We are at that point in the season where Mets fans have lost all hope in 2010 and looking towards the future. The struggles of the last four seasons have really put a dent in Mets fans hearts, causing fan confidence and attendance to fall to its lowest level in recent memory. So many negative issues have haunted the team this year, and major changes must be made in order to compete in 2011 and beyond. With that said, this will probably be the most important September (without being in contention) in a long time.

AP Photo/Jason DeCrow

There’s only a month left until Mets fans can exhale and put another mess of a season behind them. The problems of Jason Bay, Oliver Perez, Carlos Beltran, Francisco Rodriguez, and of course Jerry Manuel and Omar Minaya can all be forgotten and repaired in the offseason. However, what moves should we expect the Wilpons and Mets management to make? I list below the most important people to examine once the season comes to an end (in order of most important).

1. Jerry Manuel: When you look at how a team performs, the first person to credit is the manager. He’s the guy thats going to determine the extent to which his players compete. After a season full of inconsistencies out of his players, Jerry Manuel needs to take the most blame. He was given a team that had enough talent to play exciting and meaningful baseball, but turned into a series of problems on and off the field. The best way to evaluate Manuel this season is to compare him with Bud Black with the San Diego Padres. Entering the 2010 season, the Padres were expected to finish dead last in the NL West standing. At the end of August, they sit atop their division with a 76-54 record. A team that had question marks throughout their starting rotation and lineup has a really good shot at playing October baseball.

2011: Fired as Mets manager and reading the works of Gandhi by his fireplace. 

2. Omar Minaya: If the players on a team lack chemistry and substance, then the General Manager needs to take full responsibility. After joining the Mets in 2005 at the start of a new ERA, Omar Minaya had plans to take this team all the way. His dreams came close in the 2006 season, as the Mets just missed the title of National League Champions by a Carlos Beltran strikeout (caught looking). That moment seems to be the turning point in the Mets organization up until now. Since then they have come up short of playing in the postseason, even with Minaya spending over $100 million each season. All big free agent signings have backfired on him: Carlos Beltran, Oliver Perez, Jason Bay, Luis Castillo, Francisco Rodriguez to name a few. These players have caused more heartache than success for the team. Omar Minaya is a smart baseball man, but he is not capable of piecing together a championship team.

2011: Fired as General Manager, but reassigned to a Player Development type role.

3. Oliver Perez: He should never have been signed to a 3 year, $36 million deal to begin with. Since his ’09 signing, Oliver Perez has only given Mets fans stomach pains and heart problems when on the mound. When off the mound, he refuses to take a minor league assignment and then complains about his lack of playing time. Mets management needs to admit they made a bad investment, and cut ties with Bad Ollie once and for all.

2011: They will try to shop him to another team, but when they cannot find a taker they will cut him from the team and realize the rest of the salary on his contract.

4. Luis Castillo: The most puzzling signing by Omar Minaya within his tenure is arguably Luis Castillo, who received a 4 year, $25 million before the 2008 season. At the age of 32, he had noticeably declined in terms of his range and speed (due to leg problems), and his best seasons were behind him. He’s had injuries throughout his stint with the club, and at a point where the organization is looking to get younger, Castillo is hindering those plans with one year left on his contract.

2011: They will be able to trade him, but will have to eat a large part of his remaining salary. A backup second baseman/bench player on another team.

5. R.A. Dickey: The knuckleballer has been the best investment made by Omar Minaya. He is the highlight of the 2010 season, and in line to win the comeback player of the year award. He has earned his spot in the starting rotation, and shows no signs of slowing down. Pitching to one of the top ERAs in the major leagues, he has been the most consistent arm on the Mets. History has shown that knuckleballers have the ability to pitch well into the 40s, which would mean R.A. Dickey is at the prime of his career, in a sense.

2011: R.A. Dickey will be given a one year contract worth around $5 million with an option for 2012.

6. Francisco Rodriguez (K-Rod): A top notch closer in his defense, but needs to forgo his off the field problems. Punching his father-in-law right outside the Family Lounge at CitiField is inexcusable, regardless of the predicament. Now he is on the disabled list with a torn ligament in his right thumb, probably suffered in the altercation. The Mets tried to give K-Rod a salary cut in response to all this, but the issue has gone straight to the Players Association for consideration (meaning it won’t go through). This was the last thing the team needed out of their closer.

2011: He’s due too much money to entice any other team in a trade. The Mets will keep him for the last year on his contract, and decide where to go from there.

7. Outfield: It’s been such a rollercoaster ride for Mets outfielders this season. After Jason Bay signed a huge deal in the offseason, he had a disappointed season that ended with a terrific catch in left field, placing him on the DL in July with concussions. He most likely will not play again in 2010. Carlos Beltran returned in mid-July after having knee surgery in January, and does not have the presence at the plate and in the field that he had in the past. Angel Pagan is the acclaimed MVP of the team, but this is the first time he has played a full season without injuries. Despite having a great arm in right field, Jeff Francoeur has no patience at the plate, and as a result, fans have lost patience in him.

2011: Jason Bay will perform better than in 2010. Carlos Beltran will not have enough trade value to move in the offseason, so it all comes down to how his knee heals. Angel Pagan, if he avoids injuries, will get the starting right field job. Jeff Francoeur will be non-tendered and signed by another squad.

8. Youth: Ike Davis has had his share of ups and downs in his rookie season. The power and defense are there as a first baseman, but he needs to adjust to pitchers to make more contact. Josh Thole has a great approach to the plate, as he chokes up on the bat to get on base in any way possible. His catching skills have seemingly improved and he handles R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball fairly well. Ruben Tejada plays incredible defense at shortstop and second base, but has not hit enough to prove he’s starter worthy. Jenrry Mejia was stellar enough in the bullpen to stick, but now he is developing as a starter. The youth movement is here, but they may not all have what it takes to make the 2011 roster.

2011: Ike Davis isn’t going anywhere. Josh Thole hits, and has handled catcher well enough to win the starting role. Unless the team is loaded with hitters, Ruben Tejada will likely have a bench role or minor league assignment. Jenrry Mejia will be slotted as the 5th man in the starting rotation.

Even with all the problems the Mets organization has dealt with the past few years, there are bright spots. Many changes can occur in the offseason that dramatically improve the team, but only if they are the right ones. All we can do now is wait and see.