Commentary

Simply put, the Mets cannot compete

After seven games, it's obvious Omar Minaya hasn't assembled enough talent

Updated: April 14, 2010, 10:01 AM ET
By Adam Rubin | ESPNNewYork.com

DENVER -- You can change the manager. Bring in Bob Melvin or Terry Collins, Bobby Valentine or Ken Oberkfell.

It won't matter. The roster is the roster. And the talent assembled by general manager Omar Minaya is not good enough to compete in the National League East.

[+] EnlargeJohn Maine
Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesJohn Maine got shelled by the Rockies on Tuesday and could lose his spot in the rotation.

After Livan Hernandez -- yes, Livan Hernandez -- outpitched Johan Santana on Sunday in a deflating homestand finale at Citi Field, the New York Mets opened a challenging six-game trip to Colorado and St. Louis on Tuesday night at Coors Field.

Right-hander John Maine and the Mets were KO'd after three innings. The Mets lost, 11-3. And afterward, Mets manager Jerry Manuel acknowledged Maine's standing in the rotation needs to be reconsidered.

"I think those things we have to talk about," Manuel said. "Right now, right after this game, you have to kind of sleep on that and see how you feel tomorrow. Hopefully he feels OK. But you have to have dialogue about it. That's just the business that we're in."

Maine matched a career high by surrendering eight runs while lasting only three innings. Brad Hawpe delivered a two-run double in the first inning. And, after Maine walked Ian Stewart and plunked Clint Barmes to open the second inning yet escaped the frame unscathed, his night truly unraveled in the third.

Poised to potentially escape with only one run scoring, Maine knocked down Barmes' two-out comebacker with two Rockies in scoring position. He fumbled the baseball while trying to recover it, then bounced a throw past first baseman Fernando Tatis, on a play ruled an infield single. Two runs scored. Opposing pitcher Greg Smith followed with an RBI double, only his second major league hit. Seth Smith added a two-run homer to cap the six-run third.

Maine's velocity isn't close to the mid-90s he enjoyed in 2007. Then, he threw fastballs up in the strike zone. And while those offerings might have been fouled back, resulting in high pitch counts, Maine still was good enough to win 15 games. Tuesday night, Maine sounded like he needed to reinvent himself -- throwing upper-80s fastballs down in the zone where they might be hit on the ground.

"Historically he's been able to get by with being able to miss location and have a foul ball or something like that because he had a little extra on it," Manuel said. "Right now that's not the case."

Said Maine: "I hate everything about what's going on with me right now. It's just frustrating. It's not as fast. I need to get it down."

Maine then made reference to the opposing starting pitcher, Smith, whose fastball only sits at 87 mph.

"It's a good example tonight," Maine said. "You don't have to throw 95. You have to get the ball down, and I haven't done that."

The Mets are now 2-5, in last place in their division. They have trailed 5-0 and 8-0 in their last two games before they've blinked.

"It's not easy. It's not the ideal scenario," said left fielder Jason Bay, who produced his first RBI as a Met in the eighth inning. "At the same time, I think, offensively we're a better ballclub. You give a guy a lead and you allow him to settle in. Not shirking responsibilities, over the last few games, regardless of what the score's been early, we should still be a better offensive ballclub than we have been."

The truth is there are no obvious quick fixes.

The eight runs allowed by Maine were the most by a Met since Jason Vargas surrendered nine, also against the Rockies at Coors Field, in an 11-3 loss on July 3, 2007. Maine has a 13.50 ERA after two starts.

But what option would the Mets have if they really wanted to bounce Maine, or for that matter Oliver Perez, a fellow 15-game winner in 2007, from the rotation?

Yes, there's Fernando Nieve and Hisanori Takahashi in the bullpen, but does that really transform the Mets into a contender? (Nieve walked three of the first four batters he faced in relief Tuesday.) Rookie Jenrry Mejia is disqualified, since he's a reliever and not stretched out for stating duty. Nelson Figueroa is a Phillie. And the best available options at Triple-A Buffalo are Pat Misch and Dillon Gee.

The Mets began a stretch of games on 17 straight days, so there is no chance to skip an ineffective starter the next three turns through the rotation.

So now what does Jerry Manuel do? He can juggle the lineup, placing Jose Reyes third, but that's not going to fix the pitching deficiencies.

The good news is that Minaya hasn't made a guest appearance, as he did here at Coors Field when then-manager Willie Randolph was dangling two years ago. Randolph joked then that the GM brought along a machete. Randolph was fired at 3 a.m. ET at a Costa Mesa, Calif., hotel four weeks later.

Minaya, in explaining the middle-of-the-night firing of Randolph, reasoned he didn't want to fire Randolph earlier in the evening at the ballpark because the GM didn't want to terminate a person while he was still wearing a uniform.

After becoming interim manager that season, Manuel joked that he would sleep in his uniform. While there's no indication anything is imminent, he might want to seriously consider that bedtime attire now, just in case.

Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

Adam Rubin has covered the Mets since 2003. He's a graduate of Mepham High School on Long Island and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He joined ESPNNewYork after spending 10 years at the New York Daily News.
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