Mets Merized Online » Gerry Silverman http://metsmerizedonline.com Sat, 06 Feb 2016 23:29:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.13 Culmination Of An Unlikely Five-Year Plan http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/01/culmination-of-an-unlikely-five-year-plan.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/01/culmination-of-an-unlikely-five-year-plan.html/#comments Mon, 25 Jan 2016 11:30:16 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=204885 sandy-alderson-paul-depodesta-j-p-ricciardi-2010-11-16-19-0-14

When Sandy Alderson was installed as the new general manager of the Mets in October of 2010, he inherited a team whose public persona had been battered and stigmatized by the effects of the Madoff scandal as well as a plunge in the standings. The campaign just concluded had resulted in the second of what would be four consecutive 4th place finishes in the division, an ugly comedown for a squad that had contended strongly during the heyday of the Willie Randolph-led era from 2006 through 2008.

As an essentially hand-picked-by-the-Commissioner successor to the splashy and largely successful tenure of Omar Minaya (“specially Selig-ted” if you will), Alderson was viewed by much of the fanbase and NY press as a kind of “conservator” whose mission was to oversee a hobbled operation that faced an indeterminate period of forced financial restraint. Charged with a rebuild, although that term would rarely be invoked, he assembled a front office staff whose “moneyball” pedigree purportedly could allow at least a faint hope of contention in the near term.

The reality of the situation would prove far less optimistic, and with the institution of a “small-cap value” vs. “large-cap growth” philosophy in the area of player acquisition (something that will make the most sense to those familiar with investment terminology), a new age of organizational identity was underway. The deadline trade of Carlos Beltran to the Giants for Zack Wheeler in July of 2011 put any remaining illusions of an immediate turnaround to rest.

Despite all signs pointing to the contrary, Sandy, never the most forthcoming of people during a press conference, steadfastly maintained that his personnel decisions were not primarily made for financial reasons and that the front office had one eye on keeping the current team viable for some realistic level of contention. While some degree of truth, stretched though it may be, was undoubtedly present in these statements, the overall direction of the organization was made manifest by the character of the team’s transaction log.

One-year contracts for reclamation projects became the order of the day, and if a reasonable level of performance was the reward, the player in question, now armed with negotiating leverage born of a bounce-back season, was allowed to seek greener pastures elsewhere (e.g. Chris Capuano).

DIGIPIXMeanwhile, the Mets intelligentsia headed back to the bargain bin to pad the roster for the next go-round. The decision not to trade eventual free agent shortstop Jose Reyes for prospects was viewed askance after he signed a big money contract with the Marlins in December of 2011, but the team was able to draft promising backstop Kevin Plawecki with the compensation pick they received as a result. Otherwise, the scrapheap remained the primary shopping destination for patches to the lineup, rotation, or bullpen of the big club while a strategy was being put in place for farther down the line.

Consequently, mound innings were soaked up by the likes of 40-ish Miguel Bastista (kind of a less-sexy “Big Sexy”) and Chris Young (the 6’ 10” soft tosser who came back to haunt the team in the 2015 WS), while at-bats went to the likes of lefty-killer Scott Hairston and utility man Willie Harris.

When R.A. Dickey (one of Minaya’s remaining reclamation projects) unexpectedly morphed into the greatest one-season knuckleball phenomenon in baseball history, Alderson had the good sense to sell high and parlay the 2012 Cy Young winner into what increasingly appears to be a largely one-sided trade with the Toronto Blue Jays. Two components of that deal, catcher Travis D’Arnaud and Nordic-by-way-of-Texas quasi-deity Noah Syndergaard, figured significantly in this past season’s near-championship run and look to provide the possibility of the same going forward while lower level “throw-in” Wuilmer Becerra’s performance in A-Ball has tantalized fans by demonstrating his toolsy future possibilities.

The following season, a similar scenario resulting from the signing of veteran (and PED-tarnished) outfielder Marlon Byrd who was spun off to the Pirates for promising infielder Dilson Herrera and since-departed reliever Vic Black. Along the way, Minaya-regime signees such as Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz have been nurtured along and now stand to comprise the balance of an historically fearsome (even by Mets’ standards) starting rotation.

The increasingly impressive statistics compiled by the team’s young starters and newly appointed closer Jeurys Familia highlighted why the team’s surprising early-2015 performance was more than a fluke. At the same time, the abysmal numbers put up by the offensive side of the equation signaled a warning that the team’s policy of prospect hoarding was no longer the correct strategy to follow.

michael conforto juan uribe

The evolution of the team and its front office was made clear during the latter part of last July when, in the space of a week, the lineup was transformed by a series of transactions that added Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe from the Braves, the heralded prospect Michael Conforto from AA Binghamton, and most significantly, Yoenis Cespedes from the Detroit Tigers. As we all know, this set of moves worked about as well as one could hope and the suddenly league-leading offense that resulted nearly brought a championship to the Queens faithful, a possibility that seems oh-so realistic going forward now that Cespedes’ services have been retained for the upcoming season and perhaps beyond.

Is it just me, or did it seem as if things began happening at a seriously accelerated pace last summer once the decision was made to go for it? How much more restraint would have been used in maintaining the integrity of the Met minor league system has the big club lagged somewhat farther behind the Nationals heading into the season’s second half? Would the fluctuating concept of Matt Harvey’s innings limit have been of greater concern? Would Conforto and his sweet swing been ticketed for a bump up to Vegas instead of Flushing? What kind of dam had to break to actually lend some credence to the idea that Sandy could spend if he felt it was warranted? Was the team able to do it all along, at least at the “middle market” level?

Regardless, through a combination of calculated gambles, intuitive moves with prospects, and decisive action once decisions were made, it appears that whatever oddball path of a five-year plan was used by Sandy Alderson and his sabermetric brain trust to get the Mets where they are has worked, at least for the most part.

Granted, there have been some duds (e.g John Mayberry, Brad Emaus) and talent miscalculations along the way (e.g Justin Turner), but nobody’s perfect. The Cespedes signing, at what are clearly terms that favor the team over the player, may best represent the triumph of the Alderson approach. He will wait, and wait, and wait, sometimes to the point of driving the team’s fans to the point of madness, but in the end he often gets what he wants, the way he wants it. And right now, his methodology resembles nothing so much as true vision.

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Celebrating 1986: Jesse and Roger in the Outfield http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/01/celebrating-1986-jesse-and-roger-in-the-outfield.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/01/celebrating-1986-jesse-and-roger-in-the-outfield.html/#comments Sun, 10 Jan 2016 14:00:58 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=203940 Jesse Orosco delivers a pitch

As we celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the 1986 Mets Championship Season, we’re going to roll out a special retrospective piece every Sunday to relive some of those moments from that memorable and magical season. Enjoy!

Championship seasons are invariably marked by certain games and plays that are later tabbed as “turning points” for posterity.  For the 1986 edition of the New York Mets, their turning point may well have occurred in only the 6th game of the season when, after winning their first two contests but dropping the next three, the team sat a game under .500.

Although another 157 games remained to be played, many fans and even tabloid back pages cried out: “What is wrong with the Mets?” The answer of course, was nothing, and they set about proving that by winning their next eleven games and seven of the next eight after that on their way to finishing a gaudy 21½ games in front of the runner-up Philadelphia Phillies for the division title.

But there are also games that seem to be indicative of some kind of destiny intended for a team. When it appears in retrospect that a team was destined for greatness, the games that stick out are the type where a win that seemed wholly improbable at one point was captured either through perseverance, dumb luck, a managerial gamble, or some apparently mysterious force. Such was the case when the Mets met up with the Cincinnati Reds at Riverfront Stadium on the night of July 22 of that memorable year.

The Mets were down to their last out in the top of the ninth inning, trailing 3-1 as Keith Hernandez faced John Franco with the tying runs on base. Hernandez lifted an easy fly to right that looked to be the last gasp for the Amazins’ as the Reds’ Dave Parker settled under it. But in a stunning turn of events, Parker dropped the easy chance and the runners scurried home to tie the score. Given second life, the Mets began a tenacious and somewhat  outre’ extra-inning odyssey.

A combination of factors including the use of three pinch hitters, a double switch, and an ejection (Darryl Strawberry in the 6th for arguing a strike call) had left the Met bench bereft of options for manager Davey Johnson. As the game moved into the bottom of the 10th, Johnson brought in Jesse Orosco as the fifth Met pitcher of the evening. It was at this point that an element of strangeness began to pervade the proceedings.

After Parker was retired for the first out, Pete Rose, then player/manager of the Reds, inserted himself as a pinch hitter and singled. He then reverted to straight managerial mode and brought in Eric Davis to pinch run. Davis promptly stole second and then went for third on a subsequent pitch. His hard slide brought him into contact with Mets third sacker Ray Knight who responded with a bit of contact of his own.

A shoving match ensued along with some words being exchanged and before you knew it, Knight’s Golden Gloves instincts had led him to pop Davis right in the kisser. The result was your standard bench-clearing bedlam, and when order was restored, two players from each team were ejected including Knight, Davis, Reds pitcher Mario Soto and Mets RF Kevin Mitchell who had been inserted to replace Strawberry. This left the Mets without sufficient position players to field a full team as the only remaining bench asset at this point was backup catcher Ed Hearn.

Having conferred with his coaches and remaining eligible players, Johnson elected to shift Gary Carter from behind the plate to third base replacing Knight and inserted Hearn at Catcher. The outfield was another matter entirely.

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Anticipating the probability of needing a right handed arm to spell Orosco if the game continued much beyond the current inning, Johnson inserted reliever Roger McDowell in RF and initiated a strange merry-go-round of pitchers and outfield alignments to compensate for the Mets’ suddenly shorter bench.

As different Reds players came to bat, Johnson would shift either Orosco or McDowell to the mound based primarily on whom he felt could best induce the batter to hit the ball to an established outfielder if solid contact was made (at this point, Mookie Wilson and Lenny Dykstra comprised the other two thirds of the outfield).

As the game wore on, players were shifted repeatedly as Johnson managed to dodge situations where his pitcher/outfielders would actually have to figure in a defensive play. By way of contrast, one of his other displaced troops sparkled in the bottom of the twelfth when, with two Reds on base and none out, emergency third sacker Carter figured in the middle of a nicely turned double play to end the threat.

In the bottom of the thirteenth, Tony Perez stepped to the plate seemingly intent on exploiting the Mets’ compromised defense.  Looking for a pitch he could drive the other way, he swung at a McDowell offering and lined a shot to right field where Orosco was stationed. Jesse made a quick lateral move and snagged the liner, unable to suppress a smile at the seeming absurdity of it all.

Finally, in the top of the fourteenth, Howard Johnson provided the coup de grace with a long three-run bomb off pitcher Ted Power and McDowell finished the Reds off for a 6-3 victory.  In retrospect, the result of this game seemed almost inevitable, as the Mets of that season were a juggernaut that apparently could beat you with one outfielder tied behind their back.

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Amazin’ Moments: Terry Leach Hurls A Ten Inning One-Hit Shutout http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/11/amazin-moments-terry-leach-hurls-a-ten-inning-one-hit-shutout.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/11/amazin-moments-terry-leach-hurls-a-ten-inning-one-hit-shutout.html/#comments Mon, 30 Nov 2015 18:45:30 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=121390 Terry-Leach.vadapt.620.high.61

A baseball roster is an endlessly fascinating construct. Some evince an enviable degree of stability, featuring a core of players whose consistency and above-average level of play provide little reason to team management to seek alternatives.

Others go through larger and more frequent levels of turnover as the search is made for the right combination of elements that can push a team into contention. In drawing those elements together, most general managers work with variations of a similar palette: a “star” (or perhaps “superstar”) contingent, established major league regulars, a sprinkling of young, rising talent, and the category that tends to fill in any gaps in the master plan- journeymen.

These are the players on the fringe, generally tapped for their experience and ability to provide a reliable, if not All-Star level of play. Their place on the roster is best encapsulated by the word tenuous, as they exist in a world of one-year contracts, non-roster spring training invitations, DFA’s and waiver claims. They generally know the bus routes of the PCL and International League as well as anyone and have ridden the shuttle between the upper minors and the Show like they were commuters. Yet they provide the glue that holds many teams together; subtract their steady if unspectacular contributions and you may lose that slight edge that skews a won/lost record in the right direction.

From a pitching standpoint, the “swingman” perhaps best represents the value a journeyman brings to a team. Esteemed for their flexibility, these are the arms that provide the safety valve when something goes amiss with an otherwise properly constructed rotation and/or bullpen. If a starter gets shelled early on, here comes the longman to hold the fort and give the offense a chance to get the team back in the game. If a rainout necessitates a doubleheader, guess who gets tapped to start a game on short notice? Not a glamour job, to be sure, but done well, it is a stealth component in many a successful season.

Terry Leach may have set a benchmark for swingman performance during his tenure in a Met uniform. Over the course of two go-rounds with the Flushing crew encompassing parts of seven big-league seasons, he consistently delivered quality relief innings and spot starts when called upon.  And yet, for the majority of his career (which included stints with the Braves, Twins, Royals, and White Sox organizations in addition to the Mets), he found himself bouncing between the Bigs and the minors, serving as insurance in the event of injury or lack of performance on the part of those deemed more worthy of a regular spot on the varsity. This despite  numbers that would generally be described with adjectives like “stellar” or “outstanding” during the bulk of his minor league service. Over the course of stints spanning 12 seasons in the bushes, Terry compiled a Won/Loss record of 61-37 (for a .622 winning percentage) to go with an ERA of 2.89, and racked up 16 complete games in 44 starts including four shutouts.

In 1987, the Mets were coming off the glory of the championship run of the prior year but were hamstrung in their drive to repeat by injuries to much of the mound staff including Bob Ojeda, Sid Fernandez, Rick Aguilera, David Cone and Ron Darling. In addition, the team saw key bullpen component Roger McDowell sidelined for weeks by a hernia and most ignominiously, suffered the loss of ace Dwight Gooden for a third of the season due to his testing positive for cocaine and subsequently being admitted to rehab during spring training.

Despite this avalanche of pitching misfortune, the team won 92 games that season and battled for the division lead into the second week of September thanks in no small part to the contributions of a certain submarining right-hander name Leach.

Appearing in 44 games that year including 12 starts, Terry delivered a sparkling 11-1 record to go with a highly respectable 3.22 ERA. The high point of his season came on July 2nd when he delivered a complete game, 2-hit shutout against the Reds at Riverfront Stadium. Despite his yeoman performance that year, the Mets were unable to overtake the St. Louis Cardinals for the division crown and finished three games back in second place.

The following year saw the Mets dominate the league on their way to a division championship. Leach worked strictly in relief that season, compiling a 7-2 record and 3 saves to go with a stingy 2.54 ERA. In the NLCS against the Dodgers, he tallied another 5 scoreless innings in what would eventually prove a losing effort.

To find Terry’s magnum opus however, it is necessary to turn the clock back a bit to 1982. On October 1 of that year, the Mets were three games from the end of what had been a dismal season that would see them finish 32 games under .500. In Philadelphia for a season-ending series, manager George Bamberger (he of the fabled “Staten Island sinker”) was tasked with finding a replacement for the day’s scheduled starter Rick Ownbey, who had suffered a blister on his pitching hand.

Leach was tapped to make what would be only his second career start and responded with a tough, stymying performance that would make team history. Matched up against John Denny, a late season acquisition by the Phils that year, Terry held the opposition hitless until the 5th inning when he surrendered a one-out triple to Luis Aguayo. He was able to induce a grounder to third by the next batter, Ivan DeJesus, and struck out Denny to end the threat.

Meanwhile, the Mets were faring no better on offense for their part, managing only a harmless single by first sacker Dave Kingman to lead off the 2nd. The teams matched zeroes until the top of the 10th when, with Denny finally pulled in favor of reliever Porfi Altamirano, Kingman walked and was pinch run for by Rusty Tillman. Right fielder Gary Rajsich then singled for only the third hit of the day by both teams combined, and Tillman scampered home on a sac fly by Hubie Brooks. Terry took the mound for the bottom of the inning and, following a walk to Aguayo (Leach’s 6th free pass of the day), retired the next three batters to complete a 10-inning, one hit, shutout victory, a rare occurrence indeed, and one that remains unique in the annals of Mets achievements.

Despite his flashes of brilliance, team management remained unconvinced by Terry’s performances and traded him away not once but twice, in 1983 to the Cubs and again in 1989 to the Royals. Perhaps it was his unconventional delivery, a swooping submarine motion that made it appear as if his knuckles would scrape the mound at its mid-point. Perhaps it was just his own ability to shuttle between roles as readily as he did, lending his place on the staff a somewhat undefined quality.  In any event, there were many occasions when one could have asked, as announcer Tim McCarver did numerous times in 1987, “Where would the Mets be without Terry Leach?”

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Amazin’ Moments: Todd Zeile Goes Out With A Bang http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/09/amazin-moments-todd-zeile-goes-out-with-a-bang.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/09/amazin-moments-todd-zeile-goes-out-with-a-bang.html/#comments Thu, 24 Sep 2015 14:37:32 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=119466 Todd - Zeile

Following the defection of John Olerud to the Seattle Mariners as a free agent following the 1999 season, the Mets found themselves casting about for a first baseman. To the surprise of many, Steve Phillips announced the signing of Todd Zeile to fill the position.

Zeile had come to the majors as a catcher with the Cardinals and had subsequently been shifted to third where he had spent the bulk of his career. In the course of an 11-year sojourn through the big leagues, Zeile had followed his time in St. Louis with stints with the Cubs, Phillies, Orioles, Dodgers, Marlins, and Rangers before landing in Flushing.

Although he had seen limited action at both first and the outfield from time to time, Todd had plied his trade primarily at the hot corner for the bulk of his big league tenure. Nevertheless, it was as the Mets’ newly-anointed first sacker that he now helped form the heart of a lineup that included Mike Piazza and Robin Ventura, a crew that would help carry the team to the World Series that year.

During the October showdown with the rival Yankees that year, Zeile was involved in one of the more teeth-gnashing moments in Mets history when his Game 1 shot to the edge of the lower left field deck in Yankee Stadium morphed from an apparent 2-run jack to a double by virtue of a hotly contested call by umpire Tim McClelland.

The truly maddening result of the play was the fate of base runner Timo Perez who, after taking the opportunity to showboat ahead of what he was sure would be a leisurely trot from second to home, was summarily thrown out trying to score as the ball was relayed in by Yankee left fielder David Justice. At that time, instant replay was still 8 years away, so despite protestations to the effect that the ball had been interfered with by a fan and thus prevented from landing in the stands, the ruling stood. The rest, as they say, is history.

Todd’s 2001 Met campaign was a down year as his offensive numbers fell off significantly and during the following winter he was traded to Colorado as part of a package in a 3-way deal that reunited the Mets with their one-time minor league slugging prodigy Jeromy Burnitz.

Zeile resumed his journeyman ways and after spending a season as a Rockie, moved on to stints with the Yanks and then the Expos the year after that before ending up back with Mets in 2004 for what he declared would be his final season in the bigs.

It would not be a particularly memorable final run as the Mets were in year 2 of the Art Howe era and would finish a disappointing fourth in the division. But Todd managed to reach some career milestones along the way, hitting his 250th career home run and reaching the 2,000 mark in career hits.

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When the last game of the year arrived, the Mets were set to play the Expos in what would be that team’s  final game as a franchise before moving on to Washington, D.C. the next season.

Todd thought it would be fitting to go out the way he came in and persuaded manager Howe to let him start the game behind the dish one last time.

The Mets were leading the soon-to-be-no-longer Montreal squad by a score of 4 to 1 when Zeile stepped to the plate in the bottom of the 6th with two on and none out, facing Expos pitcher Claudio Vargas.

After working the count to 3-1, Todd whacked the next pitch high over the left field fence. “I floated around the bases” he later reported, and described the experience as “surreal.” After catching the next two innings he was called back from the plate for a pinch hitter before his next at-bat to allow the fans to give him a sendoff ovation. The crowd of over 33,000 cheered appreciably and provided a fitting backdrop as Todd stepped from the field and moved on to the next phase of his life.

Todd has busied himself in a number of pursuits since the end of his playing days, most notably as a filmmaker and as a producer on Charlie Sheen’s latest network television series “Anger Management.” His baseball career, while perhaps not of Hall of Fame caliber, was nonetheless marked by some unusual and notable achievements such as his record of having homered with no fewer than 11 different major league teams. His parting shot with the Mets showed that he also knew how to go out with style.

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The Seventh Inning Question http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/09/the-seventh-inning-question.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/09/the-seventh-inning-question.html/#comments Tue, 08 Sep 2015 17:52:27 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=192853 tyler Clippard

Following the return of Jenrry Mejia from a PED suspension that cost him 80 games , the Mets had every reason to expect that they had an important portion of their bullpen “bridge” available, at least for the balance of the regular season. With Jeurys Familia firmly entrenched as the team’s closer and a number of apparently effective if somewhat unproven options for the middle innings, Mejia was slated to take on Familia’s former role as eighth-inning stalwart. Looking ahead to the very real possibility of post-season play, Sandy Alderson presciently had put into the works a deal for Tyler Clippard with the assumption that his presence would both fortify the back end of the pen for what remained of the regular season and provide a ready option for the post-season should the Mets qualify.

Mejia’s subsequent implosion by way of steroidal recidivism scuttled those plans as soon as they were made and left the front office making efforts to compensate that have proven somewhat suspect. Subsequent additions Eric O’Flaherty (an apparent stretch to somewhat fill the gap left by Jerry Blevins‘ early departure) and Addison Reed (a gamble based on 16 or so innings of decent performance following a demotion for a season-long lack therof) have looked less than promising so far, particularly in O’Flaherty’s case. To be fair, Reed’s tenure as a Met has been quite short, but his stints on the mound have been uneven and his stuff has certainly appeared to be less than dominating. With the stretch run in full swing at this point, the team can hardly afford to entrust either of these admittedly veteran options in critical situations.

hansel robles

So where to turn? The answer in my opinion is rather obvious and has only been made a question by Terry Collins‘ seeming lack of faith in those members of his relief corps whose track records are lacking at the major league level. I refer primarily to Hansel Robles, but also to Erik Goeddel. An examination of the numbers for both of these players reveals exactly the type of performance needed to fill the gap left by a typical Met starter who, in 2015, has worked an average of around 6 and 1/3 innings per start. Robles, despite the occasional bump in the road, has put up stats that are clearly dominating overall, particularly over his past 30 appearances. With a K/BB ratio of 4/1 and a WHIP of .85, he has clearly demonstrated that his combination of a high 90′s moving fastball and 88-90 mph slider are the type of arsenal needed to short-circuit rallies and more importantly, choke them off before they get started. Add to this his LaTroy Hawkins‘ inspired quick-pitch routine (which appears to be both flummoxing and infuriating opposing batters) to go with a seemingly unflappable and fearless mound demeanor, and it seems to me that the Mets have had their seventh inning guy all along.

Goeddel’s numbers are impressive as well, though a shade less so, and the somewhat mysterious quality of his recent arm woes and the accompanying uncertainty regarding his future reliability makes him an asset that, while still clearly useful, one that could apparently disappear at any time. Still, as they say, “smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.”

With Collins’ penchant for riding his main bullpen arms like Man ‘O War and an understandable desire to milk whatever he can from the questionable options he has been provided, the team will need to find consistent performances from its less-heralded members wherever possible. Add to this mix Dario Alvarez if you will, who, in my mind, deserves at least the number of chances to show what he can do that O’Flaherty has received, and perhaps a true lefty specialist can be added to the equation. It hardly seems that it could hurt to find out.

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An MMO Original: The Say-Hey Kid Comes Home http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/08/an-mmo-original-the-say-hey-kid-comes-home.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/08/an-mmo-original-the-say-hey-kid-comes-home.html/#comments Sat, 22 Aug 2015 14:42:45 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=191106 0kiner mays

As we all know, the Mets were created fill the gap left after the departure of the Giants and the Dodgers from the city of New York following the 1957 season. In the four year period before the advent of the Amazin’s, Gotham’s National League fans were left to follow their teams as best they could from afar (remember, no cable TV at this time nor webcasts, and radio coverage was spotty at best if you were following a west coast team).

williemays-swing - CopyFor die-hard fans, and there were many, this was a hardship that was duly noted by the fledgling Met ownership which sought to assuage (or exploit, depending on how you look at it) their feelings of abandonment by bringing in notable Dodger greats like Gil Hodges and Duke Snider for a last go-round in a Met uniform.

But for fans of the “New York baseball Giants” as they were once referred to, there were no remaining links to the glory days of the team. Instead, they were left to scan the box scores or change their allegiance to the Yankees. The latter choice was anathema to most of the Giant faithful, including my father, who had regaled me with stories of following the 1951 pennant race by radio as many had done, and had exulted with much of the city as Bobby Thomson’s  “Shot Heard Round the World” was broadcast. His favorite player was not Thomson, however. It was the Giants’ wunderkind, Willie Mays.

Mays had a place in New York baseball folklore as part of a triumvirate of great center fielders along with Mickey Mantle and the Duke, but had a penchant for near-mythical displays that seemed to supersede his contemporaries. Who could forget “The Catch” where he tracked down Vic Wertz’ missile in the 1954 World Series or “The Throw” where he ran to catch a shot in the right field gap and spun on the dead run to unleash a throw like no one had ever seen to catch the Dodgers’ Billy Cox at the plate? Not to mention an MVP season in 1954 and a 1955 season where he clubbed 51 homers, a feat that was downright uncommon in the pre-steroid era.

willie2Mays would go on to more glory with the Giants, including a pennant in 1962, another MVP in 1965, Gold Gloves, perennial All Star appearances, and all the things that fans bask in when their team and their favorite player are in the limelight.

But Mays was San Francisco’s now, even if those fans more readily embraced Willie McCovey. New York fans were left with their memories…and the Mets.

So, when the buzz began in May of 1972 that a deal was in the works to bring Willie back to the east coast, the “sleeping Giant” so to speak, of 1950’s New York baseball fandom began to stir. And lo, so it was, for a mere $50,000 and a middling right-hander named Charlie Williams, the Mets finally obtained what may have been the most symbolic link to the city’s baseball legacy.  And, largely symbolic it was, because at 41 years of age, Mays was clearly a shadow of his former self as a player. Still, his mere presence in a Met uniform was enough to drive fans into a state of excitement usually reserved for visits from the President or the Pope.

Fans flocked to Shea for the series against Mays’ now former employers the Giants. Willie was set to make his debut as a Met in the Sunday game on May 14th, but when the team needed a pinch hitter in the Friday game prior, fans began clamoring for manager Yogi Berra to send him to the plate. When John Milner emerged from the dugout instead, he was booed roundly “for not being Willie Mays” as I recall the announcer Lindsey Nelson reporting. Finally, the big day arrived and Mays was in the lineup, leading off and playing center field.

willie-mays2My dad and I watched the game together. He had been a fairly hard core NY Giants fan but had come over to the Met side of the dugout for the most part as his kids had “caught baseball fever” as a MLB marketing campaign had urged and gotten swept up in the championship run of 1969. But today was all about number 24 and his return to the fold.

If you are familiar with the game, you know that it began auspiciously for the Mets, with Giants pitcher Sam McDowell walking the bases full and then surrendering a grand slam to Rusty Staub. By the bottom of the fifth however, the Giants had tied the score and McDowell had been lifted in favor of right hander Don Carrithers. Mays led off the inning and unloaded on a fastball. As the ball cleared the fence in left and Mays trotted around the bases for the 647th time in his career, my father stopped grinning long enough to tell me “That’s the way it should be.” Cornball, but I swear it’s a true story.

That homer provided the winning edge as the Mets prevailed 5-4, and even though moments like that would be few and far between for the balance of Mays’ Mets career, the memory of that triumphant return and its near-poetic climax (hitting the homer in the bottom of the ninth would have clinched the poetic part, but let’s not squabble over details) remains indelible. The Mets and Mays had helped the New York branch of Giant fans to reclaim at least part of their legacy and gave the team that abandoned them a swat in the process. For that day, it was enough.

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Featured Post: What Would It Cost To Keep Cespedes? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/08/featured-post-what-would-it-cost-to-keep-cespedes.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/08/featured-post-what-would-it-cost-to-keep-cespedes.html/#comments Sun, 16 Aug 2015 15:08:34 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=189220 yoenis Cespedes

The move to obtain Yoenis Cespedes to bolster the (deservedly) maligned Met offense has signaled an important shift in the thinking of the club’s front office. Following a string of losing seasons rivaled only by the desultory performance of the Houston Astros over the same period, the Sandy Alderson regime who have steadfastly adhered to a “build a base for the future” approach in personnel matters appear to have definitively morphed into “win now” mode.

No clearer indication of this is needed than the trade of Michael Fulmer as part of the Cespedes deal, a swap of a portion of the commodity most valued by this brain-trust, young, controllable, dominant pitching to fill a crying need on the offensive side of the equation.

Yes, we can all observe that this represents a trade from strength, as the organization has scouted, signed, and hoarded arms as part of what is both a fundamental approach to team-building that reflects the long held philosophy that “good pitching beats good hitting,” and what could rightly be observed as the Met method: establish a corps of dominant starters as a key to a competitive team.

The lineage of this can be traced back to the Miracle Mets of 1969 through other incarnations such as the Gooden-Darling-Ojeda-Sid crew of 1986 and the Hampton-Leiter-Reed-Jones staff of 2000.

But now we have our modern day version of the Clendenon deal of 1969 when the Mets sent a largely pitching-based package to the Expos to secure a righty power bat for a lineup that craved just such an ingredient. We know the difference that move made and certainly all hope that Cespedes will find the same result this time around (World Series MVP).

An important difference of course, is the Cuban slugger’s impending free agency at the end of this season. Assuming that he continues the type of performance he has put up to date, and assuming that said performance makes the difference most fans expect it will (lifting a team offense from the pits to somewhat closer to league average), one would hope that team management would make at least some effort to retain his services for the next several seasons. After all, with a staff that looks to feature a group that should be the envy of all of MLB if the baseball gods and circumstance allow, the Mets should be at the beginning of a window of opportunity to compete for a number of seasons until the irresistible force that is Scott Boras begins to exert his influence.

This being the case, is it even conceivable that the Wilpons will deign to allow a disproportionate amount of their resources to go to securing a Big Bopper? If so, what would it take to do it?

Cespedes will turn 30 in October, so he could be viewed to be largely in “mid-prime,” and should be expected to command premium dollars, particularly with power such a sought after commodity in the present market.

The deals given to other corner outfielders in the past few years can be instructive in this case. Prior to last season, the Giants signed Hunter Pence, the Rangers signed Shin-Soo Choo and the Mets signed Curtis Granderson for an average of about 5 years and $93 million. All were 30 or older at the time, and while each has demonstrated a degree of power in their game, Cespedes should certainly be regarded as possessing a greater element.

So, what will it take and would the Mets even be in the ballpark, so to speak? Having been on the “winning” side of the Zack Wheeler/Carlos Beltran exchange following Beltran’s departure from the Giants following their trade deadline gambit in 2011, could ownership be convinced that Cespedes represents a necessary ingredient that simply must be paid for to allow the vaunted mound staff to have at least the minimum amount of offense needed to secure victory?

Or will he be allowed to take his Wonderboy bat elsewhere while Michael Fulmer blossoms in Detroit for years to come?

Adjusting for the inflationary effects of time and the insane spending patterns of teams like the Dodgers, I suspect we are looking at something along the lines of 6 years and $125 million.

For some, those numbers and the Wilpons simply don’t add up and, based on recent history, I’m inclined to agree. But if “our time” is truly here, and Cespedes has the effect going forward that we all hope he does, could ownership be convinced that the longer term financial health of the team can only benefit from finally putting a product on the field that features an offense that doesn’t evoke comparisons with landfills and toxic waste dumps? Can the ghost of Madoff possibly be exorcised with the crack of a bat? I’m praying it can, like many others I’m sure.

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An MMO Original: Ultimately, Wither Wilmer? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/08/an-mmo-original-ultimately-wither-wilmer.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/08/an-mmo-original-ultimately-wither-wilmer.html/#comments Tue, 04 Aug 2015 19:12:33 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=189473 wilmer flores

By virtue of his tearful response to the rumored report of his services being dispatched to Milwaukee as part of the return in the scuttled Carlos Gomez deal, Wilmer Flores has become a fan and media darling. Every at-bat since that fateful night has been greeted with an ovation and his subsequent heroic performance in sealing a win against the Nationals in walk-off fashion have seemingly sealed his legend for good.

But what of the bigger picture? Failing a revival of the shortstop “experiment,’ something that seems increasingly unlikely the longer the improved level of infield play with Ruben Tejada manning the position remains apparent, Flores now appears relegated to the role of part-timer.

With Terry Collins now granted an unprecedented level of flexibility by virtue of the acquisition of Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe, the daily second base assignment has become a “mix-and-match” proposition rotating between Flores, Johnson, and Daniel Murphy depending on the matchups deemed optimal versus the opposing starter on any given day. Other than occasionally returning to short to spell Tejada, Wilmer’s role on the team appears largely reduced as a side effect of the newly supplemented roster.

While it is likely that certain elements of the current arrangement will change at the end of this season when Johnson and Uribe become free agents, the fact remains that management clearly regards Dilson Herrera as the heir apparent at second. This was made evident as details of the collapsed Gomez deal surfaced in the days following the trade deadline.

According to certain reports in the twittersphere, the Mets had originally sought to package Juan Lagares along with Zack Wheeler in the deal, a proposal rejected by the Brewers due to concerns with Lagares’ elbow. Milwaukee then asked for Herrera instead, a demand that was quickly dismissed by Alderson & Co., who offered Flores instead. This became the agreed-upon return for Gomez until medical concerns were allowed to rule the day.

Now, with Flores seemingly anointed the symbol of the rising tide of Met fever, and with no shortage of second base candidates as noted before, there is no pressing reason to bring Herrera up to the varsity before rosters expand in September. In fact, were Flores to be supplanted at this point, the front office would be risking the wrath of fans, the press, and romantics everywhere. BUT…

When the season is over and whatever happens the rest of this year begins to fade into memory, a decision will need to be made.

In an earlier piece I wrote anticipating an eventual logjam for the Mets at second base even before the Johnson/Uribe trade was made, I suggested that team management would likely look to Flores as third base insurance against the now nebulous state of David Wright‘s back. This likely remains the case, but with Wright now targeted for rehab games in the near future, it is probable that a clearer picture will emerge before too long.

If the team heads into the off-season reasonably confident that Wright can manage his condition well enough to stay on the field a majority of the time, they may opt to either stick with Eric Campbell or Zach Lutz as a backup plan for 2016 or look to re-sign Uribe now that he’s in the fold. Either way, it should be expected that Herrera will have the second base job to lose going into next season as he clearly has nothing left to prove at Triple-A.

Consequently, Flores either becomes the shortstop again or the odd man out. Yes, there are any number of variables that could influence this situation (e.g. Wright’s back fails to hold up), but it pays to consider what is most likely.

In this case, with Collins affirming that Tejada is the everyday shortstop, Flores appears to have become excess baggage. A shame, in my opinion, as his enthusiasm, good humor, and current role as poster child for the new breed of Amazin’s makes me want to root for him that much harder.

Still, young, controllable players who can play multiple positions and demonstrate a degree of power potential should be regarded as valuable commodities. Now that the Met farm system has been somewhat tapped of its higher rated pitching talent with the trades of Casey Meisner, Michael Fulmer, etc., perhaps Sandy will look to restock a bit in the offseason with Wilmer as bait. I only hope that if this is the case that it will be handled in a kinder, gentler manner.

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Potential Second Base Logjam Looms http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/07/potential-second-base-logjam-looms.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/07/potential-second-base-logjam-looms.html/#comments Tue, 21 Jul 2015 20:30:26 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=187655 wilmer flores

If we are to assume that the Wilmer Flores shortstop era has come to a close, then and a potential logjam at second base appears to be in the cards for the 2016 season. Based on Flores’ recent statement to the effect that his comfort level is higher on the right side of the keystone along with the clear evidence of improved infield play since the installation of Ruben Tejada at his more customary position, we are probably safe in projecting future infield assignments to follow the current model.

But if David Wright ever emerges from his injury limbo, be it later this season (a possibility that appears increasingly unlikely with every passing day) or in 2016, a jostling for position will likely ensue as a surplus of candidates to man second base will likely force the hand of management to make some sort of roster adjustment.

As presently constructed, the Met infield finally reflects an approach that allows the players involved to man the positions for which they are probably best suited. Daniel Murphy, veteran of multiple shifts around the infield (as well as an outfield experiment that is best forgotten), has always figured best as a third baseman, not coincidentally his primary position during his minor league career. Flores, following an early attempt to establish him at short, split most of his time in AA and AAA between third and second as the reality of his tall frame and less than lightning-quick footwork suggested that his optimal defensive assignment lay in one of those areas. Tejada, of course, is the best shortstop on the club, as least for the time being.

Add Wright to the picture and not only will Flores and Murphy likely be shifted yet again, but the addition of Dilson Herrera to the equation will surely complicate matters further. Despite looking somewhat overmatched during his previous tenure on the varsity roster earlier this season, he has continued to rake at Vegas which, considering his age (a still precocious 21 in the PCL), suggests that only a period of adjustment may be needed for his abilities to translate more fully to the major league level. For now, the team will likely be content to leave him at AAA until the roster expands in September, barring a trade or injury.

daniel murphy

But what of the longer term? Obviously the intent is to let Murphy walk at the end of this season rather than re-sign him, but if that is the case, one wonders if no market truly exists for him. While never much of a factor in the power department, he certainly has been serviceable at third, a position that is not generally easy to fill, and his ability to hit in the upper part of the lineup should normally have piqued someone’s interest.

Regardless, if he is subtracted from the big picture but Wright is added back in, the question still boils down to Flores vs. Herrera. In the event that Wright cannot be counted on even for next season (a genuine possibility I’m sad to say), Flores looks to be the natural replacement at the hot corner. If he does return, well, other than allowing Herrera to languish at AAA as insurance (currently Zach Lutz‘s job now that Alex Castellanos has fled for the greener pastures of Japan), one would expect one of two things to happen:

1. If a deal for a new shortstop is not consummated this season, we should expect another go-round of Flores at that slot, regardless of all declarations that the “experiment” is over. On a club as offensively challenged as this one, the good of the team will be emphasized over positional preference. Flores, being the good soldier that he is, will undoubtedly say the right things and give it his best shot. Hopefully the result will not be his lack of range or quickness being a determining factor in a crucial play in a crucial game that leaves heads shaking during the off season.

2. If an actual upgrade of some sort is brought in to replace Tejada, let’s say Jean Segura for the sake of argument, and the team seems content to keep him installed at least until Ahmed Rosario shows whether or not he is deserving of the hype he is currently receiving, a healthy, or at least functional Wright will push the front office to make a choice. At 24 in August, Flores is still years away from his prime and has demonstrated at least moderate power, an increasingly sought-after commodity in the post-PED baseball universe. Herrera, despite his somewhat slight stature, has also demonstrated a penchant for producing extra base hits throughout his minor league career and because of his youth, carries the promise of outsize ability as he matures. Neither presently projects as a Gold Glover, but both seem at least capable in the field with the ability to improve with time.

What will ultimately determine the outcome in the short run will be Wright’s status, and based on what we’ve learned about the nature of spinal stenosis, this is not something that is likely to be something resembling a certainty going forward.

Accordingly, I expect juggling on the part of management to continue as long as Flores figures to be the primary insurance policy at third. If by some chance Sandy Alderson pulls off a shocker and deals a package to Milwaukee in return for Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura, the only real change will be a return of Tejada to the bench. If this imaginary trade is expanded to include the soon-to-be retired Aramis Ramirez, then we will likely see some platooning at second as the logjam returns.

All pretty much speculation for now, I know, but hopefully the team will have more questions to be resolved in the future brought about by a plethora of possibilities in the infield. There are worse things to have to deal with.

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In-House Options Remain The Best Bet For Mets Offense http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/07/in-house-options-remain-the-best-bet-for-mets-offense.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/07/in-house-options-remain-the-best-bet-for-mets-offense.html/#comments Wed, 01 Jul 2015 16:25:53 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=185965 lucas duda

If you told most Mets’ fans during the long, cold, winter recess between October and the start of spring training that halfway through the upcoming season their team would sit within a few games of first place in the division, most would be thrilled.

To have simply achieved a legitimate level of competitiveness following six consecutive losing seasons should do much to lift the spirits of the typical Metophile, but the frustration level linked to the appalling offensive output of the 2015 club is doing much to temper the overall enthusiasm of the fan base.

A look at the numbers tells the story: as July arrives, the Flushing crew has fleshed out a starting rotation largely populated by young, drool-worthy arms whose collective abilities have undoubtedly inspired a wave of dynasty-related fantasies amongst the faithful. With good reason, too, as despite the loss of one member of the projected arsenal to surgery and the uncertainty that accompanies the arrival of rookie talent, heralded or not, the team’s mound staff has performed brilliantly to the point of registering as fourth best overall in the league and fifth best in MLB.

Ah, but that pesky offense. Following a spring training where fans were teased into thinking that a secret juggernaut was lurking, the Met offensive story has been one of injuries and underperformance.

While no one expected Michael Cuddyer to necessarily maintain the elevated level of slugging he displayed in Florida (6 HR’s in a month), most did not expect a repeat of that output to stretch out over half a season along with a jump in strikeout rate and plunge in OPS to well below typical career numbers.

Nor did one foresee the loss of David Wright for who knows how long, or for the injury bug to seemingly focus on whoever was most productive while actually in the lineup. Ultimately, the result has been that the Met offense now sits next to last in the league with only the joke that the Phillies bats have become to act as a buffer.

Predictably, the calls for action on the part of the front office to DO SOMETHING and import some bodies that can inject a degree of firepower into a collection of orange and blue popguns have been loud and insistent. Even the talking heads on the various sport shows on TV and radio have begun to seemingly lose any sense of realism with regard to what might actually be accomplished in an age when their simply isn’t much to be had on the trade market for a team with the financial constraints of the Mets.

Troy Tulowitzki? Don’t be ridiculous. Even if the team could somehow shoulder a significant enough portion of his titanic contract to interest the Rockies in making a deal, there aren’t many examples of players with his injury history suddenly becoming more durable as they move into their 30′s. Not to mention the talent that would have to be surrendered in return. You ain’t getting something like that done for Niese, Montero, and a couple of pieces from A-ball.

No, with the division being what it is, essentially the weakest in MLB, the Mets don’t need to think about making huge moves to stay in the hunt. With pitching being as dominant a component as it is, the team needs only to find a way to move closer to league average on the offensive side to have a good chance of punching a ticket for the postseason.

Those who remain skeptical of this are advised to examine the records and stats of the mid-1960′s editions of the LA Dodgers for a good example. Yes, those teams had Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale leading the way, but they also generally had lineups where no one approached 100 RBI or 100 runs scored in a season. But between 1959 and 1966 they made it to the World Series no fewer than four times, winning three of them.

So, if the Mets can somehow get Daniel Murphy and Travis d’Arnaud back in the lineup and keep them there for the bulk of what remains of the season, odds are that this would serve better than any desperation trade that might be accomplished in terms of future value and present return. Why? Simply because these two have consistently shown a knack for that most rare of accomplishments in the realm of Metdom: the timely hit.

Compare their rate of runs driven in per at-bat to the rest of the regulars and you will see what has been missing. Granted, we are working with a small sample size with D’Arnaud, but his performance reflects the character demonstrated last season after his return from a mid-season exile to Las Vegas, so it should be regarded as more than a statistical outlier.

Perhaps adding to these a useful bat from outside the organization would provide enough of a makeover to make dreams of October a reality (my personal wish is for a player along the lines of Ben Zobrist who can fill in all over the diamond and generally be counted on to hit better than the average Met).

If you need more encouragement from a scenario such as this, keep in mind that it is a long season and that players who have underperformed to date often wind up closer to their career numbers when the dust settles. In the Mets’ case, this would suggest that better things lie in store for players like Lucas Duda and Michael Cuddyer, the current heart of the order which has shown signs of cardiac arrhythmia.

It is said that patience is a virtue. Well, if so, Met fans are certainly a virtuous bunch.

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Amazin’ Moments: Rusty and the Rundown http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/06/amazin-moments-rusty-and-the-rundown.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/06/amazin-moments-rusty-and-the-rundown.html/#comments Mon, 29 Jun 2015 21:21:02 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=185842 tom+seaver+rusty+staub

Here’s an Amazin’ Moment I won’t soon forget because it involves one of my favorite Mets of bygone days, Rusty Staub.

During his first go-round with the Mets, Rusty provided more in the way of consistent offense and heady play than fans had come to expect from a Mets team that relied primarily on the arms of Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Jon Matlack, Tug McGraw and whatever offense could be scrounged from the day’s lineup.

In 1973, two years into their second decade of existence, the Mets had still not had a player produce a 100 RBI season. The team would make its second trip to the World Series that year, but would wind up second to last in the NL in runs scored with a paltry 608.

As a result, defense was a key component to go along with that vaunted pitching staff. In June of that year, the Mets were playing a series at Shea against the Dodgers. The Saturday game of that set (on June 9th) was Old Timers’ Day and a good crowd was on hand. The offensive heroes for the day were Staub, with two doubles and 3 RBI, and Willie Mays who homered for the other run in what would be a 4-2 complete game win for Jon Matlack.

However, it wasn’t Rusty’s offense that made this game memorable for me, but his defense- specifically, his role in a play that took place in the top of the seventh inning.

By virtue of a pinch-hit double by future Met Tom Paciorek and a bunt single by Davey Lopes, the Dodgers had runners at the corners with no one out and Bill Buckner (of all people) coming to the plate. The Mets were clinging to a 3-2 lead at this point that looked to be in jeopardy. Buckner was an up-and-coming young batsman of 24 at this time, but was coming off a season where he had hit .319 and shown a penchant for making contact. With Lopes dancing off first, Matlack made a successful pickoff throw and a rundown ensued.

rusty staub squareRundowns always make me nervous if it’s my team trying to execute one. We’ve all heard how, if properly done, only one or two throws should be needed to nail the runner. Invariably, as the number of throws involved in the play increases, so does the percentage that one will ultimately wind up in the stands, the dugout, or the outfield while the runner advances.

On this particular play the infielders involved, Bud Harrelson, Felix Millan, and John Milner, were no slouches with the glove  but Lopes was fleet and managed to elude a tag. A number of throws were made, back and forth, with Paciorek looking for a chance to score from third. Ultimately, with the middle infielders out of position, Lopes dashed for second, seemingly uncovered until…Rusty Staub, having run in from his position in Right Field, took the throw at second, slapped a tag on Lopes diving for the base, then fired a strike to the plate to catch Paciorek trying to sneak in with the tying run. Double play! Buckner flied out to center and the inning ended with no damage done.

As a mere 16 year-old at the time, my depth of baseball knowledge was not substantial, but I had been bitten by the bug at a young age and had read more about the game’s history than many of my peers. Nowhere had I come across an account of a similar play, which, while not the weirdest thing to happen on a baseball field, was without a doubt the most heads-up piece of fielding I had ever witnessed.

Rusty went on to play heroically in the LCS (3 HR’s and a great catch where he badly injured his shoulder), and World Series that year (hitting .423 with a 5 RBI game while playing hurt). In 1975, he became the first Met to reach the century mark in RBI while setting a club record with 105. Management rewarded this by trading him to Detroit for a washed-up Mickey Lolich and fans were left to pin their hopes on Mike Vail. Spoiler alert: it didn’t work out too well.

Regardless, Rusty’s place in the annals of Metdom is assured, but is just that much more deserved, in my opinion, because of that nifty double play.

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Which Players Are Vulnerable On Mets 40 Man Roster? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/which-players-are-vulnerable-on-mets-40-man-roster.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/which-players-are-vulnerable-on-mets-40-man-roster.html/#comments Thu, 11 Sep 2014 17:33:04 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=165468 eric young jr

Heading into the off-season with a full 40 man roster, the flexibility needed to make any hoped-for-yet-unlikely personnel additions of a significant nature will require Mets team management to make some choices that may signal the end of several players’ association with the organization. While this situation is a regular occurrence following the end of each season, many teams start off with a few slots already available, granting the ability to stave off making what may be some hard decisions until the spring when the composition of the roster has largely been determined.

This time around, the Mets find themselves in a position of having to make several of those decisions earlier in order to protect some highly-touted minor league talent ahead of the Rule 5 draft in December. While some of these choices appear largely self-evident, others will likely depend on a variety of factors including the always mysterious element of “organizational sentiment” and other such types of voodoo.

Certain moves are already of a de facto nature, as with the removal of two of the more veteran members of the squad – Daisuke Matsuzaka and Bobby Abreu- as a consequence of their contracts expiring. In concert with these transactions come the offsetting moves of reinstating both Bobby Parnell and Matt Harvey from the 60-day DL, thus keeping the roster at capacity. So, if the team were interested in retaining the services of Dice-K for next season as say, a swingman at the major league level, someone will first have to be jettisoned from the 40-man to make room. A look at the roster as it now stands yields a list of those likely to be on the bubble:

PITCHERS:

  • Jeff Walters – Moved into the closer’s role at Binghamton in 2013, Walters thrust himself into the picture by recording a minor-league best 38 saves. Largely ineffective this year at Las Vegas, he was ultimately shut down for the year after being diagnosed with a torn UCL and slated for Tommy John surgery. He will join Jeremy Hefner in rehab limbo for the next year or so.
  • Scott Rice – Another victim of “Perpetual Pedro” syndrome (systematic overuse of a LOOGY), Rice had elbow surgery in July to remove a bone spur. With Josh Edgin likely to retain his spot as a lefty bullpen option, Rice will face competition from scrap-heap prize Dana Eveland, minor league reclamation project Dario Alvarez, and up-and-coming K-meister Jack Leathersich for the role of “lefty number two.” After toiling for as long as he had to in the sticks, you gotta root for the guy to prevail but those are long odds.
  • Gonzalez Germen-He and his occasionally effective changeup have bounced around this year, but with Parnell returning, the emergence of the Black-Familia-Mejia triumvirate, and the somewhat surprising success of Buddy Carlyle, there isn’t a whole lot of room left for a guy who basically looks to duplicate Carlos Torres’ role.
  • Erik Goeddel-A good enough arm that the team felt compelled to protect him, but he hasn’t shown anything particularly exceptional in terms of performance last year at Binghamton or this year at Vegas. Another case of the numbers game at work as was the case last year with Collin McHugh only with less reason to expect a breakout success like McHugh has scored since leaving the organization.

POSITION PLAYERS:

  • Josh Satin-This is pretty much an annual occurrence at this point as Satin continues to play the role of good soldier and organizational filler. He can play a couple positions and swing the bat a bit, but he’s clearly been supplanted by Eric Campbell at the big league level for the role of supersub. He has passed through waivers without a hitch before and likely will again.
  • Wilfredo Tovar-As one of the few “true” shortstops at the upper levels of the minors and one that has shown a degree offensive progress this year, I would expect him to stick around. With the Mets’ infield picture getting increasingly crowded by virtue of the Dilson Herrera/Daniel Murphy question, the need to apportion a slot to Wilmer Flores and the possibility of Matt Reynolds entering the picture in the spring, Tovar is likely ticketed for AAA but could also replace Reuben Tejada for the varsity if the latter is dealt.
  • Andrew Brown-He is a good bet to make the move to Japan where his power may translate better than it has in his limited trials with the Flushing crew. He would have gone already but was held to his contract as Vegas roster filler and insurance for the big club. He homered on opening day against Stephen Strasburg, remember? How soon they forget.
  • Cesar Puello-Seemingly a prospect after a big year at Binghamton in 2013, he came tumbling back down to earth after a suspension for PED’s and had his numbers basically halved in a comparable number of at-bats this year at the hitter’s haven that is Las Vegas. In light of these circumstances, he could likely be exposed to waivers and wind up staying with the organization.
  • Eric Young, Jr.-With his primary role seemingly reduced to that of a pinch-runner and with Juan Lagares being auditioned as the new leadoff hitter (and flashing his new base-stealing chops with abandon), his time as a Met is likely drawing to a close. Still, someone has to play the role of 25th man and his ability to play an infield position, provide solid outfield defense, speed, and switch-hit may earn him a reprieve. We’ll see.
  • Matt den Dekker-He and Kirk Nieuwenhuis profile similarly, both 27-year old left handed hitting outfielders who can play center and flash a bit of speed and power. Nieuwenhuis has apparently adapted to the role of bench player and den Dekker’s trial as the regular left fielder appears to be primarily a showcase. The lineup would likely benefit more from a right handed hitter with some pop to occupy the position next year but a platoon is always a possibility.

With no indication that the team will be increasing payroll significantly beyond the amount needed to meet the anticipated raises due a number of regulars next season, we will likely see a relatively quiet off-season in terms of personnel acquisition characterized by the usual bit of bargain hunting that has become SOP for this management group.

Still, as many have noted, the development of certain players in key positions (e.g. Duda, Lagares, d’Arnaud) and the fruition of a number of pitching prospects into solid (and sometimes spectacular) regulars in both the rotation and the bullpen have poised the Mets for the long-awaited breakthrough to contention we’ve all anticipated.  One can only hope that if any shifts made with the roster as destined to be minor ones, that they will be the right ones and put an end to a fallow period that has gone on far too long for a so-called “big market” team.

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Amazin’ Mets Moments: Fonzie Goes Six for Six! http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/amazin-mets-moments-fonzie-goes-six-for-six.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/amazin-mets-moments-fonzie-goes-six-for-six.html/#comments Tue, 09 Sep 2014 18:43:29 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=165275 Edgardo Alfonzo remains one of the most beloved Mets alumni, both for his post-season heroics (e.g. 3 HR’s including a ninth inning grand slam in the space of two vital 1999 playoff games against the Reds and Diamondbacks), and his role as part of the “Best Infield Ever” as dubbed by Sports Illustrated.

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His flexibility as a player made him an invaluable asset to the team which moved him from his original spot at second base over to third, back to second upon the signing of Robin Ventura, and then to third again with the trade that brought Roberto Alomar into the fold. Despite a modicum of grousing due to all the defensive shifts, he provided consistent quality play during one of the upswing periods in Mets history.

As a batsman, Fonzie developed in almost textbook fashion before the delighted eyes of fans. Coming up, he had a reputation for a good eye at the plate, some evidence of moderate power, and the ability to make contact. Following his major league debut in 1995, the young Venezuelan worked diligently to refine his game both in the field and at the plate. By 1999, he had blossomed into one of the league’s premier middle infielders, hitting over .300 and slugging over .500 for the first time in his career. His peak game, and likely the peak offensive game by any Met, came in late August of that year as the Mets were heading toward a post-season berth under the guidance of Bobby Valentine.

The team was in Houston for a series against the Astros during their last go-round in the vast dimensions of the Astrodome. The following year, the team would move to the bandbox originally known as Enron Field (or “Ten Run Field” to fans for its propensity to produce high scoring games) and now dubbed Minute Maid Park. In stark contrast to the home run haven the Astros now inhabit, the ‘Dome was a pitcher’s dream and a slugger’s graveyard. Not only was the field characterized by expansive proportions, the roof insured that the very atmosphere itself was endowed with what batters swore was a deadening effect. But it was in this most unlikely of settings that the Mets’ version of the Fonz chose to put on perhaps the greatest display of slugging in team history.

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Ah, 1999 was a bumper year for runs scored by the Mets as they pushed 853 across the plate, good for 5th in the league and still the club record for a single season. Even 40 year-old leadoff batter Rickey Henderson was having a renaissance year, batting over .300 for the first time since in four campaigns. On the night of August 30 of that year, the team would rack up a run tally that was impressive even by the standards of that era, blasting the Houston squad by a score of 17-1.

The key figure in the onslaught was Edgardo Alfonzo who began his evening by rocketing a solo home run his first time up to give the Mets an early lead. After the Astros were retired in order in the bottom of the first, the New Yorkers erupted for six additional runs in the next inning with Alfonzo contributing a single and a run scored in the process. He then homered in his next two at-bats registering a two-run shot in the fourth and another solo round-tripper in the sixth. After collecting his second single of the game in the eight amidst another rally, he came up for a final time in the ninth. Urged by his teammates to shoot for the elusive 4-homer mark, he banged a shot off the right field wall for a run-scoring double, missing another 4-bagger by a matter of a few feet.

All told, Fonzie had recorded 6 hits in as many at-bats including 3 HR’s and a double. In the process he set Mets club records for hits, runs, and total bases in a game as well as collecting 5 RBI. Naturally, his performance set off the stat freaks at Elias who determined that the only other player to accomplish a comparable feat was none other than Ty Cobb some 74 years prior when he also recorded a 3 homer, 1 double, 2 single game against the St. Louis Browns.

Fonzie and Cobb, Cobb and Fonzie. A rather exclusive club with one member a Met.

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Who’s A Keeper and Who’s A Trade Chip? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/whos-a-keeper-and-whos-a-trade-chip.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/whos-a-keeper-and-whos-a-trade-chip.html/#comments Wed, 13 Aug 2014 13:45:38 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=163264 MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at New York Mets

Will the Mets still be with 28 in 2015?

Now that we’ve “officially” moved into the 2015 audition portion of this season (a circumstance apparently triggered by the loss of single game-the rubber match of this past week’s series vs. the Nationals), Mets management has vowed to take an extended look at certain candidates for regular roles on next year’s roster.

Chief among these are Wilmer Flores at shortstop and Matt den Dekker in left, but clearly the construction of the 2015 lineup will depend on a host of factors beyond the numbers that those two can put up over the next seven weeks.

With the extent of the financial constraints imposed by ownership ever a subject of speculation on the part of a hopeful (and generally unrealistic) fanbase, the likelihood of the importation of game-breaking  talent along the lines of a Troy Tulowitzki remain a low-percentage possibility. Consequently, it makes sense to assume that while nothing should be ruled out if certain bats are made available on the trade market this winter, the expected course to be taken by the front office will hew close to the established pattern of searching for buy-low options to complement a group of young, cheap, controllable talent.

Not that such an approach cannot meet with success – we all console ourselves with reminders of the triumphs of small market dynamos like the Bay Area’s brace of seemingly perennial contenders, the A’s and Giants, but as this year’s squad heads inexorably toward a sixth straight losing finish, most of us are looking for something of a more radical departure from the standard practices of the front office and ownership to help jolt the team out of the doldrums.

The Curtis Granderson signing of last winter aside, big-ticket free agent signings still don’t appear to be the order of the day despite the returns on investment enjoyed by those partaking in the influx of Cuban talent over the past few years (the news that the cross-town Yanks are already moving toward negotiations with Rusney Castillo, the latest of these imports is both predictable and galling). No, it is clear that now that the Mets organization is in possession of a farm system that could be said to be at least somewhat “brimming” with talent, the trade market will likely hold the key to providing whatever quick fix can be found for an anemic lineup desperately in need of a supplement.

So the process of evaluation begins in earnest: who stays and who goes? Who qualifies as an “untouchable” and who is clearly an interchangeable part? Opinions will vary of course, but some assumptions can be made as to what designations are likely to be made. Accordingly, some thoughts on the subject:

ROTATION:  If the apparent starting five for next year is comprised of Harvey, Wheeler, deGrom, Gee, and Niese, then the parts in play to either be dealt or used as replacements in the event of the trade of a member of the projected rotation are Bartolo Colon, Noah Syndergaard, and Rafael Montero. Naturally, outside of keeping Harvey and dealing Colon, the relative merits of retaining or dealing any member of this group (depending on the proposed return) could be debated endlessly. Clearly many would support the idea of dealing one of the finesse arms (Gee/Niese) to obtain a bat, but it is young, power arms that tend to be demanded in return for the most desirable offensive components on the market. Consequently, Messrs. Wheeler, deGrom, and Syndergaard would appear to be the most likely chips to be included in a deal that returns some legitimate thump. With all the recent scuttlebutt regarding scouts from the Cubs and Rockies watching Thor’s latest outing, it seems clear where their interest is focused. Still, I am nowhere near convinced that ownership is prepared to assume the Tulo contract and frankly, the home/road splits and health issues of Carlos Gonzalez concern me, so my hopes with respect to the implications of this interest rest with what the Cubs have to offer. Here we can be specific: Javier Baez or Addison Russell. The areas of need and areas of surplus talent match so well between the two teams that a swap seems only logical, but we can only cross our fingers here and hope. Because the Chicago Northsiders are more than an arm away from contention, they will probably look for more than a straight-up swap of top prospects, but I imagine that something could be worked out to the satisfaction of both sides. For the Mets’ part, Baez can now be considered major league ready while Russell has yet to play a game at AAA, but I would jump at the chance to obtain either. Naturally, the Cubs would likely prefer to deal the talented but defensively erratic Starlin Castro than either of the aforementioned duo, but I would certainly expect the Mets to insist on one of the two prospects.

INFIELD:  As Daniel Murphy continues to rack up one multi-hit game after another, one wonders how a team starved for offense could even consider trading the most prolific bat in their lineup.  Still, the contract considerations going forward as he approaches free agency in 2016 may push the Mets to make him available and open up the second base slot for an eventual long-term successor from within the system (numerous candidates exist as detailed in a previous post). One of those candidates, Wilmer Flores, is currently being given an audition at shortstop (or so the team claims), but also is being showcased as a versatile infield bat. In fact, one could rightly regard both Murphy and Flores as displaced third-sackers on a team whose primary veteran face occupies that position. Flores’ youth and record of having hit at every minor league stop makes him a worthwhile gamble for any team, in my opinion, but if he actually manages to establish a degree of legitimacy at short during the remainder of this season, he may provide enough of a fallback option for the front office to pass on a deal for a replacement if the demands are judged to be too high. After all, we all know you can’t have too much pitching, right?

CATCHER: Travis d’Arnaud is starting to resemble what was advertised and Kevin Plawecki will remain a valuable commodity at AAA for at least another season, so unless something very desirable is at stake, I don’t expect either to be moved, at least not yet.

OUTFIELD: If Matt den Dekker’s audition proves a success, the Mets will have another interesting chip to dangle during the offseason in the form of a legitimate center fielder, whether that is den Dekker himself or the human highlight reel known as Juan Lagares. One could probably toss Kirk Nieuwenhuis into that mix as well, although the team’s decision to assign him the role of fourth outfielder and bat-off-the-bench speaks somewhat to their regard for his abilities as a full-time player. Curtis Granderson’s presence on the waiver wire this past week, while not unusual in terms of typical moves by a front office in August, suggests that the Mets might well regard either den Dekker or Capt. Kirk as comparable replacements for the level of play the team has received from Grandy this season. If this is the case, they would also not hesitate to make him available during the winter, one would expect. But, 34 year-old players (as of the beginning of the 2015 season) with $47 million in contractual obligations need to produce at a higher level than this year’s tally to generate much interest. I expect he’ll be here for a while.

BULLPEN: Now that the Mets have finally established a mostly-reliable relief corps, it’s time to break them up, right? Not really, but it does make sense that other teams would be attracted to the contingent of hard-throwing righties at the back end of the NY pen. Mejia has warmed to the closer spot and even established a signature move (not a requirement but it does score some style points), while Familia and Black loom as potential ninth-inning men in either another setting or an alternate Mets’ universe. The return of Bobby Parnell next season, assuming he displays a return to form during spring training, creates the potential of a surplus of power relievers. Since teams don’t generally deal players coming off surgery during the off-season, one would expect that one of the proven and presumably healthy commodities could be had for the right price. Personally, Familia strikes me as the best bet for closer going forward as his WHIP (a stat more significant for relievers than starters, in my opinion) is much better than Mejia’s.  Same case with Vic Black, whose expressed preference for the closer’s role speaks to his temperament as well. Am I making a case to trade Jenrry? You decide.

As we all look for signs that the move into a “Golden Era of Contention” has arrived, we have all had to deal with the fatigue of yet another losing slog toward an off-season of dreams. Maybe this time around a few of those dreams will come true. I’ve got my fingers crossed.

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Amazin’ Moments: Willie Comes Home http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/amazin-mets-moments-willie-comes-home.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/amazin-mets-moments-willie-comes-home.html/#comments Sat, 12 Jul 2014 14:00:10 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=112167 As we all know, the Mets were created fill the gap left after the departure of the Giants and the Dodgers from the city of New York following the 1957 season. In the four year period before the advent of the Amazin’s, Gotham’s National League fans were left to follow their teams as best they could from afar (remember, no cable TV at this time nor webcasts, and radio coverage was spotty at best if you were following a west coast team). 

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For die-hard fans, and there were many, this was a hardship that was duly noted by the fledgling Met ownership which sought to assuage (or exploit, depending on how you look at it) their feelings of abandonment by bringing in notable Dodger greats like Gil Hodges and Duke Snider for a last go-round in a Met uniform.

But for fans of the “New York baseball Giants” as they were once referred to, there were no remaining links to the glory days of the team. Instead, they were left to scan the box scores or change their allegiance to the Yankees. The latter choice was anathema to most of the Giant faithful, including my father, who had regaled me with stories of following the 1951 pennant race by radio as many had done, and had exulted with much of the city as Bobby Thomson’s  “Shot Heard Round the World” was broadcast. His favorite player was not Thomson, however. It was the Giants’ wunderkind, Willie Mays.

Mays had a place in New York baseball folklore as part of a triumvirate of great center fielders along with Mickey Mantle and the Duke, but had a penchant for near-mythical displays that seemed to supersede his contemporaries. Who could forget “The Catch” where he tracked down Vic Wertz’ missile in the 1948 World Series or “The Throw” where he ran to catch a shot in the right field gap and spun on the dead run to unleash a throw like no one had ever seen to catch the Dodgers’ Billy Cox at the plate? Not to mention an MVP season in 1954 and a 1955 season where he clubbed 51 homers, a feat that was downright uncommon in the pre-steroid era.

willie2Mays would go on to more glory with the Giants, including a pennant in 1962, another MVP in 1965, Gold Gloves, perennial All Star appearances, and all the things that fans bask in when their team and their favorite player are in the limelight. But Mays was San Francisco’s now, even if those fans more readily embraced Willie McCovey. New York fans were left with their memories…and the Mets.

So, when the buzz began in May of 1972 that a deal was in the works to bring Willie back to the east coast, the “sleeping Giant” so to speak, of 1950’s New York baseball fandom began to stir. And lo, so it was, for a mere $50,000 and a middling right-hander named Charlie Williams, the Mets finally obtained what may have been the most symbolic link to the city’s baseball legacy.  And, largely symbolic it was, because at 41 years of age, Mays was clearly a shadow of his former self as a player. Still, his mere presence in a Met uniform was enough to drive fans into a state of excitement usually reserved for visits from the President or the Pope.

Fans flocked to Shea for the series against Mays’ now former employers the Giants. Willie was set to make his debut as a Met in the Sunday game on May 14th, but when the team needed a pinch hitter in the Friday game prior, fans began clamoring for manager Yogi Berra to send him to the plate. When John Milner emerged from the dugout instead, he was booed roundly “for not being Willie Mays” as I recall the announcer Lindsey Nelson reporting. Finally, the big day arrived and Mays was in the lineup, leading off and playing center field.

willie-mays2My dad and I watched the game together. He had been a fairly hard core NY Giants fan but had come over to the Met side of the dugout for the most part as his kids had “caught baseball fever” as a MLB marketing campaign had urged and gotten swept up in the championship run of 1969. But today was all about number 24 and his return to the fold.

If you are familiar with the game, you know that it began auspiciously for the Mets, with Giants pitcher Sam McDowell walking the bases full and then surrendering a grand slam to Rusty Staub. By the bottom of the fifth however, the Giants had tied the score and McDowell had been lifted in favor of right hander Don Carrithers. Mays led off the inning and unloaded on a fastball. As the ball cleared the fence in left and Mays trotted around the bases for the 647th time in his career, my father stopped grinning long enough to tell me “That’s the way it should be.” Cornball, but I swear it’s a true story.

That homer provided the winning edge as the Mets prevailed 5-4, and even though moments like that would be few and far between for the balance of Mays’ Mets career, the memory of that triumphant return and its near-poetic climax (hitting the homer in the bottom of the ninth would have clinched the poetic part, but let’s not squabble over details) remains indelible. The Mets and Mays had helped the New York branch of Giant fans to reclaim at least part of their legacy and gave the team that abandoned them a swat in the process. For that day, it was enough.

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Mets’ Farm System Has A Bumper Crop At Second Base http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/mets-farm-system-has-a-bumper-crop-at-second-base.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/mets-farm-system-has-a-bumper-crop-at-second-base.html/#comments Wed, 09 Jul 2014 19:44:49 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=160385 Much has been made of the Met organization’s penchant for accumulating shortstop prospects in recent years, a strategy that has paid dividends for many teams in the past. Generally speaking, players capable of handling what is considered the most demanding defensive slot on the fair territory side of the field are usually judged to be able to make the move to any other non-battery position if needed at a later time. If their bat looks to be enough of an asset to justify a starting role, it is assumed that they will find a place on the field where their glove will play effectively enough to hide any shortcomings that may have emerged over time.

Second base, interestingly enough, often seems to be a position in professional ball that is the repository for players who possess those shortcomings, either defensively, as with suspect range or a “fringy” arm, or if their bat won’t play at a more offensively oriented position such as corner infield or outfield. Naturally, there are many examples of second sackers who play brilliantly on both sides of the ball such as Chase Utley, but for every one of these there are a passel of “good glove-no stick” utility types or error-prone keystoners whose power (it is hoped) can offset their deficiencies in the field, a la Dan Uggla. Factors such as the tendencies of the pitching staff (flyball vs. groundball), the team’s home park (bandbox vs. pitcher’s haven), and the makeup of the rest of a team’s active roster can influence what type of players draw the 4 position assignment as well.

Second base has not been a storied position in Met team history. Clearly, Edgardo Alfonzo ranks as the best all-around player on the list, and some past-their-prime luminaries have filled the slot for a time as well (Carlos Baerga, Roberto Alomar), but generally, the Mets have run out a group of players there who could do something offensively and provide enough in the way of defense to keep the word “liability” from being mentioned in the same sentence with their name on a too-regular basis. Of course, the greatest offensive powerhouse to have played second in a Met uniform was Jeff Kent, but he saved his MVP-level performances for his future employers.

Interestingly, now that Daniel Murphy has established himself as one of the better offensive options in the league at the position, many are looking for him to be traded. While the merits of this idea can and have been debated, I thought it would prove insightful to look at the backlog of candidates to replace him that the team appears to be accumulating throughout its farm system.

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Triple-A Las Vegas

Wilmer Flores continues to make it known that his time has arrived. Yes, his prodigious recent power display has come in the hitter-friendly parks of the PCL, but at age 22 (turning 23 next month), his apprenticeship looks to be overlong. He needs a spot in the big club’s lineup. Murphy’s bat has necessitated his reclassification as a shortstop, but his future appears to be elsewhere in the infield. His minor league numbers may be enhanced by the rarified air of Las Vegas, but he still profiles as at least a .270+ hitter with 15+ HR potential. If that type of production comes with passable defense, most clubs would be thrilled.

Matt Reynolds, while not a name that has been listed among the team’s top prospects, has nonetheless hit his way into consideration over the past season and a half. Another ostensible shortstop, no scouting report projects him there as a regular. He lacks power or elite speed, but having hit above the .350 mark across two levels over half a season and posted a combined OBP of .424, he at least merits some consideration as at least a candidate for a spring training tryout in the leadoff spot.

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Double-A Binghamton 

Dilson Herrera, who arrived last season from the Pittsburgh organization as part of the Marlon Byrd/John Buck deal that also netted current bullpen component Vic Black, may be relatively small in stature at 5’10” and 150 lb, but has also hit at every level, tallying a .312 career mark across rookie, low A, high A, and now AA levels. At only 20 years of age, his stroke is precocious enough (along with a hint of occasional pop) to intrigue.

T.J. Rivera, another “non-prospect” who went undrafted and signed as a free agent out of college, has done nothing but hit since joining the organization in 2011. In stints at Kingsport, Brooklyn, Savanna, St. Lucie, and now Binghamton, he has batted a composite .346 with an OBP of .392. Like Reynolds, he lacks the added dimension of plus power or speed, and at age 25 is older than is typical for his level, but his numbers demand consideration as a utility player if nothing else. Anyway, even Mike Piazza was only drafted as a “courtesy.”

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Advanced-A St. Lucie 

L.J. Mazzilli, he of the pedigree, has shown a bit of his Dad’s hard-nosed style and a tad more power than the typical middle infielder in the Met organization. The 23-year old is in his second year of pro ball, now manning second for St. Lucie after a mid-season promotion from low A Savannah. Drafted in the fourth round last year out of the University of Connecticut, he had a respectable showing with short-season Brooklyn last year and has improved across the board this year with better numbers in average, slugging, and OBP. Definitely one to watch.

Single-A Savannah

Jeff McNeil, taken 8 rounds after Mazzilli out of Long Beach State, was assigned to Kingsport of the Appalachian League and hit .329 over the course of 164 AB while showing some base-stealing ability with 11 bags in 13 attempts. After showing similar numbers at Savannah this year (.332 with 15 steals in 18 tries over 232 AB) and making the Sally league All-Star team, he was promoted to St. Lucie where so far, he is demonstrating a need to adjust to elevated level of play.

While we all may find ourselves waiting a bit for Messrs. Evans, Cecchini, or Rosario to lay a claim to the shortstop position in Citifield, it appears that at least with the other half of the middle infield combo, a plethora of candidates may thrust themselves into the picture relatively soon. Competition at positions is said to be a good thing. In any event, it appears that the Mets should have no lack of supply of it at second base for years to come.

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Abreu, Colon and the Alderson Strategy http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/06/abreu-colon-and-the-alderson-strategy.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/06/abreu-colon-and-the-alderson-strategy.html/#comments Sun, 15 Jun 2014 13:08:23 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=158613 bobby abreu mets win

Mid-June has arrived and with it another unfortunate dose of reality: for all the public pronouncements of 90-win expectations and suggestions that the franchise had at last “turned the corner,” it is clear that the strange territory staked out by Mets management – that of “betwixt and between” a full-fledged rebuilding and a half-hearted attempt at competitiveness – remains the order of the day. Without the aid of a legitimate big market bankroll to attract a difference-making bat or two, and lacking the rapid enough development of key position players from within the farm system, the Mets’ offense remains a stubbornly unbalanced proposition, adept at getting players on base (witness the league leading team walk totals) but chronically inept when it comes to driving them in. Add in the self-imposed sabotage of Terry Collins’ futile attempts to wring production out of the likes of Chris Young while alternatives that might actually plug one of the gaping holes in the lineup (at least to a degree) rot on the bench, and there is nary a light to be seen at the end of this particular tunnel.

The team’s 6-2 victory over the Padres on Friday does shine some illumination on what the likely scenario is for how this season will play out. As many have noted, it was the performance of the most senior members of the roster, Messrs. Abreu and Colon that had the most to do with adding another increasingly rare tally to the “W” side of the board for the Futile Flushing Faction this past Friday. And while Abreu’s four-for-four at the plate and Colon’s string of 18 straight retired Padres likely brought a smile to anyone who appreciates veteran players showing their younger counterparts how it’s done, it is hugely obvious that the greatest value both of these two have to the Mets at this point is as trade bait for teams that are actually going somewhere this season. So, could it be that this was the strategy all along? The answer here is “of course,” and clearly the intent was the same with Chris Young as well had he performed at a level closer to “thoroughbred” than “glue factory denizen.”

Brought in on behalf of the Wilpons by Bud Selig as much for his temperament as his baseball acumen, Sandy Alderson has managed to embody the adjectives “enigmatic” and “circumspect” about as well as anyone faced with the scrutiny of the NYC press corps can do. Charged with implementing a successful small-market strategy in the face of the fiscal restraints the Wilpon family continues to obliquely treat as “the late unpleasantness,” Alderson has had the unenviable task of having to carry out his mission while maintaining the façade that somehow, the process at hand is different than that conducted by his counterparts in Minnesota, Kansas City, and Oakland. Because of the need to placate the Met fanbase and the omnipresent press/blog/sportstalk presence that hovers continuously, he has become a master of suggestion and innuendo merely to provide grist for various mills while consistently underplaying the idea that anything of real substance with regard to the evolution of the on-field product he oversees is imminent.

Other than this well-deserved credit for walking a public relations tightrope with the skill of a Wallenda, perhaps the thing that Alderson has done best since taking the reins in Flushing is wrangling prospects from other organizations in return for whatever assets the team possesses that embody the type of immediate and transitory value that contenders are willing to pay well for. Beltran, Byrd, Buck, and Dickey become Wheeler, Black, Herrera, Syndergaard, D’Arnaud, and Becerra, and before you know it, a dynasty is born! Well, in our dreams, perhaps, but while every Met fan’s patience has been tried mightily, the farm system has evolved to at least provide a source of solace if not productive hitters. So what now awaits the Mets’ 40-somethings? With veteran starting pitching perhaps the most sought after commodity for team’s entering a legitimate pursuit of post-season glory, one would have to guess that once the bidding wars over Jeff Samardzija and David Price have subsided (and from the looks of it the Cubbies are getting things started already with Samardzija), Bartolo Colon will look mighty good to a number of teams, particularly those in the AL where fans will be deprived of the admittedly entertaining sideshow that comprises his at-bats. The case with the rejuvenated (or perhaps “resurrected”) Abreu is similar, as his skills, while primarily that of a DH, appear to be sharper than anyone could have expected at this point in his career.

Colon’s contract, while seemingly an overpayment to many at the time, now appears to be, while not a stroke of genius, at least a surprisingly positive aspect with respect to his value as a bargaining chip. Granted, he remains the oddity that he is – an aging, pear shaped, PED-tainted apparent risk that seems liable to break down at any given moment. But as long as he continues to stay in the groove he’s found and set down batter after batter with the ease of a seasoned professional, teams in search of pitching will not be able to barter down the Mets’ position based on his status as a “rental.” Abreu, by virtue of his “scrapheap” pedigree will likely command less in the way of a return in trade value, but considering that Marlon Byrd and John Buck returned both a useful bullpen arm and an apparently legitimate infield prospect, one has to expect that if a worthwhile return is to be found for the veteran bat, Alderson is the one to find it.

As for the many Met fans clamoring for the exchange of some of the team’s youthful pitching depth in return for some much needed offensive sock, they would all be well advised to wait for the off-season for such a trade to materialize. This is simply not the kind of deal that generally occurs in the heat of battle when teams are trying to arm themselves to the teeth for a post-season run. Better to wait until December and hope for the kind of lightning to strike that put a 24-year old Miguel Cabrera in a Tiger uniform in exchange for…who? While this type of result may only be a fantasy, we may at least see what the impending return of Matt Harvey and Bobby Parnell to the mound staff do to the team’s willingness to use some of its seeming embarrassment of pitching riches as ransom for a batsman or two that come from somewhere other than the bargain bin.

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Chris Young Strikes Out Four Times, Now Batting .196 http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/06/chris-young-strikes-out-four-times-now-batting-196.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/06/chris-young-strikes-out-four-times-now-batting-196.html/#comments Sun, 15 Jun 2014 01:17:53 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=158025 chris young bp

Chris Young may have had one of his worst games as a Met today, going 0-for-4 with four strikeouts and failing to hustle on a line drive into the outfield that got by him.

Young saw his batting average drop to .196 with a .283 on-base percentage. The fans at Citi Field let him have it, booing and jeering Young after each long walk from home plate to the dugout.

“You’re out there busting your butt. You’re trying to do your best,” Young said. “As a player, that’s all you can do. You can’t control anything else. There’s a lot of negative energy coming my way.”

“You have to be a professional and continue to keep pushing and playing hard for this team. And you hope that some of it can turn that negative energy into positive energy to support us and help us fight through this.” 

The situation with Young continues to deteriorate and the losses that are mounting for the Mets only make his constant presence in the lineup more glaring.

June 8 – The Chris Young Conundrum

As the baseball season moves into its third month, we have received a fairly representative sample of what to expect from the Mets’ offense going forward. While most of what we’ve seen has largely been disappointing, there have been some encouraging signs that have emerged since the firing of Dave Hudgens – a move that appeared largely symbolic of the overall frustration with the moribund Met lineups that have failed time and again to produce anything resembling a consistent level of run production. With the presence of Wilmer Flores to spur him on, Reuben Tejada, while still hardly a terror at the plate, nevertheless appears to be playing like a man on a mission and has shed the strangely apathetic approach of last season and actually swung the bat with a measure of consistency. In the past few weeks, Lucas Duda has started to look something like the run producer that team management has been waiting for and Curtis Granderson appears to be getting closer to a more typical level of production than what his anemic first month in a Met uniform seemed to portend.

The veteran sticks of Wright and Murphy seem to be well within their expected ranges of offensive output (albeit with a bit less power than one might expect from Wright), and while Travis d’Arnaud’s failure to hit much of anything to this point is problematic, it is important to remember that the young backstop is still a rookie, and one that comes with enough of a hitting pedigree that perhaps a greater degree of patience than one would prefer to exhibit is called for. Until he was sidelined by injury, Juan Lagares was holding up his end at the plate satisfactorily as well.

So all this leaves Left Field up for consideration, a position which by its very nature has developed as an “offensive” placement. While whatever fielding prowess brought by  those who draw the assignment there is certainly appreciated, weak throwing arms and lumbering gaits are largely tolerated in exchange for a hoped-for degree of sock. During the off-season, Met fans clamored for a signing or trade that would fill this very real need, and the success (to this point) of available free agents Nelson Cruz and Michael Morse with the teams that chose to sign them makes the team’s decision to go with Chris Young look like a gamble gone wrong.

Yes, we can understand the thinking, to a degree. Cruz was originally seeking a much larger contract than what he eventually settled for with Baltimore, and neither he nor Morse could be considered a viable candidate to fill in as an occasional center fielder, a professed consideration in the signing of Young. And yes, we get that this represented an attempt to repeat the “lightning in a bottle” scenario that was the unexpectedly positive result of installing Marlon Byrd in right field last year. But at this point, with the season as far along as it is, it is becoming increasingly apparent that what the Mets have in Chris Young is very likely the same as the A’s had last year: a low-average hitter with a bit of speed and a bit of power but not enough of either to justify his receiving the majority of at-bats from among the available candidates.

Of course, there is no certainty that given the opportunity, either Andrew Brown or Eric Campbell would bolster the lineup to a greater degree than Young, but wouldn’t you like to at least see one or the other get an extended look? The problem of course, is Mr. Young’s contract and management’s apparent need to justify it. Terry Collins continues to talk about getting Young “going,” but barring a sudden and unexpected turnaround, this would appear to be nothing more than dutiful, yet hollow words of support. Young looks to be exactly what he is, and not much more. Another rookie flash who faded after a promising debut a la Joe Charboneau.

So, burdened with one of the one of the least productive lineups in baseball, will the Mets continue to run Chris Young out, albeit with occasional but increasingly more frequent benchings in favor of the much older but much more productive Bobby Abreu or the AAAA-labeled but potentially productive Brown/Campbell tandem? My guess is yes, at least until the amount remaining on his $7.25 million contract has eroded enough that releasing him has becoming palatable to the Wilpon/Alderson brain trust. While I bear Young no ill will, as a fan I find myself in that strange position of craving team offense but dreading any minor hot streak on his part contributing to it as it will have the effect of, to paraphrase Bill James with respect to an aging Gary Gaetti, keeping his useless carcass in the lineup.

With no consistent source of power and almost uncanny ability to waste scoring opportunities, this Met lineup cannot afford to keep slotting a player of Young’s abilities into the left field position. The question is, at what point will team management acknowledge this and move on? I, for one, hope it is sooner rather than later.

MMO

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Eric Campbell Rates A Closer Look http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/05/eric-campbell-rates-a-closer-look.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/05/eric-campbell-rates-a-closer-look.html/#comments Sun, 18 May 2014 12:00:00 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=156147 eric campbell

OK, call me a front-runner if you must, but based on what I’ve seen of Eric Campbell so far (and with a mere handful of at-bats it ain’t much), he looks to have qualities that would do much to inject some sorely needed jolt into the Mets’ lineup. I speak not so much of numbers, as the vast majority of his stats are those of the minor league variety, but rather the look he possesses at the plate – that of a discerning hitter with a good eye and a quick bat, a more “mature” hitter if you will. At age 27, Campbell appears to have reached that developmental sweet spot where game experience and youthful reflexes meld to create what is often the beginning of the prime of many players’ careers. When a hitter looks as relaxed yet as potentially lethal at the plate as Campbell has, it sticks out in a lineup like the Mets typically field where the only comparable component is Daniel Murphy, who just happens to be the best hitter on the team at this point.

Naturally, finding Campbell more playing time would cost someone else theirs, and profiling basically as a corner infielder his slot would be most likely at first base. So is it poor Lucas Duda’s fate to be relegated to the bench again just when he thought the matter was finally settled with the trade of Ike Davis? Maybe so. An examination of the numbers of both players over their minor league careers reveals relatively similar figures with respect to average and OBP, with a slight edge toward Duda in slugging percentage. What is more revealing are the walk to strikeout ratios of the two, particularly over the last few seasons. Duda’s composite numbers in this area covering 2012, 2013, and the first six weeks of this season (including both minor and major league appearances) show a K/BB ratio of .48 based on 147 walks to 306 strikeouts over the course of 1034 AB’s. Conversely, Campbell’s K/BB ratio over the same period registers an eye-opening .92 based on 145 walks to 157 strikeouts over the course of 883 AB’s. In other words, nearly an identical number of walks despite 151 fewer AB’s, and a strikeout rate about 40% lower than Duda’s. For a team that professes to follow a hitting philosophy that’s all about getting on base, you would think that Mr. Campbell’s numbers would rate some attention.

None of this is to say that Eric Campbell is the answer to fixing what has become one of the most maddeningly impotent lineups Met fans have had to endure in a while. It is just that if legitimate power isn’t really part of your game, you have simply got to be able to string some hits together consistently and Campbell’s game plays better toward this end than Duda’s. And yeah, Campbell may be more reminiscent of Dave Magadan at the plate with his heavy topspin than the kind of slugger we all daydream about in a typical first sacker, but as we’ve hardly seen much more than the usual in the way of longballs from the Dude (a rate of about 1 tater per 29 AB’s), the give-up in terms of slugging would not appear to be a deal breaker.

Would a straight platoon be in order? I think not. This would still have the effect of giving the majority of at-bats to Duda over Campbell, and based on his minor league batting splits since 2012 (.293 vs. RHP and .365 vs. LHP), the team would still appear to be better off giving the Soup Man the lion’s share of hacks. When a team with the generally anemic offense that the Mets have finds a possible means of augmenting their lineup from within the organization, can they really afford not to explore it? After all the Duda vs. Davis nonsense fans had to endure while the team’s management fiddled with the roster to seemingly little effect, would it not be fitting that the answer for first base turned out to be someone other than either of the apparently anointed candidates?

Regardless, Campbell’s apparent batting prowess deserves a more extensive trial. Hopefully his versatility and continuing contributions will compel Terry Collins to find a way to shoehorn him into the lineup on a regular basis.

mmo

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Gee and Niese Are A Quietly Effective Tandem http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/05/gee-and-niese-are-a-quietly-effective-tandem.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/05/gee-and-niese-are-a-quietly-effective-tandem.html/#comments Thu, 08 May 2014 12:26:14 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=155100 jon niese

2014: 1.82 ERA – 1.01 WHIP – 1.3 WAR

Flashy. Fire-balling. Intimidating. Adjectives like these are not the kind of descriptors one generally associates with either Dillon Gee or Jon Niese, but since others along the lines of “intelligent,” “consistent,” and most significantly, “effective” can be accurately applied, perhaps the rest simply do not matter.

As the steadiest members of the Mets’ 2014 rotation, at least to date, the two represent a left/right tandem of workmanlike reliability that has been the primary factor in a start that has been reasonably solid for a team that flat out hasn’t hit a lick.

Representing 40% of the starting corps, the pair, who share a similar professional profile – that of a relatively young (late twenties) veteran with essentially major league average stuff – have formed a backbone for a coalescing staff that will ultimately be better known for featuring arms along the lines of the qualities referenced at the beginning of this piece. But while fans continue to daydream about a rotation that could eventually feature the trio of drool-worthy blazers that includes a healthy Matt Harvey, a more experienced and consistent Zack Wheeler, and an established Noah Syndergaard, the arms that will likely be most responsible for keeping the Mets a viable force in the NL East are the two that are plying their trade at the top of their game right now.

If one were given to flights of hyperbole, comparisons to the Braves vaunted lefty/righty tandem of control specialists, Messrs. Glavine and Maddux, could be evoked, and while it would be quite a leap to place the Met hurlers in the company of that HOF-bound duo, at least some stylistic similarities can be noted. Like the Atlanta pair, both Gee and Niese have honed the art of varying the speeds and locations of their pitches to remarkable effect, and have now reached a point of consistent quality from start to start such that they are in danger of being taken for granted for merely being excellent rather than spectacular. Their recent outings against two of the most formidable clubs to face on the road this season are indicative of their value as steadying forces. Gee’s six innings of shutout ball against the Rockies’ explosive lineup on May 4th allowed the Mets to salvage the final game of what proved to be a brutal series for much of the rest of the staff, and Niese’s brilliant effort against the Marlins the next night (seven scoreless) was marred only by the bullpen’s inability to hold the fort after he left the game.

dillon gee

2014: 2.51 ERA – 1.05 WHIP – 1.2 WAR

While team management has demonstrated their recognition of Niese’s longer term value by signing him to what will likely prove a team-friendly deal prior to the 2012 season (5 years at $25.27 million with team options for 2017 and 2018), Gee’s contract status remains year-to-year at this point. If his performance remains at or near its current level however, it is likely that as he enters his arbitration eligible years the Met brass will move to secure his services under a more clearly delineated arrangement. At the same time, with the likes of Jacob deGrom, Rafael Montero, and the near-mythic Syndergaard all looming on the Met pitching horizon, the sheer reality of numbers comes into to play and raises the ever-present possibility (and inevitability) of a deal being made to both relieve what looks to be a future logjam and to address the ongoing team issues of offense and the bullpen. While both Gee and Niese would be highly attractive trading chips for all the reasons previously described, it seems unlikely that the organization would look to deal its only left-handed starter, leaving Gee as the likely asset to be moved if a veteran were to be dealt.

From my standpoint, I would rather look to deal one of the younger, more potential-oriented arms as the Mets look to be moving into a period of what should be consistent contention. While Gee may not evoke the comparisons and projections that some of his harder throwing roster mates do, his low-key, consummately professional approach is likely to prove an important asset for years to come. For now, the potential of all those great young arms remains just that – potential. If the Mets ever get around to addressing their need at shortstop by way of a trade, it is likely that the attraction of one of those arms may prove necessary to getting a deal done (are you listening Arizona?).

For now, with the season really just underway, we should expect the usual personnel shuffling to occur as the kind of fine tuning that teams typically engage in after a month or so takes place. Perhaps we will see Jenrry Mejia move to short relief or possibly the closer’s role and Dice-K shift back to the rotation. Possibly Jeurys Familia will be given a greater role and the patience needed to establish himself as a more primary relief option. Maybe we will hear more of efforts to give a couple of the young guns some bullpen exposure at Las Vegas in anticipation of a mid-season move to fortify the big club’s relief corps. Regardless, the team should be able to at least continue to rely on their two models of consistency to act as the glue holding staff together.

Looking ahead to 2015, adding Matt Harvey back to the starting pitching mix by itself goes a long way to setting expectations on a higher level than we as fans have become accustomed to in the last few years. If we add to this the Niese/Gee factor, that of a core of, well, taken-for-granted quality pitching, then much of what remains to be considered in respect to the starting staff becomes playing with various combinations of the “great young arms” element. A luxury, to be sure, and one afforded to the Mets primarily by virtue of the presence of two of the least flashy components of their staff.

Presented By Diehards

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