch.

Obviously last night’s umpire does not agree with that sentiment.

Getting that call gets CC out of the inning, and changes the complexion of the entire game. Pitchers are used differently, pinch hitters are used differently.

The entire game changes, even down to what types of pitches are thrown to certain hitters in certain situations. 

But the biggest change would be that the Mets likely have four less runs on the board.

Even so, the human element is one of the most compelling aspects of the game, and Sabathia needs to slough off that bad call and make an even better pitch to Cora to get him out. There are many sabermetricians who would love to have balls and strikes computed operated via a Pitch f/x standard, but that will never work in the game of baseball.

One of the great parts of baseball are the in-game adjustments made towards the umpire and his tendencies.

Good teams adjust accordingly.

Sabathia didn’t and the Yankees lost the Subway Series.

David Wright’s Career Is Over Unless He Becomes Fearless at the Plate

April 19, 2010

The event occurred after my college career was over and I was several seasons into one of the various semi-pro leagues I played in during the summer. Make no mistake about the quality of “summer ball,” as these were some of the most competitive seasons we ever played. A regular season was usually a 40-game schedule played over 60 days, then playoffs.

We were taking infield practice during a team workout and while playing second base, I moved to the left to field a ball hit into the 3.5 hole, when the ball hit something (the skin fields were never great), and came up and hit me square in the nose.

You can tell by my picture on my home page here a Bleacher Report , that it was not the only time I was hit in the nose by a baseball.

But this occasion, which produced a stream of blood and an immediately dark black eye, produced a fear for me in fielding ground balls. I would flinch every time I was about to field a ground ball. For at least a month (or maybe more) I shied away from ground balls, especially those which were hit hard.

I was relegated to outfield duty until my fear of the baseball eventually subsided.

If a baseball player is ever fearful of the baseball, then their ability to play the game is severely compromised.

Which bring me to New York Mets third baseman, David Wright.

After watching the very draining three-game series the Mets played at the St. Louis Cardinals, I have come to the conclusion that Wright’s baseball career, as he and Met fans knew it, is over.

Why? The Aug. 15, 2009 fastball from San Francisco Giants RHP Matt Cain which beaned Wright in the head. That 94 MPH 0-2 pitch sailed in on Wright and knocked his helmet off.

When Wright was beaned, he suffered a concussion, was placed on the 15-day disabled list and did not return to the Mets lineup until Sep. 1, 2009. Wright missed 15 games.

This past weekend, I saw all three Met games, including all 20 innings Saturday night. In these three games, Wright ducked away from eight inside pitches, literally turning away from the ball in a frightened state.  

What was amazing is that all eight of these pitches were curveballs! They were pitches which were thrown at Wright, which then broke over the inside or middle part of the plate.

David Wright was afraid of these pitches as they were thrown at him.

Wright also now “steps in the bucket” on most pitches, pulling his front foot towards the third baseman rather than stepping straight at the pitcher. It must be noted that Wright, in his career prior to the beaning, almost always didn’t step directly at the pitcher, but his bailing out now is much more pronounced.

After the inside curveballs, Wright was peppered with breaking pitches away. The standard procedure, likely devised by Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa and pitching coach Dave Duncan, was to throw Wright inside pitches to get ahead and then get him out away.

But teams cannot pitch the same way every time to a hitter, so the Cardinals mixed up the philosophy a few at bats, just to keep Wright honest. They would work outside, then get him looking outside before coming in with their “out pitch.” 

Also, a couple times this weekend (ninth inning Saturday, fifth in Sunday) Wright took inside curve balls for strike three. Wright literally turned away from the ball before taking the called third strikes. The main situation is that the Cardinals sensed Wright’s fear and set him up all weekend.

Professional sports are copycat businesses, and I expect to see other teams follow suit with this program of pitching to Wright.

If he continues to be afraid of the ball, Wright will never be the same type of productive hitter he used to be prior to Aug. 15th of last season.

There have been many beanings in baseball’s history and some of the most famous include Tony Conigliaro of the Boston Red Sox, Dickie Thon of the Houston Astros, and Paul Blair of the Baltimore Orioles.

Because of various reasons none of these three hitters ever were the same as they were before the beaning. It is tough to get back in the batter’s box to face 90+ mile an hour pitches when you have suffered a head shot.

Blair even tried switch hitting before ending that experiment. I do remember Blair from his days as a New York Yankee, a backup outfielder on the two World Series teams of 1977 and 1978. At that time, Blair had a severe “step in the bucket” hitting style, afraid to stand in against right handed pitchers.

Blair was one of the best defensive center fielders of all time and was primarily a defensive specialist for those Yankee teams.

In addition to Wright, there were seven other players hit in the head with a pitch during the 2009 season, including Marco Scutaro, Paul Konerko, and even pitcher Micah Owings. A check of their statistics after their beaning indicates very little change, although I do notice Scutaro stepping away from the pitcher a little. Several players even hit a little better.

However, Wright returned after the beaning and hit .239 BA/.289 OBP/.367 SLG/.656 OPS after the beaning. This was after putting up a line of .324/.414/.467/.882 OPS prior to the beaning. That is very significant.

And Wright also walked only nine times and struck out 35 times in that final month after the beaning, whereas he never had less than nine free passes and never had more than 27 punch outs during a single month—in any full season of his career!

While that could be a fluky final month in 2009, combined with Wright’s slow start and high strikeout rate already (14 whiffs) this season, there should be cause for concern. While he has continued to walk (17 times so far in 2010), that can attributed more to big money free agent Jason Bay’s even worse start (another great move by Omar !), the batter who normally hits behind Wright.

While the above beaned player’s careers were stunted after their beanings, three Hall of Fame players also suffered severe beanings—Mickey Cochrane, Joe Medwick, and Frank Robinson.

Cochrane was the premiere catcher in his day but never played another game after he was beaned in 1937, but both outfielder’s Medwick and Robinson returned to the diamond. 

Medwick won the National League’s Triple Crown in 1937 as a 25-year-old. He was in his prime when he was traded from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Brooklyn Dodgers early in the 1940 season, and was beaned a week later by former teammate Bob Bowman of the Cardinals.

Before the beaning, Medwick was a superstar, finishing first or second in various batting categories 28 times, including three straight RBI titles* from 1936-1938. After the beaning, he was a shell of his former self, never leading the league in any category and finishing second once.

*I know the sabermetric crowd doesn’t like the RBI stat, but driving in runs is still the most important job a hitter can do. Just ask the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets this season about getting hits with runners in scoring position (RISP). They can’t hit with RISP and, so far, both teams stink this season.

Medwick hit .338 and slugged .552 before the 1940 season and after the 1940 season hit hit only .302 and slugged .439. Severe drop-offs. According to reports from the time, Medwick was plate shy and not the same aggressive hitter.

Similar to Conigliaro , Hall of Famer Frank Robinson was a hitter who stood on top of the plate, and was always getting hit by pitches (198 total). Robinson, who was one of my favorite players (we share the same birthday), led the league seven times in getting hit by a pitch. Robinson was beaned in spring training 1958, his third season in the major leagues, and his career was in jeopardy.

In an interview with Investor’s Business Daily on April 5, 2007, Robinson admitted when he woke up in the hospital he wasn’t the same hitter. “I was in denial. I was fearful at the plate for the first and only time in my career. I had struggled through the first half of the season. I was just leaning back on pitches, rocking back, and I wouldn’t admit it to myself .”

The great Robinson, Rookie of the Year in 1956 and already a superstar was afraid of the ball. Then during the 1958 All-Star break, he decided it was time to have a talk with himself. “I said, ‘If you still want to be a major-league ballplayer, you’re going to have to start going into the pitches again and not have any fear up there at the plate .'”

David Wright has the ability to play the game at a high level, but the beaning he took last August has noticeably affected his play. The numbers since the beaning supports that observation.

Wright can take one of two routes going forward. He can fight through the fear of the pitched ball like Robinson did and improve his game or he can stay in his state of fear and continue his downward spiral, similar to the spiral Joe Medwick had after his beaning.

I fear Wright will follow Medwick’s path, and that is too bad.

If I was running a pre-series meeting before facing the Mets, I would tell my pitchers to be aggressive up and in EARLY to Wright at least once a game to intimidate him. Take advantage of his current weakness.

You never know how long it will last, and with continued aggression, it might last forever.

2010 Prediction: Yankees Curtis Granderson Will Have More Power than New York Mets Jason Bay

April 4, 2010

Both New York teams have played their exhibition games and, except for Jose Reyes, Daniel Murphy and Carlos Beltran, all seems to healthy on the Mets front. With those guys on the DL, no other players had to see one of the Mets team doctors, and that is good.

History has shown that seeing the Mets doctors is one of the worst places a Mets player can probably be sent.

Both New York teams also have a new starting outfielder, both upgrades over their 2009 counterparts. The Mets signed free agent Jason Bay while the Yankees pulled off an old-fashioned trade as they acquired Curtis Granderson from the Detroit Tigers in a three-team, seven-player swap.

That trade also involved the Arizona Diamondbacks, and appears to be good for all three teams involved.

New York Mets fans demanded something be done about their lack of starting pitching depth, but General Manager Omar Minaya did nothing. Many fans wanted a new first baseman and a power hitting left fielder.

Well they got their wish in left field, but the most important thing, starting pitching, was dismissed out of hand.

Bay was given a four-year deal for $66 million, and is firmly planted in left field. Seeing him in a few games (live and on TV) far this spring, his OF play is shaky. There is the power in Bay’s bat to make up for his below average defense, but his ability to make consistent contact.

However, will there be enough power in Bay’s bat in new CitiField, the Mets home where deep fly balls go to die in outfielder’s gloves? Ask David Wright how bad the new home park plays. Will Bay’s rumored knee problems hamper him during the season in the field or at bat?

Bay had his best year last season, hitting .267/.384/.537/.921 OPS with 36 home runs and 119 RBI’s. Not that it was his best season statistically, as his 2005 and 2006 seasons were more productive, but that this season came in his final, walk year before his first free agency.

That was good for Bay’s bank account, but bad for the Mets overall.

Meanwhile, Granderson was coming off his most dismal season since becoming a full time player. His line of .249/.327/.453/.780 OPS became steadily worse that his last few seasons. His  best year was in 2007 when he hit .302/.361/.552/ a .913 OPS with 38 doubles, 23 triples, 23 homers and 74 RBI’s. He also walked 52 times.

But his OBP and slugging percentage (SLG) declined over the last two seasons, mainly because his average dropped and, while his homers increased to 30, his other extras base hits declined significantly. C-Grand’s SLG of .552 in 2007 was due to his 38 doubles and 23 triples as much as his HR total.

When those other XBH declined to 23 and 8 last year, and his average declined, too, it made his OBP and SLG (and of course OPS) fall to these extreme lows. His OBP fell despite his walk totals increasing from 52 in 2007 to 72 last year.

Just goes to show that high batting averages are still a key to high OBP’s. A walk is NOT as good as a hit unless the team has other hitters in the lineup.

Granderson has worked hard with hitting Coach Kevin Long to improve his overall hitting, more going the other way to improve is recent number against left handed pitchers. It showed with improved batting average (.286) in spring training this year and boosted his OBP to .375, two stats the Yankees will sign on the dotted line for this season.

He also improved against lefties with a .250 BA this spring.

The one negative for Granderson is that he did not hit a home run at all this spring, and his SLG was only .388. That will improve, though, once Granderson gets to the Stadium with the short right field porch. He will not pull as much as the past, but will hit his share of home runs, probably around 20-25, much less than people expect.

They might not be as high as everyone expects, but Granderson’s SLG will be much higher than last year. While his HR’s will be normal, his other XBH will improve to that of his 2007 season.

Granderson’s work with Long will allow him to love the deep left field gap. With his speed, the doubles and triples will skyrocket, raising his slugging percentage to that of 2007, somewhere around .530 to .550.

Jason Bay will also hit share of home runs, but due to the expansive home park, it will not be the 30+ he hit in four of the last five seasons. His double rate will also decline as those balls off the Green Monster will be caught by the left and center fielders in the more spacious ballpark his plays half his games.

Plus, Bay is expected to hit fourth or fifth in the lineup, one that does not scare many pitchers. Don’t be surprised if teams begin to pitch around Bay to get to the freer swinging Jeff Francoeur. Once again, a walk is not as good as a hit, if there are no other good hitters to produce.

Therefore, Bay’s OBP may be a bit higher, but his SLG rate will decline from last season’s .537.

With the type of player each guy is, and with the dimensions of CitiField, wouldn’t Granderson have been a better fit for the Mets as the left fielder? And he could have been the center fielder while Beltran is out. For Minaya, another boat that left the dock without him doing anything or having a plan and he appeared to settle to the whims of the public in regards to what the team needed.

When all is said and done in 2010, Granderson will more important for the Yankees than Bay will be for the Mets.

In fact, with his new hitting approach, C-Grand will have a higher SLG rate this year than Jason Bay.

You can bank on it.

Jose Reyes Needed To Be In The New York Mets Opening Day Lineup

April 3, 2010

The Mets wanted to have a nice easy Spring Training. After coming off three consecutive debacle seasons, they went out and signed Jason Bay, thinking they needed a power hitting left fielder (Ike Davis, maybe? Think out of the box, Omar!).

But then Carlos Beltran went out to Colorado and had his cranky knees operated on, Kelvim Escobar still has a sore pitching shoulder, Daniel Murphy twisted his knee and, most importantly Jose Reyes had a thyroid problem. The thyroid issue cost Jose three weeks of training camp, and he still has not played in a major league spring training game.

Still, Reyes’ thyroid levels stabilized, he is now able to resume athletic activities. Reyes has played a few simulated and minor league games, getting more at bats and even played three inning in the field during one game.

For a major athlete in his physical condition, which is better than mine and more than 99% of the population, he is ready to play. Reyes wants to play.

But the Mets have put Reyes on the Disabled List (DL) because they are being overly cautious. That is understandable after the prior season injury mishaps to Carlos Beltran, many of the pitchers and Reyes with his bad leg last season.

Being overly cautious is similar to a bad free throw shooter in basketball. If the shooter misses the first free throw really short or really long, they always overcompensate too much with the next shot. Being overly cautious with Reyes is bad for the Met fans who need something to improve their spirits.

With Beltran out for at least another month, and now Daniel Murphy out a few weeks, with all the bad karma over the last three seasons, it is important for Reyes to be starting at shortstop on opening day.

The Mets need to give their fans some optimism, and that will not happen with Reyes on the DL. General Manager (LOL!) Omar Minaya is making another mistake.

Even if Reyes plays Opening Day and then rests for a few days, it would mean so much to the Met fans, on this important day to be in the lineup.

In seeing the new left side of the defense, David Wright at third base, Reyes at short and new left fielder Jason Bay all starting opening day would give hope to the Met fans.

That is of course until Oliver Perez pitches a few days later.

Trade David Wright: New York Mets Need to Make a Move for the Future

July 7, 2009

There has been much criticism for Omar Minaya this year regarding the lack of a move in getting a hitter for the depleted, injury-ravaged New York Mets lineup. With injuries to Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Beltran, the Mets are left with only David Wright, a 40-year-old Gary Sheffield, and a bunch of “he doesn’t scare me” type of hitters.

I have been critical of Minaya in the past, primarily for his lack of building farm systems as GM of the Mets and, after he was given the GM job for the Montreal Expos, making inexcusable trades by the boatload.

Notice how many proven major leaguers Minaya has traded away, including Jason Bay, Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips, Cliff Lee, and Orlando Cabrera.

This piece has been in the hopper for two weeks, but after a terrible 10-game stretch where they went 2-8, it merits even more consideration. After taking three of four from the (at that time) first-place St. Louis Cardinals, the Mets were only a half game out of first place.

The Phillies had lost 14 of 18 games and were receiving terrible pitching, Raul Ibanez was injured, and Jimmy Rollins was mired in a huge slump.

The Mets were ready to make their move towards first place.

Except a little thing happened on the way to a World Series title.

The Mets remembered they had a minor league lineup surrounding David Wright, their starting pitching (outside of Johan Santana) was terrible, and their bullpen is hit or miss on any given day.

Even their most reliable bullpen arm, Frankie Rodriguez, has been inconsistent lately. Over his last seven appearances, K-Rod has allowed eight hits, five earned runs, and seven walks in 7.1 IP, and has blown two saves

Throw in shoddy defense and awful fundamental baseball, and you realize this is not a good baseball team.

Their recent bad stretch started with being swept at home versus the New York Yankees, where the combined score was 18-3. The minor league lineup was impotent, but the pitching was not good either.

That is the rub: The Mets fans want Omar Minaya to make a move for another bat to improve the lineup, but the Mets will never win if they do not get better starting pitching.

The current Met starters are Santana, Mike Pelfrey, Livan Hernandez, Fernando Nieve, and Tim Redding. That is one great pitcher, one up and down youngster, and three journeymen.

That is not the making of a postseason rotation, and even Santana has looked well…un-Santana-like lately. His last seven starts have returned a 2-5 record, 5.61 ERA, and 1.43 WHIP.

Please do not tell me about his lack of run support. The job of a starting pitcher is to win games—not to have the best WHIP or ERA or FIP, but to win games for your team. Santana has not done that consistently this year. To his credit, he has 16 decisions, but he needs to begin outdueling the other starter.

Now with Santana normalized and everybody else iffy, when are the Mets likely to put a good stretch together that gets them back into the race?

Is the return of Oliver Perez going to brighten everybody’s day in Metland? Definitely not.

Perez has always been a head case, and now with the guaranteed three-year, $36 million contract, he is even more so.

When is John Maine going to return? He is not yet throwing, and if he does return, will it be the usual inconsistent Maine who has that terrible inning every game?

Maine is a pitcher who does just enough to keep you thinking he is really good, but when you see the end result, it is almost never good.

Their home park is designed to be a pitcher’s park, so the Mets need to design their team to fit their ballpark. Getting better, more consistent starting pitching and getting better defensively will help the Mets more than adding a big bat to a AAA lineup.

The Mets do not have a good starting rotation, and there is no real help on the horizon unless they take drastic steps to improve their team to their ballpark.

The worst thing for the Mets (and Omar) to do is panic and make a move for a bat that will not help them this season.

Eventually Reyes will be back, and likely Beltran too, but probably not Delgado. Even if all three came back next week completely healthy, the Mets rotation is still an inconsistent wreck.

The second-worst thing for the Mets is to go on an improbable little run where they win seven of 10 after the All-Star break, giving the team (and the fans) hope that they could recreate the aura of the 1973 Ya Gotta Believe team.

But that team had great pitching. This 2009 Met team does not.

The same thing happened to the Yankees last year. They went on an eight-game winning streak after the break and thought they could come back and overtake both the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays.

They made the big trade for Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte, but the Yankees were without the big bats of Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada and did not have the starting pitching to keep in the race.

The 2009 Mets should not make the same mistake the 2008 Yankees did. The Mets should make a move, but make it for pitching, and not to try to win this season, but to win in the future. Instead of trading for a bat, the Mets should trade a bat, and trade their best bat, because that will get you more value for the future.

Under Minaya’s tenure, the Mets have always played for this season and to win now. Now, it is time to change course and build for the future.

The future is with a potent rotation based upon good young arms that, while pitching half their games in spacious Citi Field, will not be afraid to throw strikes.

The Mets should pursue a trade with the Boston Red Sox that sends third baseman David Wright and Fernando Martinez to the Red Sox in exchange for CF Jacoby Ellsbury, RHP Clay Buchholz, AA 1B Lars Anderson, and any two of Justin Masterson, Daniel Bard, and Michael Bowden.

This trade does three things.

First, it improves the stable of young major league-ready arms for the Mets. Second, it gets the Mets their power hitting first baseman of the future. Third, it kills the Mets’ crosstown rival New York Yankees, who see the Red Sox improve an already potent lineup with the addition of the power-hitting Wright.

Just imagine the righty-hitting David Wright in Fenway banging line drives off and hitting towering drives over the Green Monster, and doing it in a big series against the Yankees!

The Met fans will enjoy their take of the loot too, as Buchholz and Masterson/Bowden step right into the rotation, and Ellsbury provides a solid leadoff hitter and great defense.

Ellsbury at the top allows Reyes to move into the middle of the lineup, where his 190-plus hits every year will plate 120 runs, many of them scored by Jacoby.

Anderson is a big power hitter, providing necessary power for the Mets for years to come. He should be ready for the majors next year, and whoever loses the first base battle between Anderson and maybe Ike Davis, the Mets’ first-round pick last season, moves to a corner outfield spot or is trade bait for more pitching.

Ellsbury is a proven major leaguer, something the Mets do not yet have in the young but talented Martinez.

F-Mart’s youth and their potent lineup allow the Red Sox to groom him slowly for center. The 20-year-old would get a few months of seasoning in AAA and would be brought back up in September.

The Mets would be wise to explore this option soon, as the Cleveland Indians have scouted the Red Sox’s minor league system in anticipation of the Sox making a run at Indians catcher Victor Martinez.

The Red Sox need extra offense, and by getting the powerful Wright to play third, they can move Kevin Youkilis back to his comfortable first base, having cornerstones at first and third through the year 2013, which are club options for each player.

The Mets can fill their third base need with a free agent in the offseason for a one or two-year deal.

The future at third, however, is currently a shortstop in the Mets system. Wilmer Flores is only 18 but currently stands at 6’3″ and 175 lbs. This is an Alex Rodriguez and Cal Ripken type of physical stature, and it will be more beneficial for him and the Mets if he switched over to third base.

Flores is very adept with the bat, and although he does not walk too much yet (only a .325 OBP at Low A), he also does not strike out much (only 38 K’s in almost 300 PA).

With the big park a major factor and the lack of quality arms in their system, the Mets need to merge the two. That means trading their big bat in David Wright for some proven speed and defense (Ellsbury) and some power arms to build up their stable of pitching talent.

Combining these pitchers with 23-year-old Jonathan Niese, having a good season at Triple A, the Mets can be a force in the National League East for years and help bury the crosstown rival Yankees in the same process.