Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Mets Starting Pitcher Options – Pro/Con

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

With rumors flying over who the Mets might be signing to fill out their rotation for 2009, I thought it would be a good time to look at what each man out there brings to the table.  Here is a list of guys who have been linked to the Mets offseason plans in some form or another over the past few weeks.

Derek Lowe

Pros:  Sinker ball pitcher, does not allow many home runs, shoulders heavy workload year after year (having thrown 180 or more innings a season the past seven years), a solid but unspectacular six strikeouts per nine innings, low walk rates, sinkerballers tend to age well, probably the best pitcher remaining on the market right now.

Cons:  Scott Boras client, currently about $12-16 million difference between perceived value and the contract offer made by the Mets, seeking contract that will pay him until he turns 40, Type A free agent will require first round compensation pick to whomever signs him (which will actually be a second round pick, meaning the Mets won’t pick until the third round of the draft)

Lowe has dominated the headlines for the Mets ever since the J.J. Putz trade was consummated, as he has become their main target.  Most of the concerns surrounding Lowe center around his age and his contract demands, as right now the two sides seem to be $4 million apart per season, and the Mets seem unwilling to go beyond three years.  He is probably the most likely option for the Mets, and I suspect a 3 year/$42 million plus an option year which could be obtained through reaching innings pitched minimums would be the likely ending point should the Mets sign Lowe.

Oliver Perez

Pros:  Youngest pitcher on the market, offers the upside of a #1/#2 starter, high strikeout totals, left-handed in a division with big left-handed bats

Cons:  Also a Scott Boras client, looking for a long term deal, has been extremely erratic (to say the least), even in good seasons, will walk a bunch and allow a lot of home runs, does not eat up a lot of innings due to early exits, which are a big part of the Oliver Perez Experience, a Type A free agent who would net the team two high draft picks if he signed elsewhere

That last point might be the most important; had Oliver Perez only been a Type B free agent, I think the Mets might be making more of an attempt to resign him, since he would only net the team a sandwich pick if he signed elsewhere.  But with the Mets having already lost a draft pick for signing K-Rod, allowing Perez to sign elsewhere would bring back two high draft picks in return.  That is the reason why the Mets haven’t aggresively tried to bring back Perez.  Then there is the massive inconsistency from start to start, and Perez’s general flakiness, and it would seem to make more sense to let another team deal with all of this, even acknowledging that he could emerge as a #1 starter elsewhere.

Randy Wolf

Pros:  Not a Scott Boras client, left-handed, good strikeout pitcher

Cons:  Last year was the first time since 2004 where Wolf had even as many as 136 IP, moderately high walk rate, high home run rate (which could be depressed greatly at Citi Field)

Randy Wolf would be a decent option for the Mets as their #5 starter.  Unfortunately, he was just good enough last year to where he seems to be establishing a market above that of a low end starter, despite years of injury problems.  At one point, Wolf looked like a safe bet to emerge as a very good pitcher, but injuries have kept him from realizing that potential.  I’d like him more if the Mets sign either Lowe or Perez, but not as a fallback option if they fail to sign either.  But as I said, his good few months in Houston have likely priced him out of that market.

Tim Redding

Pros: Would be cheap filler for the back of the rotation, solid strikeout rate, ate 182 IP for the Nationals last year, would keep Jon Niese in Buffalo for a little while longer

Cons: High number of home runs allowed last season while pitching half of his games at Nationals Park, high walk rate, wants a two year contract (and might get it)

Tim Redding is not a good pitcher, but for a #5 pitcher, you could certainly do worse.  He was underqualified to be a #1 or 2 in Washington, but slotted against lesser pitchers with a good offense behind him, he would probably have a nice year in New York.  Personally, if I were his agent, I’d want him to sign a one year deal with the Mets, where a good offense and defense behind him will artificially inflate his win totals, making him a good bet to get a 2-3 year deal worth more money next year, where the free agent crop is thinner.  Redding ultimately isn’t anything to get excited about, but would be a good option to fill out the rotation.

Pedro Martinez

Pros: Mets fans still love the guy

Cons: He was really, REALLY bad last year, and is not at all durable

I think a lot of Mets fans would love to see Pedro back in blue and orange, and hell, if he learns to adjust his approach to match his current skillset, he could still be an effective pitcher.  But I think at some point, it’s time to move on.  We are now three full seasons removed from Pedro’s last good season, and expecting him to be that Pedro at this point simply is not realistic.  With Pedro, it’s always a major question of whether he’ll be healthy enough to get through another season, and I don’t really care to go through that again.  I love Pedro, I love his personality and I love what he brought to the 2005 Mets.  But it’s time to move on.

Jon Niese

Pros: Has pitched very well in the minors, will be a future solid starter for the Mets

Cons: He isn’t ready to be that in 2009

The Mets made a mistake in hoping Mike Pelfrey would be ready to give the Mets good innings in 2007, and paid for it with growing pains.  He didn’t really fully develop until the middle of last year.  The team likes to rush their prospects along, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see Niese pushed as a potential low end starter next year, but he isn’t ready for the role and would be better off spending the year in Buffalo honing his pitches a little more, and only pitching in Queens if there is an injury to another starter.  Eventually, I think Niese is going to be a part of what the Mets want to do, but he isn’t ready yet.

Okay, so what’s next?

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

Now that the Mets have signed K-Rod, is it time to pack up and get ready for next year?  Of course not.  The Mets have a lot of work to do before Spring Training opens in Port St. Lucie next February.  Right now, the starting rotation goes 3 deep.  Much of last year’s bullpen is still on the roster.  Luis Castillo remains, as does the catching platoon that never got going last year.  There are still things to do.  Let’s take a look at what else they might be thinking about

 

Relief Pitching

 

Ken Rosenthal from FoxSports.com is saying that the Aaron Heilman for Huston Street trade is off the table for now.  This is disappointing to me – I was really hoping the Mets could figure out a way to make this one work.  Street would be the perfect set-up man, and would be valuable insurance in case the drop in velocity does mean K-Rod is hurting.  Another potential option is Matt Capps of the Pirates, but the Mets are balking at adding Jonathan Niese, and rightfully so – even if his ceiling isn’t particularly high, he should be a good, cheap mid-rotation starter no later than 2010, and Omar Minaya has shown in the past how much he values cheap starting pitching.

I do think at some point, Heilman is going to get moved, and he’s either going to bring back another reliever from a team that wants him to start, or a starting pitcher from a team that wants him to setup.  My gut tells me the former is more likely in this case, I just don’t know what his value is by himself.  I do think the Mets may have made a mistake in balking at including Feliciano in a trade for Street; Feliciano isn’t particularly young and is likely working his way into strict lefty specialist territory.  With Scott Schoeneweis already on the roster and likely untradeable, the Mets should have acted on that one when they had the chance.  Too bad.

 

Starting Pitching

 

This one is tricky.  The Mets obviously weren’t getting CC Sabathia.  At this point, AJ Burnett has probably priced himself out of their grasp, and Derek Lowe is on his way, though the Mets are talking to Boras today.  Who does that leave as the best starting pitcher in their price range?  It might wind up with the Mets bringing back Oliver Perez.  I will admit, at first I wasn’t a huge fan of bringing back Ollie, but with the way the market is going, it might not be a bad gamble.  Sure, he will continue to drive Mets fans crazy, and he had periods where he flat-out stunk in 2008, but who else is out there?  Jon Garland?  Randy Wolf?  Ben Sheets, who will spend a good chunk of his next contract on the DL?  There are no easy answers here, and the Mets need somebody halfway decent in case Maine isn’t healthy.

Jon Niese is right now nominally the Mets’ #5 starter, but to say I don’t think he’s ready is an understatement.  Until he pitches in AAA, and shows he can get AAA hitters out, I think the Mets need to look at him as a contingency plan in case one of their other starters gets hurt.  The thing about Omar Minaya, though, is that he has shown a reluctance to overpay for low-end rotation help, so don’t expect a Wolf or even perhaps a Brad Penny here – expect either a trade or a minor league deal for somebody who can compete with Niese for the last spot in the rotation.  Personally, I’d like to see a more established, good pitcher in camp, but payroll simply may not allow for that.

Second Base

I think the Mets are stuck with Castillo here.  I wish it weren’t true, even if I’m not personally a huge Orlando Hudson guy, but I don’t see how the Mets could get out from under the Castillo contract.  Incidentally…who do you think would blink first on a Castillo for Andruw Jones trade request?  Right now they are paying Castillo $18 over 3 years.  Andruw would require one year at $18 million, and if nothing else, would give the Mets right-handed power in the lower part of the lineup and good outfield defense.  Both could use a change of scenery.  I know most Mets fans have no love for Andruw, but as a #6 hitter and left fielder, he might not be a bad option.   Then the Mets could sign Hudson to play second and use Tatis and Murphy as super subs.  I think it’s not a bad idea.

Left Field

Not a lot of movement here.  There are some interesting options available, but most of them are defensive nightmares, and it appears that Omar Minaya covets good defense, particularly since it is unsure how Citi Field will play defensively.  If he wants power, there’s plenty out there; Bobby Abreu, Pat Burrell, Adam Dunn, Raul Ibanez, and the big name of course is Manny Ramirez.  I wonder if the Mets will continue to steer clear of Manny even as other teams show little interest.  If they could do this one short-term, 2-3 years, it might not be a bad gamble.  Alas, I just don’t think it’s going to happen.

Catcher

Ever since early talk had the Mets interested in trading Brian Schneider to the Red Sox and signing Jason Varitek, there hasn’t been much talk about the Mets and the catcher position.  That trade might have caused me to heave something out a window, so much would I hate it – Varitek is utterly finished.  I don’t expect the Mets to do anything at catcher before opening day, but a transaction wouldn’t catch me totally off-guard either – there just isn’t much out there.

So what’s actually going to happen?  Heck if I know.  They have to get another starting pitcher.  Oliver Perez makes the most sense, even if 4-5 more years of wavering between Good Ollie and Bad Ollie is enough to cause me to break out into hives.  Aaron Heilman will probably be moved, likely to a team that wants him to start and can spare a setup guy.  Luis Castillo will likely be back to torture Mets fans, as will the catching platoon.  Mets fans might dream of seeing Manny Ramirez in Blue And Orange, but it likely won’t happen.  Keep an eye out on pitching the next few weeks, and don’t be too shocked if the Mets figure out a way to get another decent bat over here.  The Winter Meetings may be over, but the Mets roster reshuffling continues.

Arbitration

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

It looks like several teams chose not to offer salary arbitration to their key players, which makes the free agent period more interesting, at least if you are looking for a power bat.  Sluggers who weren’t offered arbitration include Adam Dunn, Pat Burrell, and Bobby Abreu.  With the Mets perhaps in the market for adding another bat to the lineup (if they can find the money for one), I wouldn’t be surprised if they at least kicked the tires on one of those three, particularly if they could get a deal done in the 2-3 years range.  While these hitters might be looking for Carlos Lee money, in this free agent market with the uncertain economy, it appears unlikely that Carlos Lee money is out there for a non-Manny player.

It seems that a lot of pitchers were offered arbitration, though.  Brian Fuentes and Francisco Rodriguez, the top closers both linked to the Mets in free agent talks this offseason, will both cost the Mets a first round pick should they sign one of them.  The top setup man, Juan Cruz, also received an offer for arbitration; this makes it seem likely to me he winds up back in Arizona.  Kerry Wood was not offered arbitration, which makes him more attractive for the Mets.  It remains to be seen if the Mets might inquire about Wood; his injury history is definitely scary, particularly with the Mets already paying an injured closer to sit out a year, but for a 1-2 year deal, he might be worth investigating.

Free agent pitchers offered arbitration include the big names; C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Derek Lowe, and Ben Sheets.  The Mets also offered Oliver Perez arbitration, meaning if he should sign with another team, they will receive two draft picks as compensation.  Lowe had been linked to the Mets in the past, but it appears that the Yankees and Red Sox may have inflated his value past what they are willing to pay, so he may no longer be in play.  Burnett had supposedly been cold about returning to the organization that originally drafted him, and Sheets’ injury history made him a longshot to sign with the Mets.  Jon Garland, a pitcher whom the Mets have supposedly had interest (and mark me down in the “thanks but no thanks” category on him) was offered arbitration, but as a Type B, he would not cost the Mets a pick.

Oliver Perez was the only Met offered arbitration; Luis Ayala and Moises Alou were not offered arbitration, and would not net the Mets a draft pick should they sign elsewhere.  I assume this means that the Mets have no interest in retaining either of these two players, at any cost, and thus did not want to risk them accepting arbitration and returning to the Mets, particularly if they found a noticeable lack of interest on the free agent market.  Pedro Martinez was also not offered arbitration, but this was largely irrelevant since he would not have gained the Mets any draft picks either way.

The Castillo Conundrum

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

Not to steal one of Joe’s headlines, but it does seem like the Mets have a lot of problems that start with the letter C this year, doesn’t it?  This one involves second base.  Last year, Luis Castillo was simply terrible in every aspect of the game of baseball.  He did not hit, and he did not field.  The only aspect of hitting Castillo excelled at was patience; he hit only .245 but with a .355 OBP, which isn’t terrible.  Unfortunately, he slugged a mere .305.  In 359 plate appearances, Castillo had only 11 extra base hits.  Eleven!  We knew he wasn’t a slugger when he came here, but at least he used to hit doubles and triples, and would beat out base hits with his speed.  Not anymore.

So if Luis Castillo can’t hit well enough to play second base, and he can’t field well enough to play second base…what do the Mets do with him?  He is due another $18 million over the next three seasons, a contract that looked terrible at the time and looks worse every day.  Second base alone was not the reason the Mets failed to make the playoffs…but if the Mets had a second baseman who was either a league average hitter or league average fielder, perhaps they make that one game up in the standings in spite of the lousy bullpen?  In a season where they only missed by one game, any number of factors could be the reason; if the bullpen is Reason 1, Luis Castillo has to be Reason 2.

At this point, the Mets have to realize that Luis Castillo is a sunk cost.  He might get a little bit better, but he will never justify spending $6 million a year.  He turned 33 in September, and is coming off of double knee surgery.  If he isn’t fast enough to beat out slow grounders, he can’t hit .300.  If he can’t hit .300, he isn’t particularly valuable to the Mets, even with the walks.  If he can’t run very well, he can’t get to enough ground balls up the middle, meaning he can’t play defense.  Essentially, there is nothing Castillo can do that will provide this team with value, so he needs to go.  The $18 million is gone anyway, and there is almost no chance he proves valuable enough for the Mets to recoup any of that money, so it’s time to move on.

What should the Mets do then?  There are options.  Rafael Furcal was briefly linked to the Mets in rumors, but I think it is likely he winds up playing for a team that will use him as a shortstop.  Orlando Hudson seems to be begging for the Mets to get involved in his free agent talks.  I have come out against Hudson, as his home/road splits worry me, as does his sudden decline in defense last year, but he seems like a player who would age a bit better than Castillo.  Brian Roberts has been available in trade talks in the past, but that seems to have quieted down of late.

Then there are stop gap measures available.  Felipe Lopez probably is stretched as an every day player, and doesn’t play great defense, but he would be a hitting upgrade over Castillo and is younger.  He’s probably best used as a utility player, though.  Mark Grudzielanek is also available.  He’s also not a great player, but at least a small defensive upgrade, and another player who is capable of hitting the ball past the infield on a regular basis.  None of these guys should be considered long term solutions, or perhaps even solutions past 2009, but would all represent a short-term gain over Castillo.

It feels like the Mets aren’t really openly working towards fixing second base.  This is a mistake; Castillo isn’t going to get any better.  This reminds me of the Willie Randolph issues from a year ago; everybody knew what they had in Willie, and that he wasn’t going to get any better.  In order for the Mets to improve, Willie needed to go, and the team waited too long to make that move, and it may have cost them a playoff spot.  The same goes for second base; doing nothing is not an option.  This team cannot go into 2009 with Luis Castillo starting at second base.  They may not be able to get his contract off the roster, but at the very least, somebody else needs to push him for playing time.  They need to be proactive rather than reactive.

Affeldt and Awards and K-Rod

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

I don’t want to go too in-depth into either, so quickly…

  • I was disappointed to see that Jeremy Affeldt signed with the Giants.  I thought he would have been a good pickup for the Mets.  The Mets are looking for strikeout guys, and Affeldt had 80 in 78 IP last year, and unlike every left-handed pitcher in their bullpen from last year, he can get right handers out.  After seeing Affeldt get 2 years and $8 million from the Giants, he looks to have been exceedingly affordable, too.  Plus, unlike Juan Cruz, he won’t cost the team a first round draft pick.  It is disappointing that the Mets apparently didn’t even make an offer here, considering the talk on relievers so far.
  • Start the award talk with the Gold Glove.  I’m happy that Beltran won his third straight Gold Glove.  I love watching him play center, he covers so much ground.  I don’t think Mets fans will realize what he brings to the defense until he’s gone.  As for Wright…it’s debatable that he deserved the Gold Glove, but the NL seems to have a dearth of great defensive third basemen.  At gunpoint, I’d probably say Zimmerman deserves it over Wright, but Wright isn’t a bad defensive player and it’s not a horrible pick, though perhaps not the correct one, either.
  • No Mets rookie received any consideration for Rookie of the Year, and rightfully so.  It’s a shame Daniel Murphy lost his rookie consideration on the last day of the season and didn’t have a playoff birth to show for it, but thems the breaks.
  • Jerry Manuel did not receive support for Manager of the Year, although I think he would have finished higher had the Mets made the playoffs.  I have to think that if the Mets do get over the hump next year and make the playoffs, the writers will “reward” him with the award unless something crazy happens like Manny Acta managing the Nationals into the playoffs.
  • Johan Santana finished third in the NL Cy Young voting.  I’d say Lincecum is a worthy winner of the award, although I’d probably put Santana just a slight notch ahead (then again, I’m biased).  Webb finishing second because of wins is a joke; I’d probably rate Brad Lidge as a better pitcher this year, and I’m usually loathe to rank a reliever that high.  I like Webb, as I like groundball/strikeout pitchers, but his second half really wasn’t very good.  His finishing second was as a result of the high win totals and his great first half.
  • Five Mets received MVP votes, though none finished higher than fifth (Wright).  It once again shows how well the team’s core played, and how poorly their complimentary players played, that so many players could receive MVP consideration and yet that team failed to make the playoffs.  I’d also argue the order that those Mets finished; BBWAA ranked them Wright/Delgado/Santana/Beltran/Reyes, while I would rank them Wright/Beltran/Santana/Reyes/Delgado.  It’s also pretty shameful that Chase Utley only finished 15th, while his less valuable teammate Ryan Howard finished 2nd, but at least Albert Pujols won the award, deservedly.
  • The more I read about K-Rod, the more I’m worried about him.  His strikeouts are down, his fastball is down, he’s overusing his breaking pitches…I just see him as a guy who is going to spend time on the DL sometime during his next contract.  With the Mets already getting burned by Wagner, they can’t get burned on another closer.  While we’re here, I also think it’s telling that a lot of what we’re hearing about K-Rod with the Mets is coming from the agent.  The more I think about it, the more I think Fuentes is Omar’s guy, and he’s the one he’s going to sign, and you know what?  I’m getting more and more OK with that.

That’s all for now – expect something from Joeadig sooner rather than later, and sometime this week, I’ll wrap up the first basemen for the Top Ten Offensive Seasons in Mets History series.  Plus, we will react to any and all moves that happen on the free agent market that directly or indirectly affect the Mets, so please keep on coming!

Free Agent Predictions

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

One man’s uneducated guesses: 

Catcher:
Jason Varitek – Tigers, 1 year/$5 million

First Base:
Mark Teixiera – Angels, 7 years/$154 million
Jason Giambi – A’s, 1 year/$8 million + incentives

Second Base:
Orlando Hudson – Giants, 4 years/$36 million

Shortstop:
Rafael Furcal – A’s, 2 years/$15 million

Outfield:
Manny Ramirez – Dodgers, 4 years/$90 million + option
Bobby Abreu – Royals, 4 years/$60 million
Pat Burrell – Angels, 4 years/$50 million
Adam Dunn – Orioles, 5 years/$70 million
Raul Ibanez – Indians, 3 years/$30 million
Milton Bradley – Mets, 2 years/$24 million
Ken Griffey Jr – Mariners, 1 year/$6 million + incentives

Starting Pitcher:
CC Sabathia – Yankees, 6 years/$150 million
AJ Burnett – Nationals, 5 years/$75 million
Derek Lowe – Mets, 3 years/$45 million
Oliver Perez – Dodgers, 4 years/$56 million
Ryan Dempster – Cubs, 4 years/$52 million
Ben Sheets – Astros, 2 years/$18 million
Pedro Martinez – Blue Jays, 1 year/$5 million + incentives

Relief Pitcher:
Francisco Rodriguez – Mets, 4 years/$48 million
Brian Fuentes – Cardinals, 3 years/$30 million
Kerry Wood – Tigers, 2 years/$18 million + incentives
Trevor Hoffman – Brewers, 1 year/$5 million + incentives

The K-Rod Super-Refridgador Deluxe

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

As of midnight tonight, teams may begin negotiating with other free agents.  With a deep free agent crop this offseason, this should set off a feeding frenzy for the top dollar free agents available.  Mark Teixiera, CC Sabathia, Manny Ramirez…these men are about to become very, very wealthy.  The free agent starting pitcher market is full of guys who are about to make eight figures, and the free agent left fielder market is full of guys who want Carlos Lee money here in the open market.

For the Mets, the top names that attract the most interest are not Teixiera or Sabathia but Rodriguez and Fuentes.  The problems with this team were not in the starting rotation or with the offense, but in the bullpen.  The failures of the 2008 Mets came from a bullpen that was utterly incapable of holding leads.  Make no mistake – this team absolutely needs to improve in the bullpen.  Nobody is questioning that.

Nor does anybody question that the Mets, while they probably don’t need to spend huge dollars on a closer (a great closer can often be created out of nowhere), probably should invest in a new closer if only for PR reasons.  They are about to open a brand new ballpark, and they will need to not only overhaul the bullpen, but they will need to do so drastically.  To go into 2008 with most of the same cast of characters in place would be tantamount to putting a giant middle finger in the hat where the apple used to be and raising it at each and every Mets fan.

Think of it like this: if you’re remodeling your kitchen, you don’t NEED to buy a new refridgerator.  Chances are, somebody out there has a refridgerator in perfect working condition which you could easily integrate into your kitchen that will be a tremendous improvement over the old one.  But you know what?  When you remodel the kitchen, all anybody notices is the new refridgerator.  New cabinets, new dishwasher, even a new oven…that stuff gets ignored.  But a new refridgerator?  That’s eye-catching.  People notice it.

K-Rod is the top-of-the-line super duty new refridgerator.  We’ll call him the K-Rod Super-Refridgador Deluxe.  He will not only keep your food and beverages at climate-controlled temperatures, he comes with a variety of ice choices (crushed or cubed?), he has his very own water filter, and even comes with a built-in radio so you can listen to…Mets games!  Wow!   This machine really has it all! 

The problem is, the K-Rod Super-Refridgador Deluxe costs a lot of money.  I mean, a LOT.  is the K-Rod Super-Refridgador Deluxe really worth all of that money just to keep your food cold?  Can’t any number of refridgerators handle this same task, without requiring a second mortgage?  I mean, the K-Rod Refridgador Deluxe is awesome, no question…but the Fuentes 5000 works just as fine at keeping your food cold, and will require less of a commitment.  The Wood 98MPH may not have gotten a great report in Consumer Reports (”tends to break down rather easily”), but could be just as effective at keeping your veggies crisp.

Enough of the refridgerator metaphors.  You get the idea.  Is the idea of spending $75 million on a PR move justified?  At what price does K-Rod become “worth” the money?  Is it 4 years $50 million?  Is it even lower?  I think this is the very discussion going on right now in the Mets’ front office.  They are fortunate that market conditions favor them; if this had been last season, K-Rod might have required an even greater commitment, in light of the money made by Mariano Rivera and Francisco Cordero.

As I’ve said before, closers can be made out of nothing.  Perhaps Bobby Parnell or Eddie Kunz are the next great Mets closer.  Is it too soon to count on either for 2009?  Probably, but by 2010, you’d hope one or the other would be ready to assume the mantle.  At that point, wouldn’t it be foolish to be spending eight figures a season on a closer with a cheaper, perhaps better option already on the team?  Giving crazy dollars and crazy years might make the Mets’ kitchen look nicer, but it isn’t necessarily the best way to build it.

Hey Philadelphia – learn how to win

Friday, October 31st, 2008

I wasn’t going to talk about the Phillies winning the World Series on here, because frankly, it’s not something that brings me a lot of joy.  I don’t like the Phillies.  It’s hard to like a group of people who have kicked you in the mouth for two straight seasons.  Whether they may be a good team, it’s hard for me to appreciate them, because what they do directly affects the Mets in a negative light.  I can appreciate other good teams; I have appreciated the good Red Sox teams, for instance, and the Tampa Bay Rays were often a delight to watch in 2008.  It’s not that I can’t appreciate good baseball, it’s that I can’t appreciate good baseball when it hurts the Mets.  So there…those are my biases.  I admit them.

At the same time…I have heard a lot about the Mets this postseason than I would have expected for a team that once again failed to make the playoffs.  It seems that Phillies fans have taken as much delight in the Mets’ failures as they have in their own triumphs, and I just find that to be particularly sad.  This is the first championship for the city of Philadelphia in 25 years, and I would think with winning, most of these fans could get over petty rivalries.  I guess that simply isn’t the case.

Let’s start with the Dodgers series.  Game 2, Shane Victorino hits a home run that helps the Phillies win the game.  Hey, congratulations, you should be thrilled.  While running the bases, Victorino held one finger in the air, reminiscent of Jose Reyes during a key Phillies game back in August.  Teammates later taped a picture of Victorino running the bases with the caption “J. Reyes” to the locker.  And hey…it’s kind of funny, I’ll admit, although referring back to a game that happened two months ago to a team that they ultimately overcame comes off a bit obsessed, and for an event that pretty clearly got under the skin of the Phillies for allegedly showing them up, it sure was hypocritical of them to do the same thing to the Dodgers.  I’d like to think that they had by now gotten over the Mets since they had beaten them for the second season in a row, but it’s clear that the Mets are still lingering in the Phillies’ minds.

After that strange incident, there was then talk from Phillies’ GM Pat Gillick about how the rest of the NL East ”hating” the Mets is the reason the Phillies have won the past two years, particularly mentioning taunting by other players.  This struck me as particularly odd.  First, it’s not the Mets themselves that have a tendency to be particularly celebratory; it’s Jose Reyes, who plays the game with his heart on his sleeve, for better or worse.  Everybody else on the team seems pretty subdued to me, even a guy like Pedro Martinez (who, frankly, hasn’t had much to celebrate in 2008 anyway).  So again…it really feels like Gillick is singling out Jose Reyes and his “antics” as the reason the Phillies have won the division the last few years, because teams are playing them tougher as a result.

Is that really true, though?  It sure seemed like the Braves played the Phillies tough the last week of the season; they took 2 of 3 in Philadelphia, and there were some bench-fights in that series, too.  In fact, for all of Jose Reyes’ taunting, quite frankly, Shane Victorino has come off as at least as much of an asshole as Reyes, particularly with that little league helmet of his.  The Mets played the Braves, Marlins, Phillies, and Nationals a total of 72 times, without incident; in fact, the Mets failed to get into a single fight all season.  Sure, the Marlins don’t seem to have a whole lot of love for Jose Reyes (or Mike Pelfrey, for that matter), but frankly, the Marlins’ pitching had been good all season; their pitching had at least a fighting shot at beating the Mets in the last series because they sent three pretty good pitchers to the mound.  Hatred for the Mets did not determine this season, and hatred for Jose Reyes sure didn’t determine this season; fact is, the Mets just didn’t play well enough to make the postseason.  Gillick sells his own players short when he says things like this.

And then, there’s the World Series championship itself.  Congrats, Phillies fans, your team finally ended 25 years of futility for the city.  You would think talk would be about how great this team was, and how they perservered through a tough 2005 and 2006 when the core just missed out on making the playoffs two straight years, and how they made some big breakthroughs to bring the championship home. Surely, the story would be about the Phillies and their great players that helped get the job done.  Players like Chase Utley, who has emerged as one of the best overall players in the big leagues, or Ryan Howard, one of the premier sluggers in the game, or Cole Hamels, who should be one of the top 5-10 pitchers in baseball over the next 10 years.  This is the story, right?

Well, sure seems like Harry Kalas is more obsessed with an event that took place one month ago, or that Mitch Williams is still talking about a guy who has been sitting at home watching the playoffs on TV.  What’s the point, to piss off Mets fans?  Isn’t that a bit petty?  We aren’t the story here, folks.  We haven’t been the story since September 29th-ish, after the Mets were eliminated.  We aren’t that important at this point, and frankly, we haven’t been in some time.  While I’m sure you guys are pretty happy that the NL team with the best record against the Phillies didn’t make the playoffs, shouldn’t you guys be over us by now?  We stink.  We’ve been done for months.  Get over us.

Look, I know the city of Philadelphia doesn’t know how to win.  I understand that, because they haven’t won anything in 25 years, this is a new concept for them.  But part of winning should mean getting over past slights, which…to be honest, I can’t think of any major slights the Phillies have endured against the Mets.  The two seasons that have ever seen a Mets/Phillies pennant race in the history of baseball went in favor of the Phillies.  The Mets are the ones who should have a complex here (and trust me, we do have a complex about this).  We’re the ones who just suffered back to back heartbreaking losses at the end of the season at the hands of the Phillies (and Brewers).  We’re the ones undergoing questions by stupid talk radio hosts saying that we need to break up the core (even though without the core, we finish 10-15 games back instead of 1).  The fact that Phillies fans, players, and announcers have this weird complex about the Mets, a team that hasn’t finished in the playoffs in two straight years, at the expense of the Phillies, just strikes me as sad.

Buster Olney is an idiot

Monday, September 29th, 2008

I don’t like calling people names, but man…how else can you respond to this (Insider may be required)?  This is just poor analysis.  Because Wright had one poor week this week (by the way, David hit .340 in September this year) and had a disappointing year with runners in scoring position (which could be contributed to luck; if you know about BABIP, you know that Wright’s .263 BABIP with runners in scoring position is quite low; last year, his BABIP was .331 with RISP), all of a sudden he’s not clutch? Despite everything from Wright’s past saying that his clutch lines are in line with his career numbers?

Do we forget that in 2007, David hit .310 with runners in scoring position, and OPS’d .976?  Do we forget that last year, during the middle of the Mets’ epic collapse (and make no mistake; last year was a collapse, this year was not, more on that later this week) that David was spearheading the offense’s best month of the season with a .352 batting average and 1.034 OPS?  So now because he had a year slightly worse than his 2007 season, he needs to see a sports psychologist?  Really?  There are so many ways I can dispute this, and destroy this argument, but if you’re a person with even an ounce of rational thought in your brain, you can see through how…wrong this blog item by Olney is.

David Wright will be fine in 2009, just like he was fine in 2008, 2007, and every other Mets season since they brought him up from the minors.  To say that the team needs to “fix” him ignores the greater problems with this franchise, namely the lousy bullpen and the poor bench, but like I had said earlier, talking about how to solve bullpen and bench problems doesn’t grab headlines like fixing star players who played excellent baseball all season long.

Mets draft – good stuff

Friday, June 6th, 2008

I have to say, I am pleased with what the Mets chose to do in the draft.  I came into the draft hoping they would target college hitters who could be promoted quickly, considering that right now, most of the talent is in the lower areas of the organization, with St. Lucie and New Orleans being particularly bereft of talent, and Binghamton has some fringe major leaguers.  With Ike Davis and Reese Havens, the Mets have two young players who aren’t necessarily high ceiling, but can be promoted quickly to fill holes at the major league level.

Ike Davis projects as a first baseman/corner outfielder, two holes this Mets team could sure use right now, considering the real problems they have at first and in left field.  Davis projects as a good power/low contact type hitter, with average plate discipline.  He seems somewhat low ceiling, but should he improve his contact rate, he’s going to be a 30+ home run guy in the majors, and should be a decent 5-6 hitter.  That may not sound particularly great, but considering how the Mets are currently treading water with a below average first baseman, and severely below average left field projection, simply getting a player close to average should help this team immensely, and any power boost will be welcomed with open arms.

Reese Havens looks like a guy who will be in the Mets’ plans at either second base or catcher, without a defined position.  He played shortstop in college, but is blocked there by Jose Reyes, and besides, he was not a player considered good enough defensively to stick as a shortstop in the majors.  He’s a player with above average power and plate discipline, though not particularly fast.  I suspect the Mets are going to try him as a catcher, since Luis Castillo is signed for another 3 years whether we like it or not.  I’m intrigued by Havens, moreso than Davis, because he is both a guy who should rise quickly through the minors, and also a guy who offers good offensive potential at another two positions where the Mets are getting little production.

The rest of the Mets’ draft was OK – Brad Holt looks like an Aaron Heilman type to me; starting pitcher in college without a great deal of pitches who becomes a set-up man in the majors.  He was probably a reach in the sandwich round, but the Mets might think they can promote him aggresively and get him into the bullpen by next year.  Javier Rodriguez and Kirk Neuwwenhuis both look like toolsy outfielders that this team has loved in the past – they seem more like long-term prospects.  Sean Ratliff feels like a poor man’s Ike Davis – a guy with great power potential who doesn’t make a lot of contact.  After that, who knows – the baseball draft is, moreso than even the NBA or NFL drafts, so hard to predict.  It does seem like teams are making better choices than they were even 10 years ago, as more highly drafted players are reaching the majors than in years past, but it’s still a crapshoot.  If 1-2 of the players listed here become regular major league contributors, Mets fans should consider this draft a success.