Recently I decided to get you, the fans closer to the game by interviewing some of the writers for the rival teams such as the New York Mets, Atlanta Braves, and even the Boston Red Sox, to get a beat on how their team is similar to ours in terms of philosophy. This week, I interviewed Milo Taibi, from the Rising Apple. Here is his take on some of the things that may effect the Mets and Phillies rivalry.
"TBOH: With the latest series between the Mets and Phillies at a close, I noticed your bullpen is only a little bit more improved than the years before. Do you have any ideas on how they plan to fix it?"
RA: If I had to make a guess at this point, I would estimate that the Mets are going to stay in-house to fix their shaky bullpen. For the team’s short term bullpen woes, there are a few ways to immediately help rectify the situation. For starters, long man Brian Stokes has been vastly underutilized this season. He needs to improve his K/9 rate and cut down on the amount of walks he allows, but considering his numbers it’s irrational to not pitch him in bigger spots.
Secondly, I’m not quite sure what purpose Ken Takahashi and Jon Switzer serve on the team. Yes they’re each left-handed, but neither have proven to possess very good stuff. Especially with the arrival of inter-league play, it would make sense to send down one of the two in favor of a hitter from Triple-A Buffalo to serve as DH (Wily Mo Pena?).
The major issue with the bullpen is the loss of set-up man J.J. Putz. Though he wasn’t pitching very well this season, his injury leaves a major hole in the back-end of the ‘pen. It would appear that Mets GM Omar Minaya will stand pat and hope that Robert Parnell is able to fill Putz’s shoes, but I’d hope he looks outside the organization for relief help. It’s starting to look like this year’s trading deadline will be a buyer’s market (thanks in part to the economy), so it may make alot of sense for Omar to import a proven arm to set-up Francisco Rodriguez.
"TBOH: Do you think the Mets have what it takes starting rotation wise to break the pattern of collapses in September?"
RA: I hate to use such a cop-out answer, but I genuinely think it’s too early to tell. There are so many variables in this starting rotation, it’s impossible to foretell what shape it’s going to be in by September. Will Livan Hernandez’s performance maintain all season? Is John Maine going to be out for a prolonged period of time? Were Johan Santana’s recent performances a result of running into bad luck, or a lingering knee injury? Is Omar Minaya going to acquire a starter by the trading deadline? These are all questions that time can only answer, so for now we’re all just going to have to wait and see.
"TBOH: With all of the Mets injury problems, do you think the Mets can pull it together and get the chemistry back again to be successful? It seems that most of the Mets are hurt, are any season threatening?"
RA: I don’t think any of the team’s injuries are going to be season threatening, unless Jose Reyes re-aggravates his hamstring tear. Hamstring injuries have to be treated extremely delicately, and when they occur to a player who utilizes their speed like Reyes does, a team’s medical staff must be certain that the player is 100% before returning to action. Outside of Reyes, the Mets should have Carlos Delgado, J.J. Putz, and maybe even Billy Wagner returning by August, so that can only be positive to the team’s success.
"TBOH: Could part of the pitching inconsistency be a part of the young catchers that the Mets have behind the plate?"
RA: I appreciate your flattering usage of the word “young.” Each catcher the Mets have used this year (Omir Santos, Brian Schneider, Ramon Castro) have been at least 28 years old. Omir Santos may be relatively green in terms of MLB experience, but he got rave reviews from pitchers in Spring Training because of his receiving skills. It can be safely said that the faults of the team’s pitching (starters not going far enough into games, relievers giving up too many walks) aren’t related to the catchers.
"TBOH: What is your take on the Phillies after what you have seen in the past series? Any suggestions?"
RA: My take on the Phillies after this series is the same as it’s been since 2007. They’re an un-spectacular club that has the uncanny ability to fight back throughout a ballgame. I’m not even sure it’s a matter of the team’s mindset. Phils GM Ruben Amaro deserves to be lauded for compiling a great bench and bullpen that allows Philadelphia to contend all throughout the ballgame. Mets fans may not give these little details the time of day when thinking about the Mets-Phillies rivalry, but having Greg Dobbs and Matt Stairs available to hit off the bench does matter in the later innings. Having Jack Taschner and Scott Eyre in addition to J.C. Romero is a major strength. Omar Minaya may excel when it comes to making blockbuster trades, but he shows a glaring weakness when it comes to assembling a bench and bullpen. We have no power threats as pinch hitters and only one competent left hander (Pedro Feliciano) to answer to Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Raul Ibanez. I don’t suppose I have any suggestions for the Phillies, though the Phillies may benefit from replacing J.A. Happ in the starting rotation considering the way he’s been pitching lately. Being that the team already pulled the trigger by inserting Antonio Bastardo into the rotation, it may make sense to continue the youth movement by calling Andrew Carpenter (2.75 ERA in Triple-A this season).
Thanks so much for taking part in this interview. It sounds like that the Mets are only a few moves from really challenging the Phils for the NL East title. Now of course, the Mets are close, but if they got some players back from the Disabled List, and traded for another guy to help out their bullpen, and maybe a bat off the bench or two, that could really push them over the top.