Mets Merized Online » Mets Thoughts http://metsmerizedonline.com Sat, 25 Oct 2014 13:31:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.4 Talent vs. Development: Are Mets Exploiting A New Market Inefficiency? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/talent-vs-development-are-mets-exploiting-a-new-market-inefficiency.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/talent-vs-development-are-mets-exploiting-a-new-market-inefficiency.html/#comments Sat, 25 Oct 2014 11:17:45 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=168577 sandy alderson

When Sandy Alderson was hired by the Mets as their new GM in 2010 there was a flurry of conjecture about what sort of effect he would have on the team. Words like “Moneyball with money” were being thrown around by Paul DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi, and everyone started speculating about what exactly this new version of moneyball would look like. Would it be high OBP guys like in Oakland? Would it be right-handed pitchers with durability profiles? Would it be defense up the middle and power from unlikely sources? Would it be outfielders with allergies to cat dander?

Since that time, most of us have settled into the realization that Alderson and his brain brigade didn’t really unveil anything unique in their approach to player acquisition. With the exception of a tendency towards high schoolers with good eyes at the plate (an eye for an eye!), there was little to satiate the masses who were waiting impatiently for Moneyball 2.0. It never materialized.

What I think many of us failed to appreciate, however, was that exploiting market inefficiencies was nothing new in MLB. Ever since the 90’s when Oakland managed to piece together a winning amalgamate from overlooked and undervalued spare parts, teams all across the league hired numbers-crunchers in an attempt to find other players possessing favorable and overlooked competitive adaptations. Funny thing is that with the exception of OBP, not much else had been overlooked … Oh sure, some teams went after character guys while others tried to secure command and control pitching while still other teams went for power arms, but that had all been done before in the hundred-plus year history of the game.

But there was definitely something different at work with these guys. Sandy DePo and Ricciardi are not the sort to sit back and follow tried and true paradigms. They were advertised as innovators and the more I observed their often secretive machinations (especially on the part of DePodesta who I imagine still lives in his underground numbers bunker deep beneath Citi Field, coming out every few days to test new Frisbee designs and shake hands with his children), the more I felt they were up to something, I was certain of it.

I don’t think DePo would have been coy and evasive early on when questioned about what sort of organizational innovations he had in store if he wasn’t actually hiding something. He openly stated that he wouldn’t share his angle even if he had one … but the way he said it made me wonder.

Now I’m a words guy, language is my thing … I pride myself on my ability to read between the lines and derive whatever hidden connotation an inconspicuous comment may yield. The phrase that stood out for me when Collins first hit the scene was “muscle memory.” I swear that first spring I remember at least 4 or 5 players using the term “muscle memory” during interviews. That smacked heavily of an organizational initiative, a mantra.

At the same time Sandy Alderson was spouting loquacious on his desire to streamline the organization from top to bottom with an emphasis on adapting every level to a uniform set of principles. A complete overhaul of our player development program.

Lots of GM’s try to leave their mark by establishing a distinct organizational ethos … nothing new about that right? Only Sandy Alderson and his minions referred to this organizational cohesion as if it were the thing. Almost as if cohesion of purpose across levels was in fact their angle, as if it was the innovation that would somehow create that elusive “unfair advantage.” No, it couldn’t be, I thought. How boring would that be? The organizational stuff is simply a byproduct of Sandy’s military days. He knows how important uniformity and cohesion are for any successful organization … there had to be something else.

nimmo reynolds sand gnats

But as the years progressed this mantra persisted, and the minors saw a distinct resurgence with more wins from more of our minor league affiliates, fueled by the persistent drone of the same principles across every level. Muscle memory over and over and over.

Then there were the drafts … one high school player after another. Over and over the Mets drafted teenagers who were years and years away.

When you put all this together I think what you have is something akin to our
“new moneyball.” The Mets have designed what they feel is a system that will take raw youngsters with the right physical and intellectual temperaments and and graduate them successfully to the majors by means of immersion in a uniform set of principles that they believe will give them a competitive advantage. Those principles of course involve getting on base, plate discipline, attacking the zone, all invoked with thousands of hours of mind numbing repetition.

Now it is certainly true that with younger players you have greater control over whatever developmental trajectory they happen to be on. Older players are what they are, they don’t have much time to put it all together before their bodies hit their physical prime years of 27, 28, and 29 (and for some reason 31) … With a high school player you have 8 to 10 years to make sure they get the reps they need before they hit their physical prime … which comes out to right around 10,000 hours of “practice.” With college players you have about half that time.

And that’s where the innovation comes in. The notion that talent isn’t some magical gift bestowed upon us by the gods or heredity, that given comparable physical attributes the more “talented” individual is almost always the one with the most hours of practice.

As Malcolm Gladwell in his groundbreaking book Outliers pointed out, the 10,000 hour rule is the single greatest predictor of “elite” performance, whether it’s playing a violin or striking out major league batters. On the Mets, “muscle memory” had become a catch phrase for expert status, and 10,000 hours of practice (usually taking around 10 years), more often than not resulted in expert status. It is a remarkable predictor with the highest levels of performance coming at right around the 10,000 hour mark across a wide variety of disciplines.

What Alderson and his assistants are attempting is a shift away from a scouting/talent paradigm to a tools/development paradigm … and Brandon Nimmo is their poster child. Now I’m not saying they’re actively seeking out blank-slate 18-year olds with solid physical attributes and little else. Naturally you’re going to draft the more talented player when available. But I think what’s interesting is the notion that the Mets might be inclined to draft a raw but physically gifted younger player over a perhaps more “talented” older player because by acquiring the younger player they control the trajectory and the progress, while “talent” at lower levels doesn’t always translate to higher levels.

The approach reminds me a little of the rifle range in boot camp. Our instructors loved guys who’d never fired a weapon because although they were raw, they didn’t have any bad habits, they were able to train us the correct way. I’d never touched a firearm in my life yet I shot high expert my very first try. Similarly this Met front office believes they are more likely to succeed by promoting a system that will produce elite performers from the scratch of raw physical aptitude rather than relying on occasionally finding the lightning in a bottle that is what we sometimes describe as “a natural.”

In the end the proof is in the pudding as they say, and the first batch of this particular confection will hit the stage late next summer barring some cataclysmic barrage of injuries or misfortune. It will be immensely interesting to see whether it was all worth the wait.

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MMO Mailbag: Where Are Alderson’s Draft Picks? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/mmo-mailbag-where-are-aldersons-draft-picks.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/mmo-mailbag-where-are-aldersons-draft-picks.html/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 22:34:08 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=168259 Sandy Alderson and Paul DePodesta visited MCU Park Wednesday night, likely to check out first-round pick Michael Conforto. (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Gregg asks…

I read that the Mets have drafted a greater percentage of high school players during the last three drafts, and have also passed over many supreme college talents in doing so.With many players who were drafted in the years 2011-2013 playing big roles this postseason, aren’t you the least bit worried that Sandy Alderson is one of a few teams that have yet to see one of their draft picks make it to the majors?

Andre replies…

The upside with high school prospects usually is that they can still be taught and trained in a way that the organization feels confident about. And in general, the majority of drafted impact players in the majors have come from high school and not the college ranks in the past 15+ years or so.

While, the risk may be higher, the upside often is also higher than with college picks. Of course, the aspect of player DEVELOPMENT is far more important with HS or young IFA talent than it is with advanced college players.

Now, the downside is that it generally takes longer to develop HS talent than college players for obvious reasons. So, if you have to be willing and able to give HS picks 4-5 years to develop in general before they reach the majors and probably another year before they have an impact.

A team that´s not able to sport a “large market” high payroll may be more inclined to go after college talent early in a draft during a window of contention than a team with a large market payroll OR during a rebuilding. That of course, is besides taking the best player available early in a draft.

The Mets have – rightfully – focused on HS talent and getting IFA signed that they´re now trying to develop – hopefully with better success than in the two previous decades. The problems of finding a legit young middle infielder ever since Jose Reyes was signed as an IFA in 2000 can directly be traced to both having a sub par development system in place AND not really drafting many – if any – players with a middle infield upside defensively in over a decade (from 2001 through 2011).

And while it remains to be seen if and how successful the “Alderson” drafts have been – and pretty sure Alderson hasn’t really been actively involved in these but at best listened with interest – the fact that none of “his” picks has appeared in the majors isn’t a problem at all. Besides the focus on HS talent, several college players such as Kevin Plawecki, Matt Reynolds, Cory Mazzoni or Daniel Muno could easily have appeared in the majors already. But mainly due to 40-man roster management and perhaps financial issues, they have been held back so far.

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Pitching and Defense Is In Our DNA http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/pitching-and-defense-is-in-our-dna.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/pitching-and-defense-is-in-our-dna.html/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 19:55:18 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=168541 Seaver-Koosman-Matlack - Copy

Baseball is loaded with tradition, perhaps more than any other sport, and for good reason. The Mets have their own traditions, their own uniforms and stories passed down to them, their own sacred relics.

Mets tradition is rooted in the Miracle of 1969, and to a lesser degree the 1986 Championship season. Mets tradition is entrenched in the successes of the past, and that success has been, and more than likely will be (should we ever be treated to it again), grounded in lights-out, shutdown, overpowering pitching. Tom SeaverJerry KoosmanDwight Gooden and many other greats led our pitching heavy success stories. The lessons learned? We live and die by our pitching.

Building on previous success emboldens and prepares current generations with winning strategies, confidence, and important lessons. Traditions teach us who we are based on and who we’ve been. They teach us how to conduct ourselves based on how we’ve conducted ourselves in the past. They are an integral part of organizational success and as such should never ever be ignored. To do so is to invite failure.

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

The current generation of Mets is tasked with a monumental task — learning to win. What better way to do that than by looking at what has worked in the past? It’s a hard lesson, particularly after the horrendous failures of our recent history.

Pitching and defense are in our blood… 2–0 games should be ingrained in the DNA of every Met prospect in every Met franchise throughout the minors. This is our template, our formula, our recipe. Embrace the stinginess and the tension Met fans, I’ll take a traditional 2–0 win any day over a 7–3 slugfest.

Traditions are resilient, and I have to say there may even be something magical about them. There is a painful irony to the fact that 2006 ended tragically at the hands of a defense first backstop whose only home run vs. the Mets came in the postseason, against a power laden Met team lacking its traditional pitching first make-up.

Personally, I’ll take deGrom, Wheeler, Harvey, Syndergaard and Montero going forward over any host of boppers and mashers. Just get some great defense and a decent offense to support them. It doesn’t have to be a Murderer’s Row. Embrace the stinginess Met fans, embrace the tension!

mmo

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Kevin Long, Front Office Might Not See Eye-To-Eye http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/kevin-long-front-office-might-not-see-eye-to-eye.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/kevin-long-front-office-might-not-see-eye-to-eye.html/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 16:00:14 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=168507 kevin long

Yesterday the Mets announced the hiring of Kevin Long as the new batting coach (or as they call it hitting instructor). This move makes sense for a number of reasons. On top of that list is the work he did with Curtis Granderson while they were both with the Yankees. You could argue that a productive Granderson is the most important thing to the Mets in 2015 and Long should help that. There is one issue with Long’s philosophy. It doesn’t quite lineup with the Mets.

Here’s what Long had to say to Sports Illustrated on his approach:

“You really have to re-think your hitting philosophy. It used to be that you wanted to take pitches and get the starter’s pitch count up so you could get into the other team’s bullpen. Now if you do that, chances are you’re going to see a better arm coming out of the bullpen, and it’s one after the other.”

That sounds like something that could directly conflict with the organizational philosophy. With the broad strokes of money ball known throughout the baseball world by now, Sandy Alderson has always preached a patient approach and waiting for your pitch.

“It’s getting a good pitch to hit, and these guys are sorting through the pitches they are seeing to get something to hit,” Alderson told the New York Post’s Mike Puma back in 2013. “That approach is what really made us successful offensively in 2011 and the first half of 2012, and then we lost the approach. We couldn’t generate any offense in the second half of last year.”

So is this an issue in the waiting? Will Long be able to be an effective hitting instructor while under the watchful eyes of the Mets front office? We don’t expect Alderson to charge through the locker room with a baseball bat like Brad Pitt but one would imagine they’ll be keeping very close tabs on things like opposing pitch counts and on-base percentage under Long’s guidance.

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Juan Lagares Is Gold Glove Finalist http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/lagares-gold-glove-finalist.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/lagares-gold-glove-finalist.html/#comments Thu, 23 Oct 2014 17:44:14 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=168378 juan lagares catch

Update (October 23rd, 2:00 PM)

According to ESPN’s Adam Rubin, Juan Lagares has been named one of the three finalists for the National League Gold Glove Award in center-field. The other two finalists are Billy Hamilton and Denard Span. The award, which is based on both input from managers and fielding metrics will be announced on November 4th at 7 PM.

Lagares is the only Mets finalist.

Original Story (October 22nd, 7:00 AM)

Later this fall, Juan Lagares hopes to win his first Gold Glove in center field and according to BillJamesOnline.com‘s John Dewan, he will get it done. Dewan cast his ballot for the 2014 Fielding Bible Award earlier this week and chose Lagares. His 28 defensive runs saved were the most by center fielders. Here’s what he had to say about Lagares:

Entering 2014, there was some question of whether Juan Lagares’ impressive rookie season was something of a fluke. He saved 26 runs in 2013, second most among center fielders despite playing just 820 innings. Much of that success was the result of a position-leading 12 outfield kills, which is an unusually high total for a center fielder. Lagares emphatically answered any doubters with 28 Runs Saved in 945 innings this season. As expected, runners were less aggressive in attempting to take extra bases against him this season, which coupled with his five kills resulted in six Runs Saved with his arm. His range accounted for 22 more runs, 7 more than the closest center fielder to him.

No other Mets were projected to win a Fielding Bible Awards or a Gold Glove by Dewan. In the meantime, Lagares will have to sit and wait to find out just how many fielding awards he’ll take home in 2014.

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Handicapping Trade Value and Odds Of Mets Pitchers http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/handicapping-trade-value-and-odds-of-mets-pitchers.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/handicapping-trade-value-and-odds-of-mets-pitchers.html/#comments Thu, 23 Oct 2014 17:11:09 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=168227 zack wheeler

To get something, you have to give something, but what the New York Mets don’t want to give up is their young pitching.  Understandable, but how long can they hold out?

The Mets say they won’t deal Matt Harvey, but remember there is no such thing as an untouchable. What if some team, in the words of Don Corleone, make them “an offer they can’t refuse.’’

Let’s take a look at the Mets’ young arms in relation to their trade value and odds they could be dealt.

MATT HARVEY (75:1) Everybody wants him and that’s a given. However, coming off Tommy John surgery there might be a twinge of reluctance of making a big offer although the odds of recovery are good. They might get more if Harvey rebounds with a good season, which would undoubtedly spike his value. Also a consideration is that he may eventually bolt when given the chance considering his sometimes rocky relationship with management. If he continues to perform well and the Mets don’t sign him to a long term contract, his salary would increase dramatically through arbitration. Sometime in that process, if they can’t get a long term deal done, they might seriously think of trading him off before he leaves as a free agent to the Bronx. But not this offseason.

ZACK WHEELER (50:1) Some scouts say his stuff is better than Harvey’s, but Zack Wheeler doesn’t have nearly the poise or knowledge of pitching. Harvey is way ahead in those areas. Wheeler is reminiscent of Nolan Ryan early in his career when he threw hard with no idea where the pitch would go. Wheeler tries too much for the strikeout, which elevates is pitch count and reduces his innings. His potential is so high that he’s worth waiting for, but conversely it is so attractive there will be takers. Another thing about Wheeler, and this also applies to Harvey and Jacob deGrom, is they are very affordable for the next 3-4 years. Mets would have to be overwhelmed.

JACOB deGROM (50:1) It would be a crime if he is not the Rookie of the Year. He’s closer to being where Harvey is than Wheeler. He’s got great stuff, an outstanding breaking ball, poise and a sense about what pitching is all about. He’s definitely more a pitcher than a thrower. Like Harvey in his first year, deGrom caught teams by surprise. It might be different in 2015. But, I like this guy and would be more disappointed if he were traded than Harvey or Wheeler.

NOAH SYNDERGAARD (25:1) Some scouts say Noah Syndergaard might be the best prospect of all, but we really won’t know what he is until he pitches at the major league level, which won’t be until June at the earliest. He’s got a terrific breaking ball, great stuff and by all accounts could be the real thing. We shall see, and I hope we see it in Flushing.

JON NIESE (10:1) He’s left-handed, throws hard, 27 and signed to a reasonable contract. That makes Jon Niese attractive to the Mets and other teams. What’s not to like? Well, there’s his injury history, inconsistency (only one winning season in seven years), and the bad habit of not being able to put away hitters and letting innings unravel. The argument is a change of scenery might help, but unlike the previous four mentioned his value has decreased. Good GMs don’t typically sell low.

RAFAEL MONTERO (5:1) He has loads of potential, but other teams also see that in him. Rafael Montero is a lot like Jenrry Mejia in that the Mets haven’t found a definitive role for him. Starter or reliever? He could be in the rotation until Syndergaard is ready and if Niese were traded. But, on Opening Day I see him either in the bullpen or Triple-A.

DILLON GEE (3:1) He’s rated no higher than a fifth starter and could be bumped to the bullpen when Syndergaard is ready. Too bad. Gee doesn’t have great stuff, but is mentally tough – until he gets to Philadelphia – and shows a lot of poise. He’s somebody that could get the Mets something at the deadline as he can also work out of the bullpen in long relief. There’s things a contender could like about him. Question is, will the Mets be such a contender? The Mets could have traded him numerous times, but there were no serious takers. That says something.

BARTOLO COLON (2:1) At 41, he threw over 200 innings and won 15 games. Was it all him, or did the move to the National League and spacious Citi Field have something to do with that? Colon will get $11 million in 2015, of which half of that will be gone by the trade deadline. If the Mets are in it, they’d be wise to keep him, but if he’s pitching well he could bring something in return in the right package. He’s likely being shopped, but nobody will offer anything until they explore the free-agent market.

BOBBY PARNELL (30:1) I remember the day he hit triple digits on the radar gun at Fenway Park. But, it never happened for him as a starter. After some trial and error he won the closer role in 2013, but missed last season because of an injury. Should Mejia or Jeurys Familia win the closer role and Parnell proves healthy in spring training, maybe he gets dealt. But for now he’s not going anywhere.

JENRRY MEJIA (25:1) When the Mets were bouncing him from the bullpen to the rotation his value declined. Especially when it led to elbow surgery. Now, it was a sports hernia that cut his breakout season. Mejia showed he has the stuff to be a closer, especially since he’s learning how to pitch rather than just trying to blow heat past a hitter. There’s value here.

JEURYS FAMILIA (20:1) Had an outstanding rookie season and drew a lot of attention. Some believe he could be the closer of future, however some teams might think he could be a closer now. This is a tough one considering the fragile nature of constructing a bullpen. Of these three relievers, Parnell could be the most available, but also bring the least in return.

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Former Mets Chaplain Relives 1986 World Series http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/former-mets-chaplain-relives-1986-world-series.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/former-mets-chaplain-relives-1986-world-series.html/#comments Thu, 23 Oct 2014 15:08:05 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=168467 1986 mets win

Here’s a story I wrote for The Tablet newspaper about former New York Mets’ team chaplain Father Daniel Murphy. A huge Mets’ fan, Father Murphy was there when the Mets made their magical run to capture the 1986 World Series.

Here is his story:

With the start of the World Series, New York Mets’ fans are reminded of a better time, because unfortunately, October baseball is a rarity in Flushing, Queens.

That better time was of course the 1986 World Series in which the Mets relied on a bit of divine intervention to cap off an improbable come-from-behind victory in Game 6, which in turn fueled the series-clinching win in Game 7.

And that divine intervention was provided by none other than the Mets’ team chaplain, Father Daniel Murphy, the current pastor of St. Saviour Church, Park Slope.

Father Daniel Murphy (Photo courtesy NET-TV)

Father Daniel Murphy (Photo courtesy NET-TV)

Father Murphy served as team chaplain for seven seasons from 1984 to 1990. He said Mass at Shea Stadium for every Sunday home game throughout the season. Of course, his fondest memories of his time as chaplain are the 1986 season and playoffs.

“We won 108 games,” said Father Murphy of his favorite team. “Today if you win 92, you make the playoffs. We won 108. We were good!”

The Mets were riding high after winning an exciting playoff series over the Houston Astros, so all that was standing in their way from their first World Series title since 1969 was the Boston Red Sox.

However, it was the Red Sox that earned the upper hand in the series, winning both games at Shea Stadium with the series then shifting to Boston’s Fenway Park.

The Mets rallied to win the next two games but then dropped Game 5 as they headed back to New York facing elimination.

Now, most priests who serve as team chaplains usually pray for the success of all those involved with an athletic contest. But Father Murphy is not your average priest; Father Murphy is a devout Mets’ fan, who also happens to be blatantly honest.

“I was really praying that we’d win,” he said. “I can’t say that I was praying that ‘may the best team win’ and that no one gets hurt.”

The events of Saturday, Oct. 25, 1986 will forever be engrained in the minds of die-hard Mets’ fans. Trailing 5-3 heading into the bottom of the 10th inning, the Mets were just three outs away from watching the Red Sox celebrate a World Series title on their own home turf.

After Wally Backman flew out to left and Keith Hernandez flied to center, hope seemed bleak. But the tides turned with consecutive singles by Gary Carter and Kevin Mitchell.

“I had given up until Kevin Mitchell’s hit,” Father Murphy said of the fateful night. “I knew Carter was not going to go down easily. But when Mitchell got the hit, I think I saw destiny happening!”

And destiny certainly happened. Ray Knight followed with an RBI single to get the Mets within two. With Mookie Wilson batting, a wild pitch by Boston pitcher Bob Stanley allowed Mitchell to score the tying run.

Just like his teammates, Wilson would not go down easily.

“Half of the pitches he (Wilson) swung at were balls, but he wasn’t striking out,” Father Murphy said.

Then on the 10th pitch of at-bat, Wilson grounded a ball toward Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner, and the words of the sweet baritone voice of NBC broadcaster Vin Scully took over from there:

“Little roller up along first … behind the bag! It gets through Buckner! Here comes Knight, and the Mets win it!”

“I will never forget the clubhouse that night,” Father Murphy said. “It was as if they (the Mets) didn’t go home. It was wild!”

Red Sox manager John McNamara later called Wilson’s at-bat the second greatest at-bat in baseball history, behind only Bobby Thomson’s famous “Shot Heard ’Round the World” to send the New York Giants to the 1951 World Series.

So with the series tied, Father Murphy held his typical Sunday Mass at Shea Stadium prior to the game on Oct. 26, 1986. The regulars at Mass – Danny Heep, Rafael Santana and Tim Teufel – were of course present, but other players like Jesse Orosco, Sid Fernandez, Lee Mazzilli, Backman and Wilson all joined in that day.

“Usually when I walked in (to Mass), it was pretty quiet … maybe a few people walking around,” Father Murphy said. “But when I walked in (prior to Game 7), it was like Grand Central!”

Game 7 was actually rained out, but the players’ prayers at Mass were answered the following night, as the Mets defeated the Red Sox 8-5.

Father Murphy may no longer be team chaplain for the Mets, but he continues to pray for the team’s success. Though the baseball gods may not have been listening the past few years, 2015 will be a different story – at least St. Saviour’s pastor hopes so!

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I’ll Take “Worst Owners In Baseball” For $500, Alex… http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/ill-take-worst-owners-in-baseball-for-500-alex.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/ill-take-worst-owners-in-baseball-for-500-alex.html/#comments Wed, 22 Oct 2014 20:41:40 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=168416 alex trebek jeopardy

Alex – The answer is… Because the Wilpons had no money after becoming embroiled in a second Ponzi Scheme with arch criminal Bernie Madoff.

Joe D. – Why didn’t the Mets sign Jose Reyes?

DING, DING, DING, DING, DING….

It looks like I missed out on all the fun this morning where various Mets Twitter celebs battled over why we didn’t sign Jose Reyes or why we don’t try and get him back.

jose-reyesWe can debate the pros and cons of bringing Jose Reyes back all we want, but the fact is the Blue Jays have no intentions of trading him. But that’s not the point of this post anyway.

As to why we didn’t sign him, Matt Cerrone lays out his case on MetsBlog and concludes:

“My understanding is that Sandy Alderson simply didn’t want to be paying $22 million a year to Reyes when, in his mid 30s, Jose’s legs and body would not likely be able to do the things that made him great on the Mets.”

I’m sorry, Matt, but that’s not even close to why we didn’t sign Reyes. You are asserting that if Alderson did want to sign him he could have. That’s undeniably wrong and misses the mark completely.

The Mets didn’t sign Reyes because the financial state of the team was in such distress that they could not afford him.

When the truth finally came out Sandy Alderson himself admitted that the Mets never even made him an offer.

Additionally, they didn’t even bother negotiating with Reyes when they had their exclusive window and long before the Miami Marlins were even allowed to mention his name and enter the picture.

This had nothing to do with Alderson and not wanting to invest big dollars on a player whose game relied mostly on his speed.

This was all about the Wilpons and Saul Katz putting their own franchise in a dangerously precarious position due to their utter incompetence and open-eyed involvement with the notorious criminal Bernie Madoff.

The Wilpons were still teetering on bankruptcy that offseason, and there was never any chance that Jose Reyes was getting signed at the time.

In fact, David Wright would not have been signed to that exorbitant $138 million dollar deal either had his free agency come at the same time as Reyes. This was never an either-or situation.

These facts are material and undeniable.

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David Wright vs. George Brett: The Royal Treatment http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/david-wright-vs-george-brett-the-royal-treatment.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/david-wright-vs-george-brett-the-royal-treatment.html/#comments Wed, 22 Oct 2014 14:08:44 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=168344 david wright

David Wright has taken a lot of knocks over the last several months and undeservedly so… He’s a player on the decline. He’s always getting hurt. He’s washed up.

There was another MLB star Third Baseman who is currently in the Hall of Fame that has a similar statistical profile to Wright through their age 31 seasons. Like our captain, this HOF player missed a lot of time during his age 30 season to the disabled list and played in only 123 games. He also missed 29 games while on the DL during his age 31 season, playing in just 104 games. In his age 30-31 seasons, this HOF Third Baseman played in just 227 games, compared to David’s 246.

This other Hall of Fame Third Baseman is George Brett. David has played 11 seasons, getting called up in 2004. Brett appeared in 12 MLB seasons through his age 31 season (including 13 games in August/September 1973 and the strike shortened 1981 season).

Wright vs. Brett through age 31 seasons:

                                        David Wright                             George Brett

Games Played                      1508                                          1462

Batting Average                     .298                                           .314

Base Hits                               1702                                          1783

Runs Scored                           907                                            894

OBP                                       .377                                           .368

Slugging                                 .494                                           .500

Doubles                                  375                                             362

Triples                                     26                                               103

Home Runs                            230                                              163

RBI                                         939                                              866

Stolen Bases                          191                                              131

All Star Games                        7                                                  9

Is Wright washed up? No. Did he have a very uncharacteristic season? Yes, he was hurt. Brett’s age 31 season also was below his career norms when he was recovering from an injury that kept him from starting the season on time. He only hit .284 with 107 hits.

David will be fine.

george brett

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MMO Free Agent Profile: Colby Rasmus, CF http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/mmo-free-agent-profile-colby-rasmus-cf.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/mmo-free-agent-profile-colby-rasmus-cf.html/#comments Wed, 22 Oct 2014 12:09:38 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=168126 colby rasmus

Colby Rasmus

Position: Center Fielder 
Bats: Left, Throws: Left 
Age on Opening Day: 28

2014 Snapshot

After a very productive 2013 season, Rasmus fell off a cliff this year, seeing his numbers drop across the board. The 28 year-old posted a slash line of .225/.287/.448 with a .321 wOBA and 103 wRC+ with 18 home runs in 376 plate appearances. In almost every major fielding statistic, Rasmus went from solidly above average to solidly below average in center, compounding on an already lackluster year.

The one thing that remained through it all for Rasmus was his power. His 18 home runs in so few trips to the plate stick out, along with his .223 ISO, his second-highest mark ever. However, Rasmus watched his offensive numbers drop across the board from a fantastic .276/.338/.501 (129 wRC+) 2013 season. If we are in the game of comparisons, Rasmus is on the opposite track of Nick Markakis, who, although the rest of his numbers have gone up, his power numbers have dropped. In the middle tier of free agent outfielders, it may be a pick-your-poison scenario.

Pros

Rasmus has incredible upside. In 2013, he posted a 4.8 fWAR, the second four-win season of his career. He boasts solid and consistent power numbers, and, if healthy, is sure to hit 20 or more home runs in a Met uniform, even at Citi Field. According to ESPN’s Home Run Tracker, Rasmus was in the upper tier with an average 401 foot “true distance” on his 18 home runs. I don’t have any doubt that his power would transfer, no matter what kind of season he is having.

Rasmus has also proven at times to be a solid defender, posting well above average fielding metrics before 2014. However, Rasmus’ numbers have been inconsistent in these metrics, leaving some uncertainty here.

Cons

Of course, if Rasmus were always at his upside, he would be way beyond the Mets’ price range. What makes players cheap is uncertainty, and there is a whole lot of it with Rasmus. While Rasmus has had two seasons with a 4.0 fWAR or higher, he also has three with a 1.0 fWAR or worse. He is, without a doubt, an enormous risk.

Rasmus is striking out at absurd rates. Last year, he struck out in a third of his plate appearances. And those offensive numbers last year were coupled with a normal BABIP. That’s not exactly a recipe for future success.

While the added power would be a nice addition to the lineup, the possibly dreadful On-Base Percentage and batting average would greatly eat away at the added value. That may still even equate to overall league average offense, but with uncertainty about Rasmus’ defense, any significant financial commitment will mean taking a big risk. Rasmus doesn’t seem like the type of player a penny-pinching team like the Mets can afford to gamble on. Not to mention he plays center field and has never regularly played a corner position in the majors…

Projected Contract

Unlike Markakis, Rasmus is coming off a down year, so he should be cheaper. With that being said, he is also younger and less likely to have a qualifying offer attached to him. With teams considering the horrible situation with BJ Upton, a similar player to Rasmus, and the stronger center field free agent class next year, demand won’t be too high. I predict that Rasmus will get two years and $24 million.

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MMO Free Agent Profile: Nick Markakis, RF http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/mmo-free-agent-profile-nick-markakis-rf.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/mmo-free-agent-profile-nick-markakis-rf.html/#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2014 11:00:44 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=168121 MLB: JUL 20 Rays at Orioles

Nick Markakis

Position: Right Fielder
Bats: Left, Throws: Left
Age on Opening Day: 31

2014 Snapshot

While Nick Markakis didn’t return to his old self this year, he did bounce back significantly from a sub-replacement level season in 2013. He had solid seasons on both offense and defense, improving his wRC+ from 88 to 106 while improving most of his defensive metrics by a few runs as well.

His final line on the year was .276/.342/.386 with 14 home runs, 27 doubles, and a triple in 710 plate appearances. He ended the season with a 2.5 fWAR and a 2.1 rWAR.

Pros

As Joel Sherman of the New York Post pointed out, Markakis would make a solid leadoff hitter. Among right fielders, Markakis ranked ninth in On-Base Percentage last year with a .342 mark. Over the past few years, he has consistently walked in eight to nine percent of his trips to the plate, and owns a career 9.3 walk percentage. As a team, the Mets batted .235/.308/.333 in the leadoff spot this season, making Markakis a clear upgrade in this spot.

Assuming Curtis Granderson would move to left field, Markakis represents a clear upgrade in the outfield as well. Mets left fielders hit just .219/.306/.309, giving them an OPS 38 percent worse than league average this season. Markakis is already to be a league average hitter, and could definitely be even more productive than that. On top of all this, he’s just 30 years old.

Cons

While Markakis would definitely add to the Mets outfield, is he really the right fit? Probably not. Markakis is certainly a nice leadoff option, but the Mets already have a carbon copy of him at second base: Daniel Murphy. In fact, Daniel Murphy is slightly better than Markakis, and at a position where hitting is harder to come by The leadoff problem is more a problem of lineup management than personnel. If Terry Collins would just bat Murphy (107 OPS+ over last three year vs. Markakis’ 105), the leadoff problem would be solved. (Of course, the Mets could certainly decide to trade Murphy for a bigger bat this winter, in which case there would be a need for a leadoff hitter.)

Put lineup position aside for a minute and look at Markakis as a player. While his walk rate may make him an attractive leadoff hitter, he doesn’t have much else going for him. Over the last three years, Markakis has a mediocre 4.1 fWAR over 419 games. His fielding numbers have been dreadful almost his entire career, regularly playing ten or more runs below average. That greatly detracts from his value. Also, while he gets on base, he is doing so with less quality than he used to, with his power numbers dropping dramatically from early in his career. If the Nick Markakis of five years ago was available — the one who regularly had an ISO in the .160 to .190 range — then I would say he is a perfect fit for the Mets. However, the Mets need to add as much power as possible to their lineup, even in a leadoff hitter. So while Markakis may get on base at a decent clip (although it isn’t even that great), he is only a middle-of-the-road player that isn’t going to have a huge impact on the Mets if they were to sign him.

Projected Contract

Markakis is only 30 years old, which means he will be seeking, at absolute minimum, a three-year deal, and will be fighting like crazy to get a fourth or fifth year. As one of the younger options in a sea of mid-30s outfielders, Markakis will be helped by his age. Plus, with Yasmani Tomas and Nelson Cruz looking to sign monster contracts, Markakis and his main competition Melky Cabrera, will be vying for spots on teams with money but unable or unwilling to make a huge splash. Ironically, because only a few young, mid-range options exist this winter, teams may have to pay upwards of $50 million to ink either of them. Assuming the Orioles don’t take the big risk of giving Markakis a qualifying offer. Projection: 4 years, $44 million

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(Updated) Mets Can Learn A Lesson From The Royals? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/updated-mets-can-learn-a-lesson-from-the-royals.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/updated-mets-can-learn-a-lesson-from-the-royals.html/#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2014 01:32:48 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=168109 James shields

Winning now over winning later. Whether or not that’s the mentality of Kansas City Royals General Manager Dayton Moore or not, it clearly had a lot to do with the trade that sent top prospect Wil Myers, Patrick Leonard, Mike Montgomery and Jake Odorizzi to the Rays for pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis back in 2012.

Myers hasn’t had a great start to his major league career. With the Rays for parts of 2013 and 2014, he’s managed to hit just .258/.324/.400/.724 with 19 home runs and 88 RBI’s in 660 at-bats. Obviously no one is ready to judge Myers yet. He’ll be 24 years old on Opening Day 2015 and has a long road ahead. But as Andy Martino of the Daily News points out, even if he turns into a Barry Bonds/Rickey Henderson/Babe Ruth hybrid, the Royals still made the right move.

Shields has become the ace of a staff that now finds itself in the World Series. Wouldn’t you know it, Shields will be taking the ball in game one against the San Francisco Giants tomorrow night.

This offseason, you can look at the Mets situation as being very similar to that of the Royals a few years ago. They are very close to be a winning team and Sandy Alderson will be in position to make trades before the 2015 season as they look to reach 80+ wins. Sure Myers was and still remains a fantastic prospect, but sometimes you have to pull the trigger in order to win in the moment, even if the deal isn’t perfect.

What the Royals showed us is that sometimes it takes a win now over a win later mentality.

Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland reflected on Dayton’s move.

“It was a gutsy move by Dayton and his staff. He took a lot of heat for it, but here we are two years later and we’re going to the World Series. A lot of times people in this game pass judgement too soon. A gutsy move by him. If he doesn’t make that move, we’re probably not here talking right now.”

The Mets are now in a position to trade for talent with their stockpile of prospects. Shields was never the best, but he’s exactly what the Royals needed to push them over the top. Somehow Moore knew exactly what was missing. Now we hold our breath and hope that Alderson knows what’s missing from the Mets as well.

Thoughts from Joe D.

Not so sure that I agree here. By now you all know my feelings on the annual “Mets should follow this model or that model.” I detest that kind of thinking because it’s shallow and because every team deals with differing geographical, internal, and financial considerations that make all 30 teams unique. Andy Martino should be smart enough to know this.

But in this particular instance with Kansas City, I see nothing here, but a Cinderella story that turns into a pumpkin in 2015 when they won’t be able to keep all these players together because of limited payroll flexibility.

Dayton Moore saw a limited window of opportunity to go for it and he rolled the dice. Good for him, I hope it pays off.

But the Mets are trying to build something entirely different in Flushing. Something bigger, better, brighter, based mostly on player development, and most importantly something lasting too.

As for Alderson, if he gets an offer that lands us a true difference maker and it requires a young arm, I have no problem with it.

But it’s on a case by case individual basis. No blank checks and it depends on who we get and who we give up. I certainly would never give up four players including two of my top three prospects for two years of a pitcher like James Shields. Or in contemporary context, Yoenis Cespedes or Jose Bautista.

As for Martino saying the Royals won the trade no matter what happens in the future? The guy’s insane in the membrane.

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How Alderson Stacks Up With Previous GM’s http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/how-alderson-stacks-up-with-previous-gms.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/how-alderson-stacks-up-with-previous-gms.html/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 11:00:40 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=168148 gary-carter-new-york-mets-1 - Copy

Within the next two weeks we’ll witness the same scene that gets played out every October. Amidst the spray of champagne and exuberant shouts, the commissioner will be standing on a stage presenting a trophy to the owner, manager and General Manager of the World Champions. Now, if the commissioner would instead be presenting a trophy to the executives that promised the brightest future, we’d see Sandy Alderson, Terry Collins and Fred Wilpon on that stage. But since it doesn’t work that way, we’ll have to wait.

Baseball always has been and always will be a business. It’s what have you done for me lately, not what will you do for me later.

Kirk Gibson guided his team to the playoffs in 2011, the same year he became Manager of the Year. Three years later, he was out of a job. Dusty Baker was dismissed by the Reds after he did get his team into the post-season, but management felt he should have taken them deeper.

In 1934, after hitting only 22 home runs and slugging only .537, what one journalist called “merely mortal” stats, Babe Ruth was traded to the Boston Braves. At age 39, Ty Cobb played in just 79 games. Although he hit .339, the Georgia Peach was not wanted by Detroit and signed with Philadelphia. At age 40, Cobb played in 133 games and batted .357. In 1965, the Cincinnati Reds believed that Frank Robinson was a “very old 30” and traded him to Baltimore. In 1966, that washed up player batted .316 with 49 HR and 122 RBI, leading the O’s to their first Championship. The GM who scooped up that old fogey was named Frank Cashen.

Since Baseball is a what have you done for me lately gig, now that our GM has 4 years under his belt, let’s look at what he’s done, not what he promises to do. And how he compares to previous Mets general managers.

We frequently hear the comparisons made between Cashen and Alderson. Cashen inherited a dysfunctional franchise without any bright stars on the horizon, one of the worst farm systems in the game, a weary and apathetic fan base. Upon joining the Mets, Cashen stated it would take 4 or 5 years to rebuild the team, but he promised a brighter future.

Many argue Alderson was dealt a similar hand. Personally, I’ve never felt that way. The 1979 Mets were far worse than the 2010 Mets. Cashen took over a team that finished 35 games back and won just 63 games. Alderson took over a team that finished 18 GB and had 79 wins.

But let’s look deeper at the Cashen/Alderson comparison.

By the time Cashen was hired, pitchers and catchers were arriving for spring training in 1980. The team was already set so there was no flexibility or time to do anything. The one substantial thing he did do that first year came months later, selecting a kid in the draft named Darryl Strawberry. In 1981, the seemingly unavoidable strike lingered in the air all year, handcuffing all general managers, including Cashen.

Dave Kingman (27)

Cashen did realize, however, that he needed to increase interest in the team. If he could get more fans to come out to Flushing it would give him more financial maneuverability. 1981 saw the arrival of fan favorite Dave Kingman followed the next year by Reds slugger George Foster.

History shows that their acquisitions had no bearing overall in the wins column. It did, however, have fans coming back to Shea and tuning in to WOR. Even if the Mets were losing by 4, 5 or 6 runs—something that happened a lot—by acquiring two of the biggest HR hitters in the league, the Mets always had the potential to get back into the game. It also sent a message to the fans. Ratings increased as did attendance.

In 1983, Cashen undid the darkest day in Mets history by reacquiring Tom Seaver. And although The Franchise was beyond his prime, seeing #41 on the mound at Shea gave us a reason to take in a game in Flushing. That same year, Cashen also traded for former MVP and proven winner Keith Hernandez. One month later, that Strawberry kid? Less than three years since he was selected out of Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles, he would make his major league debut.

Frank Cashen

In 1984, led by Strawberry, Hernandez, another high school kid drafted two years earlier named Dwight Gooden, a young righty acquired from Texas named Ron Darling, and a newly promoted minor league manager named Davey Johnson, Cashen’s prediction came true. The 1984 club tallied 90 wins, the highest since 1969. Cashen’s Mets were in a pennant race for the first time in nearly a decade.

After 4 years, Cashen’s work paid off, his prediction came to fruition and his promise to the fans was fulfilled.

After 4 years, Alderson continues speaking about the future and making promises.

I decided to research deeper and see how our current GM stacks up against his predecessors. The results were rather disheartening.

Since 1970, the Mets have had seven primary general managers: Bob Scheffing, Joe McDonald, Frank Cashen, Joe McIlvane, Steve Phillips, Omar Minaya and Alderson. I’ve omitted Jim Duquette and Al Harazin since their tenures were less than two years. (You know, small sample sizes.)

bob scheffing (8)

Scheffing’s last year as GM, 1974, the Mets won 71 games. He was replaced by Joe McDonald who surpassed that amount his first year with 82 wins.

McDonald’s last year as GM, 1979, the Mets won 63 games. He was replaced by Frank Cashen who surpassed that amount in his first year with 67 wins.

Cashen’s last year as GM, 1991, the Mets won 77 games. After one year of Al Harazin, Joe McIlvane took over. Although the ’94 season was cut short, McIlvane was on pace to win 79 games, surpassing Cashen’s total in his second season.

McIlvane’s last year as GM, 1997, the Mets won 88 games. He was replaced by Steve Phillips who surpassed that amount in his second season with 97 wins.

Phillip’s last year as GM, 2003, the Mets won 66 games. He was replaced by Omar Minaya who surpassed that amount in his first season with 71 wins.

Minaya’s last year as GM, 2010, the Mets won 79 games. He was replaced by Sandy Alderson. Alderson still has NOT surpassed that mark.

In other words, Sandy Alderson stands alone as our only GM who has never won more games in a season than the GM he replaced. McDonald, Cashen and Minaya claimed more victories in their very first year at the helm, while Phillips and McIlvane did it in their second. In four years, Alderson still has not topped the final year of his predecessor.

sandy alderson winter meetings

With 2014 now in the books, Alderson has joined Joe McIlvane as the only GM with four consecutive losing seasons. If the Mets finish below .500 next year, Sandy will tie George Weiss (1962-1966) as the only GM with five straight sub-500 finishes. Although unlike Weiss, nobody will ever refer to Sandy’s Mets teams as Lovable Losers.

It isn’t just about how Sandy stacks up with his Mets predecessors, he needs to start winning for the sake of his own legacy. He hasn’t had a winning season since 1992, and 2014 was his ninth consecutive losing season as a general manager. He’s only had five winning seasons in 19 as a GM, and all of those were with Oakland when they were swimming in mega money

Perhaps 2015 will be the season when everything clicks for Sandy and his master plan will begin to take hold. Perhaps the Mets will overtake the Washington Nationals and the rest of the division to become a dominant force in the NL for the rest of the decade.

However, while Sandy Alderson continues to make promises, albeit with an occasional good joke or sound byte thrown in, results have yet to materialize on the field. And in that regard and through his first four years, what’s he done for us lately? Not much. Hopefully, that changes in 2015. Lets Go Mets.

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Should Mets Pursue Nick Markakis? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/should-mets-pursue-nick-markakis.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/should-mets-pursue-nick-markakis.html/#comments Sun, 19 Oct 2014 12:30:03 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=168243 markakis

Devin asks…

What do you think about signing Nick Markakis for the outfield? I know we’re not signing anyone big, but he shouldn’t cost that much.

Joe D. replies…

First of all, I’m not entirely sure that Markakis will hit free agency. Sure his $17.5 million option was declined by the Orioles, but he’s very popular with the fans and a few Baltimore writers think the two sides are busy working out a new deal.

I’m betting he’ll get something in the range of three years and $30 million whether it’s with the O’s or if he does hit free agency. In my opinion, Markakis’ market will plummet if the O’s make him a qualifying offer. Him and his agent have to know that.

Markakis turns 31 next month and he’s a decent ballplayer who can get on base, doesn’t strikeout a lot, passable on defense, and he’s intense. However he has no speed to speak of, and the last time he topped 15 home runs was six years ago.

Call me crazy, but I’d bet we can get better production from Matt den Dekker and a right-handed platoon mate. Oh and did I mention MDD is five years younger and had a higher on-base than Markakis? Small sample size yes, but is Markakis really worth $10 million a year more than den Dekker? And please consider the huge disparity on defense and speed…

I don’t get the fascination with Markakis. He’s not a difference maker and he’ll get too much money for what I think is a pedestrian skill set that will only decline from this point on.

Thanks and keep those questions coming in.

ask mmo 2

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MMO Mailbag: Adding A Big Power Bat This Offseason http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/mmo-mailbag-adding-a-big-power-bat-this-offseason.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/mmo-mailbag-adding-a-big-power-bat-this-offseason.html/#comments Sun, 19 Oct 2014 11:00:30 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=168195 matt kemp

Stephen H. asks…

Joe, why are you always so against the Mets adding a big power hitter in the outfield? This team needs to score a lot more runs and a Matt Kemp,  Jose Bautista or a Nelson Cruz could be the one piece this team needs to get us into the postseason. Imagine if we had one of them this season instead of Chris Young who was a complete waste of money? I usually agree with you but lately you’re always knocking down any suggestions to do what it takes to add that big bat this team desperately needs. Please reply back.

Joe D. replies…

Actually there is one slugger I’d love to see the Mets go after and that’s Yasmani Tomas, so it’s not entirely true that I’m against adding a big bat. What I am against is going after players like the ones you mentioned. I am tired of continuously giving up draft picks, top prospects and huge amounts of money for players whose best seasons are behind them. I’m tired of the Mets getting stuck paying these players exorbitant sums of money and in return getting the worst seasons of their careers instead of their best. This is why I was against the Curtis Granderson deal last season.

In the case of Tomas I’m more open because one – we don’t have to give up any prospects to get him, two – we don’t forfeit a first round pick, and three – he’s only 24 years old. A team in a market as big as New York shouldn’t be on the sidelines for a young talent like this who could fill several needs. But it’s not happening, so enough on him.

While in the right circumstances it would be nice, I don’t agree that we need a 30-homer bat to get into the postseason in 2015.

I’m impressed by the Kansas City Royals and how they’ve come as far as they have while hitting the fewest home runs in the majors and being the only team with less than a hundred longballs this season.

The Mets hit 30 more home runs than the Royals this season, and yet Kansas City scored far more runs and had the higher slugging percentage. They also had 279 fewer strikeouts than the Mets and therein lies the big problem.

As I stressed on Friday, we need to make more contact. We need to reduce these alarmingly high strikeouts and put the ball in play. We leave too many runners on base and suffer from a severe lack productive outs. Putting balls in play puts pressure on the opposing team’s defense and advances runners.

This isn’t to say that power isn’t important, only that it isn’t as vital as everyone is making it out to be. Hopefully the new hitting coach can get this team back to basics and the Mets can again start using contact and speed to manufacture more runs. 

ask mmo 2

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Miracle Mets Still A Sore Spot For Frank Robinson http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/miracle-mets-still-a-sore-spot-for-frank-robinson.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/miracle-mets-still-a-sore-spot-for-frank-robinson.html/#comments Sun, 19 Oct 2014 04:31:11 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=168212 gal-shea-seaver-8-jpg

“It’s always good planning to have a baseball in the dugout with shoe polish on it, just in case.”

That is the expression coined following the infamous Shoe Polish incident, when in Game 5 of the 1969 World Series, Cleon Jones hit the deck to evade a Dave McNally pitch that skidded into the Mets dugout, only to be retrieved by Mets skipper Gil Hodges to reveal a smudge of shoe polish, awarding Jones first base. The next batter Donn Clendenon would smash a two-run homer leading to a Mets victory and eventually winning their first World Series title in franchise history.

The incident capped off one of most incredible World Series upsets in baseball history. The Miracle Mets, more commonly known as the “Lovable Losers” since their inception, needed just five games to best Earl Weaver‘s 109-win Baltimore Orioles and become champions.

I spoke to one of those mighty 1969 Orioles about this controversial moment in Mets history when I was covering the MLB Draft for MMO. Hall of Famer Frank Robinson did not hesitate to speak his mind on the subject when I broached it with him.

“It had to be a trick,” said Robinson. “People forget the length of time that ball went into the dugout before Gil Hodges brought it out to show it to the umpire.”

“That ball didn’t go into the dugout with black shoe polish on it, but it came out with black shoe polish on it,” he said.

Several different Met accounts have come out over the years including Ron Swoboda claiming that the pitch hit an open bag of balls, spilling identical baseballs all over the dugout, one of which Gil picked up that had a black mark on it.

Of the most recent claims was Jerry Koosman, who in 2009 stated that Hodges instructed him to rub the ball on his shoe, however neither accounts put to rest whether the pitch actually hit Jones, a truth that will likely never be known for sure.

FrankRobinson_display_image

Although even if Jones wasn’t awarded first base in Game 5, Robinson doesn’t believe it would have made all that great of a difference in the outcome of the game or the series.

“The Mets deserved to win, they did what they had to to win,” said Robinson. “I still watch it on classic sports and I still don’t believe we lost.”

Like Robinson, many were in shock at the fact that the lowly New York Mets, just seven years into existence, stood atop the baseball world. After their improbable comeback to beat out the Chicago Cubs for the division crown, they had an even greater upset of the Orioles and the ‘Bird’s Big Four’ in stunning fashion. Robinson recalls what he found most impressive about the Mets in that series.

“They got contributions from everybody, the little guys we used to call them, and they did what they had to do,” said Robinson almost begrudgingly. “They also had some great pitching.”

Despite his high praise of the team, it was clear that the Miracle Mets to this day are still not Robinson’s favorite subject as he brought the conversation of the Amazin’s to an abrupt close.

“That’s all I’ve got to say about ‘69.”

The legend of the 1969 Mets lives on to this day as one of the greatest Cinderella stories in the game’s history, who with the help of a little shoe-polished baseball, were able to put National League baseball in New York back on the map with their first World Series title.

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What Kind Of Free Agent Should Mets Sign? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/what-kind-of-free-agent-should-mets-sign.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/what-kind-of-free-agent-should-mets-sign.html/#comments Sun, 19 Oct 2014 02:24:29 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=167941 large_asdrubal-cabrera

Could The Mets Pursue Asdrubal Cabrera To Play Shortstop?

What was the best free agent deal the Mets ever pulled off? Unquestionably, it was Carlos Beltran. The uber-talented thoroughbred outfielder that the Mets used to have patrolling center field during much of the last decade….when he was healthy enough to play. Those Mets clubs of the 2000′s will go down in history as a monumentally under-achieving baseball franchise.

After all, they had the talent: Beltran, Wright, Reyes, Delgado, Alou, Pedro, Wagner. They spent money and lured many big names to come and play alongside Jose and David. But they always fell short, there were never enough complimentary players to help the stars carry the team. Corner outfield has been an absolute joke for a long time now. The Shawn Greens and Chris Youngs seem to keep on coming in a never ending conga-line of futility. Until this past season, the bullpen never had anyone beyond the closer and sometimes not even a viable one of those.

In the recent past, if any of their key players ever went down with an injury there was rarely anyone to replace them. Mets fans would agonize over those seemingly constant and lengthy DL stays by Beltran, Reyes, Pedro, Alou and Delgado. Having the big names is not always the answer.

Todd_Pratt

Winning a World Series is more often done by the little guys, the complimentary players. They may not be big name stars that make the fan base salivate, but if you have enough productive players on a given roster, you can win a championship anyway. Just ask Al Weis. Don’t remember the “Mighty Might”? How about “Sugar” Ray Knight? Too long ago? Todd Pratt…surely you remember “Tank”? (I know, they didn’t win a W.S. while he was coming off the bench for the Amazins, but it wasn’t his fault that they fell short.)

Let me bring up an example of the most recent Mets excursion into the world of free agency. Let’s step into the Wayback Machine, and join me as we travel all the way back to a year ago. Remember when they signed a power-hitting outfielder with upside, who is in the prime of his career? Yes I’m referring to Curtis Granderson….who sure doesn’t seem so grand to me.

Now they have an elephant in the corner (of the outfield). A pig-in-a-poke, a $15 million dollar a year non-contributor to the everyday lineup through the 2017 season. We were so happy to be rid of Jason Bay‘s contract, but then go right out and replace it with a similar 4-year deal for the Grandy-Man as soon as we have some money to spend.

I know many of the glass-half-full fans out there are burning at those last few remarks. You are thinking to yourself that Granderson may very well have a renaissance season in 2015, and he may. You are hoping he is poised to have a huge year just like in his Bronx heyday. So let me put it a different way because in respects to this guy I am a glass-half-empty type, even if they are moving in the fences mostly for his sake.

I think back to the free agents that were signed by past Met teams to be the ‘savior’, guys like: George Foster, Pedro Martinez and the aforementioned Beltran. It didn’t work, it rarely does.

But it’s too late for that. With the Mets now stuck in a Granderson gamble, the question is: do they have a reliable starting outfielder who will produce at  level commensurate with his huge annual outlay? It’s anyone’s guess but as a Mets fan I hate to be in that situation.

How many more times are the Mets going to go down the same path that got them to where they were the last few seasons?

I know it’s not the most popular sentiment among Mets fans who have suffered mightily, and who long to have a team they can take pride in. But patience right now will pay dividends. Within two years the Mets will have a wealth of young and talented players competing for major league opportunities.

kevin plaweckiPlayers like Brandon Nimmo, Kevin Plawecki, Michael Conforto, and Steven Matz, just to name a few. High-round draft picks, players with immense upside and talent, players who will make a difference.

Sure the Mets can afford to trade young talent to acquire some more advanced young talent, but there is no need to make a huge splash, or overpay. This is where “smarts” will prevail, and a conservative approach will serve Met interests better.

Shortstop and corner outfield remain the key right now. But with their obvious desire to explore trades for Daniel Murphy and their ability to move an established starting pitcher this winter, the Mets can upgrade one or both spots without necessarily trading any prospects, or signing a big time free agent.

When can you remember the Mets having a solid big league starting pitcher and an All-Star second-baseman that they head into the hot-stove season looking to trade for help elsewhere? I believe this is a first in that regard. So we need to sit back, relax, and see how this thing plays out.

As far as free agents are concerned, I like the complementary types right now. The lunch-box guys, the grinders, the over-achievers. Experienced players, but the type that are aiming to prove that they have something left in the tank. Low risk, high reward players. This may not be sexy, but it is smart. And where building a World Series winner is concerned, smart couldn’t hurt.

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How Valuable Is Juan Lagares? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/how-valuable-is-juan-lagares.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/how-valuable-is-juan-lagares.html/#comments Sun, 19 Oct 2014 02:00:54 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=167896 juan lagares scores b&w

Mark Simon of ESPN New York, does a very nice job of analyzing the first full season of center fielder Juan Lagares, who he says was arguably the Mets’ most valuable player or at the very least one of their top three. I agree.

Offensively, Lagares’ progression was a product of two things: increasing his line-drive rate from 19 percent to 22 percent and spraying the ball across the whole field. But adds that there’s still plenty of room for growth and improvement, particularly with his strike zone judgement.

I was very excited with how Lagares progressed in 2014, and was most impressed to see him finally using his speed to steal 13 bases, 11 of them in the second half when he was finally given the green light.

Something I think gets very little attention is just how tremendous Lagares is against left-handed pitching, who he torched with a .349 batting average, .488 slugging percentage, and an incredible .875 OPS.

Defensively, what can you say about Lagares that hasn’t been said already. According to Simon, you could make the case that Lagares is the most impactful outfielder in the game, already amassing 56 Defensive Runs Saved in his first season and a half in the majors. Wow…

“Lagares has garnered such a good reputation that opponents are now afraid to challenge him. Even Ben Revere, one of the fastest players in the majors, declined to try to score from second base on a base hit to deep center.”

“For anyone who underestimates the value of his defense, just ask his starting pitchers what they think,” said one major league scout. “Anyone who doesn’t think he’s terrific isn’t paying attention.”

juan lagares

My favorite part of his article was when he and his colleagues tackled the issue of Lagares’ WAR as compared to MVP candidates Mike Trout and Andrew McCutchen. God knows that has been hotly debated on MMO many times.

Here is just a small sampling:

Jeff Gold: ”Lagares is one of the most unique players in baseball. He doesn’t hit for power, doesn’t walk, doesn’t steal that many bases (13), and yet he’s one of the best players in the game. His defense is a game-changer.”

Paul Hembekides: “Where does Juan Lagares rank among center fielders? Not in the top five [so not an All-Star], but still in the second tier of players above [or well above] league average. And in terms of all position players? I could name 50 I’d rather have than Juan Lagares.”

Mark Simon is one of the best baseball analysts and writers in the game today. And this particular piece is packed with so much more information that you should really read the full article here.

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Lucas Duda Was Among The Best Batting Cleanup http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/lucas-duda-was-among-the-best-batting-cleanup.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/lucas-duda-was-among-the-best-batting-cleanup.html/#comments Sat, 18 Oct 2014 17:50:17 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=167140 lucas duda hr

It’s been an exciting postseason so far, one packed with plenty of memorable moments including dramatic comebacks, some thrilling clutch at-bats, and no lack of phenomenal pitching performances. This is what baseball is all about. All of that said, I’m still bored out of my mind with the Mets on the sidelines for yet another October.

One of our readers brought something to my attention last week that got me thinking. He pointed out how well Lucas Duda stacked up against the cleanup hitters of the four teams who competed in the AL and NL Championship series. It was worth checking out.

Cleanup Hitter OPS (Min. 275 AB)

1. Lucas Duda, New York – .838

2. Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco – .798

3. Nelson Cruz, Baltimore – .781

4. Billy Butler, Kansas City – .758

5. Matt Adams, St. Louis – .726

Actually, Duda still stacks up very well when I included all ten postseason teams. I discovered that only Victor Martinez of the Detroit Tigers (.984) had a higher OPS. Adam LaRoche, Brandon Moss, Josh Hamilton, Adrian Gonzalez and Neil Walker were all behind the Mets’ cleanup hitter. Amazing…

One more shot before I go… Can you guess which three cleanup hitters posted the worst OPS in the majors? At a combined 2014 salary of $63.125 million dollars, they are Adam Dunn (.721), Ryan Howard (.695) and Mark Teixeira (.676). Unsurprisingly, neither of their teams made the postseason and were a combined 52 games out of first place. You read it here first!

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What Does Future Hold For Matt den Dekker? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/featured-post-what-does-future-hold-for-matt-den-dekker.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/featured-post-what-does-future-hold-for-matt-den-dekker.html/#comments Fri, 17 Oct 2014 16:52:17 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=167831 matt den dekker

For most of the summer and into the off-season speculation among fans has raged that the hot stove priorities for the Mets should be to go outside the organization to procure a power hitting corner outfielder and a shortstop.  With a plethora of starting pitchers and a young and dynamic evolving bullpen, many Met fans believe their team is positioned to make some genuine progress should they add the offensive support the line-up needs.

With our abundance of pitching perhaps the Mets should steal a page from the Kansas City Royals and focus on building the positional side of their roster around defense and speed.  After all, it costs far less paying for speed and defense than power. Everyone understands when it comes to available spending resources, the Mets have very little if any wiggle room.

If defense and speed were to legitimately become deciding factors in the decision making process, perhaps Mets management needn’t look any further than the current 40-man roster for one of the answers – at least where the outfield is concerned. Enter Matt den Dekker.

Speculation suggested den Dekker’s elevation from Las Vegas to Flushing during the final two months of the season was a de facto audition of sorts and if that was indeed the truth, from my point of view he came away this fall with a passing grade.

In evaluating Matt’s season, it’s not enough to simply examine his total offensive stat line. His time in New York came in two shifts, the first an underwhelming stay at Citi Field, and the second an almost complete turnaround from his early season profile.

In fact, it was far more than stats that leave me feeling positive about den Dekker. He was a changed baseball player during his second act in Flushing this summer and it bears a closer examination.

After the 26 year old’s early season meltdown with the big club, Met brass informed their defensively gifted outfielder that he needed to go back to Vegas and work on his batting approach. The Mets specifically wanted him to cut back on his high strikeout rate and concentrate on making more contact in the batter’s box.

Den Dekker took that message to heart. When he returned to Citi Field in early August after tearing up the Pacific Coast League, the Fort Lauderdale native sported an entirely different batting style and batting stance that was difficult to overlook. His shortened swing and brand new batting philosophy made for some interesting chatter during Mets broadcasts as he made quite an impression on Keith Hernandez, Gary Cohen and Ron Darling. “If he remains dedicated to this new approach, I see great things for this young man,” Hernandez said. “It’s a remarkable transformation,” added Cohen.

MLB: Spring Training-New York Mets at Miami Marlins

The new and improved Matt den Dekker was impressing both teammates and Mets brass with what looked like an entirely new skillset and lot’s of offensive promise to go with it. Such an immediate change is not an easy thing for a professional athlete to do, but it speaks volumes about the intangibles and the mental toughness that Matt brings to the table for the Mets.

For his entire baseball career from college through the minor leagues and now for the Mets, den Dekker has always needed time to acclimate to his baseball surroundings as he advanced to a higher level. He hit only .234 as a freshman in college, but rebounded to bat .333 with a .926 OPS in his sophomore season. And when the Mets selected him in the 5th round of the 2010 draft, he batted a college-high .352 with a .434 on-base-percentage, while smashing 13 home runs and knocking home 49 RBI’s as a senior.

Den Dekker continued to tear it up at Single-A Savannah (.346/.404/.471) upon signing with the Mets after completing his senior year of college. So impressive was his showing, that in 2011 the Mets had him start his first full season as a pro in High-A St. Lucie (.296/.362/.494) where he continued to rake. However, his performance cooled considerably after his promotion to Double-A Binghamton halfway through the season.

But, by the spring of 2012, den Dekker had figured it out in Binghamton batting .340 for the B-Mets before yet another promotion and a mid-season call-up to Triple-A Buffalo. Once again, Matt struggled during his transition and his batting average fell to .220 while at Buffalo.

Once again, Matt showed that same bounce back capability and in an injury shortened 2013 season at Triple-A Las Vegas, he batted .296/.366/.486. In 2014, he owned the PCL, batting .335 (not enough plate appearances to qualify for batting crown) with a .947 OPS.

That same pattern of needing time to acclimate himself at a higher level was on full display this year at Citi Field. MDD I paled in comparison to MDD II.

Stint 1 – .156 AVG, .224 OBP, .424 OPS, 4  BB, 13 K, 49 PA.

Stint 2 – .289 AVG, .392 OBP, .766 OPS, 17 BB, 21 K, 125 PA.

And Matt was just warming up as the season ended. He hit .245 in August with a .351 OBP, but was sizzling hot in September, batting .328 with an impressive .426 OBP.

Adding to the makeover was the unprecedented plate discipline den Dekker displayed in the batter’s box his second time around, something we haven’t really seen at any point throughout his baseball career.

Adding to his value is the possibility he might solve the Mets desperate need for a lead-off hitter. Perhaps sensing the Mets’ need for help at the top of the batting order, Las Vegas manager Wally Backman kept batting him more and more in the leadoff spot during his time in Triple-A last year. MDD didn’t disappoint batting .354 in 212 at-bats atop the 51’s lineup with a .434 on-base-percentage and .571 slugging percentage. In a very small sample size, he hit .313 (15-48) at the top of the batting order for the Mets. In the 32 games he started in August and September for the Mets, the outfielder got on base in 27 of them. 

It would be hard to argue with the fact that Matt den Dekker brings an incredible defensive prowess to the team, but he also has great speed and strong base running instincts which also boost his value as a potential leadoff man. He is a dynamic baseball player who brings an aggressive, full throttle mindset to the team.

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