Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Cots Contracts is one of the most important baseball sites on the Internet, because it charts the contracts of every player on a team's 40-man roster as well as select minor-league contracts. Cots has the Mets' Opening Day payroll at $126,498,096 in 2010 - a reduction of nearly $23 million from last season.

Not much has been made of the actual numbers, which I find curious. This is the same organization getting $20 million a year in found money from Citi to put its name on the marquee at Ebbets Field North, which only opened last year. One would think that there would've been enough money to increase payroll from 2009, and certainly no reason to reduce it.

That's where Forbes comes in. Forbes does an annual "Business of Baseball" study on franchise values and revenue. (The great Joe Posnanski has a wonderful article about this on his blog.) The authors of the Forbes article pulled no punches when it comes to the state of the Mets.

[T]ake a look at the Mets, the Yankees' cross-town rivals, who also moved into a new ballpark last season. The Mets fell 6% in value and are now worth $858 million, third on our list. The Mets saw a big jump in stadium sponsorships and premium seating revenue at Citi Field, but all is not well in the borough of Queens.

We lowered our valuation of the franchise because the team has stumbled badly on the field, and rank-and-file fans are disgusted with management. The Mets won only 70 games last season, their worst showing since 2003. In response the Mets cut the average ticket price more than 10% for the 2010 season. Even with the cuts the Mets will not match last season's attendance of 3.2 million fans. Stadium revenues are likely to decline more than $20 million in 2010.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Jacobs Out, Davis In?

Mike Jacobs was designated for assignment before Sunday's game against the Cardinals, probably putting an end to his second go-round as a Met. How many teams wind up releasing their Opening Day cleanup hitter just two weeks into the season? Only the Mets.

It was never going to work here with Jacobs, a left-handed slugger who has never walked enough or made enough contact to justify his power potential. Kansas City General Manager Dayton Moore is no genius, but the general rule of thumb is that when you are released by the Royals, you don't belong in someone else's starting lineup!

The Mets already had two better options in Triple-A (Chris Carter and Ike Davis) and both players out-hit Jacobs in Spring Training. The fact that Jacobs got the job anyway is just one more reminder that the Little Jeffy-Omar-Jerry brain trust does nothing to inspire confidence in this team's present or future.

The buzz about Davis's promotion is already well underway, although nothing official has been announced yet. I am a little concerned that Davis is being rushed - he's off to a great start in Buffalo, but has only had 42 at-bats at Triple-A. Carter is off to a good start as well and would be a better place-holder until Dan Murphy comes off the disabled list

If Davis struggles, he's going back to Buffalo when Murphy returns and some of that "top prospect" shine will be off him. If he holds his own, it may push Murphy into the utility player role he is destined for. Murphy would be a logical replacement for Frank Catalonotto, who brings nothing useful to this team.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

One More Thing ...

Ubaldo Jimenez pitched a no-hitter tonight. If you didn't know who he was before tonight, you should know that Colorado has a burgeoning star in Jimenez. He should be a top of the rotation workhorse for years to come.

It wasn't the most beautiful of performances - Jimenez walked six batters and threw 129 pitches to finally complete the first no-hitter in Rockies' history. Hopefully he will make it through his next start without his arm falling off. (/sarcasm)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Bullpen Mismanagement

(This is the post I started writing in the 10th inning of tonight's game and gave up on once the 17th inning rolled around. I cleaned it up a bit, just to make it flow logically.)

My complaint about tonight's game is only an indirect knock at Jerry Manuel, who can't entirely be blamed for his startling inability to understand leverage and how to properly use a bullpen. The fact is, no manager in modern baseball has been able to break away from the established orthodoxy of how to deploy their relief corps.

The sheer lunacy of bullpen mismanagement at baseball's highest level was on display again today, starting in the 10th inning of a scoreless game in St. Louis. The Cardinals had two base runners with two outs and the incomparable Albert Pujols coming to bat. Manuel was not going to let Pujols face the lefty Pedro Feliciano, so he had a choice to make - which right-handed reliever to use?

Francisco Rodriguez is considered the best right-handed reliever on the team, both in terms of reputation and contract. He was rested, having last pitched the meaningless final inning in the Mets' 5-0 win on Thursday night. K-Rod (despite having a declining K rate every year since 2004) is still a strikeout pitcher, and the Mets absolutely needed a pitcher who could limit Pujols's ability to make contact.

Jerry Manuel chose Fernando Nieve instead. Nieve had already pitched in seven of the Mets' first 10 games, including two batters during a disastrous seventh inning the previous night. He is not nearly as good as K-Rod, even if Rodriguez is one of the more overrated relievers in professional baseball.

The difference, of course, is that K-Rod is the "closer." The closer is that rare breed of reliever - the man who can only pitch when the conditions are just right for him. He is supposed to be the best pitcher in the bullpen, even if he is only used in the most specialized of situations that do not always coincide with the most important ones.

Rodriguez's odds of getting Pujols out were significantly higher that Nieve's odds. Once Pujols was semi-intentionally walked, K-Rod's chances of getting Matt Holliday out were significantly higher than Nieve's. Manuel still chose Nieve. Holliday ended up popping out to first, ending the tenth inning and staving off defeat.

Incredibly, the same situation came up again in the 12th inning - two on, two out, and Pujols coming to the plate. Even more incredibly, Nieve was still in the game, having faced nine batters to that point. Perhaps even more incredibly, Nieve stayed in the game to walk Pujols and to face Jason Motte, the St. Louis pitcher.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, apparently uninterested in taking advantage of the situation, inexplicably allowed his pitcher to bat even though he had a pinch-hitter left on the bench and two relievers left in his bullpen. Motte struck out on four pitches, ending the threat and Nieve's day at the same time.

Implausibly, nearly the exact same situation came up in the 14th inning! With second and third and nobody out, Hisanori Takahashi (who was called upon to replace Nieve instead of K-Rod) struck out the left-handed Skip Schumaker. Ryan Ludwick and Albert Pujols beckoned - would Manuel have K-Rod ready to replace Takahashi now?

He would not. Takahashi struck out Ludwick, intentionally walked Pujols and struck out reliever Blake Hawksworth. This decision defied all logic, as LaRussa STILL had a pinch-hitter on the bench and Ryan Franklin available in the bullpen. Why he still let Hawksworth walk to the plate in that situation is incomprehensible.

Takahashi had performed a minor miracle, getting out of the jam. He was pinch-hit for by Jon Niese in the top of the 15th - surely K-Rod would be coming in now, right? Wrong. Jenrry Mejia, a 20-year-old Double-A starter masquerading as a reliever, was called upon in the bottom the 15th inning of a scoreless game.

Let that one sink in for a minute. After 14 1/2 innings of scoreless baseball, the youngest player in the major leagues was being asked to keep the Mets alive instead of one of the highest-paid relievers in baseball.

Mejia pitched two scoreless innings, giving way to Mexican League graduate Raul Valdes in the 17th inning. By now, even La Russa had gotten around to using his closer; one wondered if perhaps the sight of Franklin might have reminded Manuel that it was appropriate to use K-Rod even if the save wasn't in order.

Instead, it was Valdes, who had given up a grand slam to Felipe Lopez the night before in his fifth MLB appearance. This was the man that Manuel entrusted with a game, more than five hours after the first pitch was thrown.

K-Rod stayed in the bullpen until the 19th inning, waiting for the all-important "save situation" to arrive so that he could finally come into the game. The closer makes $11.5 million a year, but the manager would not ask him to pitch unless the Mets took the lead.

Rodriguez promptly rewarded Manuel's "patience" by blowing the save and nearly blowing the game. If nothing else, it was just one more reminder that the closer "myth" is just that - a myth. Manuel's reluctance to pitch Rodriguez without the lead may have cost the Mets the game, all because modern managers still do not understand that if you hold back your best reliever for the save situation, you do nothing but increase your chances of losing the game.

Will anyone question Jerry Manuel as to why he chose to use four inferior relievers at the most critical junctures of the game? Doesn't anyone wonder why the back of the bullpen is entrusted with critical at-bats in extra innings, while the closer is pitching mop-up duty in 5-0 games?

No one will ask, because Jerry Manuel went by "the book" today. He's been going by the book all season, just like everyone else. And when you go by the book, you are immune from criticism, even if the book is just as wrong as it can be.

One For The Ages

This was one of those games that you will talk about for years to come. Still, I can't help but come away thinking that this was the most poorly-managed game I have ever had the misfortune of watching.

Cardinals skipper Tony La Russa managed as though he had absolutely no intention of winning the game. He failed to pinch-hit for the pitcher in both the 12th and the 14th inning and he used two different position players for three innings of relief instead of using an off-day starter. St. Louis battled for 20 innings to overcome the mismanagement and the indifference of their field general, but in the end it was too much to overcome.

When I started writing approximately three hours ago, it was centered around Jerry Manuel's refusal to bring in Francisco Rodriguez sooner. Yes, conventional wisdom says to hold your closer back unless it's a save situation. Conventional wisdom is nothing more than the safe way to lose a baseball game.

K-Rod should've come in to pitch in the 10th, when Fernando Nieve found a way to escape the mess left for him by Pedro Feliciano. He should've come in to pitch in the 12th, when Nieve needed rescuing of his own. He should've come in to pitch in the 14th, when Hisanori Takahashi needed to be picked up.

Manuel stubbornly refused to use his best reliever time and time again, leaving the game in the hands of middle relievers who pitched heroically when put to the test. Finally, K-Rod was allowed to pitch in the 19th, when the Mets pushed a run across against Cardinals outfielder Joe Mather.

The top of the 19th also bore witness to the second-dumbest decision I've ever seen a manager make. Manuel actually asked Luis Castillo to sacrifice Jose Reyes into scoring position. A sacrifice bunt in the 19th inning with an outfielder on the mound and David Wright on deck is an unforgivably stupid play. The Cardinals, thankful for the gift of an easy out recorded by a pitcher who had never pitched professionally, promptly walked the Mets' best hitter and set up a double play against the struggling Jason Bay.

The Mets only ended up getting one run of the inning and would have lost in the bottom of the 19th if La Russa hadn't trumped Manuel and made the single dumbest decision I've ever seen any manager make. How on Earth can Ryan Ludwick be allowed to steal with Albert Pujols at the plate?

It was a miracle that Pujols didn't homer off K-Rod later in the at-bat; was there any doubt he was going to hit the ball a mile in that situation? Ludwick should have still been on base to score off the Pujols double. Pujols then would've scored the winning run on the Yadier Molina single with two outs.

Once the maddening hysteria of seeing K-Rod fail to close out the game after being held back for 18 innings wore off, I realized one essential truth. I cannot allow my beautiful little niece, just 16 months old, to grow up a Mets fan.

Seriously. Look at that face. How can I subject her to the torture that would come with life as a Mets fan?

Then it was the bottom of the 20th, and the Mets had pushed across one more run against Mather. K-Rod's arm and his ego were apparently too fragile to pitch a second inning, even though the six previous Met relievers had recorded at least four outs in this epic. Enter Mike Pelfrey, who had pitched seven dominant innings in Colorado on Thursday and was being asked to hold the Cardinals at bay one final time.

He didn't make it easy, putting two men on base after dispatching of the first two batters of the inning, but he did it. One wonders if La Russa slapped his head in amazement - who knew that a starting pitcher could take the mound on his throw day and pitch more effectively than two position players?

The Mets are 4-7 now, having wrested away what will likely be the signature win of the season for them. They didn't win this game, so much as La Russa and the Cardinals lost it. Nevertheless, it will take its place in the annals of Mets history, a game sure to be referenced in future extra-inning epics and laughingly recalled in those moments where it appears the game at hand may never end.

What will hopefully be forgotten is just how much the poor decisions of both managers contributed to the incredible length of the game.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Thought of the Day

I am 33 years old. Since I have been walking the planet, there have already been four distinct periods where the New York Mets have arguably been the biggest laughingstock of baseball.

*1977-83, a seven-year period where the Mets never finished higher than fifth place in a six-team National League East
* 1992-1993, The Worst Team Money Could Buy.
* 2003-04, also known as the Art Howe years
* September 2007 to right now and the foreseeable future


No knock on Jenrry Mejia here, because he doesn't belong in the big leagues anyway. At what point will Omar Minaya admit it was stupid to listen to Jerry Manuel on this one and send Mejia back to Binghamton? Apparently, stupid is as stupid does.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Collateral Danage

At around this time last season, Omar Minaya's poor roster management skills led the Mets to designate Darren O'Day for assignment in order to make room for a spot start from Nelson Figueroa. (Remember him?) O'Day quickly signed with the Texas Rangers and pitched over 50 high-quality innings out of their bullpen. The Mets ... well, let's just say the Mets could've used someone pitching as well as O'Day in the bullpen last year.

This year, Omar Minaya's poor roster management skills led the Mets to give Kelvim Escobar a guaranteed $1.25 million and a spot on the 40-man roster. Unfortunately, most baseball people already knew that Escobar's arm was completely shot and that he may never pitch another inning in Major League Baseball. Some people have been quick to dismiss the Escobar fiasco as a worthwhile risk, one that has only cost the Mets some money.

That's not entirely true, of course. Escobar's roster spot has already come at the expense of a promising young reliever with an arm that actually works. Once Sean Green was placed on the disabled list yesterday, the Mets were forced to designate Clint Everts for assignment in order to make room for Raul Valdes.

Everts, you may remember, is a former first-round draft pick that was drafted by Minaya when he was mismanaging the dearly departed Montreal Expos in 2002. The high-school fireballer never worked out as a professional starter, but was dominant across three levels in the Washington minor-league system in 2009.

Still only 25, Everts has enough time to produce a few effective seasons out of a major league bullpen if given the chance to do so. That chance may not be available in Queens now. Everts will have to pass through waivers before the Mets can give him the ball again at Double-A Binghamton, where he was assigned out of Spring Training.

Will the decision to release Clint Everts turn out as poorly as the decision to release Darren O'Day? It's obviously too soon to tell. But I would rather have a 25-year-old reliever with a live arm and success in the minors last season over a 34-year-old reliever who has thrown 26 professional innings in the last two years and may never pitch again.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Jenrry Mejia

From MetsBlog, talking about Josh Beckett's contract extension: "…it’s pretty clear, if you want an ace, or a ‘legit No. 2,’ a team must either trade top prospects to bring him in, or develop him on their own…"

At a time when Jenrry Mejia should be donning a Binghamton Mets jersey and preparing for his Opening Day assignment against Akron on Thursday, he is instead in the back of Jerry Manuel's bullpen having his development stunted.

Relievers are made, not born. It's an old-school way of thinking, but I truly believe that every pitcher should be given an opportunity to fail as a starter before being converted into a reliever. By pre-emptively putting Mejia in the bullpen based on 15 Spring Training innings, the Mets are crippling his potential to develop secondary pitches and to blossom into a top-flight starter.

Opening Day Review

First and foremost, I didn't actually go to the game. I spent it at McFadden's with Rockstar, Dr. S. and a guy who apparently stapled his own ear at some point in the evening. (I was not there to confirm this, but Rockstar's word is good and so I say "bravo" to you, John.)

Oh, you haven't heard of McFadden's yet? My first inclination is to say "good - let's keep it that way." The bar was crowded enough once the game ended, a sign that it is going to be a very popular venue for Mets fans. During the game itself the place was only about half-full, which only means that there were still a good 200 people on the premises. McFadden's only got their liquor license at 9 am that morning, so it was all beer until about the sixth inning when the booze truck rolled in. You would've thought David Wright had just hit a second opposite-field home run, such was the roar that came up from the crowd.

The bar is still undecorated, which I imagine will change in the very near future. The bartenders and the waitresses were rather scantily clad, which judging by the reaction of the overwhelmingly male crowd, is unlikely to change anytime soon. Perhaps the highlight of the day came when we were able to take advantage of one staffer's ignorance regarding Mets' history to cajole four Field Level tickets to the April 21 tilt against the Cubs.

The bar was giving away tickets every couple of innings to people who could answer ridiculously easy questions about Mets history. We were among four people who, when standing by the DJ booth, shouted out "1962" when asked the year that the Mets first joined the National League. The tiebreaker was this question - "who pitched the last perfect game in Mets history."

Rockstar and I looked at each other in amazement - could this guy really not know that the Mets have never even had a no-hitter, let alone a perfect game? One of the other vultures shouted out something unintelligible, which the DJ apparently took to be Mets knowledge unposessed by the rest of us. He gave the guy two tickets and tried to go back to his laptop. Once we pointed out the error in his ways, the DJ had no choice but to hand us each a ticket to the Cubs game. Two hours later, Rockstar successfully shamed him into giving us two more.

All in all, it was a good day - one that also included a Miss Met sighting and a surprising encounter with a guy I haven't seen since we graduated from St. Virgilius in 1990. I expect that I'll be visiting McFadden's again soon. (Perhaps as soon as this Friday, when I watch the Mets and the Nationals from the Promenade Club seats.)

Failing grades go to Angst, T-Bone and the Jersey Pirate, all of whom declined to hang out with the boys and either stayed home or stayed at work instead. You are all lame and none of you are invited to see the Cubs on April 21.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Opening Day!!

Yes, I know I've been the voice of doom and gloom on the infrequent occasions I've posted this off-season. Yes, the Mets are AT BEST a 78-win team even if everyone stays healthy - and they have the potential to be much, much worse if Johan Santana, Carlos Beltran, David Wright or Jose Reyes miss any time with injuries.

That doesn't matter today. Today is one of the best days of the year, and perhaps the last time in 2010 that the Mets won't be below .500. Put on your favorite jersey, grab a beer and root, root, root for the home team. There will be 161 more chances to weep at the futility on the field and the stupidity in the front office.

Final thoughts on the 25-man roster:

* Starting pitching: a potential disaster area. Santana will be fine, although I think his days of true dominance are over. Oliver Perez and John Maine are both a mess. Mike Pelfrey is the second coming of Jon Rauch - put him in the bullpen and he'll be reliably mediocre for another 10 years. A good season from Jon Niese would put some lipstick on this pig - I happen to think that he can be a reliable #4 starter at the MLB level.

* Relief pitching: The Mets' handling of Jenrry Mejia has been borderline criminal. He belongs in Binghamton learning how to be a top-of-the rotation starter. The Mets are stunting his development in every way imaginable - and there's simply no reason for it to happen. I weep for the future of this franchise. The rest of the pen is mediocre - including the closer, whose peripherals have been in a steady decline for several years now. One smart move - Pedro Feliciano as the "eighth-inning guy." He's been miscast as a specialist.

* Catching: Rod Barajas and Henry Blanco. Sigh.

* Infield: David Wright and Jose Reyes are still superstars (as long as they are healthy). Castillo would be a very good #8 hitter on a good team. He's tolerable as a #2 hitter on this team for as long as he keeps his walk rate up. Mike Jacobs at first base is simply embarrassing. Chris Carter should've gotten the nod while Daniel Murphy was on the DL, but I guess an .893 SLG in Spring Training wasn't good enough to unseat a "veteran" with two straight years with a sub-.300 OBP. Why isn't Ruben Tejada starting at shortstop while Reyes is on the DL?

* Outfield: Beltran's absence is crushing. Jason Bay will be fine - he's no great shakes defensively, but he has power and patience at the plate, with just enough speed to sneak a base when the pitcher isn't paying attention. Jeff Francouer will fit right in with the bottom half of this lineup - another guy swinging for the fences and grounding out weakly to shortstop when he makes contact. The Angel Pagan vs. Gary Matthews debate is hilarious - Pagan is a fourth outfielder and Matthews is a fifth outfielder. Both belong on the bench.