Monday, April 24, 2006

ATTACK OF THE KILLER ZAMBIES, PART II

Victor Zambrano must be put down, I mean sent down. There's just no other way at this point. After three starts, his pitching line reads 14 IP, 20 H, 15 runs, 9 BBs, 8 K, 5 HR. Five home runs in 14 IP! The only skill he demonstrated last season, that of keeping the ball in the yard, has abandoned him this year too. He's doomed, and Shea is his haunted house. Send his spooky vibes and bad luck mojo to Virginia, where maybe he can run for governor on the independent ticket in '08.

Keep in mind that the Killer Zambie compiled those stellar numbers over starts in Shea, RFK and Petco, three of MLB's best pitchers parks. Against NL teams ranked 5th, 9th & 14th in runs scored. An ERA over 9.00. More walks than strike outs. Yet, Met management continues to operate with a blind spot towards his atrocious pitching. "Today, it was obviously pretty much bad game management," Met manager Willie Randoph told reporters. "He gave up an 0-2 home run (to Barfield), which is not what you want to do. He made bad pitches at the wrong time. He has to do a better job of managing his game."

The only bad game management came when Willie penciled in Zambrano's sorry ass to start the game. Apparently Willie's concerned not that Zambrano absolutely sucks, but that he chooses to make his requisite "bad pitches at the wrong time." Willie prefers a repeat of Victor's first start when the Mets scored enough runs to cover his 3 over 5 innings. But you know what? 5 home runs in 14 innings isn't merely "bad game management." It's bad pitching. Willie, he's doing the best he can. He's a bad pitcher. He has no command of his pitches, and never has.

Here's what the Mets should do, to solve this brewing disaster. And lo & behold, it's what they should have done after heading north following spring training:

1. Move Aaron Heilman into the rotation, make Duaner Sanchez the set-up guy, use Chad Bradford as the 7th inning bridge to Duaner. With the ever-mysterious Steve Trachsel and Brian "15 BBs and 13 Ks in 23 innings" Bannister making up half of the rotation, the Mets need a fifth starter who can actually pitch. And that man is Heilman, not the Killer Zambie.

2. Send Zambrano and Jose Valentin to Norfolk, and call up Heath Bell and . . . Lastings Milledge, both of whom are performing well in AAA. Heath Bell, who pitched in the bigs last season, will be better out of the pen than Zambrano. He can serve as the long man, do mop up, spell Sanchez/Bradfor periodically. Unlike the Zambie, he can throw strikes.

And Milledge is tearing it up. With Beltran missing more action than a novice fan watching hockey on TV, Floyd slumping and always an awkward turn on the basepaths from a DL stint, and Endy Chavez being . . . well, let's just say being Endy Chavez, the Mets can use another outfielder. Assuming Beltran comes back, I see no reason not to divide the two corner outfield slots between Floyd, Nady and Milledge. 400 plate appearences each, divided by platooning, pitcher matchups, defense in larger parks, etc. Milledge is ready. He's 21 years old, and through last season he's hit 313/382/485 in ~850 minor league plate appearences.

In 200+ PAs last year in AAA, he put up 337/392/487, as a 20 year-old. 21 year-olds who can hit belong on major league rosters. It's bad enough to see the Mets mismanaging the Victor Diaz situation, but ultimately Victor's non-existent defense complicates the issue. But for Milledge to languish in the minors while the Mets get poor outfield production and carry a 39 year old who's barely hitting his age is outrageous.

As one of my friends says, "Free Lastings Milledge."

2 Comments:

Anonymous John Royal said...

The Mets can't send down Zambrano. Not while Scott Kazmir's still in the D-Rays starting rotation.

And really, Mike, it could be much, much worse. The Mets had Jose Lima on the spring training roster. And you could still be stuck with Kris and his nutso wife.

5:44 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

I wonder sometimes if that kind of PR bullshit explains why they don't send him down. As soon as a team tries to win the battle of the back page, its chances of on-field success drops.

8:54 PM  

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