Mets Merized Online » Bob Walsh http://metsmerizedonline.com Thu, 18 Sep 2014 02:37:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.4 While The Cardinals Build, the Mets ‘Rebuild’ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/03/while-the-cardinals-build-the-mets-rebuild.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/03/while-the-cardinals-build-the-mets-rebuild.html/#comments Thu, 13 Mar 2014 16:17:21 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=150296 For most of 2013, whether directly or through carefully planted ‘leaks’, the GM of the Mets let it be known that he, and the organization, were not happy with Ruben Tejada. His weight was an issue, his conditioning questioned. His desire, his effort, his heart, his character were all called into question. All that was missing was a public flogging.

ruben tejada

In the off season, the Mets’ GM openly spoke of improving the SS position (which is not to be confused with fixing the 1B problem). When options in his view became too expensive, presumably either in terms of the actual price of signing a FA or trading players, he took the tack that the organization would go, reluctantly, into 2014 with Tejada — albeit the new, rejuvenated Tejada.

They sent him off to fat camp, which he had to pay half the freight, and when he returned the reviews were mixed, at best; conflicting, even. Rumors of trades and FA signings swirled again around this 23 year old’s fragile state of mind even before spring training began.

His play thus far has been far from encouraging. A renaissance to the form of 2012 seems as far-fetched as expecting a word of truth from this front office on this matter. He’s booted a few balls, looked shaky on others, and has gotten off to a slow start with the bat. To these eyes, he looks shaken, timid, broken even. What a shock. Some Mets fans, myself included, if only to set him free from this abuse and give him a fresh start somewhere else, wish the GM would follow through with his stated goal of improving the position. And while some fans on MMO now want either Drew, or Franklin or Owings, there are more than enough of the vocal believers who find wisdom in the status quo (otherwise known as the company line).

As our intrepid leader stunningly stated yesterday when asked about the Braves acting so decisively to address pitching issues the result of injuries, give or take, with his usual condescension, “I just don’t see a situation at shortstop”. Really? He’s either delusional or up to more con games — perhaps to cover up the fact that it was dicey to trust Tejada in the first place, and careless not to have a viable back-up plan in place before now.

Contrast this GM’s dysfunctional concept of team building with this example, by the Cardinals young GM. It sheds light on the big concern about the Mets ‘rebuilding’ process, the one that opines, as so many posters now do on MMO in lockstep, that help from the farm system comes many years later. One must be patient, goes the mantra — and only the savvy, the astute, and the most disciplined know the magic formula.

kolten wongThe Cardinals sent out a young second baseman for Wednesday’s game, named Kolten Wong, who was drafted by the Cardinals in 2011, which was Alderson’s first draft. While we wait patiently for Nimmo to save the franchise, the Cardinals can slot in Wong at second base, to cover indirectly the departure of Beltran with Carpenter moving to right. And to plan for all eventualities, the GM brings in a solid veteran (Ellis) in case Wong isn’t ready BEFORE the start of spring training.

So here’s a player that is ranked #33 by Baseball Prospectus among all prospects, that the GM of the Cardinals has brought to the major league club since Alderson’s first year in control (Carlos Martinez, who was quite impressive in the same game, is another, signed in 2010, with no plans to send him back to save a control year). Wong is an important player who is expected to have a critical impact on the success of the Cardinals in 2014, and who is not the result of a long ‘rebuild’. In fact, they had to wait less than 3 years for him.

How many players have the Mets brought up to the major league team from the farm system since 2010, who were drafted or signed by this so-called rebuilding regime, and who the Mets can reasonably expect to have an impact in 2014?

Zero. Which is the approximate odds of the Mets winning the 90 games the flock’s fearless leader predicts, and perhaps the approximate odds that the Cardinals won’t. Say, instead, the Mets had drafted a college shortstop the same year the Cardinals drafted Wong, a SS similar to Wong’s caliber? He’d be slotted into shortstop this season, and this nightmare of finding a competent SS would not have happened. A rebuilding team would actually have rebuilt the team, at least one position. In less than three years. The very good organizations realize that team building happens every year, a piece here, and a piece there. The bad ones are good at excuse making and propaganda.

Yet the rest of us impatient, small minded heretics, simply know nothing about team building goes post after post after post, when we ask for some sign that the farm system rebuilding has become relevant 3 years later. Free discourse is now disguised as benign consensus — one congenial back slap after another. Dissenters are increasingly attacked, ridiculed and mocked. Some intrepid masochists stay behind, but most simply go of their own accord, which is ironic because much of this new herd is transitional itself, having migrated from another site. One should not be surprised. And while I have a deep respect for Joe D., I realize as I near the end of this article that it would take the ultimate commitment to free discourse to post this article.

As the GM of the Cardinals demonstrates, you don’t need more than three years to draft or sign a core player, develop him in the minors, and bring him up to the major league team to help them win. That mystical day when all the pieces for the Mets suddenly appear isn’t going to happen. Its a gradual process, yes, but one that is evidenced every single year by moves, small and large, good organizations make at the major league level. This one can’t even replace a young, homegrown SS they recklessly ruined.

Let the howling begin …

bleed orange & blue  button

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Time Now For Balls and Bats, Not Brickbats http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/02/time-now-for-balls-and-bats-not-brickbats.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/02/time-now-for-balls-and-bats-not-brickbats.html/#comments Tue, 18 Feb 2014 17:00:45 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=148237 After experiencing my first offseason following a site such as MMO, I have arrived at the belief that what is said in the offseason, should stay in the offseason. Especially now, days before spring training begins in earnest for the 2014 New York Mets.

 mets fans

When Joe D. gave me an opportunity to write a few articles about the Mets, it came with what I thought was implied instructions. The offseason is a time for vigorous debate (to say the least!), and MMO welcomed articles that expressed a range of content, be it pro or con or somewhere more centric in the middle. The offseason was a time for diehard Mets fans to express how they felt about the current state of the Mets. Let’s face it. Whether writing for, posting comments on, or simply reading the articles and posts without comment, we are, in our diversity, quintessential Mets fans. For me, the offseason between 2013 and 2014 has been alternately interesting, challenging, fun, frustrating, invigorating, exasperating, and, yes, instructive and informative.

True Mets fans don’t shut it down for 3 months and resume being a Mets fan in February, and I thank Joe D. for his tireless work in making MMO become part of my everyday life now as I drink my morning coffee and catch up on all the articles and, time permitting, some of the posts.

While my MMO articles have clearly shown a bent in one direction, the comments that dissented were valuable in as much as I would prefer balance, rather than dogmatic polarity. In some cases, I have re-evaluated a position or two, and moved more centric — the emphasis on farm system development is one, for instance, even if I still believe revenue is being diverted to pay down the massive debt of the Wilpons and this is merely a divine by-product, a plausibly defensible default position. How else does one reconcile the contradiction inherent in this grand rebuilding position foisted upon us, when potential roadblocks are already being erected in the way of our most promising prospects (Flores, Lagares, Familia, Mejia and even Montero) by marginal veterans in nobody’s championship plan? On the other hand, there is a second wave of young, high ceiling pitching coming to this team (Harvey and Wheeler the first wave), and perhaps a wave after that one. This bodes very well for the Mets.

Yet whether you love the moves the GM has made, or loath most of them, as I do; whether you think there’s a plan in place rather than a reactionary slide into the abyss called a rebuilding plan by default; whether you want Drew or not; and whether you hope that your fellow poster you have engaged with in a thread of contentious posts is wrong once the Mets play for real — this much is true:

We are loyal Mets fans.

wright springIn a small special way its a silent oath one takes when he or she becomes a devoted fan of anything, an unwritten pact, or as Bruce Springsteen sang, its the ‘ties that bind us’.

We are bound inexorably as Mets fans — yes, for better or (mostly) worse … except for two very magical, eternally memorable seasons, each of which had some measure of ‘miracle’ attached to them.

Mets fans may not have quantity, but we certainly have quality. The 1969 Mets remain the ‘miracle’ standard in my opinion, perhaps in all professional sports. And Game 6 of the World Series in 1986 … there has not been an inning in baseball history packed with as much ‘miracle’ as the bottom of the 10th was for Mets fans. I can still watch the tape of that inning and still not believe the string of events that would unfold. As a Mets fan, I will not go to my grave empty handed.

So no one will be rooting harder for Chris Young, or Bartolo Colon than I will, although I think both are mistakes (Colon can pitch, win some games, but I would prefer not having to enable the PED use by rooting for him to be successful in, well, cheating. Nothing dogmatic or moralistic at all; I simply find it repugnant).

But I do not, can not, and will not wish them failure to prove out an opinion I hold or to sustain a point. Its counterintuitive to being a fan, a true fan, and I refuse at any time, be it only a millisecond, to root against anybody wearing a Mets uniform, ever.

Hope does spring eternal, and spring training in baseball is a very special time — its no different today at 58 for me, than it was at 8. Yes, we all know logically every team isn’t winning the World Series this year. There will be many teams that fail to even reach .500. Some will surprise and delight, and some will fall and bring misery. And that is the incredible beauty of baseball, of any sporting enterprise, really. There will always be the 1969 Mets, the 1980 US Olympic victory, the 10th inning of Game 6 in 1986.

So while the Mets break out the bats and balls, its time for me to put away the sharp pen and brickbats and be what I am — a true, diehard Mets fan. I can be nothing else. There’s always next off-season. See you then!

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Lies, Lies and More Damned Lies http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/02/lies-lies-and-more-damned-lies.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/02/lies-lies-and-more-damned-lies.html/#comments Mon, 03 Feb 2014 16:25:59 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=146847 wilpon katz

1. It’s All In The Rearview Mirror

“It’s all in the rearview mirror,” Wilpon said about past financial woes last year as the 2013 spring training started, “The family is in great shape. The family really is in great shape. There’s no one in my family — there’s the Katz family, the Wilpon family, kids has any personal bank debt. Zero. Everything has been paid. We don’t owe a dollar to anybody. We have mortgages on buildings and stuff like that, but we don’t owe a dollar.”

The vast majority of people who Madoff scammed were financially devastated by his crimes, and didn’t get off as well. They lost retirement accounts, houses, everything. Some who lost the most were very close personal friends of the Wilpons, who they introduced to Madoff. Sandy Koufax, for one.

Here’s the rub. Wilpon will cry Madoff when convenient but leaves out the part that they have virtually shielded themselves from any Madoff effect by passing through the debt away from them personally when it also suits them. Wilpon also conveniently leaves out the part about taking $700 million in allegedly fraudulent transfers of principal from his Madoff accounts to help secure this personal burden.

Then there’s the $300 million in allegedly fictitious profits that kept the Mets afloat. Say what you will about clawbacks and what not, and dance around the fact that the Wilpons agreed to pay a small portion of that back, but the court records apparently showed the entirety of these withdrawals and payments were in fact made. Where did it all go? I don’t know about you, but I am relieved his family is totally debt free. Helps me sleep better at night. That is, when I’m not worrying about paying my own bills. The Mets, not so much. There is nothing but mountains of debt up ahead.

wilpon

2. Because We Can Do It

“Everything that was in the past — you guys saw the pain we went through — is gone,” Wilpon said in February 2013, “the payroll will be commensurate with anything we’ve ever done, because we can do it.”

Well, except for the part that he had signed away his control over expanding the payroll to the banks, which is entirely despicable by itself. At any rate, no such payroll increase has yet to materialize, just a kind of con man’s math. Take away, put back less, and call it a net gain. But I feel his pain. Yes, I do.

3. Make Sure That The Banks Got Paid Off All Of The Debt

It wasn’t as people had written, the reason,” Wilpon said last year, denying that the reason payroll was slashed was because of the Madoff situation. “It was a balance there. Because we had to make sure that the banks got paid off all of the debt.”

Really? Banks all paid off? Then why the lockstep celebration by some Mets fans that you just got re-financing on old debt that you were unable to pay? Here’s the reality. The franchise remains leveraged to the brink of critical mass. This new restructuring only pushed the balloon payment out 7 years. There’s several hundred million dollars of debt still attached to the club, plus the refinancing of the SNY network — said to be in excess of $700 million — and the hundreds of millions of dollars in debt on Citi Field. Even the bonds issued to finance the stadium have been rated “junk status” by Standard & Poor’s.

There are those analysts who think when you factor the net present value of those payments as debt, there is no equity value left in the Mets.

alg-wilpon-selig-jpg

4. I’ll Take Them At Their Word

Commissioner Selig in 2012, showing that he’s pretty skilled at double talk and enabling himself, when asked after an owner’s meeting about the financial situation of the Mets and whether the Mets had the resources to field a competitive team, revealed this:

“They (the Wilpons) said they do and I think they do. It just depends. It’s interesting how you rebuild or how you do things. Spending money doesn’t guarantee anybody anything. I want to be very careful here. As far as the Mets are concerned, I know they’re very comfortable where they are and they’re very optimistic. I’ll take them at their word.”

Why not? They’re pretty up front and transparent kind of guys, after all. Here’s the thing, though, and Selig knew this was true at the time he gave his blessings. Rarely enforced and easily manipulated, MLB has a rule that prohibits teams from operating at debt levels greater than ten times operating income. Selig already knew that the Mets and their debt-to-value ratio of 60% not only exceeded the standard, but put it in a more tenuous position than the Dodgers at the time who had a 54% debt-to-value ratio.

Like McCourt in LA who ransacked the Dodgers and depleted revenue from the operating capital for his own gain at the detriment of the LA Dodgers, how is what Wilpon has done with his debt any different? Before anyone cries that teams are not a public trust, and therefore can do anything they want with the team’s revenue, think about what happened to McCourt.

McCourt was run out of baseball by the commissioner, another Wilpon buddy from the old days, who relies on owners to back his initiatives and, well, pay his salary. New owners stepped in, who actually had the financial resources required to run a major league team, and McCourt, who had treated the team as his own piggy bank and brought it to its knees (sound familiar?) then makes a fortune in the sale. You can just hear McCourt gloating about the financial solvency of his family, can’t you? Why hasn’t the commissioner stepped in here and for the sake of the game put an end to the ownership of this franchise who can’t legitimately operate a major market baseball team — in fact, never has been able to run this team without leveraging the fraudulent activities of Madoff and his fairy tale returns almost from the start? Asked and answered.

wilpon alderson

5. He Does Not Have Restrictions

“He’ll have all the opportunity in the world to bring anybody he wants in,” team COO Jeff Wilpon said on 2011, referring to Sandy Alderson and his payroll, “The way for him to do that is to bring the ideas to us and we’ll talk about it. But he does not have restrictions. We’ll deal with everything on a case-by-case basis.”

Apparently deceitful double talk is genetic. We now know for a fact that there were payroll restrictions, a bank induced salary cap. When the news just broke that the Wilpons had restructured $250 million in debt and that, this time, the loan didn’t include payroll restrictions included in the agreement, even the hardened and the cynical had to be shocked.

Anything goes, I guess, especially when you are drowning in debt. Even if it meant running the organization into the ground, which it has. And so began the Wilpon’s convenient embrace of lowering payrolls as a testament to baseball purity, and farm system team building worship — with Sandy Alderson playing the part of the hometown sheriff coming to clean up the wild west. Only problem, who are the bad guys, and who are the good guys?

It’s one thing to have the Mets organization not be able to sustain itself because of bad contracts and when lack of winning causes revenues to drop to where it impacts the actual operation of the team. This austerity and payroll reducing and refocusing on the farm system because that’s a more pure and fundamentally sound way to build a baseball team has been nothing more than a deliberate charade to cover up the ultimate distribution of the money — back into the Wilpon’s teetering empire. Its nothing more than a pickpocket’s diversion. But, hey, have a heart. Whose going to gentrify Willet’s Point if the Wilpon’s don’t?

In the financial world, people go to prison based on the truthfulness of what they say, or don’t say publicly — especially when financial gain is tied in, or manipulation for financial gain is the intent (sort of like pumping up the team with lies to sell more tickets … to pay more debt down that has nothing whatsoever to do with the baseball team itself, which is not illegal in this case, just slimy).

While many losing teams have been turned into winners in less than three years, the GM can be patient and detached as he ‘rebuilds’ the farm system with high school players, because fielding a competitive major league baseball team befitting a major market isn’t even the primary goal. Anyone who thinks that this ownership will be able to potentially pay Harvey (assuming a return to glory) a contract in line with the $215 million paid to Kershaw, which is what it will take and which will happen before this just restructured balloon payment of $250 million comes due, is in need of longterm psychiatric therapy.

mmo

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Fact or Fiction: Team Building 2007-2011 http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/01/fact-or-fiction-team-building-2007-2011-2.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/01/fact-or-fiction-team-building-2007-2011-2.html/#comments Fri, 31 Jan 2014 14:43:21 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=146335 Quick confession. I am not going to try and hide my biases simply to preserve some sense of false objectivity. After all, I’m not a journalist. Outside of lying or fabricating data, I have no such pristine burden. What follows are merely opinions, extrapolations, ideas, personal conclusions. I was, however, determined to keep an open mind once I began exploring the data, to go wherever the data led me. I will leave it in your capable hands to decide whether I have been successful or not in this regard.

Another caveat: I am not by nature a numbers cruncher, and from my writing days, not the greatest editor on the planet either. But I have tried to be faithful to the data, and if I’ve missed something, I am certain it will be pointed out. It is, after all, a debate on successful modern team building, not a pedantic lecture.

I’ve written a few articles previously since joining MMO leaving no doubt as to my opinion about the direction of the Mets this off-season. Sadly as a fan, much as I want to jump on the band wagon as the 2014 season nears, it still feels too much like jumping back into the same surreal rabbit hole.

Before we get into the nitty gritty let me give the bulk of credit for the graphs below to an article I recently read, by Matt Swartz at The Hardball Times, dated April 3, 2012, titled ‘Free agent value and building teams from within’. It’s a terrific article, and I highly recommend a read of it to enhance some of the extrapolations of this one. I’ve taken the data he’s assembled, reformatted it a bit, and put it into an informal top ten of my own, which I based more heavily on the statistic I find most relevant in sports, wins and losses per season.

The foundational premise is that wins and loses are reflected in others statistics, like WAR, and by empirically applying the data a pathway to more wins can be reasonably established. I will not replicate the wonderful insights gleaned from this raw data by Mr. Swartz but rather borrow the data for a bit to draw some of my own conclusions.

Here’s a direct quote from his article: “The idea is simple: if you fill a team with fringe players available on the free agent market for the league minimum salary, you would win about 43 games and spend about $12 million. Therefore, a team should not be evaluated only on how many wins it can get beyond that baseline of 43, but on how efficiently it can use its resources to exceed that number.”

 

Consider this: from 2007 to 2011, nine of the top ten teams in terms of winning baseball games spent more for fWAR wins via free agency. As well, this group won four of those five World Series, had the top ten W/L records in baseball during that time, and made up 65 percent of the teams that made the playoffs. They also won 63 percent of the division championships during that time. Or to paraphrase one of Mr. Swartz’s conclusions, relying on a farm system is a good thing if winning isn’t the goal.

Before the off-season started, the GM admitted to needing to have the courage to pull the trigger, presumably on a game changer. His words—made a big deal of finally having to make his mark, put his imprint on this team, now three years out, so far, he’s flinched, at best. He didn’t make a significant trade with prospects for an established major league star—the kind of trade that takes guts and team building vision. He passed on both long term free agents that certainly would have helped (please, spare me the tears about years five, six and seven; win a World Series, and all that crap goes away instantly).

Again, it takes some guts to make a move like that. He did sign Granderson and his 1.1 WAR for $15 million, and another $27 million on two players that are hardly part of anyone’s team building plan, though Colon’s WAR is respectable if we are to base it on the one somewhat aberrational year he had last year, at age 40, which makes replication a stretch. Of course, it fails to replace Harvey’s 5.2 WAR of last year, but in fairness, if bridging to Harvey’s return is the only goal of this signing, it probably will accomplish a large part of that (and feels a lot like treading water to me).

Despite the rhetoric, the Yankees don’t appear to spend as recklessly on free agents as some MMO posters would have us believe. The Yankees averaged 96 wins per season from 2007-2011, and won one World Series. As a Mets fan, who watches just about every game, I think I can point out this fact without having my loyalty questioned that in prospective to the Yankee’s success over this time period alone, the Mets have only four 96 plus win seasons in their entire history, and only one more championship.

The Phillies, the Tigers, and the Cardinals, who it should be pointed out averaged 24.9 WAR wins from free agents, also spent big during the 2007-2011 seasons. The big bad Yankees, who are to some the polar opposite of the Cardinals, averaged 32.2 wins per season from the WAR of free agents they acquired. Even more importantly, the Yankees wins from the farm system was only 62, and yet they averaged 96 wins per season. The Rays had the lowest free agent WAR of 4.7, and of course, no World Championship. But shouldn’t that be the case when you pick in the top 6 every year between 2000-2008, with 3 top picks thrown in for good measure (turning into Price and Longoria)?

sandy-alderson

Let’s agree on this much, if possible. A top 10 farm system is good, up to a point—and that point on average is 69 wins per season from players not eligible for free agency. To get to 90 plus wins its going to take acquiring free agents, and making good trades with prospects under team control for established major league stars. Here’s what this data tells me: the teams that do well in the free agent arena, win more games, win championships. The teams that don’t, who fail here despite how well they control players from the farm system, don’t win. Wild free agent spending is bad, too, up to a point—and that point is when it costs almost $10 for each WAR win, which is where the Mets have unfortunately been too many times.

Here’s the top ten teams ranked in terms of wins / losses for 2007-2011 seasons.

1 Yankees 96-66
2 Phillies 95-67
3 Red Sox 93-69
4 Angels 91-71
5 Rays 86-76
6 Cardinals 86-76
7 Dodgers 85-77
8 Tigers 85-77
9 Rangers 85-77
10 Braves 84-78

Now here’s Team Dollars per WAR from Free Agents for Top Ten Winning teams:

Rk Team FA fWAR FA $/fWAR
1 Cardinals 24.9 $3.30
2 Braves 14.2 $3.60
3 Rays 4.7 $3.80
4 Rangers 12.7 $4.00
5 Red Sox 22.8 $4.90
6 Phillies 18.9 $5.40
7 Tigers 15.1 $5.40
8 Yankees 32.2 $5.6
9 Dodgers 13.8 $6.30
10 Angels 14.3 $6.90

Here’s the Non-Market Players ranking of Top Ten Winning Teams without FA WAR:

Non-Market Players

1 Rays 81-81
2 Angels 77-85
3 Phillies 76-66
4 Rangers 75-87
5 Tigers 70-92
6 Red Sox 68-94
7 Dodgers 67-95
8 Braves 67-95
9 Cardinals 63-99
10 Yankees 62-100

The World Series Winners from 2007-2011, with their FA fWAR:

Red Sox 22.8
Phillies 18.9
Yankees 32.2
Giants 12.4
Cardinals 24.9

What does this tell me? That four of the teams with the most wins in this time period spent heavily on free agents … to augment WAR from players under team control from the minors. The Giants, by the way, were no slouches themselves in spending on free agency. The A’s, for what its worth, spent the least in baseball, 3.5 for FA fWAR, at the worst cost of $13.20 (which to me indicates that tentatively dipping your toe into free agency, and not adequately committing payroll to it, or being bold and aggressive in free agency spending leads to very lousy differentials / results.

Obviously, Mr. Swartz digs a little deeper, and makes much more of a statistical science out of it. What I found fascinating, and why I went by top ten in wins as the standard, is that there is clearly evidence to suggest, as logic would have it, that building a strong farm system, and being bold and aggressive in the free agent market are crucial components in modern team building.

To me, this analysis strongly suggests the lie that Moneyball is today. The data also supports that poorly managed farm systems can be outspent through free agency—see the Yankees, and surprisingly, the Cardinals, who were just a tick ahead of the Yankees in lowest WAR from controlled (farm system produced) players. It also seems fair to say that the Rays, while the standard for building farm systems, is significantly lacking in its ability to participate in a meaningful way in the free agent market, as no World Championships might attest.

As for the Mets, they actually spent 13.2 on FA fWAR, but did so at the 27th worse cost of $8.10 (which is part of the horror for Mets fans = a legacy of spending on the wrong free agents at the wrong times, with a few notable exceptions). So wiser free agent spending is definitely in order, and in some cases extending out contract years (taking some risk for greater reward) for the right free agent will be required. Rather than damn the process because of previous incompetence, the Mets need to get financially to the point where they can aggressively pursue free agent spending again, at the level the data suggests brings a successful championship outcome. Of course, I think we all agree they need to do a much better job of it, on all accounts.

Now agreeing on the right GM to get us there, well, that might be a trickier business but should continue to provide sufficient fodder for MMO debate.

mmo

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Featured Post: Will 1967 Repeat Itself In 2014 For The Mets? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/01/featured-post-will-1967-repeat-itself-in-2014-for-the-mets.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/01/featured-post-will-1967-repeat-itself-in-2014-for-the-mets.html/#comments Mon, 06 Jan 2014 11:39:28 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=138668 tim foli

To even the casual observer, it would appear that building a productive farm system in baseball is undertaken with the same predictive science and art as trying to pick the winning lottery ticket before scratching off the numbers. Lack of talent, career altering injuries, failure to translate potential, bad luck — the rise to the big leagues, never mind achieving stardom, is statistically akin to a crap shoot.

The Yankees went nearly 30 years before drafting a starting pitcher in the first round who ever pitched an inning for them in the majors. Then again, going all the way back to buying or trading for established players from their major league ‘farm team’, the Kansas City A’s, to unchecked free agent spending since, the Yankees prefer to gamble their money on major league proven talent.

The top ten Mets 1st round draft picks of all time is embarrassingly thin and uninspiring after Gooden, Strawberry, Matlack, and Wright. Not sure how much more damming odds have to be, but the mention of the name Tim Foli (photo right) in any team’s top ten best draft picks of all time should forever provide a cautionary guidepost for Mets fans when the predictability of drafts and the potential of high ceiling prospects is discussed. The Mets 1st round blunders include the infamous Steve Chilcott (Reggie Jackson went next), Billy Beane, Kirk Presley, and more recently, Lastings Milledge, who didn’t last very long at all.

Conversely, every player in America that showed any promise was drafted before teams finally picked Don Mattingly and Mike Piazza, who were given zero chance of reaching the big show, never mind having great careers. In Piazza’s case, it was a favor to his godfather, Tommy Lasorda. I guess none of the scouts thought Ted Williams, who rightly predicted stardom for Piazza when he was only in high school, knew anything about hitting baseballs.

Here’s the intractable beauty of baseball, though. All sports, for that matter. Fans are hardly deterred by cold, hard, logical facts and data that may form counter points to the unbridled optimism they unilaterally bestow on the next crop of top prospects coming out of their team’s farm system. Wild emotion rules the day when it comes to high ceiling, untested, unproven prospects. Yes, one imagines, even for Steve Chilcott in his day. But for every Pete Rose or Bob Gibson, there are a thousand Gregg Jefferies, a million Bill Pulsiphers. Ten bad games pitched in the big leagues, or a hundred lousy at bats, and the anointed are quickly dethroned, and a fresh group of untested royalty take their places. See how the applause meter has already begun to impatiently drift to the wrong side with Flores and d’Arnaud.

Seaver-Koosman-Matlack - Copy

Rarely are the baseball gods as merciful as they were for the Mets in 1967. Not six years into their existence, after a run of historic failure, the Mets had Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Nolan Ryan, Jon Matlack, Tug McGraw, Ed Figueroa and Gary Gentry under team control, either in the majors or minors. Two of them would, of course, make the Hall Of Fame, and the rest had strong major league careers (not always with the Mets). In 1969, the majority of this group would help the Mets stun the baseball world, and forever stamp the word ‘miracle’ into their collective lexicon. Have the tides again turned in 2014? This year the Mets have Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero, Jenrry Mejia, & Jeurys Familia under team control in the majors or minors. Sound familiar? Even the most pessimistic amongst Mets fans much concede that the comparisons are far more than wishful thinking. The Mets have stockpiled an incredibly exciting group of young pitching, that is poised to change the fortunes of the franchise — perhaps for the next decade.

Which is not to say that this group of talented young Mets will all succeed and be as productive in the major leagues like their 1967 predecessors. That now appears to be as statistically improbable as all of them failing. Unfortunately, trading one or more away for proven talent mitigates none of the risk, as it didn’t in the ill-advised Nolan Ryan trade. But here’s the thing: if only two or three of these prospects produce as expected, well, we know how it turned out in 1969.

In ten years or so, will Mets fans lament the collective failures of this group, like we did the Generation K trio in the 1990′s? Or will 1967 repeat itself in 2014, as some of these players continue to ascend to varying degrees of greatness, eventually becoming the foundation for another World Championship team?

Presented By Diehards

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OK, So What Exactly Is The Real Plan Again? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/12/ok-so-what-exactly-is-the-real-plan-again.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/12/ok-so-what-exactly-is-the-real-plan-again.html/#comments Mon, 23 Dec 2013 16:06:11 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=135915 Sandy Alderson 2Oscar Wilde, who would have loved modern baseball for all its hubris and wonderful folly, is quoted as having said, “One’s real life is often the life that one does not lead”. On this rather uneventful Monday, with the new year, 2014, just around the corner, an analogous baseball corollary to the Wilde quote comes to mind: “Does a GM’s real plan ever happen?”.

Clearly, the GM of the Mets professes to be a man guided by a distinct baseball philosophy, one that has presumably helped forge his real plan for the Mets, and yet despite all his condescending lecturing to the dimwitted fan base who, in his words give or take, are beyond such subtleties he seems to violate the implementation of its precepts at every turn. Put another way, with apologies to Mr. Wilde, will this GM’s real plan ever happen?

As many supporters of the GM point out whenever ‘the plan’ is even remotely held up to the light, the work he has done to make the farm system relevant again is notable, although most of this improvement is almost entirely the result of two very good trades he made, and another that fetched two prospects with some promise, one who is counted on in the bullpen in 2014. Still, the purchase from the two very good trades, Wheeler, Syndergaard, and d’Arnaud, were all jewels of other farm systems, and were cleaved from these teams for immediate gain, not the promise of tomorrow, a crucible that often ends poorly for the more desperate of the two sides. No doubt the GM did well in these trades, very well indeed — on paper. Such is the almost mystical allure of high end prospects in baseball — who, strictly by the percentages, too often fail to live up to the advanced billing in the big show.

I have written about strikeouts as it relates to this GM’s team building philosophy, and many dissenting posters on MMO, in response, have used the adage, or some proximity of it, that simply measuring strikeouts in a vacuum is a relic of the past. They proclaim new baseball metrics are the order of the new day, as if baseball has really changed much through a century or so. True, of course — the greatest home run hitters of all time also hold the records for the most strikeouts. More runs still win games, not WAR calculations. But the point wasn’t that. Still isn’t about strikeouts. Never was. Its about inconsistency, incompetence, blatant manipulation, and cynical disregard for the truth or some combination of all four to executing a plan promised from day one. You know who else suffer these same maladies — used car salesmen, swamp land salesmen, and just about anybody on Wall Street dialing for dollars. You can just never pin them down.

The GM of the Mets could sign the most notorious strikeout hitters of all time for all I care about strikeouts, if he said the plan from the start was to sign guys who strike out and hit home runs and drive in runs. Davey Johnson (and one presumes Frank Cashen who built the teams) thrived on good pitching and the three run home run, and it served him / them very well. The point here is that the current GM, in his first interview and each time asked since, has consistently said that striking out so much was an issue on the Mets that he intended on repairing. Curious then that the Mets strike out far more now than Minaya’s last team in 2010, a very bad one, who were eleventh best, at 6.76 strikeouts per 9 innings, and scored a total of 656 runs. In stark contrast, the Mets were fourth worst in striking out in 2013, with 8.54 strikeouts per 9 innings, and scored 619 runs.

chris-young-baseball-hq-4_3Even more telling, the 2006 Mets scored 834 runs, and were fourteenth worst in strikeouts, with 6.61 per game — the kind of effective strike out / run producing ratio that I believe the current GM is aspiring to. Ask Matt Harvey if he could have used a few of those runs from 2006, or even 2010. These aren’t straw man stats, as some accuse numbers of being when they don’t quite fit into the agenda. Three years later, where’s the systemic roster fixing? Where’s the implementation of this GM’s real plan? Maybe he needs to consult with his predecessor to get some pointers on the practical relationship between striking out and producing more runs. When you have both like the Mets have the past three seasons, and will most likely again next year — high strike outs, poor run production — something is fundamentally wrong with the execution of the plan. Will Granderson and Young change this dynamic? On the surface, they certainly don’t seem to fit into the GM’s so-called plan, unless you jam them in and hope for a better outcome than logic suggests.

Would Shin-Soo Choo, who is a sabermetric marvel who does happen to strike out his fair share, leading off for the Mets for what the GM spent on Granderson and Young be a more natural fit for the GM’s stated long term plan? Would it be more aligned to his team building philosophy? A career .389 OBP, and 162 game averages of 20 home runs, 81 RBI and 94 runs with a lifetime .288 BA says yes, resoundingly. He fits the GM’s stated philosophy, fits a cogent long term baseball plan, and at the same time works within the owner’s payroll constraints. Its far more fun right now to imagine Choo raising up a World Series trophy in 5 years with a young pitching staff fully developed than, well, whoever the Mets replace stopgaps Granderson and Young with. Choo could have been the first player signed in that plan, the long term plan, that has the Mets challenging for championships in years 3 to 7 of his contract.

An aside. I read a number of the posts on MMO when the Choo signing with Texas was announced. I was amazed — stunned, really — at how many fans professed relief that Choo wasn’t signed by Mets. Bullet dodged. Nothing but a polished turd. On and on went the rollicking back slapping, as if the Mets couldn’t use a player of this caliber on their roster right now, and as if it was actually their money that would pay this player. Further, this notion that Choo will be too old at the end of this contract, while Granderson, at virtually the same ages in his four year contract, will not be is so disingenuous one would have to be drunk on the Kool-aid to believe otherwise.

USATSI_7400954_154511658_lowresWhy is Choo too old, and Granderson is not, when the ages match? Again, its gross revisionism for agenda sake, and nothing more, because the argument collapses on its own weight. Moreover, Choo has better lifetime stats, and the main point, he’s more of a metrics guy, who should age better than a home run hitter in a huge ball park. And guess what? One will be 36 at the end of his contract, and the other will be, wait for it … 36. So if one is too old, they both are, if Granderson is a great sign, then so too is Choo — but that might be a tad too logical for some tastes. Yankee fans don’t seem fazed by having so many long term contracts, some worse than others. Yes, players signed to long term contracts break down, and get old. To the Yankees, its almost a collective yawn, “So what? Who’s the big free agent this winter? Tanaka — go get him!”.

The way they have spent this off season should turn Mets fans green with envy. The Yankees would have loved to have signed Choo, who appears to have taken less from Texas. Along with Beltran. And Ellsbury. And McCann. Maybe Tanaka, if his team grants permission. Imagine these guys on the Mets. You get the picture. Yet some Mets fans are ready to hold a parade down the canyon of champions for their GM — who has actually spent less than what came off the books. Insert here all the blithering rhetoric about net gross revenues this or that, and severe debt repayments. The Yankees paid for their stadium, too, which at $1.5 billion was twice what Citi Field cost to build — what about the Yankees debt? Who’s paying that off — yes, the Yankees, albeit, like the Mets, with tax and other concessions. Even this plaint about the Mets / Wilpon’s great debt repayment is a shill’s ploy to deflect the real issue that perhaps the Wilpons are diverting baseball money to their real estate business.

Which segues nicely to the Colon signing, which has been universally hailed by the fan base on MMO — albeit curiously with similar stipulations and equivocations shading each ringing endorsement, as if something deep inside is screaming for them to hedge their assessments of Colon — just in case it blows up. Yet everything about this signing screams hypocrisy — and double speak — from the GM. He won’t sign a relief pitcher, LaTroy Hawkins, a stunning physical marvel who hits the weight room instead of taking PEDs as a shortcut to hard work (what a concept?), who brought class and high level performance to the Mets, when, frankly, it has been in short order recently with this GM’s signings. Yet for an extra million dollars he is determined by this GM to be too much of a risk at this age. This makes sense? Rod Serling anyone?

bartolo colonOf course, before the howling starts, from a purely baseball standpoint you can make a case for Colon, more so if you close your eyes, pinch your nose and completely eliminate a conscience from the process. He should, rather amply at that, be able to bridge the Harvey gap, unless, of course, whatever fountain of youth PED use provides is, in fact, actually flushed from his system and he pitches to his age, and previous arm and shoulder ailments.

But however this gets spun around on its head, there remains the intractable reality that the same GM who unceremoniously let Hawkins walk away, signs a player who a season ago was banned for PEDs, and who in the 5 seasons before he was caught cheating won only 22 games, total, and only averaged 84 innings per season. Hawkins is precisely the epitome of the type of player who deserves to be financially rewarded, the kind a fan base can embrace for integrity and honor and relentless class and really rally around, and Colon is quintessentially the opposite, as undeserving as they come, seemingly wholly lacking in anything remotely called a moral compass, seemingly cut from the same ilk who must confuse picking up a needle to actually exercising. Yet, somehow, and I swear I can hear Rod Serling’s voice right now, Colon fits the GM’s plan and Hawkins doesn’t. Colon, the cheater, gets the big contract, and Hawkins, who plays by the rules, gets dumped. For a lousy million dollars savings. Is this the real plan — or have we, indeed, entered the Twilight Zone?

Moreover, is anyone out there wondering how a superior GM, Billy Beane, who had a choice between Colon, his own player who he watched win 18 games for him, and Scott Kazmir, and he took Kazmir, same years, just about the same money? Hmmm — I wonder why. What did Beane know? What could Beane no longer abide about Colon? That clean, he’d break down? Or dirty, he didn’t want him anymore? Think about it next time you think Colon was the wiser choice over Scott Kazmir. Its difficult to comprehend, but the Mets have missed out on Kazmir twice now. One presumes the GM watched Kazmir mow down the Mets last year, so dominating them — and so easily striking them out — it was truly cringe-worthy embarrassing to watch.

Except for a few brave, strident voices in the posts on MMO, where is the groundswell of outrage for this signing — moral, ethical, even baseball-wise? Can Mets fans boo ARod and Bonds and the cheaters like them, and applaud Colon, just because they think he can win a few games next season for their team? That is implicitly the definition of hypocrisy, and if the moral high ground is to be so arbitrarily depreciated for the sake of winning baseball games, than doesn’t that say more about the GM’s code of ethics and team building fidelity, than it does for a starving fan base, who are being force fed these moral dilemmas? Colon comes with a hefty price tag that is measured in more than dollars, and the implications and compromises can only be ignored if we willingly turn our backs on his past indiscretions for a narrow, short term benefit. Is the impeachment of a player’s market viability through failing drug tests and being banned merely only another MoneyBall opportunity to exploit for this GM, regardless of the stench? Clearly Beane didn’t want him, under any circumstances, and that is truly damning. Is this the real plan?

Too many of this GM’s previous free agent signings who have already played for the Mets share this in common: low character, low production, high fan frustration level, high cost, and the same GM who handed them the pen when they signed their contracts. Yet the GM keeps going back to the very same foul-smelling well for more. Will Colon, the admitted cheater, join this group? Will advanced age, lack of conditioning, lack of dietary discipline, past injuries and presumably no longer taking PEDs to cheat his way through next season lead to a total and early collapse? If Tejada was called fat and out of shape by this GM last season, what does that make Colon? And what message does it send to Tejada and any other young player who decides to skip training, eat everything in sight, and when injured or not playing well, cheat, because their so-called mentor did, and look where it got him, after all? Has the GM given his tacit consent for cheating, for taking expedient short cuts through illegal means whenever the greater good — winning baseball games — is in the balance? But never mind, goes the hue and cry by the majority. Byrd turned out okay. And if Colon needs to use the needle again to get through next year, that’s his business – wink, wink, wink. This is baseball not Boy Scouts. So much noise about nothing, right? He did win 18 games last year, after all, didn’t he? Gees, shut up already. I’m tired of reading this puke. Bang another drum, hunh?

Here’s the opportunity that was missed…

shin-soo choo

– Choo in right, leading off (high OBP, high run production, and at 7 years, a part of the long term solution)…

– The big-hearted Kazmir on the mound (much more of a prototypical MoneyBall signing than Colon, much more cosmically appealing to Mets fans who rued him being traded away, and someone who sacrificed and worked very, very hard to get back into the game the right way, and who, like Dickey, is an inspiration for all athletes, pro or not)…

– And Hawkins (the definition of a professional athlete, and the man that the GM should be saluting as the penultimate example of a professional baseball player to the younger pitchers, not Colon), who in a very young bullpen would have been a much needed anchor.

– Hell, with some payroll creativity and a true $90 million payroll, he could even have reasonably fit Granderson into this haul, too — a terrific player, of high moral character.

Strangely, these players, this plan, this roster, more closely approximates what the Mets GM’s plan should have looked like if he was being faithful to his own stated plan in the first place.

It is philosophically aligned to a baseball ethos of honor, commitment and integrity, it adheres to a short term plan and a sustainable long term plan, the total salaries are within the constraints of the budget this year and for the next seven years, and to a player, not just two out of three, their character is unimpeachable.

You know, the kind of players you thought this GM, purportedly a man of impeccable character, and a team building visionary, would have brought to this franchise when he finally implemented his real plan — not some makeshift, on the fly, reactionary, stick this square peg into that round hole, this spooks us, that spooks us, the markets too hot, too cold, non-existent, over-ripe, keep looking under the rocks, scour the suspended lists, the injury lists, pinch another penny abomination the GM calls a plan.

And then he’s heralded for all the money he has spent so far this off-season and how wisely he spent it. Now that’s a special genius, and I bow to it.

bleed orange & blue  button

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Featured Post: The Old Fan And The Sea http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/12/featured-post-the-old-fan-and-the-sea.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/12/featured-post-the-old-fan-and-the-sea.html/#comments Mon, 16 Dec 2013 13:51:10 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=135433 old-man-and-the-sea1

(with special thanks to Ernest Hemingway)

He was an old fan who after many years of following the Mets suddenly found himself adrift at sea after a terrible storm.

At first, the old Mets fan was not worried about being rescued, but as the days went by he began to doubt whether anyone would ever come for him. “You have food”, he said to himself, “and plenty of water. Someone will come and rescue you. You must never lose hope.”

Each day that went by he could see a big white ship in the distance, bigger than most of the other ships, and he figured that one day the big white ship would see him and come to rescue him. “Its a very big white ship”, he would say to himself, “It will come for me. I will be rescued. Its only a matter of time. You must persevere and not let hopelessness defeat you.”

Then five years passed by and the big white ship had not come to rescue him. Abandoned in the middle of the vast blue nothingness that no longer held any beauty for him, and without food or water, he began to build up a great contempt for the big white ship that he could see every single day, but never came to get him. He scolded himself for being angry with the people on that big white ship, “You are angry and it will do you no good. It is weak to be angry and you are not weak.” He had long ago become sunburned like leather, and his lips had become permanently parched, and he had almost given up hope that anyone cared about his fate. But he wouldn’t give up. He would never give up. During the day he would howl like a mad man into the endless blue skies hoping the big white ship might hear him, and at night he’d howl into the pitch black nights with the twinkling stars that seemed to taunt him. But no one heard him. He had suffered for a very, very long time, waiting for the big white ship that did not come to rescue him. “You can abandon me,” he thought many times, “but you can not defeat me. I will never give up.”

the_old_man_and_the_sea_by_lamianqueen-d4anslbThen, unexpectedly one night in December, when he was at his bleakest and he thought he could not last one more day alone at sea, he saw a faint, flickering light in the distance, and it began getting closer to him. His heart turned over in his chest. “Could it finally be the big white ship coming to rescue me?”

The light came closer and he watched with the wonderment of a child and joy started to fill his heart, and then the light from the big white ship got so bright it illuminated everything around him. When the big white ship got right next to him he didn’t wonder why the big white ship finally decided to rescue him that particular night, or why it had taken so long. “I am just happy it finally has come to rescue me,” he thought. He fell to his knees in gratitude. He should have felt bitterness in his heart but instead he was filled with endless hope for the future.

Once on the big white ship, a fellow passenger appeared with a big, round, heavy jug of water, and when it was handed to him the old Mets fan could see that the water was tinged a funny looking color and had an odd smell to it. When he held the jug he could tell it wasn’t particularly cold water, either. The old Mets fan had every reason to believe that the tepid water he was about to drink may be germ infested and if he drank it he might become sick with fever. He might even die a very slow, agonizing death over the next two years. But despite these reservations he quickly put his parched lips to the jug and gulped the foul smelling water down, because he was so thirsty for any water to drink after all these years of having none, and while the water was putrid and foul smelling, it was water nevertheless.

Later, a group of passengers on the big white ship gathered around and told him in hushed voices that the captain hadn’t been seen for quite some time, and that the First Mate was in charge, and half of the passengers didn’t like him, and they didn’t trust him. They said he was an arrogant man, and no one was sure where he was taking them. They said that he had only steered one ship safely to anywhere many decades ago and no one believed he could find his way again and that arrogance was his great character flaw and it would doom him and the passengers. “Trust me”, he would say over and over to those who began to doubt him, “I have a plan to fix things from the terrible storm.” But eventually no one from this group of passengers trusted him anymore and no one believed he had a plan, not one that made any sense anyways. However, the other group on the big white ship did believe him. They believed everything he told them, even though he never told them his plan either. The two groups had many heated arguments and great disagreements and the group that didn’t trust him tried to get him to listen to their complaints, but he didn’t listen to anyone except the Second and Third Mates. ‘I’m the captain’, he declared when the group who mistrusted him threatened to mutiny, though everyone in this group knew he was not the real Captain.

The passengers who mistrusted the First Mate the most told the old Mets fan that there had been a rumor before they came to rescue him that the Captain, an older man who meant well but may have lost a lot of his money in the terrible storm of five years ago, had been telling the First Mate what to do these past few days and that it was the Captain who had ordered the First Mate to come rescue him. The Captain had taken control of the big white ship because he didn’t want any of the passengers to mutiny, and the First Mate was not happy about all of this because he thought this group was a bunch of whiny malcontents, but he did what he was told.

The old Mets fan was too tired to be angry or worried. At least not on this night, the night the big white ship finally came to rescue him. He was just happy to be on-board the big white ship, happy that the big white ship was moving in any direction, no matter how slowly the big white ship appeared to still be going or how skeptical he might still be about the First Mate. It no longer mattered to the old Mets fan if the Captain even had enough money to buy more fuel, or, frankly, if the Captain even had any plan at all. The old Mets fan knew that the two groups on the big white ship would probably not agree again, that they would argue and complain and call each other names, and there would be more misery and angst as the big white ship lost its way again, as it had many times before, but he was too tired and too happy now to think about any of that. That could wait for another day.

That night, the old Mets fan curled up in a bed for the first time in over five years and dreamed about ice cold, pristine clear water, like the kind he once drank in 1969 and 1986.

the old man and the sea3

The End

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Striking Fool’s Gold With Granderson http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/12/striking-fools-gold-with-granderson.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/12/striking-fools-gold-with-granderson.html/#comments Wed, 11 Dec 2013 15:42:31 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=134923 When one gets past the excitement of the Mets signing a credible free agent who actually becomes part of this regime’s long term plan, there is this sobering reason for pause.

Well, actually there’s 195 of them.

curtis-granderson-op4e-6644

As in, 195 strikeouts, which is how many times Granderson struck out in 2012, his last full season. A career 162 game seasonal average of 159 K’s is not exactly Sabermetrics by the numbers. Yes, to be fair, all this swinging and missing is tempered by his home run production, if not necessarily his run production, which of course was mostly achieved in band-box Yankee Stadium, and at the more spacious Comerica Park in Detroit, when he was a much younger man.

In Young (career 148 K’s a season per 162 game average) and Granderson, that’s 307 strikeouts a season, freshly added to a lineup that racked up 1384 strikeouts in 2013, or roughly 8.5 a game. If nothing else changes, that’s potentially 1691 K’s for anyone keeping track, or 10.4 a game average. It would crush the MLB record of 1,530 set by the Astros last season. For a brain trust that is by self-described mandate trying to transition the Mets to a high OBP team that puts balls in play, this sure feels like an odd way to go about things. Hey, Uggla is on the trade market – trade Murphy, an excellent contact hitter, for Uggla, and you have acquired the off-season strike out trifacta, and a chance to set a team record that might stand for all time.

But let’s not let that distract from all the goodwill the Wilpons have bestowed on us this holiday season.

For a player, Granderson, who will be 33 when he plays his first game for the Mets, and 37 when he receives his last paycheck, there is real risk, and to say otherwise is is trying to force fiction into fact. Even if we are to somehow ignore the injuries of this past season, while freakish, they still happened to a hitter’s more important assets — his hands. The numbers suggest he is in decline, perhaps rapid decline. While a pro’s pro, and a great guy, the same was said about Bay, and it is difficult to not put him at the top of the horror pile for Mets fans – particularly the timing of his reign of nothing and its chilling aftermath.

Granderson is a lifetime .235 hitter, and no one can logically think this will trend appreciably upwards. He steals less bases now, covers less ground, hits less triples – it happens when you are 33 – 37 years old. Best case guess from this view: Granderson will probably hit .230, strike out 175 times (more if the pressure of hitting in Citi and justifying the contract get to him), hit 15-20 home runs (less if he presses too much), drive in 75, and play in 120 games.

Not to say that the Granderson signing will turn out like Bay’s did; nothing can be that horrible, can it? He was so bad he’d have been cut from the local beer league softball team.

Even so, bad free agent contracts are signed every off season, and yet they haven’t slowed down the Dodgers, the Tigers, the Rangers, the Yankees, the Angels, the Braves, the Nationals, nor the Phillies. At one time or another, most of these teams have spent unwisely on free agents or signed ‘core’ players to bad long term contracts, only to continue to spend past these mistakes, and to continue to put winning teams on the field. The Angels have been criticized for egregious spending and yet since 2006, they have won 624 games, an 89 wins per season average. The Mets, in contrast, have won 551, or an average of 78 wins per season.

Be honest. All things equal, who would you rather watch play next year on the Mets for 162 games — Pujols and Hamilton, or Young and Granderson?

Me, too.

nationals fans

The Red Sox boldly purged a number of bad signings in a historic trade in 2012, finished last for one season, and then went out, spent $60 million on free agents for the 2013 season alone, and reaped immediate rewards by winning the World Series.

The Dodgers gratefully accepted those players, traded for and signed more players with equally onerous contracts, and now are prepared to sign the best pitcher in baseball to a $300 million contract.

Here’s the point, that seems to get lost in the fog. Fans of all these teams — Dodgers, Tigers, Rangers, Yankees, Angels, Braves, Nationals, Phillies — spend the same amount of their hard earned money for their tickets as Mets fans do for their tickets. The outrage of some Mets fans howling into the wind about these big, long term contracts might make more sense if these teams charged their fans a surcharge for bad free agent contracts, or higher ticket prices for actually making the playoffs.

Large market teams cover over mistakes with more spending, or they trade them off to other teams willing to pay the contracts. And you know what? It actually works. Anyone thinking that the Dodgers can’t trade Kemp and his contract hasn’t been paying attention. All the ‘bad’ free agent signing by the Marlins in 2012 — gone, via trades that brought back important pieces. In the brave new world that is modern baseball, there’s absolutely nothing dysfunctional about running baseball teams like this. Its what big market teams can do that small market teams can not. Now, yes, some do it better than others, and some do more with less, but that’s an entirely different conversation.

You know what is dysfunctional — the Mets owners and front office, and a small part of the fan base who applaud their fiscal restraint, as if the money not spent by the Wilpons is going back into their pockets.

Yes, money can’t buy you love, but in baseball it can get you more wins, it gives the fan base hope that they can statistically still be playing baseball in the late fall, which is entirely preferable to being broke and walking the streets with a tin can — or, in other words, watching a Mets game in late August.

By the wave of applause following the Granderson signing it appears that any move the Mets made this off season for the benefit of some kind of long term plan would be viewed a positive by Mets fans, and in some ways that’s sad and depressing. The GM has distorted our reality in such a way as to have us applauding what we would have booed lustily not 3-4 years ago. Can expectations be any lower? Say what you want, but this GM is an absolute master at lowering expectations with a litany of plausible lies and empty promises.

alderson sandy wilponIts one thing for the Mets to be genuinely broke, and quite another to be brought to its organizational knees if, as has been alleged in parts, the owners are siphoning off revenue to pay down debt that had nothing to do with the Mets, and more indefensible still, to fund $3 billion real estate projects that will ultimately line their pockets.

Asking Selig to intervene and put this maddening organization’s feet to the fire is superfluous — he already has his man right where he wants him.

Unfortunately for the Wilpons, they stop handing out participation trophies in little league, so they need to do more than give a quick, but fleeting, jolt of optimism to their ticket buyers. In the big leagues they actually keep score, and there are always winners and losers, and no matter how much a particular move is debated, or spun, in the off season, the passage of time has a wonderful way of sorting it all out.

Signs that the Granderson move augers a seismic shift in spending were all but extinguished by more talk by the GM of an even lower payroll (the fourth ‘payroll lowering’ proclamation by the GM this off season), now to $85 million. Even more revealing — and frightening — is that the front office must believe Mets fans have taken the hook with the Granderson signing as it was also brazenly noted in the same interview by the GM that finding value in baseball’s bargain basement is part of the reason this front office was hired in the first place.

That’s how this group honors pledges and promises made to its fan base for the past 3 seasons — with one free agent signing of note, and more scrap heap throws at the dart board. Even now they’re using the same tired gambit — be patient, trust us, we have a ‘big plan’, we’re not even out of December yet.

Only time will tell if the Mets have struck real gold with Granderson, and whatever moves follow him this off season. Or, like the roster they are building for 2014, just struck out.

But no worries. Have they got a big plan for us in 2015.

mmo

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My Mock Interview With Sandy Alderson http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/12/my-mock-interview-with-sandy-alderson.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/12/my-mock-interview-with-sandy-alderson.html/#comments Thu, 05 Dec 2013 12:19:19 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=134470 sandy aldersonRW: Hi Sandy. I want to thank you for taking time from your very busy schedule to speak with me.

SA: No problem. Glad to do it.

RW: Let’s get right to it, okay?

SA: You have fifteen minutes. How you use those fifteen minutes is entirely up to you.

RW: How’s the off season going so far?

SA: Fine. Its developing. We’re laying the groundwork.

RW: In June of this year, to a group of season ticket holders, you said, presumably to get them to re-up for 2014, the following: “I do believe that over the next six months or so we will be in position to make some significant acquisitions, whether it’s through free agency or trade. We’re certainly looking forward to that possibility.” It’s already December, which is six months later. In light of that, what exactly does it mean … you’re laying the groundwork?

SA: Suffice it is to say, we are actively trying to improve the club. You or anyone else wouldn’t understand the process, so lets not waste valuable time.

RW: Try me.

SA: Listen, would it do any good? Obviously you have your mind already made up. We’re not even out of December yet, for crying out loud, and already everyone is giving up and acting like spoiled little brats.

RW: Here’s the issue. You told us you had $30 million to spend this off season, and so far all we get is another Moneyball reclamation project, a rather expensive one at that, and a lot of excuses.

SA: Sometimes the medicine doesn’t taste good going down. I can’t help that.

RW: You were recently quoted as saying … “We have to be realistic about the market and not sort of deny the inevitable.” By inevitable, do you mean endure another lousy season of baseball?

SA: We plan on being a competitive team in 2014.

RW: For the record, you said that in 2011, 2012, & 2013, too. Here’s a quote by you from a recent ESPN interview, “If the market is as robust as it seems to be, then we have to acknowledge that. It may not be manifest yet to the average fan, the average person, but I think we are more active than we were last year.”

SA: Yes, I said that. I think it speaks for itself. Am I on the stand?

RW: You’re the lawyer, tell me. You did nothing last year except waste $5 million on a pitcher who won one game, and a reliever who couldn’t get anybody out. So the bar couldn’t be any lower on ‘being more active than last year’. Is this more of the semantic shell game you seem to get such a diabolical kick out of?

SA: I’m not going to answer that nonsense.

RW: Would you be surprised if I told you that there is, in fact, a direct statistical correlation to the amount of money spent on payroll, and winning, or not winning, championships?

SA: Really? Fascinating. Can’t wait to hear this. Fire away.

RW: According to a February, 2013 Washington Times article entitled Does money really buy World Series titles?, teams in the top five of payroll have won the World Series eight times in the last 18 years, while twelve times teams ranked in the top 10 have been the winners of the World Series over the same 18 years. Seventeen of the last 18 World Series winners have had a payroll in the top 15. Of the losing teams in the World Series, six teams were ranked in the top five. Eleven of the last 18 losers have been ranked in the top 10 for player payroll. Fifteen of the losing teams were ranked in the top 15 in baseball. Only three teams ranked outside of the top 15 in player salary have managed to make it to the World Series, only to lose. To sum up, out of the 36 teams that played in the last 18 World Series, only one team won with a payroll lower than the top 15. If you add in the Red Sox World Series win in 2013, that’s 38 teams, 19 years, and only one team winning the World Series that did not have a payroll in the top 15.

SA: You have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.

RW: You’re the one that says the math never lies, and these metrics seem to indicate that Moneyball has become an extinct dinosaur, that its time and place have long passed, and that how much a team commits to payroll certainly has a huge statistical impact on the potential success of that team. The Mets payroll this year, which you now tell us will not be lower than $87 million, will put the Mets roughly at about 20th lowest in all of baseball, and certainly not in the top 15, based on last year’s payrolls. As you put so much stock into numbers, do you think you will somehow outsmart the statistical probability established over 19 seasons?

SA: Let me get this straight. You think merely by spending $100 million on payroll this year gives us a statistically better chance at getting to the World Series?

RW: Don’t take my word for it. The data is indisputable that the probability of success increases dramatically above a top 15 threshold, which right now would be approximately $100 million in payroll or higher.

SA: Besides, any fan who thinks the goal of the plan is to compete to win the World Series this year is, well, not paying attention.

RW: I get the feeling that you don’t have much respect for the average Mets fan. Why is that?

SA: (laughs) I love fans. They pay the bills. But they don’t run baseball teams. Not my baseball teams. None of this surprises me. The fact of the matter is, you can’t fully appreciate the subtle intricacies of my plan, and you never will.

RW: What I can appreciate, however, is you’re statistically one of the worst GM’s record-wise in baseball history.

SA: You know what, smart ass, I don’t listen to fans. If I listened to fans whine and cry it wouldn’t get us anywhere.

RW: You are entering year 4 of your regime with the Mets. Most GM’s get 5 years to figure it out, if that. Players from the last three drafts are already arriving into the majors, and yet no one is even close from the Mets. While you have some Mets fans believing that you have 5-7 future Hall of Fame pitchers in the minors, and all Mets fans need to do is wait for your grand plan to unfold, it is instructive to know that in the past 30 years, 97% of the pitchers the Mets have drafted have never pitched a game in the major leagues, and only one has been an All-star, and we all know his name. Here’s an excerpt from a recent SI article by Tom Verducci: Matt Harvey has won seven games in his young Mets career. This should tell you how bad New York has been at drafting and developing pitchers: Harvey already ranks 12th in wins for the Mets among the 766 pitchers they drafted in the past 30 years. Since the Mets hit on Dwight Gooden in 1982 … New York ranks with Kansas City and Baltimore among the teams that have been consistently lousy at drafting and developing starting pitchers over more than a quarter of a century. Verducci also went on to say that of the 766 pitchers drafted by the Mets since 1982, only one pitcher has made the All-Star team as a Met. So while I share the optimism towards the young pitching being developed in the Mets farm system, it also might be cautionary to point out that none of them are impervious to injuries, and that your grand plan is much too heavily reliant on yet another statistical anomaly.

SA: I missed the question.

RW: You’re smiling. Rather smugly.

SA: I have a plan to put this franchise on the right path. That’s all you really need to know.

RW: You were quoted this way when you took over the Mets: “Am I going to recommend that we sit here in New York City and function like the Oakland Athletics for the next 10 years? No I’m not. … I’m not asking you to believe me until you see some manifestation of that, which I hope is sooner rather than later.” Well, frankly, I’ve seen no manifestation of that yet, and, you’re right, I don’t believe you.

SA: You really are starting to get on my nerves.

RW: Here’s another quote of yours, from an ESPN interview. “No fan is probably ever going to be satisfied with what his or her team is spending on players. It’s kind of too bad that the measure of commitment, the measure of loyalty to the fan base, is measured in dollar signs. That be as it may, we’re going to spend more money this year than we’ve spent in recent years, just in terms of what we have to spend. You know, last year we only spent about $5 million on free agents. So this is going to be a new day. We have it to spend. We have to spend it wisely. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

SA: What’s the question?

RW: Those same fans will boycott Citi Field if the losing continues, unless something tangible isn’t done this off season to improve the team. Does that worry you at all?

SA: Boycott, is that what they are doing?

RW: Well, they’re certainly not coming to the stadium. Attendance is down each year you’ve been here, and it will go under 2 million this season. Sooner or later the house of cards will collapse.

SA: Typical fantasy league logic. Clock’s ticking.

RW: You also said this on ESPN. “Nobody can guarantee anything. I start with the premise that during the last 100 games of last season we were pretty good. We were .500. That’s not great, but it’s not real bad. It was a nice starting point. We haven’t really lost much from the group that went .500 the last 100 games. We get some players back. So the starting point isn’t as dire as some people like to imagine, I don’t believe.”

SA: Yes. I still feel that we didn’t play so bad last year. Part of my job is realistically managing expectations.

RW: “Success of big-market teams is not just money, but a successful farm system. We have a renewed effort in the draft.” When you said this, you must have known that most teams historically do very poorly in the draft. That’s one of the reasons why lousy teams stay lousy for so long even though they get top picks. It takes being actively involved in fee agency at the top levels, like the Yankees model, the extreme example, admittedly.

SA: I’ve let you make a number of statements that are ludicrous, but enough is enough. Don’t compare us to the Yankees. They spend and spend and spend like drunken sailors and where does it get them in the long run? They spent a billion dollars on one single World Championship. You’ve made my argument for me.

RW: 27 World Championships, with essentially the same philosophy for a hundred years – do whatever it takes to win. The promise from management that they will do anything, spend any sum of money, to win the next championship. 4 million attendance. A model of club building that seems to work quite well.

SA: Don’t be a wiseguy.

RW: Conceding that I don’t have any idea what I am talking about, you do realize that Matt Harvey will be missing from your ‘we didn’t do so bad last 100 game’ equation in 2014?

SA: Of course I do.

RW: You would also agree that’s a pretty big piece of the puzzle, and that he might have almost been single-handedly responsible for the Mets resurgence last year? How can you possibly make the statement that this is virtually the same team that went .500 for the last 100 games last season? Marlon Byrd is gone, John Buck is gone. Ike Davis might shortly be gone. The Mets might lose 90 games even if Chris Young hits 100 home runs, after which he gets signed by the Yankees in 2015.

SA: Wa, wa, wa. Pass the tissues. Harvey’s not here, and neither are the other two. We move on.

RW: Quid pro quo, have you been promised the commissioners job?

SA: Of course not.

RW: Are you saying you won’t be the commissioner when your buddy Selig retires?

SA: I didn’t say that; you did.

RW: If you googled the prospective free agents last year, you would have seen for yourself that the market was thin. Now you tell us the free agent market spooked you, whatever the hell that means.

SA: Whine like babies all you want, but Robinson Cano is not coming here.

RW: Did you bring your three sidekicks with you to the dinner with Cano’s agents?

SA: How is that relevant?

RW: Cano is a once in a lifetime free agent opportunity, going into his prime. The price of other lessor free agents might be inflated, but not Cano. There is nothing thin about Cano, and certainly everyone who can spell baseball knows he will get a very substantial contract. Most of the big spending teams seem to be out of it, the Yankees are playing chicken, and there appears to be a very real circumstantial opportunity to get him on the Mets. Do you, or do you not, have $30 million to spend on Cano?

SA: Not after Young.

RW: You can figure that out. Trade Davis and Duda, now you have $30 million back.

SA: You know, I can’t win either way with you people. Cano, really? Have you been paying attention? Have I ever signed a player like Cano?

RW: No, you haven’t, and that’s what really scares Mets fans. You seem intrinsically incapable of signing players that oppose your tired philosophy. Were you given a budget by the Wilpons? And did that budget include $30 million to sign free agents?

SA: See, this is what I’m talking about. I said we “need to get better, and not incrementally”, and I stand by that.

RW: We apparently also disagree on what incrementally means. For instance, your drafts in the past three years are mediocre at best, according to all the polls.

SA: Better than what I inherited. I certainly don’t give a rat’s ass about polls.

RW: Harvey was down there, in that barren farm system that Minaya turned over to you. Harvey may go down as one of the greatest draft picks ever in the history of baseball. Hardly barren, as you like to spin it. Any team you put together will have him as the anchor for a decade. Not for nothing, it took him only 3 years to get to the majors. I guarantee you that Harvey, unlike Wright, escapes from this madhouse first opportunity he gets if things don’t change. He’ll be pitching for the Yankees.

SA: You keep forgetting about Wheeler and Syndergaard.

RW: Excellent trades but, in truth, the jewels of other farm systems. You didn’t draft either player, and both were recognized as top tier minor leagues before you traded for them, nor have either of them had success yet in the majors.

SA: Is that a lefthanded compliment?

RW: Nobody wants you to succeed more than Mets fans do, because if you don’t succeed, we have to watch another lousy team for 162 games next year.

SA: Signing Cano would be reckless.

RW: Why did you have dinner with him, then, in the first place?

SA: Who?

RW: Cano.

SA: They asked. And Cano wasn’t there. Do your homework.

RW: Was it a dog and pony show, and nothing more? Perhaps for all parties, for different reasons?

SA: Draw your own conclusions. But you are sounding just a tad paranoid.

RW: Otherwise it might appear to the average fan that your only intention was to artificially pump up the Mets fan base, and for them to artificially pump up the market for their guy.

SA: Asked and answered.

RW: Not really. Asked and deflected. Trying to get Mets fans excited about the possibilities of having Robinson Cano hitting behind Wright for the next 6 years so you can sell more tickets when you had absolutely no intention of ever signing him could be considered a kind of fraud. Its certainly manipulative and dishonest. You have said many times before that the Wilpon’s finances have nothing to do with how you run the team. Are they broke?

SA: Let me put it this way. How insolvent could they be if they’re easily getting financing for the $3 billion Willet Point project surrounding Citi Field?

RW: Then its just you and your antiquated, intractable Moneyball philosophy that’s running this team into the ground? Is that what you’re telling me?

SA: My advice to you — get a life. This interview is over.

RW: When it doesn’t work, and you leave the Mets in an organizational shambles as you did San Diego, who still hasn’t recovered from the damage you did to them, will you do so to become the commissioner of baseball? Sandy?

mmo

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In Theater Of Absurd, There’s No End To The Madness http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/11/in-theater-of-absurd-theres-no-end-to-the-madness.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/11/in-theater-of-absurd-theres-no-end-to-the-madness.html/#comments Fri, 29 Nov 2013 17:41:16 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=134073 garateAccording to Venezuelan journalist Rafael Tejera, the Mets have expressed interest in journeyman relief pitchers Víctor Garate and Armando Galarraga. To fully appreciate how earth-shattering this news is, you must first know that Garate last pitched in the major leagues in 2009, and had a 22.50 ERA. Galarraga last pitched in the majors in 2012, and posted a 6.25 ERA.

Fellow Mets fans, the apocalypse is officially upon us.

I wish the adjective bold or a close comparable – say, courageous, fearless, forceful, even the profane, ballsy, or the colloquial, out of the box — could be used to describe the organizational steward of the Mets as he tries to navigate the franchise through these very troubling waters, a whirling turbulence (see: a drain and water flushing down it) he has been in large part responsible for making.

But Sandy Alderson is the antecedent to bold, the polar opposite. Bland, stoic, methodical, taciturn, dispassionate – these words are more apt to describe him. Yet this is also a man who will clownishly crack obtuse inside jokes often at inappropriate times for his own cackling bemusement and often at the expense of Mets fans, has seemingly resorted to passive aggressive tactics as a defense mechanism to criticism, and who is a grand master at double talk, denial, and deflection. Oh, the enigma that is Sandy Alderson.

This off-season has been famously proffered as the winter of reclamation for the Mets franchise, when everything changes, when three large contracts come off the books and the stars finally align – and we, the loyal and beleaguered Mets fans who have been heroically patient, finally see the end of the penny pinching and the bottom feeding. But this off season, if reports such as the one above is any indication, like the off season before it, and the one before that, is beginning to shape up like yet another exercise in numbing futility, if not unadulterated madness.

In baseball’s version of theater of the absurd, its ‘Groundhog Day’ again, with one cruel exception – rather than correcting the sins of the past, Alderson and his fawning triumvirate just keep repeating them, ad nauseam, again and again and again. Sign chair-throwing Francisco to a $12 million contract, repeat with the signing of Chris Young, who wouldn’t start for another team in baseball, for $7.25 million. Any rebuilding plan that includes these two players is in truth a misnomer, a big ugly lie foisted upon the fan base for 3 seasons now – an abject betrayal of our trust and faith we collectively put in Alderson. The soul sucking reality is, given Alderson’s track record over that time, what should we have expected? The jokes on us, right Sandy? Ha, ha, ha. Stop. I get it now.

So on this day after Thanksgiving (I’ll let the bitter irony fester without comment) lets try and get to the bottom of all of this, shall we? This past Tuesday, Alderson held a press conference to ostensibly welcome Chris Young and his dreadful .235 lifetime BA and, it should be noted to all the sabermetric fanatics reading this, a miserable .315 lifetime OBP. Mind you, these are not one season aberrations but his lifetime averages. Young also doesn’t walk much, strikes out too much, but did have five relatively productive seasons for Arizona from ’07 to ’11. Still, no matter how much lipstick Alderson puts on this signing, its still a reclamation project, albeit with a very large price tag.

Of more concern to Mets fans, the signing has absorbed almost 25% of the meager $30 million budget the team has to spend. Alderson not only can’t keep promises but what’s just as maddening is he’s unfaithful to the core principles of sabermetrics and his creation, Moneyball, when circumstantially required, because Young is anything else but that type of player, and $7.05 million is hardly a bargain basement price tag.

Chris YoungEven more exasperating than all of that, Young’s signed for one year. Alderson must be the brightest man on the planet because that makes absolutely no sense at all to the rest of us mere mortals – if Chris Young does well, if he does reclaim his career, he goes elsewhere next year for a multi-year deal. Not even a second year option, just in case? In others words, even if Alderson is right about Young, he’s still wrong. Trade bait in June? If the Mets pick up most of his salary, which they won’t do, or salary dump him for no one in return, which is more likely (don’t let the exquisite paradox go unappreciated – dumping the salary of a player in less than a full season, who the Mets signed to the bloated contract that needed to be dumped in the first place). Young playing well enough to the point another team would even want him as a piece for a playoff run still strains percentages. For every Byrd, there are ten of these types of signings that fail. If he does poorly, which odds are he will, another $7.05 million outright wasted. Chris Young, your guardian angel is named Sandy Alderson.

But I digress for the comic relief of it all. During the press conference Alderson announced to the world that, surprise of all surprises, free agent shortstops – free agents in general — want too much money this off season. Bla, bla, bla, bla, he droned on about the state of free agency, in full and pedantic lecturing mode, and my mind began to blank out from the boredom of it all (after all, he’s sung some version of this tired song for three years now, and keeps hauling it out as if the heavens had just suddenly opened up and revealed only to him this epiphany). Then he said something quite peculiar – breathtaking in its fantastic disconnect to what had transpired last season, really. Ruben Tejada – yes, the same Ruben Tejada he toyed with like a yo-yo and banished to the minors seemingly at whim, which might as well have been Siberia, and defamed and ridiculed him for good, sadistic measure on his way out – has a real chance to be the starting shortstop for the Mets in 2014. Though my heart clutched a beat and the hair on the back of my neck stiffened at the sheer raving audacity of this man, is anybody really surprised that the slick, double talking Sandy Alderson is in full swing obfuscation mode again?

Face it. Unless Alderson drastically changes his thinking, Drew isn’t coming, Cruz isn’t coming, Cano’s coming when the Mets play the Yankees next year at Citi Field. Chris Young quickly said yes to signing with the Mets – after starting to breath again — because Alderson bribed him with $7.05 million that no one else in baseball would have paid, if half that. Hell, I think Andrew Brown could have a better year, if given the chance. One of the true bitter ironies about the absurdity of Alderson is that he has been responsible for some of the most market inflating free agent contracts in baseball over the past three seasons. Its altogether perverse to use a dime of revenue derived from the hard work of Mets fans to overpay the likes of Chris Young, Frank Francisco, Sean Marcum, and DJ Carrasco, but that’s precisely what he did. Yes, its theater of the absurd, baseball’s version — the dogmatic Alderson, on his bully pulpit, howling into the void about the insanity of free agent contracts.

That sound you hear is 29 other GM’s snickering. I’d laugh, too, but the searing bile is rising up in my throat.

Now its back to rearranging the deck chairs for the genius of Moneyball. The Cardinals had enough in the bank, and thick enough skin, to sign Perralta to a contract that apparently shocked Alderson. What was missing from the press conference was Anderson fainting from the horror of it all. The Cardinals win World Series at a pace second only to the Yankees, and get to the playoffs just about every season … so what exactly shocks Alderson about how the Cardinals conduct business? That they are successful? That they act with boldness, not whining, wimpy excuses and boldface lies?

After promising a $100 million payroll, then changing that, without a scintilla of explanation, to the rather vague $90 ish million, Alderson now is promising – promising, I say! — that the budget will go no lower than $87 million. Whatever his faults, there’s no question Alderson leads the majors in broken promises to his fan base.

I have arrived at the conclusion that the ever shifting payroll budget of the Mets is essentially Alderson’s doing. Alternately, with assets and property worth probably in excess of $3 billion, I have to believe that the Wilpons have the resources to cobble together the money they need to run this franchise like a large market team but that Alderson and his Moneyball constructs and conscripts have become a self-fulfilling prophesy. Do you really think that Alderson, with money to spend burning a hole in his pocket, would say anything else other than how shocked he is at the steep prices of free agents?

Somebody needs to wake Alderson up and tell him its not the 1970′s anymore, and free agent prices are, well, very steep. Guess what else is very steep: ticket prices, hot dogs at the stadium, beers, sodas, parking. Its $13 to get over the George Washington Bridge, for crying out loud. So if Mets fans are expected to pay steep prices to watch this team play lousy baseball, why is he so shocked that he might have to pay steep prices to get better players to help the team win more games? You know, do his job.

His latest parlor tricks twist credibility into a pretzel. No other large or mid market team, for that matter, appears to be wringing their hands with the shamelessness of poor, poor pitiful Sandy – all alone in this madhouse world, save his three devoted followers. Does anybody else wonder what these four men do on a daily basis? Again, if you want to talk about out of control spending – do the Mets really have to pay what amounts to 4 GM’s to not spend money wisely in free agency, not draft very well, and besides a couple of layups still to be determined, not trade very well? Its like Moe, Larry, Curly and Shemp.

The Tigers, in a downtrodden city mired in bankruptcy and hopelessness and hardly with the resources of the NYC market, trade Fielder, relieving themselves of his massive contract, gets Kinsler and his large contract in return, talk of moving Cabrera to first, and Kinsler to third, and then immediately contemplates bringing the $300 million man Cano out for a visit. All bold, daring, dynamic moves. I thought I’d never write these words in my lifetime, but I am envious of Detroit Tigers fans. Texas gets gargantuan Fielder, and his gargantuan contract too, and now is deciding on also pursuing Cano. Yes, bold and daring.

The Mets grossly overpay Chris Young, when nobody else wanted him, and bask in the glory of their work as if they invented baseball. Throw them a bone, any bone, and get them to stop all the damn barking! I suppose its okay to sign Young, Francisco, Carrasco, Rauch, and Marcum for $25 million dollars a year, but spending $15 million on a power hitting, slick fielding shortstop who just won the World Series isn’t smart baseball? Really?

In Alderson’s upside down world, this stands as organizational strategy. Sign this truly reprehensible group, a stain on baseball and frankly on Alderson’s reputation, who suffers no tangible consequences for squandering every red cent for less than zero production, and then pass on a slick fielding, power hitting shortstop. Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?

Honore-Daumier-Don-QuixoteIn some delusion of grandeur, Alderson must see himself as the Quixote of baseball, on a crusade with his three Sanchos to save a fiscally challenged game from its own worst `instincts – namely, greed (which is, really, one of the engines of free enterprise, whether we want to admit it or not, or call it something else).

Moneyball might have worked in Oakland – did it? — but its incorporation into a large market team is an insult to every Mets fan who buys tickets to a game, pays $20 to park at Citi Field or forks over $10 on a coke and hotdog, pays a monthly fee for cable to watch the games on SNY, or buys expensive team gear. They’re either playing us for suckers or they are simply self absorbed idiots if they truly feel Mets fans will idly sit by this time.

Here’s the moral to this nightmare: You don’t hire an atheist to teach catechism, and you don’t hire a Moneyball acolyte to run a large market baseball team.

Do you know what Alderson should do this off season to rouse the fan base and make his mark as something more than a small market cult master? He should give Cano $30 million this year, and for 6 more seasons, and make do internally filling in the holes, and with trades in 2014. Move Murphy to first, trade Davis and Duda for prospects. Let Black close if Parnell can’t; bring up Leathersich, Walters and Familia for pen. Let Puello (16 HR, 73 RBI, .326. BA, .403 OPB, .547 SLG, 24 stolen bases & 8 outfield assists in ban-related abbreviated season) play right field. Maybe he’s our Puig.

Pitching-wise, start with Mejia in the 5th slot in rotation until he hits his inning limits, then use Montero until he reaches his limit; build up Wheeler’s innings before shutting him down again, and use Torres as your 4th starter or use one of the trade pieces for a stop gap starter in a trade. Then see where that gets you while you wait on positional player development – Puello, d’Arnaud, even Tejada — and Harvey to get well again in 2015.

I wouldn’t trade any of the Mets young, top tiered pitchers this off-season. Second tier – Mazzoni, deGrom, Matz – different story, and perhaps there is a noteworthy trade to be made from this group to help the cause.

Signing Cano would be a ballsy, out of the box, creatively bold move that would set the Mets up with two superstars hitting in their primes at Citi for the next 7 years, when, as we all know, a flood of great young pitching will be in Queens led by Matt Harvey (all under inexpensive team control for most of those years). Sounds a lot like the way the SF Giants have built two championship teams, and it would position the Mets for 7-8 year run for glory beginning in 2015 and a payroll that will remain relatively stable, probably never passing $100-$110 million.

Starting Line-up: E. Young, Murphy, Wright, Cano, Puello, C. Young, d’Arnaud, Tejada.

Starters: Wheeler, Neise, Gee, Torres, Mejia.

Bullpen: Parnell, Black, Edgin, Familia, Rice, Leathersich, Walters.

Bench: Turner, Brown, Recker, Lagares, Flores.

The 2014 payroll would break down like this: $30 million Cano, $25 million Wright, $5 million Niese, $7.05 million C. Young, $16.1 million arbitration settled contracts Gee, Tejada, Turner, Young, Jr, Murphy, Parnell, $7.5 million for base contracts on Harvey, Flores, Black, d’Arnaud, Edgin, Familia, Mejia, Recker, Rice, Tejada, Wheeler, Leathersich, Torres, Lagares, Puello, Walters.

That’s $90.65 million for 25 players or just $3.65 million more than the absolute low side of the budget according to Alderson’s latest pledge, or the equivalent to what Alderson paid Frank Francisco for each game he actually pitched in. Or a bit less than Alderson paid for the one game Shaun Marcum won.

Ha, ha, ha. Just kidding, Sandy.

mmo

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MMO Exclusive: Blaming Sandy Alderson http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/11/mmo-exclusive-blaming-sandy-alderson.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/11/mmo-exclusive-blaming-sandy-alderson.html/#comments Mon, 25 Nov 2013 20:08:35 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=133772 We are pleased to welcome the talents of Robert Walsh to our staff at Metsmerized Online.

It is now known that sometime this month, under a cloak of secrecy demanded by such bold initiative, Sandy Alderson visited Chris Young somewhere out west, ostensibly we can conclude to pitch him on the merits of signing a free agent contract with the Mets. Nary a tweet on Twitter revealed the details of the delicate operation, nor the results the monumental meeting pawned. The burglars of Watergate would be envious.

sandy alderson

To clear up any immediate confusion — Alderson did not go see Chris Young, the gutty but sore-armed pitcher, who the Mets have already signed twice. Rather he went to see Chris Young, the center fielder, who it has since been announced the Mets have signed to a free agent contract — to hit, not pitch. Apparently to not play center field, either. In light of all that appears troublesome with this signing, where the Mets most recently signed Chris Young plays in the field might be disingenuous nitpicking.

For the past three years, like the proverbial carrot, this was heralded as the winter of recalibration for the Mets, when 2 large contracts became extinct, and the Mets would return to acting as a large market team. Most Mets fans grudgingly accepted their collective fates and continued to be what they – we – are, fans.

Although we visited Citi Field less and less, we, the truest of fans, held up our side of the bargain. The Mets side of the ledger, they promised, would be to increase payroll this winter, bring in better players through trades and free agent signings, and return to a playoff caliber team. Not the AAAA teams we have endured.

To kick off this grand plan, the Mets will spend $7.25 million for a player who hit .200 last season, and gets on base less than than the kids who on special fan days get to run around the bases before games. Hell, Chris Young, the pitcher, who happens to be quite a hitter, would be embarrassed by the 2013 production of Chris Young, the hitter. Not the Mets. Not Sandy Alderson, who sure knows how to pinch $7.25 million worth of pennies.

In a kind of bargain with all that is illogical, it is agreed, in Alderson’s bell curving defense, that this signing can’t be any worse than wasting wads of cash on a hall of shame of degenerates, malingerers and malcontents that has been Alderson’s inexplicable bent to this point in time — see, Marcum, Rauch, and the gem of all, Francisco. That’s $23 million of post Madoff money down the drain. Wasted on three horrible baseball players. Put another way, it could have paid Jose Reyes’s salary for a couple of years more.

Even now, the question of why the disgruntled, lazy, contagious Francisco was ever paid to pitch for the Mets pains the intellect. Was the likable Tejada, once an eager young man with promise now sadly derailed, infected by the sour Fransisco while both supposedly rehabbed in Florida? Marcum and Rauch similarly strain logic and patience. Ask Harvey, as pure a professional athlete as they come, what he thinks of the overgrown bully, Rauch. It’s as if Alderson went looking for the most despicable players on the free agent market, and then overpaid for them.

Alderson and his brain trust (excuse the inelegant satire) remain focused on repairing this team through the draft. A good enough plan, it might seem, if it didn’t devolve into becoming ignorantly fixated on drafting every day position players regardless of who was available at their draft slot.

To wit: Alderson’s crack team passed on Jose Fernandez. And they passed on Michael Wacha. And Sonny Gray. Why? To draft 2 position players – Brandon Nimmo, who we know famously didn’t play high school baseball, and Gavin Cecchini, a shortstop who, at best, belongs in a long past era and not in one where power hitting shortstops are becoming an offensive necessity. You’d be hard pressed to find a single scout in baseball who thinks either of these two players can be anything more than an average major league players, under ideal circumstances.

Think of which position players Fernandez, Wacha, and Gray could have returned on the trade market this winter had we drafted them. Keep in mind – we’d still have Harvey, Wheeler, Niese, Gee, Montero, Syndergaard, Mejia and the rest. In other words, we’d potentially have one of the greatest staffs in the history of the game, young and under full team control for years, with a few extra top of the rotation prospects to trade off for an established super star or two.

While Nimmo and Cecchini struggle in the low minors, Fernandez was named Rookie of the Year, and finished third in Cy Young voting. Greatness beckons. Gray and Wacha had much postseason success, and should have brilliant careers. It is less idle daydreaming and more a systemic repudiation of Alderson’s drafting philosophy that if they had drafted Fernandez, they could have, in a case of brutal irony, traded him for his current teammate, Giancarlo Stanton, who actually has a chance to be a franchise player. Ergo, and this is not rocket science, the Mets would have had that dominating franchise player they hoped to draft in Nimmo in Stanton, the result of drafting Fernandez.

Now, had they not told the world that they had deliberately passed on Fernandez, who they discounted solely because he was a pitcher, then its a different story. A choice between two viable players, and they picked, wrongly, who they thought was the best prospect. Happens all the time. But since they NEVER considered Fernandez, the pitcher, because they had stubbornly made their minds up not to draft any pitcher with the first pick, the result becomes something much closer to howling organizational absurdity – the kind petty self-absorbed dictators who refuse to listen to anyone else make.

All this makes one wonder exactly how the brain trust of the Mets makes decisions, and what degree of contempt and arrogance towards the fan base factors into the equation. Here’s the obscene part of this sham they have perpetrated. In the 3 years going on 4 years that Alderson has been GM, just about everything good that has happened to the Mets in that time period, and it hasn’t been much, has a direct link to the hated, exiled in disgrace, former GM, Omar Minaya.

Emotions aside, let’s objectively consider the facts, which is something far different than having Alderson’s pedantic rhetoric about rebuilding what Minaya destroyed shoved down our throats. Or its alternate disingenuous delusion: blaming it all on Madoff, another self-serving red herring. In truth, the Mets owners received twice the money they invested with Madoff – even in their world of constant lies, that’s quite a profit. Real estate, the Wilpon’s prime means of money making, is also on a strong rebound.

Facts, of course, have an annoying habit of being true. Here’s a few for consideration.

Harvey? Minaya draft pick. Its almost blasphemous to write this, but one sees a young Seaver here. Yet Harvey already seems more than up to the task.

Wheeler? Traded for Beltran, a great player for the Mets for 5 years, signed by Minaya, when no one of consequence would sign here.

Travis d’Arnaud? Not happening if Minaya didn’t sign RA Dickey, the kind of low risk, high reward player Alderson can’t seem to find, despite his ridiculous fawning over Sabermetrics. Also add in that Mets fans have rarely had the pleasure of having a player with Dickey’s heartwarming humanity to root for – indeed, Dickey makes some of Alderson’s acquisitions seem even more monstrous in comparison.

Noah Syndergraard? Perhaps the jewel of a very pitching rich minor league system, see above.

Jenrry Mejia (whose stuff last year was electric), Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz … I think you see where this is going. All drafted or signed by Minaya.

In balance, Alderson did make the two trades mentioned above. He has also managed to accomplish another milestone of some note in 3 years.

At this precise moment in his grand scheme to return the Mets to relevance, the team has one of the lowest committed payrolls in major league baseball — prior to the Young signing, less than $30 million, and almost all of that to one player, David Wright. Small market teams smirk at such a pathetically low number.

This, after a recent Bloomberg audit had the Mets franchise valued at over two billion dollars. Alderson must see the Mets fans as rubes, when he repeatedly promises ‘significant’ acquisitions’ this winter, and a payroll of $100 million by spring training – and then begins this massive revamping with the signing of the likes of Chris Young, a very insignificant player, to a very significant contract.

To be clear. As a periphery player to add depth – and take a shot at his production returning – the signing of Chris Young for a few million dollars for a single season would seem about right. Heralding the ‘new’ era in spending, on star players, after so much suffering as fans, not so much. We’ve drunk this cool-aid from Alderson before, and except for Byrd, who the Mets should have resigned instead of Young, bottom feeding misses far more often than it works.

Beyond all the posturing, proselytizing and prevarications by Sandy and his brain trust about Madoff and Minaya, the $2.05 billion Mets continue to have the lowest payroll of the large market teams. A 2014 budget of $87 million is now being bandied about, but even that comes with stipulations.

Unless something changes real fast, we have only the transformative genius of Sandy Alderson, who made his career proudly pinching pennies in small markets, to blame.

HARD LIQUOR 300

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