Mets Merized Online » The Coop Tue, 09 Feb 2016 16:34:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 MMO Flashback: Changing The Dynamic, One Catcher At A Time Thu, 04 Sep 2014 11:26:26 +0000 mike piazza

Former Mets catcher and future Hall of Famer Mike Piazza turns 46 years old today. We’ve written dozens of great articles about Mike over the years, and after searching our archives I found one I think you will all like. So please enjoy this article by Taryn “The Coop” Cooper, originally published in March of 2012.


1969. 1973. 1986. 2000.

Tom Seaver. Rusty Staub. Tug McGraw. John Franco. Keith Hernandez. Darryl Strawberry. Tommie Agee.

Steve “Hendu Cando” Henderson. Ron “The Dive” Swoboda. Endy “The Catch” Chavez. Robin “Grand Slam Single” Ventura.

While the Mets storied 50 years have included characters and some pivotal moments, their pitching staffs have boasted several homegrown greats like Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Nolan Ryan and Doc Gooden, and adding more through trades. Yet, there are forgotten men that have been the backbone to making those pitchers successful.

Nope, not their pitching coaches.

Their battery mates. Their catchers.

Conversely in Mets history, while there’s been quite a bit of homegrown pitching talent throughout the years, the catcher has been somewhat overlooked. Perhaps they took Casey Stengel’s “You’re gonna need a catcher, or you’re gonna have a lot of passed balls” too much to heart by not developing strong catchers in their own history.

By trading for top-shelf catchers at the time, the Mets had championship runs where the catchers who made the difference were Jerry Grote, Gary Carter and Mike Piazza. Without a strong catcher or the man in the 2 position on those teams, the outcome might have been completely different.

Finally, what did they all have in common, besides the position they played?

They either won a championship or went as far as the World Series with the Mets.

Gerald Wayne Grote was traded to the New York Mets on October 19, 1965, in exchange for Tom Parsons by the Houston Astros. The Mets didn’t get “good” or even “great” until a few years later. Who knows how the pitching in those years would have developed had the catcher been as green as they were?

In 1967, some rookie by the name of George Thomas Seaver quickly became the ace of the staff. The addition of Jerome Martin Koosman a year later added the one-two punch that would become the linchpins of that staff. Grote certainly wasn’t known for his bat; .256/.321/.329 in his 12 years with the Mets, and in the “championship years” (arbitrarily ruling between the years of 1969 – 1973) .253/.314/.326.

His defensive stats, though, provide a clearer view of how he helped the team. During those years, he ranked above league average in caught stealing percentage, and ranked in the top five of all catchers in each year except one in range factor.

The Mets famously came together strong in those years, but the value of a good defensive catcher is underrated, as is Jerry Grote’s value to those teams.

Gary Edmund Carter was already a legend for the Montreal Expos when he was traded to the Mets on December 10, 1984. While fan favorite Hubie Brooks was included in the deal to Montreal, no one could argue that this deal meant business. Frank Cashen was serious about adding a big bat to the lineup, and there was no doubt that Carter could fit that bill.

Prior to joining the Mets, Carter had already established himself as a long ball hitting catcher who had the rare ability to not only call a good game, but couple strong defense in addition to being a threat with the bat.

The Mets historians show that the trade for Keith Hernandez changed the dynamic of the 1980s Mets. Yet, the addition of Gary Carter thrust them over the top, towards two NL East titles and one World Series championship. In his first two seasons, .269/.352/.465 was his line along with 56 HRs and 205 RBIs. Those were a lots of runs batted in!

He ranked in the top five in the first four seasons with the Mets in range factor as well, but his caught stealing percentages went down in his years with the Mets. We could then argue that Carter’s bat helped propel the Mets to their championship year in 1986, as he hit .276/.267/.552 with 2 HRs and 9 RBIs in the World Series.

Michael Joseph Piazza flitted between the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he had a very strong career, to the Florida Marlins shortly prior to being scooped up by the Mets via trade on May 22, 1998. While he got off to an infamously slow start in New York, his bat won over the naysayers. The Mets were in the Wild Card race almost to the very end, thanks in part to Piazza’s .348/.417/.607 with 23 HRs and 76 RBIs. It’s hard to argue that Piazza’s bat didn’t change the culture, and led the Mets to offer him a 7-year contract.

Piazza was certainly not known for his defensive prowess, but he more than made up for those deficiencies with his bat. He hit 78 HRs and 237 RBIs with a line of .313/.379/.594 in years where the Mets made the postseason.
While replacement Todd Pratt provided the dramatics for Game 4 in the 1999 NLDS, an injured Piazza’s whopping .167 BA probably didn’t help the team matters in the rest of the series. I wonder how far the team could have gone had he been healthy in 1999.

Tough to argue that the team wouldn’t have gone as far as they did without Piazza’s bat in 2000, as his bat was on fire in the NLCS, (.412 BA, with 2 HRs and 4 RBIs) but he did come back down to earth during the World Series (.273 BA also with 2 HRs and 4 RBIs). While Piazza provided the last breath long fly ball out in the 2000 World Series, the team’s overall line was pretty atrocious during that series: .229/.284/.343. In fact, Piazza was the one of the few glimmers.

Mike Piazza is as close to a first ballot Hall of Famer as there is (depending on how the baseball writers view him, though), but his time with the Mets was very special as there were points his bat proved to be the difference maker in the team being just a Wild Card “okay” team to a full-blown playoff “why not us?” team.

In the Mets championship years and World Series runs, the catchers provided some sort of “it factor” for success. Whether it was helping groom a young pitching staff, provide much needed offensive support in the lineup and back up on the field, or simply carrying the offense on their backs, Jerry Grote, Gary Carter and Mike Piazza could very well have been the change agents on those teams.

Neon Catcher 293x300

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MMO Flashback: Changing the Dynamic, One Catcher at a Time Wed, 09 Jan 2013 15:49:02 +0000 With the recent acquisition of Travis d’Arnaud, the Mets added one of the top two catching prospects in the minors, the other being Mike Zunino. Could d’Arnaud be the next great Mets catcher to lead the team to a World Series as Jerry Grote, Gary Carter and Mike Piazza once did? It’s a good question and one that will be answered in the years to come. Catching is the subject of today’s MMO Flashback, so please enjoy this article by Taryn “The Coop” Cooper. It was originally published in our MMO 2012 Mets Annual last spring.

1969. 1973. 1986. 2000.

Tom Seaver. Rusty Staub. Tug McGraw. John Franco. Keith Hernandez. Darryl Strawberry. Tommie Agee.

Steve “Hendu Cando” Henderson. Ron “The Dive” Swoboda. Endy “The Catch” Chavez. Robin “Grand Slam Single” Ventura.

While the Mets storied 50 years have included characters and some pivotal moments, their pitching staffs have boasted several homegrown greats like Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Nolan Ryan and Doc Gooden, and adding more through trades. Yet, there are forgotten men that have been the backbone to making those pitchers successful.

Nope, not their pitching coaches.

Their battery mates. Their catchers.

Conversely in Mets history, while there’s been quite a bit of homegrown pitching talent throughout the years, the catcher has been somewhat overlooked. Perhaps they took Casey Stengel’s “You’re gonna need a catcher, or you’re gonna have a lot of passed balls” too much to heart by not developing strong catchers in their own history.

By trading for top-shelf catchers at the time, the Mets had championship runs where the catchers who made the difference were Jerry Grote, Gary Carter and Mike Piazza. Without a strong catcher or the man in the 2 position on those teams, the outcome might have been completely different.

Finally, what did they all have in common, besides the position they played?

They either won a championship or went as far as the World Series with the Mets.

Gerald Wayne Grote was traded to the New York Mets on October 19, 1965, in exchange for Tom Parsons by the Houston Astros. The Mets didn’t get “good” or even “great” until a few years later. Who knows how the pitching in those years would have developed had the catcher been as green as they were?

In 1967, some rookie by the name of George Thomas Seaver quickly became the ace of the staff. The addition of Jerome Martin Koosman a year later added the one-two punch that would become the linchpins of that staff. Grote certainly wasn’t known for his bat; .256/.321/.329 in his 12 years with the Mets, and in the “championship years” (arbitrarily ruling between the years of 1969 – 1973) .253/.314/.326.

His defensive stats, though, provide a clearer view of how he helped the team. During those years, he ranked above league average in caught stealing percentage, and ranked in the top five of all catchers in each year except one in range factor.

The Mets famously came together strong in those years, but the value of a good defensive catcher is underrated, as is Jerry Grote’s value to those teams.

Gary Edmund Carter was already a legend for the Montreal Expos when he was traded to the Mets on December 10, 1984. While fan favorite Hubie Brooks was included in the deal to Montreal, no one could argue that this deal meant business. Frank Cashen was serious about adding a big bat to the lineup, and there was no doubt that Carter could fit that bill.

Prior to joining the Mets, Carter had already established himself as a long ball hitting catcher who had the rare ability to not only call a good game, but couple strong defense in addition to being a threat with the bat.

The Mets historians show that the trade for Keith Hernandez changed the dynamic of the 1980s Mets. Yet, the addition of Gary Carter thrust them over the top, towards two NL East titles and one World Series championship. In his first two seasons, .269/.352/.465 was his line along with 56 HRs and 205 RBIs. Those were a lots of runs batted in!

He ranked in the top five in the first four seasons with the Mets in range factor as well, but his caught stealing percentages went down in his years with the Mets. We could then argue that Carter’s bat helped propel the Mets to their championship year in 1986, as he hit .276/.267/.552 with 2 HRs and 9 RBIs in the World Series.

Michael Joseph Piazza flitted between the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he had a very strong career, to the Florida Marlins shortly prior to being scooped up by the Mets via trade on May 22, 1998. While he got off to an infamously slow start in New York, his bat won over the naysayers. The Mets were in the Wild Card race almost to the very end, thanks in part to Piazza’s .348/.417/.607 with 23 HRs and 76 RBIs. It’s hard to argue that Piazza’s bat didn’t change the culture, and led the Mets to offer him a 7-year contract.

Piazza was certainly not known for his defensive prowess, but he more than made up for those deficiencies with his bat. He hit 78 HRs and 237 RBIs with a line of .313/.379/.594 in years where the Mets made the postseason.
While replacement Todd Pratt provided the dramatics for Game 4 in the 1999 NLDS, an injured Piazza’s whopping .167 BA probably didn’t help the team matters in the rest of the series. I wonder how far the team could have gone had he been healthy in 1999.

Tough to argue that the team wouldn’t have gone as far as they did without Piazza’s bat in 2000, as his bat was on fire in the NLCS, (.412 BA, with 2 HRs and 4 RBIs) but he did come back down to earth during the World Series (.273 BA also with 2 HRs and 4 RBIs). While Piazza provided the last breath long fly ball out in the 2000 World Series, the team’s overall line was pretty atrocious during that series: .229/.284/.343. In fact, Piazza was the one of the few glimmers.

Mike Piazza is as close to a first ballot Hall of Famer as there is (depending on how the baseball writers view him, though), but his time with the Mets was very special as there were points his bat proved to be the difference maker in the team being just a Wild Card “okay” team to a full-blown playoff “why not us?” team.

In the Mets championship years and World Series runs, the catchers provided some sort of “it factor” for success. Whether it was helping groom a young pitching staff, provide much needed offensive support in the lineup and back up on the field, or simply carrying the offense on their backs, Jerry Grote, Gary Carter and Mike Piazza could very well have been the change agents on those teams.

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Haute Cuisine Sat, 31 Mar 2012 14:00:34 +0000

All-Star Evening with All-Star Accommodations

Mets Merized Online was invited last Monday to cover a Mets food tasting at CitiField’s Delta Sky360 Club, or as they put it, “The All-Star Dining Line-Up.”  Due to some fortunate circumstances (for me), I was able to attend. So I headed out Monday with a camera and my appetite.

I know that there are some things that haven’t grown on me yet at CitiField, but their food options make it difficult to choose what I want to eat during games.  I swear, sometimes I just go for the hot dogs and crinkle cut fries from Nathan’s and be done with it!

Yet, I like so much that we were able to get.  My husband and I are big fans of the Nachos Grande stand.  I always like beer.  Though Shake Shack isn’t as much of a novelty to us as it is to others since we live within walking distance of one, Blue Smoke’s fried chicken sandwich was a new addition in 2011 and was a good one at that.  I sometimes get the elote corn on the cob at Taqueria.  While Box Frites did away with the disco frites (boo), my hub liked the parmesan garlic frites.  I like the popcorn shrimp at Catch of the Day, and eggplant parm hero at Cascarino’s.  If I have time to go to the Promenade Club during the game, the buffalo chicken salad gets high marks from me.

Like I said, it’s a little difficult for me to choose, since I have so many options.  So what do the Mets do for 2012?

They add more fabulous fanfare to the menu.  Sigh.


I guess the easiest way to go through the new options is to list them by area.  Before I get started though, I’d like to point out that I do have some weird food habits.  Like, I don’t do pastrami or corned beef.  Sandwiches are kinda lost on me.  I love sushi, but I’m sort of weird about getting it at a ballpark, or taste-testing it after eating a slider.  I love that CitiField has healthy options (like fruit, hummus, vegetarian and gluten-free options), but I didn’t try a lot of them.  I guess you can call me crazy, that though I wouldn’t put it past myself to eat a salad at a baseball game, the idea of pork osso bucco?  Eh, little too rich for this blue-collar girl’s tastes.  (Plus, I’m not that big of a fan of pork.)  Lastly, a lot of these menu items are in places many of us might visit once a year, at best if we’re lucky, like the Empire Suites or being invited by Metropolitan Hospitality to an event.

Taste Of The City


Box Frites has expanded their options by including a buffalo dog on their menu (all-beef dog with buffalo and blue-cheese sauce, pickled carrot and celery).  At the event, they paired the dog up with their new sweet potato frites option.  Box Frites is also trying their hand at desserts, by offering fried fruit pies!

I actually didn’t partake in the items, as I was getting full just looking at a lot of the food.  From what I heard, the fried pies were divine.  I didn’t get a good report on the buffalo dog.

El Verano Taqueria is introducing a vegetarian taco (which is also gluten-free), soft corn tortillas with portobello mushrooms, zucchini, corn and poblano peppers.  Total opposite from a vegetarian gluten-free taco is the barbacoa quesadilla, slow-cooked beef with chipotle and guajillo peppers.  Jason Fry from Faith and Fear in Flushing is a big Taqueria fan.  He was so-so on the tacos, but the quesadilla seemed to be a winner if you are a beef fan.

Catch of the Day now offers beer battered shrimp skewers.  These were fabulous, a little fluffier than tempura battered shrimp but closer to a corn dog consistency if I had to put a finger on it.

I might have had more than one of these pups.

Taste of the City is located in the Centerfield concourse area on the field level at CitiField.

World’s Fare Market

Much to Ted Berg‘s delight, Mama’s of Corona introduced a new hero to their menu, called the “Mama’s Special.”  It is a hero loaded on Italian bread with peppered ham, salami, fresh mootz, mushrooms and peppers on the side.  If you are a sandwich person, you might like it.  I do not share in the enthusiasm that the sandwich king Berg does!  But I will say, I might have helped myself to a few cannoli and a cupcake (strictly for my dog…and I don’t have a dog).

Daruma of Tokyo had a lovely looking sushi platter and boat available.  Greg Prince of Faith and Fear in Flushing was helping himself to some of it, as he is a sushi fan.  I LOOOOVE sushi too, but I really wanted to try the other stuff.  I guess I’m just weird about trying sushi at a ballpark, though it did look lovely.

General Concessions

Aramark has made very few changes in the general concessions throughout the ballpark, but one item that I absolutely positively need to try is the Cholula Chipotle Crispy Chicken Sandwich.  The concession stand display had sliders of their Brooklyn Burger (including the Keith Hernandez Mex Burger) and the Cholula chicken sandwich.  The crispy chicken was one of my favorite things on the menu on the night, a chicken cutlet with Cholula (the hot sauce!) chipotle aioli (ay ai ai!), fresh guac, jalapenos, pepper jack cheese and bacon.  They put nearly every favorite thing of mine on one bun.  Depending on your level of tolerance, I didn’t think the hot sauce nor the jalapenos were spicy at all, then again I always get the global thermonuclear sauce at any wing place since they simply aren’t hot enough.  Yet, some people complained that it was too spicy.  Fair enough.  But it was still pretty damn fabulous.


I heard the Pastrami sandwich was a hit last year, so I’ll take people’s words for it.  They are offering a Pastrachos platter this year, nachos topped with pastrami, Swiss cheese sauce, sauerkraut, Thousand Island dressing and scallions.  If you’re into Reubens, knock yourself out!

Brooklyn burger is offering a Mex Burger, inspired by Keith Hernandez: a 6 oz. Brooklyn burger on a sesame bun with cheddar and jack cheese, topped with bacon, guacamole, chipotle aioli and jalapenos.  These are served with kettle chips and a Tootsie pop!

I love a tasty burger, and I’m a harsh critic, so I’m not sure I’d order the Mex burger on its own at CitiField.  It was a bit on the dry side, but again, I believe that the stand custom cooks them as you order, so they may be different from sitting under a lamp at a tasting event.

Other items of note: the Kozy Shack gluten free stand has a number of g-free options, as well as vegetarian options.  I heard the veggie dog and veggie burger were not worth whatever they charge (a piece of cardboard is what someone likened it to).  Melissa’s fruit cart offers a variety of fruit and packaged hummus, something any vegan would enjoy!

Delta Sky360 Club

Chances are, you won’t be going to the Delta club without an invite.  Too bad, as they had some damn good food available.  They’re introducing a fried flounder sandwich, Swedish meatball platter and seared beef tenderloin medallions.  NOM NOM.

I probably had about 8 million of the flash-fried shrimp, so I opted out of the fried flounder.  Kerel Cooper from On The Black tried it though, and said it was something he wouldn’t mind trying again.


I didn’t get a chance to try the seared medallions, though from the sounds of it (Angus tenderloin, bleu cheese polenta, fennel-tomato ragout, red wine demiglaze), it sounds like something I’d enjoy.  I did, however, try the Swedish meatballs.  AND OMG.  They were FANTASTIC.  The gravy wasn’t too creamy, but I could have done without the focaccia bread.

Caesar’s and Promenade Clubs

Cafe Roma at the Caesar’s Club is introducing two new items: the Reuben quesadilla (grilled flour tortilla filled with New York pastrami, sauerkraut, Thousand Island dressing, Swiss cheese and scallions) and the NY cheese steak sandwich.  I passed on both items, but the buffalo chicken salad in that club is also very good if you were looking for other options.

The Promenade Club is offering three new items, called home run wings (served with your choice of either buffalo, chipotle BBQ, teriyaki, garlic parmesan, honey-black pepper or Thai chili), the New Yawkah sandwich (corned beef topped with sweet potato fries, bacon, pickles, slaw and Thousand Island, served on a pretzel roll), and the 7-1-ATE Special (hot or sweet Premio sausage, split and grilled, topped with a hash brown, fried egg, slaw & pepper hash on ciabatta).  Holy moly!  The New Yawkah sounds like they’re trying their hand at a Primanti Brothers-style sandwich (the Pittsburgh treat that serves you with everything on a sandwich, including french fries and slaw).

I didn’t try the wings or the 7-1-ATE though both did have some pleasant reviews from those who tried them.  And I wouldn’t be against trying them either when I’m in the Promenade Club.

Acela Club


Pork Osso Bucco is the only new offering on the Acela menu this season.


I didn’t try it, but I didn’t hear any reviews on it either.  ^Shrug^

Empire Suites

So who wants to split a suite this season?  Two new offerings in the suites include buttermilk fried chicken with corn bread and mac & cheese and southwest chicken salad.


Okay, I have to admit that I am a very harsh critic on fried chicken.  I have a southern gene and anything fried needs to have some TLC added to it for me to give it my stamp of approval.  BUT…my chicken piece was a little off the mark. It was a little gamey and slightly stringy.  Blech.  Then I realized that people don’t eat fried chicken for the chicken part…they want the stuff that makes it fried!  The breading was awesome.  And the accompaniments were also stellar — corn bread with real chunks of corn in it.  The baked mac was very good.  I didn’t get to try the southwest salad though…that because…I forgot I wanted to try it.

Turns out with my fried chicken though that I may have had a chicken that put up the fight!  Joe Janish from Mets Today said his was very tender and moist and gave it a thumbs up.  Ah well.  Guess I gotta do a quality assurance test in the suites this year to make SURE I don’t like it.

Metropolitan Hospitality

The hospitality group is serving up three new dishes.  Tuna tartare, chicken and waffles and seared Long Island striped bass.  I only tried the chicken and waffles, which were served on a mini waffle.


It was really tasty!  If I can get invited to a party where the hospitality group caters, I’ll be sure to station myself next to the chicken and waffles, which were served with a maple demiglaze.

Well, all righty then!


I didn’t see anyone cut the Metropolitan Hospitality or Mr. Met cakes, but there were ice cream sandwiches from Coolhaus, Banana bread pudding served warm in an individual mug and assorted cannoli and cupcakes from Mama’s.


I would like to point out that this was a “dry” event — meaning, no alcohol.  They must have known I was coming.  They did provide us with a menu of beer options that will be at craft beer stands, including a variety of Shock Top ales and craft beers.

One other thing I noticed was that the Delta Sky360 Club, where the event was held, that one could not look out into the field.

So I couldn’t get any photos of the wall progress.

But as I bid adieu to the night and CitiField, Ted Berg said farewell and that we’d all be watching baseball in about 10 days.

I walked onto the train platform, and the past meeting the present promo greeted me as I went back to Manhattan.

This was a nice evening, and top notch food was served.  Can’t wait to sample it for real next week!

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A Night To Remember (or #BlameBucker /sarcasm) Tue, 25 Oct 2011 22:30:28 +0000 Today is the 25th anniversary of a gigantic moment in Mets history, and that’s the celebration of Game Six.

Whether you were alive, a child, a baby, an adult, not even born yet, chances are an elder has sat you down and either played the last inning of the game or has told them the story verbatim. I like to say that Mets fans are into the history of the team like no other fan base…we celebrate it and love to analyze it more than any other I am aware of (Yankees don’t count since mostly it’s about them winning…we appreciate the losing years a little TOO much at times). All the ghosts of miracles past came into play that fair night and as one of my dad’s friend put it, “God put his hand over Shea Stadium tonight.”

I was at home, watching the game with my mom. She fell asleep around the time Dave Henderson hit the go-ahead home run in the top of the 10th inning. I was 10 years old. My dad, as I alluded above, was at the game. I know it sounds cliche to say this 25 years after the fact, but at 10 years old, sitting on my mom’s bed watching the game, I wasn’t aware that the Mets *could* lose, that they were allowed to. I often say that in Dwight Gooden’s rookie year, he lost nine games, and I swear I witnessed four of them live. I knew the Mets could lose or had the capacity to, but I also didn’t think they would lose THIS game.

This isn’t going to be a retrospective of “What did I do during Game 6,” though Mark Simon from ESPN Mets Blog does that for me today. It’s how history has rewritten Game Six as a Red Sox loss rather than a Mets win. Sure, today we have a bunch of warm fuzzies discussing the event in most Mets forums today (after all, it’s much better to look at the past today than the present or at least the very near future), but for the most part if you look at how Game Six is in the lexicon of baseball fans, it’s how the Red Sox, Cursed Team of the North, were one strike away on several different occasions from tying up the win AND the series, but did not. It’s never been about how the Mets were going on sheet guts and guile to win the game in a dramatic come-from-behind victory.

I’ve also felt bad for Bill Buckner for several years. Just like how history rewrote the game as a Red Sox loss and not a Mets win, Buckner has gotten his share of the blame for the last play of the game. Even the documentary Catching Hell discussed how the Red Sox media and fans treated Buckner afterwards. Certainly, I can understand the power of the scapegoat…I am a Mets fan who has had to deal with the nuclear fallout of Carlos Beltran taking strike three in 2006.

Yet, being an amateur Mets historian as I like to think of myself, it amazes me just how many people think that the Mets actually WON the World Series in that game. If it was…why was the loss and subsequent comeback so dramatic? They still have Game 7 to play. The Red Sox STILL blew a 3-run lead that game.

Buckner misplayed the “little roller along first,” but in order for the Mets to win, they had to have tied it at that point, right? Furthermore, the dynamic changer of that inning was not the bunch of singles that got the Mets’ juices flowing, but it was Bob Stanley’s wild pitch. I’ve often said that no one was happier about Buckner letting the ball go through his legs than Stanley, who had allowed a run to score from third on the play (we can also point out Mookie Wilson jumping out of the way or Rich Gedman’s misplay of the ball too.)

Yes, even the good times in Mets lore have been marred by backhanded compliments, and ways to discredit their victory. The biggest discredit of them all is blaming Buckner. I’d like to hope that people don’t blame him or look at the bigger picture. I know that five years after the fact, people still blame Beltran for all the Mets woes to this day (I, personally, blame Duaner Sanchez for getting hungry on July 30, 2006, in Miami). Did you know, as a “for instance,” that then-Red Sox manager John McNamara usually replaced Buckner defensively in later innings but opted to keep him in the game so he could “celebrate?” Where’s the ire towards him for putting the proverbial cart before the horse? (Actually, I think it exists amongst Red Sox fans, but that’s neither here nor there.)

Today is a significant day in Mets culture. There is no question about it. However, I hope it doesn’t take another 25 years before people see the bigger picture of what really happened here…and that the Mets earned this victory by sheer determination, hard work and grit.

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The Myth of the Franchise Player Sun, 18 Sep 2011 17:37:34 +0000 Synonymous with the New York Mets is Tom Seaver. “Tom Terrific” is known as “The Franchise,” the player who was singularly responsible for making the Mets relevant. Adding him to the pitching staff with the likes of Jerry Koosman, Gary Gentry and Nolan Ryan, and coupling him with players like Cleon Jones and Tommie Agee, caused the Mets to win their first championship in 1969.

Legend has it that the Mets were never quite the same after Dr. Evil himself, M. Donald Grant, traded away the Franchise, literally and figuratively, for some spare parts. It was true, in a way, but then again, so was the dynamic changing in baseball. Indirectly relating to the trade of Tom Seaver was the underlying notion that he wanted to be paid up, suckas.  Grant didn’t think Seaver was above the Mets name, and subsequently got rid of him by planting some unfavorable quotes in the NYC sports “tabloids,” if you will.

But the dynamic was also changing because of the era of free agency. And to that, I ask, is the “franchise player” still relevant?

You know who that is: the guy who is known for playing for one team; who made his mark with one team; who may have played for another team, but was never quite the player he was with that synonymous team. I think the closest we might have today is Albert Pujols. That, however, may change this offseason due to his contentious situation with being the best player in baseball (well, maybe Alex Rodriguez takes umbrage with that) and being a free agent. I think his brand with the Cardinals is significant, but as my friend Bill Ivie has said, the Cardinals were a great franchise before Pujols, they’ll still be a great franchise without him. Time will tell.

But then look at Carlos Beltran. Perhaps one of the most divisive Mets in recent memory, his injuries may prevent him from ever making the Hall of Fame. Yet, I had a Twitversation the other day with some other Mets fans about him playing a few more years, uninjured. I think if it walks and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck, and Beltran cannot stay healthy. I said, the harsh reality is he could be another Moises Alou, a great player whose injury-marred seasons keep him from getting his call to the Hall. However, someone said, if he DID come around with great numbers and played into his 40s without as many injuries, it would be hard pressed to have him go in as a Met, even though he did play seven years with them.

I guess I am raising these questions because of the Mets’ own “Franchise Players” and “Faces of the Franchise,” David Wright and Jose Reyes.

The Mets and those of us who live, breathe and eat any information surrounding the team have a contentious situation on their hands, especially regarding Reyes’ status as a free agent after the 2011 season. Couple that with David Wright, which is another contentious situation in and of itself. While not a free agent, he has an option that he can decline if he gets traded (which makes him a less attractive trading candidate), but then he’s had a noticeable drop off, but on the flip side he’s had one of his first injury-plagued seasons in recent memory (he’s been relatively healthy, considering all the injuries this stupid team has had in the last three years).

It gives me pause because they are still young and productive, yet I wonder if perhaps we all need a change of scenery. Meaning we, as fans, with the same “cornerstone” players, and the players themselves. M. Donald Grant may have been a clueless idiot, but perhaps he was prophetic in trying to set with us, that a player isn’t above the Franchise. Well, he was wrong in the case of Seaver, but the dynamic of the game has changed since then.

Look at the Dodgers. Their two franchise players, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, are essentially the equivalent of our Reyes and Wright. They even have an A+ starter in Clayton Kershaw. And they STILL can’t provide a winning season (or make money)!  I would say that Ryan Braun is probably the closest to a “Franchise Player,” since the Brewers see him as part of their long-term plans (and also since it appears Prince Fielder is going to go to the highest bidder in the offseason).

Look, the Mets situation is precarious, and perhaps I am too close to it. I was discussing on Twitter the other day with my friends over at the Daily Stache about the Reyes situation. Basically, I feel like the issue is now that the Mets are mailing it in (something that Terry Collins is NOT happy about), we are going on our third straight losing season, our legs and asses are cramped up from wanting to jump for joy but we can’t because there is nothing making us do that, and now the prospect of losing guys we feel should be in Mets uniforms forever is something we are nonchalant about. “Whatever” has been my philosophy at this point.

I know things will change once the postseason is over, and who knows, maybe the Mets and Reyes will come to an agreement and we’ll all be happy. But I think what will make us happier is WINNING. Reyes and Wright certainly have not been enough. The onus is on the personnel to seriously evaluate the team and not attend to what the fans want. Yes, I know Reyes makes us a lot of us happy. And his injuries are a cause for concern, especially since they basically have said his running game (what makes Jose Jose) has been halted because of his hamstring issues this year.

I know I would hold onto Reyes simply for emotional reasons because I love him and want him to be a Met forever. The other more rational side of me says that the time is not now. This team is a few years away from winning, and would it make a huge difference to lose with him or without him.

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If At “First” You Don’t Succeed…Get Depth Tue, 13 Sep 2011 17:00:11 +0000 There’s an old saying related to baseball that, “If at first you don’t succeed, try the outfield.”  But if the Mets march to the beat of their own drummer, they changed that philosophy from the “outfield” to “first base.”  John Olerud leaves as a free agent, no problem!  Throw Todd Zeile there.  Mo Vaughn hasn’t played in a few years and was an American League DH at his most feared.  Hey, I have an idea: why not put him at first?  He’s played there a bit!  Doug Mientkiewicz?  Yeah, he was a first baseman.  But he was pretty bad at baseball.

What’s funny about the team this year is that seemingly, EVERYONE gets thrown at first base.  After Ike Davis took a freak-accident-spill on a routine infield pop-up earlier this season, like many Mets injuries, it didn’t seem like much…but he hasn’t played since.  Evidenced as such, the Mets have thrown four guys at first base not named Davis.  In fact, Daniel Murphy holds the lead with 46 games started at 1B, and 37 games for Lucas Duda.  Ike Davis played 36 games at first base, and Nick Evans has started 27 game at 1B (as of Tuesday).  If Evans finishes out the season at 1B, four guys could theoretically finish playing less than 50 games each at 1B.  The Mets have not had a ton of turnover at first base in its history, so this is significant.

You know what I find interesting?  That when Ike Davis is anticipated to return next season, the Mets find themselves in a position of strength: a lot of guys who can play first base. Bonus: all of them have proven they can hit and play the position well enough to be every day players or at the very least, in a platoon situation.

Clearly, the position is Ike Davis’ to lose come next year in Spring Training.  At least, this is how I am looking at things.  Lucas Duda has been pretty much hand-selected by Terry Collins to be his starting right fielder in 2012, and obviously for the remainder of the season.  Leaving us with Daniel Murphy and Nick Evans as the odd men out.  All of a sudden, the Mets and their Front Office have a position of value and strength to use as trade bait.

Who is the odd man out, singular, though?  In that respect, odd “men” and that would be Nick Evans and Daniel Murphy.


It’s funny with these two.  I’ve made no secret about my appreciation of Daniel Murphy, as I feel his defensive woes are much ado about nothing, plus he’s shown he’s at a position of strength as a first baseman.  If he had a more consistent position, whether first, second or third base…anything in the infield, really…he’d certainly be a big asset to any team.  Nick Evans is a bit limited to where he can play, as his biggest strength has been showcased at first base, but he also has experience at left field.  However, we all know left field is locked up by Jason Bay till 2013.  Unless he is traded.  But that’s not the hypothetical here.

Anyway, defensively and offensively, Daniel Murphy might have a slight leg up on Nick Evans on the Mets.  Yet, his value could be used to get more parts in return in a trade.

See where I am going with this?  Is Nick Evans more valuable as an off-the-bench guy in 2012 for the team?  Or is Daniel Murphy going to be counted on for the team in a bigger way?

Another thing to consider is the Jose Reyes situation.  If Reyes is not figuring into the long-term vision of the team, where Ruben Tejada plays in 2012 will impact how the Mets will look at the future of the aforementioned players.  Clearly, the easiest scenario is that Reyes will re-sign, Tejada will play second base and all is right in the world.  But if Reyes flies the coop, Tejada will easily be penciled in at shortstop next year.  Right now, while Daniel Murphy rests his legs, he’s also the only one of the previously mentioned with any regular second base experience.   Another item that would weigh in his favor of staying with the team than Nick Evans.

Overall, Evans took several years to prove himself, but with regular-ish playing time, he’s shown that he can keep up with the big boys.  Murphy though was able to smack the hell out of the ball from day one pretty much.  We’ll also need to consider that Evans is out of options.  Like, negative amount of options at this point with how many times he’s been put on waivers (Cot’s and MLB Contracts has no information on his current status unfortunately).  Daniel Murphy isn’t arb eligible until 2013 due to his injuries in the last few years.  This could go either way: he’s so cheap it makes sense to keep him around, or trade him while his value is high and let him become another team’s “problem.” (But he’s a good problem to have)

There is a surplus at first base for the Mets for 2012.  I guess on one hand, it’s good that the Mets have so many serviceable players to fill in when their every day players go down at this point.  On the other hand, the odd men out look to be Daniel Murphy and Nick Evans.  Either way, their value is at its highest and it would make sense at this point to see about the future without either of those players in the organization.

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The Mets New Whipping Boy: Daniel Murphy Tue, 02 Aug 2011 20:01:11 +0000

Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to introduce you to the newest whipping boy of the New York Mets, Daniel Murphy!!

(And…the crowd goes wild)

The Mets were on a roll, taking a four game sweep in Cincinnati and even starting their road series against the Washington Nationals with a win.

Then lose three in a row and all goodwill built up within the fan base is thrown into Flushing Bay.

I’ve often said in the past that Carlos Beltran had to be the most divisive Met. Now, it seems that position is going to be most likely filled by Daniel Murphy. Yes, Daniel Murphy, the good-looking hard-working kid who takes extra batting practice each day to work on his technique, has no position to play. He came up as a third baseman, but as we all know, that position is a little bit occupied right now (and perhaps for a medium-to-long term).

Right now, the Mets are down a few men, to be quite blunt, but possibly the biggest loss to injury this year was Ike Davis, who may be deciding on surgery this week. Which means to the dismay of many fans, that Daniel Murphy will more than likely be manning 1B for as long as that may be.

His base path blunders piss me off. His brain cramps in the field can be mind-boggling, especially the glaring error on Monday night, which caused the bases to be loaded and the subsequent grand slam given up to Mike Stanton by Jason Isringhausen.

Jason Isringhausen, the seasoned professional who was serving up meatballs faster than an Italian grandmother that inning, somehow manages to get off the hook for that one, with the newest whipping boy of Metsopotamia gets hung out to dry in Daniel Murphy.

Look, I make no apologies for liking Daniel Murphy. This is far from an apologist piece. It just really gets me that the mob mentality is really causing a minor riot in the blogosphere among other cyberspacian areas.

The Mets have lost three in a row, two very winnable games in DC and one that was, eh, whatever it didn’t seem like they were trying the first part against the Marlins Monday night.

Has anyone bothered to dig up how the usual suspects have done in that time period?

No? Well, allow me to do it for you.

Jose Reyes: .231/.231/.308
Angel Pagan: .083/.083/.167
Lucas Duda: .100/.100/.400 (inc his big HR from last night!)
Josh Thole: 286/.444/.286

The only people marginally tearing things up are David Wright and Jason Bay, .300/.417/.300 and .333/.333/.583, and even DW’s slugging isn’t all that hot.

What does that say to me? That the Mets are losing because of lack of OFFENSE not because of a mental gaffe on the base paths or in the 10th inning of a game that technically the team was LUCKY to be playing in! (Oh and Izzy gave up a grand slam. Just wanted to make that evident. And Jon Niese had problems in Sunday’s game
…and Angel Pagan got quite ballsy trying to stretch out a long single right before Duda’s home run…)

Yes I get that pitching and defense are important, but over the years we’ve forgotten the importance of bats in the lineup too, perhaps because we really haven’t had one with all the injuries there have been. We’ve been brainwashed into thinking we need a defensive shortstop (like Rey Ordonez) or second baseman (like Luis “Two Hands” Castillo), and yet we get upset when they don’t hit, which is something they don’t have.

This is less of an indictment on Murphy as it is on the team sport. We seem to forget in those shoulda-had-a-V8 moments like Murphy had is that this is a team, and they are on a losing streak not because of Murphy forgetting how to run or toss a ball, but rather that our best player has been slumping and the rest of the team is NOT HITTING.

But sure, go ahead and rip apart one of the best hitters on the team in the meantime, (who by the way has gone 5-for-13 in this losing streak) and see how well he performs then. Remember how well that worked out for Luis Castillo.

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The Last Time Ever I Saw His Face: My Tumultuous Relationship With Carlos Beltran Fri, 29 Jul 2011 12:15:28 +0000 “Not quite as sad as when the Mets traded Seaver.  But sad nonetheless.” ~ Stuff My Dad Texts

(No, literally, my dad sent me this text Wednesday night)


I was upset last week.

The Mets were not in town that much in the month of July, and I couldn’t make any of the games.  That’s not exactly true.  I was able to make one Saturday game and the Monday night makeup game against the Marlins.

And I was upset.  The reason being was I wasn’t able to see Carlos Beltran play in what seemed to be his last home series wearing a Mets uniform.  He didn’t play the games I went to because he had been battling a flu bug.  Plus I could not get to any of the games later in the week.

Considering I had no plans to go to Miami or Cincinnati in that time period, and I had no desire to go to Washington, D.C. (though there would be a long shot he’d not be with the team at that point), the last time I had seen Beltran in a Mets uniform was in…Texas.  Ballpark at Arlington, to be exact.


Carlos Beltran hasn’t had an easy relationship with what I like to call the “vocal minority” of the fan base, and it certainly wasn’t easy for me when he first came to the Mets in 2005.  I immediately liked the signing, but had a hard time connecting with him.

But what really pissed me off was in 2006, he cited his lack of production as being a result of feeling “85%.”

Uh, what the huh?  Especially since it seemed like a surprise to those in charge.

I didn’t really trust him after that, especially when the “player’s managers” they had at the time would let Beltran pull rank and bench himself when he wasn’t feeling, as he called it, 100%.  I got frustrated, because I remember a time when a Met would play with a limb hanging off in order to beat another team.

Beltran seemed indicative of the new baseball player, one where he put himself above a common team goal.  We see it with Alex Rodriguez, but he wins MVP awards, so he could theoretically let it slide.

I hated him for it then, the excuses.

I understood better why he did it later on.  He wanted to play, and not take a DL stint.  That’s how badly he wanted to play.  But I have to wonder if his reluctance to do so early in his time with the Mets might have doomed him later on, especially in 2009 and 2010.


The trip to Arlington pretty much planned itself out.  I go on as many baseball trips each year, and this was a park I was dying to visit, plus we had a huge contingent of Mets fans in that region of the country, that it seemed a foregone conclusion that we’d be going there.

It was also significant because a friend of ours – MMO’s very own Kelly Horn – is not only a Mets fan but a BIG Beltran fan, and she would get to see him play live.

So when my husband and I realized we were going to be at an event with Beltran there, we decided to send Kelly a message, via Carlos himself.

She swears, she screamed when she saw the photo.  The trip would be good friends, good times and visiting a new park.


One item of contention we hear from people, from the “Anti-Beltran” crowd, is that he didn’t take a curtain call after a home run in 2006.  It took Grandpa Julio Franco to convince him to acknowledge that fans wanted to see him.

Up to that point, Beltran hadn’t done much to endear himself to the fans.  His first year was all right, but not the 7-year contract, $119mm worth we thought we were getting.

I actually didn’t care much about it at the time – I actually thought it was kind of funny.  Recently, in the Beltran retrospectives, we’d heard grumblings about how he didn’t connect with the fans, that the incident weighed heavily on his stature with the fans.

I know why he didn’t do it, and in fact, it gives me more respect for him.  First off, people who held a grudge over something that happened five years ago need to get a grip.  Secondly, Beltran wanted to feel the love from fans, and this was insincere.  Just the day before (and I remember, because I was there), the fans booed him – BOOED HIM!  He made a comment after this particular game that he’s our friend in bad times, and friend in good times.

Good for him for not wanting to take the curtain call.  But I’m glad he did it.


I remember being very scared that Beltran would be traded prior to the Arlington trip, having Kelly miss her hero play.

People told me I was crazy – that the Mets would never ever trade Beltran…he was owed too much money….he wouldn’t do that well this year anyway.

I said, not so fast.  A team desperate enough to want to go for it all this year would totally “rent” him.  Plus, he’s got a no-arb clause in his contract.  He’s as good as gone.

I didn’t want to see him go, but it’s a business, sadly, and this wasn’t personal.  I just wanted him to hold on till Texas though.


The rest of 2006 was a blur.  Beltran taking strike three to end the NLCS was a punch in the gut to most Mets fans.  I was even optimistic then.  At the beginning of the season, I had told someone “we’d be lucky to win the Wild Card.”  I had no feeling they would run away with the division, which they did.

I hated when people, especially those who watched the whole series, would blame Beltran for the last out.   In my estimation, the Mets should not have even BEEN in that position.  There was a series dynamic change in Game 2, and several opportunities to win Game 7.  The fact is, the Mets played so as not to lose, not “to win.”  That was the difference there.  That was far from just Beltran’s fault.  I mean, would it have been better to swing and miss?  Would we feel better?

By 2008, we all know how the story goes for the Mets.  Yet, I saw something the last day of 2008 that I hadn’t seen before.

Beltran cared.

He hit a home run.  He looked legitimately pissed off when the Mets lost that game.  This was not the “New Mets” he signed up for, but rather the Same Ol’ Mets we were used to seeing.

It was something that made me Team Beltran.  I even predicted he would be the NL MVP in 2009.

Until his knees, once again, failed him, and he missed a majority of the season.

I missed Beltran so much (even more so than Reyes, also out that season) that when he was rehabbing in Brooklyn with the Cyclones, I went down to see him.  I felt like I was visiting an old friend.

I thought about redemption in 2010.  Didn’t happen.  Also hurt, opted for surgery, made to look like the bad guy because of it.  I was excited to see him again on the road in his return, at AT&T Park in San Francisco.  Ironic, huh, that he will be playing there for at least the rest of 2011.


Kelly told us to enjoy ourselves, but after careful deliberation she would not be able to make it to Dallas to see her hero, Carlos.

So we went with the rest of our summer family and had fun.  I spent most of the time trying to locate shade and water (it was freaking hot there), and the parts of the game I did see, especially the Saturday game when the Mets were scoring lots of runs, were entertaining.

I think I might have thought about Beltran being traded a few times, but it didn’t occur to me this would be the last time I’d see him live in a Mets uniform at all.  I guess I hadn’t thought that far into the future.  Otherwise, like the majority of his time here, I’d have appreciated those last games in Texas more.

Here I was so concerned that he’d be traded before that series, it didn’t occur to me that it would definitely happen a month after that series.


I even entertained the idea, had the stars aligned correctly, to drive down to DC if he was still with the team after the Reds series.  I knew it might have been a long shot, but it could be done.  And I’d get to say goodbye, not realizing that with his no-trade clause, the deal had to take place more than one day prior to the trade deadline.


I wasn’t nearly as big of a Carlos Beltran fan as my friend Kelly is/was, but I got to see him live and didn’t appreciate him until it was almost too late.  People like her, and my husband and other fans probably recognized how special and good he was much earlier than I did.  For me, it wasn’t too little too late, but I wish I hadn’t spent so much time vilifying him for stuff that wasn’t entirely his fault.

In the meantime, I wish Carlos Beltran the best of luck with his future and potentially in the postseason this year.  However, with every end, comes a new beginning. My dad was right when he said it was sad, but it’s also a time of great hope.  When Beltran signed with the Mets in 2005, it was the “New Mets.”  That never came to fruition, unfortunately.  With Zack Wheeler and potential for the future, this could signify a new New Mets.  Beltran’s entrance capped the lousy years and departure leaves us with the future.

Last year, I warned the naysayers they’ll miss him when he’s gone.  With the Mets looking like they had before he left, it may not be right away exactly.  But it will be something Mets fans won’t appreciate till they see it with 20/20 hindsight.

While visiting Texas was one of the most fun Mets trips I have ever been on, I’ll remember it as the last time I saw Carlos Beltran play in a Mets uniform where I was in attendance.  I hope San Francisco realizes they not only have a great city, but they have a great Met too.

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One Way Or Another: Part Two Fri, 08 Jul 2011 13:57:04 +0000 Blogger’s note: I wrote Part One of this piece in January, but it was very hard for me to write Part Two, though I knew the direction I had wanted to take.  Yet, I wasn’t able to support my own argument, so I kept in my back pocket.  Now, I am able to believe in the mission statement of this piece.  Thanks for listening. ~Coop

Once upon a time in a land far far away, there was a major league baseball team with a lot of backloaded and horrific contracts, but had two young and emerging stars on the left side of the infield.  One was the scrappy and perceived to be immature dude, the other was a guy who wanted to make everyone like him and put pressure on himself to be better.  Fans in this town saw the debate as an “either or” situation, meaning, you had to take one or the other in an argument.  And most of them did…they’d take the third baseman in most arguments.  He had a higher ceiling, and the other guy wouldn’t amount to much with his perceived limitations.

Sound familiar?  It should:  I’m giving the background to how the Philadelphia Phillies were perceived around the league and within their own fanbase in the early 2000s.  The third baseman and shortstop I refer to, of course, are Scotty Rolen and Jimmy Rollins.

But let’s think back to that time period when the Phillies would come to visit Shea Stadium.  Their “idea” of superstar were those two or Jim Thome and Bobby Abreu.  Most of their contracts were complete disasters, and had (and still have) some of the most fickle fans in the history of sports.  But some fans were left either shrugging when Scotty Rolen demanded a trade – basically saying that the management was not serious about putting together a championship team, and forced a trade.  Some of the fans may have even agreed with Rolen’s assessment, but when he became a “wing man” for the best hitter in baseball, Albert Pujols, the pressure was off…heck, he even won a championship.

But how did that work out for the Phillies?  That immature shortstop who had perceived limitations, Jimmy Rollins, declared their team was the one “to beat” and went on to win an MVP award for having a big mouth and backing it up with his bat.  Once out of the shadow of the third baseman, Jimmy Rollins came into his own.  And of course, with a better vision, the Phillies were able to build a team from within with sickening and enviable talent emerging such as Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Cole Hamels, to name a few.  Using their other chips such as Kyle Drabek to orchestrate a trade for the likes of Roy Halladay, and actually “lowballing” (for lack of a better term) the prized jewel of the free agent market prior to the 2011 season, Cliff Lee, in return for the chances of winning a championship and putting him in a better position to win games.

All in the course of less than a decade.  Oh, and I hate the Phillies.  Just throwing that one out there.

But it brings us to a similar question, about our left side of the infield.  For years and years, we’ve seen the rising and maturing of our own homegrown superstars, David Wright and Jose Reyes.  Up until last year even, you never met two players who brought fans together to root for the team more, or caused more of a rift among the fan base.  You can probably ask five different fans what their opinion of Wright is, and you’ll get five different answers – yet most will agree he strikes out too much, and tries to do TOO much.  Yet, marketed as the “face of the franchise,” he’s up to his ears in charity work, and tries too hard to say and do the right thing at all times, and to his detriment and the team’s, on the field as well.

Then there’s Jose Reyes.  It’s funny to me to see how the tide has turned with feelings on him.  Last year, I remember people suggesting to “listen” to trades or to all-out trade Reyes, because he was immature and injury-prone and his antics (such as dancing, smiling, orchestrating handshakes with his teammates) weren’t much welcome in baseball today.  In the clean-cut and milquetoast era with Derek Jeter leading the way, it’s no wonder that the antithesis of Jeter on that “other” New York team would cause such strong feelings.

Until you know, he started doing well.  Until you know, suddenly we were all reminded of why we all thought so highly of him and wanted him to be a Mets lifer.  Until you know, we saw that other teams wanted our guy.  Well, no way, as they say, Jose…is ours!!

I have to admit that I am one of those folks who thinks in terms of “either or” with the left side of the Mets infield.  I don’t know why – I mean, in a large market, for two guys of their caliber there is no reason why the Mets should not and could not hold onto both of them.

Until reality hits and I see that I am holding on to an idea that may have passed.

See, my friend Matty Faz over at Kiner’s Korner had a term for the years of Reyes and Wright together, and called it the “Fake Empire.”  It makes me see a few things.  One is that we haven’t won a darn thing with those two at the helm, why are we clinging on to them both?  The other is the response to that question: it means that the Mets are serious about rebuilding if one or both is let go.  It also means a part of our youth of is gone.

Since David Wright is out with a back injury, it goes without saying that to trade him at this juncture would be not only a mistake, but it would be an impossibility too.  But it’s not an unfair question to pose about the future with the combo of Wright and Reyes.  Of course, Reyes tweaks his hamstring again and is currently sitting on the DL, bringing pause to whole Keep Reyes campaign…well, let me take that back.  It’s bringing pause to me to think about a piece I had worked on a few months ago, said I was working on a Part Two…but couldn’t bring myself to post it.

Frankly because I didn’t believe in what I was saying fully.  I couldn’t put out an argument that I wasn’t in full support of one way or another.

But now I do.  I am saying that when Wright returns, it would not be a bad thing to entertain the idea of the Mets moving on without him in the future plans.  The shortstop position is tougher to fill.  We’d also have to replace a leadoff hitter in Reyes, and a different type of baseball player.  Someone who is built to play in CitiField, one of the Dimensional Players I have discussed in the past.

David Wright, to me, is not one of those “Dimensional Players,” and his greatest assets shine when he’s serving as a wingman like Rolen.  No matter how much we want him to be the “leader” of the team, the “face” of the franchise, right now without him, the team has performed at a consistent level and what’s more?  The Mets’ marketing geniuses are forced to use images of Jose Reyes and even Carlos Beltran to draw in fans.  And you know what?  We’re buying those images hook, line and sinker.

One Way or Another…Jose Reyes needs to stay on this team, as a healthy and performing Reyes is exactly what this team needs to be successful.  We’ve seen just how poorly the team executes when he’s not well (and what the team has done in his absence isn’t a vote against him, but rather a way to see that the team believes they can win by invoking the values of Reyes – the Claw!).  David Wright is a wingman, and while that may be good for another team, the fact is, it takes away from the New York Mets and it’s may be tougher short-and long-term to find appropriate players to build around a guy who needs a better supporting cast.

Ideally, as a large market we should be able to keep both but let’s face it: when both of them are performing, they haven’t won anything.  It’s not a matter of money anymore.  It’s a matter of performance.  Sometimes the chance you don’t take is the one you regret.  Look at the Phillies: they took a chance, and they are showing no signs of slowing down in the near future.

It’s time to cut the cord.  One way or another, we should be thinking about life without David Wright and a future with Jose Reyes being the leader of the team.

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Scapegoatism Wed, 18 May 2011 12:15:52 +0000 The idea of a scapegoat is a loaded one, a deeply symbolic one with biblical meanings surrounding it.

In sports, it has its own special meaning.

I recently saw a movie called “Catching Hell,” which was a documentary surrounding Steve Bartman. Perhaps you’ve heard of him, he was a guy who was infamously singled-out by not only the Cubs fanbase but the Cubs players themselves in 2003, when he reached for a fly ball coming his way during the National League Championship Series against the Florida Marlins. When the Cubs started to fall apart and was letting runs score left and right and backwards and forwards, the fans started to turn on Bartman, an unassuming quiet fellow who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, and ultimately, he had to be escorted out of Wrigley Field. He has since retreated in anonymity, and declines to do interviews.

Perhaps the most poignant line in the film was “It’s not up to Chicago to forgive Steve Bartman, it’s up to Bartman to forgive Chicago.” The idea was multifaceted: the players singled him out and acted irrationally, the fans reacted to the players and the play, and singled out their scapegoat for the Cubs’ notorious bad luck in Octobers: the meek looking guy wearing the glasses (never mind Alex Gonzalez who booted a routine double-play ball…never mind the pitchers who couldn’t hold a lead…never mind a WHOLE OTHER GAME needed to be played).

It takes a rational person to take all that in and be able to see that not only was it not Bartman’s fault, but that it easily could have been any one of us in that position.


The Mets have had their share of scapegoats over the years.

Namely, the most recent one is Carlos Beltran. I’ve had my own opinions about Beltran over the years.

In 2005, I thought he was an overhyped and overpaid star who was short of “super,” yet was being paid like one.

In 2006, I thought it was convenient that he had his buddy Carlos Delgado taking pressure off him in the lineup. What, all that money wasn’t enough of a motivation for you?

In 2007, I said some pretty nasty things about him, especially when he used that stupid 85% description when he wasn’t feeling, well, 100%.

But it was odd. There was nothing to suggest to me in 2008 that I’d feel any different. I even rolled my eyes when he claimed the “Mets were the team to beat” and telling the reporters to tell Jimmy Rollins about it. There was more. By the end of the season, I was Carlos Beltran Supporter #1, especially when I saw that for once, a Met was taking their late season faltering a bit personally.

I even predicted he’d be MVP in 2009. Of course, that was all washed aside when he got hurt. But he was on his way to having his best season ever.

And if someone had told me when he opted to get surgery a month prior to spring training that I wouldn’t have driven him out of town myself, I probably would have thought that person crazy. Because I used to be Carlos Beltran Enemy #1.

If you told me that I would be sad about Carlos Beltran’s time being up with the Mets seven years ago when he joined the team, I would have told you that you were crazy. And now, I will be sad to see him go. Whether he will be gone at the trading deadline or when his contract expires.


The Mets also benefited from a scapegoat. Possibly the most famous that his body no longer hanging in effigy after 2004. And that’s Bill Buckner, the notorious first baseman for the Boston Red Sox in 1986.

Mets fans would enjoy the “Catching Hell” movie for a few reasons. One is, it’s about baseball for crying out loud. Another reason would be that the director really focused on the 1986 World Series. Of course, we were on the receiving more-joyous end of the scapegoating of Buckner. In case you haven’t followed not only one of the greatest games in Mets history but in baseball history, period, Buckner was responsible for making an error that cause Mookie Wilson to reach base and allow the winning run to score in Game Six of the World Series.

You say “Game Six” to any Mets fan, and they know exactly what you are referring to. As a fan said on the SNY documentary Simply Amazin’, “Game Six is like saying ‘Kleenex.’”

Never mind that the Red Sox had a two run lead going into the bottom of the 10th inning. Never mind that the Mets were down to their last out and even their last strike during SEVERAL at-bats. Never mind that the game was tied on a wild pitch by Bob Stanley, thus allowing Kevin Mitchell to score. And never mind, that even losing that game, the Red Sox still had one more game to play. See, history revisionists have made this a game about the Red Sox failures, and not about the Mets glorious come from behind win.

But Buckner got the brunt of the vitriol. Because his play was so visible. Because the error was directly related to the walk-off situation for the Mets. There were several Saturday Evening Quarterbacks about the situation, how Buckner shouldn’t have even been in the game, as John McNamara usually went to a defensive replacement in late innings. But the “nostalgia” part was to have Buckner on the field to celebrate. Talk about putting the cart before the horse. In any case, throughout the years, especially prior to the Red Sox winning the World Series in 2004 and 2007, Buckner was not held in high regard with Boston. And Buckner didn’t feel the same way.

The olive branch was extended to Buckner, and he accepted, throwing out the first pitch at a Fenway Park Opening Day 2008 after their World Series win in 2007.

In that case, it was up to Bill Buckner to forgive Boston.


In 2006, the Mets were riding high. A few key acquisitions and maturing and development of internal superstars led to one of their best seasons ever, and allowing them to waltz into the playoffs.

Most Mets fans don’t remember how Paul LoDuca tagged out two runners at home in one play (or so it looked) in the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Most Mets fans won’t tell you how Tom Glavine came through in Game One, especially being down a starter. Most Mets fans barely talk about how Shawn Green muffed a fly ball out in right field, causing the dynamic to shift in Game Two at Shea. Most Mets fans won’t talk about Guillermo Mota and how he was just a waste in the bullpen that series.

Most Mets fans won’t remember that Carlos Beltran had a line of .296/.387/.667 with 3 home runs and 4 RBIs.

No, most fans don’t appreciate that. What EVERYONE remembers is that he struck out, looking, with men on base, to end the great 2006 postseason run, thus causing a domino effect of Mets string of bad luck in seasons after that.

No one will tell you how the Mets failed to score in the bottom of the 6th inning with the bases loaded, after Endy Chavez’s amazing catch. No one will bring up that the Mets were in that position of a tie game because they failed to score on so many opportunities. No one will EVER talk about how Aaron Heilman gave up a 2-run home run to a barely .200 BA hitter in the top of the 9th inning. How about when the Mets were winning in Game Two, lost the lead and subsequently their momentum (I may not believe in clutch hits, but I do believe in momentum).

No, people will unfairly target Carlos Beltran for looking at strike three. Even when I didn’t particularly like him, I saw the whole game and watched the whole series. I knew it wasn’t his fault. He just happened to be the last out of a particularly heartbreaking series.


According to the Bleacher Report article, when Carlos Beltran leaves the Mets, he will be ranked in the top 10 in several offensive categories in franchise history. I’ll remember him for his defense, especially when he made the running catch on Tal’s Hill in Houston’s Minute Maid Park. And for the record, I still love that Astros fans still boo the beejeezus out of him for walking about 2004, and I’d like to think for that phenomenal catch.

People chide him for being too “stoic” and not showing enough “emotion.” But I happened to attend a Mets event where all those assumptions were thrown out the window. Carlos Beltran wants to win, he IS competitive, and has passion. Does anyone honestly think that he PLANNED to get hurt? Does anyone think that he wanted the Mets to mishandle his knee injury? It’s evident that he took 2008 personally, and was one of the only players who didn’t owe Mets fans an apology after that season.

Sure, I know he made the last out of the NLCS, but I also know just how underrated he is, and that most of us will miss him when he’s gone.

Yes, even YOU. There is an old saying that you don’t know what you got till it’s gone. And Carlos Beltran is one of those where we lose paradise and get a parking lot in whoever replaces him in the outfield.

Something my husband and I talked about the other day was whether (providing he is still on the team then) on the last home game of the season, will the Mets honor him with a video montage a la Mike Piazza in 2005. And I said, no, it wouldn’t happen.

Don’t get me wrong. I would love to see it. But it’s not something that would suit Carlos Beltran, the quiet leader. I also wonder how many people wouldn’t cheer him. That would make me very sad if that were to happen.

And in the end, like Bartman with Chicago, Carlos Beltran will need to forgive New York for treating him shabbily and underappreciating him.

Carlos, it took me awhile, but I appreciate you, and I know several other fans who do. Don’t listen to the vocal minority. I’ll always wonder “What might have been” with you, but I’m very proud to have had you as a Met for these years.

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Pelf-Awareness Sat, 07 May 2011 02:34:56 +0000 I am one of the regulars on a weekly Kult of Mets Personalities podcast, and if you listened to it, you would know that I am the resident Mike “Big Pelf” Pelfrey homer. I root for him probably harder than any other Met. I don’t know why either, but I feel a personal connection to Big Pelf. It’s mostly because I saw him pitch in his major league debut in 2006. I always felt he got the bum’s rush in between 2006 and 2007, and then had his break out season in 2008. It was tough to see who the “real” Mike Pelfrey was in the midst of 2009, with the team just tanking as badly as they did, but then he re-emerged in 2010. I truly felt this was the Mike Pelfrey that I believed in, the Big Pelf who was finally living up to his potential.

But being a huge Pelfrey supporter does not make me one of those apologists. I call myself jokingly a “homer” but I am a realistic optimist when it comes to him. Of course I have a soft spot in my heart for home grown talent and especially for home grown pitchers, but I am realistic in acknowledging that Mike Pelfrey’s start this season is a cause for concern.

What I don’t appreciate is when Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo were let go by the Mets organization that most people were looking to find their next scapegoat. I was surprised when I heard most people wanting to go after Mike Pelfrey, a guy who just won 15 games the year prior. But it was an easy target: after all, we knew he was a head case and here was Mets manager Terry Collins putting the label “ace” on him with the absence of Johan Santana. Now, I know Mike Pelfrey isn’t the “ace” of a rotation with or without Johan Santana, and probably will never be…But outside of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee (of course those two are bad examples since they are on the same team), Tim Lincecum, CC Sabathia and Felix Hernandez, are there truly “aces” like the way we were schooled on them (like the Tom Seavers, Nolan Ryans, Dwight Goodens, Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Juan Marichal, etc) left in baseball today?

But that’s not even the question here. What I want to know is the following about starting Mike Pelfrey or keeping him around at all…when he’s playing for an NL East team and he pitches HORRIBLY against NL East teams???

Here’s a newsflash folks: It’s not about his head, it’s not about whether he’s good or not, whether he’s a fly ball pitcher or strikeout pitcher or whatever, it’s the fact that he can’t perform well against any NL East team on the road.

Against NL East teams, here is a sampling of Mike Pelfrey’s career numbers against NL East teams. 


Team Games Started Wins Losses ERA BA WHIP K/9
Atlanta Braves 15 4 9 5.65 .331 1.744 4.6
Florida Marlins 13 1 7 5.63 .305 1.653 5.5
Philadelphia Phillies 15 6 5 5.25 .297 1.5 5.2
Washington Nationals 16 4 6 4.22 .267 1.439 4.6

Source: Baseball Reference

These are teams he’s going to face the most over a given time season. He has GOT to bring it better than what the numbers show above.

But to add insult to injury, he seems to only perform decently against these teams while at CitiField. Did you know he’s never won a game at Nationals Park in four starts? And he’s got an over NINE ERA against the Phillies in Citizens Bank Park! No wonder Ryan Howard can tee off him there!


Stadium Games Started Wins Losses ERA BA WHIP K/9
Turner Field (ATL) 8 2 5 6.75 .347 1.734 4.9
Landshark Stadium (FLA) 6 0 3 5.88 .297 1.663 5.3
Citizens Bank Park (PHI) 7 1 3 9.38 .379 2.147 4.0
Nationals Park (WAS) 4 0 3 4.74 .268 1.459 3.3

Source: Baseball Reference

Needless to say, those numbers are pretty atrocious, barring any start against any other team. While Pelfrey has been consistently inconsistent at times in his career, the fact is he’s been abysmal against the very teams that he has to absolutely step up his game.

Why are we discussing this now? Clearly, I was willing to give the benefit of the doubt to Sandy Alderson and the crew backing him up in JP Ricciardi and Paul DePodesta. After all, they didn’t make any rash decisions until they were able to see the team perform; they didn’t go wild and crazy with the free agency market and setting the team back even further; they were able to cut ties with those who needed to (Pedro Feliciano ,Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo) and round out the rest of the team and bullpen with some high-reward low-risk types (Chris Young, Chris Capuano, and Jason Isringhausen to name a few).

If I can be pleased that they didn’t jump the gun simply for jumping it, I have to say that I am dismayed at a few things. One is that I’ve been thrown under the bus for suggesting Angel Pagan should have been traded in the offseason. I still believe they could have gotten better value for him then. Two is that for a front office team that is so heavily reliant on stats, the decision should have been a no-brainer: the 20/20 hindsight of trading Mike Pelfrey at his high value.

It’s not even trading him at his high value. Mike Pelfrey, while he has shown some glimmers of hope and talent there over the years, is maddeningly inconsistent against NL East teams. If a schmoe blogger like myself can easily look up some stats on Baseball Reference, chances are they dropped the ball on this. Now, Pelfrey has shown that he’s got issues again, and unless he has a bounceback month (which I won’t totally rule out), the fact is the Mets aren’t going to get any value for Mike Pelfrey whatsoever. At least, to the extent of what they’ve invested in him already.

Look, don’t get me wrong. I love Mike Pelfrey. No one wants to see him succeed more than me (well, maybe I know a few others over at Brooklyn Met Fan who do). I am also of the frame of mind that if he can succeed elsewhere I can put my homerism aside and let him be the best he can be someplace else. His stats suggest that he’s been successful against AL East teams (of all things) and against NL Central teams. Some team wouldn’t have wanted to take a gander at him?

Most of all, I believe that when Mike Pelfrey leaves, he’ll come back to bite us in the ass, Nolan Ryan-style. I can see Big Pelf being a force on another team. To me, sad as I am to admit to it, his time may have come and gone here in New York. I just wish that it didn’t take a month into the season for everyone to realize this.

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Support Mets Brain Tumor Awareness Night Sat, 23 Apr 2011 18:02:17 +0000 The Mets are joining forces with the National Brain Tumor Society (NBTS) on Saturday, May 28, for Brain Tumor Awareness Night.

If you were thinking of attending a Mets vs Phillies game, why not this one?  If you purchase tickets through the NBTS link, a portion of the sales go to the NBTS.

Pitch in for a good cause and rally the Mets fans together for Brain Tumor Awareness!

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Shake It Up Sun, 17 Apr 2011 12:42:35 +0000 At Aerys Sports, there is a fine conglomerate of baseball bloggers, headed up and written by women.  Their resident Mets blogger, Kelly Lake who is the author of “The Curious Case of Sidd Finch,” raised an interesting question about the Mets a few days ago.  She asked: When will the players be held accountable?

It’s an incredibly fair question, and one I wanted to address myself.  Lake’s raised a point about the blame game.  Media and especially fans are incredibly reactive to scapegoat a “person,” such as recent whipping boy Mike Pelfrey by booing him during the introductions on Opening Day and annihilating him on Twitter; Jason Bay who is injured and not even around to get booed; or even the new management team including Sandy Alderson who some fans believe he did not do enough to complement the previous construct of the team or Terry Collins who some believe may not have been qualified to begin with to be the New York Mets manager.

Perhaps the blame lies in the team itself, that has gone through so much turnover IN the upper ranks, perhaps there needs to be not just a culture change (which does not happen overnight but in small steps) but a change physically WITH the team.

MMO blogger Jessep brought up a similar thought in his post yesterday on “Realizing It’s Time To Rebuild.”  We can wax intellectual about who needs to step up and how, or how the manager and coaches need to change but the fact is, the only person who can shake things up in the current construct is Sandy Alderson. Unfortunately, he was handed a team with a middle of the road farm system (a little too middle of the road, as he stated once) and one whose players (aka commodities or trade chips) were at its lowest value.  Players he could theoretically trade could set the team back a few years and be truly in rebuild mode.

Take for example David Wright.  Wright has been on this team since 2004 and has lived under four different managers in that time.  His position has not changed, but going through so much turnover on the team must take its toll on a player.  It’s become obvious that while fans and media want him to be the “face of the franchise,” the team hasn’t necessarily gone that extra leap to be just an okay team as constructed to being a force to plow into town and pillage the local opponent.

Jose Reyes has been in New York since 2003, and while he has gone through the same leadership changes as Wright has, perhaps the stress is a little off him.  However, with his vibrant personality, he remains a fan favorite but the audible whispers are that he will be traded (as his contract is up after this season).

Mike Pelfrey was rushed to further the agenda of a previous regime because the Mets were caught unprepared without a true fifth starter in their breakout season in 2006 (Jose Lima, anyone?).  What I see is someone who has potential but has been unfulfilled because of, again, pressures out of his control to perform on a team that needed a jolt but he simply was not ready for it.

I hate making excuses for grown men who get millions of dollars to play a game for a living.  I’d like to put things IN perspective.

For those who wanted Sandy Alderson to “do more,” I have to say he did his best this offseason, but he did more with less.  This has nothing to do with “small marketism” which he’s been accused of more than once.  The New York Mets have had one of the highest payrolls in the sports in the last few years and have absolutely nothing to show for it except lots of debt and clogged payrolls.  in a sense they’ve become a laughingstock by constantly underachieving and being caught unawares that things CAN actually not go as planned.

For those who want more from Terry Collins, I happened to meet him and thought he was the right guy for the job after I met him.  He’s exactly the type of personality we’d want in the clubhouse.  I was pro-Wally Backman, but came to the conclusion that Backman would be set up to fail (I doubt he would get more out of this construct than Collins is now).  That said, if we want Collins to get fired up or throw watercoolers around, I don’t necessarily think that will help the team operate at a higher level or change things or be good in any way.

So now what?  What is Alderson & Co supposed to do – trade Wright, Reyes, Pelfrey and Santana for that matter when he returns and just burn the whole process down, then start anew?  No, but I think a shake-up may be necessary to break free from the chains that harness this team.

While management has changed and has had consistently more turnover than your local McDonald’s, the players have in effect remained the same.  If we want to do something besides have Collins throw around a water cooler or Alderson turn back the clock and spend millions on Cliff Lee and Carl Crawford, I believe it’s too early to even orchestrate it…but perhaps the Curious Case of Sidd Finch had a point in bringing up that the players ultimately need to be held accountable.

Why are we holding on to a team formula that clearly hasn’t worked in several years?

Is it too early to discuss a trade that will shake-up and wake-up the team?  Unfortunately, it looks like Alderson would be damned if he does (trade guys with value) and damned if he doesn’t (does nothing and the team only wins four games this season).

I’d like to hear your thoughts on it.  Someone suggested trading a package of David Wright and Mike Pelfrey to me.  To obtain value, you’ve got to trade value.  I even suggested that Mets should have traded Angel Pagan in the offseason, and I was reamed for it.  Joe Janish at Mets Today suggested that perhaps the Chicago White Sox might be interested in Francisco Rodriguez since their closer situation is precarious. There are pluses and minuses to each scenario but they have to be weighed.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will Flushing’s team. There have got to better days, but we may need to be patient in figuring that journey.

We’re not going to like any potential trade scenarios.  But it’s time to come out of the comfort zone and be realistic.  The Mets are holding onto a virtual reality of a team that has not done much to prove that they are worthy of winning, just a lot of what ifs and what could-be’s.

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Crash and Burn Wed, 23 Mar 2011 00:11:01 +0000 So now that the Mets have parted ways with both Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez, there are a variety of opinions on how this soap opera has panned out.  Should they have stayed on because they were owed a king’s ransom, the Mets would essentially be paying them either way, right?  Or does this truly show that the new world order on the Mets front office team has an agenda, one that says, if you don’t perform, take a hike?

If the latter thought tags me as an optimist, then consider my glass half-full (but bartender, please keep the refills comin’).  Yet, the dialogue has continued into the organization’s past, present and future.  Present times it’s easy: the Mets are going on hungrier talent from within, plus a few reclamation projects with some upside and an intact core of talent that’s getting older (but on good days we can see why they were once the Children of our Future).  The future we see in fuzzier terms.  The new brass has a plan and while able to listen to the rumblings of fans in the current construct, they are willing to take a more patient approach in internal growing.  As for the past, well, it’s evident in seeing David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, among others.  But we know after this season, one of those three will still certainly be a Met…

This brings me to a cycle of abuse that the Mets have had historically, not just in the free-spending Omar Minaya administration, but even dating back to the M. Donald Grant days.  Couple that with since basically the Joe McIlvaine days (which in baseball parlance, lasted about 15 minutes), there hasn’t been a steady draft or even a drafting plan.  It’s a double-edged sword, building one’s team.  If one chooses to do the free agent route, one has to part with many first round draft picks and harbor questions about future performance.  If you go the prospect route, some of them might not pan out, but can be used as bargaining chips to solidify teams that are one or two pieces away from it all.

If you’ve read the Maple Street Press Mets Annual 2011, two pieces addressed these very issues.  Jon Springer, of Mets by the Numbers fame, wrote a piece on the Mets history of free agency dealings titled “I’ll Buy That For A Dollar,” while Toby Hyde of Mets Minor League blog wrote a piece on the last draft that Sandy Alderson, Paul DePodesta and JP Ricciardi are working around called “Back Draft: Same Old Song in the Last Minaya Draft.”  By the way, if you haven’t read the MSP Mets Annual, well…why haven’t you?

Springer lays the foundation for the Mets history of free agency, starting mostly in the M. Donald Grant era, which famously lost two superstars in Tom Seaver and Dave Kingman to begin with, then set off a chain of events that kept the Mets from not only being uncompetitive, but being basically rock bottom in anything.  The idea, Grant suggested, is that “we’re sportsmen — we’re not in it for the money,” until, Springer relates, money got involved.  Grant went on to say that by not going after high-profile free agents that he was keeping costs low and visiting the ballpark as a cost that was within reach.  This in and of itself was a double-edged sword.  If he wasn’t putting money into the team, why should the fans?  We see some of that now, except prices are high for free-spending at CitiField these days, but with absolutely nothing to show for it except for some guys who are still being paid to potentially play for other teams.

However, it wasn’t for lack of trying.  In a twist of fate, they showed interest in Gary Matthews, Sr. (you may remember his son, who had a bloated free agent contract himself with the Angels), but was about $750K less than what he eventually signed for.  You see, we did show interest, we felt we gave him a fair offer but it was trumped.  However, how much of it was a low-balling-let’s-hope-he-really-doesn’t-take-it offer?

Even Frank Cashen’s days weren’t without free agent drama.  For a General Manager who was revered as a visionary in his time, and is even a charter member of the Mets Hall of Fame, his luck with free agents wasn’t all that great.  Take for instance losing out on the Dave Winfield sweepstakes, who went to cross-town rivals the Yankees, and settling for George Foster instead.  This appears to be a common thread in Mets lore.  Even though Minaya didn’t show interest or visibly anyway, settling for Jason Bay who was the “second best guy” in the free agent pool in the going-into-2010-season, after Matt Holliday.  It’s tough to judge who might have been the better signing, but that’s neither here nor there.  The point is, the Mets have had to settle for “sloppy seconds” in the free agency pools.  How much of it was perception of playing with the Mets (did anyone truly prefer playing in Queens as opposed to the Bronx or anywhere else for that matter?) or was it that they truly felt they were giving what they thought was fair market value and allowed FAs to walk out?

Springer even relates how the Mets lost out on Darryl Strawberry going into 1991 as a free agent.  After negotiations went south with a contract extension, Cashen panicked and had to instead give extra money to Vince Coleman.  A few firecrackers later, we know how that one turned out.  Here’s the thing though: if Cashen maybe was a little more serious about keeping Strawberry, perhaps not lowball him (even though Straw made it clear he’d wanted to play for his hometown team, the Dodgers).  Overall, this attitude seems to be one that pervades even more recent teams.  Let’s overpay the guy we didn’t really want just to say we got him.

Like I said, a cycle of crash and burn that ended with the release of Castillo and Perez.

Springer did a good job of intermingling the drafts in between those times.  Cashen was gifted in that he was able to trade off some valuable pieces he inherited for value (take for instance his deal that sent fan favorite Lee Mazzilli to the Texas Rangers for Walt Terrell – who in turn ended up into Howard Johnson — and Ronnie Darling, whom we still hear today).  Creativity is something that had to come into play, but if a General Manager lacked that acumen, it meant trouble.  Not saying that only happens to the Mets, but we follow them so closely, it does hit close to home.

The idea is that in the last few years, the farm system is a little middle-of-the-road, too MOTR for Alderson’s liking as he’s said, which is how Toby Hyde starts his discussion with “Development is Job One.”   It’s a misnomer that big market teams should spend big; they should also develop big to use as bargaining chips or to have them become superstars after development.  It’s clear after reading Hyde’s piece that the Mets system isn’t neglected nor barren: it just needs some structure.

Which leads into the “Back Draft” piece.  An issue that seems to pervade the front office thinking is that there is a strict adherence to the slotting guidelines set forth by the Commisioner.  I think this is something that needs to change, personally, and perhaps we will see these changes with this so-called executive dream team.  However, the last draft was indicative of previous Minaya drafts: “parallels continued into specific picks” according to Hyde.  Minaya liked to collect arms; I guess one could argue there is no such thing as too much pitching, but on the other hand, it doesn’t give a lot of diversification in building around a core unit.  The good news is that there is some bona fide talent in the system such as Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Cory Vaughn and Matt den Denker.  The bad news, if you can even call it that, it will take a few years before they are truly “ready.”  Perhaps Nieuwenhuis is the closest, according to Hyde’s estimates.

These two, actually three, articles jumped out at me because we’ve discussed this ad nauseum on the boards here at Metsmerized Online, and even in person when I get together to discuss Mets baseball with other fans.  The free agency cycle for the Mets has caused horrific crashing and burning that we’ve had to sit through and deal with, while the farm system lays barren that was mostly done to keep progress of winning teams going.

It backfired.  We’ve seen more bad than good come out of that.  I think it’s high time to try another route, one that won’t cause these dramatic peaks and valleys that make me write 1500 word posts.  In any event, ESPN came out with a piece on how the Mets are paying their dumped players the most.  Along with all the other poor contracts they got out of in the early 2000s, it’s evident that the cycle needs to end.  Period.

In the meantime, I highly suggest reading the Maple Street Press.  If I can get this much out of it, imagine what you can!

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Are The Mets Too Big To Fail? Thu, 03 Mar 2011 13:11:17 +0000 Too big to fail.  It’s the name of a book, a movie in production that’s based on said book, which in and of itself was based on the excusing of businesses that directly correlate to the success of the economy.  The idea is that by preventing some businesses from failing and allowing others to do so by either being portioned off in a “fire sale” or just by simply going away will not only make the strongest survive but keep the economy afloat as well.

You can almost apply that theory to Major League Baseball.  In the past decade, we saw the Montreal Expos go bankrupt and essentially relocate to Washington, D.C. after contraction was prohibited in the collective bargaining agreement set forth in 2002.

Prior to that arrangement, Bud Selig suggested that the Minnesota Twins (now a perennial playoff contender) was a contraction possibility.  I remember Jesse “The Governor” Ventura of Minnesota, taking Selig to task, when in all the talk about contraction, nowhere in those lines was thought of contracting the team Selig still had ties to (at the time), the Milwaukee Brewers who weren’t all that great at the time either.  But that’s neither here nor there.  The point is, no one really can argue that if there is talk of contraction, the smaller markets are the first to be considered.

Moving right along, MLB has its own quandary today, and it has to do with finances of two of its largest market and noteworthy franchises: the Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Mets.  In both cases, one could argue that their failings and flailings start right at the top: with their respective ownership.

In L.A., Dodgers owner Frank McCourt has been going through a very public and messy divorce.  Judging by most reports out of the City of Angels, the team itself is being used as a pawn by both parties in the contested separation.   McCourt’s soon-to-be-ex-wife, Jamie, is looking to be half-owner of the Dodgers as a result, since it is presumed to be an “asset” of Mr. McCourt and therefore fair game in their divorce settlement.  As it appears, most of their settlement talks are centered around Ms. McCourt’s right to ownership of the franchise.

In the meantime, some under-the-radar financial transactions were ultimately brought to light regarding the finances of the team on the West Coast.  While he greenlighted a $70 million expenditure this offseason, McCourt tried to use the Dodgers’ cable rights as collateral in a deal with FOX worth $200 million, should they default on the loan.  This deal was promptly rejected by Selig, adding fuel to Jamie McCourt’s fire, countering that McCourt had endangered the team’s financial stability by brokering this type of deal, and that she was entitled to the information regarding these deals.

While McCourt preaches that is all right with the team and that he’ll still own the team and pass it along to his children some day, new manager Don Mattingly has to deal with this in the background, while the team picks up players that are supposed to compliment its young core including Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Clayton Kershaw.

Sound familiar?  It should.  Substitute “Massive Ponzi scheme investment, false profits, dwindling attendance, shoddy baseball operations and bloated player contracts that have another year before coming off the books” for “McCourt divorce”, and we have ourselves the New York Mets, ladies and gentlemen.

In light of recent liquidity issues being brought to the our attention with the Wilpons and specifically Sterling Equities borrowing $25 million from the MLB discretionary fund and submitting a bid for a loan syndicate to get even more cash flow, along with borrowing an additional $50 million at some earlier point and MLB saying they will not allow the Mets to use MLB as a lifeline for money anymore, it just adds to the masochism of following this team.

The Mets, well, we all know the story too well.  A collapse in 2007, a floundering in 2008, massive injuries in 2009 and 2010 to an aging and overpaid/underachieving staff has caused a domino effect with many things in the organization.  For one, ticket sales are so low, that they caused audible concern in many outlets at the end of last season and revamped their ticket office, cutting ties with Mets ticket VP veteran Bill Iannicello and bringing in new blood in the ticket office.

My theory is that when CitiField opened in 2009, ownership thought that not only would the team draw, even if they did go through their “slumps” interest would be achieved in the novelty of the new stadium.  That wore off quickly when the summer doldrums hit.  Towards the end of ’09, secondary market tickets were going for as low as $0.99!  Couple that with another underachieving year, the Mets were literally giving tickets away to later games in the season, just to fill the seats.

No sales from fans = no revenue generating.  I would be willing to bet that SNY is probably one of the few profitable items in the Sterling portfolio of companies.  Keep in mind, of course, that Sterling Enterprises is a real estate investment trust…that industry has also taken a hit to their interests, that’s a fact.

In the meantime, I wonder how long this madness can continue, for either the Dodgers or the Mets.  The Dodgers were competitive as far as two seasons ago and could very well say that their fall off the precipice had to do with a down year from their star Matt Kemp and perhaps an unproductive Manny Ramirez (he’s on the Tampa Bay Rays now, where players careers go to die…Tampa will be addressed later of course).  The McCourt drama is just backpage headlines, they could say.  Save the nixed loan deal from FOX, we really don’t hear about liquidity issues as there seems to be cash generated through some arm of the Dodgers.  Of course, I am not in LA…so that’s just being totally subjective.

It seems to me, as an outsider looking and as a diehard fan of one of those franchises, that the only people who suffer here are the fans.  The reality is that the Mets have not decreased payroll.  They, too, have a built-in excuse about the underperformance of high ticket free agents, injuries and wanting to go for low-risk/high-reward instead of the low-reward/high-risk route they had taken in the past seven years.  But the Mets did, technically, spend this offseason, but they were acting frugally.  Perhaps some fans thought it might have been a good thing to overpay Cliff Lee when Lee has a better chance of winning anywhere else BUT the Mets at this current moment.  Other may have wondered why they couldn’t have taken a shot at Carl Crawford.  I have no idea, but locked into Jason Bay for now kind of limited that idea.  There are tons and tons of unanswered questions, but the Mets can’t say they didn’t spend and have not spent in the past.  It’s where they are spending it, who they entrust with it and what has happened.

I couldn’t help but wonder though…Does MLB have its own “Too Big To Fail” policy regarding franchises?  I discussed in a podcast the other night this domino effect that specifically the Mets have had.  In the past, I was trying to be objective, not buy everything that was handed tome at face value and try to look at things analytically since I have analyzed financial information for a majority of my career.  I was trying not to look at things like a “fan.”

Then one of my blolleagues on this podcast said something that hit me: when the Mets release info, it’s typically when it’s worse than they are saying.  Whether dealing with injuries, managerial issues, even the stadium, it’s too little, too late.  It makes me wonder if when a large market team is scraping around for coins in the sofa cushions, it’s time to sell the team.  If the Sterling team is in as much debt as the news is speculating, it’s going to be impossible to find someone to assume those liabilities.  The same, to a lesser extent, in LA.  Frank McCourt is getting lines of credit left and right.  What happens if a judge declares his wife 50% owner?  Will he have to buy her out of her share?  Or will this court case drag on forever and ever, and their fans will have to take a back seat to get a decent product out there?

And if the Mets go bankrupt and are excused from paying the debt…how far will MLB go?  Who will they allow in as an owner?  I’m talking new blood and not these old fart billionaires who have made this an exclusive Boys Club for years.  MLB might need an overhaul overall, and with Selig’s contract up in 2012, there might not be a better time to impart this.

Similar to that tree in the woods, if the Mets and Dodgers fail in MLB, will anyone notice?  Probably not.  We won’t notice because the ownership club in MLB is strong enough to set it up that even those who are not the strongest (of teams) can and will survive.  If MLB has gone to these great lengths to keep these teams operational simply by either turning a blind eye or extending lifelines, then I am expecting more of the same until the very worst has happened.  And we don’t even know if it will come to that.

Keep in mind a few years ago, as I mentioned above, Selig wanted to contract the Twins and Expos.  Now there’s suggestion that the Tampa Bay Rays are up for contraction.  They went from one of the most exciting teams in baseball three years ago, to one that is barely finding an identity there on the Gulf coast.

Imagine that being a team in New York or Los Angeles.

Wouldn’t happen.  There is too much at stake in those markets.

Too big to fail?  Indeed.

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A Portrait of the R.A.-tist as a Young Man Mon, 21 Feb 2011 21:43:12 +0000   

Giving us shades of Bob Ross, J.S. Mill along with a bit of Tom Candiotti thrown in there, R.A. Dickey is almost a contradictory baseball player.  He is humble, shy and down-to-earth but is well-spoken and doesn’t mince words in his interviews; he processes his game cerebrally but is not a head case on the mound; he is a Mets pitcher who is getting paid his worth…well, what we can say about that except that it’s about time the Mets realized the term “value” and “pitcher” can indeed go together.

Dickey has become one of my personal favorite characters and players on the Mets going into 2011.  And by “characters,” I mean a literary figure.  You see, I favor R.A. Dickey not only because I never have a heart attack when he starts a game, but also because he’s a fellow (former) English literature major.  Dickey is someone I can relate to: he can discuss and interpret literature as easily as baseball.

Instead of discussing literature though, he is now writing a piece of it: over the weekend it was announced that Dickey would be entering the pantheon of memoir writers, channeling his inner James Joyce by creating his own self-portrait, but instead of his portrait of an artist, it’s the portrait of an art of pitching and his life.  Most baseball players’ memoirs or even autobiographies are less “auto” and more of a story told by the ghost writer.  Dickey plans to do most of the book himself, and with a publishing timetable of one year, should be an admirable feat in and of itself.

We all know what an innately feel-good story the evolution of Robert Allen Dickey is.  His most diligent of fans got to appreciate his post-game quotes and his inner lyricist.  As Greg Prince at Faith and Fear in Flushing wrote in his Most Valuable Mets of 2010 post, “He earned consideration through his pitching. He clinched the award the minute he cleared his throat.”  In fact, their annual post highlighting the achievements of an overperforming Met at FAFIF may have been a precursor to Dickey’s memoirs of the Quotable R.A.

Prince was certainly not the only one who appreciates Dickey.  Mike Silva over at NY Baseball Digest wrote that Johan Santana’s absence in 2011 is more palatable because of the emergence of Dickey.  Even as far as Seattle, Larry Stone related how Dickey’s journey has led to as permanent of a role pitching for the Mets (using even a literary term “Odyssey” to describe Dickey’s Homeric triumphs of epic proportions).

Earlier, I was a little hesitant about giving R.A. Dickey more than a one year contract, but with the Mets avoiding arbitration with Dickey and agreeing to a two year contract worth $7.8 million, this is the type of low-risk/high-reward transaction that the Mets have been lacking in their pitching staff (not to mention the whole team) for awhile.

I am not only eager to see R.A. Dickey’s performance in 2011 but also to see how he performs in the realm of Renaissance Man: the rebirth of pitching as an art form and the portrait of a budding writer.

And whatever you do, don’t compare Dickey to fellow knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.  “If I spend a lot of time trying to be Tim Wakefield, I’m going to lose who I am…And that spells bad news.

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One Way or Another: Part One Thu, 27 Jan 2011 12:07:42 +0000 Blogger’s Note: I have been thinking about writing a piece about this for awhile.  It’s been a tough one to get all out on paper, so I have decided to break this into two parts: one today, one tomorrow.  In the meantime, here is Part One of “One Way or Another.” ~ Coop

If you listen to one part of the Mets fan base, this offseason is a bust and Sandy Alderson is a “hack.”  The other half says, Alderson is smart for waiting it out and not spending like a drunken sailor, like previous administrations have done.  While sexy names like Cliff Lee or Jayson Werth (tongue-in-cheek) have stayed away from Flushing, Sandy Alderson has gotten a lot of the little things right by going after higher-risk and higher-reward types on the open market.

One of the first items on his checklist was to exercise Jose Reyes’ option for the 2011 season, which he did.  However, when Reyes recently stated that he didn’t want to negotiate any contract extensions during the season, this perked my ears.  The last contract extension he signed was mid-season, in 2006, when the Mets were riding high and they were winning and everyone was happy.  So now there’s a bit of a standoff with Reyes and the front office.  He is in essence saying “Negotiate now” and the Mets (perhaps rightfully so) are waiting to see how he performs.

One possibility is that injury-prone Reyes could indeed have his break out year, coincidentally with his “walk” year.  Surprise, surprise, as he would hardly be the first nor the last to do that.  The other possibility is that same injury prone Reyes could be, well, hurt for some time this season, and therefore they don’t want to put the cart before the horse and give him an extension now.

I say hogwash to that.  There’s absolutely no reason why Jose Reyes should not warrant at least a three-year extension right now, as his value is probably lower not only for the hometown discount but for his not-so-hot recent playing years, namely 2009 and 2010.  For an office that predicates their philosophy on “value,” the time is now for him.

However, barring that happening (it is pretty unlikely), the idea from bloggers, beat writers and the vocal fan is that come 2012, Reyes will no longer be a Met.  Here’s the oft-repeated scenario: he’ll have a breakout season, and he’ll ask for “too much money.”  The Mets will either: low-ball him in money/years, think he’s “not worth it” or “they’ll be too cheap” to sign him.  Though I will attest till I am blue in the face that the Mets have demonstrated that over the course of my fandom, they are a) NOT cheap and b) just dumb with their money and who they spend it on…kicking Reyes to the curb WHETHER OR NOT he has a career year in 2011 at age 28 is an idea that horrifies me.

In Jose Reyes we lose a lot if he walks.  We lose a shortstop [please spare me the whole “Ruben Tejada (or Wilmer Flores, depending on who you talk to) is the shortstop of the future” business], we lose a leadoff hitter, we also lose a guy that other teams love to hate.  That intangible can’t be quantified yet it’s incredibly tough to replace.

Something people tell me is that Jose Reyes is the antithesis to what Sandy Alderson wants in a leadoff hitter.  While I have a ton of respect and intrigue related to sabermetrics and using this as a way to quantify undervalued players, Jose Reyes when he’s healthy is certainly an elite-with-great-potential leadoff hitter.  Let’s take a look at his recent stats along with some of the other leadoff hitters through MLB.

Name Team PAs BA OBP BB K H RS
Jose Reyes Mets 603 .282 .321 31 63 159 83
Ichiro Suzuki Mariners 732 .315 .359 45 86 214 74
Rajai Davis A’s 561 .284 .320 26 78 149 66
Shane Victorino Phillies 648 .259 .327 53 79 152 84
Jason Bartlett Rays 532 .254 .324 45 83 119 7

2010 Stats: Baseball Reference

Please bear in mind the following: I have no idea how many of these Plate Appearances where the hitter was batting in the actual “leadoff” position in the lineup (remember: Jose Reyes even batted third in the lineup for a period of time), this was based on what ESPN has broken out as the “leadoff” hitter in the respective teams’ lineups, and that I personally chose these hitters because they were well-known as “the leadoff hitter” of their respective team in 2010.  I also used Plate Appearances as opposed to “At-Bats” since I am paying closer attention to walks, and I feel PAs may be a better assessment for their actual percentages.  And, as always, lies, damned lies, and statistics ~ Mark Twain.

Moving right along, the consensus is that a leadoff hitter should have the following components: they need to draw walks; they should be speedy; slugging is a lesser evil as they don’t need to hit them over the wall per se; they should have a reputation of being aggressive on the basepaths; essentially, they should model themselves after Willie “Mays” Hayes in Major League.  The gold-standard On-Base Percentage for leadoff hitters should not be less than .350.

Interesting, as Ichiro Suzuki from the Seattle Mariners is widely known as the ideal leadoff hitter, and he’s the only one of the players I have chosen in this vacuum to have a .350+ OBP for 2010.  Also surprisingly, he doesn’t walk that much, only 6% of his plate appearances accounted for that (his strength lies in that he’s a singles hitter).  The one on the list who drew the most walks, perhaps not surprisingly to us, was Shane Victorino. Yet he and Jason Bartlett of the Tampa Bay Rays (now San Diego Padres) drew walks 8% of the time.  Formerly of Oakland-now-Toronto’s Rajai Davis and Reyes bring up the rear, 5% of the time.  Reyes’ numbers didn’t surprise me, as everyone was a bit “off” on the Mets this year; yet the speedmeister Davis was touted as some premier leadoff guy for Oakland.

Reyes’ strength is that he doesn’t strikeout all that often, but his real value comes to us in the form of hits and runs scored.  I think I might be alone in this assessment, but I feel as though runs scored is sort of an arbitrary thing that ties into OBP.  It’s more reflective of who is driving the guy in, but that’s sort of a chicken-or-egg analysis on my part which I’m sure someone will be happy to tear apart.  But think about how abysmal the Mets were at scoring opportunities in 2010.  Reyes had the highest scoring percentage based on his plate appearances out of the five I included here, slightly edging out Victorino and Bartlett, who are on respective offensive powerhouses and the teams who were the class of their divisions in 2010.

The common refrain I hear is that Reyes, ultimately, does not fit into the whole Sandy Alderson/Dream Team Executive sabermetric plan.  “For a leadoff hitter, he needs to get have a higher OBP and draw more walks.”  I can’t say I disagree with that statement, if he wasn’t getting on base at all.  Sure, he could use some plate discipline but who didn’t on this team?  If he’s scoring lots of runs and more valuable that way, perhaps then should we question if the whole OBP thing is overrated?  I think it’s shortsighted if they were to view Reyes in a vacuum like that, just as I did with the five leadoff hitters I chose above.  It’s simply not going to tell the whole story.

I would like to think that Alderson and his “dream executive team” are looking at the big picture when it comes to our current state of affairs.  I just hope that if they do decide to “wait it out” with Reyes, that it doesn’t come back to bite us.  They are the so-called smartest guys in the room, so I hope they are assessing the idea of Reyes being on the team for the longer-term.

One way or another, a future without Jose Reyes is not one I’d like to think about.

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Bonilla’s Millions Wed, 12 Jan 2011 12:25:06 +0000 When the New Year kicked in, talk of the Mets turned from looking towards the future to taking a not-so-fond trip down Memory Lane regarding one of the most disliked and controversial characters in Mets history. Nope, I’m not talking about Richie Hebner. I’m talking about Bobby Bonilla.

While there is much to be said about the Mets ownership lack of baseball acumen, and even in recent years being linked to a scandalous international Ponzi scheme, this deal is not nearly as bad as it looks on paper. Invested long-term, I would say that it was even a good deal, benefiting the Wilpons just as much as the Bonillas. Back when I was completing my MBA, I actually used this as a case study – I no longer have my backing documents or spreadsheet, but with reinvestments and compounded interest, the Mets have made money off of that initial $5 million while Bonilla has not. So while they are paying him out something like $29 million over the next 25 years, chances are they’ve made their money and are reinvesting it again. Hopefully, not with another Ponzi scheme.

For Bonilla, it’s sort of like choosing the lottery lump sum payout versus annual payments. There are tax implications for the lump payout for the winner; the annuity is guaranteed money but is taxed per year therefore not as big of a hit. While Bobby, from my understanding, is being paid from another fund, not impacting the current payroll from what I understand and adding on to the time value of money, I remember that the dollars and cents of it really wasn’t that far off if he got paid in 1999 or over the course of 25 years.

I won’t bore you with those details here. But let me give you some lay examples to bring the transaction to light.

In Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, Dr. Evil comes back from being frozen for 30 years and re-emerges in the 1990s. He requires a ransom of (cue the pinky) “one MEEELLLION dollars” or in non-evil terms, one million American dollars. When his number two man Number Two says that amount would get laughed at in the 1990s, he asks then for “One hundred BEEEEEELLLION dollars!”

Think about that for a second. To us ordinary working-class folk, one million dollars seems plenty, right? To a corporation or small republic, $100 billion is certainly a lot but billions of dollars are spent weekly in the stream of corporate transactions. The most telling part in Dr. Evil’s demands though is that in the course of 30 years, an acceptable ransom has gone up by five additional zeroes. (Meanwhile, when Dr. Evil goes back to the ‘60s and tries to hold the world hostage again, he is laughed at by the $100 billion request, being told it was an imaginary number).

The Bobby Bonilla deal is not THAT bad of a deal and will not be as much of an albatross or worrisome as some make it out to be. I mean, he signed a $29 million/five-year contract in 1992, 19 years ago. Today that player would be considered “cheap,” a STEAL even or at the very least a player who probably is on the downside of his career.

Back in 1999, $5 million was and still is plenty of money no doubt, especially owed to a player who didn’t contribute much and had more ill-will than good over that time. Factor in the time value of money, we know that was once $5 million in ’99 money is not worth anywhere near what $5 million is today. Yes, I know, boo hoo, but he’s got a family to feed right? (That was sarcasm)

Yes, I get it. Bobby Bonilla represents everything that’s bad from the Mets’ past. He is the poster-child of the Worst Team Money Could Buy, and possibly our last image of him was playing cards with Rickey Henderson during the critical Mets/Braves NLCS in 1999.

Our last-ing impression of him will be the fact that he will be “employed” by the Mets for the next 25 years. However, I am here to defend the ownership of the Mets and say it was actually a decent deal on their end, from a business standpoint. Yes, I know, where’s the rock salt? Has Hell frozen over? I’m actually defending the Wilpons. Yes, I know, it happens from time to time, but I do give credit where it is due.

That’s not taking away from Bonilla. Deferred payments are pretty par for the course in contracts; however, you don’t hear a lot about them in baseball due to the fact they are mostly incentive driven (like, a pitcher will have hit X-amount of innings for a deferred payment to kick in or some crap). Please note, I have no record of Bonilla’s terms with the Mets, but it may or may not have included that deferred payment provision (bonus points if someone can find that for me). It was a brilliant negotiating tactic, if that was in fact what happened in the board room when they “bought him out.”

If Lenny Dykstra is any cautionary tale, fact is most retired sports figures do not handle their money well or have a long-term game plan. This was a win-win situation for both sides. Sure, you would like the Mets to put the screws to him but the Players Union says there’s this thing called a contract that guarantees money, so they’d have had to pay him anyway. Why not work it out to the best of their ability?

There is a faction that says the Mets should have just paid him his money and cut ties immediately. Well, sure I certainly agree with that. However, we are not privy to what happened the day he was released by the team. There could have been a standoff or it could have simply been written in his contract, fully expecting to, you know, not play cards during a playoff game.

I think what’s happened is that we people who don’t earn player salaries, tend to look at this as an excess of the Player’s Union, lack of a salary cap and that players are overpaid. Hey, no kidding! This was not meant to be a piece defending the Mets management nor Bobby Bonilla himself. It’s a way of saying, hey, there actually are smart business transactions happening in the Mets management.

And in an evil parallel universe, while the Mets are again paying Bobby Bonilla, a parallel universe could unfold and the Mets might do the opposite of what they did during his Worst Team Money Could Buy era and actually have a decent record.

Hey. You never know.

Until then, the only piece of financial advice I will ever give is to take the annuity payment if you ever win the Mega Millions. It’s the best case scenario for everyone.

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Newsflash: The Mets Spend Money Thu, 09 Dec 2010 11:07:59 +0000 So riddle me this, Batman: how does the third highest payroll in the National League translate to “The Mets don’t spend any money?”

Fanbases from all over are a reactionary bunch.  I think it’s more pronounced in New York City, however, where high payrolls are the norm and superstars come in to sell jerseys and get people to come to games.  Then they retire, and we look to get our fill by seeing who will come next.

We are all guilty of it, as Mets fans, of accusing our ownership, the esteemed Sterling Equities Group, as being “cheap.”  Having the third highest payroll in the National League tells me just the opposite: they are willing to spend money.  It’s just they’ve had the wrong people making the “baseball decisions” for a long time.

I hope that vicious cycle ends with Sandy Alderson’s leadership.  What got the Mets into trouble recently is spending money in ALL the wrong places.  Thank goodness someone is stopping the insanity by putting a cap on the madness.

I am far from an Alderson apologist.  Heck, I was probably the biggest Minayapologist until 2010, when I saw that when other teams had their stars get injured (Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies), they made no excuses and still kept in the thick of things.  When your Plan Bs and Cs entail crusty overpaid veterans (“but they’re a good clubhouse guy”) and not-yet-ready-for-prime-time players who are barely old enough to legally buy beer, that’s not a good plan.  In fact, that’s not a plan at all.  It’s a let’s-throw-some-elephant-dung-on-the-wall-and-see-if-it-sticks approach.

When you are a “big market” team, there is no REQUIREMENT to spend like one.  What would you pick: a front office with a plan full of the smartest guys in the room to undo damage of reckless years of overspending who will potentially bring in what’s best for the team?  Or would you rather have another guy who promotes speed, pitching and defense and does just the opposite and trades for the likes of Gary Matthews, Jr?

Possibly my biggest complaint as a fan who bleeds Met blue is that on paper, the teams look good, but structurally I knew the foundation was not solid enough to support a long-term successful formula.  The changes start at the top but also rest in a solid farm system.  A big market has the goods to part with in smart trades, and not hope that long-term acquisitions cash in.  Look at the Phillies and Red Sox again, and how they’ve been able to trade for top-flight players in the prime of their career mid-season and off-season, and using their own prospects to finance the transaction (of course, along with contract extensions).  You have to tip their cap because they have a plan, a front office that’s sound and not willing to jump through hoops simply because an impatient vocal minority says they need to make a move we can talk about.

When Omar Minaya signed Carlos Beltran in the off-season leading up to 2005, the Mets became a win-now team.  Completely antithetical to what he was preaching about speed, defense and pitching.  Beltran was speedy, young and was a great defender in his position.  However, he had just come off a career-year and certainly wasn’t sold on the idea to “wait around” while the Mets rebuilt.  That’s more Jayson Werth’s role in Washington (though he’s getting paid in both money and years the cornerstone price).

Dating back to the dismal days of Al Harazin, the Mets have not had much of a plan.  Steve Phillips, to his credit, was lucky enough to draft Jose Reyes and David Wright on his watch.  Unfortunately he and the GMs who followed him in Jim Duquette and Minaya did not do a hot job of building the team around them to be a consistent winner and consistently competitive.

My advice to Mets fans during the Winter Meetings is to not only start drinking heavily, but relax.  Enjoy the holidays and point and laugh at the insanity happening on other teams.  I, for one, am happy that for the first time since I’ve been in grade school basically, the Mets seem to have SOME kind of plan and direction and goals in place.  I’m glad they are not listening to us.

Carry on.

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I Love Backman, But… Tue, 16 Nov 2010 03:58:36 +0000 I won’t sugar coat things for you (as if you’ve ever worried about the Coop doing that)…I LOVE Wally Backman.  LOVE HIM.   When My Summer Family was still in operation, I wrote a piece called “Backman is the Answer.  What was the Question?“  This detailed why I was upset that the Mets didn’t at least interview him in 2004, before they went on a comedy of errors hiring Willie Randolph to his muddled firing to ending with Jerry Manuel.  In summation, I said that Backman may not have major league experience, but he’s endearing to Mets fans and most of all, on a young team, he’d really be a great molder of young minds.

Some things came out recently that raised some questions for me.  A piece by Bitter Bill himself, Bill Price, who said that the Mets are playing it safe, and subsequently wrong, with Backman.  I couldn’t disagree with that philosophy.  After all, I feel like Wally Backman, despite his qualifications being limited to just minor league and independent league management, is the right candidate for the way the Mets are constructed right now, with a lot of young talent and veterans who have not taken the leadership reigns who would be receptive to plans.   MetsMerized Online’s own Hojo’s Mojo wrote in response to a Joel Sherman piece about that very aspect, that Backman was not a candidate because Sandy Alderson has reservations about hiring a first-time major league manager especially in New York (same goes for Chip Hale, who may return in a capacity as a coach next season).

Now, I disagree with that philosophy wholeheartedly, if we are to judge Backman simply on that aspect of his candidacy.  The “frontrunners” the media assumes are Terry Collins, Clint Hurdle and Bob Melvin, and with Jose Oquendo, a coach seemingly forever with the Cardinals organization but again with no major league management experience, emerging as a dark horse candidate.  It seems there are inconsistencies lying in that method of thinking.  If Backman is not a good candidate because of his lack of major league management, then why is Oquendo’s deemed okay?  If we are to worry about Backman’s domestic disputes and run-ins with the law, then why, as Joe Janish wrote on Mets Today earlier, is Collins’ DUI in 2002 suddenly brushed under the rug?  Clint Hurdle has had down years as a manager in Colorado but can be easily swept away because it’s a smaller market and he did bring them to the playoffs twice.  As for Melvin, yawn.

I could go on and on arguing in favor of Backman, but I won’t.  It’s not because I don’t love him or not want him to manage the Mets next year or for that fact, ever.  It’s because of our emotional attachment to him.  Do we really want Backman to take the reigns of a team that is clearly in a rebuild mode at this time?

It’s nothing knocking his ability to manage.  I believe he played in New York, played on a bruising and brawling and one of the most beloved teams in New York sports history and can handle the pressures of it.  However, this is not the South Georgia Peanuts where a loss is taken in stride, and the overall team is looked at as well-run.  This is the Mets, with the media salivating at the prospect of them not doing well, and finding a scapegoat each time the team loses.  Again, I think Backman can handle that.  But can we, as fans, watch the Mets potentially be a .500 team at best next year, and give Backman the benefit of the doubt?

It may not seem like an issue, but it could be for me, as a fan.  I’d want Backman to succeed, but I also know that deep down, the manager doesn’t win the games, the team does.  On the other hand, we’ve seen demonstrated by the likes of Jerry Manuel and Willie Randolph that a manager can lose a few games without a good strategy for the team.  That’s what has been lacking over the last six years.  I think we can all break bread in agreement on that.

We’ve also seen that the ties to the ’86 team can be both a blessing and a curse.  While Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez are enjoying their Mets renaissance as broadcasters for SNY, Howard Johnson has taken his lumps in the media from bloggers and beat writers alike about how being an ’86 Met means you don’t get ’86ed from the team, ever (just reassigned).  That’s fair.

We all know that fairly or not, when a manager of a New York team has a string of bad luck, he gets hammered in the media to the extent that he is ultimately driven out of town.  Conversely, praised for doing nothing.  Look at Joe Torre.  One of the Mets’ worst managers (due to having a poorly constructed team) and beloved now because of his run with the Yankees.  When he turned down a contract offer that brought him to Los Angeles after the 2007 season, he was seen as a failure by some because the Yankees hadn’t won a World Series in seven consecutive seasons, though making it to the playoffs each of those years.

One can’t win in New York, unless of course you are.  The Mets and Sandy Alderson in particular are taking their time to make sure the I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed so that the Mets have a long-term recipe for the success.

No one wants Wally Backman to manage this team more than I do (well, maybe Backman himself wants it too).  Right now, I want what’s best for the team and perhaps our emotional attachment to Backman might cloud our judgments going forward if he were the manager.  I just hope that if true that he won’t be considered for the position any longer, than he does stay in the system.  Most players who have played for him would take a bullet for him.  If he can mold young talent at the minor league level to showcase on the big team, I can be happy with that too.

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