(the savior of the Mets’ 2008 season)

After Monday’s embarrassing dressing down of Mets manager Willie Randolph, the New York Sun’s Tim Marchman — having previously called for Randolph’s firing —- admits “no better manager” is available, and puts some of the onus for the club’s results squarely on the shoulders of the El Duque/Luis Castillo-loving, Heath Bell-dispensing Omar Minaya (“who tosses away a human shield while it’s still capable of catching incoming bullets?”). Marchman, does however, have some propositions that don’t involve sacrificing Randolph, amongst them, acquiring the youthful Kenny Lofton.

One thing to do might be to put Johan Santana on a pitching schedule befitting his age (he’s 29) and $137.5 million contract. Santana is on pace for just 31 games and has made seven starts on five or six days of rest, as against three on four days rest. Some other aces, such as Brandon Webb and Josh Beckett, have also pitched more on longer rest this season, but not as much as Santana, and they also don’t play for teams that have routinely been starting random minor league veterans. Santana has traditionally pitched a more regular schedule ” from 2005-2007, just 41 of his 100 starts came on long rest ” and can presumably handle doing so in the National League. Every start he doesn’t make is effectively a start for someone such as Claudio Vargas, and even if that only adds up to three games in a year, no team in the Mets’ situation can just wave off three games.

Another thing to do would be to get rid of reserves Endy Chavez, Damion Easley, and the currently injured Marlon Anderson, who between them have 188 at bats ” about as many as David Wright ” and a .191 AVG/.231 OBA/.255 SLG batting line. Whatever intangible virtues they may have obviously haven’t done the team any good, and aside from Chavez’s defense, which could be replaced by Angel Pagan’s once he comes off the disabled list, the three have contributed little on the field while soaking up an alarming amount of playing time. Thin as the farm system is, it does feature some real defensive players, such as middle infielder Anderson Hernandez, and some real hitters, such as minor league veteran Val Pascucci. Better a one-dimensional player than a no-dimensional one, and at this point, better a hungry player getting his first real crack at the majors than a veteran.

A third move might be to work toward swapping starter Mike Pelfrey with reliever Aaron Heilman. Since a good first start against Philadelphia, Pelfrey has given little reason to think he’s going to develop into a decent starter ” his three decent starts came against Washington and Cincinnati, two teams that can’t hit ” while his big fastball and durability seem as good a fit for a multiple-inning bullpen role as they did at the beginning of the year. Meanwhile, Heilman, owner of a 6.29 ERA, has devolved into near-uselessness in the pen, and it’s hard to imagine exactly what of use the team could get for him in a trade. I’ve never thought that he seemed like a good fit for a starting role, but it’s hard to see what possible harm stretching him out could do, or why anyone would think he’d be much worse than Pelfrey or Nelson Figueroa.

I’ve long wondered how desperate things would turn before Mets management gave serious consideration to the idea Aaron Heilman might be a more respectable 5th starter than say, Jose Lima or the late Geremi Gonzalez.  With the manager’s neck on the line (if not that of the GM), perhaps now would be a fine time to let Heilman sink or swim in the role he’s long coveted anyway.