Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Roster Musings - 12/7/11

I've been writing a little more at Mack's Mets in the last few weeks and had just posted my thoughts on how the Mets might approach the off-season when three transactions were announced in short order last night. The additions of Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch, Ramon Ramirez and Andres Torres gives my initial projected 25-man roster a different look from the one I posted there just 24 hours before.

SP- Santana
SP- Dickey
SP- Niese
SP- Pelfrey
SP- Gee

No changes to the starting rotation. If the Mets decide at the last minute to non-tender Mike Pelfrey, they can hold an audition for a fifth starter in Spring Training.

RP- Francisco
RP- Rauch
RP- R. Ramirez
RP- Carrasco
RP- Beato/Parnell
RP- Byrdak/lefty specialist
RP- Herrera/lefty specialist

Carrasco is under contract and supposedly Byrdak is as well, even though I can't seem to find anything confirming that. Regardless, the Mets won't break camp without two lefties in the bullpen so you can pencil in two southpaws among the seven relievers. I think Daniel Ray Herrera will be one of them mostly for PR purposes, since he's the visible return from the Francisco Rodriguez trade and won't cost more than $500K in salary.

I do not understand why a financially strapped team that will struggle to reach 80 wins spends over $10 million on relievers in one night. Francisco (2 years, $12 million) is a perfectly ordinary closer who may be the difference between 80 wins and 82 wins this season. I'm just not sure whether he's going to have a positive or a negative effect. Ramon Ramirez is actually a very solid reliever who should be successful in Queens in 2012. I'm a little concerned about what he'll make in arbitration, but it can't be worse than the $3.5 million Rauch will be making in 2012. He hasn't been the same since being overworked by Washington in 2006 and 2007 and has dealt with injury issues annually. Things will not end well for Jon Rauch in New York.

It appears there's only one spot left for either Bobby Parnell or Pedro Beato now. Suffice it to say, I'm hoping it goes to Beato.

C- Thole
1B- Davis
2B- Murphy
3B- Wright
SS- Tejada
LF- Bay
RF- Duda
IF- Turner
OF- Torres

I had Pagan penciled in as the starting center fielder, but I don't think Torres automatically has a lock on the job. Andres Torres is an excellent defensive outfielder, but he's not much of a hitter. His on-base percentage is too low for the top of the order and he doesn't have the type of base-stealing ability to make a team forget about how little he actually gives himself a chance to steal. A 6-7-8 of Torres-Thole-Tejada has a certain rhythm to it, but it's also going to be a black hole of OBP. Long story short, the Mets have opened a hole in center field by making a deal that was more about acquiring Ramirez than it was about replacing Pagan with Torres.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Second-Class Citizens - Mack's Mets

Tom and I came to the same conclusion on a number of things that day. The first is that we both agree that the city will go absolutely crazy the next time the Mets win a World Series. The city still adores the 1986 Mets, possibly the most iconic team in New York baseball history. So many calamities have befallen the franchise since then that the celebration another championship would unleash would be legendary in scope and revelry.

We also agreed that this has to happen soon, or the Mets will never regain their perch as the darlings of New York City. The longer the Mets go on playing the comic foil to Yankees' track record of success, the more they risk becoming the Chicago White Sox of the Big Apple.

The Sox enjoy permanent second-class status in their own city, which remains enamored with the Cubs despite over 100 years without a championship. The Yankees have held the town without serious challenge for the better part of two decades now. The longer it goes on, the harder it's going to be for the Mets to get back on top.

Read the rest at Mack's Mets.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Waiting for Parnell - Mack's Mets

Bobby Parnell pitched a perfect eighth inning back on July 28 against Cincinnati. Three up and three down on just eight pitches, with a strikeout to boot.

The next day, Parnell was undoubtedly the subject of breathless prose from both bloggers and the mainstream media, too much of which strains credulity looking for optimism every time Parnell has a decent outing. His supporters really seem to want Bobby Parnell to do well, because they really want to believe that he is the closer-in-waiting, or at least a dominant set-up man in the making.

He isn't.

Read the rest at Mack's Mets.

Monday, August 1, 2011

More on Mets vs. Expos - Again?

The Expos were done in by the strike and two ownership groups that failed to invest in the product.

In 1990, the A's and the Royals were both in the Top 3 for overall payroll. In 1995, they were small-market teams. Montreal never spent like Oakland or KC, but like the A's and the Royals they were not the penny-pinching outfit they became after the strike.

The club was owned by Charles Bronfman until 1991 and the family business (Seagram's) helped pay the bills. The new ownership pulled the purse strings tight after the strike and eventually sold to Jeffrey Loria, who I am sure that there is already a special little corner in hell reserved for. Loria eventually finagled his way into control of the Marlins when Bud Selig decided that Washington DC deserved a third shot at supporting a baseball team more than Montreal deserved a competent ownership group.

Meanwhile, the Expos had never captured Montreal's fancy the way that the Canadiens still do, and after the strike there was a lot of bitterness toward MLB. Olympic Stadium remained a terrible place to play. Ownership made it clear that it was unwilling or unable to put a quality product on the field. The results were predictable: fans stayed away.

Montreal can still work as an MLB town, but only with an ownership group willing to do the dirty work to get a new stadium built. I suspect that Selig would be more than happy to threaten Oakland, Kansas City or Tampa with relocation the same way he once threatened Montreal.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

July Columns

I just got back from Montreal and completed by most recent column for Mack's Mets about baseball in that beautiful city. You can find it here. My two earlier columns can be found here and here. The plan is for me to contribute weekly columns for Mack's site, usually on Friday or Saturday.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

New Column At Mack's Mets

I'm committing to a Friday column over at Mack's Mets for the rest of the summer. My latest effort can be found here.

The Mets have to trade Carlos Beltran by July 31, no matter how well they've played for the last few months. They aren't catching the Phillies or the Braves and Beltran is not coming back in 2012. Apparently the Mets won't even be able to reap draft picks by offering salary arbitration, so not trading Beltran will leave them with absolutely nothing at the end of the season.

Red Bulls v. United tonight! look for me in Section 114!

Monday, June 27, 2011


I think I've actually gotten to the point where I've completely lost interest in finding new words appropriate for insulting Jeff Wilpon. Just read this gem and continue praying for David Einhorn to save us from these fools.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

It's Not You ... It Really Is Me.

My dad and I went to two college baseball games last month. We had a great time on both occasions, sitting right behind home plate and watching St. John's University dispatch of Pittsburgh and Villanova in Big East play. My sister, my brother-in-law and my beautiful little niece also showed up for the first game, but it was just me and the old man two weeks later in the last home game of the season for the Redmen.

Those two games, two Saturday afternoons in May spent on metal bleachers watching semi-professionals playing my favorite game to the best of their ability, marked the first time in 22 years that we had gone to a baseball game together.

I was 12 years old on August 20, 1989, when my Dad and I saw the Mets lose to the Dodgers in heart-breaking fashion from two seats behind home plate in the Upper Deck section of Shea Stadium. (Loyal readers may remember that I've written about this day before.) My father is not a baseball fan, not really a fan of organized sports in general, but his son was a fanatic even then and so that meant taking him a baseball game now and again.

By 1991 I was a freshman in high school and started going to baseball games with my new friends - fellow Stanners who loved the Mets as much I did. I imagine my father was somewhat relieved that his days of shepherding me to baseball games were over, although I do remember taking in a few high school basketball games with him at Archbishop Molloy in those years before college. The trend continued when I graduated and went to St. John's - no baseball games, but a few basketball games at Alumni Hall watching the only sports team I've ever loved nearly as much as the Mets.

Baseball has always been my thing, not our thing. That's why he caught me by surprise when he expressed an interest in going to a game back in April, although he was adamant that he had no interest in watching professional baseball or dealing with the crowds that come with them. A college baseball game offered the perfect alternative - played at a high enough level that it would still be entertaining, but without all those damn people with the potential to ruin the experience.

I was struck by how much he enjoyed watching the game itself - taking pleasure in the quality of a single at-bat, a well-pitched inning or even an otherwise routine 4-6-3 double play. He didn't care when the managers put the bunt on at ridiculous points of the game and didn't obsess about bullpen usage or platoon match-ups. That was my job, and he listened without comment when I expressed my ideas about such topics.

I've wanted to write about those two afternoons with my dad at Jack Kaiser Stadium for nearly a month now, but I've struggled to find a way to frame the narrative. This is supposed to be a Mets blog, on those all-too-infrequent occasions where I find the inspiration to write something here, and I just couldn't find a way to tie the story together until now.

The calendar helped me out, for one thing - tomorrow is Father's Day and so a post about my father and our relationship with baseball seems less indulgent than it would at other points of the year. Being Irish in emotional temperament, yet having an ability to use the the written word to convey my thoughts and feelings, allows me to say things and express emotions in print that I couldn't possibly articulate in words.

Those were the two best afternoons I've had watching baseball in many, many years - and it had nothing to do with the teams on the field or the end result of the game. It had everything to do with the company. Really, what could be better than watching an afternoon of baseball with your father and having the home team come out on top? It was the first time I had a chance to do that in my adult life - and it was far more gratifying than it was as a kid.

This week, though, Will Leitch wrote an article for Baseball Prospectus that really hammered home for me why I enjoyed the actual baseball games more than usual, beyond being at a ballpark with my father for the first times in over two decades.

Will's father and mine are different people - the article makes it clear that Mr. Leitch has been a die-hard Cardinals fan for many years. My father roots for the Mets, I suppose, but only because he has seen firsthand the devastating emotional impact that the Mets losing has on his son. No one wants to see their children suffer, and bad Met teams make me suffer.

They are similar people, I think, in that Will's father and mine care only about the final score of any particular game that favors the team they are rooting for. Unlike their sons, our fathers are not caught up in the game behind the game. From the article:

"He doesn’t know anything about the sabermetric revolution ... And he’s clueless as to how long the contracts of any of our beloved Cardinals last, or how much any of these players are making, save for 'too much.'

"The fundamentals of roster construction are a mystery to him ... And it's a mystery to him because he does not care. The team on the field wearing the Birds on the Bat, that's the one he's watching, and that's the one he's rooting for. He doesn't know any of the prospects, he doesn't know when everyone's contracts expire, he doesn't know what incentives are. My father is not stupid: he legitimately does not care. That's just not a factor in how he watches baseball."

Leitch goes on to explain how he himself watches baseball now, contrasting his father's simple joy of hoping for a Cardinals win to his own private hell of wanting the Cardinals to win "the right way" - whatever the hell that means.

"Dad doesn’t care about any of this. He likes the Cardinals to score more runs than the team they are playing, and when something happens that makes that more likely, he cheers. When it doesn’t, he yells ... It just, again, makes me long to be like my father, blissfully unaware and uncaring about advanced statistics, average annual value, and no-trade clauses. There is a game on the field, and he is watching it and cheering for his team. I can't ever do that again. I don't know how he does it, but dammit, he does."

I'll never find the words to thank my father enough for all that he's done for me - but at least I've found the words to tell him how special he made those two afternoons. He reminded me (with an assist from a well-written article by a baseball fan in the same boat as I am) that enjoying the game is the most important thing - rooting for your favorite team to win and being happy for them when they do.

We went to those two games hoping the Redmen would win. The Redmen won, and we were happy. I paid almost no attention to those ill-conceived sacrifices or the bullpen mismanagement I saw from both managers. They were merely noted in the back of my baseball brain and quickly forgotten, replaced by the pleasure of my father's company and an RBI single that put the Redmen ahead to stay.

I do not work in the front office of a baseball team and I never will. I will never have even the slightest iota of influence over the people who will make the decisions that determine in large part whether my favorite baseball team will ever win a World Series. And yet, I've spent so many years allowing my love for the Mets erode because of factors that are entirely beyond my control.

I've stopped enjoying the game of baseball itself because the manager doesn't understand strategy, because the general manager doesn't understand roster construction and because the front office doesn't know how to maximize revenue streams. It doesn't matter that there isn't a franchise in baseball with personnel that excel in each of these areas - I get angry at the Mets for being just like everyone else.

That has to change. And it's going to change.

Like Mr. Leitch, my father doesn't care that the bunt is generally a bad play. He doesn't care that bullpens are overly specialized. He doesn't care if the Mets refuse to draft over-slot or if they block promising prospects with over-the-hill veterans. For him, baseball is nothing more than rooting for your favorite team to win. It doesn't matter how it happens, it just matters that it happens.

And, of course, he's right again.

The man has been teaching me things my entire life. On those two Saturdays in May, my father reminded me of a simple truth that I lost sight of a long time ago, about a game I know far more about than he ever will.

The win is the thing.

In a way, I've been Waiting for Godot for years now. The Mets have done something right 34 times this season. I haven't enjoyed any of them. They aren't going to win the division this year, and I doubt they will seriously contend for several years to come. If I put the Mets on the shelf until that time comes, I am only doing myself a disservice.

So I am going to take yet another lesson my father has taught me to heart. The Mets are playing today, and I hope they win.

They're playing another game tomorrow, and I hope they win that one too. I have tickets for a game against the Yankees in a few weeks, and I'm going to the game. I hope they win that one too.

I'm not going to stop analyzing the Mets, and I'm not going to stop criticizing the organization when it does things I do not agree with. But I am not going to let that get in the way in the simple act of being a fan. When the Mets play, I want them to win. I am going to root for them to win and I am going to be happy when they do.

The rest will work itself out.

And next spring, when St. John's returns to the baseball diamond, me and the old man will be there. Rooting for our favorite team to win.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

I'm Back!

Well, temporarily, anyway.

I haven't posted in over six months because I haven't cared enough to bother writing anything of substance in the last six months. There's only about 20 of you who will ever read this anyway, and I figure you can always just ask me my opinion about the Mets if you really want to know.

That said, a few thoughts:

* Mack has gone back to his free site at Mack's Mets, and if you really want to read what I think about the state of the New York Mets then you can do so over there. Mack continues to be kind enough to allow me a forum to reach a far greater audience by offering the opportunity to be a contributing member. I haven't taken him up on his most recent offer yet, but I remain hopeful that I will find inspiration again in the near future.

* No major complaints about the front office, the manager or the roster. Next week will be the first true litmus test of the Sandy Alderson regime. If the Mets stick to slot recommendations and refuse to overpay for any of their first four picks, then we will know that it's business as usual under the Wilpon yoke.

* David Einhorn, please buy my favorite baseball team.

* This article and the BTF thread about it caught my eye. MLB's plan for a catastrophic event affecting an entire team is contained within something called the Rule 29 Draft. Basically, each "non-disabled club" has to make a pitcher, a catcher, an infielder, an outfielder and a fifth player available to the "disabled club" for the purposes of re-stocking the roster. These players have to come from the active roster on the day that disaster struck. (So melodramatic!)

So if the worst had happened and the Angels were forced to re-stock its roster, which Mets players would I have made available? Tim Byrdak, Ronny Paulino, Willie Harris, Jason Bay and Dale Thayer. You'd have to think that the Angels, with no payroll obligations and a desperate need to bring MLB quality players, would take a chance on Bay, even if it meant absorbing the remaining two years and $32 million on his contract.

Yes, I know its a creepy line of thought to expound upon. But what does it say about how far Jason Bay's star has fallen that it might actually take a massive air disaster and resulting loss of human life for another baseball team to take a chance on his contract?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

First Attempt at Projecting the Opening Day 25-Man Roster

SP- Mike Pelfrey
SP- Jon Niese
SP- R.A. Dickey
SP- Chris Capuano
SP- Chris Young

Johan Santana won't be back in the rotation until the All-Star Game (at the earliest), and I wouldn't be surprised if he misses the entire 2011 season. Pelfrey, Niese and Dickey appear to the the only locks - Dickey is probably going to arbitration, even as he looks for a two-year deal. Capuano and Young will round out the rotation, provided both men are healthy to start the season. Dillon Gee, Pat Misch and *gulp* Oliver Perez will compete for rotation spots that open up as the result of injury or ineffectiveness.

RP- Francisco Rodriguez
RP- DJ Carrasco
RP- Bobby Parnell
RP- Taylor Buchholz
RP- Pedro Beato
RP- Oliver Perez

The Mets will start the season with seven relievers, of course, but I suspect at least one slot in the bullpen will be awarded to a dark horse who pitches impressively in Spring Training. Yes, I know you don't want to see Oliver Perez throw a pitch in a Mets uniform ever again, but right now they do not appear to have any viable left-handed options in the bullpen. I could see Perez filling a dual long man/lefty specialist role, especially if the Mets go into camp without a larger selection of southpaws to choose from. Terry Collins absolutely has to dance the fine line of keeping K-Rod's 2012 contract option from triggering without drawing a grievance from the MLB Players Association.

C- Josh Thole
C- Ronny Paulino

I really like this combination. Thole is the clear starter and Paulino is a veteran platoon partner who will hit lefties well enough to be a positive contributor, but not well enough to tempt Collins from taking at-bats from Thole even if he gets off to a slow start. I don't expect that to happen, however - Thole looks like a good bet to put up a string of .285/.360/.375 seasons in a Mets uniform. It ain't great, but you don't need much more from a #8 hitter and/or a catcher.

1B- Ike Davis
2B- Dan Murphy
3B- David Wright
SS- Jose Reyes
IF- Brad Emaus
IF- Justin Turner

The only competition is at second base, where Murphy, Emaus and Turner are the most likely players to stick with the team. I'm not sure if Luis Castillo will be with the team by the time it heads south, but he will have to hit like the the 2000 version of Castillo to have any hope of making this team. Chin-lung Hu and Luis Hernandez are in the mix as well, I suppose, but Murphy and Emaus seem pretty secure and only Turner seems vulnerable. I think he will out-play his competition and stick with the big club.

LF- Jason Bay
CF- Carlos Beltran
RF- Angel Pagan

The starters are set in stone, unless injuries get in the way. I'm not ready to speculate on the backups, because the race just seems so wide open. I suspect Scott Hairston has the edge for one of those positions; he hit 17 home runs in both 2008 and 2009 and has a career line of .278/.331/.498 line against lefties. Lucas Duda and Nick Evans are in the mix as well, but Hairston's position flexibility and major league resume seems more likely to block the right-handed Evans than the left-handed Duda.