The minor Mets Memorial Day purge

By Rich Mancuso

Manager Terry Collins said it was “just a shakeup.”  After another New York Mets loss on Memorial Day to the Pirates at Citi Field, attributed to the now departed Jose Valverde out of the pen, hitting Coach Dave Hudgens got his walking papers. Yes, the minor purge has started at Citi field.

The Mets, near the bottom in almost every hitting category could see more changes. Valverde was a hit or miss when he made the team out of spring training. His role as a closer was not the answer to fill the void for Bobby Parnell. For that matter, Valverde was one of those inexpensive and minor moves made by GM Sandy Alderson.

Hudgens, on the other hand, would be the first to go. The way the Mets did it, after another humiliating game of not hitting in situations, also sent a message. But who is the culprit here? The players, Alderson who put this team together, Collins, or ownership?

The overall consensus is, Alderson answering to ownership. Stay reasonable with payroll and let the youngsters develop. Collins is frustrated after 50-games into the season, more than the fans who vent aggravation at the players.

It’s simple. This was a Mets team not constituted to win 90-games, a statement Alderson put forth before the season opener. Collins is answering to Alderson, and his hands, as they say, are tied.

So where do we go from here? The Mets appear to be headed for a sixth straight losing season in what appears right now to be a mediocre division of the National League east. And it is not the starting pitching, partly the bullpen, but more so the anemic hitting that cost Hudgens his job.

After four years, Hudgens may or may not have been a cause for a team this season that fails to score runs. In their last nine at bats with the bases loaded, the lineup has not driven in a run. That frustrates relatively good efforts of the starting pitching, the manager, most of all the fans. And with a fan base starving for wins, management knows the season is slowly slipping away before June.

Hudgens, a longtime colleague of Alderson was the first target, something that apparently had been discussed for a few weeks. A source said Monday the change was coming had the Mets lost another game on this current nine-game home stand. That game was Monday, and immediately after the final out in the ninth, the minor purge was in place.

Blame the hitting coach and of course he became the first casualty. The Mets as a team are hitting .238.  This is not to say that Lamar Johnson, who assumes the role, will make a difference. If Hudgens could not get this team to take better swings, work on adjustments or be more patient at the plate, then the change is questionable if Johnson, the organization minor league hitting coordinator does not make a difference.

But, at this rate, as much as Hudgens looked like a failure, the fault is on Alderson and ownership. They obviously have not put together a winning formula, one that does not sit well for a baseball team in the New York market.

While on the other side of town, the Yankees, also a team with some struggles, always seem to find the proper player or two to stay competitive.

But, Hudgens had enough time to right the ship and did not get the job done.  So, he is the first one to take the fall and the questions now come. Is the manager, Terry Collins next, one who has always tried his best to keep these Mets teams competitive?

Collins will survive the season if things don’t turn around. There is no better person out there that can handle this everlasting losing and pathetic baseball being played at Citi Field.  Though, the Mets hierarchy is unpredictable in their thinking. Right now, as it is, the spacious confines of Citi Field are not to blame.

The Wilpon ownership, who appear to be calling the shots quietly, are letting Alderson do the work with a team that is not built to win. With exception of some young pitching, touted as prospects for their future, there is that failure of having punch in the lineup.  But, the Wilpon’s are more concerned about the sinking image of their franchise, with a move made this week in hiring a new public relations czar to boost the image of their New York Mets.

In the meantime, on a day when Ike Davis returned to Citi Field, he was not the story. At one time he was a project of Hudgens to get his swing adjusted. However, Alderson did Ike a favor and traded him to Pittsburgh.

The message was sent by someone, Alderson as thought to be, that this was a minor purge. Blame the hitting coach this time, and Valverde is out of here, not that he was going to make a major impact out of the pen.  The fans obviously are seeing some movement towards some type of betterment, and how will this impact the team as the season moves along? That remains to be determined.  

Who is next? That remains to be determined also, unless of course the bats wake up and there is a difference in run production. But with this Mets roster, even a change with the hitting coach may not be the answer. 

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