Mets Merized Online » Matt Balasis Wed, 03 Sep 2014 02:50:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 You Gotta Have Heart, And A Little Crazy Helps Too Thu, 21 Aug 2014 12:00:28 +0000 MLB: Washington Nationals at New York Mets

David Wright is sounding like a desperate man these days. He’s seeing his power numbers evaporate and he’s had to bear another year entrenched in a mediocre lineup on a mediocre team.

He’s got everything a man could wish for. A great apartment, buckets of money, a gorgeous wife and a great job … but his dream of a world series eludes him. David is a good guy, by all accounts he’s liked and respected by just about everyone. He signs autographs, visits children in hospitals, and does his best to put a happy face on a beleaguered franchise.

I’d wager that if David got a visit from “Mr. Applegate” (A.K.A. the Devil) offering to return him to his former slugging form he’d be mightily tempted. The reference is of course to the musical Damn Yankees, where a poor long suffering fan of the Washington Senators is lured into offering up his soul to secure that slugger his team desperately needs. Mr. Applegate turns poor Joe Boyd into Joe Hardy, the power hitter the team requires. David Wright would probably have to leave his wife, sharpen his spikes and charge the mound now and then … I doubt he could continue to be Mr. nice-guy … not with his soul in hock.

I could see the plot of Damn Yankees played out in our own backyard. A young ambitious Fred Wilpon approached by Mr. Applegate (as Bernie Madoff) in the lead up to 1986, promising him untold riches, a World Series and sole ownership of the Mets … for a price of course. After a dark and tense negotiation and a brief moment when it’s almost called off (after Wilpon tries to throw in his first born) it’s done.

Of course things didn’t turn out the way Wilpon wanted … that’s usually how these Faustian things go. In the play, Mr. Applegate was defeated by Joe Boyd’s true love for his wife Meg, but in real life Fred WIlpon’s only true love (the Dodgers) could never love him back, and so he is hung out to dry, bamboozled, hoodwinked … and as soon as the ink dries on the contract the ball gets through Buckner and his fate is sealed.

It’s a cautionary tale. Be careful what you wish for, don’t sell out, never give up on your convictions or your integrity for the sake of worldly success … but those words begin to ring hollow when you’re mired in a historic stretch of offensive futility.

The Mets win when they’re mean, when they’re a nasty dirty bunch of brawlers, when they routinely knock you down and punch you in the face if you make a run at them anywhere near the third base line. The Mets have sold out their roots and heritage by promising to be good. In the immortal words of Patches O’Houlihan, sometimes “You have to get angry, you have to be MEAN!”

But it’s not easy to be mean when you are constantly taking the high road and your captain reminds people of Spongebob’s kinder gentler nephew. You might get into heaven, but you probably won’t win a pennant.

Tom Seaver on many occasions reminisced about his days as a young ballplayer in California and often pointed to his time in the Marine Corps as a turning point. While many athletes in his position would have hesitated to devote that much time from their budding careers to the military, Tom Terrific attributed much of his toughness and strength to his service time, training with an organization designed to destroy and annihilate … an organization designed primarily for killing and maiming.

The venerable Gil Hodges shared this background with Seaver and between the two of them you had a couple of tough S.O.B’s anchoring that 1969 championship team … Then, again in 1986 you had perhaps one of the most sordid and undesirable (albeit talented) collection of deviants you could put into a single uniform take the field in Flushing, and they too proceeded to handily stomp nicer teams across the league.

It’s a cruel irony that in the years since (the Wilpon years), the team has become as straight laced and goody-two-shoes as the Waldo rich kid character in The little Rascals … I remember Darla pining “Oh Waldo!” But Waldo always lost in the end, beaten by low down dirty tricks and sneaky contraptions … a fire engine with a spring loaded boxing mitt or a speed boat with ducks harnessed to a wagon wheel as an engine. The little rascals didn’t fight fair, and they always ended up getting the girl in the end.

These 2014 Mets are nothing like Spanky and Alfalfa and Buckwheat, but they are a lot like other Mets teams of the past 20 years. They play fair, they don’t retaliate, they offer friendly smiles to the other team and routinely exchange pleasantries with opposing first basemen. Prior to Sandy Alderson and the rule changes, they adhered to slot recommendations religiously in the draft, draining their farm of talent at a time when every other big market team was stocking up. You have to go back to Ty Wiggington if you wonder when the last time a Met bowled over a catcher was. It makes one question why this Met organization is so inclined to the high road, the gentler more polite road, the losing road.

I’ll tell you why, it is Fred Wilpon’s penance on this great green earth that he be foiled by the very principles that were routinely urinated on by the 86 squad … Wilpon sold out to a criminal mastermind who orchestrated the financial backing necessary for him to secure ownership, and as punishment the Mets are now doomed, cursed … too nice to win, too gentlemanly to retaliate, too kind to knock a batter down — even when their own nicest of fellows is plunked perilously close to his noggin by a lowly Cubs team with nothing to play for. It’s like the plot of Damned Yankees without the happy ending.

Now I’m not saying Terry Collins should seek out the Devil and make a deal, these things have a way of backfiring, and besides, finding old scratch might not be easy in light of Bud Selig’s imminent retirement … but this too kind to let the other team lose gentleman’s game has no place in Queens. This is New York for crying out loud. Maybe this nauseating institutionalized tenet towards niceness was implemented in response to the ruinous amoral disintegration of their would-be dynasty, but surely, 28 failed seasons later the Wilpons must realize that good guys finish last, right? They must on some level understand that the bad guys won the last time their organization took it all?

Matt Harvey gave us a little taste last year of what it’s like to pour gasoline over a duct-taped opponent and threaten them with a Zippo lighter, while Zack Wheeler is showing signs of breaking this benevolent buffoonery with his fondness for kneecaps … but around the diamond we continue to be hamstrung by a sad and lugubrious shortness of crazy. You gotta have heart as the song goes, you have to have the courage to occasionally go off the high road and do something really really stupid.

Like John Blutarski famously said, “What the f#@& happened to the (Mets) I used to know? Where’s the spirit? Where’s the guts, huh? This could be the greatest night of our lives, but you’re gonna let it be the worst. “Ooh, we’re afraid to go with you Bluto, we might get in trouble.” Well just kiss my @$ from now on! Not me! I’m not gonna take this. Harper, he’s a dead man! Freddie Freeman, dead! Strasburg … “

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Mets Are More ‘Clutch’ Than The Nats, Statistically Speaking Sat, 16 Aug 2014 16:16:33 +0000 eric campbell homers

Judging from comments on my twitter feed, I’d venture to guess that the prevailing emotion among Mets fans out there for this season is abject frustration. While there are times when we are offered glimmers of hope and slivers of consistency, they tend to be quickly snuffed out. The team itself is probably more likeable than it has been in a while, but the constant RISP and LOB trends tend to put a proverbial damper on these good feelings like a wet wool blanket tossed on uncle Jimmy after his little bbq accident at the 4th Of July get together. We’re left with that nasty smell of burnt forearm hair and losses that should have been wins.

I can’t remember a season so full of “could have beens.” I honestly believe we might have easily been 8 or 10 wins up in the win column if only we’d had a few things break our way, if only we had a few more clutch hits. The Mets, post 2006, have been plagued with the worst label you can have as a team, they are perceived as unclutch. More recently they seem capable of pitching well enough, they’ve repaired a chronically leaky pen, but the team as a whole continues to struggle with scoring runs in high leverage situations. Is this apparent perception borne out statistically?

The world of sabermetrics seems to put out a new stat every week, and each one more complex than the last. I actually read an article a couple of days ago that asked you to refer back to first year calculus, that’s like asking me to refer back to my time in the birth canal. There are some things I’d rather not remember. There is actually a stat now called “clutch.” Clutch = (WPA / pLI) – WPA/LI. It is a measure loosely based on something called sequencing and “performance bunching.” In a nutshell, clutch measures a team’s ability to group fortuitous events together with productive results.

Take the Nats series for instance, the Mets left a bunch of runners on base, and inning after inning seemed to string hits together only after getting two outs, which resulted in being repeatedly turned away without scoring — they had a clutch score of -0.07 (0 = average). The Mets, ostensibly, appear to be extremely unclutch, however, when you take a closer look, the numbers don’t exactly bear this out. They have a whopping -44 rdif and according to fangraphs, offensively are the tenth most “clutch” team in baseball with a rating of -0.20. Are you kidding me?

Mets hitters are actually more “clutch” than the Nationals (the Nats have a clutch rating of -0.44) … Why?? I don’t know … THIRD BASE! But before I add another “and I don’t give a damn,” Lou Costelloism, I should mention that given what the Mets have accomplished statistically, they have won more games than they should have. Wonderful, so the Mets are actually pretty clutch given how bad they are. That makes about as much sense as saying a pig can fly fairly well considering he’s a pig … but I get it.

This my friends is why we may be stuck with Terry Collins. The numbers gurus are quick to dump out buckets of stats showing that given what the Mets have produced, they’ve actually won more games than they should have. Right now the most clutch teams in baseball are the Royals, the Orioles, the Red Sox (really?), the Yankees, and the Braves, the least clutch teams are the Twins, the Rockies, the Angels, the Rays, and the Cubs. The Mets currently have a .471 winning percentage, however, BaseRuns a statistic that strips away variation from performance and tells you in a sense what a team should have done were it not for sequencing and “clutch events,” says the Mets should have a .458 winning percentage.

Statisticians are also quick to point out that clutch is meaningless, primarily due to the inordinately high probability of regression. According to their theory, the Giants were never really better than the Dodgers, they have simply been extremely clutch, similarly they cite the Orioles and the Royals as examples of teams that are currently running ahead of their competition contrary to actual on field performance … again mostly because they’ve been lucky enough to group or sequence productive events (they’ve been clutch). Regression, however, is unavoidable. Jeff Sullivan of fangraphs recently showed in convincing detail that there is no such thing as clutch … clutch is simply a grouping of productive events that happens to coincide with high leverage situations, it is random and thus highly vulnerable to regression. Which means the Mets, given their production, may end up losing at an even higher rate than they have thus far.

Now I am not familiar enough with what goes into these statistics to comment on whether clutch performances are anomalies on a team level and whether regression is inevitable. If it is then the Royals will not win their division and the Rays will make a run at some point, but some teams, the Orioles and Giants come to mind, appear to be consistently “clutch” which runs contrary to league regression trends. There are outlying examples of teams that do not regress. In these instances there may be opportunities for determining whether there are in fact occasional examples of teams that have been for whatever reason capable of bunching improbable productive events together consistently. We saw this first hand with the Giants. An error here, a passed ball there, and poof, they snatch a win from the jaws of defeat. Maybe clutch has something to do with not being bright enough to be nervous in a situation where you should be nervous … Hunter Pence, that poor man’s wanna-be Brandon Nimmo, comes to mind. Who knows. I sure don’t.

If I had to guess I would say that clutch hitting does not correspond accordingly with clutch pitching, if it did I’m sure the Nats with their 17 WAR for pitching would have a higher overall clutch rating. While the Mets have failed to produce on par with a .471 winning percentage, their pitching has been stifling at times and I think clutch pitching performances are more difficult to qualify than clutch hitting performances because of all the myriad situational nuances that go into a pitcher’s mound presence and execution. Tom Seaver by most accounts would be considered a clutch pitcher, but he was also really really good. I would wager the 1969 Mets were an extremely clutch team if you go off of their production, but I’d also wager the teams who faced the Mets down the stretch and in the playoffs in 1969 didn’t think clutchness had anything to do with it … they simply overwhelmed you with pitching.

What worries me in light of all this is that our current front office’s adherence to sabermetrics dictates that the team is performing above it’s capabilities, which would imply their coaching staff and manager are doing a great job. The problem with this approach is it is an after the fact analysis. The Mets have not produced but have somehow won more than they should have given their production … unfortunately one of the reasons they’ve failed to produce is a problematic roster and an even more problematic allocation of playing time from said roster. It is akin to a baker using the wrong ingredients in a cake that ends up tasting terrible and giving him a pass because, well it isn’t fair to expect a cake with the wrong ingredients to taste good.

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Quality vs. Quantity: Can The Mets Sustain Their Pitching Dominance? Wed, 13 Aug 2014 14:07:39 +0000 In what is becoming an ongoing commentary on the effectiveness of the Mets braintrust’s primary approach to returning the organization to relevance, namely their institutional focus on pitching, we are poised for yet another test. Over the past few days the Mets have been hit with a mixed bag of essentially bad news on the pitching front with their ROY candidate Jacob deGrom going down with elbow tendinitis, their closer Jenrry Mejia disclosing a sports hernia, and Jeremy Hefner looking like he’s headed for another TJ surgery.

How well the Mets weather this incursion into their vaunted pitching depth will go a long way in revealing whether our arms stockpile is in fact paying off. The Mets, who continue to be one sweep of the Nats (granted easier said than done) from climbing into the thick of it, already have their pitching to thank for this hanging around consolation, but whether Montero can step into deGrom’s rotation spot and tread water will be a considerable measure of the quality of our development programs.

rafael montero throws

Montero is an interesting case in his own right. This time last year Montero was a far greater subject of major league projections than deGrom — a converted infielder with elbow surgery in his past. Montero’s performance in spring training was, to me, eye opening because as with any young control pitcher you worry about major league hitters clobbering him, but Montero showed persistence and resilience, bending but not breaking, (much like early Wheeler — before his transformation into a different animal).

Then came his stint in the majors, which was, in a word, puzzling. He appeared to be avoiding the inside part of the plate, was missing the corners, getting behind hitters. It was … like nothing we’d been led to expect from this kid. And now he’s back after a string of masterful Triple-A starts, another potential testament to this organization’s ability to develop major league starters, if he can stick. The question now being asked after last night’s homer-fest is whether Montero was tipping his pitches.

At a time in the season when attrition rears its ugly head, like ruts in a muddy road pulling a bus full of nuns this way and that, some teams will be able to stay on track while others will end up in a ditch, all depending on the quality of their replacement tires and how well they’ve plugged their holes.

The Mets have some arms, clearly, and, clearly, the organization’s reluctance to trade from strength is looking like a sound decision, but a team that can absorb the loss of a player performing at a level as high as deGrom should open some eyes at the very least, boosting said team’s pitching stock. Or, the team could falter, Montero could revert to his nibbling, timid, earlier performance … our replacements could struggle, a blowout here, a cracked radiator there, the dream of a pennant race could careen precariously off a bridge and tip slowly into the churning waters of insignificance.

It’s not enough to have lots of arms. You have to have lots of really good arms. Pitchers not throwers as the old adage goes. deGrom, Gee, Wheeler all show the ability to mix their pitches, and in the end, that’s how you get major league hitters out. Is that a reflection of a revamped system, or simply a case of amassing some talented hurlers on one rotation? You show a major league hitter the same thing over and over, they’ll eventually figure out how to hit it … you learn how to spot a changeup and when to drop a breaking pitch and when to come up and in, you’ll have hitters off balance more often than not. It’s all about development at this stage of the great Mets pitching endeavor … the arms are there, will they continue to perform at this ridiculously high level?

We’ll know soon enough.

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Mets Have Reached Critical Mass Fri, 01 Aug 2014 17:43:22 +0000 MattHarvey1When Matt Harvey was diagnosed with his UCL tear my initial reaction was the sad resignation to an even longer wait for relevance. I wondered, with all our pitching depth, whether any rotation could absorb the loss of Harvey. Oddly enough, the Mets as currently constituted are in perhaps one of the best positions in baseball when it comes to absorbing the loss of a starter, even, apparently, a front of the rotation starter.

I was watching Zack Wheeler the other day … it’s funny because we think of Harvey as this bulldog competitor, but I swear if I were a member of an opposing fanbase Wheeler is the guy who’d tick me off. He is nasty and he appears to have a thing for kneecaps … the hitters were not comfortable. I actually think his wildness works in his favor. You have to love it as a Met fan. The Mets, wins and losses be damned, have nevertheless been able to employ a two and sometimes three starter combination pitching at an ace or close to ace level for much of this season, and, are well-positioned to absorb the loss of Bartolo Colon.

Are we there yet? Have we reached the promised land, that “critical mass” that triggers a tipping point, a steel ball rolling down a chute? The short answer is that, yes, we may in fact be seeing the early returns on the strategy as articulated by Paul DePodesta — namely stockpiling starters of all sorts and sizes system wide.

jacob deGromJacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler, Rafael Montero, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey and Steven Matz, yes Matz! The bottom line is that the NY Mets have a ton of pitching and are deep at every level in their minor leagues at a time when pitching is at an even greater premium. You couldn’t have scripted it any better if you tried.

Sandy Alderson stockpiles a commodity that a rash of elbow injuries makes even shorter … Aren’t there laws about that sort of thing? I mean, was it arranged? You know, like how you might take out your competition’s supply so that you can boost your prices on the street … isn’t that how the drug cartels do it in the movies? But then that would imply that Sandy Alderson is behind this rash of TJ injuries which I’m afraid might be beyond even his own substantial powers.

If my calculations are correct, my friends, and if the stars align and the ashes fall as I believe they will. We are, by several indicators, poised for a bit of a run. It’s this idea that good second half teams (the Cardinals come to mind but the Mets last year weren’t bad either) resist the natural attrition of a 162 game slog with good organizational pitching depth. The deeper the team’s pitching, the greater the likelihood that team will outperform it’s competition in the second half.

At a time when most teams are scrambling to fill rotation spots, we have two of our converted starters setting up and closing games, while another is being shopped. The bullpen, in line with the notion that organizational depth and bullpen effectiveness tend to be convergent, is yet another indicator that we may have in fact reached “critical mass.” Our bullpen with a lead has been a death knell to opposing offenses from the 7th inning on. It’s been one Mejia hulk stomp after another lately. And the arms just keep coming.

It’s early and wildly presumptuous but I’m calling it …

Hold onto your seats folks, it’s about to get interesting in Flushing.

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Fishing For Hope In A Resurgent Bullpen Sun, 29 Jun 2014 13:41:09 +0000 jenrry mejia anthony recker

I was fishing up in northern MN a few years back and I caught a big large mouth bass along with a number of other keepers. It was a good 22 inches and four pounds. I had the damned thing on a stringer. I’d never worked with a stringer, always used a bucket catching porgies out by Greenpoint … So anyway I unlatched the stringer and reached over to grab my bucket (the irony!) and in that moment my toe came off the line and … whoosh, goodbye. My magnificent bass friend wasn’t about to give his life up to this amateur, he and the others were gone. In that moment, what I felt, I realize, is the closest I can get to how I feel about this Mets season. So many “could-a beens” so many babbling slapped to your senses moments … at the end of the day more often than not you are left with a tipped canoe and a tangled line and nothing to show for it.

There is no sense trying to explain how this Mets team could actually be competitive if only certain things were to happen. For years we struggle with non-existent bullpens and now, we finally get a decent pen, and the rest of the team forgets how to hit.

Bullpens play a huge role in today’s game. The good ones tend to keep their teams in contention, with a few exceptions, one being the Mets. The top ten ranked bullpens generally belong to contenders. The Mets currently rank 9th in bullpen ERA. Can you believe it? Can you dig it? It’s true man, the Mets can throw some serious heat at you in the late innings … and see, here’s the thing … wait for it … there is a positive correlation between organizational depth and bullpen effectiveness, highlighted almost perfectly in the farm fueled rise of our current relief corps as the Mets also have a consensus top ten farm system. The premise was discussed ad nauseam here, and it continues to be true today as the Astros top both lists (bullpen ERA ranking and many farm system rankings) … In fact, if you go by WAR, the correlation is even more pronounced with top Bullpen WAR rankings populated by a virtual who’s-who of top ten farm system ranking lists. It’s no big insight, the flexibility to add quality arms from the farm, especially down the stretch, is a huge advantage, research supporting this is akin to shooting the proverbial fish in it’s bucket, no pun intended.

Now you’d think, maybe, by assembling multiple lockdown end-game scenarios you might also have the presence to support it with a table scrap lineup that can put up a few runs here and there? Nope. What makes matters worse is that the one hope of a team such as ours is impeccable fundamentals, or “fundies” as Keith would say, at which we are anything but passable — the team continues to throw the ball around routinely giving the opposition extra outs. My friends, there are real questions with this team, but you still end up wondering how much better they could be. If only the Mets insisted on more production from both corners … if only I’d tied the stringer down!

Sadly the problem with a good bullpen on a team that can’t produce enough offense is you get into these grueling extra-innings marathons against other decent bullpens and you are burnt out by July 1st. fssst caput, dead.

It’s not rocket science, it’s basically the NL blueprint with Whitey Herzog and the bunting and the hit and run … doesn’t anyone with the Mets know how to play that game? We couldn’t find someone who knows a thing or two about NL style play? I believe our current manager thinks it has something to do with making a daily double switch…

The good news is we’ve fixed the bullpen (for now), but, like whack-a-mole every time you plug one hole, three other holes pop up. But heck either way the lack of fielding and fundamentals will always hamstring this team and is inexcusable from a planning aspect, that’s one for the reticent gray matter gurus in our front office. Solid defense up the middle is huge. Defense is not a secondary or “supporting” skill set. Not in the NL I remember, good fielding and solid pitching can put a strangle hold on many a 1-0 Tom Seaver victory… don’t they know this? Didn’t Sandy get the memo? No memo?

You want to feel good about the bullpen, and the improvement is huge no doubt, but, particularly with a pitching first approach, until the Mets can figure out how to put fundamentally sound ballplayers on their major league field we’re more likely in for that standing drenched on a pier having just lost your fish feeling.

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I Not Robot Fri, 20 Jun 2014 17:30:51 +0000 terry collins

Watching the game on Thursday night, I was struck by a couple of things. The home plate umpire’s strike zone, and the accuracy of calls at first. I didn’t think initially there was a connection but I was wrong! You see the home plate umpire’s strike zone was large and low, but remarkably consistent, so accurate, it was almost robotic.

Close calls at first? No problem, break it down so you see every grain of sand and send the video to a panel of experts in NY. Only there is no “panel” there is only a giant computer. Eventually there will be a pressure plate at first and wireless psi sensors stitched into first base mitts … maybe even have a red light and green light nearby. It’s all part of the robot plot to takeover baseball.

Terry Collins the whitehaired wizard warned of these robots when he lamented their calculated unemotional responses to, well, lets call them “the incredible things that should not happen, happening”  moments, Terry knew a team of robots would be immune to the emotional effects of his cacophony of confusion.

You see, in a world ruled by logic and symmetry, Terry Collins’ potpourri of the perplex is brushed aside as illogical, it is ignored. Robots don’t slam bats into the ground, they don’t punch water coolers or drunk dial their exe’s either. They swing or they don’t, they run, catch and throw– that’s it.

Now, what most people think when they think baseball and robots it’s a bunch of Jetson’s era mechanical players whirring around making beeping noises … I remember those days … but it’s not like that at all. See the robots are really a cybernetic organism hiding as a form of electricity in computer mainframes everywhere … they have figured out how to control actual humans. They walk and talk just like us but they are under robot control. Lucas Duda is their prototype. It is rumored that the Nats are already two thirds under robot control …

We must listen to Terry Collins the Whitehaired and embrace indifference (bemused smirk at most) when cataclysmic events unfold. You see, after a while Terry lures his opponents in with his bizarre brew of buffoonery and then, when you least expect it, he does something right, like letting Zack Wheeler complete his shut-out. The swirling powers in the universe stop and scratch their heads, “wait, what, did he just make the right move?” And it is precisely at that moment when he pounces!

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The Mets At A West Coast Crossroads Thu, 19 Jun 2014 14:28:13 +0000 MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at New York Mets

Go west young man! Horace Greely, manifest destiny and all that. I remember it from Mr. Fabricant’s history class at Bryant H.S. Look west for opportunity and inspiration! And so it was, the Mets looked to a west coast paradigm manifested in two executive runs first in Oakland then in San Diego for our current leadership team. A “west coast” approach if you will. Even now with the Mets at a crossroads we look at their former exploits for answers.

Early in the off-season of 2005 Omar Minaya was in the midst of turning the Mets into a kind of “Angels East,” spending big to draw enough fans and revenue to ensure even more freedom to operate with the other big markets, and like the Mets, sharing their market with an even bigger neighbor. The Angels were, and arguably still are, on the cusp of establishing themselves as perennial big market big spending contenders. While Minaya’s ability to function was compromised, never completing his spend first and let everything else fall into place plan, a dramatic restructuring was embraced on account of ownership’s association with Bernie Madoff. Minaya’s services were no longer needed (attempts to retain him notwithstanding). The team was moving in another direction.

South, to San Diego. Pertinent to the Mets in that the Padres are a living artifact of Sandy Alderson’s most recent efforts. Padres fans, in spite of a couple of early division titles,  generally consider Alderson an axe man, he came in, put a stranglehold on every aspect of the organization, turned over baseball operations to Kevin Towers and sliced the team’s talent up for parts with cold, calculating, impunity … like the Doomsday Machine slicing up Rigel-IV for fuel. (incidentally, the similarities between the Trevor Hoffman and the Jose Reyes situations are uncanny).

Much like the Mets, the Padres have seen improved minor league systems, consistently ranking in the top 10 (if not the top 5). Yet, much like the Mets, they have struggled to perform in their offensively challenged home confines.

One major difference between the Padres and the Mets has been lip service. In San Diego Alderson couldn’t be bothered about fan backlash, he simply ignored the public. In NY, probably having been counseled against such an approach, Sandy and his spokespeople pushed the “don’t be fooled, we’re here to win” narrative, which was disingenuous at best and patronizing at worst. Not a good initial salvo in the all important “win the crowd” battle. Alderson proceeded to do precisely what he had done in San Diego, with one notable exception, David Wright. I’d wager David Wright would have been traded in a heartbeat had he been on the Padres only a few years earlier.

From San Diego you can take I5 north back to Los Angeles and the contents of Chavez Ravine where the Los Angeles Dodgers reside. The sight of perhaps one of the greatest violations of public trust, look no further than the history of Chavez Ravine for the whole sad story, “the poor man’s shangri-la.”

It certainly is no poor man’s recourse as the present day home of the Dodgers who have finally managed to outspend the Yankees, the first time anyone’s done that in 15 years.  But you can’t really talk about the Dodgers without talking about the Red Sox. The Dodgers were the willing recipient of one of the largest cash-dump trades in MLB history. About $270 million dollars in salary freed up by the Red Sox, but even more astonishing was that the Dodgers absorbed it. Remarkably, both Boston and L.A. seemed to benefit from this trade. The Dodgers were propelled to a 92 win NL west title in 2013 while the Red Sox did even better with mid-level replacement players racking up 97 wins. The lesson here? If you are paying for wins there really isn’t an argument, the Red Sox paid their players a lot less and ended up with 5 more wins. But the Dodgers won also, and winning means money, especially in a market that is even bigger than Boston. So there are no losers here, simply a case of big markets operating like only big markets can, consolidating and moving around staggering amounts of money and talent … must be nice if you are a member.

If you look at another trade, the Marlins and Blue Jays 2012 trade, it’s not only maybe even more interesting, the outcome seems similar. A trade that initially looked absolutely awful for the Blue Jays, is suddenly looking fantastic. Welcome to 2014 … One thing is certain, both of these supposed “salary dump” trades have thrown giant wrenches at the money won’t buy you pennants argument.

If you get back on I5 and continue north you end up in San Francisco where you can drive over to ATT Park, home of the Giants. The team our current brain trust has openly tried to emulate. A franchise built on a marvelous pitching tradition with two recent world titles in tow, another successful spare parts and scotch tape offense, and with no signs of slowing down.

The Giants are scary, they draft, develop, and spend … they can shut you down with their pitching and bullpen, but they also seem to know when to capitalize on mistakes. In our recent series against them, it felt like the Mets actually played well, and yet, one little mistake and forget it, the Giants snatch the win in a blink. it may actually be too early to judge whether our efforts to be like the Giants bear fruit. A tradition isn’t built overnight. Part of the strategy involves more than just putting great pitchers on the mound in the majors, it also involves accumulating the “collateral” to make trades, allowing you to pursue players like Carlos Beltran. The Mets have not exactly established pitching dominance at the major league level — although they are trending in that direction — but they also haven’t moved into the “trade for bats” phase. For all of Alderson’s talk about accumulating collateral, they have been sitting on that collateral since they came to town. Even the one piece they did trade (Colin McHough) is starting to look questionable.

Finally there’s the team across the bay. Oakland, the team that gave Sandy Alderson his start, with his disciple, ex-Met farm hand Billy Bean running the show (although I am sure there was a “Ha HA! Who is the Master now old man??!” moment at some point). The A’s, really since Sandy Alderson’s pivotal run as GM, have enjoyed perhaps the most sustained stretch of success, contending at times out of nowhere, season after season with an off-year here and there. They scout the high minors’ “almost ML ready” players aggressively and trade for those players aggressively. They also keep their minors stocked with pitching at the lower levels, developing a steady stream of ace caliber pitchers. Their prospects aren’t too shabby for 2014 either.

The Mets have reached a watershed moment in the context of their current approach. They are primed for trades having established a strong minor league pitching base but have not pursued any significant talent acquisitions, their payroll has been overhauled following the expiration of numerous cumbersome contracts but the team continues to spend less and showed mixed (at best) results with their recent foray into free agency.

It doesn’t look like the Mets will be spending any time soon, so they basically have a choice, they can either be like the A’s or the Padres. On one end of the spectrum you have the masterful wheeling and dealing on a shoestring of the Oakland A’s, on the other end you have the Padres, overly dependent on fragile prospects who more often than not aren’t good fits in their home ballpark … sound familiar?

The Padres, the A’s, and the Mets are all in the bottom third for spending. Unlike the A’s the Padres have not really been able to find a successful formula. The Mets, as currently constructed, are more like the Padres than the A’s because, like the Padres, we’ve been conservative in dealing talent from our minor league systems. It’s almost like this Mets front office is afraid of turning in a stinker, so they stand pat. I hope that’s not the case, because it would essentially neutralize one of the most important parts of the A’s (and to a lesser degree the Giants) formula … what good is all the pitching if you never trade for bats?

Something has to give. The Mets are loaded with pitchers, and are at (hopefully) a low point in their payroll, our GM’s contract is expiring soon. This is NY, we all know the deal, you want more fans? Win. Alderson and the NY Media have been running with a “now is the time” storyline for the Mets in 2014 but the results haven’t been there. We can add talent, we can add offense but the prospect of doing so without adding even a smidgen of payroll is unlikely, so, again welcome to San Diego east.

In the end, the Mets front office is going to wallow perpetually in a sort of almost there but not quite place until one of two things happen, they add a reasonable 10 – 15 million to their current payroll, allowing them to add a couple more decent free agents to the mix or perhaps one more big one, or they can loosen the purse strings on that minor league collateral and start making some trades. Whatever happens has to happen soon because for Sandy, his time is just about up, and the remarkable patience of a remarkable NY fanbase that has already been lied to and placated too often, is fed up enough to stay home.

Spend or Trade… Do something.

Don’t just stand there staring down the middle at a 3-1 fastball. Please, we don’t want to be the Padres…

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A Desperate Plea to MLB from a Mets Fan Mon, 16 Jun 2014 12:51:30 +0000 david wright

It’s hard to perform under pressure. I’ve always felt sorry for bomb squad guys and hockey goalies, although the bomb guys have these awesome robots now, but lets not get on the subject of robots. Pressure can be paralyzing… deer in the headlights kind of thing. But you figure with a deer in the headlights it’s one big thump and it’s over, quick, bam. With these Mets the pain is prolonged, drawn out, like being chained to a pickup truck and dragged at 10 mph through a beet farm.

Players who can perform under pressure are sometimes described as “clutch.” You might say the Mets of recent years have not been known as a particularly clutch group, you might. Clutch is an interesting word. You clutch your Mets-gear stuffed penguin during thunderstorms, or you replace the clutch in your blue Chevy Cobalt (with orange hubcaps), but a clutch performance? I suppose you can clutch or “seize the moment” in a sense, but what does that even mean? Very vague.

I guess David Wright has been a pretty clutch guy, but mostly when it hasn’t mattered a lot, and therein lies the problem. See, how could you be clutch on a bad team? The nature of “clutchness” is performing miraculous feats that result in wins … if you don’t win, by definition you aren’t clutch, correct? But I guess hitting with men in scoring position is “clutch.”

Either way the Mets are not clutch, unless you’re talking about the clutch you do when you get kicked in the privates.  Which, remarkably, is what it has begun to feel like every time Chris Young strikes out with the bases loaded. It’s so hard to ignore … like Sisyphus, that guy who had to roll a gynormous boulder almost to the top of a mountain only to see it roll all the way back down the hill every day for eternity … something like that only with more agita. It’s cruel really, just by force of habit it’s hard to look away when the bases are loaded. Oh you can pretend you don’t care, or even take the predicting-the-disaster-see-I-told-you-so approach but you can’t look away no matter how hard you try.

This Mets team is almost charming in how averse they are to timely hits. Really, they’re amazing if only because statistically It’s improbable to repeatedly strand that many men. In that sense you can think of it in terms of watching something really incredible like a herd of bison running off a cliff … it’s momentous, unless you’re standing at the bottom of the cliff.

The thing about clutch performances is they happen under pressure, and nowhere do you get more of that than in New York. You see, one important thing I’ve learned about stress is you don’t get better at it the longer you have it, it’s not like a yo-yo, unless its a poisonous, slowly-killing you, radioactive yo-yo. Mets fans have become so hyper-sensitive to the stress and disappointment of failing in comical and horrible ways, we boo poor Taylor Teagarden for not hitting a home run every game.

This is why MLB must step in and stop this madness. Met fans are getting nastier … They’re organizing in hideous angry droves … it’s like a zombie virus. We stumble around with yellow eyes moaning and drooling and occasionally yelling “swing … Aaargh just swing!”  It’s debilitating, it can interfere with work, family, Sudoku … not good.

So I send a plea to Major League Baseball … Think of the ruined family outings, think of all the Mets fans who will kick the dog and burn the brats and threaten to beat uncle Frank with a section of tailpipe all because of one too many non-scoring bases loaded with no one out situations? All we ask for are some owners who can afford to repair this team. Please MLB, think of the poor dog with the sad eyes, make a move, do the humane thing, force a sale.

MMO footer

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Major League Baseball, the Mets, and the Public Trust Tue, 03 Jun 2014 19:20:01 +0000 kelly madden kid baseball

We live in a democracy. The greatest democracy on the planet. In spite of recent developments causing many to question the viability of our democratic way, I believe we still hold in our hands the power to influence our way of life and our pursuit of happiness. As citizens of this country we are entitled to certain rights and resources that are held in a public trust. Baseball, our national pastime, is one of them.

“Baseball is a public trust. Players turn over, owners turn over and certain commissioners turn over. But baseball goes on.” - Peter Ueberroth

When I was a child I got to visit my uncle in West Virginia. Coal mining country. Way up in the mountains. They lived in a small town and ran a country store with a couple of pickup trucks in the back that constantly ran deliveries. It was a magical experience for a kid who’d spent his entire life in the concrete confines of Queens. In their back yard there was a river and we’d often walk up and down its banks skipping stones. As a New Yorker I recall being nervous about trespassing onto neighboring property but they explained to me that the river was “public,” a protected thoroughfare. Although the property it ran through was private you were allowed to use the river and a small path along side as you would a road.

I’ve come to revise my understanding over the years of what we define as “public trust.” From that river and access to roads, to public parks to our national monuments, as citizens we are guaranteed access to certain things. When we think of issues arising from conflicting interests in public trust disputes, large corporations infringing on federal property and ranchers using public land out west come to mind, but baseball ownership inherently involves its own host of public trust issues.

Ownership of a major league team is, certainly, a private enterprise, but it is also a matter of public trust. This confluence of these seemingly disparate sectors may appear unlikely, and yet they intersect squarely in the legal crosshairs of our national pastime. There is no doubt that baseball ownership offers the promise of considerable personal enrichment, however, the best owners have always run their teams with an eye on the public — that very human resource upon which a team’s wealth and prosperity is built.

In the spring of 2011 Commissioner Bud Selig did something unthinkable in virtually any other business enterprise. He seized, by force of rule, another man’s property. That man was Frank McCourt, and the reason Selig was able to invoke control over his property (the Los Angeles Dodgers) by appointing Thomas Scheiffer to oversee operations, was because of a long precedent of commissioners intervening with surprisingly broad powers to ensure the “best interests of Baseball.” While there have been challenges to many commissioners in the past who have imposed similar controls, the owners in question have always lost on grounds directly pertaining to MLB’s right to protect those elements in Baseball which fall under what we commonly understand to be matters of public trust.

Selig was quoted at the time of this dispute:

“Baseball is a social institution, and as such, it has profound social responsibilities.”

A “social institution,” describes the very public component of any franchise that makes a team profitable, the fan base. You can own a brand, a label, a stadium, a sports network, a parking lot, but you cannot own the social entity that makes all those things possible, you can’t own the fans. For this reason, commissioners in the past have had the power to impose sometimes draconian measures to oversee owners who appeared to be damaging Baseball’s responsibility to its public.

Almost concurrent with the Dodger affair, Mets ownership was hit with the disastrous implications of being intimately involved in the most massive ponzi scheme in the nation’s history. They awoke one morning to the realization that they’d lost a fortune and then some to the Madoff debacle. Their team’s cash-flow buffer, the resources to pay off a tremendous amount of stadium and team debt, their fiduciary obligation to employees, a top third in the league player payroll, all suddenly were very much in question, all hinging precariously on a series of bank loans and emergency loans from MLB itself. The Wilpons were by all accounts in dire straits. At that critical juncture Selig came out with the following:

“I have great respect for Wilpons. But I felt in studying the issues the Mets could survive. They were unfortunate victims in a financial scandal, one that put pressure on them. But they have the respect of everybody in the game, the potential to work through it, so I realized it was in baseball’s best interest to have patience there.”

Here we are several years later, three more losing seasons behind us, wondering, where is the social responsibility? In the end, it appears that what was good for the goose, was not good for the gander.

The Dodgers were divorced of Frank McCourt’s ownership essentially by force while the Mets were propped up and allowed to tread water almost indefinitely to the dismay of New York Mets fans who have watched their team’s payroll slashed season after season after season. The public’s trust has been clearly violated. Mets fans had nothing whatsoever to do with Fred Wilpon’s investment schemes or the collapse of his ability to finance a competitive major league franchise, we were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time — guilty of loving and rooting for a troubled team, a team that existed well before Fred Wilpon ever came into the picture.

To add insult to injury, Fred Wilpon has stated with impunity that he intends to hold onto the team as a bequest – the most private of entities — passing it down to his heir Jeff Wilpon in due time. A public’s trust determinately held captive as a family heirloom. Adding even more insult to injury is the publicized narrative from the mouth of Fred Wilpon himself and echoed in Sandy Alderson’s “sustainability” spiel, essentially blaming the Mets’ restricted payroll on the fans and our lack of support.

Fred Wilpon wasn’t always wealthy, he wasn’t always on the back pages. In fact he’d probably still be languishing somewhere in the relative anonymity of wealthy NY real estate entrepreneurs were it not for the N.Y. Mets. The Mets really are all the Wilpons have in terms of prestige and fame (if not fortune) at this point, and there is no logical reason to believe they would willingly give that up.

But there is still this issue of the public trust. That part, parcel, and percentage of the franchise that cannot be physically owned, the fans. Fred Wilpon can’t come into your living room and change your channel. Jeff Wilpon can’t follow you into a shopping mall and force you to put down a credit card and buy Mets merchandise. Saul Katz can’t come to your work place on your lunch break and make you charge 4 box seats for the coming homestand. When you violate the public trust, the public will do the only thing it can, abandon you.

That’s the part that Selig and Wilpon didn’t quite think through. Selig’s responsibility was to Baseball, not to the Wilpons. It is disingenuous to presume Selig’s support of Mets ownership was due to friendship … As I’ve stated elsewhere, that is a noble but factually improbable lark. Unlike the situation in Los Angeles, Selig saw the situation in Queens as an opportunity to promote his small market ideology under the reuse of propping up an old friend. But that is outside the scope of this discourse. The point of this is to illustrate and emphasize the gargantuan, glaring, painful hypocrisy inherent in MLB’s continued support of an ownership group in New York that is fundamentally and categorically incapable of meeting the basic social responsibility it has to its public, which is an affront to Selig’s own stated purpose as commissioner.

(Photo by Kelly Madden, Metsmerized Online)


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Why Mets Fans Boo! Fri, 30 May 2014 16:02:33 +0000 mets crying fan

Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson asked a question last week that resulted in quite the tweet-storm:

“I’ve always wanted to know why someone would boo, because in the next second they’ll cheer…So which one is it? You like your team or dislike your team? You call yourself a fan and then you’ll boo?”

“I understand you’re a fan, but at the same time, you aren’t playing…I can see you getting that intense as a player or have played. But if you’re just a fan and watching, enjoy the excitement of the game that is in front of you, win, lose or draw, whatever the case is.”

I can sympathize with Curtis. I’ve often wondered myself why someone would boo their own … it’s like attending your nephew’s birthday party and booing the cheese-dip. I mean I understand, the cheese dip is bad and you’ve had 7 beers, but it was probably like your sister-in-law or something who made it, have a little respect … you know, in front of the kids – it’s a family event for crying out loud.

That’s the thing, the kids. They don’t know what to make of the booing. They mostly are captivated by the spectacle of the crowd and the cheering and people bringing them treats and all the fancy flashing lights and stuff, and yeah there’s a ball game going on too. They don’t need to hear a bunch of drunk bozos cursing and hissing and throwing beer like this is the Roman Coliseum, or Giants Stadium. I’m glad most stadiums have “family sections” now because honestly nothing makes my neck hair bristle like some moron who doesn’t have the sense not to use profanities in front of a bunch of 8 year olds. I understand why people get upset.


So then, that Fred Ward doppelganger Dave Hudgens (seriously are they related?), decides to lash out after being fired with some choice words directed at the fans:

“I really just think guys tried too hard at home. I think the fans are really tough on the guys at home. How can you boo Curtis Granderson? They have no idea how hard this guy works and how he goes about doing his business, doing his job. He gets off to a slow start and they’re booing him? Come on. It’s tougher at home to play than it is on the road, there’s no doubt about it.”

You know, I liked him in “Tremors,” but as Mets hitting coach not so much, and to be fair, Hudgens is a California guy. Expecting him to understand New York Mets fans is like trying to train a turtle to hop a fence.

So then Colllins figures what the hell I may as well pile on:

“Have you ever been booed? Does it feel good? Human nature is, ‘You know what, I don’t want it to happen again.’ So what do you do? You try harder to keep it from happening again. These guys are not robots.

That’s true Terry. A robot starting pitcher who just pitched a great game would not get upset if you brought in a leaky Valverde to make all manner of doo-doo on the mound, but I digress …

In order to understand this we need to consider the nature and history of booing. Booing goes all the way back to Ancient Greece when they’d boo a theatrical play:

“Hey Kosta, Euripides’ last was trite and contrived don’t you think?”

“Indeed Dimitri, platitudinous even, I booed at the end and throughout.”

During Ancient Rome booing reached a new level, where a Gladiator’s life often depended on “winning the crowd.” Boy if this were the case we’d be going through a lot of left fielders these days.

It is interesting that the art of booing goes back to ancient Greece because it is essentially a democratic function, it is a crude vote — a collective expression of disapproval, revulsion even. It communicates your dislike to the puppeteers, directors, actors, athletes, gladiators or what have you, thus hopefully facilitating some change. Whether it be more blood and guts in the Coliseum or more base hits in Queens, booing serves a purpose.

brooklyn dodgers

But in order to really understand booing in Queens, you have to go back to May 28th, 1957. On that day MLB Owners voted unanimously to allow the Dodgers and Giants to leave NY. Brooklyn lawyer Walter O’Malley wanted to move his club out west because unlike Brooklyn, the city of L.A. had promised him a new stadium. He wanted to move in spite of his club regularly packing Ebbets field with 32,000 passionate fans and in spite of having won 5 pennants and a World Championship in 8 years. It didn’t matter, by September of that year it was clear to millions of New Yorkers that their hearts would be ripped out, replaced with a fistful of charred newspaper clippings.

New York fans have a history of being duped, bamboozled, lied to. You can’t really understand the discontent in New York’s National League fan base without understanding it’s unique precursors. Our fathers and grandparents know betrayal, they are wary of it, and they’ve brought us up with our eyes open. Comments like we heard when the Mets traded the franchise Tom Seaver, “penny pinching scoundrels,”  “midnight massacre,” and other such invocations of disgust are echoed in today’s reception of our less than perfect National League product (and its architects), with a hefty dose of vitriol reserved for an astonishingly incompetent Ownership.

Discontent is in our genes. We were raised on this venom, we’d pour it into our Cheerios every morning as we’d go over the sports pages. We even seem to revel in it sometimes like a dog rolling around in scat. Think of it this way, you visit your favorite monkey cage at the zoo every day on your lunch break, and every day you show your favorite monkey a banana. You hold it out offering it to him and just as the monkey bounds over eagerly to receive the delicious fruit you pull it back and laugh at the primate, “ha ha ha, stupid monkey.” How long do you think you can do that before the monkey sees you coming and decides to throw a fistful of poop at you? My thinking is, if you don’t have the sense to understand why the monkey would throw poop at you, maybe you shouldn’t be visiting the zoo in the first place.


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Dr. James Andrews Explains Spike In Tommy John Surgeries Fri, 30 May 2014 13:29:51 +0000 dr. james andrews

With the news this past week that yet another NL East pitcher, Henderson Alvarez, may be headed for Tommy John surgery, I decided to update my previous piece on what is a full-epidemic at this point, with some definitive information from the horse’s mouth himself, Dr. James Andrews.

The noted surgeon put out a comprehensive statement just this past Wednesday illustrating, in detail and with remarkable conviction, his position on the rash of UCL injuries. With sweeping clarity the good doctor all but puts to rest several raging debates on the causation and risk factors, admitting, that we are currently in the midst of an “epidemic.” He makes several remarkable conclusions:

On the epidemic itself:

“During the past few years there has been an “epidemic” rise in the number of professional pitchers requiring ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction (“Tommy John surgery”). This is like déjà vu, as a similar sharp rise was seen in adolescent pitchers near the turn of the century.”

“These two rises are indeed connected; that is, today’s pro pitcher in his 20’s was an adolescent pitcher a dozen years ago. Thus in many cases, the injury leading to Tommy John surgery in today’s young pro pitchers actually began while they were adolescent amateurs. Observations by orthopedic surgeons support this link, as the torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in a pro pitcher usually looks like it has worn out over time.”

On risk factors for young pitchers:

Research has shown that the amount of competitive pitching and pitching while fatigued are strongly linked to injury. Other risk factors may include pitching on multiple teams, pitching year-round, playing catcher when not pitching, poor pitching mechanics, and poor physical conditioning.”

On the perception that some pitchers come back stronger after TJS:

“Not true. performance usually decreases over time for MLB pitchers after Tommy John surgery (similar to the typical decrease over time for healthy MLB pitchers).”

Dr. Andrews essentially attributed any incidental increases in velocity to:

“The pitcher working intensely with the physical therapist, athletic trainer, strength coach, and pitching coach.”

On breaking pitches as a risk factor:

“Not true. Too much competitive pitching and pitching while fatigued are the biggest risk factors.4,5,6 While biomechanical research and epidemiologic research have not shown a strong connection between curveball and elbow injuries, a young pitcher may not have enough physical maturity, neuro-muscular control, and proper coaching instruction to throw a curveball with good mechanics. The first steps should be to learn, in order: 1) basic throwing, 2) fastball pitching, 3) change-up pitching.”

On lowering the mound to reduce the stress that leads to TJ injuries:

“Not true. Elbow torques during full-effort pitching on a mound and full-effort throwing on flat ground are about the same. The real solution is for young pitchers to do less full-effort pitching and more throwing (practice throws, playing other positions, playing other sports). “

On Latin American pitchers suffering fewer elbow injuries:

“Not true. A recent survey showed that 16% of U.S. born-pitchers and 16% of Latin American pitchers in professional baseball have a history of Tommy John surgery.”

Dr. Andrews also goes on to list 9 specific recommendations for pitchers and baseball organizations wishing to reduce the incidence of these injuries.

Notable in the recommendations are four items of interest:

  1. Do not always pitch with 100% effort. The best professional pitchers pitch with a range of ball velocity, good ball movement, good control, and consistent mechanics among their pitches. The professional pitcher’s objectives are to prevent baserunners and runs, not to light up the radar gun.
  2. Be wary of pitching in winter league baseball. The UCL and body need time to recover and build strength, so the concept of annual periodization should include adequate rest from full-effort pitching.
  3. Exercise, rest, and nutrition are vital for a pitcher’s health. Performance-Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) may enable the athlete to achieve disproportionately strong muscles that overwhelm the UCL and lead to injury.
  4. Pitchers with high ball velocity are at increased risk of injury. The higher the ball velocity, the more important to follow the guidelines above.

You may read the full transcript here.

May 21 – The Alarming Spike In Tommy John Surgeries

It’s almost become not so much a matter of “if” but “when” for young pitchers needing Tommy John surgery. This season alone, Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy each required a second elbow reconstruction, while Bobby Parnell, Oakland’s Jarrod Parker, Arizona’s Patrick Corbin, Detroit’s Bruce Rondon, Pittsburgh’s Jameson Taillon, Tampa Bay’s Matt Moore and most recently Florida’s Jose Fernandez will be going under the knife for the first time.

As Mets fans we’re well aware of the anguish having watched our very own Matt Harvey succumb to the dreaded ulnar collateral ligament tear. The UCL is a thick triangular band on the medial (closer to center) side of the elbow which connects the humerus to the ulna.

The act of throwing involves advancing the torso ahead of the arm followed by rotating the shoulder internally and (the acceleration phase) thrusting the humerus forward with the forearm trailing which results in the commonly described “whipping” motion. This puts tremendous tensile strain on the UCL at the elbow, particularly if you twist the elbow in a medial rotation to effect the spin you need for a breaking pitch.

We’ve all heard about how throwing is an “unnatural” act. There is some truth to the way the humeral head (the near end of the upper arm bone) fitting into something called the glenoid fossa (the “hole” in the scapula at the center of the shoulder) results in an awkward inversion when throwing overhand. Now this seems odd to me because when I look at cavemen in places like the Natural History Museum they all seem to be throwing spears and rocks overhand. Somehow I don’t think they suffered from UCL tears, “Hey Ugg, I think I tore my UCL with that last spear chuck at that bison.” “Ehh, rub some mastodon poop on it and call it a day Groog.”

But there’s nothing humorous about tearing a ligament, and the fact is humans have been throwing overhand to gain accuracy and power for over a million years and we clearly have a biomechanical adaptation for it. The problem with pitchers is the number of repetitions over time. I think there were only so many bison and only so many spears back in Groog’s day.

jose fernandez

Eno Sarris of Fangraphs recently looked at some numbers that supported the notion that breaking pitches contribute to injury. He observed that Jose Fernandez threw more curve balls than anyone in 2014. He also linked to a Jeff Zimmerman article from March of 2012 that looked at 43 pitcher seasons where the pitchers threw sliders more than 30% of the time. Of those pitchers, over 46% of them ended up on the DL the following season. For curveballs he moved the percentage even lower to 25% of the time (to get enough of a sample), and of these pitchers (which included names such as John Lackey, A.J. Burnett, Josh Beckett, and Jonathan Niese), 51% of them ended up on the DL. I asked Zimmerman about Harvey and he said he couldn’t look at him because it was his first full season and he had nothing to compare it to, but to me it sure seemed like Harvey was using that devastating (in more ways than one) slider with more frequency than the previous year.

Over at Sports Illustrated, Tom Verducci, of now debunked “Verducci Effect” fame, chimed in with his own article this past April. He changes his tune somewhat from increases in yearly innings being the biggest culprit, to pitchers throwing more and harder at increasingly younger ages. He quotes:

“Major League Baseball gets the blame for pitchers getting injured,” said Glenn Fleisig, research director at the prestigious American Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham, Ala. “But the fact is these pitchers definitely have some damage in their arm when they get them.”

Rate of Top-30 High School Draft Picks to Undergo Tommy John Surgery:

2002-09  •  39 Pitchers  •  5 TJS  •  12.8 Percent

2010-12  •  16 Pitchers  •  5 TJS  •  31.3 Percent

2013-14  • ???

Mark Mulder even tweeted on the subject with this:


You want to stop TJ injuries—-then don’t play baseball. Kids pitch year round and don’t play other sports. Arm only has so many bullets.

Verducci, however, seems to heap the most blame on velocity, again quoting Fleisig:

“Velocity is the word of the day,” Fleisig said. “The pitcher in 2014, or say 2012, is different from the pitcher from just five years ago. Back then, with the increase in travel ball, you had to start worrying about pitching too much. Now you have to worry about pitching too much with more velocity. That’s not a good combination.”

You have to admire Verducci for trying. He’s been on this topic from day one, but like his year-to-year innings limits I think implying that UCL damage results from pitchers with too much mileage who throw too hard too often is probably an oversimplification.

rafael montero debut 2

Watching Rafael Montero the other night you somehow got the sense that although his stature is relatively diminutive he doesn’t run the risk of a Wheeler or Harvey because of his free and easy delivery. “Easy gas” they call it. I think mechanics are certainly a factor, but beyond that, there is also the fact that Montero didn’t start playing professionally until he was 17 — not a lot of mileage there.

As Fleisig said in the Verducci piece, there’s some truth in the “only so many bullets” hypothesis when you add high velocity to the equation. He offered the example of a rubber band stretched close to its limit 8 , 9, 10 times then it snaps, whereas you can stretch it to 50% it’s limit almost indefinitely. Fleisig seems to believe that pitchers who repeatedly give max effort are the real reason why so many youngsters are breaking down. The easiest way to get noticed after all is to blow a scout away with a 94 mph fastball. Montero in this respect is also interesting as a guy with pinpoint command who doesn’t necessarily have to rely on velocity. This is why I think Montero is going to win an awful lot of games for the Mets.

In the end, the jury is still out and studies are forthcoming. The complexity of the throwing motion combined with individual anatomical differences and minute idiosyncrasies in deliveries make a standardized approach to prevention almost impossible. As is the case with many complex issues, causation is likely the result of some combination of factors. I’ve always suspected the breaking pitch myself because it is so awkward to throw.  If I had to give an answer I’d guess the problem lies somewhere in the confluence of tensile damage brought about by throwing too hard followed by the twisting and contorting of the breaking pitch motion. Stress + torque + too many reps = a visit to Dr. Andrews.

The velocity trap that many young pitchers fall into however can’t be dismissed. People always talk about pitchers back in the day who threw 150 pitches routinely and never missed a start, but we really have no idea how many of them broke down. It would be interesting if we could get some data on how often they threw breaking pitches but I think it’s already more or less understood that they didn’t throw as hard. You can see that just by looking at old film, short quick windups, snap deliveries, and lots of contact.

Nobody is going back to that any time soon. Pitchers love blowing batters away with gas and the fans love watching it. What might be interesting is the possibility of instituting specific controls that teach pitchers to hold back and live in the 89, 90, 91 range (when you can get by with it), only bringing 94 and 96 mph heat when you really need it. learning to pick your spots a little better with breaking pitches might also be a good idea. You hardly ever see this sort of variability these days, and most Mets fans have a hard enough time with our batters taking too many pitches — limits on velocity and breaking balls might just send them over the edge! Pitchers seem to get into patterns where they stick with what works — heat followed by a killer breaking pitch — and yet, teaching this sort of variability might go a long way in extending careers and preserving arms.

*As I finished writing this I checked my twitter feed one last time and wouldn’t you know it, add Martin Perez to the list of young starters going under the knife for Tommy John surgery.


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Featured Post: Walks Are Boring, Boring Is Bad Tue, 27 May 2014 14:04:27 +0000 STICKBALL1-articleLarge

I remember a few years back when I was helping coach my kid’s little league team, every now and then we’d run into an opposing pitcher who couldn’t find the strike zone. After he’d walk a couple of runs in the kids would start taking hacks at anything because they grew tired of just walking, they wanted to hear the crack (ding) of the bat. Walks are boring.

When I was a kid we played a lot of stickball on the walls of P.S. 19 in Corona. Now there are different versions of stickball in different parts of the city. In some locations (Brooklyn) the lack of open space resulted in a street game where you basically toss up the ball and hit it on a bounce, there were no walks, and players often used parked cars and manhole covers as bases. Punch ball was another variation that worked best if you had a nice sponge ball. Sometimes we played stoop-ball. An interesting game that I think probably evolved from not having a bat, mop stick, broom stick, or whatever you might try and whack a ball with. You just threw the ball as hard as you could at a stoop and the opposing team would try and field it, again no walks, we didn’t need no stinking walks.

Our version of stickball involved the broad windowless side of our school building and the schoolyard. We’d chalk in the strike zone on a wall, mark the pitcher’s mound at a reasonable distance and begin. We’d use some sort of stickball bat and a Spalding (pronounced “spaldeen”) #4. They were sort of a dusty pinkish tan color and were actually surplus tennis ball cores that were put on sale in the 50’s in five and dimes across the city. You could get one in most any candy store or newsstand for like 35 cents. The #4 was the thickest highest bouncing ball they made, but it was also prone to breaking cleanly in half if you whacked it hard enough.


We were pretty damned good in my neighborhood. We’d hit the corners, we could field with or without gloves and anything in the air was an out if we could get to it. We didn’t walk many, and the nice thing about the chalk is if you really layered it on it would leave residue on the ball helping with close calls. When there weren’t enough of us around we played two-on-two or even one-on-one with imaginary runners on the bases. Off the fence was a triple, one hop to the fence a double, and over the fence was a homer. If it got past the pitcher it was a single, if the pitcher fielded a grounder he had to do so cleanly and hit the strike-zone box on the fly to register an out. It was way better than Wiffle Ball because you could throw hard. I don’t remember walking many, because, again, it got boring to just stand there.

These days when I go back to the old neighborhood it’s sad because they’ve put up temporary trailer type classrooms where the asphalt expanse used to be (although you can still play can on the other side of the building). They painted some fancy dragons to make the trailers look nicer but I still don’t like them. Seems like most kids are playing basketball or soccer. But enough of the reminiscing. The point of all this is that when we were kids we didn’t have much use for walks, it was hard enough keeping track of imaginary base runners.

Somehow, in the mid to late 90’s walks became the focus of an innovative approach by the Oakland A’s in response to having to slash their budget. They went about finding “hidden value” in players otherwise passed over for not having stand out tools. Plate discipline became the tool, on base percentage became the stat of the moment. They clogged the bases and pushed them home in droves with their big burly power bats. It worked and the idea spread.

It’s gotten to the point where it’s common for games to last three and a half hours. When I was a kid I remember thinking a ballgame lasted maybe just a little longer than a feature film. In 1970 the average game lasted 2 hours and 30 minutes. That’s almost an hour less than an average Red Sox Yankees game in 2009. Why? Well there are lots of reasons, but taking pitches is probably the biggest. The philosophy that any base runner is a good base runner and if you clog the bases you’ll score. I get it, it works, the strategy wears down starting pitchers and makes it more likely your offense will get into the soft underbelly of the opposing bullpen. Bullpen use hasn’t helped length of game either.  Lefty specialists, righty specialists, long men short men, set-up guys, closers … relief corps have become a virtual late-inning specialty clinic, and with every change, more time, more commercials, another snack I don’t need. Now we have to deal with instant replay and reviews and challenges … you know what’s a challenge? Not eating an entire box of doughnuts during a game, that’s a challenge.

My mind goes back, however, to those empty ball-fields, to my old stickball playground crowded with temporary classrooms … kids who don’t even know what a spaldeen is. It’s sad. Truth is it was hard enough for me to sit through a game when I was a kid, these days expecting a 10 year old to sit through a 4 hour game is a bit much. It shouldn’t surprise us to see young athletes pursuing other sports.

Walks are boring. I don’t care if they help you win. Watching Lucas Duda take a 3 – 1 fastball down the middle of the plate is frustrating and tedious. There’s the obligatory chorus of “jeez that was right down the middle,” and “my grandmother could have hit that.”

I get the whole business about strike zone discipline and “attacking” pitches “in the zone.” The numbers all add up, it’s undeniable, the more pitches an offense takes and the more walks they garner and the more they score, yada yada, but since when did winning become more important than the reason the game exists in the first place? Namely fun. At the end of the day baseball is fun when lots of batters hit baseballs and fielders field them. As an entertainment industry, you are on a slippery slope indeed when you choose to make something boring for the sake of competitive advantage. People lose interest, kids run out to play soccer after about the 4th inning, draft picks end up in the NFL combine. It’s not good for the game. The fact that taking lots of walks helps score runs doesn’t make it any less boring, and when I last checked, Baseball is still a sport right? Sports aren’t supposed to be boring. Boring is bad. If I want to be bored I’ll watch golf or something … there’s lots of walking in golf.

Originally posted on May 24.


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Whose Fault Is It Anyway? Wed, 21 May 2014 17:01:57 +0000 terry-collins1

I had an interesting exchange with a couple of friends over the weekend when I voiced my exasperation with the Mets and Terry Collins in particular. They contested my belief that Collins is to blame for some of the perplexing lineups that have come our way of late. These lineups are odd, they defy explanation, people stare at them like they might look at a 32 inch long humanoid footprint in Yosemite or a strange slimy spotted creature washed up on Coney Island Beach. You can tell Met fans on the subway by their red foreheads these days — from all the face-palms. But anyway, these friends of mine argued that Collins is a puppet, he doesn’t make up the lineup cards, they assert Collins is like an elderly lap-dog who can still do a back flip for a chunk of kibble, or maybe some hard candy.

This makes no sense to me. You see, I’ve seen Collins actually filling in the lineup card. I’ve seen him walk it out to the umpire before the start of the game. The notion that Sandy Alderson makes up his lineups seems far fetched, they aren’t even in the same city sometimes… In fact sometimes they’re in different time zones. And then there’s the minute to minute developments that only someone on the ground with the team would be aware of. Maybe a door from an overhead bin on the airplane hit Duda in the head and he needs to go on the concussion DL. Maybe Tejada’s girlfriend breaks his heart with a “Dear Juan” text right before the game. Maybe Chris Young gets a black eye tossing a can of corn around the hotel lobby. Maybe Abreu comes down with another case of the Shake Shack shingles. How is Sandy Alderson in his office in New York supposed to know this stuff?  I mean isn’t Alderson busy obsessing about how to get guys to take more pitches? I imagine him with one of those accountant’s hats with the transparent bill and an old adding machine with the handle you have to crank.

Maybe it isn’t Sandy Alderson at all… Maybe it’s something far more sinister… From deep in the bowels of Citi Field… DePodesta! Now here we have something! DePodesta in his bomb-proof underground saber-command-center surrounded by guys with taped up glasses and pocket protectors and wall to wall computer screens. Only, wait, that doesn’t make sense either… there isn’t a computer simulation on the planet that could crunch numbers in such a way that it would spit out Chris Young over Lagares, or Tejada over Flores for that matter. Saberists traditionally don’t care for stolen bases right? Why would they choose to play Eric Young?

There’s something very strange going on here. (cue the Twilight Zone music) Maybe, just maybe Sandy Alderson takes time from his numbers-cranking to pick up his rotary phone and call DePo to tell him he needs to play Granderson because he just realized that based on his calculations the team owes him $60 million dollars, and, he goes on to tell him he may as well play Chris Young too because the team owes him $7.25 million. But wait, that still doesn’t explain Eric Young playing instead of Lagares, or Tejada getting the nod over Flores. Holy spreadsheet Batman, what we have here is a true bat caper!

Let’s review for a second. First we have a GM that has made it abundantly clear he believes managers are “middle management” and has little regard for their ability to make any real difference on the field. Then we have an assistant GM who is known for the depth and sophistication of his numbers and statistics apparatus. Then we have a manager who appears clueless at times (if you look really hard you can see the strings attached to his arms), who makes panicky, ill-conceived, in-game decisions, and who, very much like his rash and nonsensical in-game strategy, produces equally perplexing lineups.

Here’s what I think baseball fans. I think this amounts to a breakdown in communication. I think Sandy Alderson is in charge of the daily business operations of the New York Mets. He answers questions and meets with his lieutenants and arranges press conferences when he needs to, but my guess is he doesn’t have as much to do with baseball activities as we think he does, I think that falls to DePodesta, Ricciardi, and Ricco. I also think DePo routinely fires up his stat-machine, crunching all manner of numbers together to come up with favorable match-ups (like just about every front office does), whereupon he will email said match-up data to his field manager — a Mr. Terry Collins — and this is where it gets weird.

Collins will look at this data and right away know he can’t play Abreu because of the Shake Shack shingles for instance … so he crumples the email printout and throws it into his trash bin. He doesn’t have to listen to that pencil necked geek, he’s not even the GM, who does he think he is? He’s never even played the game! And there you have it, communication breakdown. At some point Sandy will probably have to call Collins and explain to him that the “match-up data” has to be followed to the “T,” that “recommendations” aren’t really recommendations, they’re more like “orders you have to follow or your going to get fired, kaaay?” Until then we may continue to be treated to the most bizarre assortment of lineups this side of the Milky Way.

That’s the best I can come up with folks. Honestly, I do believe the Mets have a stats office that churns out match-up data, but I also think from a practical stand point Collins has to have the final say because he’s on the ground with the team, so … somewhere, there must be a disconnect because like I said earlier, I can see playing Granderson because of his salary (and history of producing) … maybe even Chris Young (although not as much), but Eric Young? Tejada? Doesn’t make sense does it?

Can’t have it both ways. You can’t blame a front office for relying too much on advanced metrics then turn around and blame them for making lineup decisions that fly in the face of any possible combination of advanced metrics imaginable. Something else is at work here folks… And inquiring minds want to know!


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The Great Mets Experiment Wed, 21 May 2014 16:13:25 +0000 baseball_glove_ball_and_bat

Much of the mediocrity we’ve witnessed on the field these past few seasons is the result of policies instituted years ago due to financial hardship on the part of our current ownership group. Late in 2010 Mets ownership cooperated with MLB in a “stay afloat” plan involving a $25 million dollar bridge loan and some important institutional changes — namely, massive cuts in payroll. There is more than some conjecture that Bud Selig wanted Sandy Alderson – who at that time was on assignment in the Dominican Republic – to head the process of transitioning the Mets from what they had been for decades, to what they would become.

In order to understand the current state of the Mets franchise a little history might be in order. In 1890 there was a player revolt against the two leagues operating at that time (the National League, and the American Association) that resulted in the establishment of a Player League. It was a corporate entity featuring profit sharing, no unilateral contract transfers and, most importantly, no reserve clause (the reserve clause was an agreement featured in the established leagues banning the pursuit of players already under contract). The reserve clause effectively made players bound to their parent organizations for the duration of their careers unless they were released or traded. The NL and AA leagues effectively broke up the fledgling Player League after only one season by allowing some player league teams to purchase existing NL and AA franchises. The reserve clause would not be challenged again for another 80 years.

The Major League Baseball Players Association as we know it today goes back to 1954. It was ineffective for the most part until 1966 when they hired Marvin Miller, a former negotiator for US Steel Workers, who managed to mount a case against ownership in 1972.  Flood v. Kuhn went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where Curt Flood‘s case was backed by the testimony of former players. Initially unsuccessful for lack of testimony from active players, the historic challenge paved the way for federal arbitration of salary demands (Ownership gave in to some of those demands in 1973) and in 1974, an arbitrator effectively reversed the court’s earlier verdict, throwing out the reserve clause and opening the door for the modern free agency. Average salary skyrocketed from $45,000 in 1975 to $289,000 in 1983, to $3,440,000 in 2013. A shell of the reserve clause still exists today in the form of the short period of exclusivity that teams are granted for players they have developed in their own minor league systems. Teams have a 6 year window of service time and are bound by specific salary requirements and arbitration guidelines.

Labor disputes in MLB have shifted in recent years from centering on player exploitation to concerns about parity. Player salaries continued to rise over a period of years beyond the budget capacities of some smaller market teams. There may have been a poverty argument with a few select distressed teams in the late 1980’s and early 90’s, however, today’s game is awash in cash, and television & media revenue alone provide a sizable cash-flow infusion for most major league clubs. It is no wonder we see teams like Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay increasingly testing the waters of free agency.

Since 1974 we’ve nevertheless witnessed a back and forth wrangling between Ownership and the Player’s Association over MLB revenue and fair player compensation. In this era of plenty, Ownership is wary of increased player demands and has frequently been the subject of inquiries accusing them of conspiring to keep salaries down. This is where we come full circle to the present and the current state of the Mets.

Baseball ownership is not what it used to be. It is far more common in today’s game to see corporately owned franchises. The reasons for this are many with perhaps the biggest being the tax benefits available to baseball clubs that can demonstrate negative net earnings while showing a positive cash flow – thereby potentially securing considerable tax relief by offsetting income from other businesses. Another benefit of corporate ownership is the ability to promote merchandise through media exposure and television rights to market related business enterprises. The Mets are one of an increasingly fewer number of teams still owned by a family partnership. As such not only are they less inclined to channel losses into other business domains (although SNY theoretically offers them that venue), but they are more vulnerable to fluctuations in their personal fortunes, and here’s where it gets messy. The Wilpons post-Madoff, are not the owners they were before. They are, in effect, a small market team which happens to reside in the largest market in baseball.

So what does all this have to do with the “Great Mets Experiment”? Selig hoisted Alderson onto the Mets as a counterfoil to the behemoth across town that routinely drives salaries up and makes things awfully difficult for small markets (like his former Milwaukee franchise) … so really the great Mets experiment involves building a winner by means of small market operational tenets and resources, independent of market forces.

This would theoretically drive the cost of running a major league ball club down in any market, if (and it’s a big “if”) the Mets can serve as a model. The implications here for Mets fans are significant, Fred Wilpon basically sold out the N.Y. Mets fan base so Selig could promote his small market philosophy. If MLB had denied the Wilpon’s their bridge loan and pushed them to sell with a vote of no confidence, it would have been far less painful for the fans. Sadly, the fans don’t seem to matter much in these machinations. It seems it’s more about undermining free agency and pocketing a greater share of the profits.

The experiment? So far, not so good to be honest, but there’s still time. If in the coming years the Mets emerge as a perennial contender with a sustainable payroll based on staggered big contracts and a top-notch farm system, Sandy Alderson will have done his job (and will probably be sitting in the Commissioner’s chair some day).

It remains to be seen whether the experiment is a success, and furthermore, whether it’s enough of a success to cause other clubs to follow suit. The Mets and Yankees have shamelessly pilfered each other (both in terms of players and ideas) as cross-town rivals over the years, and I think it’s interesting that with the Mets embarking on this era of austerity, we (for the first time in forever) began to hear whispers of “restraint” coming from the Bronx, actually watching them drop to #2 in total MLB payroll.

The other incentive of course is that Ownership will in effect be colluding to keep salaries down in a perfectly legal manner if more teams focus resources on their farm systems, thereby exploiting that last vestige of the “reserve clause,” their 6 year window with their own emerging players. Ownership has always known there is a relatively short time from the expiration of arbitration eligibility to the onset of decline, and it tends to be during this period that players strike gold by signing massive contracts that contain hundreds of millions in sunken costs (across MLB) as these players enter their declining years.This is a big problem for ownership and MLB might just be inclined to take a page out of Sandy Aldersons “no to Cano” approach, again if the Mets are successful.

By focusing on developing a farm system that can routinely churn out quality players that remain under control for 6 years (or more if you can extend them) you give your major league team quite the window to instal a competitive, dynamic, youthful, but most importantly cheap roster. Contracts that absorb arbitration and tack on 2 or 3 years can often be huge bargains for Major League clubs, especially when you consider many players begin to decline past the age of 30. The strategy effectively undermines free agency and makes contracts like the ones Pujols and Cano signed even more onerous. With only supplemental resources directed at free agents, a team with an upper echelon farm system (like the Braves and Twins) and a few carefully targeted extensions can sustain contention almost indefinitely.

What better place to model this than the biggest stage of all? New York, New York baby!


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Another Gut-Punch Loss … Tue, 06 May 2014 17:46:07 +0000 terry collins

I am slightly peeved after last night’s game. I believe last night’s game should have been a win for the Mets. All the signs were there, good starting pitching, just enough offense. It felt like a routine victory, but the win was snatched out of our jaws like a buckshot duck pulled from a lab’s teeth. Now I know how hunting dogs must feel.

Last night’s loss was not “routine,” it was not a simple “L” in the standings … it was demoralizing.

In my 20 years in education I’ve learned that one of the most important gifts you can give a child is a belief in their own abilities, confidence and resilience, the courage to keep trying. The worst thing you can do is to take that that confidence away.

Losses like last night’s are the kind of gut-punch defeats that bring your momentum to a grinding halt and erase any good vibes and confidence that may have been brewing in your clubhouse, particularly among younger impressionable players who could go either way, players who haven’t learned how to win yet.

Players are only human. They want to believe in themselves and they want to believe they can win, however, because they are human there resides in them an instinct for self-preservation. That instinct dwells in all of us.

Confidence can be a very precarious thing, especially in young players, so these games early in the season are huge in a “set the tone” kind of way. Yet Terry seems to throw book and manual out the window more often than not with a head-scratching move to the pen or a head-bashing-into-drywall non-move (even after your reliever has walked the first two men in the 8th inning of a 3-run game).

He over-manages when he should stand pat (did he really have to bring in poor Lagares into this late inning debacle after saying he needed the day off to rest?), and he stands staring at a seagull a thousand miles away when he should make a move.

Sometimes I wonder whether Mr Catatonic, Art Howe himself, might get more wins out of this team than Collins and his cantankerous tinkering. Which brings up an interesting quote from an S.I. piece from a few years back:

Howe “was hired to implement the ideas of the front office, not his own,” as then-A’s GM Sandy Alderson told author Michael Lewis in Moneyball. Perhaps that’s why even the best-paid managers in baseball — Torre, La Russa, Piniella — make roughly as much as a well-paid set-up reliever.

Studies consistently show that managers don’t have much of an impact. Between 1-4 percent (at the most) of an overall team’s performance might be traced back to calling a bunt or use of bullpen or in-game strategy. This amounts to a 5 or 6 game swing over the course of a full season. Unfortunately these numbers-based studies fail to take leadership and guidance into account.

Managing is impossible to measure using a sabermetric/advanced metric type approach for similar reasons to why it is so difficult to measure “clutch” performance.

Playing time distribution for instance doesn’t matter a lot with most managers because the effect of one player (out of 9) playing a few additional games in a platoon over the course of a season is marginal. On the other hand, how that player is handled from a development stand point, how he might be treated so as to maximize his growth and his mastery of his position, how well he is taught his role, is not only incredibly important but exceedingly difficult if not impossible to measure.

Also, if those 3 or 4 games that a manager does have an impact on come early in the season or at a critical juncture, then their effect could be extremely damaging to confidence and momentum, especially to a young team struggling to find it’s way. Perception is everything in this instance, believing you will win, often gives you a much better chance of actually winning.

Think about it, if someone presented two tasks to you, one perceived hopeless and one with a real shot at a positive outcome, and if the two tasks both had identical and significant rewards tied to them, which one would you be inclined to undertake? Collins seems to have a knack for blowing games that have an “in the bag” feel to them, which is hugely demoralizing.

The most important thing for this very young team is that they learn to win.

It won’t be easy to build that sort of confidence after all the losing the Mets have endured the past few seasons, and games like last night’s don’t help. It seems like every time they get on a roll Terry will pull out one of his lost-in-space lineups, every time a hitter gets hot he’s on the bench, every time a reliever seems on the verge of getting on track (Familia for instance) Collins wont use him and will instead use the tired guy with the dead arm. My guess is he thinks he’s being “unconventional” when in fact he’s just being … well, wrong.

I don’t know Terry Collins personally. I never got to speak with him in the clubhouse or on the field during batting practice, He seems like an OK sort, and he appears to have a good rapport with his players. But he manages my beloved Mets and his unconventional “gut” approach seems to result in a loss every 5 or 6 games. So maybe he should either go back to the manual and think about managing a little more by-the-book, or move on to whatever pastures he’s got lined up for himself.

Something has to give. Losing begets losing and before you know it, it will be getting late early. We all tend to divest ourselves of our own confidence and our own abilities when things that seem to be going well blow up in our faces. It’s why fans stop showing up at the ballpark when the team loses. We pull back for our own sanity’s sake.

So games like last night’s go beyond the simple “L” in the win/loss column … they put doubt in our minds, and that’s a tough thing to undo. This team is clearly capable of winning. The defense is improved, the starting pitching has been at times dominant, and even the bullpen has had it’s moments.

Management needs to get the kinks out and settle into a winning pattern and start proving the doubters wrong … and management needs to start focusing on preventing setbacks like last night’s late-inning debacle at all costs.


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An Optimistic Met Fan’s Diatribe On Civility Mon, 05 May 2014 15:10:43 +0000 citi field fans opening day

I used to think there were two kinds of Mets fans in New York, the optimists and the pessimists. My theory was that whether or not you are an optimist or a pessimist depended on how you were raised. If your Dad for instance was an optimist, well then as a teenager during your formative years it stands to reason you’d probably rebel and assert your independence by taking a contrarian approach. My dad was a huge pessimist (which was not a difficult thing back in the 70′s) So naturally I was his foil, his countermeasure. I insisted on looking at the bright side. I’d painstakingly put lineups together in the weeks leading up to opening day, showing him how if things break right we just might win the World Series. I remember him shaking his head and raising his bushy eyebrows in wonder at my lofty expectations of players like Lenny Randle and Willie Montanez.

It was a different time. Back then you were much more likely to run into people who rooted for both the Yankees and the Mets. Somehow the Mets / Yankees divide was not as insurmountable as it is today. With the exception of the meaningless Mayor’s Trophy Game, they never played each other. I remember how great Thurman Munson was and how sad it was when he died. The Yankees and the Mets had their problems in the early to mid 70′s and I think it made rooting for both teams easier. Lots of people did it, even my Dad. He’d root for the Yankees if they were playing anyone except the Mets, made no bones about it. His rationale was, “why should I root for Baltimore? I’ve never even been to Baltimore!” Made sense.

Fans who allied themselves more with a single N.Y. team tended to be older and more hardened by the legendary battles waged between the Yankees, Giants, and Dodgers. I knew several older fans in the neighborhood who refuse to this day to root for the Yankees because of all the bad blood. But for those fans who emigrated to the city in the years following the departure of those two national league icons, and for those growing up in their absence, there really wasn’t any reason to dislike the Yankees, even after the Mets were conceived. It was more common to run into people who simply considered themselves New York fans.

Things have changed since then. I think it began in the 80′s when the Mets took the town by storm and started winning profusely, culminating with the 1986 triumph that was one of the most dramatic in the history of the game. I suspect Yankee fans back then didn’t like the “in your face” attitude from both the team and its fans. There was a sense that the Mets were on the verge of a dynasty that would turn the NY baseball world upside down for good. It didn’t turn out that way.

The Yankees took the Met blueprint, rebuilt their farm, created their own “core” and improved Frank Cashen’s blueprint by specifically targeting ++ character guys. The Yankees were able to rebuild without compunction during George Steinbrenner’s suspension years (much like Alderson has been able to focus on the farm during a time when the Wilpons are hamstrung financially). The downfall of the Mets would be dynasty was their proclivity towards moral turpitude. They saw their fortunes turned sour in mounds of cocaine, their futures washed away in rivers of beer and tequila. It turns out New York can be a uniquely perilous place for young ballplayers gone wild, no matter how talented.

So the Yankees got the Dynasty Mets fans should have had, adding to the resentment. But it wasn’t just that. There’s clearly more to it. The advent of the internet, sports blogs, message boards, twitter, and any number of other social media have inflated rivalries and brought fans from all ends of the spectrum and all parts of the world together where they can mix it up in one big trash-talking conflagration, all from the safety and anonymity of one’s living room!

Over the past couple of decades Mets fans have had to endure a steady stream of comments from the American League side of town telling us in effect to root for the Yankees, asking us “why?” Why would any rational self-respecting baseball fan root for the Mets when they could root for the Yankees? The Yankees who are in contention every year.

I have a number of friends who are Yankee fans, good friends. Most of them are great fans, intelligent and understanding, but there are a few who will look at me wondering why I persist in supporting the Mets, Invariably I tell them the same thing. It’s not all about “winning,” it’s about loyalty, allegiance, tradition, stories, family even. You can’t buy that stuff with wins … but when I look I realize everything after the word “winning” was tuned out. You see, for some, winning is everything — it’s a reflection of who they are. It always reminds me of someone who would warn you against dating a nerd or sitting with the science geeks. Would you rather be like Jay Z, or Newman from Seinfeld? Of course not all Yankee fans are frontrunners, but there is certainly that element, and it’s that element that loves to pummel Met fans in cyberspace, subjecting them to verbal swirlies and pushing them into virtual lockers. I wonder if they will ever know just how sweet it is to win after years and years of losing? Sometimes I wonder that myself, but oddly enough, I believe many of these folks actually have affection for the Mets but are too self conscious be associated with them —  their secret frustrations with our team played out anonymously on message boards.

Some fans embrace the Yankee way because of the personal value they place on winning and success. I don’t begrudge them them that, it’s their preference really, this is the very reason why more fans would show up at the Citi Field if the Mets won more. I don’t even mind the 27 – 2 slams. What does bother me are individuals who find it difficult to comprehend why anyone would like the Mets.

Now, there are bad apples in any crowd, Mets fans included, but when you scour the message boards and blog after blog, tweet after tweet, message after message you run into the same Met fan on Met fan vitriol, it makes you wonder, how much is coming from real disgruntled Met fans (I’m sure quite a bit of it is), and how much is coming from other sources?

I noticed something on a prominent Yankee board the other day. It was a rant on the ridiculous nonsense that is sabermetrics, berating Sandy Alderson and his “numbers geeks,” demeaning advanced metrics as a nonsensical road to nowhere lead by people who never played and never could and don’t understand the game. The post was roundly supported, particularly as it was directed at a poster who had pointed out that the Mets and Yankees had similar records since about mid-season last year.

What puzzled me, however, was the eerie similarity between what I saw on the Yankee board and what we often see on Mets boards. I was also puzzled by the fact that the poster had no real understanding of what sabermetrics even was (he hadn’t the foggiest), or the fact that it’s used by every team in the league including the Yankees. He’d simply heard it associated with the Mets and so it became something to ridicule, something involving taking walks and fancy stats.

Now I’ve followed the national debate between traditionalists and the new age stat crowd — which is an interesting discourse when you consider how these stats may be changing the game — and nowhere has it become as nasty and demeaning as it has on N.Y. message boards. I’m not saying there aren’t informed Mets fans who don’t believe in advanced metrics, or Mets fans who don’t like Sandy Alderson, but its strange how such a considerable slice of Mets fans seem to become more irate and incensed during stretches where the team is doing well. Why deny even the most obvious of positive indicators? Why refuse to address a resurgent farm system, or clearly improved pitching? I don’t get it … is it because they don’t want to be fooled again? Because they’re just that tired of the the false ups and the devastating lows? Or is it because they are New Yorkers who lean more towards the Yankees and are confounded by this frustrating Mets organization that insists on not being like the Yankees? Hard to say, maybe it’s a little of both.

Maybe this goes back to my arguments with my dad which had more to do with my eternal optimism and how it all too often rubs those who are more pragmatic the wrong way. Maybe I’m a little too sensitive to the whole bullying issue. I don’t understand for instance why sportswriters have to compound the problem with headlines like “Lardball” and why they’ll ruthlessly attack players many of whom are actually just kids trying to make their way far from home in a very big world.

I’ve never believed in rubbing it in, kicking someone when they’re down, ridiculing for the sake of elevating your own position, making fun of a preference or difference, or belittling those who might be weaker. I think social media is perhaps a bit much for some because it brings out a nastiness you wouldn’t generally see in polite company. In real life I tend to call people who partake in this sort of thing out every time. I’m just fine rooting for my Mets, win or lose.

It’s only a game after all, a pastime, entertainment. What’s so hard about being civil? About respecting preferences and opinions? We show more about who we are and what we value by the way we treat those who are less fortunate than us …

In discussions with fans who remember the days when N.Y. was a 3 team town, I’ve been told that for all the grudges and heartbreak, the disagreements never got as nasty as what you see now-a-days on message boards. There was the understanding that it was (and still is), just a game. That in the end, its all good fun, and I’ve come to realize that even the arguments I had with my dad, that I miss so much now that he’s gone, were enjoyable in their own way because we respected each other, and also because if I ever called him a nit-wit or a fool I’d get the back of his hand quicker than you could say “gone-goodbye.”

addicted to mets button

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Featured Post: Is Alderson Gaming The System… Again? Wed, 30 Apr 2014 18:44:02 +0000 sandy alderson by Jeff Roberson AP

Sandy Alderson was never a professional baseball player. He never donned a major league uniform, he never stood in a box facing major league pitching, he never even coached.  He ascended the ranks of Oakland’s front office through a business partnership with Roy Eisenhardt (whose father-in-law owned the team), though admittedly Alderson had shown a remarkable aptitude as an organizer and was already a consummate administrator. Under Alderson the A’s made it to three straight world series appearances and four division titles in 1988, 1989, 1990, and 1992.

Sandy Alderson is, on the other hand, a Vietnam veteran, an ex-Marine, a graduate of Dartmouth and then Harvard Law. Not a bad resume. His claim to fame in baseball circles revolves around his accomplishments in Oakland in the late 80’s when he overhauled their farm system propelling the team into contention, then switched his emphasis to “sabermetric principles” after being ordered to slash payroll in the 90’s. A precursor (and by some considered a mentor) to Billy Beane of Moneyball fame.

In October of 2010 when Alderson was introduced as the new Mets GM, he was asked whether he knew about Jose Canseco juicing. As reported at the time by Dan Martin of the NY Post (and others), he responded with the following:

“It’s hard to avoid it in light of Jose Canseco’s book. In a nutshell, I suspected Jose Canseco of doing steroids, but I never suspected Mark McGwire. It was a time as an organization we actually had begun to emphasize weight training as a part of a regimen that is now widespread, but at the time may have inadvertently gotten us involved with the steroid aspect.”

He added that the team looked into testing its own players, but was unable to as it would have been illegal in California at the time.

“If you go back and put all that in perspective, do I wish we had done more? I think that’s almost always true in retrospect.”

basg brothers canseco mcgwire

Under Alderson the A’s drafted players like Mark McGuire and Walt Weiss as Jose Canseco bulked up in the Minors. In that same introductory press conference he went on to say:

“We actually had a very active minor league drug policy at the time that included the prohibition of amphetamines. But you’re talking about a time in the late ’80s when this issue was emergent in a general sense and there was a personal sense of a lack of awareness, lack of knowledge and ultimately a lack of tools to deal with the problem.”

With this, it appeared the book was closed on the issue of Alderson’s complicity in PED abuse. I believe he was aware of what was happening in his newly outfitted weight rooms (every major league team was in some shape or form bulking up by then), but his hands were tied. So, in a “if you can’t beat em join em” kind of way he went about drafting big framed power hitters.

In the end he was an employee like any other of the Oakland Athletics, and if anyone should be complicit in PED abuse, you might argue it is the owners who are more responsible (the juicing was happening in their workplaces, with their knowledge) and even then they’d only (legally) be on the hook for lost wages in suits brought against them by minor leaguers who did not juice. Players of comparable talent who got passed over. These lawsuits never got off the ground due to questionable legal merits, the lack of credible plaintiffs, and the difficulty proving someone did not use while projecting performance (and future salary) based on minor league promise … But that’s not what this story is about. This story is about whether Sandy Alderson is gaming the system … again.

It occurred to me recently that those early 90’s Oakland teams sure were stacked offensively … I say this because I was thinking about how woefully lacking our current Met offense appears to be.  What gives? Where are our “Bash Brothers” ?? Where are our three consecutive Rookie of the Years (all power laden position players)?

Strange isn’t it, or, maybe not.

I’m not sure “gaming the system” is the right term for what I believe Alderson is doing. It’s more like opportunism with a side of exploitation. And just to be clear, I am not bashing Alderson … in fact I’m sort of praising him. I think he’s outsmarted a lot of people all the while persisting in an approach that has been assailed as only an approach can be assailed (in NY), ruthlessly.

Forget about OBP, forget about plate discipline, forget about power hitters. That is so very “1990’s.” The steroid era went out with wallet chains and the Backstreet Boys. We’re ALL missing the point, the offense sucks, yeah, so what? It’s not about offense, it’s about pitching.

“What?” You say, incredulous. “But we’ve assembled a Moneyball dream team, they’re all about OBP, getting on base, taking walks.” That perception is not only wrong now, for reasons I will illustrate shortly, it’s not even an accurate description of Moneyball back then. I think people who think Moneyball is about OBP simply haven’t read the book. In a nutshell the approach is about finding hidden value and stockpiling talent in the aggregate as a commodity.

In the late 80’s the “target skill” was getting on-base because at the time it was undervalued. So a process was implemented system-wide whereby the ability to get on base was stockpiled (in the aggregate – which is to say the skill was spread out over entire rosters instead of focused on one or two players who might walk when their contract is up).

noah syndergaard

Now lets fast forward to 2010. Sandy has just returned from the Dominican Republic where he’d spent time cleaning up rampant institutional corruption involving agents and team employees exploiting 16-year olds. He is offered a job in NY. He is an MLB insider and has cooperated extensively with the Mitchell report. He has voluminous knowledge of MLB’s plans to continue to come down hard on PED’s. His understanding of these proceedings was probably more intimate than any other GM at the time.

So what do you think he’s going to tell his big-brained minions? Go after hulking body builders who crack tape measure home runs and take lots of walks? I think not. The approach is going to focus on securing big durable pitchers with fluid repeatable deliveries, because as MLB rosters are weaned off the juice, pitching will become an even more valuable commodity than it ever was before. Simple as that.

Say hello to Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero, Michael Fulmer, and Robert Whalen, not to mention holdovers Harvey, Matz, deGrom and Mejia … the list is deep and rich in talent.

Whatever happens in the coming seasons, we know one thing, the Mets, thanks to Alderson and his braintrust, will have some pitching, and if offensive stats across the league over the past few seasons are any indication, this team will be uniquely positioned to remain competitive. And that’s a good thing Mets fans, that’s a very good thing.


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The Traditional Importance of Mets Pitching Wed, 23 Apr 2014 18:44:31 +0000 harvey gee wheeler

Traditions are interesting. They place events from the here and now in a historical context so that we may gain some insight or understanding about what the events mean. My parents, for instance, are from two adjacent towns on an island in the Mediterranean where Easter is stacked with strange traditions that culminate in the Easter Eve midnight massacring of each others’ church domes with tens of thousands of homemade rockets.

The following day they will count the number of broken roof tiles to determine who won the “battle.” The Ottomans tried to suppress the tradition as its organizational structure (secret basement and backyard “rocket cohorts” composed of mostly young men) had a clear potential for more subversive purposes, but it persists to this day. Traditions are resilient that way.

The military, for those of you who’ve served in one of our four fine branches, is steeped in tradition. I remember how surprised I was to receive 4 full days of liberty following November 10th festivities celebrating the Marine Corps’ birthday. Everything from cadence to uniforms to the stories passed down to us about Tun Tavern and Belleau Wood and the Frozen Chosin, all served to indoctrinate us into the culture and history of what we’d become a part of.

In the end, traditions are a means. They speak to how we transfer critical information from one generation to the next, a kind of generational mnemonic.

Baseball is loaded with tradition, perhaps more than any other sport, and for good reason. Generations in baseball are not like normal lifespan generations that last the 70 odd years most of us can expect to live. A generation in baseball doesn’t last very long. When we think baseball “careers” we tend to imagine the typically longer more successful careers that run anywhere from 12 to 16 years, but the reality is that the average baseball career is much shorter.

Back in 2007 Sam Roberts of The NY Times published a piece discussing longevity in baseball and cited a study that looked at 5,989 position players who began their careers between 1902 and 1993 and who played 33.272 years of major league baseball. They found that the average career for a rookie entering the majors is a measly 5.6 years. Now granted many rookies flame out and career norms for players for instance in their third year tend to be longer, but the fact remains, there is tremendous turnover in baseball. On any given team, if you stick around long enough the personnel will be largely different every 5 or 6 years.  So tradition takes on an even greater role because it’s the one thing that remains constant generation after generation of players coming up from the minors.

Tony Stark

The Mets have their own traditions, their own uniforms and stories passed down to them, their own sacred relics. Met tradition is rooted in the Miracle of 1969, and to a lesser degree the 1986 Championship season. Met tradition is entrenched in the successes of the past, and that success has been, and more than likely will be (should we ever be treated to it again), grounded in lights-out, shutdown, overpowering pitching. Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Dwight Gooden and many other greats led our pitching heavy success stories. The lessons learned? We live and die by our pitching. To quote a Tony Stark line from Iron Man, “That’s how Dad did it, that’s how America does it, and it’s worked out pretty well so far.”

It is no surprise that tradition is a means to relay information that is heavily relied upon by military organizations. Building on previous success emboldens and prepares current generations with winning strategies, confidence, and important lessons. Even the church blasting rocket tradition in all likelihood had its organizational roots in any number of insurgencies against very real oppressors, and in the absence of these oppressors turned to more peaceful village rivalries with only a few annual blown off fingers as casualties.

The Marines instill their recruits with a sense of pride and “esprit de corps.” Camaraderie through mindless drill and the drudgery of boot camp and amazing stories of courage and sacrifice serving to produce remarkably cohesive units that function seamlessly under fire – with the ability to maintain morale under unbelievable hardship.

buddy harrelson pete rose

Traditions teach us who we are based on who we’ve been, they teach us how to conduct ourselves based on how we’ve conducted ourselves in the past. They are an integral part of organizational success and as such should never ever be ignored. To do so is to invite failure, as Mike Piazza did after Clemens threw the bat … That certainly wasn’t a Bud Harrelson (vs. Pete Rose) moment, or even a Ray Knight (vs Eric Davis) inspired trot to first … the Metropolitans traditionally have never shied away from a scrap, in fact they’ve often appeared to look for one.

The Mets of course play in the National League, and have always played their home games in pitchers’ havens.They were conceived during a pitching dominated NL “small ball” era and when you add Shea’s dimensions to their humble origins, you can see the where and why of our fine Met pitching tradition.

2014 is a pivotal season in this regard. The current generation of Mets is tasked with a monumental task — learning to win. What better way to do that than by looking at what has worked in the past? It’s a hard lesson, particularly after the horrendous failures of our recent history. Many fans are hesitant to embrace any inkling of success given so many losing seasons and point to a futile offense and shaky bullpen, but after last night’s 2 – 0 win against another NL franchise loaded with pitching and small ball success (the Cardinals of course), I feel compelled to point out that last night’s victory was as reminiscent of games from 1969 and 1973 as I’ve seen in a very very long time. The pace, the defense, the pitching, last night had it all, and that is significant.

Pitching and defense are in our blood… 2–0 games should be ingrained in the DNA of every Met prospect in every Met franchise throughout the minors. This is our template, our formula, our recipe. Embrace the stinginess and the tension Met fans, I’ll take a traditional 2–0 win any day over a 7–3 slugfest. We can put last night’s win in the books, and in historical context … 2 – 0 type games are how we roll. It’s a good sign folks, perhaps a harbinger … provided we can repeat the delivery.

Traditions are resilient, and I have to say there may even be something magical about them. There is a painful irony to the fact that 2006 ended tragically at the hands of a defense first backstop whose only home run vs. the Mets came in the post season, against a power laden Met team lacking its traditional pitching first make-up. Personally, I’ll take Wheeler, Harvey, Mejia, Syndergaard, and Montero going forward over any host of boppers and mashers.

Embrace the stinginess Met fans, embrace the tension!


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Celebrating Shea? Thu, 17 Apr 2014 18:36:23 +0000 shea night

On April 18th during a home series versus the Braves, the Mets will honor Shea by reducing tickets to 1969 era prices. For $3.50 you can get a ticket in the promenade outfield and for $19.64 you can plop your fanny into a baseline box seat!  $3.50 is about what you might expect to pay for a slice and a soft drink nowadays so it’s a sweet deal no doubt. You could conceivably take a family of 4 to the game, (stuffing a few bags of chips and juice bags into the kids’ pockets if you’re really cheap), all for 14 dollars – that’s about the cost of a Walking Dead boxed set, or a Millennium Falcon bottle cap opener … Shoot, you can even get a plastic shark with a frickin laser beam ($12.99) for only slightly less!

It is a killer whale of a deal no doubt, but like a lot of things these days this rollback confuses and perplexes me. Box seats to a Mets game are supposed to cost what an inflatable R2-D2 remote controlled droid costs, (foot pump included) — $47.99, but apparently, that’s also the price of a cup of coffee. Oh sure it’s a venti 48-shot mocha frappuccino soy, mocha drizzle, protein powder, caramel brulee topping with strawberry, two bananas, caramel drizzle, with frappuccino chips and vanilla bean ($47.30) at Starbucks, but still, it’s a cup of coffee!

So maybe regular priced box seats at Citi are not such a bad deal? Have I been away from N.Y. too long? By the way, that amount is also more or less the price of 4 ounces of quality tea in China … But what does any of this have to do with the price of baseball in Queens? Lots. The Wilpons are still scrambling to bring fans to the ballpark, and they’re getting desperate from the looks of it. Celebrating Shea? If you loved Shea so much Mr. Wilpon why did you tear it down?

new-york-mets braintrust collins, katz, wilpon alderson

You see, if I understand this correctly, the Wilpons need our support so that they can buy better baseball players. It’s a reasonable request I suppose, it’s our duty as Mets fans right?

That’s how it works, we trust the Wilpons with our hard earned cash … (trust – that’s a loaded word isn’t it?). They then take our money and in their infinite wisdom apply it to improving the team through the most prudent and exceptional means available to them.

They will not invest in ponzi schemes, they will not take players on meaningless helicopter rides, they will not sign players like Jason Bay or Bobby Bonilla, or Kaz Matsui, they will not gamble our money away or use it to buy waffle chips and beer or a brand new schooner for Jeff. I mean, just look at Jeff Wilpon he’s got a face you could trust if I ever saw one.

See the Mets are a blue collar organization … some of them even live in Queens. There are even indications that Mets ownership encourages their players to live in Queens, you figure the less they pay in rent the less the Mets have to pay them right? Makes sense. As reported by Gary Busio in the Post last spring, unlike Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez,  many Mets actually reside in Long Island City (for thousands less per month than what they would pay to live in Trump Tower or the Aldyn) …

instead of paying up to $18,000 per month (more or less the price of a new 2014 Toyota Prius) to live in a Manhattan penthouse, many of our players (and Mr. Collins himself) live in a Queens high-rise called the Avalon Riverview for a far more reasonable $2,300 to $5,200 per month (the price of a 2001 Ford Focus).

There is even a  Salon and Spa for player wives and girlfriends, where manicures run $15, a leg wax is $50, and a men’s haircut starts at $30. “The guy with the gray hair — the manager — he just came back,” a hairstylist at the shop said. “He’s a good customer!” So for the price of a box seat at Citi, Terry Collins can get his legs waxed! That’s not a bad deal at all.

caesars citi

I admit that many of our new fangled MLB venues are appealing to the eye and nose (and taste-buds), but not so much to the pocketbook. The problem is that Mets marketing has been trying to sell tickets at Manhattan penthouse prices without considering their stadium is located in Queens. Know your target audience, business 101 right?

As the National League’s blue collar descendant of the Giants and Dodgers, the Mets, from their inception, drew a working class clientele. Someone in the Mets hierarchy with a business acumen above 10th grade economics obviously realized the error in their approach and convinced the Wilpons to scale back prices.

They appear to have doubled special offers, and they instituted “dynamic pricing” intended (from what I gather) to unload tickets against low-interest opponents at low-interest prices. But one problem that remains is the blatant “stratification” of the crowd itself. so many “special” nooks and crannies reserved for the beautiful people, so many luxury boxes set aside for the jet set, so many “exclusive” clubs with the stanchions and the fuzzy ropes out front, so many “sterling” options dividing the poor slob from the rich, the really rich, and the ludicrously rich …

Sad really. One thing I miss about Shea was the feeling that we were all in one big rocking Mets melting pot.

But for a day at least you can forego the leg waxing or the most expensive cup of coffee in the world and not only take yourself to a game but bring the family and maybe even have some cash left over for that pedicure. You never know, you might even get to sit next to Terry Collins.


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Talkin’ Mets With Patrick Reusse: Ron and Ike Davis, Tom and Matt Seaver? Fri, 24 Jan 2014 15:57:32 +0000 Sometimes things happen, sometimes they happen in such a way you figure you’ll make sense of them later. Sometimes you become a part of a story you just can’t wait to share, waiting for just the right moment. Sometimes you find yourself relegated the status of a drooling dweeb, which is more or less how I felt during my conversation with Patrick Reusse — a local sports-media legend in the Twin Cities who has his own talk show on one of the local TV channels. Somehow, probably because of his outgoing and disarming manner, he was appointed ambassador to my awkward presence (itself a novelty) in the pressbox before a Mets Twins game. I felt like I’d won a behind the scenes tour to the circus with Reusse as the chatty ringmaster.

I couldn’t get into the pre-game “presser” so I was the first Mets person present in the second (visiting) row. Naturally I was grilled about, of course, Matt Harvey … is he for real? Can he pitch or is he just velocity? How is he compared like to a Verlander?

Then, I made the mistake of bringing up how Harvey actually reminded me a little of Tom Seaver without the big leg push, boy did I step in it. As Gil Hodges is my witness there showered a maelstrom of profanity that raised no one’s eyebrows but mine (they’d all heard this rant before apparently) … It was hilarious. Of course Reusse brought up Seaver’s recalcitrance to which my reply was “who cares, he was so great on the field.” A fact that Reusse acknowledged reluctantly, adding that Seaver’s abrasive personality more than likely helped him dominate on the mound … and I thought, yeah, “duh,” (didn’t say that of course).

Anyway, his next question involved how we “Mets fans” liked “our new first baseman?” I thought, what an odd question. There were several other more interesting stories at the time. including Shaun Marcum insisting on John Buck as his personal catcher, but Reusse apparently had a particular interest in Ike. I said “Davis somehow forgot how to go the other way,” but my answer was brushed aside. Patrick was amused, yes folks he was genuinely interested in Ike because he knew his dad.

ron davisRon Davis is of course an ex-major leaguer who had a couple of outstanding seasons as a middle reliever with the Yankees, including an excellent 2.95 era season in 1980.

Same guy who got traded to the Twins where he was asked to close games, which apparently didn’t end well.

Davis torpedoed two consecutive pennant races with a withering assortment of gruesome meltdowns … And after these cataclysmic unravellings?

Davis, the very next day, would jog onto the field singing “Jimmy Cracked Corn” … every … single … time. A fact confirmed by a smattering of nods in the press arena. “Thing is” continued Reusse, “By the time Davis was shipped to the Cubs, the fans and the team were fed up with him. There’s even a story about how after he was traded Kirby Pucket performed a raucous rendition of Jimmy Cracked Corn on the plane ride.” Ouch.

So, naturally the busybody local press would wonder about Ron’s kid. Now Davis Sr. wasn’t all bad as a player. He racked up a bunch of saves with the Twins and would have been regarded differently were it not for his tendency to cough it up in huge spots, still, he was quite the character.

His son? I didn’t know what to say, “What do we think of our new first baseman?” What kind of question is that? He was hitting .165 for crying out loud! I said his power was legit, but Reusse countered by reminding me that the minors are littered with guys like Ike who can’t hit a breaking pitch. Tough to argue with, especially since Ike seemed to be compelled to swing at every kind of curve ball in the dirt ever invented. I felt schooled, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone. The lesson was that the Ike situation was one to keep an eye on.

Recalcitrance can be a good thing or a bad thing. Seaver’s stubbornness may have very well been a vestige of his assertiveness on the mound, it was probably a good thing. Ike on the other hand doesn’t have much to show beyond his 32 homer 2012 season. “It’s hard to believe anyone could hit 32 homers in the majors and not be pretty darned good.” I said …

But the Jury is still out on Ike.  There’ve been stories about a tirade that didn’t stay in Vegas after he didn’t get a call-up, whispers about questionable “coachability,” petty rumors about keeping poor hours, and more recently he was the endless subject of trade rumors. In the end Ike’s success with the Mets will largely be contingent on his ability to rediscover a way to punch that outside breaking ball the other way.

I eventually kind of ran out of stuff to say and just started nodding as if I was still part of a conversation that was no longer there … Reusse no doubt got tired of my amateurisms and became engrossed in what appeared to be 4 or 5 conversations at once — a palpable chorus of bubbling commentary under the hum of computer clicks and keyboards. Trying to eavesdrop was all but impossible, and It didn’t help one bit that Jay Horwitz seemed to have an uncanny knack for hitting me with a scoring question every time I missed a play.

So there you have it, that was my Ike Davis conversation with Patrick Reuse. Relevant today not because Ron Davis recently accused the Mets of botching his son’s development (never mind Ike’s incessant proclivity to try and pull everything over the right field wall), but because first base for the N.Y. Mets is, somehow, a year later, still unresolved.

Presented By Diehards

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