Mets Merized Online » Baseball Thoughts http://metsmerizedonline.com Fri, 03 Jul 2015 21:48:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.8 Justin Turner: The One That Got Away http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/06/justin-turner-the-one-that-got-away.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/06/justin-turner-the-one-that-got-away.html/#comments Sat, 27 Jun 2015 15:36:54 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=185559 WHITE SOX VS DODGERS

On December 2nd, 2013 the Mets made a decision that looms large on their current roster when they decided to non-tender Justin Turner.

At the time, Turner was coming off arguably his most productive season as he set a career high in WAR at 0.8 and OPS+ at 100 despite getting only 200 at-bats while playing seven different positions.

The move to cut a valuable utility infielder who was due to make less than $1 million through arbitration was a shock to fans, Mets beat writers, and even Turner as well who loved  being with the team and had developed a special relationship with the fan base.

“That caught me off guard. It was something I wasn’t expecting. I’ll tell you what, that was probably the worst offseason I’ve had – not knowing where or if I was going to be playing the next year. That was hard.”

The reasoning behind a seemingly unreasonable move was that Turner’s propensity for not running balls out hard enough had irked the Mets front office.

But the move read more like a team not wanting to pay a backup infielder more than the league minimum.

Since leaving the Mets and signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Turner has shown the propensity to hit the long ball (17 homeruns in 458 at bats) and the ability to hit in big spots, batting .419 in 14′ and .364 this season with runners in scoring position, something the Mets have struggled with over that span.

Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire told reporters on Thursday that Turner has emerged as ” one of our MVPs last year, if not the MVP,” and that his infectious enthusiasm for the game makes everyone around him better.

“Thank you, New York Mets, for letting him go,” said McGwire after Turner’s game winning homer against the Cubs.

“It’s nice to be on a good team that’s motivated by winning from the top on down and is willing to do whatever it takes to get the pieces to win,” says Turner who declined to draw a comparison to the Mets. “That chapter’s closed.”

The numbers tell the real story.

Since 2014, Justin Turner is batting .331 with a .398 on-base and .522 slugging percentage, while belting 17 home runs and amassing a 7.2 WAR.

During that same span, Mets third basemen combined have produced a .257/.319/.362 slash with just a 2.9 WAR.

Turner has taken over as the Dodgers’ number three hitter, and has homered five times in his last ten games. Nobody is wondering anymore if his power and run production last season was a fluke.

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Sometimes There IS Crying in Baseball http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/06/sometimes-there-is-crying-in-baseball.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/06/sometimes-there-is-crying-in-baseball.html/#comments Sun, 21 Jun 2015 05:00:41 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=184552 1434855887000

I looked up at my parents. My mom gripped my dad’s arm, patting his back lovingly. My dad stood, gazing down, dabbing his eyes. My family made the somber journey to the cemetery on Long Island a few times during the year, usually around the Jewish holidays and always on Father’s Day.

I followed my father’s sight-line, reading the inscription on the marble gravestones. I had no memory of my grandfather who died when I was just three, and only a fleeting remembrance of my aunt, my dad’s sister, who died a year later. I studied the dates. My grandfather lived until he was 67. Really old. My aunt succumbed to cancer at age 39. To a boy of 7, 8, and 9, even 39 seemed old.

My mom would sob. My dad would weep. I wanted to be an adult, a grown-up. I tried to cry. I even tried to fake it once or twice. But the tears wouldn’t come. To me, these people we were paying our respects to were little more than names and dates. And with the innocence, self-centeredness or perhaps naiveté of a young boy, I didn’t make the connection. I was unable to wrap my child’s mind around the concept that the man resting in peace was to my dad the same as my dad was to me.

Unable to locate the grief my dad felt, I sauntered off to find three stones—two larger ones for my parents, a pebble for me—to place atop the headstone. At least I could feel like I was doing something beneficial. I couldn’t cry so at least I could scour the grounds for rocks.

There are those times in one’s life when we remember precisely where we were and what we were doing. On a Tuesday morning in 2001, my wife crawled out of bed to answer the ringing phone. She returned a moment later, telling me her mom called and advised her a plane flew into one of the Twin Towers.

On April 19, 1995, I was at work when a colleague of mine began freaking out. She was from Oklahoma City and apparently a bomb had destroyed a building, killing and injuring hundreds in her hometown.

John Lennon

On Monday night, December 8, 1980, my mom was reading in bed. My dad and I were watching the local news waiting for the sports, hoping the Mets did something. After the break, Roland Smith appeared on the screen and informed his viewers of the big breaking news: Former Beatle John Lennon had been shot on the upper west side.

I thought nothing of it, told myself it was just a grazing. Surely, someone of John Lennon’s status couldn’t die. That only happened to us common folk…or to people who died that I had no memory of.

Just a few months later I picked up the ringing telephone, back when they were called telephones, not landlines. My grandmother was stammering, asking to speak with my mom. Something about President Reagan getting shot. It was the only time I ever heard my grandma cry.

Wednesday, June 15, 1977 is a day when all Mets fans remember exactly what they were doing.

It was almost 9:00 pm. My dad was watching Baa Baa Black Sheep, a show about a USMC aviator during WWII starring the very manly Robert Conrad. I meandered off to my bedroom and turned on the little 13 inch b&w RCA my uncle had given me. I adjusted the rabbit ears and prepared to watch Charlie’s Angels. I was a few months shy of turning 12 and was starting to realize that maybe girls weren’t so icky after all.

I’m not sure who it was or the exact words the sportscaster said. But the message was irrefutable. I raced from my room and shouted, “Dad, dad, we traded Seaver!”

My dad arched an eyebrow at me, then glimpsed my mom. I was a practical joker, a smart-ass even back then. But even I wouldn’t stoop to that level and speak such sacrilege. “They didn’t trade Seaver,” my dad smirked. “Wouldja stop.”

“That’s what they said.” I deflected blame, pointing down the hallway as if my dad had forgotten where my bedroom was located.

He stared at me, did a double-take at my mom. “Oh, please, they wouldn’t trade…” He didn’t finish the sentence. He couldn’t. His mind quickly flashed back on the recent turmoil between The Franchise and team execs. He looked at me again and asked haltingly, “Seaver?”

I pointed down the hallway a second time. “Yep.”

Always a die-hard Mets fan, always looking for a bright spot, and always hoping for a better tomorrow, he asked half-heartedly, “Who’d we get?”

I shrugged.

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Attempting to come to terms with the unthinkable, with trying to imagine a staff without Seaver, the man who guided the Mets to two pennants, one World Series, countless fond memories, and would probably be enshrined in the Hall of Fame one day, the man who would now look silly wearing a Reds jersey, the man who was the face of the 15 year-old organization, my dad shot glances between my mom and I.

Realizing I was not simply messing with my old man, my dad let loose. He stormed across the living room, angrily turned off the meaningless TV show and grabbed his Marlboro’s. I had to cover my ears during portions of those George Carlin specials on HBO, had to cover my eyes if a sex scene came on during some movie and never heard my dad use the F-word. Until June 15, 1977.

To this prepubescent boy, I recognized some things were as important in life as Baseball. I left my dad behind to deal with what the Seaver-less Mets would look like and returned to my room to look at Jaclyn Smith.

It was during the first commercial break when I remembered the rest of the story. I ran out of my room. “Hey, dad,” I began. “They traded Kingman, too.” I paused, paralyzed by fear. A feeling came over me I’d never felt before. A feeling I didn’t like.

My mom had her arm draped over my dad’s shoulders, her trembling hand tightly clutching his. There was a quiver in her words. “Are you having chest pains? Any shooting pain in your arm? Can you breathe?”

My dad was piggybacking cigarettes. The ash tray before him more filled than it had been twenty minutes ago. His right hand held a cigarette, his left hand pressed over his heart. With the speed of a Tom Seaver fastball, the F-word flew from my dad’s mouth, using it in conjunction with M. Donald Grant and Dick Young. “If Joan Payson was still alive, this wouldn’t have happened.”

My mom repeated her questions.

In tunnel vision, I watched the terrifying scene playing out before me. My lips became parched. My throat desert dry. I couldn’t speak and felt my wobbly legs carry me over to the sofa. I was 11 years old. My dad was almost 35. Pretty old…

I looked at my dad. But I thought of my grandfather on Long Island. I made the connection.

The pain in his chest passed. The pain of losing Tom Seaver not so much.

Four days later, June 19, was Father’s Day. We made our customary pilgrimage to the cemetery. I looked up at my parents. My mom gripped my dad’s arm, patting his back lovingly. My dad stood, gazing down, dabbing at his eyes. I looked at my dad—a little longer than usual. My eyes found their way to the name on the headstone. I swallowed down the rising lump in my throat. This time I didn’t need to fake the tears.

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Featured Post: Let’s Not Stop At Competitive, Let’s Build A Mets Dynasty http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/06/featured-post-lets-not-stop-at-competitive-lets-build-a-mets-dynasty.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/06/featured-post-lets-not-stop-at-competitive-lets-build-a-mets-dynasty.html/#comments Tue, 09 Jun 2015 16:24:49 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=183729 kevin plawecki matt harvey

The most dominant pitchers in the game over the last eight to ten years are Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, David Price and Max Scherzer.

Not one of them has a ring.

The winningest manager ever, Connie Mack, believed pitching accounts for “75 to 90%” of Baseball. This is generally accepted as gospel. But is it true?

What differentiates the National Pastime from the rest of the field is that Baseball truly is a team sport. In Basketball, the ball can be passed to Michael Jordan over and over and over and over. Wayne Gretzky can take 12 shots on goal in 60 minutes. But Mike Trout will only dig in at home four times tonight.

Granted, solid pitching is essential. But someone needs to catch the ball. Someone needs to score a run. The execution of basic fundamentals is crucial. Pitching by itself allows you to compete. Pitching by itself does not win championships.

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The four winningest pitchers in history—Cy Young, Walter Johnson, Grover Cleveland Alexander and Christy Mathewson–tallied up nearly 1,700 victories between them. However, they combined for just five championships.

One can simply look at Walter Johnson. Winner of 417 games, 110 of which were shutouts, the larger-than-life legend is widely regarded as the greatest mortal to ever take the mound. He retired with a mind-boggling 2.17 ERA.

Think about that for a moment. He allowed just over two runs a game… for 21 years!!! And yet, he lost 279 times. True, starters pitched more in the Dead Ball era, but the most celebrated hurler in history averaged 13 losses per season.

Those familiar with my articles are fully aware of my feelings toward Sandy Alderson. I’ve been harsh, critical and abrasive toward the Mets GM. Oh, if you could only see some of the articles I’ve written that never got posted by Joe D.

However, I gotta tip my hat to Sandy. The Mets arguably have the most dominant young pitching staff in Baseball. For forty years we’ve been subjected to many projections and comps of the next Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman or Jon Matlack only to be letdown with the likes of Generation K, Mike Pelfrey and a host of other disappointments.

But finally, it’s on Sandy Alderson’s watch that our latest top pitching prospects, complete with all the hype, are actually coming up and meeting and exceeding expectations. The Mets now have themselves a rotation packed with elite young power arms. Now the Mets can definitely compete with the best of them. But the question remains, can they win?

As of this writing, the Mets lead the National League in WHIP, K/BB and BB/9, while ranking 4th in ERA, Opposing Batting Average and Strikeouts.

However on the other side of the ledger, the Mets are at or near the bottom in Batting Average, On-Base, Slugging, Runs Scored, RBIs and Hits.

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Those of us old enough to remember the Mets of the early seventies always smile fondly when hearkening back to those days. Our Big Three were unmatched. And when Nolan Ryan was traded, he was replaced by Rookie of the Year Jon Matlack. But let’s face facts.

From 1969 through 1976, the Mets won 2 pennants and 1 World Series in that eight year span. True, I think most fans would be happy if we were to win 2 pennants and 1 World Series between now and 2022. However, those post-seasons back then did not make us a dynasty.

We weren’t exactly the Yankees of the late ‘90s winning 4 championships in 5 years. Or the Oakland A’s from 72-74. The Mets in those days were good, solid. But dominant? No. No one ever called us The Big Blue and Orange Machine.

Despite those ‘glory days’ the Mets averaged just under 84 wins per season. If you take out 1969, from that eight year span, the Mets, despite a solid rotation that ranked among the top in ERA, WHIP and Strikeouts, were basically a 500 club. (570-563.)

Speaking of 69, obviously if it wasn’t for Seaver’s 25 Wins, Koosman’s performance in the final two months, Tug McGraw’s 2.24 ERA out of the bullpen, and big contributions from oft-forgotten players like Jim McAndrew, Cal Koonce and Jack DiLauro (who???) we’d never have gotten to the post-season.

But when you think back to the 1969 Fall Classic, what are the most memorable images? There not of pitching performances. Instead we think of a few great catches by two of our outfielders, a hit batsmen, and a back-up catcher laying down a bunt.

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Our pitching that season got us in the pennant race. But it was timely hitting, execution and glove work that —combined with that pitching – got us to the mountaintop.

In the 7-game 1973 World Series our pitchers allowed just 21 runs. We lost.

In the 7-game 1986 World Series our pitchers allowed 27 runs. We won.

But one doesn’t need to look at stats from long ago.

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At the risk of everyone wanting to punch me in the nose, let’s tip our hat to the Atlanta Braves.

That Braves staff was not only the most impressive of this generation, but the point can be made they were possibly one of the best ever. Off the top of my head, I can’t recall a staff that boasted not one, not two, but three Hall of Famers. A starting staff mind you that was also managed by a future Hall of Fame skipper.

Yet, despite throwing Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz out there in succession, the Braves seemingly never could win a short series. Despite their dominance during the season, these formidable pitchers only won the World Series once.

If there was any staff in the last twenty five years worthy of being mentioned in the same sentence, you’d have to look to the opposite coast. Oakland’s triad of Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito were a scaled-down AL version of what the Braves had. Yet the A’s, while always able to compete, never even reached the World Series.

One doesn’t need to look back 100 years to The Big Train or almost 50 years to The Franchise or even 15 years to The Rocket. Just look back eight months.

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If good pitching wins, the Kansas City Royals would be defending champions. Last October, the Giants’ starters were downright awful. Three of them never made it through six innings. Jake Peavy averaged 3 IP in his two starts, Tim Hudson averaged 3 2/3 IP in his two and Ryan Vogelsong only recorded eight outs in his one start. There was no way this team should have won. Hell, with a performance like that, there was no way this team shouldn’t have been swept.

It took a Mathewson-ian effort by Madison Bumgarner — who threw more innings than the other three combined —along with key hits, solid fundamentals and stellar defense for Bruce Bochy’s club to counterbalance the pitiful efforts of his staff.

With a little over one third of the 2015 campaign in the books the Mets have definitely played well, better perhaps than many fans expected. Had you been told we’d be in first place on June 8, safe to say most fans would be dancing a jig across the Roosevelt Ave. Bridge.

The 1969 club was built around pitching AND defense. The 86 team had solid pitching and a potent batting order 1 through 7, as well as the perfect blend of young talent and veterans who knew how to win. The 2015 Mets have excellent pitching and…?

Do the Mets have the guns to compete? Absolutely. Will the Mets be in the pennant race and play meaningful games into September? Barring a rash of injuries, yes. But can we win based solely on just pitching alone?

I wonder. Based on history, it seems unlikely. Sandy needs to complement that great pitching with a productive and consistent offense. Let’s not just build a competitive team, let’s build the first ever Mets dynasty.

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No ‘Home’ For the Man with 660 Home Runs http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/05/no-home-for-the-man-with-660-home-runs.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/05/no-home-for-the-man-with-660-home-runs.html/#comments Tue, 05 May 2015 01:46:55 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=180761 alex rodriguez

Christmas 1980 was a few days away. As Americans anticipated the swearing in of President-Elect Ronald Reagan to end the malaise that had befallen the nation, and the entire world was still dealing with the assassination of John Lennon, my dad and I had our first father-and-son weekend getaway. Destination: Cooperstown.

Lake Otsego was completely frozen. Dead branches like skeletal arms veiled the road into town. When we entered the actual Hall itself I was awed by the sheer quietness of the grand room. For this was a shrine, a temple to the greatest men to ever walk onto a field. I’d finally get to see plaques of players I’d read about when I should have been doing homework. I sucked at math and was failing algebra. But I could tell you any guy’s batting average.

All generations were represented. Pitchers from The Dead Ball era like Walter Johnson and Cy Young were honored alongside sluggers from The Live Ball era such as Jimmie Foxx and Lou Gehrig. My dad ambled around, spending extra time at the plaques of his childhood heroes like Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella and his favorite Brooklyn player, the recently enshrined Duke Snider. I chuckled when he only gave a passing glance to Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford and other Yankees from the 1950’s.

“Dad, here’s Yogi,” I pointed out, referring to the Mets former manager.

“Yogi was good,” my dad conceded, “But he was no Campy.”

“You think the Mets will ever get any guys in here?” I whispered reverently.

Without hesitation, he answered. “Tom Seaver.”

“Cool.” I mulled that over, then asked, “You think Lee Mazzilli or Steve Henderson will make it?”

My dad arched a brow at me, probably wondering if I was really his child.

The players my father and grandfather saw as a boy were memorialized for all eternity. Eventually players I grew up watching would also be acknowledged. Guys like Willie Stargell, George Brett, Rod Carew—and yes, Tom Seaver.

Today there’s an entire generation of fans who will never get to experience that. Some of the best hitters they watched—Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Manny Ramirez—may possibly never be enshrined.

And perhaps no player typifies the ugliness of The Steroids Era more than Alex Rodriguez. Ironically, by tying Willie Mays on the all-time HR list he has only cemented his standing as the poster boy for everything wrong with baseball for a generation.

Babe Ruth hit for power and average but didn’t have the speed. Rickey Henderson had the speed but not the power. Mel Ott had the power but didn’t have the glove. Roberto Clemente had the glove, the arm and the average but not the power. Ernie Banks had the power and the glove but was a career .274 hitter.

willie mays_b3_600

Willie Mays did it all.

The Say Hey Kid scored over 2,000 runs and retired with a BA above .300. When Willie said goodbye to America in 1973, he was 6th in RBI’s (1 903), 3rd in HR’s (660) and 7th in hits (3,283). As if these stats aren’t impressive enough, one must remember Mays played during a time when stadiums were massive enough to warrant their own zip code.

Mays also stole 338 bases, an impressive total considering he hit in the middle of the batting order. His success rate on the base paths was 76.6%. His 12 Gold Gloves ties him with Clemente for the most by any outfielder. Again, an amazing accomplishment considering Willie played the bulk of his career in the blustery winds of Candlestick Park, perhaps the worst location ever for a stadium.

He won Rookie of the Year, two MVP’s and his 24 All-Star games ties him with Stan Musial and Hank Aaron for most midsummer classics. Despite these numbers, SF Chronicle journalist Harry Jupiter once wrote, “As a player, Willie Mays could never be captured by mere statistics.”

Willie is one of those players, along with Aaron and Sandy Koufax, who even the casual fan knows what number they wore.

There have been probably billions of photos capturing many of the National Pastime’s greatest moments. However, no image is more iconic than that of number 24 with his back to home plate, snagging a deep fly off the bat of Vic Wertz in the 1954 World Series. It’s an image so entrenched in our psyche that even today, more than 60 years later, whenever an outfielder makes an over-the-shoulder catch the announcer invokes the name Willie Mays.

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In the 1950’s, Mays frequently played stickball with kids in the shadows of the Polo Grounds. To this day, in the Bay Area, Mays is treated like royalty, more so than Tony Bennett or Joe Montana. Willie is the only ballplayer in history to be equally loved on two coasts three thousand miles apart.

Alex Rodriguez, like Mays, also played on two coasts. And that’s where the similarity ends.

Despite the fact A-Rod has now tied Willie in HR’s as well as passing him in doubles, RBI’s and Slugging, the adoration Mays experienced from New York to San Francisco is not something A-Rod experienced from Seattle to New York.

Over the last two decades there’ve been numerous players who can be considered black marks on Baseball. But A-Rod is unique. Barry Bonds is still appreciated in the Bay Area. Sammy Sosa is idolized in Chicago. Mark McGwire is loved in both STL and Oakland. But A-Rod? He’s burned bridges everywhere he’s played.

a_rod alex rodriguez

In Seattle, he was appreciated for being the quiet kid with great talent. After the 2000 season, however, he left behind an admiring public and went to Texas. Granted, who amongst us hasn’t taken a job for more money? But despite the fact his contract was the biggest in history, it was clear A-Rod’s decision was all about A-Rod. The Rangers were an awful team, losing 91 games and finishing more than 20 GB. However, Arlington is a hitter’s park. And while making more than a quarter billion dollars, he could also pad his stats. That’s exactly what he did.

In just 3 years with Texas, Rodriguez clobbered 156 HR’s, 24% of what Mays hit over his 22 year career. He racked up 395 RBI’s while compiling a .615 slugging percentage. Now that A-Rod had locked up the Hall of Fame, there was one thing missing from his resume. A ring.

The Rangers were looking to free themselves of A-Rod, and the man who wanted a Championship found himself playing for the most successful franchise in the history of American sports, a team that played in 6 of the previous 8 World Series. After his arrival, A-Rod’s Yankees would appear in the Fall Classic just once in the next 10 years

Early on we heard he needed to ‘earn his pinstripes.’ Despite being a Yankee for more than a decade, he never truly did. In 60 post-season games he’s averaged an insipid 238. Yankee fans are quick to cheer him when he does something good but equally quick to boo him when he doesn’t. He’s failed to win the hearts of fans the way Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Bernie Williams or even Aaron Boone did.

alex rodriguez a-rod

Despite his impressive career stats, through artificial means or not, you never heard him praised. I can’t recall anyone saying he was a good teammate. I don’t remember a rookie ever thanking A-Rod for helping with a flaw in his swing. No one has ever called him a ‘positive influence in the clubhouse.’ If anything, A-Rod’s behavior over the last several seasons, his smug denial of steroid use in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, has caused tenseness in the clubhouse. His off-the-field antics have overshadowed what transpired between the lines.

A-Rod being A-Rod.

Rodriguez has burned bridges from Seattle to Arlington. Ironically, even though he hasn’t vacated New York, he’s already burned that bridge as well. A new low even for him. Ownership has tried to rid themselves of A-Rod and the baggage that comes with him. The organization that spends money like there’s no tomorrow is refusing to pay his $6 million dollar bonus for tying Mays’ mark of 660. It’s difficult to imagine an Alex Rodriguez statue outside a stadium where he played. It’s even more difficult to picture him being immortalized in Monument Park next to Yankees like Mantle and DiMaggio and Mattingly, Yankees who DID NOT disgrace their uniform or the game.

We are generally a forgiving society. Twenty five years ago who would’ve believed Pete Rose would be taking baby steps toward inclusion in the Hall of Fame. Maybe twenty five years from now players from the steroid era will be considered.

Perhaps in 2040, some will make the trip from San Francisco to Cooperstown to honor Barry Bonds induction. People may don Cubs hat and cheer when Sammy Sosa steps to the podium. Yankee and Red Sox fans may stand side-by-side, simultaneously cheering Roger Clemens. And what about A-Rod? If he is one day inducted, would anyone even bother showing up.

In closing, the words of Ty Cobb seem fitting. Cobb was an avid racist and one of the most despised players in his day. But even he had a home and a loyal following in Detroit. In the twilight of his life with his heath failing, the 74 year-old Georgia Peach looked back on his career and said, “I wish I would’ve done things differently. I wish I would’ve had more friends.”

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MMO Game Recap: Mets 3, Marlins 1 http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/04/mmo-game-recap-mets-3-marlins-1.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/04/mmo-game-recap-mets-3-marlins-1.html/#comments Tue, 28 Apr 2015 01:59:00 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=180121 daniel Murphy

The Mets (15-5) pulled off a thrilling 3-1 road victory on Monday night against the Marlins (8-12), snapping Miami’s five-game winning streak. The game took one hour and 58 minutes.

Dillon Gee gave the Mets a terrific effort, tossing 7.2 innings of 1-run ball, allowing six hits while striking out three and walking none. Gee is extremely efficient, needing just 70 pitches (57 of which were strikes) to get through his outing.

Unfortunately for Gee, his counterpart was fantastic as well. Jarred Cosart held the Mets scoreless for eight innings, allowing just two hits (although he did walk three) and striking out two.

The majority of the game was uneventful, although the Mets might have had a chance in the sixth had a poor bunt attempt from Juan Lagares not turned into a double-play thanks to a great play by Marlins catcher JT Realmuto.

Gee cruised along until the bottom of the eighth. After getting the first two Marlins out, Gee surrendered a single to pinch-hitter Justin Bour. The lineup turned over for the third time around the batting order, and like clockwork, the Fish figured Gee out. Dee Gordon singled, putting the go-ahead run on second and prompting a visit from Dan Warthen, whose advice wasn’t good enough to stop Martin Prado from lining one into right-center for a base-hit that gave Miami a 1-0 lead and suddenly put Gee in position to lose the game. Looking to limit the damage, Terry Collins pulled Gee and brought in Carlos Torres. Torres threw one pitch, getting Giancarlo Stanton to pop out, and would eventually be named the winning pitcher for his efforts.

The Mets came up to bat against Steve Cishek in the top of the ninth with their backs against the wall. But as they have done many times in the past, the Mets rallied against the Marlins’ side-arming closer. Juan Lagares led off the inning and quickly fell behind 0-2, but fought his way back into the at-bat and eventually sent a hard shot to deep center. Marcell Ozuna took a terrible route to the ball and was unable to flag it down, allowing Lagares to coast into second with a leadoff double. Lucas Duda came up next and worked a walk, setting the table for Michael Cuddyer. But Cuddyer popped one up to right for the first out, bringing up Daniel Murphy, whose RBI double early in Sunday’s game had accounted for the most recent Mets run.

The 2014 All-Star came through, connecting for a three-run shot to right-center to put the Mets up 3-1 and give him a team-leading 14 RBI. Eric Campbell added to Cishek’s woes by doubling and sneakily swiping third, but the righty bounced back to fan Wilmer Flores and Kevin Plawecki to put out the fire.

Jeurys Familia came on to preserve the win for Gee Torres and got the job done, with some help from his always-reliable middle-infield defense. After Familia struck out Ozuna to begin the frame, Michael Morse sent one towards the whole on the right side. Murphy channeled his inner Dilson Herrera and made a phenomenal play, racing to cut the ball off and firing a spinning throw to nab the slow-footed Morse at first. With the Fish down to their last out, Realmuto grounded one up the middle, but Flores showed good range and cut the ball off before making the throw to end the ballgame.

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Daniel Murphy is a good player who belongs in the lineup. But if you’ve been listening to me, you already knew that.

On a serious note, I must say I was shocked by Murph’s homer. I’m confident in his abilities as a hitter, but he’s certainly not a power hitter. This wasn’t exactly a moonshot, it was an example of a line-drive-hitting approach paying off in spades. Murphy wasn’t swinging for the fences, but he picked a great time to really connect on one. And my suspicions that the Mets sit in a circle and read MMO aloud in the clubhouse before every game are growing stronger by the day. Murphy’s great play in the field at the end of the game was clearly made with you commenters in mind.

Gee was in rare form tonight. Not just for him— when was the last time a pitcher threw his 60th pitch in the eighth inning? He was absolutely motoring through the Marlins lineup in this one, pounding the zone, mixing his pitches, and avoiding mistakes. Unfortunately, his opposite number was outstanding as well, so Gee could not pick up a win. Torres really led us to victory though… what a great stat the Win is.

Are Gee’s late-outing struggles tied to fatigue or batter familiarity? It’s an interesting question, and as he certainly couldn’t have been tired with only 60-odd pitches in the eighth, today’s results seem to suggest the latter. But if that’s the case, how does he manage to give 5 or 6 solid innings a game? These hitters have all him before… do they forget what facing him is like between games?

That would have been a really tough one to lose, but the Mets hung in there and punched right back after falling behind. That is not a game we win in 2014. But this year is different. At least, it’s really starting to feel that way.

Up Next: The Mets will continue their series with the Marlins on Tuesday at 7:10 PM. Rafael Montero will make his first start of the season for the Mets, and he will be going up against David Phelps at Marlins Park.

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Opening Day From Verizon Suite http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/04/opening-day-from-the-verizon-suite.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/04/opening-day-from-the-verizon-suite.html/#comments Wed, 15 Apr 2015 10:00:15 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=179028 jacob degrom

It was an awesome experience to be able to take in the Mets opening day game on Monday against the Phillies from the Verizon Wireless Suite. We can’t thank the company enough for this awesome experience and opportunity to watch the game from such a unique perspective.

The Verizon suite is located just above the last row of the field level seats. Upon entering, I was greeted by a server who asked me what I would like to drink and insisted I get started on some finger foods that were set out as appetizers. Great food and a couple beers added to a fantastic experience.

One of the most unique parts of the day was being equipped with the brand new Ellipsis 8 tablet. I had little to no experience using any sort of tablet in my life so this truly felt like an innovative piece of technology in my hand. It has a clear, high definition display that is easy to navigate.

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The device was especially useful as a member of the media. It was extremely accessible especially in terms of monitoring and posting on social media, Instagram and Twitter especially. The Ellipsis also has a quality camera on it with a panorama option which made for some unique pictures.

I was speaking with other bloggers in the suite (this event was specifically targeted for bloggers) and we all agreed that our favorite quality about the tablet was that it was a perfect size. It was big enough where pictures seemed to be in a higher quality then on my computer or my iPhone.

The keyboard took some getting used to like any touch screen keyboard would of that size. I remember it took me some time to master the iPhone touch screen and now I would consider myself a very fast typer on it. I would imagine that with some practice, I would become more and more competent with the device. There was a certain level of autonomy I felt with this device. I was able to do other things like easily manage my fantasy baseball lineups, check Facebook posts and look things up on the Google Chrome browser. There is even an option to sync your Verizon cellphone with the tablet so you can receive and answer your text messages on it.

Obviously, the result was the biggest factor into my enjoyment of the game. It was a pitching duel between the reigning Rookie-Of-The-Year Jacob deGrom and the veteran Aaron Harang. DeGrom did not disappoint, pitching 6.1 innings with three strikeouts and no earned runs while earning the win. Both teams struggled offensively during the game.

I had an incredible angle for a couple plays involving Lucas Duda. The suite was lined up with home plate and first base. The first play was the laser that was hit. The batter who hit it escapes me and I want to say it was Chase Utley. Anyway, Duda took one step back and picked the hotshot that was hit at him and took it to the bag for the out. It got me thinking on Duda’s improvement as a player.

Sure, Duda earns his paycheck with his bat, clubbing 30 home runs a year ago. However, he has came a long way since the Mets traded Ike Davis and gave Duda the reigns permanently. I remember watching Davis flip into the stands a bunch and thought of him as a future gold glover. I won’t go as far as saying Duda will win that award, but he sure has improved and mostly looks so comfortable over there.

Second, Duda crushed a ball that tailed foul down the right field line. It went about 15 rows up in the second deck and was about 20 feet foul. This hit was just a monster and it sparked some electricity in the ballpark even though it was foul. It has seemed that the Mets haven’t had a real offensive star emerge ever since David Wright and Jose Reyes in the mid 2000′s. Duda seems to be breaking that trend and it seems that pitchers are taking notice. He is a feared hitter in the National League.

All in all, it was a fantastic day. There is no beer as refreshing as the one you’re drinking at a ballpark. The Mets took the victory behind a fantastic start. And I can’t thank Verizon enough for being incredible hosts and providing me with a fun and unique experience on Opening Day.

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MMO 2015 Season Preview: National League East http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/04/mmo-2015-season-preview-national-league-east.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/04/mmo-2015-season-preview-national-league-east.html/#comments Mon, 06 Apr 2015 15:24:36 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=178265 matt harvey

Philadelphia Phillies – 5th Place

Key additions: Aaron Harang, Chad Billingsley and Jeff Francoeur

Key subtractions: Jimmy Rollins, Marlon Byrd, Kyle Kendrick, and A.J. Burnett

Nobody’s failure makes me smile more than this team. To see Ruin Tomorrow Jr’s efforts here really have been a thing of beauty. Their most valuable commodity, Cole Hamels is still a member of this inevitable last place team. What are they waiting for?

This team is going nowhere, and they have a young arm. The only way this can get worse for Philadelphia is if Hamels goes down with an injury before they trade him. Mark my words, if Hamels does get hurt in a Phillies uniform, Tomorrow Jr will start to pack his bags.

The mere fact that Jonathan Papelbon is still on this roster is a huge failure in my mind. The guy couldn’t have been more clear that he wanted out, teams need a closer and they couldn’t get rid of him. Likely because of unrealistic demands.

Overall, for this team it’s all about whether they can dump players like Hamels, Howard, Utley, Papelbon and a few others onto others and what they get in return.

Their window has been slammed shut and yes, I’m gloating.

Atlanta Braves – 4th Place

Key additions: Shelby Miller, Nick Markakis, Jason Grilli, Jim Johnson, A.J. Pierzynski, Alberto Callaspo, Jace Peterson, Jonny Gomes, Eric Young Jr. and Manny Banuelos

Key subtractions: Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Evan Gattis, Emilio Bonacio, Ervin Santana, Aaron Harang, Jordan Walden, David Carpenter, and David Hale, Craig Kimbrel, Melvin Upton Jr.

Atlanta’s complete overhaul is quite interesting. I do believe Heyward is a player you build around, not trade away but I also understand why they felt they had to make the move.

I think a few Braves fans are buying into Eric Young Jr a little too much. He isn’t an everyday player, so if he is penciled in as one, then you have a problem.

Let’s talk about the good for a second. They have developed an infield core that showcases Christian Bethancourt, Freddie Freeman, and Andrelton Simmons. If Bethancourt can prove to be what Atlanta fans believe he can be, then the Braves have a very young, very capable infield core built.

Julio Teheran and Mike Wood together make up a 1-2 that could develop into a Harvey-deGrom kind of 1-2. Wood needs to prove it, Teheran needs to build on a great 2014.

If Shelby Miller can put together a consistent season and Wood puts together a true #2 like year, then Atlanta could be peskier than we think.

I love the addition of Trevor Cahill. I think he can be one of those guys who just finds his way back thanks to pitching in Atlanta.

The Braves had the most dominant relief pitcher in the game right now. They gave him away on Opening Night, and I think that is a sign that this team is rebuilding, and not retooling like they said.

I did think they were a 3rd place team, but after the Kimbrel deal I am pegging them officially as the 4th place team. The deal makes this franchise appear like they have no interest in winning, so why should I predict them to do so?

Miami Marlins – 3rd Place

Key additions: Dee Gordon, Dan Haren, Mat Latos, Michael Morse, Martin Prado, Aaron Crow, and David Phelps

Key subtractions: Andrew Heaney, Nathan Eovaldi, Anthony DeSclafani, Garrett Jones, and Casey McGehee

Miami is a popular pick this year, and I find it fascinating because usually the people who are in love with Miami use the fact that Jose Fernandez comes back in June to their advantage. No big deal right?

How many of those same people question whether Matt Harvey can return to his 2013-self? Probably most.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way. Giancarlo Stanton is drool worthy. He’s offensive talent in the NL, and if Mike Trout didn’t exist – I’d say he’s the best offensive talent in the sport.

I view Dee Gordon as Emilio Bonifacio 2.0. He’s a player with excellent speed that can’t get on base enough to utilize that speed and to top it off, strikes out a lot.

There is likely some concern from Marlins fans over the fact Mat Latos has not been able to throw as hard as he once did. I like Latos, but if his velocity is dropping, then that should scare Marlins fans.

Morse is a great bench player, the Marlins need him to be an every day 1B.

If the Marlins can hang in there until Fernandez returns then it will be a very fun summer for Marlins fans. Still, I am just not too sure they have the talent and depth right now.

I think they’ll be competitive, I just think 80 wins is their ceiling probably.

NY Mets – 2nd Place

Key additions: Michael Cuddyer, Carlos Torres, and John Mayberry Jr

Key subtractions: Zack Wheeler due to injury

I’m trying not to be a homer here, I honestly do feel like they have the 2nd best team in this division. Of course, they need to put it all together over 162 games.

I think the addition of Cuddyer is going to be a huge positive for the Mets. I think the things we won’t see (as in behind closed doors) will make a huge difference in this team’s attitude and effort on the field.

I’m also really intrigued by Kevin Long. I’ve never been one to say a hitting coach makes a huge difference, but if you watched the same Spring Training as I, then you saw something different compared to years past.

The rotation is going to give us a reason to watch every game. Yes, even on Bartolo days.

I believe they have a top 5 rotation, and yes while we will all probably hold our breath every time Harvey pitches, they will be a ton of fun to watch.

The bullpen worries me a little, but I don’t want to underestimate Mejia and Familia either. I think if the Mets can tread water, more bullpen arms will become available throughout the year.

I’m not totally sure that this is a playoff team, but I am sure it will be an enjoyable season to watch all year. We deserve that.

Washington Nationals – 1st Place

Key additions: Max Scherzer, Casey Janssen, and Yunel Escobar

Key subtractions: Adam LaRoche, Tyler Clippard, Steven Souza, Asdrubal Cabrera, Ross Detwiler, and Rafael Soriano

The two players I hated seeing the most from Washington were Adam LaRoche and Tyler Clippard. LaRoche has a .845 OPS against the Mets, and take Clippard’s 1.00 WHIP in in 51 appearances with you too.

You can’t ignore the addition of Scherzer. I think long term that will be a problem for Washington, but I think for right now it makes them nasty 1-4.

This team has such high expectations, again – and it seems like it’s World Series or bust for the Nats.

So why won’t they get there?

Easy answer is, their bullpen. Drew Storen has proven that he cannot close out the big game. Overall, I’d say their bullpen is just okay and while they have enough talent to win the division, they don’t have enough to win the pennant.

NL East MVP: Giancarlo Stanton. Best player in the division, on a team that will at least be competitive.

NL East Cy Young: I’m not positive but I think if I don’t pick Matt Harvey, I get hate mail.

NL East Sleeper: Wouldn’t it be great if this turns out to be a guy like Syndergaard?  Does Alex Wood count? If he does, take him – if he doesn’t, then take Wilmer Flores and throw a party.

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XtreemIcon’s Picks

5th Place – Philadelphia Phillies

I had the Rays drafting first overall in 2016, but I had forgotten about the Phillies. They’ll be the only team to lose 100 games.

4th Place – Atlanta Braves

They said they were retooling and not rebuilding, and I think that’s accurate. They sold a lot of payroll, but got back good, intriguing young pieces to go along with the cost controlled pieces they kept, including Freeman, Simmons, Bethancourt, Tehran, Wood and Miller. That’s more than half of a really good infield and three top starters. Jose Peraza will fill the void at second base nicely very soon and the farm system is lousy with arms. They’ll be heard from again real soon.

3rd Place – Florida Marlins

I’m not buying into the hype. Will they be better? Maybe. They won 77 games last season, so I’d think they couldn’t get much worse because I don’t honestly think they’re terrible. Before the Padres paid $27 million for a closer, I thought the Marlins swung the worst trade of the off season, sending Andrew Heaney to the Dodgers for Gordon. He’s lightning fast and has legit game-changing speed, but he’s not a good hitter and won’t get on base nearly as much as he’d need as needed to turn that speed into a weapon. That speed also makes his defense overrated, as people often confuse speed with range. I’m also not a fan of Marcell Ozuna’s approach and feel he’s going to suffer a big time power regression now that pitchers know he’s likely to swing at anything. And since his hit tool and plate discipline suffer as it is, he’s not going to offer as much in the middle of the lineup as the Marlins need. I love Stanton and Yelich as players and think Adeiny Hechavarria is a great defensive shortstop. I also like Henderson Alvarez to take a nice step forward. But in order for the Marlins to make any noise, they have to overachieve while Fernandez is out and hope he comes back no worse than 85% of his 2013 self. There’s not one other pitcher behind Alvarez I have any faith in. I just don’t see it from the Marlins this season.

2nd Place – New York Mets

This is a Mets site, so we all know the deal. I think it says a lot about the talent and depth of this organization to lose a starter the caliber of Wheeler and a reliever as important as Edgin and still be expected (by the “experts”) to win roughly 85 games and compete for a playoff spot. Some actually have the Mets grabbing a Wild Card. I do, too. I think they’re more talented and (maybe more importantly) deeper than the Marlins, Giants, Padres and Cubs.

1st Place – Washington Nationals

They’re better than the Mets, yes, but what if I told you the Mets would finish closer to the Nationals than they will the Marlins. To be better than they were last season, the Nats need Scherzer to outpitch a 2.85/3.47/3.84 pitcher slash (ERA/FIP/xFIP) well enough to also overcome a huge bat they didn’t replace (LaRoche) and one of the best relievers in the game (Clippard). Not to mention the three of their top five hitters will be starting the season on the DL. They’ll win 92-93 games, but will fight the Mets for the division pretty closely until the end of September. But if one more guy gets hurt or the law firm of Span, Werth and Rendon don’t recover as quickly as expected, there could be serious problems, as the Nats have very little depth.

NL East MVP: Bryce Harper. The kid’s a two-time all star and we still haven’t seen what he can do.

NL East Cy Young: Harvey’s better.

NL East Sleeper: Mets fans know this division inside and out. How can someone fly under the radar? I’m going to be lazy and take Harper, because he’s criminally underrated and (jealous) people have actually called him a bust. But if it’s a Met, the Nationals are in serious trouble…

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MMO 2015 Season Preview: National League Central http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/04/mmo-2015-season-preview-national-league-central.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/04/mmo-2015-season-preview-national-league-central.html/#comments Sun, 05 Apr 2015 14:16:07 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=178038 World Series - Boston Red Sox v St Louis Cardinals - Game Three

Milwaukee Brewers – 5th Place

Key additions: Adam Lind… I guess?

Key subtractions: Yovani Gallardo, Rickie Weeks, Zach Duke, and Tom Gorzelanny

I was down on the Brewers before last year, and it’s impossible to deny that they proved me wrong. They collapsed and blew their chances at a playoff spot though. I don’t see how they improved last year’s team, and how they will be able to shake away from that feeling. To me, they were lucky to be in the position they were last year. Adding Lind COULD make the offense more potent as he will be surrounded by Braun, Lucroy, Gomez and Aramis Ramirez.

I’m not totally sold on Jimmy Nelson in the rotation and it’s my understanding that he was the reason Gallardo got sent packing.

The closer nobody seems to want (I wonder why) K-Rod returns for another year in Milwaukee. Overall, he and Broxton should provide decent relief at the end of the games.

Basically I’m picking them here because I think this is the best division in the NL top-to-bottom and I am just not sold on their rotation after Matt Garza at all.

Cincinnati Reds – 4th Place

Key additions: Marlon Byrd

Key subtractions: Ryan Ludwick, Mat Latos & Alfredo Simon

Really, so much of this team’s success depends on how healthy Joey Votto is and whether or not he can carry the offense. Another factor will be whether Billy Hamilton lives up to his hype and gets on base enough to impact games the way we all know he can.

Adding Byrd should give Votto protection in the heart of the order, something that he hasn’t really had much of. The lineup is filled with a bunch of decent hitters, and a declining Brandon Phillips.

The rotation is without Mat Latos who to me, gave the Reds a very reliable 1-2 punch with Cueto. Now, they are putting their eggs in the Michael Leake and Homer Bailey basket. I’m not sure I like either more than Latos to be honest.

Bailey will start the year on the DL which means Raisel Iglesias will join Jason Marquis at the bottom of the rotation. For some reason, the Reds decided to move Tony Cingrani from the rotation to the bullpen so that Iglesias can get a crack at a starting job. That decision will prove to be a big one if Iglesias fails and Cingrani is then forced out of the bullpen and back into the rotation.

Everybody knows Aroldis Chapman is downright nasty. The Reds finally seem comfortable with the fact that Chapman is a top 5 Closer, and won’t be a starter. He’s pretty much all they have in the bullpen though, and he can’t do it all.

The best case scenario is the Reds were right and Cueto-Bailey-Leake are as good of a 1-3 punch as they thought, I’m just afraid it might not be as good as they think, and their bullpen will likely lead to several blown 6th or 7th inning leads.

Pittsburgh Pirates – 3rd Place

Key additions: A.J. Burnett, Jung-Ho Kang, Francisco Cervelli, Antonio Bastardo, Corey Hart, and Sean Rodriguez

Key subtractions: Russell Martin, Edinson Volquez, and Travis Snider

The Pirates are becoming one of those teams that you just should not count out, ever. But they never seem to have enough talent to be seriously considered in the World Series contender conversation.

The addition of Jung-Ho Kang is really intriguing. He won’t start the year as the starting SS, but I think he’ll get that job by the summer’s start. He is a sleeper candidate for sure.

Can Gregory Polanco be a starting RF’er on a playoff caliber team? Players like Starling Marte have taken Polanco under their wing this spring, and they want to make him the final piece of a very dangerous outfield. If Polanco lives up to his Baseball America hype, you could be looking at the best offensive outfield in the sport.

The rotation is pretty good, nothing earth shattering but enough quality arms with Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano and A.J. Burnett leading the way to be a competitive team in this division.

Cole is coming off a 2014 campaign doomed by injury. How he bounces back in 2015 will be a major factor in whether the Pirates find their way into the playoff race again. The Pirates seem to be pegging Cole as the face of this franchise from the pitcher side of things, so now is his chance to start living up to that expectation.

The red flag with the rotation is that their 1-2 punch of Cole and Liriano has never (not a typo) pitched 200 innings in a season. It’s going to be hard to fight in this packed division if your two best pitchers cannot be relied on all year.

I’m not totally sold on the bullpen. But, to be honest Mark Melancon was doubted by me last year and he did a great job in 2014.

I think Pittsburgh needs a little help in the bullpen to make it through the summer and into the fall to break through this division. Still, this is an 84+ win team in a very tough division.

Chicago Cubs – 2nd Place

Key additions: Jon Lester, Miguel Montero, Dexter Fowler, Jason Hammel, David Ross, and Jason Motte

Key subtractions: Luis Valbuena, Justin Ruggiano, and Carlos Villanueva

The hype machine is in full effect when it comes to the Chicago Cubs. First of all, he isn’t mentioned above but to me the biggest addition for the Cubs was Manager Joe Maddon.

There isn’t a Manager in the sport who gets more out of his players than Maddon. Bringing him into Chicago was a clear warning shot to the rest of the NL that the Cubs fully intend on being a contender from this point forward.

Let me break some news for you though. This team is not going to win the World Series. They aren’t even built for a 2015 pennant yet. The Cubs intentions are to create a culture of winning so their young talent can push them over the top…next year. This team reminds me of the 2005 Mets.

This year will be Jorge Soler’s first full season in the big leagues, and in just a short time last year he looked like a significant middle of the order threat. Anthony Rizzo is going to hit in front of Soler, so basically, good luck NL pitchers.

There are some weak spots in this lineup. For example, I’m not sold on Chris Coghlan in LF and Mike Olt at 3B still has to prove he is a big leaguer. I’m not sure he is.

Miguel Montero brings a Yadier Molina-like vibe to the Cubs. He’s going to be a very valuable commodity for the Cubs in the field, and at the plate.

The rotation is obviously lead by Jon Lester. Lester is a big game pitcher in a city dying for a big game win. Jason Hammel returns to the Cubs after being traded away last year.

The sneakiest pitcher in this rotation though is Jake Arrieta. Arrieta was a top prospect for the Orioles who seemed to flame out. He posted an ERA over 5 with Baltimore over 3.5 years and 63 starts. Then he comes to Chicago in a barely noticeable July 2013 trade, and absolutely dominates in 2014.

25 Starts 10-5 2.53 ERA .989 WHIP 167K/41BB in 156.2 IP. Filthy.

If Arrieta continues that trend into 2015, then Jon Lester suddenly becomes the #2 pitcher on this staff and the Cubs are looking not just good, but scary good.

St. Louis Cardinals – 1st Place

Key additions: Jason Heyward, Jordan Walden, and Mark Reynolds

Key subtractions: Pat Neshek. Shelby Miller and Oscar Taveras (RIP). 

I think by now, if you count the Cardinals out then the joke is on you. They are the model franchise in this sport if you ask me. Seriously, what team goes through no true rebuilding phase since 2000 yet consistently pumps out young talent the way they do?

I’m going to say this right now, Jason Heyward is going to be an MVP candidate. I get why Atlanta traded him due to financial concerns, but gold glove power hitters don’t grow on trees. He’s only 25 years old, it’s not his fault he isn’t Mike Trout. I’d take Heyward over Harper though.

I know when the deal happened it seemed as though the Cardinals were getting a rental player. They are going to sign Heyward, mark my words. When Heyward experiences St. Louis baseball late in the year, and they realize giving him a 7 or 8 year deal is actually a great contract – he will be locked up.

The lineup simply does not have a hole in it. You can go across the entire diamond and say “yeah I’d take that guy on my team.” Doesn’t mean they are all the best player at their position, but they aren’t Jedd Gyorko either.

The rotation is lead once again by Adam Wainwright. As true of a veteran ace as you’ll find in baseball. They traded away Shelby Miller who never seemed to put together a consistent string of starts, but they are now plugging Carlos Martinez into the rotation in his spot. Martinez didn’t really do well as a reliever, at times he seemed unhittable and other times he seemed a little too Nathan Eovaldi for me. Knowing the Cardinals though, he’ll probably end up in the Cy Young conversation.

The bullpen is solid, and deep as well. Trevor Rosenthal may not be a household name in the Closer department, but he is very effective.

Overall, top to bottom – this is the best Opening Day roster in the National League.

NL Central MVP: Jason Heyward. I’m a believer not only in Heyward, but in the St. Louis effect.

NL Central Cy Young: I should pick Carlos Martinez for fun, but I am going to take the smart play here and grab Jon Lester since he is coming from the AL to the NL.

NL Central Sleeper: So many to choose from. Polanco & Soler could easily take this. Give me Jake Arrieta for the win. 

andrew mccutchen

XtreemIcon’s Picks

5th Place – Milwaukee Brewers

I really went back and forth here because I don’t much like the Reds or Cubs, either, but in the end Jessep is mostly right. This team will score a few runs but give up way more. The starting pitching is just not there. I’m not even counting on much out of Garza, who hasn’t had a season better than slightly-above-average since 2011. The bullpen is put together with spit, scotch tape and paperclips.  I just don’t see much from this team. Then again, that’s what most people said last season…

4th Place – Cincinnati Reds

The offense is about on par with the Brewers, but the Reds have the better front line pitcher and better closer. I also wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see not only Votto but also Jay Bruce bounce back and be threats in the middle of the lineup. Was anyone else surprised that Kevin Gregg was still in the league?

3rd Place – Chicago Cubs

There’s a lot of questions surrounding this team still and I don’t trust them to be that good, but I’d give them the nod above Milwaukee and Cincinnati because they’re young and full of potential and could be better. But right now, there’s just not enough of anything. Offensively, they’re thin. After Anthony Rizzo, who’s the threat? Castro has more power than most shortstops, but a .280/.320/.400 season with 17 home runs is still not a real offensive threat. Kris Bryant will slug all the home runs, but he still won’t hit for a high average or OBP. Fowler is decent at the top of the lineup, but there’s not one guy who can reasonably expect to hit .300 and I can only see Rizzo with an OBP above .350, so how many runs are they really going to score? Solid pitching in both the rotation and bullpen will make them a 78-80 win team and they could contend of they had one more hitter and one more starter. Maybe next year, if Baez and Soler progress.

2nd Place – St. Louis Cardinals

Wait, what? Look, I just think the Cards a little thin pitching-wise and Yadier Molina, Matt Holliday, and Adam Wainwright aren’t getting any younger. That’s not to say they won’t be good, and I certainly wouldn’t be shocked if they did win the division. But I don’t see a clear-cut superstar on this team and I think the Pirates have the two best players in the division. The wild card here is Carlos Martinez, who has ace stuff, and I think the Cards need every last bit of it if they want to win the division. There’s no pitching depth, and not one backup that doesn’t scare you. This team needs 150 games out of their eight starters and 30 starts from five pitchers to be really good.

1st Place – Pittsburgh Pirates

Cutch gonna Cutch. The best offensive threat in the National League by a wide margin will be joined in his quest for another MVP by Starling Marte, who will break through as elite. And I know it’s asking a lot of über prospect Gregory Polanco, but I’d be pretty excited to see the first starting outfield in major league history with 20+ home runs and 20+ stolen bases from each. I might have to wait a year. There’s offense from every position in the infield, if you think Jordy Mercer is more 2013 Jordy and less 2014 Jordy, though it would be asking a lot of Josh Harrison to repeat. Neil Walker is the second-worst defensive second baseman in the league, and they lost a big piece in Russell Martin, so there are issues. But Martin is the only real loss while they gained some nice pieces to go along with breakthroughs of Marte and Polanco. They have a very deep bullpen and a good rotation, with Gerrit Cole ready to break out. If the team stays status quo, the Cards will win the division. But I see too much talent in Marte, Polanco and Cole to expect status quo.

NL Central MVP: Cutch. Gonna. Cutch.

NL Central Cy Young: Gerrit Cole. His first full season will be special.

NL Central Sleeper: Francisco Cervelli. Don’t ask me why.

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MMO 2015 Season Preview: National League West http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/04/mmo-2015-season-preview-national-league-west.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/04/mmo-2015-season-preview-national-league-west.html/#comments Fri, 03 Apr 2015 18:30:33 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=177961 kershaw

Colorado Rockies – 5th Place

Key additions: Nick Hundley & Kyle Kendrick

Key subtractions: Michael Cuddyer, Josh Rutledge, Juan Nicasio, Franklin Morales

It’s going to be bad, real bad for the Rockies. First of all, they are hoping…no praying that Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez can stay on the field for the entire year. Not so they can compete, but so they can trade both players and get value for them by fooling somebody (hopefully not us) that they are healthy players that can be relied on.

The lineup is a typically alright/good lineup for the Rockies. I am not a big buyer of Charlie Blackmon stock like some others are. I just cannot get past a .915 OPS at home versus a .617 road OPS last year. Sorry, sometimes I don’t bang the Coors Field drum – but with Charlie Blackmon it is so clear.

I am curious to see how the loss of Cuddyer impacts this team. He is known to be a quality clubhouse presence and they didn’t replace him with anybody really.

Tyler Matzek and Jordan Lyles are going to be asked to do more in this rotation, and they will need to grow up fast. Kyle Kendrick and Jorge De La Rosa are the veteran leaders of this rotation. I’m not sure that’s good news. De La Rosa’s 2013 season was a fluke and it wasn’t even that good, yet it occasionally seems to buy him credibility.

The bullpen is anchored by LaTroy Hawkins who is surrounded by mostly incapable arms. John Axford is interesting, but it might be too little too late in Colorado.

The Rockies will compete for something though…the #1 draft pick.

Arizona Diamondbacks – 4th Place

Key additions: Yasmany Tomas, Rubby De La Rosa & Jeremy Hellickson

Key subtractions: Wade Miley & Miguel Montero

The key here could truly be whether Tomas is the player he was advertised to be. Overall, the lineup and defense is mostly pretty sub-par. Paul Goldschmidt is a superstar caliber player, and if Tomas can match him – then at least Arizona fans will have a reason to come to the ballpark. If Tomas is a bust, then Arizona is in a lot of trouble.

The rotation is lead by Josh Collmenter who would be a #3 starter on most teams probably, maybe even a #4.

The Diamondbacks are also taking a big chance with Rubby De La Rosa in the rotation. Is he a starter, is he even a big league arm? Through 44 big league games – I’m not sold.

Jeremy Hellickson is coming off a year filled with elbow trouble, so he fits right into the rotation that is filled with question marks.

Their closer Addison Reed is also, not very good. You know as I type this, I have no idea why I think they will be better than Colorado. Can I take it back?

San Diego Padres – 3rd Place

Key additions:  Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, James Shields, Wil Myers, Derek Norris, Will Middlebrooks, Clint Barmes, and Brandon Morrow

Key subtractions: Yasmani Grandal, Jesse Hahn, Rene Rivera, Seth Smith, Eric Stults, Everth Cabrera and Tim Stauffer.

Yes, if I was a Padres fan I’d be excited about the upcoming season.  It’s probably an unpopular view but I don’t believe in the 2015 Padres. They stink of the Jose Reyes Marlins to me. I’m not sure when we will learn that the off-season total revamp’s won’t work.

Let’s start with the rotation.

James Shields picked the perfect spot. He’s not that good of a pitcher, but gets to fool another small market team into thinking he is an ace. His nickname couldn’t be less accurate. It’s more like calling Robin Hood’s buddy (who is huge) “Little John” than anything.

If I take Shields and Andrew Cashner, they probably rank right around 7th or 8th as a 1-2 combo in the National League. That puts them at a disadvantage in my view.

The lineup is banking, no begging for Matt Kemp to stay healthy and for TWO small market teams to be WRONG about Wil Myers. Something has to be up with Myers right? For the Rays to dump him like they did?

They aren’t as good as you think. The hype is taking over and it’s leading you down a path that has Jedd Gyorko as your starting 2B.

Seriously think about that for a second. People worry about the Mets 2B being Daniel Murphy, while they are probably praising the Padres as a playoff threat with Jedd Gyorko as the starting 2B. Makes total sense.

I believe the Padres management had good (great) intentions, but it’s an incomplete overhaul that is built mostly on players nobody wanted or were hyped at a young age and never reached that potential.

San Francisco Giants – 2nd Place

Key additions: Norichika Aoki & Casey McGehee

Key subtractions: Pablo Sandoval & Michael Morse

Losing Sandoval obviously is not a great thing for a championship team. However, after I wrote the AL East preview I read this quote from Sandoval:

“I’m a professional and I know what I have to do,” said Sandoval, listed as 5-11 and 255. “I know where I’ve failed and how I’ve grown up. If I had signed (with the Giants), I knew I would be under a (weight) regimen for five years, and I’m not going to be happy someplace where I’m under that kind of regimen, where I can’t be myself.”

So, the superstar player was worried that his championship winning team wanted to make sure he didn’t let himself go? I don’t know, maybe it’s not going to hurt them as much as I thought. Yes, on the field, it may hurt – but perhaps the team internally is looking forward to life without Panda? Addition by Subtraction?

Matt Cain returns in 2015, which create a downright nasty 1-2 punch with Madison Bumgarner.

Losing Hunter Pence for 6-8 weeks is a crushing blow, but I am not putting anything past the defending champs when it comes to overcoming the odds. Sure, it’s an odd year – so I’m not taking them to win the pennant, but they should be a good ball club.

Los Angeles Dodgers – 1st Place

Key additions: Jimmy Rollins, Howie Kendrick, Hector Olivera, Brandon McCarthy, Brett Anderson and Yasmani Grandal

Key subtractions: Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez, Dee Gordon & Dan Haren

Listen, if this team doesn’t win the division – it’s a big upset. They are easily the most talented roster in the NL West and sure losing Kemp, Hanley and Dee doesn’t help but I think they did enough to overcome those loses.

A huge key to the Dodgers success will be Joc Pederson. Is he everything many of us think he could be? Is he ready to be the starting CF of a veteran team like the Dodgers?

The issue for the Dodgers is they are relatively thin. Nobody expects them to be okay if they lose a player like Clayton Kershaw, but losing mid-rotation arms could also prove to be a problem.

Still, it’s hard to predict that only the “worst” will happen to the Dodgers and not everybody else in the division. They have the best roster on Opening Day, and while I won’t be picking them to represent the National League in the World Series – they will take this division.

NL West MVP: Clayton Kershaw, I mean who else would there be? I suppose Matt Kemp would be a solid option too because the Padres need him pretty badly. But the Dodgers simply do not win without Kershaw.

NL West Cy Young: See Above.

NL West Sleeper: Does Joc count?

madison bumgarner

XtreemIcon’s Picks

This is going to be easy and there’s not a whole lot to say…

5th Place – Colorado Rockies

There are good players on that roster and there are dependable players on that roster, but no overlap at all. Nolan Arenado is the closest thing they have to a good, everyday player and even he hasn’t played more than 135 games yet in his career. He’ll probably be the de facto all star on the team, assuming the normal 100 games missed from Tulo and Gonzalez. I’m trying to find something else positive to say about the Rockies, but aside from Arenado, and that my wife’s favorite color is purple, the best thing about the team right now is John Axford’s Twitter.

4th Place – Arizona DIamondbacks

There isn’t a whole heck of a lot more to like about the Diamondbacks than the Rockies, but they get the nod for being less worse because they have an MVP candidate that you can reasonably expect to play 140+ games. There’s also considerably more potential on Arizona. I would take a finally healthy Hellickson and de la Rosa over any two pitchers on Colorado. Tomas could be great and Chris Owings is still there and only 24. Of course, Hellickson could get hurt again, de la Rosa could plateau, Tomas could bust and Owings could never reach his potential. One of those four will pan out and at worst match Arenado’s presence on Colorado and it’s likely at least two do and make them better. Also? Their catcher’s name is Tuffy Gosewisch. TUFFY GOSEWISCH!

3rd Place – San Diego Padres

I have nothing else to add to Jessep. He’s pretty dead on here. Much like the Mariners, over hype will reign and will result in a lot of disappointed San Diego-ites. San Diego-uns? San Diegans. The only things he forgot to mention is the potential for the worst outfield defense in the league, a shallow bullpen and no rotation depth. The Padres will finish closer in the standings to the Diamondbacks than they will to the…

2nd Place – San Francisco Giants

Good rotation fronted by a great pitcher, depth in the rotation, solid bullpen. I could stop there and it would probably be enough for the Giants to finish second. But they have Buster Posey who just can’t stop hitting, Brandon Belt who is primed and ready to break out and solid infield defense up the middle. Hunter Pence has already begun throwing and shouldn’t miss more than another six weeks. The Giants lost a top free agent and a postseason hero and will start the season minus two starting players and they’re still much better than the Padres, D-Backs and Rockies.

1st Place – Los Angeles Dodgers

I think the Dodgers actually got a little better, believe it or not. They downgraded overall at shortstop and left field, losing Hanley Ramirez and replacing him with Rollins, and playing Crawford everyday in left instead of Kemp, but they upgraded big time at second base and center field, now starting Howie Kendrick over Dee Gordon and Joc Pederson over Andre Ethier. Pederson could bust and still probably be more valuable than Ethier based on defense alone. I’d also much rather have Brandon McCarthy over Dan Haren, although that contract is a little rich for my blood. I don’t see how it’s not an eight-game lead at the break and a double-digit lead at the end of the season.

NL West MVP: Clayton Kershaw

NL West Cy Young: Just to be different, I’ll pick Klayton Cershaw

NL West Sleeper: I really want to pick Justin Maxwell, I really do. But he’s going back to the bench when Pence returns, so I’ll go with Brandon Belt.

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MMO 2015 Season Preview: American League West http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/04/mmo-2015-season-preview-american-league-west.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/04/mmo-2015-season-preview-american-league-west.html/#comments Fri, 03 Apr 2015 10:00:30 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=177870 Seattle-Mariners-Felix-Hernandez

Texas Rangers – 5th Place

Key additions: Yovani Gallardo

Key subtractions: Alex Rios, Jason Frasor and sort of Yu Darvish

In what I expect to be the best division in the American League, I can’t find a reason to give Texas anything higher than 4th place. Since I think Houston will be young and fun enough to watch, I’ll peg Texas here.

Texas won’t be as bad as they were in 2014, but the loss of Darvish and the continued uncertainty of Prince Fielder is a big deal. Right now, Fielder looks like he is going to be fine – but he’s still coming back from neck surgery.

This team also is living and dying on the potential of Andrus and Odor. I’m starting to have my doubts on Andrus and it’s too early to tell with Odor. The only player you can 100% count on in this lineup if Adrian Beltre who continues to produce year after year in spite of his age.

Outside of Gallardo, I’m not really convinced this rotation of Holland, Detwiler, Lewis and Tepesch can keep up in this division which is packed with quality hitters and better pitchers.

Another rough year in Texas, just possibly not quite as embarrassing as 2014 was.

Houston Astros – 4th Place

Key additions: Evan Gattis, Luis Valbuena, Luke Gregerson, Pat Neshek, Jed Lowrie, and Colby Rasmus.

Key subtractions: Dexter Fowler & Mike Foltynewicz.

I wouldn’t be shocked if Xtreem pegs Houston in 3rd or higher, they seem like the young sexy pick this year but I just cannot buy in yet.

I will say in terms of just mashing the ball, the combination of Evan Gattis, Chris Carter, George Springer and Colby Rasmus is going to be really fun to watch. I am not sure yet what the plan is for Gattis/Carter because I don’t think Gattis is going to play the field much which means you have two DH’s. That’s going to be a tricky situation later in the year when Gattis proves to be a defensive liability.

Still, you take those four guys and put Jose Altuve in front of them and you have suddenly got a scary looking lineup.

The problem in Houston is, and will be the pitching. I cannot come up with a logical reason why the starting rotation of Keuchel, Feldman, Wojciechowski, McHugh and Hernandez can compete for a division title inside the best division in the American League.

I don’t care how scary the lineup looks on paper – that rotation doesn’t scare anybody. Their bullpen additions were nice adds, Gregerson paired with Qualls and Neshek should do just well enough.

It won’t matter though, they may be a story early in the year but that rotation is not holding up for 162.

Oakland A’s – 3rd Place

Key additions: Ben Zobrist, Brett Lawrie, Marcus Semien, Billy Butler, Ike Davis, and Tyler Clippard

Key subtractions: Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Derek Norris, John Jaso, Jed Lowrie, Alberto Callaspo, Daric Barton, Jon Lester, Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel, and Luke Gregerson

Look, I know the formula seems to work when everybody seems to think Billy Beane has lost his mind – but I look at that key departure list and remember how their season ended and I just cannot put them any higher than 3rd in this division.

Is Oakland where Ike Davis find himself or is where he just continues to have hot streaks that make us salivate and look to blame Mets management for sticking us with a 30 HR 1B in Lucas Duda?

Realistically, if Ike Davis isn’t a power hitter then Billy Butler becomes the most important hitter in this lineup – that’s a scary situation if you ask me. This lineup looks nothing like the A’s of the past few years (the Astros do), they look more like the Rays of the past few years.

The rotation should be solid with Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir and Jesse Hahn leading the way and then the fingers crossed with Drew Pomeranz and Kendall Graveman.

I love the addition of Tyler Clippard, he was the only Nationals reliever I hated seeing, I think the combo of Clippard with Sean Doolittle could be nasty.

Overall, I’d say this team is annoying because I think they can pitch real well – but they won’t be able to produce runs at the same clip they did over the last few years and for that reason, they slide into third here.

Los Angeles Angels – 2nd Place

Key additions: Andrew Heaney, Nick Tropeano & Matt Joyce

Key subtractions: Howie Kendrick, Hank Conger and then possibly Josh Hamilton

For the Angels, it’s all about staying healthy and putting together quality years from the talent around Mike Trout.

Can Albert Pujols drive in 100 runs again? A .790 OPS year isn’t exactly eye popping, but it will do just fine in his current role, based on his age.

The only real hole in this lineup is the one left by Josh Hamilton, and frankly – I’m not sure how big of a hole that is. I’m not too confident that Collin Cowgill is good enough for the everyday role in LA, but I’m also not too concerned about what he’s replacing based on last year’s result.

Cowgill is having a nice spring, but he always seems to…right?

He did okay last year, not good – not the worst thing you ever saw either. We’ll see how that goes.

The rotation is once again lead by Jered Weaver following by Garrett Richards who should be back from a knee injury at the end of April, then you have C.J. Wilson. I really like Matt Shoemaker, he went relatively unnoticed last year going 16-4.

The bullpen is still pretty good – Huston Street and Joe Smith slam the door shut and while I like the combo of Clippard/Doolittle better, they are still one of the best 8/9 combo’s in the American League.

Seattle Mariners – 1st Place

Key additions: Nelson Cruz, Seth Smith, J.A. Happ, Justin Ruggiano, and Rickie Weeks.

Key subtractions: Kendrys Morales, Michael Saunders, Brandon Maurer, Chris Young, Justin Smoak.

I cannot be the only person who knows Yankees fans that mocked Robinson Cano’s choice of choosing Seattle over the Yankees right?

How do you think Robinson feels about that decision right now? Put the money aside…try and tell me why he is not in a better situation right now? I still think the Yankees picked the wrong time to be “smart” with their money.

Adding Nelson Cruz to this lineup was a great move, should prove very beneficial to Cano also. You’re replacing James Jones with Austin Jackson and CoreyHart/Justin Smoak with Cruz – yeah I’d say they did pretty well there.

The rotation is lead obviously by King Felix. Hisashi Iwakuma takes his spot as the #2 – no brainer there. What will be interesting to see is whether James Paxton and Taijuan Walker are ready to step in and follow King Felix’s lead to help make this one of the best rotations in the American League. The hype and potential are there, but they have to prove it on the field.

Seattle’s bullpen was very good last year, they bring back all of the key pieces and while I am not the biggest Fernando Rodney fan in the world – I have to trust that this bullpen remaining in tact from 2014 should lead to great things.

I think Seattle has put it all together, finally. If Walker/Paxton can be the pitchers many have expected them to be, then Seattle should be considered a top 3 team in the American League.

AL West MVP: I don’t think it makes sense to pick anybody but Mike Trout here.

AL West Cy Young: King Felix took back his reign last year from Darvish, and with Darvish out – Felix is a no brainer.

AL West Sleeper: Is Taijuan Walker a sleeper? I guess he has to be right? He’s my guy.

mike-trout

XtreemIcon’s Picks

5th Place – Oakland A’s

Guys, they lost basically everything and added……Tyler Clippard. Look, Clippard is one of the best 8th-inning guys in the league, but he’s the key addition to a team who barely avoided missing the playoffs in epic fashion and proceeded to lose their two best pitchers, best position player and a reliever comparable to Clippard in the first place. Not to mention Coco Crisp missing two months. I do think Zobrist is a solid player and Semien will have a nice year, but there’s literally nothing on that roster you can depend on to have a really good year. There’s some potential there (Semien, and I do really like Gray), but nothing reliable. Put it this way. My bet is the A’s all star this season isn’t earned. It’ll be one of those default, every-team-needs-one loophole all stars like Daniel Murphy.

4th Place – Texas Rangers

The loss of Darvish absolutely destroys any chance this team has to compete. What makes this team a step up from cellar dweller to me is that, like Jessep said, you can pencil Beltre in for an all star season, which is more than you can say for the A’s. And I think a healthy Prince Fielder is also better than anyone on Oakland. And I ALSO think Leonys Martin is better than anyone on the A’s. I think Andrus is a very good shortstop, though perhaps slightly overpaid, and Odor has tons of potential. I think Gallardo and Holland are good pitchers, though neither is a prototypical ace. But of course, neither is any pitcher on Oakland. There are plenty of issues here, and I don’t think they’ll be a particularly good team, they’ll just be better than Oakland. Which means…

3rd Place – Houston Astros

Jessep was right! I pick the Astros for third place. This team will score a million runs. Or slightly short of that, maybe. And they can catch the ball. They have a tremendous defensive outfield with Colby Rasums, Jake Marisnick and George Springer left to right and a perennial all star at second base in Altuve. Jason Castro is a very solid defensive catcher, as well. Besides the power, Chris Carter became a well-rounded hitter in the second half, believe it or not. The left side of the infield won’t offer much production on either side of the ball, but again, I only pick this team for third place. I think the bullpen is very good and Keuchel is about ready to be one of the better lefties in the league. Feldman isn’t great, but he’s outperformed his FIP the last two seasons and actually has a good defense behind him now. He’s solid at worst. I don’t think we’ve gotten to a really good team in the AL West yet, this is just who’s less worse than the others.

2nd Place – Seattle Mariners

Over hype. To be fair, they didn’t lose anyone of value. To be honest, they didn’t really gain a whole lot of value, either. Everyone will point to Nelson Cruz as a huge splash that will put them over the top. But Cruz cooled off considerably and hit only .249/.308/.451 after May 31. And he’s moving to a stadium that greatly suppresses power. Kyle Seager’s star is on the rise, but aside from Cruz, Seager and Cano, where’s the offense coming from? Dustin Ackley stinks, Logan Morrison hasn’t played 100 games in four years, Mike Zunino is one more bad year from being a complete disaster, Brad Miller couldn’t hit sand if he fell off a camel and Seth Smith is a platoon player. Austin Jackson is decent, I suppose. I do think they have a great rotation and a solid pen, but this team will lose a lot of low-scoring games. There won’t be a real big gap between the Mariners and the Astros if Houston finds itself pitching better than expected.

1st Place – Los Angeles Angels

The Angels’ rotation isn’t that far behind Seattle’s (especially if Heaney is as advertised when he gets his shot) and they also have a very solid pen, but the difference here is that the Angels can actually hit. Jessep expressed his concern over Cowgill in the outfield, rightfully so, but also mentioned he’s not exactly replacing 2008 Hamilton, also rightfully so. If the former Mets legend happens to stutter out of the gate, the Angels can always trot Matt Joyce out there, who played a solid left field for the Rays the last two seasons and get C.J. Cron’s bat in the DH spot. Second base is hole for sure, and David Freese had his second straight season in decline, but the Angels aren’t only the best team in the division, they’ll probably have home field in the playoffs, as well.

AL West MVP: Michael Nelson Trout.

AL West Cy Young: King Felix. These are easy.

AL West Sleeper: Marcus Semien. He hit .272/.374/.465 in 1,740 minor league at bats, so there’s immense talent there. As a shortstop now, he could be a perennial all star if he can stick there defensively.

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2015 Season Preview: American League Central http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/04/2015-season-preview-american-league-central.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/04/2015-season-preview-american-league-central.html/#comments Thu, 02 Apr 2015 12:58:44 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=177565 jose abreu

Minnesota Twins – 5th Place

Key additions: Torii Hunter & Ervin Santana

Key subtractions: I guess none? 

Generally speaking, this team is hoping that their days of rebuilding are drawing to a close. They brought back Torii Hunter, most likely to give fans a reason to come to the ballpark – and though there’s nothing bad you can really say about a player like Joe Mauer, he just isn’t the same player anymore. 

This team’s future will depend on Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton and a few other young prospects who are just about ready, but not quite.

Unless pitchers like Mike Pelfrey and Ricky Nolasco have brilliant years, I can’t see how the Twins climb out of the cellar in 2015, let alone climb into contention.

Kansas City Royals - 4th Place

Key additions: Kendrys Morales, Alex Rios, Edinson Volquez, Kris Medlen, Chris Young

Key subtractions: James Shields, Billy Butler, Norichika Aoki, Josh Willingham, Aaron Crow, Raul Ibanez

Yes, it’s true this team set the sport on fire last season in October. I look at their key subtractions though and I see some key pieces to that late stretch that helped define who the Royals were. Sure, their bullpen is what seemed to set them apart, but I think most everybody has caught on to what made this team special are are trying to replicate it. 

Bullpen arms to me are the most fickle of the bunch. Look at relievers like Brad Lidge or Koji Uehara who both had stellar performances and then everybody practically expected a duplicate result, and their teams faded away because they couldn’t anchor at the same level as the previous year.

I think now that teams around Kansas city are focusing more on the strength of their bullpen, that begins to chip away at the advantage that the Royals once had. I look at the lineup, to me it got weaker and less reliable. I look at the rotation and it all comes down to Yordano Ventura. Is he for real? He basically has to go from a mid-rotation starter to a #1 after his rookie year, I’m not sure he’s up for that.

For me, it comes down to raised expectations that a team similar to the Rockies in 2007 cannot possibly achieve in the year after. They got hot at the right time, everything clicked – and I think the pendulum swings the other way in 2015.

Detroit Tigers – 3rd Place

Key additions: Yoenis Cespedes, Anthony Gose, Alfredo Simon, and Shane Greene

Key subtractions: Torii Hunter, Max Scherzer, and Rick Porcello.

I am starting to get that “when will he start to break down?” feeling when it comes to Miguel Cabrera. He turns 32 in a few weeks so it is inevitable that in the next few years we’re going to look at Cabrera in almost the same way we look at a player like Albert Pujols. Here’s hoping he stays healthy and we begin to have conversations about whether Miguel Cabrera is one of the greatest hitters of all time without having to mention anything about “PED” usage. 

You can’t lose a starter like Scherzer and get better right away. I am as big of a David Price fan as they come, but I think he will find himself out of Detroit before the season is over.

I look at the team and I think about whether players like Jose Iglesias, Anthony Gose, and J.D. Martinez can play as big of a role in a playoff team as the Tigers probably need them to do. I also look at players like Shane Greene and Alfredo Simon and think the Tigers will be lucky to get back to back wins when they pitch. You pair that up with their bullpen and the uncertainty around Justin Verlander and you have potential for a nosedive year in Detroit.

I think it’s over in Detroit, I think they had their shot at being the class of the American League and their window has been shut.

Cleveland Indians – 2nd Place

Key additions: Brandon Moss & Gavin Floyd (hurt)

Key subtractions: Depends on how much stock you put into Jason Giambi as a mentor. 

I like the scrappiness of this lineup, but I’m just not totally sure if I can trust that Brandon Moss & Nick Swisher (coming back from surgery) will be the big time run producers that Cleveland needs them to be. Is Michael Brantley able to repeat his 2014? 

I do find it amazing that if you ask 100 baseball fans but not diehard’s who won the AL Cy Young, I bet a good amount wouldn’t name Corey Kluber.

Part of why I give Cleveland so much credit is I truly believe Terry Francona is one of those managers who gets the best out of everybody on the field. The rotation is good enough to compete in this division, the true test will be whether this lineup can produce runs and play the field well enough to keep the starters in the game.

I look at the heart of this order, throw in Swisher is he comes back healthy – plus a decent rotation and I see a team that should be able to compete in a division that overall got worse this winter. Toss in the Francona Factor for added value.

Chicago White Sox - 1st Place

Key additions: Jeff Samardzija, Melky Cabrera, Adam LaRoche, David Robertson, Emilio Bonifacio.

Key subtractions: Dayan Viciedo & Paul Konerko

The White Sox probably had the most exciting off-season in this division, and to be honest – it wasn’t hard to accomplish. The addition of Samardzija to compliment Sale and lessen the burden on Jose Quintana was a great move. Quintana will be just fine in the #3 role this year.

Adding the David Robertson who is eager to prove he is one of the best closers in the game was also a great move. He was able to fill in for Mariano Rivera, that’s not something most pitchers could do effectively, and should prove to be a big factor in whether he can handle the postseason’s biggest spots.

I like adding in LaRoche, a player who always just seemed to do his job well while in Washington. I’m not the biggest Melky fan, most of that stems from his PED bust and fake website, Still, he’s an upgrade for a team that won just 73 games last year.

The biggest concern for me is whether this team can effectively jump on the back of Jose Abreu and stay the course for 162 games. If so, he’s an MVP. They lack roster depth, and I do think they could find themselves in a bit of trouble if things go south in terms of the team’s health.

On paper though, they have the most talented roster. If all goes right for every team in this division, I think they can win the division.

AL Central MVP: Jose Abreu. If I am picking the White Sox to win the division, I’m really not sure how any other MVP candidate would be logical for me.

AL Central Cy Young: Sale is nasty but I think I’m gonna go with Samardzija, mostly just because. If Sale is the best, I’m just going to delete the last part of the previous sentence and say I told you so.

AL Central Sleeper: Jose Ramirez of the Cleveland Indians is the guy I think may have the greatest positive impact that everybody wonders where he came from.

chris sale

XtreemIcon’s Picks

5th Place – Minnesota Twins

Ervin Santana is a pretty poor contract to dole out to a team trying to finish a rebuild. There are some good, young players on the way and we could be hearing from the Twins soon, but not this year.

4th Place – Kansas City Royals

They lost sight of what made them special. Sure, they lost James Shields, but they panicked and inked Edinson Volquez, which is a disaster waiting to happen. They also replaced some departing hitters with old, injury-plagued players after riding a wave of youth to the top last season. They lost a lot of talent and did very little to replace them. I love Ventura and this he’s ready for greatness, but he’s got very little support this year.

3rd Place – Cleveland Indians

The team can’t score runs or catch the ball and it’s not a safe bet for Kluber to repeat. He’ll be really good, but can he continue to be great? I do think the rotation is very strong behind him with Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer, and Cody Allen keeps getting better anchoring that bullpen, but the offense won’t be able to keep up with the unearned runs to get the ball to him.

2nd Place – Detroit Tigers

Glad to see Jessep coming around to my point of view on the Tigers. They accelerated the decline a bit, trading a pretty good pitcher in Rick Porcello for Yoenis Cespedes, the most overrated player in baseball. They’re still good, though, and I think the division is too weak for them fall out of the race. Cabrera started his decline at the end of the 2013 season and will continue to regress, but he was so good in his prime, his slide will still be potent. Victor Martinez is a threat and I think JD Martinez is for real. Can’t forget Ian Kinsler. The rotation is still strong with Price, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, Alfredo Simon and youngster Shane Green, who impressed me last season with the Yankees. I think the bullpen will be OK once Brad Ausmus gets Nathan out of the closer role, and potentially off the team. Joakim Soria is in mid-season form in spring training and Bruce Rondon has a lot of potential, despite a shaky spring.

The Tigers are going away, but not quickly.

1st Place – Chicago White Sox

Great timing for the Sox, as the Tigers and Royals regression paves the way for the team that most feel won the off season. The team is not well-balanced offensively and Conor Gillaspie matching last season (or even exceeding it) will go a long way in lengthening the lineup if he’s hitting well enough to slide into the second spot in the order. If Melky Cabrera has to hit second, it either leaves no protection for the cleanup hitter or forces Robin Ventura to put a sub-par hitter in the very important second spot. The bullpen isn’t bad, though I expect the team to regret the long-term, big money deal given to David Robertson well before it’s up. Probably not this year, though. The starting pitching is what will carry them. Chris Sale, new acquisition Jeff Samardzija and Jose Quintana are a formidable top three

AL Central MVP: J.D. Martinez. I believe far more in “outta nowhere” seasons like his 2014 if it comes from a mechanical change like his did as opposed to just a fluke.

AL Central Cy Young: Chris Sale. He was my pick last season and the upstart Kluber ruined it. I’ll roll the dice again.

AL Central Sleeper: Adam Eaton. He is primed for a huge breakout.

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MMO 2015 Season Preview: American League East http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/03/mmo-2015-season-preview-american-league-east.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/03/mmo-2015-season-preview-american-league-east.html/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 14:00:58 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=177128 Dustin+Pedroia+New+York+Yankees+v+Boston+Red+KwycSvkPubIl

There is just something about March Madness that gets me so jacked up! No, it’s not the random 14 seed that hits a 3 pointer to seal an upset win over a #3 seed. It isn’t the cutting of the nets, the strive for perfection, or listening to Jay Bilas tell me how to fill out my bracket if I want to make sure I don’t win my pool.

Nope, it’s the mere fact that once the television drama of the tournament comes to a close, it’s time for what really matters. The start of the Major League Baseball season is upon us. The snow is melting, the grass is starting to show, and the winter coats are starting to head up into the attic. There’s no better time to be a sports fan than April through October, and it starts with the crack of the bat or the pounding of a glove.

Over the next few days we’ll take a look at each team, give our predictions and hope that you too will indulge us in your predictions for the upcoming season. Did you see the 2014 Royals coming? Did you see the Brewers being a red hot team that would fizzle when it mattered?

So let’s begin with what is sure to be a conversation starter… the American League East.

Division Analysis: To me, this is the most wide open division in the sport. Nobody in this division appears on paper to have an edge over the rest. In every contender, there seems to be reasons to avoid picking them to come out on top. I’m confident that this division will see just one playoff team emerge, I’m just not confident at all in who it will be – but I’ll take my best shot.

Tampa Bay Rays – 5th Place

Key additions: Kevin JepsenAsdrubal CabreraJohn Jaso

Key subtractions: Ben ZobristWil MyersMatt JoyceYunel EscobarJoel Peralta, Jose Molina

I’d love to be wrong here, but I just don’t see it. I believe that very few Managers make a big impact on their team in the way Joe Maddon did. I can’t give that same credit to Kevin Cash right now.

I look at the lineup and see players like John Jaso, James Loney and Asdrubal Cabrera being needed to have borderline career years for this lineup to produce around Evan Longoria. Steven Souza is an intriguing talent, and people in Tampa Bay seem to be excited about his potential. He’ll be interesting to see.

Longoria is the face of this franchise, he has taken team friendly deals in an effort to stay in Tampa Bay – but he struggled last year for really the first time in his career. Coincidentally, 2014 was the first time Tampa Bay looked like the “Devil Rays” in Longoria’s career. It’s easier to be the face of a successful franchise, not so easy when the team is rebuilding.

The pitching staff for the Rays is falling apart day by day. Alex Cobb and Drew Smyly are already dealing with discomfort in their throw arms (or shoulder), and Matt Moore is still trying to recover from Tommy John surgery. So right off the bat you’re heading into 2015 with Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi and I guess Nate Karns?

If a team retooling the lineup with band aid parts can’t rely on their pitching staff, they can’t be successful.

Baltimore Orioles - 4th Place

Key additions: J.P. ArencibiaTravis Snider

Key subtractions: Nelson CruzNick MarkakisAndrew Miller.

Buck Showalter, like Joe Maddon is one of the very few managers that I believe makes a big difference in a team’s performance. The Orioles have overachieved in the last two years, and now they are faced with the challenge of repeating three successful season, with much less talent.

The Orioles lost Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis via free agency, and didn’t really replace either of them at all. I’m not going to sit here and tell you I think Travis Snider is truly the answer, nor do I think counting on Chris Davis to replicate his 2013 campaign is a realistic thought either.

This team will go as far offensively as Manny Machado, Matt Wieters and Adam Jones can take them. Part of the problem is Wieters is returning from Tommy John surgery (not a typo), and so it’s tough to predict how he might bounce back in 2015.

The rotation is highlighted by Chris Tillman leading the way with Wei Yin Chen, Bud Norris, Miguel Gonzalez and possibly Dylan Bundy in the mix as well. You look at that team and you think they need Cole Hamels, and they probably do – but I just am not sure they believe they need the front line starter to compete. This is basically the same rotation that made it to the LCS last year and ran into a buzzsaw in Kansas City.

Would I be surprised if Baltimore won the division? No. But I look at the division and I see the teams I predict ahead of them getting better and Baltimore’s roster changes making them worse.

New York Yankees – 3rd Place

Key additions: Didi Gregorius, Garrett JonesNathan Eovaldi, Andrew Miller, Justin Wilson

Key subtractions: Derek JeterDavid RobertsonMartin PradoShawn KelleyFrancisco CervelliShane Greene

Most Yankees fans I know have changed their usual tune. You can tell that this team is heading down a dangerous path just by talking to some of their most loyal fans. No longer do they “expect” to win, now they “hope” that “if” everything goes right, they will win.

Their issues are clear, and their fans while in some ways are in denial about the roster on paper – luck has done stranger things than work its way into a divisional race.

The Yankees need a lot of luck. Yes, any player, at any time can get hurt. It’s true. But, when you have old players who normally get hurt, or young players who have had 6 injuries over the last 6 years, the odds dramatically increase that you’ll be piecing together a team through your minor league affiliate.

The rotation like their lineup will succeed if they stay healthy. Take a look around though. Masahiro Tanaka is a Tommy John Surgery waiting to happen. If his injury was as bad as they told everybody then I’m sorry, they were foolish not to have the surgery. That decision to me was about money, and the idea that not being able to showcase Tanaka as their headliner for 2015 would decrease money in their pocket. If Tanaka stays healthy and gives the Yankees 30 starts, he’s winning the AL Cy Young.

Michael Pineda can’t stay on the field. 6 injuries in 6 years, all you hear is how good he’ll be – but he simply hasn’t proven he is capable yet.

CC Sabathia has a degenerative knee problem which for a larger American should be no problem right? The rest of the rotation is a dime a dozen. Nathan Eovaldi got lit up in the National League East last year, have fun against Baltimore, Toronto and Boston.

The lineup has Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann, and Alex Rodriguez – all practically sure things to land on the DL. If they don’t though, this is a team that not only could win the division – but could challenge for the pennant. Rarely do you find a team with such a dramatic pendulum swing where the thought of landing on the DL seems more certain than unlucky.

I can’t think of another team that ever had it’s core of talent so injury prone, yet so capable of doing great things if they avoid the inevitable. Think about it, you could make a strong and reasonable argument that 6 out of the Yankees starting 10 players on Opening Day could either have a great season leading them toward a pennant, or they could spend serious time on the disabled list.

I think the Yankees whiffed on the bullpen, because while I agree Dellin Betances is nasty, I think the way in which they handled David Robertson’s free agency hurt their plan to have a dominant bullpen. Betances could be a very good closer, but what if he’s not? Andrew Miller is not a closer, Robertson filled the biggest shoes of anybody by replacing Mariano Rivera. They had a chance to have a lights out 7-8-9, instead they didn’t even pick up the phone.

At the end of the year I think we’ll look back and see Joe Girardi does another great job piecing a season together with AAAA players, but it won’t be enough to take the division.

Toronto Blue Jays – 2nd Place

Key additions: Josh DonaldsonMarco EstradaRussell MartinMichael SaundersJustin Smoak

Key subtractions: Melky CabreraJuan FranciscoAnthony GoseJ.A. HappBrett LawrieAdam LindCasey Janssen

It’s honestly mostly a guess to be straight with you. This franchise has not see a playoff game since Mitch Williams tossed one in to Joe Carter. Karma has to catch up with them at some point right? Truth be told until I started writing this, I had Toronto winning the division.

The Blue Jays added in Russell Martin, Justin Smoak/Daric Barton and Josh Donaldson to the lineup which should in theory provide Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion with greater support and more opportunities to drive in runs. We all know Jose Reyes leads the lineup at the top, and though he has seemingly regressed every year since leaving New York – he’s still worth noting.

23 year old Devon Travis is somebody to watch in Toronto. Pairing him with Reyes across the bag could make for a nice 2B/SS combo if Travis can steal the job away from Ryan Goins.

The rotation took a huge blow by losing Marcus Stroman. They expected huge things from him and to tear an ACL on a defensive drill? Yikes. Seems karma is still not on their side.

I’m confident enough in R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle. They will be fine, neither will be an ace but truly acceptable near the top of the rotation. I have my doubts about the rest of the rotation, and pair that with the fact Brett Cecil is likely their closer – you have a red flag.

I think Toronto wants to make a move, and I do think they will act on an arm or two becoming available. They need less to go their way to compete for this division, but I don’t see them having the horses right now.

Boston Red Sox - 1st Place

Key additions: Ryan HaniganJustin MastersonWade MileyRick Porcello, Pablo Sandoval, Hanley RamirezAnthony Varvaro

Key subtractions: Yoenis CespedesRubby De La Rosa, Will Middlebrooks, David RossAllen Webster

I’m not really confident here because I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this team lands in 3rd place. The Red Sox whiffed on the Jon Lester situation. After that trade happened, it seemed every Boston fan you knew was saying they’d get Lester back and it’d be no big deal. Well, we all know that didn’t happen and now the Red Sox rotation is relying on Rick Porcello to be the counterpart to Clay Buchholz. Porcello is no Lester, not even close.

The rotation is alright, just alright. I think like pretty much everybody not named the Yankees in this division – it lacks a true ace.

The lineup could be fun to watch, especially if Mookie Betts turns out to be as good as some predict. If he does, Rusney Castillo may have to wait a little while longer.

The catcher spot will be interesting to because I’ve heard Red Sox nation regard prospect Blake Swihart as the next Jason Varitek. Not sure Swihart will be with this team any time soon, it really depends on Christian Vazquez.

The heart of the order is dangerous for sure. Pedroia-Ortiz-Hanley-Sandoval will give most pitchers fits throughout the year.

In order for this team to grab the division, they need Clay Buchholz to emerge as a frontline starter the way he appeared to be in 2010. I’m not sold on this at all. I look at his body of work over the last four seasons and I can’t see how he replaced a guy like Lester.

The team will need to outslug everybody to win, and while that is possible – I am not banking on Boston having enough to steal the division, but it’s the most likely scenario I can think of.

AL East MVP: Dustin Pedroia. If I am taking Boston to win the division, I think Pedroia has a big year.

AL East Cy Young: Tanaka. I’m flipping a coin here. He either missed May-next year or he pitches long enough to set himself apart from the rest of the pitchers in this division. Simply hedging my bet here.

AL East Sleeper: Devon Travis. I think if Travis can win the starting job and stick with it, it’ll be a big bump to Toronto.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Arizona Diamondbacks

XtreemIcon’s Picks

First I’d like to address something from Jessep’s opening. “Did you see the 2014 Royals coming?” Yes. Yes, I did. Now that the horn-tooting is out of the way, on to my picks.

I think Jessep is 100% correct. Or 100% wrong. Or pretty close, or maybe really far off. How do you forecast a division that has exactly one great pitcher when that pitcher is a strong breeze away from missing eighteen months? Or when the best hitters are old and declining? The best talent in the division is still Evan Longoria, but there’s nothing surrounding him. The best hitter in the division over the last three seasons has been Robinson Cano, and he wasn’t in the division last season.

Tampa Bay Rays – 5th Place

The Rays are my choice for the number one pick in the 2016 draft.

Boston Red Sox - 4th Place

The Red Sox will finish fourth because the free agents they signed will bust to the surprise of no one and there’s no real good pitcher anywhere on that team. For the Sox to compete, every free agent they signed has to perform to their top potential, and they used up that sorcery in 2013. Additionally, Betts and Xander Bogaerts will have to to get their careers jump started early and Porcello will have to be an ace. I like Porcello, but not to lead a staff.

Baltimore Orioles - 3rd Place

The Orioles will finish third because they’re getting Machado back and Davis can certainly achieve a 2012 redux. I’m encouraged by Bud Norris’s 2013 and Kevin Gausman‘s potential. They did lose Cruz, but Machado and Davis bouncing back will more than cover that and Markaikis has been league average at best since his 2012 breakout.

New York Yankees - 2nd Place

The Yankees get the second place nod here because of potential. If they can get 140 games out of Teixeira, McCann and A-Rod, and 30 starts from Tanaka, Sabathia and Pineda, you can reasonably expect enough production to win 86-ish games and not embarrass themselves. There’s a very minimal likelihood that happens, but I won $800 at Mohegan Sun last week, so I’m feeling lucky. I disagree with Jessep about Robertson. I think the Yankees handled that well, letting him go for a draft pick and giving the team-controlled better talent the chance. I don’t love all that money for a reliever they gave to Miller, but he’s better and cheaper than Robertson and the Yankees gonna do what the Yankees gonna do.

Toronto Blue Jays –  1st Place

The off season splashes Alex Anthopoulos is famous for recently that have consistently blown up in his face (as off season splashes always do), may finally pay off, although “by default” probably wasn’t the way he pictured it. I think the Jays are the favorites because they have the most dependable roster. Nothing there is great, but you can reasonably expect health and that makes them the best offensive team in the division. Besides Dickey and Buehrle, I think Drew Hutchinson is poised for a step forward and Aaron Sanchez has tons of potential. They were able to steal top player Josh Donaldson from the A’s, they upgraded at catcher with Russell Martin and one of these days I’ll be right about Michael Saunders. The bullpen is an issue and there’s no league-best anythings outside of third base defense, but they’re the best by default.

AL East MVP: Evan Longoria. One day I’ll be right.

AL Central Cy Young: Chris Archer. I’ve always liked him. Maybe it’s his year finally.

AL Central Sleeper: Brett Gardner. He’s the elder statesman of the Yankees, believe it or not, and I think he’ll be able to reconcile the high OBP skills he has (2010) and his new found power stroke and combine them into a .290/.365/.430 season and really become a leader on that team.

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How Much Of A Sure Thing Are The Nationals? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/03/how-much-of-a-sure-thing-are-the-nationals.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/03/how-much-of-a-sure-thing-are-the-nationals.html/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 17:56:31 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=176778 MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Washington Nationals

Everyone has the Nationals as a lock? GREAT! Hope the Nats are thinking the same thing too!

The Nationals made a big off season splash inking Max Scherzer. They signed him for seven years but backloaded the contract so this year it is only $10MM, $15MM for the three years after that, $35MM for the final three years, and $50MM as a signing bonus to be spread out over the seven years. Final tally for the Scott Boras client: seven years at $210MM.

So, while Mike Rizzo landed the top free agent, how much did he improve his team? After all, this puts last year’s #5 starter, Tanner Roark, in the bullpen and he was 15-10, had a 2.85 ERA, a 1.09 WHIP and threw 199 innings.

How much will Scherzer improve on that? And if you are wondering about Roark’s ability to repeat, in 2013 he was 7-1, had a 1.51 ERA, a 0.91 WHIP in 54 innings. The kid has talent.  While I really admire Rizzo and his building of the Washington organization, wouldn’t a signing of Hanley Ramirez, or Pablo Sandoval, or even Chase Headley for third base and the middle of the lineup, and shifting Anthony Rendon to second base be more of an overall team upgrade, especially with the loss of Adam LaRoche?

Presently the Nationals have injuries to Denard Span that will keep him out for six weeks and then probably needing a couple of weeks to get up to speed and to Jayson Werth who is 35 and has already shown age, but traded away the talented reserve Steven Souza in December for a player to be named. Speaking of injuries, Ryan Zimmerman is seemingly always hurt and there are worries that bat has slowed down quite a bit, while Rendon repeating his great year or even staying healthy is not a given due to his injury history in the minors and majors. There’s already concern Rendon will have to start the season on the disabled list. There is no denying that Bryce Harper and Ian Desmond are talented and motivated to impress, but what else can they absolutely count on?

As for their lone lineup addition, they traded a valuable bullpen piece in Tyler Clippard for Yunel Escobar. Escobar is a good defensive player at SS and will learn second base, but he will not significantly add to the offense batting in the #7 or #8 spot.  Also, the injuries will lead to unproven rookies filling in a lineup that has two of their “heart of the order” hitters hoping to turn back the clock. If I were a Nats fan, I’d be concerned.

Continuing, as we have mentioned, the bullpen has lost some important contributors. Not just a dependable all-star like Clippard but the loss of Rafael Soriano (who was putrid down the stretch but helped them win many games in the previous four and a half months) are losses that have to be replaced. Oh yeah, the ownership of Washington wants to slash payroll, not add to it. [I've heard that before somewhere else...]

So, the Nationals have a stronger starting rotation, albeit a seemingly small upgrade, but have regressed in their lineup and their bullpen. In this writer’s view, the Nationals are vulnerable and are showing fractures in their armor. Not only are they starting the season missing some valuable lineup pieces, but Zimmerman is brittle and even Rendon has had trouble staying healthy in the past. Their bullpen can use a proven closer, but the ownership has locked away the checkbook.

This vulnerability can open the door to upstarts like the Mets and the Marlins to win the division. Some of you may laugh at this, but while the Nationals get all the press, I believe they are closer to a rebuild by getting rid of Zimmerman, Werth, and Span and going younger than they are to a World Series. Popular opinion has the Marlins having a more improved and overall better team than the Mets, but if the Mets can get to 91 wins, they may have a chance at playing the winner of the central division in the opening round of the playoffs.

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The Harsh Realities Of Cost Control vs. Player Development http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/03/the-harsh-realities-of-cost-control-vs-player-development.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/03/the-harsh-realities-of-cost-control-vs-player-development.html/#comments Tue, 10 Mar 2015 13:00:10 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=175934 michael conforto

The Mets of recent years, while not experiencing a lot of success at the major league level, have slowly and patiently reconstructed a minor league system that is a consensus top 5 ranked organization. The front office has been patient and careful with this talent, perhaps to a fault. The Mets have been in need of some positional help in 2015 that could have been addressed via trade, but it hasn’t happened.

As a result, the Mets will soon have several players knocking on the door. One of them will almost certainly be Michael Conforto. The young 2014 first rounder out of Oregon State who made such an impression in Saturday’s Grapefruit League win over the Braves, going 3-for-4 with a double and three runs batted in.

Now I don’t know much, I’m just a guy sitting at home watching the games. I’m not a scout or a talent evaluator. I’ve played some and I’ve coached some, and I’ve watched a whole lot of baseball during my 49 years, and from what I saw on Saturday, Conforto looks like he could probably play at the major league level right now. It’s all about the swing.

You look at a lot of guys (Ike would be a good example) who come up these days with these big power strokes and you worry about their ability to time the off-speed stuff and make contact against the breaking pitch. You look at their impatience and tendencies in and out of the zone, their lack of plate discipline. I don’t see any of that with Conforto. I see a guy with a real good approach, a very good eye, and a killer-quick compact swing. This kid will hit, that much is obvious.

So why not speed him up? Start the year at Binghamton and then send him to Vegas with an outside shot at a September call up? Well the company line is “we want to be patient, let them develop, bring them up when we know they’re ready.”

An interesting situation has been fomenting in this regard on the North Side of Chicago with a big third base prospect named Kris Bryant. As reported by CBS Sports Chicago, MLBPA executive director Tony Clark made the following statement to the Tribune:

“I will always pay attention during the course of the year as guys come up, go down, different considerations that may be a part of those decisions. This year is a little different than in years past here as it’s a remarkably talented group in that locker room. There’s a very good group of veterans, a very good group of young talented players and selfishly I’m interested to see how everything falls into place.”

“But as it relates to when someone may come up, when they may not, those are all things we pay very close attention to and as the year goes along, we’ll see where we end up.”

Apparently the MLPA is none too happy with teams delaying the service clock of players, thereby setting back their eligibility for free agency by a year, even though it’s permissible under the current CBA, and, really, a pretty smart practice. Predictably, Theo Epstein answered back, turning up the sarcasm:

“I haven’t talked directly to Tony about it, so I’ll withhold comment. But I didn’t know we needed players association permission to send a player to the minor leagues who’s not even on the 40-man roster and has less than 300 plate appearances at Triple-A. That’d be a new one to me.”

The cynical nature here is almost reminiscent of an Alderson to Boras retort!

Theo promptly went on to not withhold comment with the following:

“Just evaluating him from a baseball standpoint, I’m kind of laughing at how big of a story this has become. The reality is for players with less than 300 plate appearances or 250 at-bats, whatever it is at Triple-A, the norm is to get more seasoning.

In Kris’ case, he changes people’s perception because he’s so mature, he’s so advanced. He handles things in stride. He comes across as a 30-year-old veteran even though he’s only 23. So I think that’s gotten people a little ahead of themselves. And look, Kris is in camp competing, and he’s in camp trying to get better.”

“When we talk about Kris Bryant, we don’t talk about service time — not a single conversation. What we talk about is his evolution as a baseball player, his development, his strengths and his weaknesses and how much time we feel he still needs at Triple-A before he’s ready to come up and make an impact in the big leagues. You don’t get that time back. If you call someone up prematurely and they struggle, sometimes it turns out fine and you can send them back and they come back and it’s no harm, no foul. Other times you can derail a player’s career.”

“We’re just trying to get this one right. Do the right thing for our big league club. Do the right thing for Kris’ development. Those are our decisions. They’re baseball decisions, and that’s how we’ll make them.”

Then again maybe it isn’t something Alderson would say. I’m pretty sure Sandy wouldn’t tip his hand by going out of his way to elaborate at length on a sensitive topic … It’s never a good idea to give up more information than you absolutely need to … Theo’s touchy disposition speaks volumes. Are teams trying to find ways to delay service time for “can’t miss” prospects thereby putting off arbitration?

The short answer is, of course, why wouldn’t they?

As with many things related to free agency, service time goes back to reserve clause precedents that once upon a time allowed teams who developed players to control them in perpetuity. But that has not been the case since Curt Flood sued MLB and lost, leading to the Messersmith and McNally challenge in December of 1975 when players finally won the right to free agency.

Service time stipulations in current CBA manifestations are essentially the last vestige of the reserve clause. Teams successfully continue to argue that they should be rewarded and in a sense benefit from the fruits of drafting and developing labor, by controlling players for some fair and predetermined length of time, (what currently amounts to around 6 years total with the latter three being arbitration years). MLB explains arbitration thus:

A player with three or more years of service, but less than six years, may file for salary arbitration. In addition, a player can be classified as a “Super Two” and be eligible for arbitration with less than three years of service. A player with at least two but less than three years of Major League service shall be eligible for salary arbitration if he has accumulated at least 86 days of service during the immediately preceding season and he ranks in the top 22 percent (increased from 17 percent in previous agreements) in total service in the class of Players who have at least two but less than three years of Major League service, however accumulated, but with at least 86 days of service accumulated during the immediately preceding season.

So a team may benefit considerably by delaying a player’s start time because it can delay arbitration eligibility. This can potentially do a couple of things. In a talented (top 22%) player who is around the age of Bryant (and Conforto) it will ensure that a good portion of the player’s prime years are swallowed up by arbitration, and secondly, it will delay free agency by up to a year on the back end. Cost control and control of early prime. The benefits of delaying start time from a team standpoint are enormous.

So it’s hard for me to believe that financial considerations aren’t a factor here. In Conforto’s case, we may very well have a kid who could benefit from some additional “seasoning,” but you have to imagine Mets front office honchos have almost certainly calculated the financial benefits of being “patient” in a general sense, particularly when you are currently on a budget that’s been squeezed like a capybara in a python.

The MLBPA is right to be concerned. The game is changing. We are in the midst of a dramatic shift back to pre-steroid norms and the age of onset, if you will, is trending younger. Players are coming up bigger, stronger, more mature, while at the same time older players are breaking down younger and at higher rates. We need look no further than our own David Wright which only a few years ago would have still been considered in his “prime.” As a result of this, teams who have shifted to youth movements should enjoy a pronounced competitive advantage.

It’s a bigger issue than we think. When you consider that player careers are no longer artificially or chemically lengthened, a player has only so much time to compile a body of work, a career, a legacy, a hall of fame portfolio.

Clark did make one more point:

“I will tell you this – we have always and will continue to believe that it’s in everyone’s best interest to have the best players playing at any particular time,”

If teams eat into these early years by delaying start time, it takes away not only from their career accomplishments, it also deprives the fans of seeing young dynamic players who may very well be more than ready.

And unless my eyes deceive me, Conforto is one of them.

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Ranking the NL East Catchers http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/02/ranking-the-nl-east-catchers.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/02/ranking-the-nl-east-catchers.html/#comments Wed, 25 Feb 2015 16:10:59 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=175025 Florida Marlins v Washington Nationals

How do the National League East Catchers shake out? There can be a lot of debate on this list, and by mid-season this list may be completely different – but let’s take a look and see how they currently rank…

1. Wilson Ramos (Nationals) – Ramos is the best catcher in the East. He gunned down 38% of would be base stealers in 2014 while hitting .269 with 27 HR and 106 RBI over the last two seasons. He just has to stay on the field after tearing his ACL in 2012, a hamstring injury in 2013, and a broken hand in 2014.

2. Carlos Ruiz (Phillies) – As catchers go, Chooch is getting long in the tooth entering his age 36 season. He’s also steady behind the plate. He threw out 27% of baserunners and 27% for his career. Over the last 8 seasons, he’s averaged 114 games with a .272 batting average, .358 OBP, 24 doubles and 8 home runs. As a solid veteran on a rebuilding team and two years (+ a team option) with $17.5 million guaranteed heading his way, will he be traded to a contender that needs a solid backstop?

3. Travis d’Arnaud (Mets) – This is a big season for TDA with Kevin Plawecki knocking on the door in AAA, just waiting for his chance. Last year was a tale of two seasons for d’Arnaud – are we going to see the player who hit .272 with 19 doubles and 10 HR in 69 games after he was recalled from the minors, or will we see the player who hit .180 with 3 doubles and 3 HR in 39 games before being banished to Vegas? He threw out only 19% of base runners last year, and only threw out 13% after being called up. The Mets are going to need to win this year with pitching and defense. Travis is going to need to step up this year for the Mets to contend. Given his improved offensive production in the latter half of 2014, I’ll rank him ahead of the next man on the list, but depending on his start, he can find himself sliding either up or down on the list very easily.

4. Jarrod Saltalamacchia (Marlins) – There’s nothing particularly exciting about Salty. He’s a career .242 hitter who threw out 19% of runners last season (well below the 28% league average). He has some pop, hitting 11 in 2014 and averaging 16 over the last 4 seasons. But hey, he’s owed $15 million by the Marlins through 2016 – not bad work if you can get it.

5. Christian Bethancourt (Braves) – The 23 year old rookie backstop enters the season as tops on the depth chart after trading away Evan Gattis. While A.J. Pierzynski and John Buck were veterans that were signed in the offseason that can mentor the young catcher and possibly step in if he needs more seasoning, the job is Bethancourt’s to lose. He has some pop in his bat, is a career .269 hitter in the minors, and has thrown out 36% of would be base stealers in the minors. The Braves feel he’s their catcher of the future – he’ll just have to show if his promise lives up to his potential. As he’s completely unproven at the MLB level, he’s number 5 on the list, but with production, he may find himself moving up the list.

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Phillies’ Cole Hamels Wants To Be Traded http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/02/phillies-cole-hamels-wants-to-be-traded.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/02/phillies-cole-hamels-wants-to-be-traded.html/#comments Thu, 19 Feb 2015 15:00:26 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=174843 Cole Hamels

In an interview with Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Phillies ace Cole Hamels admitted he wants to be traded. Said Hamels:

“I just want to win. That’s all. That’s all any competitor wants. And I know it’s not going to happen here. This isn’t what I expected. It’s not what the Phillies expected, either. But it’s reality.”

“There’s no better feeling than winning, and we enjoyed that for a long time in Philadelphia. I just want to win again. I’m no different than other guys. You just want to be in a position to win.”

Last season, Hamels went 9-9 with a very impressive 2.46 ERA. In 204.2 innings, he struck out 198 batters. He finished 6th in Cy Young voting, behind Jordan Zimmermann and ahead of Zack Greinke.

Cole Hamels being traded out of the division seems like it would probably be a positive overall. Last season against the Mets, Hamels went 1-1 with a 2.41 ERA. In 33 2/3 innings, he gave up 33 hits and walked 15, while striking out 34 and holding Mets batters to a .264 batting average.

Some Mets will be very happy to see Hamels leave the division. In their careers, Michael Cuddyer has gone 1-15 in his career, his only hit being a double, and striking out twice. Travis d’Arnaud is 1-14 with 4 strikeouts a 4 walks, and Lucas Duda has gone 2-16 with 5 walks and 8 strikeouts against the Phillies’ southpaw.

However, some Mets would miss facing Hamels if he were to depart the division, such as Eric Campbell (5-12 .417) and Curtis Granderson (5-11 .455). David Wright, who is notorious for devouring left-handed pitching, has faced Hamels most out of all current Mets. In 77 career at bats, Wright has 25 hits (.325 avg), 5 of which are doubles and another is a triple. He has also hit 5 home runs off the southpaw, and driven in 16 runs.

Second baseman Daniel Murphy would also be sad to say goodbye, as he has gone 17-51 (.333) with four doubles and a home run. However, it seems center fielder Juan Lagares would miss Hamels the most. In 25 at bats, Lagares has 11 hits (.440) including four doubles, two RBIs, and 2 walks.

Despite many Mets hitters being successful against him, Hamels is of course an ace, and seeing him leave the division could potentially give the Mets an extra 1-2 wins, as we generally face him very often. If the Mets are contending this year, which they plan to do and most of us expect them to do, those 1-2 wins would be very important.

Would you be happy or sad to see Hamels go? Comment below! And, as always, Let’s Go Mets!

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Even In Defeat, A-Rod’s Still A Winner http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/02/even-in-defeat-a-rods-still-a-winner.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/02/even-in-defeat-a-rods-still-a-winner.html/#comments Wed, 18 Feb 2015 14:00:22 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=174800 (Photo Credit: Noah K. Murray, USA TODAY Sports)

(Photo Credit: Noah K. Murray, USA TODAY Sports)

Alex Rodriguez‘s handwritten apology letter released to the media yesterday was a joke. It was authentic A-Rod: cold, unforgiving, and insincere. In a letter that should be the most humble apology we’ve ever heard, he didn’t explain himself. He didn’t even say what he did. He called his steroid use “the mistakes that led to my suspension.” However, it doesn’t matter at this point what A-Rod says (or writes). He realizes he doesn’t need to beg for forgiveness. He’s already won.

Sure, A-Rod’s reputation took a big hit years back when he admitted to using PEDs with the Texas Rangers between 2001 and 2003. But he was already hated. He had already alienated baseball fans everywhere with his stuck-up attitude. If you weren’t a Yankee fan, odds are you didn’t like him anyway.

Since then, Rodriguez has had nothing to lose. He’s played fast and loose with the media in the years since. He hasn’t cared what anyone thinks, nor has he needed to.

Yesterday, we saw two men in very similar yet vastly different situations. A-Rod apologized in what on the surface appeared to be a desperate move while Anthony Bosch, the former Florida clinic owner who sold steroids to A-Rod and others, cried in court before receiving a four-year prison sentence. While what Bosch did was far more despicable (selling steroids to minors), his punishment fits his crimes. A-Rod’s crimes against baseball will go practically unpunished.

No matter what happens with Alex Rodriguez this year, he wins. If he goes into spring training in terrible shape and can’t even beat out the likes of Chris Young and Chase Headley for playing time over the next two years, he still goes home $61 million richer, and that’s the worst case.

Even in a piece for ESPN New York scolding A-Rod and calling him “a serial liar and cheat who thought he needed underground pharmacology to become one of the all-time greats,” Ian O’Connor opened the door for redemption. “Alex Rodriguez has only one genuine way of connecting with fans who want to win a whole lot more than they want to read his handwritten B.S,” wrote O’Connor, “See the ball. Hit the ball. Hit the ball over the wall.”

Say Rodriguez returns with a 30 home run season and leads the Yankees to a surprise playoff run. In a country that craves redemption stories, he will suddenly be a hero, or at least, his reputation will be partially repaired. And that’s the problem.

A-Rod lied to the media, fans, his teammates, and his bosses time after time. He made us sympathize with him over the “pressures” he faced in Texas and made some understand why he did what he did. He even convinced most that he had turned over a new leaf. He has stepped on people and used the media to push people around. He doesn’t deserve a shot at redemption. Heck, he doesn’t even deserve his money. Players will look at A-Rod as someone who, while his reputation is damaged, got away with it all. He won’t get a plaque in Cooperstown or have his number retired by the Yankees, but he comes out of it all with fame, fortune, and yes, a shot at forgiveness. If he got through, so can others. How many times are we going to give clearly bad people who don’t show any true remorse second, third, and fourth chances? Until there is some sort of genuine, collaborative effort by both the players, owners, and teams to stop this from happening, can we really bet on players not repeating these mistakes? Can we really declare the so-called “Steroid Era” over?

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Ranking the NL East Right Fielders http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/02/ranking-the-nl-east-right-fielders.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/02/ranking-the-nl-east-right-fielders.html/#comments Mon, 16 Feb 2015 13:54:49 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=174673 Washington Nationals v Miami Marlins

1. Giancarlo Stanton (Marlins) – There is no question who is the Top Dog. The only possible question mark about Stanton is if there will be any residual effect from the horrific beaning he took which ended his 2014 season (which does make me wonder if that played any factor in agreeing to sign long term with the Marlins this offseason). Provided he comes back 100% healthy, we’re looking at the true Baddest Man on the Planet who is entering his age 25 season coming off a year where he hit .288 with 37 HR, 105 RBI and was intentionally walked 24 times. Scary to think what he can do once he hits his prime.

2. Nick Markakis (Braves) – Markakis is one of those guys who you flip over the back of his baseball card and you know what you can expect in 2015 and beyond. He’s been pretty much Steady Eddie in nine MLB seasons, averaging 152 games played, 83 runs scored 172 hits, 35 doubles, 16 HR, 73 RBI, and a slash line of .290/.358/.435. He’s also a two-time gold glove winner, one of them earned in 2014. There is some concern about his neck surgery.

3. Bryce Harper (Nationals) – Harper behind Markakis? Really? We all know Harper has a world of talent and while some may say he hasn’t lived up to his potential, let’s remember that he’s still very young… just entering his age 22 season. He’s played three MLB seasons when most guys his age are just hoping for an invite to spring training with the big club and a uniform number in the 80s. But the third best right fielder in the division? At this point, yes. Markakis is durable and you know what you’re going to get. Harper has only averaged 109 games the last two years and his ability to stay on the field is costing him the number two spot. I’d love to see him in a Met uniform in his prime and while I think he’s going to be a monster in another few years, until he stays healthy and indeed proves to be a monster at the major league level, he’s #3 in the division.

4. Michael Cuddyer (Mets) – Which Cuddyer will we see in 2015? Will it be the player who played between 139 and 157 in all but one season from 2006-2011, or will we see the Michael Cuddyer who appeared in only 49 games in 2014? Will we see the player who hit .331 the last two seasons in Colorado or will we see the player who hit .271 the first 12 years of his career? We gave up a first round pick to get him and at two years he’s a stopgap until Brandon Nimmo or Michael Conforto is major league ready, so I don’t feel he’s a bad signing as long as he can stay on the field… but is he an elite player? No. But he is a proven major league bat, and we need that in the lineup.

5. Domonic Brown (Phillies) – When we profiled the National League East Left Fielders, Brown was at the top of the depth chart for the Phillies. Since then, Grady Sizemore has shifted to the top of the Phillies chart in left and Brown is on the chart in Right. Brown is one of those former top prospects that everyone expected so much from, but never lived up to those expectations. He had a great first half of the 2013 season where he hit .281 with 21 HR and 62 RBI that earned him an All-Star berth, but has been nothing spectacular before or since. He’s entering his age 27 season, so there’s still time to put it together, but for now he’s looking like one of those prospects that never lived up to that dreaded “potential”. I had him ranked as the #4 left fielder, but he’s pulling up the rear in RF.

Previous Editions

NL East First Basemen

NL East Second Basemen

NL East Shortstops

NL East Third Basemen

NL East Left Fielders

NL East Center Fielders

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That’s The Signpost Up Ahead, Your Next Stop, The Manfred Zone http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/02/thats-the-signpost-up-ahead-your-next-stop-the-manfred-zone.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/02/thats-the-signpost-up-ahead-your-next-stop-the-manfred-zone.html/#comments Sun, 08 Feb 2015 13:26:15 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=174429 tumblr_mylw8lPK1h1slsalco1_500

The date is Tuesday, October 6, 2015 and we made it. Finally. After 8 draining tedious seasons, the Mets have returned to the post-season. 90 wins netted us the second wildcard spot. In order to face St. Louis in the LDS and avenge 2006 all we must do is win a one-game wild card elimination. Jacob deGrom (18-9 3.25 ERA) vs. Clayton Kershaw (21-5, 2.73 ERA).

Kershaw seems to have finally shaken his post-season woes. That is, until the top of the 7th when Lucas Duda plants one beyond the RF wall knocking in Lagares and Wright. The Mets need just 9 more outs. But the 7th inning stretch galvanizes the capacity crowd. Shortstop Jimmy Rollins (of all people) notices the corner infielders playing back and legs out a perfectly executed bunt for a lead-off single. The fans get loud. Carl Crawford clobbers deGrom’s next offering. Curtis Granderson turns and runs, snagging the high fly against the wall for the first out. 27 year-old deGrom is rattled. He takes a deep breath, paces, tries to regroup and wipes the sweat from his brow as Yasiel Puig digs in. Puig splits two outfielders. A double. The Dodgers, trailing 3-0, have runners on second and third. The tying run, represented by Adrian Gonzalez (.279-32-118) steps to the plate.

Eight more stinkin’ outs. Mets fans are growing restless, anticipating the worst. 56,238 Dodgers fans rise to their feet in an attempt to unnerve the Mets starter. It’s all happened so quick that Terry Collins hasn’t had a chance to get someone loose. The Mets need to stall. DeGrom needs to calm down. Mets fans scream at the TV for Collins to go the mound and buy some time for the bullpen. Why isn’t Duda sharing some words of encouragement??? Why is David Wright, our captain, just standing there??? How come Travis d’Arnaud isn’t calling time and walking to the mound to calm down the young pitcher the way Gary Carter did with Doc Gooden? DeGrom, nervous, losing composure and about to blow it, is left all alone. What the hell is going on??? Is this the Twilight Zone??? Where’s Rod Serling???

Then we remember. “Oh, yea. We’ve used up our allotted time-outs.” Welcome to the Rob Manfred version of Major League Baseball. You know, the version where games took too darn long and needed to be sped up.

One of the countless aspects that make baseball the greatest game ever devised is the link from generation to generation. For well over a century the National Pastime has remained relatively unchanged. A .300 hitter means something, no matter if it’s me cheering Jose Reyes, my father cheering Jackie Robinson or my grandfather cheering Babe Herman. A 20-game winner is a 20-game winner, be it Doc Gooden, Tom Seaver or Christy Mathewson. 200 K’s means the same to Randy Johnson as it did to Walter Johnson. The only significant alteration to the rules occurred in 1973. And more than 40 years after one league installed the DH, fans are still divided.

Buster-Posey-InjuryThe powers-that-be began tinkering with the Holy Grail of the game, the rule book, because of what transpired in Florida on May 25, 2011. On a play at home, Scott Cousins collided with Giants catcher Buster Posey. The defending Rookie of the Year suffered torn ligaments and a fractured fibula. For all intents and purposes, the Giants season was finished before Memorial Day. MLB felt, for whatever reason, changes needed to be made. And so began the descent down a perilous slope that could have a long lasting impact on the game we cherish.

There is nothing more exciting than witnessing a player rounding third and heading for home as the catcher plants his feet waiting for the relay throw. Nothing can bring an entire stadium to their feet quicker than anticipating a play at the plate. Both at the ballpark and watching from home our stomachs tighten. We hold our collective breath. Can the runner knock the ball free? Can the catcher apply the tag?

Beginning last year that thrilling aspect was removed. You could clearly see the confusion all season long. Runners were uncertain where their lane was. Catchers were tentative about where they were permitted to stand. Protecting a run became secondary to abiding to some silly rule. (As a side note, how many knew that the rule was amended during the season where catchers could NOT block the plate but position players COULD?)

Was Posey’s injury catastrophic? Absolutely. The 2011 Giants still managed to win 86 games, falling just 4 short of the wildcard. Surely, had Posey not been injured, he himself is worth 4 wins. However, MLB overreacted. Yes, catchers do get hurt. But that’s part of the game. And think about it. How often does that really occur? We see more injuries on routine plays. If MLB feels compelled to prevent injuries, what’s next?

More common is a batter pulling a hamstring sprinting down the 1B line trying to beat out a slow roller. How about a player rounding 2nd and turning on the afterburners. (Jose Reyes anyone?) We see players jamming thumbs stealing a base. Perhaps MLB should create a Designated Runner. We have a Designated Hitter so why not? Every player could have one DR assigned to them. Rosters would increase to 50, the union would be happy and star players we pay admission to see would never get hurt.

KEN GRIFFEY JR.Another way to prevent injuries could be prohibiting outfielders from crashing into the wall. Hey, we already have a warning track. Let’s put it to good use. If the outfielder can’t catch the ball before trespassing onto the warning track, that’s just too darn bad. (If such a rule existed twenty years ago, think of all those extra games Ken Griffey Jr. would not have missed. He’d probably be the HR King, not Barry Bonds.)

And pitchers? They are both the highest paid AND most often injured. Maybe MLB should outlaw the curve ball. And while they’re at it, they can outlaw the fast ball, too. After all, more batters are injured getting hit by a pitch than runners colliding at the plate. Perhaps we should reduce a strikeout to two strikes, a walk to three balls? How about extending the base paths from 90 feet to 110 feet. C’mon, let’s get the baseball thing over with in a hurry so we can all go back to seeing which Kardashian is pregnant this week.

Of course I’m being sarcastic. But based on recent changes, I’m not ruling out anything. In the Arizona Fall League MLB looked into methods to speed up the game. Some of the changes tested include:

• Batter’s box rule: Hitter required to keep at least one foot in the batter’s box throughout at-bat unless there is foul ball, wild pitch or passed ball — or if a pitch forces him out or the umpire grants “time.”

• No-pitch intentional walks

• 20-second rule: 20-second clock will be posted in each dugout, behind home plate and in outfield to prevent pitchers from taking too much time.

• 2:05 inning-break clock: Maximum time allowed between innings, and batters must be in box at 1:45 mark or umpire can call automatic strike. If pitcher throws pitch after 2:05, umpire may call ball.

• 2:30 pitching-change-break clock: Maximum amount of time allowed for pitching change.

• Three “timeout” limit: Teams limited to three trips to the mound by managers, coaches and catchers during game, except pitching changes.

Commissioner Manfred is also looking into outlawing defensive shifts, removing strategy from the most strategic game there is. That in and of itself is a mixed signal and demonstrates MLB is utterly clueless. On one hand they install policies to make games shorter. On the other hand, recent changes do just the opposite.

With the advent of a ‘challenge’ or ‘play under review,’ the game that supposedly already moves too slowly now comes to a grinding halt. Players on the field, fans in the stands and viewers at home now watch with baited breath as umpires stand in a circle wearing headsets conversing with some guy in a darkened chamber high above Manhattan like the mysterious shadowy “banker” in that Howie Mandel game show. During the course of a game this alone could add anywhere from 8-12 minutes. If they’re willing to delay a game to make sure the call is correct, isn’t it equally important to honor the history of the game itself and not mess around with lunacy such as pitch clocks?

Jimi-hendrix-guitar-on-fire-monterey-liveAnother contradiction from the incoming commissioner is his desire to bring offense back to the game. Outlawing defensive shifts will see the return of 9-7 slugfests instead of well-played 3-2 pitching duels. Yet, we all know a 9-7 game takes longer to play than a 3-2 game.

Making games shorter will not help ratings. Those who find Baseball “boring” and “slow-moving” will not suddenly become fans and purchase Mike Trout jerseys. And those of us who are purists will take umbrage to tinkering with the very essence of the game we treasure, the game taught to us by our dad or older brother. They need to stop mucking up the beauty of Baseball with hare-brained attempts to outdraw Football. Yes, 112 million TV sets were tuned into the Super Bowl last weekend while an average of just 13.8 million viewers watched the World Series last October.  But so what? Kanye West has sold more records than Jimi Hendrix. That doesn’t mean he’s better.

For more than 100 years Baseball has survived every conceivable transgression imaginable. Racists, bigots and anti-Semites have worn the uniform. But the game endured. Games have been fixed, an entire World Series was thrown. But the game endured. Some of the greatest players to ever walk on the field have been shamed and may never be enshrined in Cooperstown. But the game endured. Alcoholics, cocaine addicts and steroid users have played. But the game endured. Free agency, collusion, teams relocating, some franchises completely folded. But the game endured. Two World Wars and conflicts from Southeast Asia to Central America have taken place. But the game endured. On a Tuesday morning, terror came to New York City, Washington DC and western Pennsylvania. The game stopped. But after ten days, endured. Hopefully the game will be able to endure these potentially catastrophic changes.

“Baseball must be a great game. The owners haven’t found a way to kill it yet.”  – Bill Veeck

The date is Tuesday, October 6, 2015 and we made it. Finally. After 8 draining tedious seasons, the Mets have returned to the post-season.

It’s the top of the 9th in Los Angeles. The Mets squandered a 3-0 lead and now trail 4-3. Closer Kenley Jansen is on the hill to close it out and send the Mets home on a long cross-country flight. After retiring the first 2 batters, 56,238 Dodgers fans are on their feet. They smell blood. Juan Lagares keeps  our hopes alive and bloops one over the outstretched glove of Jimmy Rollins. Daniel Murphy fights off a wicked 0-2 cut fastball and shoots one down the first base line, just beyond the reach of Adrian Gonzalez. Lagares motors around to 3B.

Trailing 4-3, tying run on third and potential winning run at first. David Wright, candidate for Comeback Player of the Year (302-26-107) digs in. After falling behind 0-2, he fights off pitch after pitch after pitch. He fouls off close pitches, lays off others just off the black and works the count to 3-2. The capacity crowd is going crazy. Fans in New York are pacing in their living rooms.

Don Mattingly on the top step of the Dodger dugout. Terry Collins and various Mets on the top step of the visiting dugout. The camera, shaking due to vibration of chaotic screaming fans, scans the crowd. There’s Tommy LaSorda in the owner’s box staring wide-eyed at the field. We catch a glimpse of Jerry Seinfeld sitting behind the Mets dugout, cap pulled down over his eyes, too nervous to watch. We get a quick shot of Keith Hernandez in the broadcast booth, his hands clutching an imaginary bat, willing himself on the field as if its 1986 all over again. Catcher A.J. Ellis puts down one finger, pats his left thigh. Fast Ball inside. Jensen checks the runners and sets. Wright grips the bat.

Suddenly, as the fire-balling closer is ready to deliver, a slight breeze kicks up and blows something into Wright’s eye. The entire season is on the line. But David isn’t allowed to step out or ask for time because the rules now prohibit that since we need to get done quickly. Jensen fires a 98 MPH heater. And our entire season comes down to a one-eyed David Wright.

Thanks a lot Rob Manfred.

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New Commish Wants To Eliminate Defensive Shifts http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/01/new-commish-wants-to-eliminate-defensive-shifts.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/01/new-commish-wants-to-eliminate-defensive-shifts.html/#comments Tue, 27 Jan 2015 16:46:21 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=173824 rob manfred

It’s his first day as the new Commissioner of Major League Baseball, and Rob Manfred is already causing a stir. In an interview with ESPN, Manfred stated he wanted to “modernize” the game. Said Manfred in the interview:

“I would be aggressive about using the clock over the long haul, I think it’s a helpful thing in terms of moving the game along. I think the second set of changes that I would look at is related, and that relates to injecting additional offense in the game. For example, things like eliminating shifts, I would be open to those sorts of ideas.”

Adding clocks to the pitchers is something I somewhat agree with. Take former Mets starter Steve Trachsel for example, who was aptly nicknamed the “Human Rain Delay,” he was well known for taking an average of about 3.7 hours between pitches, give or take.

Many of you may agree that some pitchers are adept at slowing the pace of game. The clock would definitely speed up the game. Another suggestion said by many is eliminating walk-up music, because many batters don’t step into the batters’ box until they hear a particular part in the song, which slows down the game.

However, something I love about baseball that sets it apart from football, soccer, basketball, and all the other popular sports, is that there are no clocks in it. An inning can take 10 minutes or it can last longer than half an hour, and I love that. Because I am old-fashioned, if it were up to me, I probably would not choose to implement the clocks for in between pitches. I would just make the umpires tell the pitchers and batters alike to speed the game along if it’s trudging slowly to due just standing around, just like college baseball.

Adding the clocks is one thing I don’t entirely disagree with. However, I can not just sit here and not voice my concerns over Manfred stating he would be open to eliminating defensive shifts. I completely 100% disagree with this.

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My main argument for keeping the shift can be summed up with an old proverb, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Why get rid of it? More importantly, why do you want to add more offense to the game? If you want to do that, suspend Matt Harvey and Clayton Kershaw. There will always be great pitchers, and having your shortstop on one side of second base or the other isn’t going to change a strikeout.

There would be more runs scored if the shifts were outlawed, but why is that a good thing? Why is it such a priority to “inject more offense into the game?” If the Mets are playing the Dodgers in the NLCS this season, I want to see the Mets’ shortstop on the other side of the bag when lefty Adrian Gonzalez comes up, because chances are he pulls the ball. It’s strategy.

Eliminating defensive shifts from baseball is like football eliminating certain defensive alignments, or eliminating zone defense in basketball. You’re anticipating what the opponent is going to do and you act upon that assumption. If you’re wrong, you pay the price. In football, they gain a lot of yards or a touchdown. In baseball, they get a base hit.

If you want to inject more offense, why not eliminate sacrifice bunts? Implement the DH rule in the National League? Move all fences in the league in 10 feet? To me, all of those are as crazy as eliminating shifts. It’s a part of the game!

Instant replay is one way to modernize baseball as Manfred said he wants to do. It adds a few minutes to games, but overall, the game isn’t changed. Clocks doesn’t change the game, it just makes it faster. Eliminating shifts would immediately change the game of baseball and, in my opinion, must not happen.

Don’t change baseball. It’s a perfect game in an imperfect world. If teams are going to score less runs because of Kershaw, Harvey, Felix Hernandez, and others of the like, great. If Miguel Cabrera, Giancarlo Stanton, and Nelson Cruz destroy baseballs left and right, awesome. There is no need for teams to score more total runs.

Of all the games I watched last year, it was Kershaw’s no-hitter that was the most fun to watch. 15 strikeouts and no hits, literally the definition of a game without offense. But I was smiling the whole time, practically begging the Padres not to score runs, let alone get a hit. We all watched Matt Harvey in 2013 seemingly take a no hitter into the 7th almost every game. It is great fun to watch Lucas Duda hit a baseball, but it’s so much more fun to watch Matt Harvey blow a 100 mph fastball past Chase Utley.

To quote the legendary albeit fictional author Terence Mann from the Field of Dreams:

“The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again.”

“But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, it’s a part of our past. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again.”

The only thing Rob Manfred should change about the game is the signature on each baseball from “Bud Selig” to “Rob Manfred”. Leave the shifts alone. Leave the game alone.

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