Mets Merized Online » Baseball Thoughts Thu, 24 Apr 2014 22:00:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 MMO Morning Grind: The Insurance Run Epidemic Wed, 23 Apr 2014 11:56:27 +0000 jose valverde

Good morning, Mets fans!

Let me set the scene. The Mets head into an important inning, late in the game. It might even be the 9th. It’s usually the 9th. They’re down by a run, or maybe 2. Whatever the deficit is, it’s usually larger by the time the inning ends.

The Mets hand out so many insurance runs that Mr. Met should probably be replaced by a sassy gecko by the end of the season (No word on whether the sassy gecko has Super-2 status, which would be a game-changer).

Take Opening Day, for example. The Mets allowed the Nationals to take the lead in the 10th, then let Washington tack on a few more runs before getting out of the inning. David Wright hit a 2-run home run in the bottom half of the inning, but thanks to the insurance runs, it didn’t matter.

Or why don’t you take Saturday night’s game, when Jose Valverde ket a 1-run deficit become a 4-run gap, which wasted the impressive rally the Mets would put together against Craig Kimbrel in the bottom of the 9th.

Even last night’s game would have looked a bit different if Valverde hadn’t given up a run in the top of the 9th to make it a 3 run game. In a 2-run game, maybe Curtis Bay Granderson is more aggressive with a runner on base once he gets into a hitters’ count. Maybe David Wright and Daniel Murphy take different approaches at the plate.

Whenever the Mets dig themselves into a hole, they  have to try and see if they can pull out one last rally. But when one of their relievers deepens that hole right before the Mets get set to make their final push, it makes the comeback attempts harder (obviously) and can have a demoralizing effect on the hitters. Imagine running out onto the field for the top of the 9th knowing you’ll just need 1 run in the bottom half, but being down 4 runs by the time you get back in the dugout.

Relievers are most often criticized when they blow leads (you have ONE job!), and they take a good amount of heat when they can’t maintain a tie. But when a reliever enters a game with his team trailing by a run or 2, he has to bear down and keep it that way. Keep your team in the game, give your team a chance to win. That’s what you have to do if you’re a reliever, and our bullpen’s current inability to do so has cost us early in the season.

Let’s hope the bullpen can stop handing out insurance runs. Or better yet, let’s hope we can hand our relievers leads, and render this entire discussion moot. A nice, relaxing, blowout victory today would be nice. Have a good day, Mets fans!

Presented By Diehards

]]> 0
Jose Abreu Proving Doubters Wrong Fri, 11 Apr 2014 17:44:38 +0000 jose abreu

During last night’s game against the Cleveland Indians, White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu continued his tremendous start to the season. He smashed two more home runs during Chicago’s 7-3 victory, and he currently leads the AL in Home Runs (4) and RBI (14). Many experts and fans alike considered Abreu an excellent option this offseason for the Mets, but the front office never showed any serious interest.  Abreu would have solved the team’s ongoing problems at first base, and passing on him may end up being a move they will regret for years to come.

Abreu would have provided the Mets with a feared power hitter that they have desperately needed. He was regarded as an elite hitter coming out of Cuba, and he has incredible and unquestioned raw power at 6’3” and 255 pounds. Those 30 home runs projections seem to be spot on, and his terrific performance so far shows he can handle major league pitching as many expected he would given his bat speed. Considering the Mets’ struggles offensively the last few seasons, adding Abreu would have dramatically strengthened the lineup.

For a team that is trying to build for the future, Abreu also made perfect sense. He is in the prime of this career at 27 years old, and he would not have cost the Mets any draft picks. Abreu was also not as expensive as other top free agents like Shin Soo Choo and Jacoby Ellsbury, who both signed for well over 100 million dollars. All of these factors limited any risk surrounding Abreu.

With the Mets now employing some bizarre platoon at first base, it is clear they may have made a severe miscalculation regarding Abreu. After several seasons with Ike Davis and Lucas Duda, the Mets first base situation is still a mess that could have been avoided had they aggressively pursued Abreu. This whole situation was poorly managed by the Mets, and it is another example of the Mets ineptitude in the front office.


]]> 0
Our Annual Opening Day Reading: Casey At The Bat Mon, 31 Mar 2014 04:09:43 +0000 casey-at-the-bat-story-1

It has become something of an Opening Day Tradition here on MMO; our annual reading of the great baseball classic Casey At The Bat. As we prepare for the Mets to return to action, please enjoy this legendary 1888 ballad that describes everything we love about this great game:

Casey At The Bat

By Ernest Lawrence Thayer, San Francisco Examiner – June 3, 1888

The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day;
The score stood four to two with but one inning more to play.
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought if only Casey could but get a whack at that–
We’d put up even money now with Casey at the bat.

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
And the former was a lulu and the latter was a cake;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey’s getting to the bat.

But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despis-ed, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and the men saw what had occurred,
There was Johnnie safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from 5,000 throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It knocked upon the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile on Casey’s face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt ’twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt.
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance flashed in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,

And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped–
“That ain’t my style,” said Casey. “Strike one,” the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore.
“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” shouted some one on the stand;
And it’s likely they’d have killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the sphereoid flew;
But Casey still ignored it, and the umpire said, “Strike two.”

“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered fraud;
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn’t let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip, his teeth are clenched in hate;
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate.
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville –mighty Casey has struck out.

casey 2

And as I added last year, please enjoy a recording of James Earl Jones reading Casey At The Bat complete with dramatic musical accompaniment.

]]> 0
AL Central Preview: AKA Tiger Town? Sat, 29 Mar 2014 15:00:26 +0000 The AL Central is a division that has been owned by the Detroit Tigers since 2011, and it won’t be easy to take that crown away from them in 2014.

5th Place: Chicago White Sox

In 2012, Robin Ventura’s White Sox looked like they might actually be more of a force in the near future than perhaps many of us thought.

Then last year, the White Sox showed their true colors.


A huge factor in whether this team succeeds in 2014 will be Jose Abreu, and whether or not he can be the superstar caliber 1B that some people thought he could be. I know Abreu is dealing with an ankle issue right now, but assuming he is healthy – he is the player to watch here.

Abreu to me isn’t surrounded by a lot of dynamic talent on offense.

As for the rotation, Chris Sale and Jose Quintana are clearly the two pitchers in this rotation that hold the key to any success they may desire. Quintana is probably lesser known than Sale, but he might be more important than Sale.

Sale is nasty, but I like Quintana this year to take his game to the next level.

Overall though, there just is not enough talent here and I think Chicago will have a tough year.

4th Place: Minnesota Twins

The Twins are that team that baseball fans are almost expecting to just come out of nowhere sometime soon.

They aren’t there yet though.

On offense, their fans are excited about Brian Dozier and Oswaldo Arcia. Arcia is a guy you may want to pay attention to in 2014.

mike pelfreyOn the mound, most New York fans may take note because this rotation features not one, but two “rushed” or “failed” prospects from NY in Mike Pelfrey and Phil Hughes. Ricky Nolasco might actually have a solid year in Minnesota quietly, but I’m not sure he’ll stay in Minnesota all year – buyer beware!

Overall, I’m not too impressed with Minnesota either, I just think they might have slightly more to look forward to than Chicago.

3rd Place: Kansas City Royals

This team is one I’d love to see return to the playoff scene, but I just cannot see it in 2014.

I’ve never been a big James Shields fan, and last year to be honest, Shields shocked me last year. I don’t think he’ll do it again in 2014.

Last year, the Royals won 86 games and in my view, they didn’t get better in 2014 and honestly, they probably got a little worse.

On offense, I’m not sure the addition of Norichika Aoki is really going to make that big of a difference. So the Royals are in a situation where their offensive improvement is really about whether or not guys like Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas can take their game to the next level at 24 years old.

With the rotation, you’ve basically replaced Ervin Santana with Jason Vargas and I don’t know many who would suggest that makes your team better.

So while, I do think guys like Hosmer might improve, I don’t think it will be enough for the Royals in 2014. I see them closer to .500.

2nd Place: Cleveland Indians

I kind of thought I’d go into this picking Cleveland as kind of an “upset” pick to win the division. However, the more I look at things – I just can’t do it.

On offense, they have a great sleeper candidate in catcher Yan Gomes. Gomes will take over the full time catcher duties in Cleveland, and I think everybody should pay close attention to him.

Nick Swisher is the veteran that hopes to yet again lead this team to contention, but I have to think at some point he starts to decline, and I think we’ll see that in 2014.

When you take an honest look at their lineup, unless becoming a full time DH helps Carlos Santana become a 30+ HR hitter, you can’t really find a power threat in this lineup.

The rotation is still lead by Justin Masterson. Ubaldo Jiminez left a void in the rotation, and it was filled by – well I don’t know. I guess maybe Carlos Carrasco? Carrasco was once a highly touted prospect involved in the Cliff Lee trade with Philadelphia, but he just has not lived up to it.

I’m not the kind of guy who minimizes a great manager. Terry Francona is a great manager and he’ll get every ounce of talent out of his team just like he did in 2013. I just don’t think it’s enough to take over the division.

1st Place: Detroit Tigers

I’m starting to feel like the guy who takes all #1 seeds in his NCAA bracket.

But, in reality – unless you can predict catastrophic injuries, I’m not sure why you’d predict them to not win this division.

On offense, you know the usual suspects. Miguel Cabrera (the $300 million man), Austin Jackson, Alex Avila, Victor Martinez and Torii Hunter. Now, you can add in Ian Kinsler…an angry Ian Kinsler.

The offense is loaded, and is far and away better than any other team in the division.


If that wasn’t enough, you have Max Scherzer, last year’s Cy Young winner who isn’t even the best pitcher on this team.

Justin Verlander enters 2014 looking to prove his critics wrong. There was some that thought perhaps last year was a sign that Verlander was hitting a wall. I don’t think that is the case.

I mean, look at Verlander’s strikeout totals last year. In a “bad” year he struck out 217 batters. That’s ridiculous.

Verlander is going to bounce back, and that is how Detroit will replace the loss of Doug Fister. They will have a two headed cy young monster.

The addition of Joe Nathan gives them a regular season closer they can trust – I just don’t trust him in the playoffs (at least DET is used to that).

Overall, I can’t see how this team would be considered a 2nd place team (or worse) in this division.

AL Central MVPMiguel Cabrera – When in doubt, go with the guy who can win the triple crown.

AL Central CY: Justin Verlander – Motivated by his critics and Scherzer winning the award, Verlander returns to dominance.

AL Central SleeperYan Gomes – A full time catcher in Cleveland, if he stays healthy, I think he could be an all-star this year.

XtreemIcon’s Picks

This division is definitely more wide open than my colleague thinks, in my opinion, but gun to my head, the Tigers win again. I have KC second and Cleveland third, but agree on the Twins finishing fourth and Chicago last. There’s really not much of a future in Chicago, but the Twins have something to look forward to. Aside from Arcia, Byron Buxton is omnipresent and there’s a good crop of kids a little further away. None of that helps now, however. I just like the Twins offense much more than the Sox.

I’m not on the Indians bandwagon at all. They won 92 games last year, turning around a miserable 2012, but I give them almost a zero chance to repeat. Granted, I gave them the same chance of being a contender last season, and that blew up in my face, but I stand firm. They had great pitching last season, helped by Scott Kazmir and Ubaldo Jimenez, both of whom have moved on. Their four and five starters are now their two and three starters, and although I liked the progression of Corey Kluber and think he’ll continue to improve, I feel they lost too much. Danny Salazar has a lot of potential, but will need a real come-out-of-nowhere season to replace either Jimenez or Kazmir. But he can’t replace both.

The Royals will finish second and I’d bet they finish closer to the Tigers than they do the Indians. Aside from the best bullpen in the AL, and maybe all of baseball, Hosmer and Moustakas are primed for a break out. They have a stud catcher in Salvador Perez, a center fielder that has all the tools and ability you could ask for in Lorenzo Cain and Yordano Ventura could be this season’s Jose Fernandez is he harnesses his secondary pitches.

The Tigers need to win the World Series this year, because the Cabrera contract has basically ensured they won’t have any more chances past this season. He’s already started breaking down and is about as nonathletic as a professional athlete can be, which does not bode well for the Tigers as he ages. But that’s about their doomed future.

This season, they probably still have enough to win the division, but not easily. Consider this: despite being the most talented team in the division by a wide margin recently, they only won the division by three games in 2012 and one game last year. And this year, the margin isn’t as wide. Cabrera is breaking down and Scherzer will decline (no knock on him, but he can’t actually get better). Verlander declined significantly in 2013, and for the Tigers’ sake, I hope it’s a down year and not the start of a decline. He has about a million innings on that arm. The infield defense is atrocious and the bullpen is a strong breeze away from the first ever group Tommy John surgery.

If Cabrera and Verlander really are in the beginning of their decline, and with Scherzer leaving via free agency after this season, the Tigers absolutely have to win this season. This is their swan song.

AL Central MVP: Eric Hosmer. It’s his time.

AL Central CY: Chris Sale. Won’t do them any good, though.

AL Central Sleeper: The Royals. 90 wins wouldn’t shock me at all.


]]> 0
NL West Preview: Can Anybody Stop The Dodgers? Mon, 24 Mar 2014 15:00:49 +0000 The National League West showcases the team that many believe are the favorites to win the World Series heading into 2014. How often though do we see a team that “everybody” agrees is the team to beat slip to reality when injuries and such come knocking on their door? Are the Dodgers going to fall into that same story line?

In your comments, we’d love to hear your predicted standings, your NL West MVP, NL West Best Pitcher, and NL West Top Sleeper.

5th Place: Colorado Rockies

As many Mets fans know, Dexter Fowler was sent to the Houston Astros this off-season, and while many Rockies fans may not have liked the moved then – I think they will really dislike the move when they see the negative defensive effects of the move.

This is a team to me, that is going to have trouble with their arms. So when you essentially diminish the defense by giving away Fowler, you’re not doing your pitchers any favors.

troy tulowitzki

The addition of Brett Anderson could prove to be a good move for Colorado, but he isn’t a “save the day” type starting pitcher.

Also, adding Justin Morneau to replace the Rockies legend Todd Helton should at least prove to be a somewhat lateral move in terms of production.

This is a team that will have trade rumors swirling about Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez all season long. If you’re paying attention to the Rockies in 2014, it’s because you’re curious where or if they end up being traded.

4th Place: San Francisco Giants

I understand this is likely not going to fly with many of you. But hear me out.

Everybody knows that in the NL, if you have pitching, you’re in good shape. The problem I have with San Francisco is I believe their rotation is relying on two big IF’s.

The first is whether or not Tim Lincecum can return to his winning ways, and if you have seen him this spring, you have your doubts. The second is whether or not Tim Hudson can stay healthy and be the guy this rotation needs on a consistent basis. If Hudson stays healthy, then yeah, I would say this team could fight for 3rd place or maybe even a wildcard.

The offense is still very bland. If there is any positive, it’s that Pablo Sandoval may be motivated by a new contract this year. I’m not a big Mike Morse fan, so I don’t even consider his addition as anything to really think about when predicting their offensive performance.

To me, this is a team that tries to do “just enough” at the plate, and I don’t like that. I think last year they showed that the model they’ve gone with can backfire tremendously. I’m expecting them to finish closer to .500, but not to be in any sort of playoff discussion.

3rd Place: San Diego Padres

I was a bit high on them last year, and I’ll stick with my positive outlook for this franchise. I actually really liked the decision to sign Josh Johnson here – I don’t think Johnson was a good fit for any team, but in San Diego, he may actually work. We’ve all seen what Johnson can do on his best days, so if he can find his winning ways again – he could be dangerous in San Diego.

chase headleyAndrew Cashner to me is a guy who could be a recognizable name by many come All-Star break. He’s got the stuff to be a solid #2 type starter, and if he comes into that role, the Padres could be in real good shape.

Of course, there are negatives. The offense isn’t really too good, and if Chase Headley doesn’t find his way back to 2012 form, they could be in trouble at the plate.

I think this could be one of those “fun” teams to watch all year, but it’s going to take a little bit of luck and a lot of health in order for that to be the case.

2nd place: Arizona Diamondbacks

Without many paying attention to them, Arizona has suddenly become a top wildcard contender for the last two years now.

mark trumbo

They made two significant moves as they head into the 2014 season that could make or break their playoff chances.

The first was adding Mark Trumbo to the mix. Now, they are gambling on Trumbo being able to power his way through the NL West (especially in Arizona), and have his strikeouts be worth his production. It’s a gamble, but it’s one that could pay off for this team.

The second was adding Bronson Arroyo. Arroyo is a guy many Mets fans are familiar with due to some recent desires to add him to the rotation. He’s a pretty consistent starter, and gives the team a 200+ innings guy that they can rely on. However, he is a guy that if you look at advanced metrics, he is sometimes more lucky than good. Will his luck run out?

The recent news that Patrick Corbin is likely out for the entire year doesn’t help this prediction for sure. However, as bad as that news is, I don’t think it kills their year as much as some think. This team has proven to be resilient and has an MVP candidate in Paul Goldschmidt, I think they can overcome the loss of their 24 year old starter and contend for a playoff berth.

1st Place: Los Angeles Dodgers

There is nothing I’d like more than to see my prediction be wrong, but I just cannot see how that might happen without catastrophic injuries.

This team is loaded, there is no other way to put it.

The Dodgers rotation is as nasty as you’ll find in the sport today. When you have the best pitcher in baseball pitching AHEAD of a former Cy Young winner in Greinke, paired with Hyun-jin Ry, Dan Haren and Paul Maholm or Josh Beckett, I’m not sure how your offense goes into any game thinking they have to overachieve for a victory.

yasiel-puig-blogTheir bullpen is also pretty filthy. Brian Wilson, Kenley Jansen and Chris Perez give this team so many late inning options that it’s scary.

The offense is as loaded as the rotation, and everybody is waiting to see how Yasiel Puig does with a full year under his belt, not only in terms of production – but in terms of maturity as well. He is probably the most entertaining player to watch in baseball today, and if he can back up his 2013 campaign with a better 2014, he could be an MVP candidate.

Speaking of MVP candidates, the Dodgers in reality, probably won’t have one because their lineup is filled with guys who could win an MVP.

Matt Kemp may be the key to all of the Dodgers success or failure though. If Kemp can get healthy, and stay healthy, I don’t see how this offense isn’t the best in baseball.

This team is not only good on paper, they are as deep as any team in baseball. They will be able to overcome an injury or two (so long as it’s not Kershaw), and that makes them a no brainer 1st place pick to me.

NL West MVP: Paul Goldschmidt – Mostly because I think if Arizona is in the mix, it’s in large part due to his production and he isn’t surrounded by studs like Dodger hitters are.

NL West Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw – He’s the best there is.

NL West Sleeper: Andrew Cashner – He had a decent 2013 campaign, but it was highly under the radar. I think he breaks out this year to become one of the NL’s best starters.

XtreemIcon’s Picks

Jessep did a great job detailing his picks, so I’m not going to reiterate everything he said, I’ll just point out where I disagree. From last to first, the division shapes up like this for me: Colorado/San Diego/San Francisco/Arizona/LA. The reason I have SD behind SF is not because I think SF will be any good (they spent an insane amount of money simply to bring back the same 76 win team they fielded last year), but because Headley will be traded at some point this season, which will decimate their already weak offense. And with Johnson and Cashner being question marks, they fall to 4th place. Not fifth, though. Colorado is that bad.

What I would like to add is that even though I chose Arizona to finish second, I don’t expect a good year out of them. Jessep think they will contend, and I most certainly do not. The second place finish is more like an indictment on the rest of the division than it is a vote of confidence for Arizona. Corbin hurts bad and Arroyo was a terrible signing. His ERA will likely hover around 4.50 and could be traded at the deadline, probably back to the Red Sox. I think LA will be the only team above .500 and will win the division by 20 games

NL West MVP: Paul Goldschmidt – His numbers will tell their own story.

NL West Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw – Period.

NL West Sleeper: Brandon Belt – He’s going to hit in the middle of the lineup and have the chance to do some real damage. He fixed a mechanical issue with his swing and tore it up in August and September. He’s going to challenge Goldschmidt for the division MVP.


]]> 0
Success and Lineup Consistency Sun, 16 Mar 2014 11:30:00 +0000 During the MLB Network broadcast of Reds, Brewers game, the color commentator suggested that in order for a team to be successful, they need consistency in their lineup. The commentator insisted that a lineup must include a leadoff man who maintains that slot in the lineup every day. He went on to mention that for a team to win, slots 1-4 in the lineup must be filled with non-platoon players. If you have a platoon in the leadoff spot, things can go wrong. “Your first four hitters in your lineup have to be in there pretty much every day. You don’t want a platoon time player as your leadoff guy”. The comment was given regarding the Brewer’s lack of a true leadoff hitter. Scooter Gennett is the closest thing they have with Jean Segura batting second.

I can’t help but think that lineup consistency is simply a result of overall team talent. If a team has four players who are so good that they belong in the lineup every day, then they will play every day. A consistent lineup will result from the desire to get the best players out there every day. If a team has significantly less talent, their lineup will not be as consistent and will include more platoons. The players that make up the starting lineup of the less-talent team will more closely preform at replacement level than the more-talent team whose players play every day. If a starting lineup includes replacement level players or players within a win or two of replacement level, there will be more platoons and swaps between bench players.

Lineup consistency is not a measure that must be achieved in order for success to be attained; it is a byproduct of a team with plenty of talent who doesn’t need to tinker with its lineup. Lineup consistency and winning do not directly affect each other.

Joe Maddon

Joe Maddon of the Tampa Bay Rays is known both for being one of the best managers in baseball and for often shuffling his lineup around. Maddon clearly does not subscribe to the rule of consistency, and just has plenty of talent to work with. Maddon’s method provides an example in which talent is isolated and lineup consistency is thrown out.

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times detailed Maddon’s strategy:

“Maddon was at his best — or worst — using a majors-most 151 batting orders for their 162 games, and no one more than three times.”

That stat refers to the 2012 season in which only three Rays exceeded 575 plate appearances. In 2013, as pointed out by Rob Rogacki of SB Nation, five Rays exceeded those 575 plate appearances, the most by a Joe Maddon coached team since 2010.

Maddon has earned himself a reputation as a man who tinkers with the order of his lineup, yielding a batting order described as anything but consistent. Despite this well-documented strategy, the Rays as a team, remain quite consistent, winning 97, 84, 96, 91, 90, and 92 games in each season since 2008 respectively. Maddon has managed every one of these teams.

The Tampa Bay Times’ Gary Shelton provided the totals as far as different lineups were concerned.

“For each of the past five years, Maddon has started an increasing number of lineups. In 2008, it was 115. The next year, it was 123. In 2010, it was 129. In 2011, it was 130. Then last year (2012), with Longoria hurt, it was a whopping 151 lineups in 162 games.”

There are three factors at work here and this announcer was looking to thread them together when in reality, correlation does not imply causation. The three factors are lineup construction, talent and winning. Talent and winning always belong together, lineup construction proves to just be the third wheel.

Why have Maddon and the Rays been so successful despite notoriously tinkering with their lineup? Talent. Is manufacturing a batting order with the same team members slotted in their respective places a plausible strategy or a oft occurring result of a talented team that does not directly influence success?


]]> 0
Oldies But Not Goodies: Discarding RBI, Runs Scored, and Pitching Wins Thu, 06 Mar 2014 18:00:17 +0000 While most traditionalist stats are all but completely gone from most Major League Baseball front offices, the casual fan and the older generations of die-hard fans have stuck with the statistics. Classic and easy to remember, a century of celebrating records has some people holding on to these numbers for good. Sometimes, classic theories and ideas can still be relevant, but in this case, that isn’t true.

baseball glove benchI have nothing against people who like these stats. Many of them have spent their entire lives having RBI records, batting average records, win-loss records, and other statistical feats drilled into their heads. These were the only options, so people didn’t question them.

There are three stats in particular, however, that need to go. This may be obvious to many fans but they can’t hold a candle to some of the new metrics that have popped up in recent decades. RBI, runs scored, and pitching wins and losses are arguably the most irrelevant and useless popular statistics.

Before diving in to each one, consider one thing. What is the goal of using statistics for individual players? The answer is simple: to isolate production. Simply, to tell how talented a player is. In theory, the best statistics are affected only minimally by other players, otherwise a statistic can be as much a measure of a team’s ability as the individual player’s. If you were a general manager signing a player from the Red Sox for $200 million, given only statistics that are significantly affected by other Red Sox players, would you consider making the deal.

Runs Batted In (RBI)

The Goal: Runs Batted in has two joint goals (or at least it is perceived to have two): to evaluate how good a player is in important situations and how productive he is overall.

The flaws: This statistic rose to mass use in the 1920s. This is not a problem, but it shows that the statistic was created before baseball was understood as much as it is today.

RBI is as much of a team statistic as it is an individual one, it’s main problem. There is only one method of getting an RBI without any baserunners and that’s hitting a home run. Say two hitters each hit home runs, except the second hitter did it with a runner on first base. Does the second batter deserve twice as much “credit” as the first? No, not at all. The second home run hitter probably had little to no effect at all on whether that runner reached base, but he still gets credit for “driving in” that person. Not only that, but players on better teams tend to get more opportunities to drive runners in. Two players may be driving in the same percentage of baserunners but one may have far fewer RBI than the other.

One more thing to consider about RBI is that it treats every situation equally. What good is a second inning RBI single when your team is down 9-0? Which leads me to…

Alternatives: There are a number of different alternatives for RBI but the most popular is probably Win Probability Added. Remember how every RBI is treated the same regardless of situation? That is where WPA comes in. Baseball has been played for over a century and almost every situation imaginable has repeated itself over and over again. One thing is certain: there are always calculable odds of who is more likely to win. Every action affects a team’s odds of winning a game, whether it is small or large. A walk-off home run obviously has a bigger impact than a one out single in the third inning with nobody on. WPA uses linear weights, a complex way of saying the odds of winning added (or lost) from each action. Players with a higher WPA tend to have had bigger impacts on games (although it is not predictive), specifically in high-pressure situations, which statisticians have debated the effects of with no real consensus yet. This is still a stat where a team must put a player into position to have a bigger impact, but it certainly quantifies that impact far better than RBI. (To read my article from last summer going in depth on WPA, click here.)

Runs Scored (Individual)

The Goal: This stat is rather murky in its presumed goal. Really, it is likely meant to measure both production overall and baserunning.

The flaws: Again, this is a stat in which it depends so much on the surrounding team, probably even more than RBI. A player can bat 1.000 and still never score a run. Of course, these theoretical situations aren’t relevant to the real world of baseball, but the idea holds true: teams set you up to score a run. Sure, the player may have successfully made it to home plate without falling flat on his face, or he could have even dove into home plate well. However, the hitting  team still had to do something to allow him to cross home plate and even the team in the field often time chooses not to throw to home, instead opting to hit the cutoff man and settle at that.

Alternatives: There are a ton of alternatives to Runs Scored, satisfying both purposes. Getting into them could take another thousand words, but there are plenty of viable alternatives. For overall production, OPS, OPS+, all the way down to wOBA and wRC+ do the job better than runs scored as they isolate that particular player more. For baserunning, there are complex metrics like UBR out there, as well as some of Baseball-Reference’s statistics that even include a player’s ability to avoid getting thrown out at first on a double play. There is some very interesting stuff out there that can even break down the type of baserunning a hitter is good at.

Wins and Losses (For Pitchers)

The Goal: To evaluate the performance of an individual pitcher

The flaws: Where to begin? There are so many flaws with wins and losses. As a general rule, I say that wins and losses are half affected by the offense and some by defense as well. A pitcher can be on his game striking batters and getting weak ground balls and still get the loss. In order to get a win, the offense of the pitcher’s team must score more runs than the other. Say what you will about pitching to the score, but that’s what it comes down to.

Additionally, a pitcher’s defense behind him can let him down, whether measured in errors or not. Even if the pitcher allows only unearned runs, the loss is still given.

There are also plenty of situations where the pitcher throws a great game but leaves tied, giving a reliever an opportunity to get credit, even if he comes in only to pick off a baserunner. It has happened before, and it is so often the pitcher with the best night that gets cheated.

Alternatives: Rate stats are the way to go here. Looking at game logs is fine as well, but not all wins and losses are created equal, but even an undeserved win will show up in rate stats. Specifically, FIP and xFIP are great alternatives as they take out the fielding aspect as well as the hitting aspect, which ERA does not completely do.

*   *   *

There are a number of statistics like these that are very flawed and should be essentially discarded from use by the average fan. As someone who’s skeptical of almost anything, I noticed early on that there were flaws. With baseball especially, it’s important to not let tradition get in the way of realizing the flaws of the different ways people analyze the game.


]]> 0
Could Matt Harvey Become A High Maintenance Super Nova? Mon, 24 Feb 2014 12:39:55 +0000 Could the New York Mets have a potential problem with Matt Harvey?

There are already signs of him being high maintenance … signs he enjoys the trappings of New York too much … signs he doesn’t handle injuries well … signs of being too sensitive … signs he knows he’s good and isn’t afraid to let you know.

Harvey has never pitched a complete season and is 12-10 lifetime. While we’re not talking about the second coming of Tom Seaver, Harvey seems to be carrying himself with a sense of entitlement and a “you can’t touch me’’ aura.

The latest is his reported reluctance to want to undergo his rehab in Port St. Lucie, which the Mets prefer, and desire to work out in New York.

After Harvey threw for the first time Saturday, general manager Sandy Alderson backed off saying where the 24-year-old 2010 will rehab, but made clear his preference.

“As a general rule, our players rehab in Florida,’’ Alderson said Saturday. “But that’s not a decision we’re going to make or mandate [now]. When we get to the end of spring training we’ll see where he is, and I’m sure there will be discussion between now and then.’’

MattHarvey1For somebody with 36 career starts, why should there even be discussion? If Port St. Lucie was good enough for David Wright and Pedro Martinez to rehab, it should be good enough for Harvey.

In fairness, we haven’t heard Harvey’s reasoning for his preference of New York, which leads to speculation, with little of it showing him in a good light.

Making this more touchy is this could go before the Players Association, as the collective bargaining agreement mandates a player can refuse his rehab in a spring training locale during the season for longer than 20 days.

“The CBA imposes limitations. Yeah,’’ Alderson said. “But in the past, for the most part, our players have been here and it’s been a good situation.’’

We know New York is Harvey’s home, has superior Italian food and a better nightlife than Port St. Lucie.

But, what’s the purpose here?

New York’s nightlife makes one wonder, as Harvey clearly enjoys the perks of being a star – even though that might be a premature characterization of his professional status. Harvey likes the clubs and openly spoke about his drinking in a Men’s Journal magazine piece.

“I’m young, I’m single,’’ he was quoted as saying. “I want to be in the mix. … I have a 48-hour rule. No drinking two days before a start. But, those other days? Yes, I’m gonna go out.’’

The bottom line: If you’re 24 and a high-profile figure, you shouldn’t need a rule about drinking. If he finds it necessary to have a rule, he shouldn’t be drinking in the first place.

Everybody these days has a phone with a camera. Harvey has already been caught several times in incidents of public displays of affection with his former supermodel girlfriend, Anne V. at Rangers and Knicks games, where he is gifted the tickets. More trappings.

He’s now seeing another model, Ashley Haas, which has his comments of wanting to be like Derek Jeter resurface. Of course, It is doubtful Jeter would have ever posed nude.

“That guy is the model,’’ he said. “I mean, first off, let’s just look at the women he’s dated. Obviously, he goes out – he’s meeting these girls somewhere – but you never hear about it. That’s where I want to be.’’

New York’s nightlife has burned out dozens of athletes. Look what it did for Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. Imagine what Mickey Mantle would have been able to accomplish with a little less drinking and womanizing.

And, as for Jeter, he’s not the Teflon he’s made out to be. Stories of sending his conquests home with a gift basket of memorabilia and forcing house guests to surrender their cell phones don’t portray him in a flattering light. Mom must be so proud.

Shortly after the magazine piece came out, Harvey complained about being misquoted and taken out of context. A reporter for a magazine profile records everything, so it is doubtful the quotes were manufactured. Backing off his comments shows a lack of accountability.

Harvey also got into it with WFAN talk-show host Joe Beningo, ripping him on Twitter and then deleting the post.

When it comes to fighting with a radio personality or the media in general, it is futile as it comes off as petty and unprofessional, plus, he’ll never have the last word.

The media isn’t as easy to bully as was former teammate Jon Rauch, whom Harvey forced out of town after challenging the former Mets reliever to a fight because he didn’t appreciate the rookie hazing, which included getting doused with water while sleeping on the trainer’s table.

If Harvey had a problem he could have confronted Rauch in private rather than making for a very uncomfortable clubhouse scene. That’s something somebody with a professional grasp on things would have done. Instead, he came off as behaving like Jordany Valdespin.

That’s not the only thing Harvey hasn’t handled well. Twice he wasn’t immediately forthcoming in disclosing injuries to the training staff, and arguably it led to his elbow surgery.

I want the best for Harvey. I want him to have a long and brilliant career. However, he has a long way to go, on and off the field. He hasn’t always shown good judgment and a case can be made it cost him this season.

He needs to reign himself in off the field, and that includes not making a big deal about where he rehabs. If reflects poorly on him and makes one wonder if this isn’t about carousing the bars with Haas and watching the Rangers.

If he maintains this course, instead of a franchise pitcher, he could end being a high maintenance super nova.

]]> 0
MMO Review: Ken Burns’ The Tenth Inning Sun, 23 Feb 2014 19:32:25 +0000 burns tenth inning

Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby was once asked what he does all winter. The great 2Bman replied, “I stare out the window and wait for spring.” I am just like Hornsby. No, I don’t have a career 358 BA but I do the same. Unlike most of you, I don’t follow other sports. One tradition I have is viewing Ken Burns’ Baseball to help me survive the endlessly boring winters. A few years back I purchased the “The Tenth Inning,” but hadn’t watched it–until recently.

Hard to believe I was disappointed. True, even a bad Baseball documentary is still good. But this felt more like an ESPN show, not a creation by an award-winning documentarian.

There are several familiar faces that return from the original. Doris Kearns Goodwin, Daniel Okrent, Gerald Early, Thomas Boswell and Bob Costas are back sharing insights. Newcomers include sportswriters Marcus Breton, Howard Bryant, Gary Hoenig, as well as great tales from Keith Olbermann and Mike Barnicle. Chris Rock supplies a few laughs. Bud Selig and Don Fehr are interviewed.

In one of the Special Features both Burns and co-prouder Lynn Novick are interviewed. Burns is a die-hard Red Sox fan, Novick a Yankees fan. Burns stated after his Sox reversed the curse in ’04, he formulated the idea to update the original. And therein lies the problem. This episode covers 1992-2009. However, about 2 ½ of the 4 hours is devoted to only two topics: The Red Sox/Yankee rivalry and steroids.


Granted, these were huge topics over the last 20 years. But as a result numerous other subjects and high points were glossed over or ignored completely.

I’m not downplaying the long lasting effects of the Steroid Era. But I felt far too much emphasis was focused on this topic. The steroids issue was presented in such a way I thought I was watching Dateline.

“The Tenth Inning” was little more than a MLB highlight reel. Gone were the personal stories from those in the game. The only ballplayer interviewed was Pedro Martinez. Felipe Alou appeared briefly in addition to Yankee skipper Joe Torre who received approximately 25 minutes of airtime.  

The earlier innings were, by and large, centered on the individual player and his significance to the game. Rarely was a section focused on a ‘team.’ Much of The Fourth Inning, A National Heirloom, was centered on Babe Ruth. A good portion of the Sixth Inning, The National Pastime, was focused on Jackie Robinson. This tenth inning, as a result of overkill on two topics, left many important issues not covered.

After 86 years, Boston finally won the World Series and received endless coverage. On the flipside, the White Sox ended their 88 year drought in 2005 but it was not even mentioned.

In 2003, the Cubs were 5 outs away from returning to the Series for the first time since 1945, possibly winning their first Championship in 95 years. Yes, there was poor old Steve Bartman again. But no time was devoted to the long storied history of Cubs futility. A brief recap of their century long slump would have brought into perspective the fan interference call.

The overkill of Yankees/Red Sox and Steroids left much on the cutting room floor.


The first 9 innings covered the 20th Century. Yet, one of Baseball’s most glorious moments, the 1999 All-Star Game when yes, The All-Century Team was introduced, was not examined.  Ted Williams at Fenway. How much better does it get?

The influx of Latin players received a good amount of air-time. Yet, there was no mention of the decline and almost complete disappearance of African-Americans from the field. I found this interesting, especially since, and rightfully so, so much focus throughout the original was paid to Jackie Robinson’s arrival, the fading away of the Negro Leagues and the horrors that black ballplayers such as Hank Aaron and Curt Flood endured decades after the end of The Gentleman’s Agreement.

Two of the most popular broadcasters in history, Jack Buck and Harry Caray, adored by generations of fans in Chicago and St. Louis, died in 2002 and 1998 respectively. Yet, they were omitted. There was nothing said about Baseball returning to the nation’s capital after almost forty years. Nor was the addition of teams in Tampa Bay, Colorado, Miami or Arizona discussed. The D-backs only got mentioned when Burns turned his focus to the 2001 Yankees.

As the bulk of the 4 hours centered on the big market Yankees and Sox, the fact that small market clubs on a shoestring budget, such as Oakland, Minnesota, Tampa Bay and Miami remained competitive, was again barely discussed. The Twins, Rays and Marlins with their 2 titles received no air-time.

With the exceptions of the Braves dominant Big Three and the high profile trio of McGwire, Sosa and Bonds, many other great players from the last 20+ years were non-existent.

Ken Griffey Jr, one of the most loved players of his generation appeared on the cover of the DVD but only was briefly mentioned in the opening minutes. Admired Kirby Puckett, who retired early due to injuries, became one of the youngest players enshrined in Cooperstown and tragically died at 45 years old, was absent. Tony Gwynn’s 338 career BA may have been the highest of the last half-century but apparently that wasn’t worthy of being highlighted. One glaring and unbelievable lapse relates to the greatest lead-off hitter ever. Rickey Henderson is the all-time leader in SB’s (1406), runs, (2295), lead-off HR’s (81) and unintentional walks (2129.) He was rarely out on the bases but he was out of The Tenth Inning.

How can you discuss the last 20 years without including Trevor Hoffman, Robby Alomar, Jim Thome, Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Chipper Jones, Craig Biggio and the man who hit more HR’s than any other catcher in history, our own Mike Piazza.

When Aaron Boone, Scott Brosius and Kevin Millar get more attention than Pujols, Cabrera and Alomar, somethin’ aint right.

ichiro_suzuki_catch_seattle_mariners - Copy

One part of The Tenth Inning was almost laughable. Burns and Novick highlighted the arrival of Ichiro Suzuki, the first Japanese position player. It underscored the fact that in the midst of balls flying out of ballparks, a slap hitter won the admiration of fans coast to coast. They made mention of his All-Star game appearances, numerous Gold Gloves and Batting titles. However, while praising Ichiro, they completely failed to include the fact he set the record for most hits in a season (262), a mark that had stood for 84 seasons. To discuss Ichiro without acknowledging his crowning achievement was a monumental blunder.

As for our beloved Mets? Well, let’s be honest. The period 1992-2009 wasn’t a great run for us. However, we were ignored entirely. In the Seventh Inning, The Capital of Baseball (1950-1959), that entire episode centered on New York’s dominance and that seemingly every October there was a Subway Series. Yet, in 2000, when the first Subway Series occurred in four and a half decades, this too was omitted.

Being a New Yorker and Mets fan I was greatly disturbed about the way 9/11 was portrayed. After the Towers were shown on fire and crumbling, the next baseball scene was the Yankees playing the White Sox with Chicagoans holding ‘We Love New York’ signs. There was no mention of the first post-9/11 game in New York, which happened at Shea and not even a mention of Piazza’s HR that healed a city. To add insult to injury, in one of the special features, Joe Torre was talking about how he and some of his players visited families of numerous victims. I’m not playing one-upmanship with regards to a horrific event. But I found it slightly appalling that a filmmaker with the credentials of Ken Burns would emphasize the role of one NY team while completely ignoring the other. A casual fan would think the Mets went the way of the Washington Senators after 1986.


To illustrate the above point, one part focused on how the game got away from the cookie-cutter stadiums of the 60’s and 70’s and built new parks with a retro field. 19 of 30 teams built new homes starting in 1990. If you recall the original documentary, much emphasis was placed on the lore and homey feeling of Ebbets Field. Yet, when the Mets build a retro stadium with an exterior that replicates the Dodgers home, that too, is avoided.

Interestingly, one problem the game has faced over the last generation is the widening gap between big markets and small markets. Yet, Mr. Burns perpetuated that in ‘The Tenth Inning’ by focusing on Boston and New York while largely ignoring everyone else.

the tenth inning

]]> 0
Talkin’ Baseball: A Brilliant Infield Duo That Never Was Sun, 23 Feb 2014 14:51:57 +0000 Scores of Met fans may have missed it. The New York Post ran a Sunday piece by Joel Sherman called “A Decade of A-Rod.” Most baseball fans have had more than their fill of Alex Rodriguez, especially Met fans tired of A-Rod’s front and back page coverage in the New York Dailies.

alex rodriguez a-rod

In the piece, Sherman spends a lot of time dissecting all the events that played into A-Rod becoming a Yankee. The Red Sox came within a whisker of signing Rodriguez. It wasn’t until Yankee third baseman and post season star Aaron Boone tore his ACL playing off-season baseball that the Yankees were in on bringing A-Rod to the Bronx. As is their habit, the Bronx Bombers were all in.

Rodriguez, a Met fan when he was growing up, hoped his people could swing a deal where he would land in Flushing. As things turned out, A-Rod would be coming to New York only to the other part of town.

As a Met fan, the piece that interested me the most indirectly involved the Mets. First, as part of the deal between the Yankees and Rangers, the Yanks gave up Alfonso Soriano and a pinstripe prospect from a list of five. That list included pitcher Ramon Ramirez, outfielders Rudy Guillen and Bronson Sardinha, shortstop Joaquin Arias and second baseman Robinson Cano. The Rangers chose Arias.

Stop and think what may have happened in Texas had they chosen Cano. The reports the Rangers had on a young Cano were that the future Yankee second baseman was talented but moody, so the club decided to move in another direction.

Arias has played in parts of six major league seasons, three with the Rangers, one split between the Rangers with a cup of coffee with the Mets and the last two with the San Francisco Giants. In just over 800 at bats Arias has a major league batting average of

With the deal complete, Sherman reports the Rangers and the Mets engaged in serious discussions about moving Soriano. The Mets wanted Soriano and were willing to part with their shortstop, Jose Reyes, to get him. Texas owner Tom Hicks vetoed the proposed deal fearing a fan revolt in Texas should he move Soriano immediately after relinquishing Rodriguez.

If the Rangers had selected Cano rather than Arias, and had Hicks not nixed the trade with the Mets, the Rangers would have fielded a double play combination of Jose Reyes at shortstop and Robinson Cano at second base. Now that’s enough to make your head spin.


]]> 0
NL East Projection By Rank Points Sun, 09 Feb 2014 02:43:56 +0000 sign man miracles

Sandy Alderson and his front office have spent all winter trying to address the Mets weaknesses and shortcomings in an attempt to put a much improved product on the field for the 2014 season. Or in other words, they’ve been doing exactly what 29 other MLB front offices have been doing.

However, for this particular post, let’s just stick to the five teams that comprise he National League East and take a look at how the division stacks up as we get ready to start Spring Training.

This is a simple but common method of comparing teams using rank points across each team’s position players, starting pitchers, and bullpens. The rankings take into consideration recent success/failure, history of injuries, and track record.

The lower the number of the ranking, the better the grade.  At the end, we add up all the rank points and compare how each team did. My notes for each ranking follows and they include any exceptions made as my thoughts and explanation.





C:  Wilson Ramos has been great once he got healthy; Carlos Ruiz is slowing down at 36; Jarrod Saltalamacchia is a good veteran but with a low average; Travis d’Arnaud is unproven but talented; Evan Gattis is a strong guy but a horrible defender with high strikeouts.

1B: Freddie Freeman gets the edge due to Ryan Howard‘s health issues the last couple of years; Adam LaRoche is steady; the Mets platoon of either Ike Davis or Lucas Duda and Josh Satin should prove decent; and Garrett Jones is not a very good first baseman or hitter.

2B: Chase Utley had a great year, but his knees are always on the verge of DL; Daniel Murphy is adequate offensively but needs to improve defensively; Dan Uggla is third based on past history and writing off 2013 as just a very bad year; Anthony Rendon is a talented youngster; Rafael Furcal is trying to show he is healthy.

SS: Ian Desmond is the best combination of offense and defense; Andrelton Simmons is amazing defensively, but the bat needs to improve; Jimmy Rollins is slowing down, but still a smart veteran; Ruben Tejada should offer better offense than Adeiny Hechavarria, whose bat is very under-developed.

3B: David Wright is one of the best in baseball; Chris Johnson had a great year, but hit 50 points more than his lifetime average; Ryan Zimmerman needs to stay on the field but his many injuries have diminished his fielding and have the Nats considering putting him at 1B in 2015; Casey McGehee is a veteran coming back from Japan; Cody Asche is a youngster.

LF: Bryce Harper rivals Mike Trout as the best young outfielder in baseball; Justin Upton is a very talented, but sometimes erratic young player; Christian Yelich is a young, very talented hitter and baserunner; Domonic Brown had a breakout year, but his long swing offers many strikeouts; Chris Young is trying to show health and production to get a big contract next year.

CF: Ben Revere was doing well until his injury in late-June; Marcell Ozuna is an up and coming, very talented hitter and fielder; B.J. Upton has a history of power and speed, but also low average and strikeouts; Denard Span is a steady defender and leadoff type; Juan Lagares is a wizard defensively but most prove offensive ability.

RF: Giancarlo Stanton is a premier power hitter; Jason Heyward is a very good defender and has streaks of being great offensively followed by tons of strikeouts like almost all the Atlanta hitters; Curtis Granderson (Placed in RF because of the “Eric Young factor” and Terry Collins will not want to flip-flop him) needs to show health, but should be a good run producer and base runner albeit a questionable batting average; Jayson Werth is not the run producer we remember in Philly but still a very tough out, especially against lefties; Marlon Byrd had a great year in 2013 and needs to prove that is not a fluke.


SP1: Cliff Lee is one the most consistent and dependable pitchers in baseball; Stephen Strasburg still has very good numbers, but suffered last year from run support and inconsistencies; Jose Fernandez stepped onto the scene and had a great year, but let’s see it again; Jonathon Niese returned to health in the second half and was very good the last six weeks; Mike Minor improved his control last year, and needs to maintain that control which the Braves excelled in as a staff.

SP2:  Cole Hamels would be an ace of many staffs, but lacks the consistency of Lee; Gio Gonzalez showed that he was just as good as the year before in the second half; Bartolo Colon had a very good year in the AL, and now transfers over to the lighter hitting league; Kris Medlen was solid as usual, and the best bet amongst Braves pitchers to repeat 2013 numbers; Nathan Eovaldi is still only 23, but is trying to harness his stuff which leads to high pitch counts.

SP3:  Jordan Zimmerman pitched last year as a co-ace to Strasburg and has been brilliant since coming back from TJ surgery in 2012; Julio Teheran had a great year, but like Minor, his great control last year was contrary to his previous years’ showings and may not repeat; Zack Wheeler is improving his command; Jacob Turner is a talented pitcher however, the Marlins may now be trying to trade him. Kyle Kendrick is a soft tosser that was able to keep runners off the bases via the walk last year because he gives up a lot of home runs in Citizens Bank Park.

SP4:  Doug Fister is a dependable starter that was acquired from Detroit; Dillon Gee returned to pre-injury form by May and was very consistent the last four months; Brandon Beachy is coming back from injury, but was an ace before his injury; Roberto Hernandez is a battler type with low walks and low strikeouts; Henderson Alvarez is an inconsistent youngster.

SP5:  This is where it pays to be a Mets fan!  We know that Jenrry Mejia, Rafael Montero, and Noah Syndergaard should provide production closer to a mid rotation pitcher in the SP #5 position; Ross Detwiler is coming off injury, but was decent beforehand; Jonathan Pettibone is a talented  youngster that battled injury last year; Gavin Floyd is trying to come back from injury himself; Tom Koehler is very hittable and doesn’t generate many strikeouts.

CL:  Craig Kimbrel is one of the best in baseball; Rafael Soriano has had several reliable seasons as a closer; Bobby Parnell needs to show he is healthy, but last year became the dominant closer the Mets always hoped for after adding a knuckle curve to the repertoire; Jonathan Papelbon has started showing velocity loss and was touched up for some ugly blown saves last year; Steve Cishek is a side-arming finesse pitcher.

Bullpen:  The Mets depth in pitching puts them ahead of the others; Washington still has a solid three when combining Soriano with Craig Stammen and Tyler Clippard; Philly has a less spectacular, albeit solid three in Antonio Bastardo, Papelbon, and Mike Adams; Atlanta’s bullpen has been ravaged by injuries but is expecting Jonny Venters back by June; Miami has a young pen with Rule 5 pickup Angel Sanchez.


The numbers show that Washington is the most talented team in the division.  However, the next three are very close and while Atlanta won the division pretty handily last year, many things went perfectly for them.  Although expecting a bounce back from Uggla and B.J. Upton is reasonable, it’s hard to expect a recurrence of Johnson hitting 50 points more than his career norm, pitchers all keeping a remarkable improvement in control, and the hitters slugging so many timely home runs.   The hitting may still be very good overall, but the pitchers’ stability will be the key to where Atlanta finishes.

Philadelphia is third, but that is assuming: 1) all their oft-injured players will not be out for prolonged periods and that may be a stretch, and 2) there isn’t regression from a collection of players that are mostly in their mid-thirties.

The Mets are in a very good position to sneak into the number two spot if their players can achieve or even overachieve their expectations. The Marlins are rebuilding, but have a young nucleus of hitters in Stanton, Yelich, and Ozuna, with veteran leadership in Saltalamacchia and Jones, but still a very raw pitching staff.

This is quite a simple comparison and does not allow for disparities, such as how big a difference a borderline elite player like, say Justin Upton, is better than Christian Yelich, the next ranked LF.  While it always plays out differently between the lines, and I didn’t know what to expect when I started this exercise, I feel we are seeing a realistic picture of where the teams stand right now.

Presented By Diehards

]]> 0
Featured Post: Some Kiner Wonderful Fri, 07 Feb 2014 14:06:57 +0000 kiner waves

It was a part of the game. Tom Seaver would allow no runs and just 3 hits through 8 innings. Tug McGraw would strikeout the side in the 9th on just nine pitches for the save. Rusty Staub and Cleon Jones each got 3 hits, John Milner went deep, Buddy Harrelson made several diving stops and Jerry Grote threw out at least 3 or 4 base runners. Okay, okay, memories get embellished and exaggerated over time. But one thing remains a FACT.

No Mets victory was complete without Kiner’s Korner. It was a part of the game.

In 1973 I was 7 years old. The team I rooted for was 11 years old. There was no greatness associated with the blue and orange. Seaver would have a shot at Cooperstown but he wasn’t even 30 years old. To this young fan, the Mets only link to past prominence was through one of our broadcasters.

My father taught me baseball. But Ralph Kiner, Lindsey Nelson and Bob Murphy brought it into my home.

Ralph McPherran Kiner was born in Santa Rita, NM on October 27, 1922. His father died when he was 4 and his family relocated to Alhambra, CA. His minor league career was put on hold when he served as a Navy pilot during WW II. Ralph downplayed his military service. Upon returning stateside, when asked if he saw any action in the Pacific, he replied, “I didn’t even see any whales.”

The 1920’s had Ruth and Gehrig. The ‘30’s had Jimmie Foxx and Mel Ott. The ‘60’s would have Aaron, Mays and Killebrew. The 70’s belonged to Reggie Jackson and Mike Schmidt. But for the late 40’s and early 50’s there was no prolific HR hitter more feared and more respected than Ralph Kiner.


He made his debut with Pittsburgh on April 12, 1946. Had there been a Rookie of the Year back then Ralph likely would have won. His 23 HR’s led the league. He knocked in 81 for a team that finished seventh.

Despite his power, management was unhappy with his 109 whiffs, an exorbitant amount for that period. And so they had their 24 year old slugger work with legendary Hank Greenberg. The following year Kiner exploded. He hit 51 HR’s, good enough to lead all of Baseball while raising his BA nearly 70 points to 313.

Two years later, 1949, Kiner almost broke a record fans thought would stand forever. He ended the season with 54 HR’s, 6 short of Ruth’s mark and just 2 shy of the NL record. The 54 would remain most in the NL until the steroids era.

“Ralph can wipe out your lead with one swing of a bat.”—Warren Spahn


Ralph became the first player in NL history to reach the 50 HR mark twice. He led the league in HR’s 7 straight years. For 5 consecutive years (1947-1951) he topped 40 HR’s and 100 RBI’s, stats made more impressive when you take into account the fact the weak hitting Pirates rarely had men on base and no protection behind him. When the Pirates were losing badly, something they did a lot, fans would stay just to see one more AB by Kiner. He is one of only seven players in history to have four 30 HR/100 RBI seasons in his first five years. The left field porch at Forbes Field was dubbed Kiner’s Korner.

In June 1953, a salary dispute between Ralph and GM Branch Rickey came to a head. The best power hitter in the game wanted a raise from $75,000. What he got instead was traded to Chicago as part of a 10 player swap. Rickey famously told Ralph, “We finished last with you. We can finish last without you.” Ralph went deep 28 times and knocked in 87 in 117 games.

The following year, his power decreased due to irksome back injuries. It was bizarre. Whereas most players waited until Spring Training to get in shape, Ralph stayed fit and worked out all winter. He hit 285, but went deep only 22 times, the lowest total of his career. He was traded to Cleveland where he offered to take a 38% pay cut. He felt he didn’t deserve more.

The back injury worsened in 1955. He considered surgery but the operation only had a 50% success rate. A positive outcome would fully heal him. Failure would leave him paralyzed. Ralph had invested wisely, earned a lot doing what he loved. At age 32, after 10 seasons, he retired from Baseball with 369 HR’s, 1015 RBI’s, a 279 BA and 548 slugging average. His 7.1 HR/100 AB’s was second most in history, trailing only Ruth.

He became GM for the Indians AAA team and to save money decided to announce the games himself. After several years in San Diego and a brief stint in Chicago, Ralph headed east in 1962 where he became part of a new team called the Mets. Along with Lindsey Nelson and Bob Murphy, Ralph would become one-third of the longest broadcasting trio in history: 19 years.

Shortly after being hired at WOR Channel 9, in an interview Ralph expressed remorse about not breaking Ruth’s record of 60. He felt that his relatively brief career would go unappreciated and fade into history. And so he intended to stay with WOR as long as possible. He hoped his legacy off the field would supersede his career on the field. Ralph would stay part of the Mets team in one capacity or another for fifty three years, third longest stint with one club ever.

ralph kiner bob murphy lindsey nelson

Like the team they broadcast, they were an eclectic bunch. Unusual. Lindsey Nelson’s multi-colored sport suits pushed the newfangled technology of color TV to its breaking point. His play-by-play was as smooth as silk, fluent. He seemingly never made a mistake. Bob Murphy was an artist, painting pictures with words and with the eloquent cadence of a master.

And then…there was Ralph.

On the field, he was one of the best. Behind the microphone, he was…well, he was Ralph. He had immense knowledge of the game, mesmerizing personal stories. He explained the art of hitting in simple yet entertaining terms that any young fan could comprehend. Ralph Kiner knew how to play Baseball. He knew how to discuss Baseball. But sometimes, his words came out differently than they sounded in his mind. He was Yogi Berra of the booth. His malapropisms were legendary, humorous and laugh-out-loud funny at times. You listened to Lindsey to enjoy the game, Bob to relish an enjoyable afternoon. But Ralph? You listened extra closely, just to see what he’d mess up next.

But we didn’t care. We treasured Ralph and for his foibles, faults and mistakes, he was lovable. Just like the Mets. He wasn’t as refined as his colleagues. Not even close. But that made him more real, more down to earth. One of us. He made the game personal and friendly. Ironically, it was this least polished of the trio who produced the most memorable in-game play by play catchphrase: That ball is going going, gone, goodbye.

He once referred to catcher Gary Carter as Gary Cooper. He called his sidekick Tim MacArthur instead of Tim McCarver. And there were others. Many many others.

On Father’s Day, we wish you fathers all a Happy Birthday.

If Casey Stengel were alive today, he’d be spinning in his grave.

The Hall of Fame ceremonies this year will be held on the 31st and 32nd of July.

Tony Gwynn was named Player of the Year for April.

Kevin McReynolds stops at third. And he scores.

The Mets have gotten their lead-off batter on only once this inning.

Darryl Strawberry has been voted to the Hall of Fame five years in a row.

Mazzilli goes back, goes back, his head hits the wall. And it’s rolling toward left field.

Good afternoon. Thanks for tuning in to Kiner’s Korner. I’m Ralph Korner.

0kiner mays

Kiner’s Korner was the icing on the cake after a home victory. For fifteen minutes, Ralph would chat with the star pitcher or big hitter from that game. They’d replay at-bats pitch by pitch, discuss a big catch or why the pitcher threw a 2-2 curve ball.

It was a different time. We didn’t get canned answers from players sitting in front of their locker with a bank of cameras and microphones surrounding them. Unlike so-called ‘sports reporters’ nowadays, Ralph didn’t rephrase the same question nine different ways. There was no gotcha journalism. He wasn’t looking for a sound bite. He was talking Baseball, a dialogue between one of the all-time greats and that day’s star.

Kiner’s Korner was unscripted. And that made it real. You weren’t watching a TV program but rather eavesdropping on a conversation in your living room between Ralph and Jerry Koosman.

Tom Seaver would discuss the art of pitching, sometimes emitting that unforgettable Seaver laugh. Cleon Jones would sit there and mostly give one word answers, never comfortable in the spotlight. Rusty Staub was the consummate professional. Tug McGraw would display that broad smile. Felix Millan never got a follow-up question because…it seemed like Ralph was always thrown off by Millan’s heavy accent.

But even Kiner’s Korner got off to a dubious start. Shortly after it became a regular post-game feature following a Mets win, Ralph interviewed manager Casey Stengel. After the live broadcast ended, Stengel shook hands with Ralph, stood and departed back to the locker room. However, Casey forgot he was hooked to a mic and as he walked away the wires and such tangled, collapsing the cardboard walls that served as a backdrop and destroying the makeshift set.

Washington Nationals v New York Mets

In 1996, Ralph announced he was suffering Bell’s Palsy. His speech was slurred and as years passed, it became somewhat difficult to understand him. Almost painful. But again, we didn’t care.  Ralph was one of us. Howie Rose stated yesterday, “Ralph was royalty. And you don’t throw the king overboard until he’s done.”

Ralph Kiner was 91 years old when he slipped away Thursday. He leaves behind five children and twelve grandchildren. His number 4 was retired by the Pirates. A statue of him stands in Alhambra. He was an RBI champion, 6-time All-Star, 7-time NL HR King. He is a Hall of Famer. He was the best hitter in the game for nearly a decade. Loved by fans, admired by teammates, feared yet respected by those competing against him. He’d been with our team since 1962, a true original Met. He was funny, personable, entertaining, intelligent. He spent more than 70 years doing what he loved. And in spite of his self-doubt, his legacy does live on. He’s now reunited with the other two members of the Mets original broadcast team, talking Baseball and catching up. Baseball historian Marty Noble called him, “One of Baseball’s genuine and most charming gentlemen.”

But to us, he’ll always be Ralph.


]]> 0
Lessons In Latin America: A Brief Venezuelan History Sun, 02 Feb 2014 14:00:56 +0000 miguel cabrera

While Cuban and Mexican baseball have been the forefront of baseball pioneering between spreading the sport and creating the Leagues, their stance is nothing in present-day Major League Baseball compared to both the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. As of April 1st in 2013, Venezuelans represented the second-highest number of foreign-born players in the Major Leagues other than Dominicans at 63. Venezuela, however, has turned in year in and year out some of the most talented players in the Major Leagues, including the current Most Valuable Player for 2 years in a row, Miguel Cabrera.

There are, once again, arguments about the origins of Venezuelan baseball, with a study from the University of Florida saying that students brought it back from America in 1895 after going to America and learning of the sport, while Milton Jamail (Book, Venezuelan Bust, Baseball Boom) says that it came from a Cuban Cigar company that established itself in 1890. On May 23rd, 1895, El Caracas Base Ball Club played the first Venezuelan baseball game as a team, splitting into two teams and being publicly photographed by the Venezuelan press. Either way, Venezuelans became captured by the sport by the early 1900’s.

In the early 1900’s, baseball in Venezuela began picking up steam, and teams were created throughout the country, and forming its own league by 1927. Those leagues still exist, creating new havens for players to go to such as previously stated Cuban Star, Martin Dihigo to go and play when America had not been as friendly as it should have been to darker-skinned players.

Alex Carrasquel was the first Venezuelan in the Major Leagues. He was a white Venezuelan signed by “Papa” Joe Cambria (Who was mentioned for nearly kidnapping players in the Previous Cuban articles) to play for the Washington Senators. Carrasquel pitched as a reliever and then fled to Mexico for a better wage as a part of Jorge Pasquel’s attempt to create an impressive Mexican league. While players were usually suspended because of Commissioner Happy Chandler created a law to deter players, Carrasquel’s sentence was reduced, and he went on to pitch a couple more years in the Major Leagues.

venezuela baseball

Almost 300 Venezuelans have come up since Alex Carrasquel, such as notable stars, Luis Aparicio, Omar Vizquel, Dave Concepcion, Bobby Abreu, and our own Johan Santana, and more Venezuelan players are added to team’s systems each year.

Now, Venezuela is host, not only to a winter-league haven to Minor and Major stars in the MLB, but to a host of Academies where minor-leaguers are developed. But, while 28 out of 30 Major League teams once held Academies in Venezuela, only 5 different academies remain for players as of now because of the dangers of the country as a whole.

The Academies that once stood affiliated with Major League teams were facilities for players signed as young as 16, (or sometimes even younger if not signed and just training) to come and play baseball, and be trained by coaches placed there by the organization. After these players were deemed ready, they would be sent to America to play in the next phase of the Minor Leagues.

Now they have been sent to the training academies that have sprouted up throughout the Dominican Republic.

Presented By Diehards

]]> 0
Fact or Fiction: Team Building 2007-2011 Fri, 31 Jan 2014 14:43:21 +0000 Quick confession. I am not going to try and hide my biases simply to preserve some sense of false objectivity. After all, I’m not a journalist. Outside of lying or fabricating data, I have no such pristine burden. What follows are merely opinions, extrapolations, ideas, personal conclusions. I was, however, determined to keep an open mind once I began exploring the data, to go wherever the data led me. I will leave it in your capable hands to decide whether I have been successful or not in this regard.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Non-Market Players

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

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

Red Sox 22.8
Phillies 18.9
Yankees 32.2
Giants 12.4
Cardinals 24.9

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

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

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

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

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


]]> 0
Forward Thinking: The Evolution Of Being One Step Ahead Mon, 20 Jan 2014 15:34:31 +0000 Baseball has always been pioneered by forward-thinkers. These visionary minds have paired their knowledge of the game with foresight to developed ways of staying one step ahead of their competition. However, now with every aspect of the game dissected by experts, media and fans it has become harder to be original.

In 1919 Branch Rickey took the reins in St. Louis and began transforming the struggling, financially-plagued Cardinals. He established the first farm system as an inexpensive means of developing players internally. Minor leagues had been exclusively independent until this time with players being bought and sold at will. Rickey exploited the system by signing young, unknown talent for cheap and by 1926 St. Louis had won their first World Series.

Rickey continued to revolutionize the game in the well-known integration movement. The Brooklyn Dodgers broke down barriers when they signed Jackie Robinson in 1946. Rickey saw this as an untapped pool of talent that could help build revenue and bring championships to Brooklyn. Although championships eluded them, the Dodgers won six pennants in nine years after Robinson arrived in Brooklyn. Much like his Cardinals of years past, Rickey built Brooklyn into the era’s top National League team.

1975 began the era of free agency with wealthy teams gaining a steady advantage over the field. Between 1976 and 2000, the Yankees won nine pennants and six World Series Titles. The Mets signed Bobby Bonilla in 1992. This contract still stands as the highest percentage jump in yearly salary for the game’s highest paid player (Strawberry (LA) $3,800,000 to Bonilla (NY) $6,100,000). Since 1975, the highest paid player in baseball has gone from receiving $240,000/year to $30,000,000/year, representing that championships could be purchased now rather than manufactured.

In the most recent decade, Bill James and Billy Beane were credited with the invention of sabremetrics and beginning the era of advanced statistics. In 2002, the Yankees payroll totaled $133,429,757 while Oakland sat at $41,942,665. Beane and Paul DePodesta knew that they couldn’t compete if they continued to play the same game as large market team. With Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi and Miguel Tejada all chasing lucrative deals, Beane turned his attention away from traditional scouting and toward numbers such the ability to maximize run productivity with On-Base Percentage. Oakland and New York each won 103 games that season despite the huge salary gap.

As the money continued to get bigger so did the cost of failure. With salary demands continuing to sky rocket and many teams adopting the moneyball style of management, teams are trying to configure new ways to get ahead.

This season the Yankees failed to make the playoffs with a record payroll while Tampa Bay, Oakland and Pittsburgh all qualified for the postseason despite a combined payroll less than that of New York’s $228,995,945.

Theo Epstein appears to be making a play as the next baseball mind trying to get one step ahead. With new rules implemented, the Cubs began to chase additional international free agent money through trade.

Epstein and the Cubs might be onto something with this big picture view. The most significant costs associated with signing talented international free agents are the time and resources required for scouting/player development. With media and baseball insiders following every move nowadays, it’s unlikely that this strategy can remain under-the-radar the way that Rickey’s farm system stayed discrete for so many years. With that said, Chicago managed to land three of the top 10 international signings in 2013.

In a sports culture that demands success, Epstein’s new approach will require patience. With Chicago having lost 90+ games each of the last three seasons, it makes sense for Epstein to spend on a revolutionary strategy rather than spend more time rebuilding a depleted team in a domestic market that no longer holds any secrets.

The Cubs entered the season with their top four prospects (according to Baseball America) all imported internationally and they are now joined by the talented “2013 recruiting class”.

Despite their growing numbers in the MLB, international talent is by far the most abundant and highest value source of acquiring talent. While the Mets used the 11th overall pick to select and sign 17-year-old Dominic Smith to a $2.6 million signing bonus, Chicago signed the number one international prospect, outfielder Eloy Jimenez, to a $2.8 million signing bonus.

If you choose to view the international signing period as the MLB Draft 2.0 then the Cubs essentially grabbed four top-10 picks in 2013 with Kris Bryant, Eloy Jimenez, Gleyber Torres, Jen-Ho Tseng.

It will be interesting to see where the Cubs are in five years compared to the Mets.


]]> 0
MMO Honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Mon, 20 Jan 2014 13:40:34 +0000 martin luther king

When you think about freedom, you think about being able to walk down the street and enjoy the sights and the sounds; take a drive to anywhere across this great nation of ours and enjoy every aspect of it; go to a ball game with friends and family and join thousands of others that might be from different walks of life but have the same interest in common; to root for the home team, or maybe even the visiting team, depending on their preference.  But if you really look at the opportunity we all share to live in harmony, one of the greatest men who helped to make this a reality and someone that I am forever grateful to is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, for paving the way for all of us to enjoy such freedoms.

Now, we can not take away the many sacrifices that our armed forces and veterans have made to protect us all from the people that want to destroy the way we live, but for the purpose of this post I wanted to honor a man that stood up to adversity and fought for civil rights between whites, blacks and people from all walks of life, that they may be equal, and grow and live together without discrimination. Dr. King knew that this great nation of ours was missing something, and when he made that march to Washington, he changed not only a Nation, but a World.

We see that evidence in our own backyard, in other nations, especially in our National Pastime.  In Baseball, you see that right away, with players coming from all over the world, to join and compete with fellow athletes for a common goal; and yes they may not always have great harmony amongst the teams, but they all have the same opportunities to develop and grow together.

No longer are the teams segregated like they were in the 1940′s when Jackie Robinson became the first African-American to break the color barrier in the major leagues.  Robinson’s courage also paved the way for players like Roberto Clemente, who was the first Latin American superstar in Major League Baseball and lived his life giving back to others and a symbol of Latin American pride. Masanori Murakami, who made his debut in 1964 with the San Francisco Giants, was the first ever Japanese baseball player to make his mark on the game.

The sacrifices that these and many men and women have made, and the willingness of one man to push back the norm, changed the way most if not all of us look at each other. We have come a long way as a nation, as a sport, and as we continue to move forward, the greatest gift that we can share with the next generation is the life and courage of all the brave men and women that have fought for our freedoms especially Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Happy Birthday to a Great American and a man that forever changed the landscape of our great nation: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Presented By Diehards

]]> 0
Lessons In Latin America: The Dominican Republic Sun, 19 Jan 2014 16:15:53 +0000  

The Dominican Republic is part of the new wave of American Baseball and the largest import of talent out of the Caribbean and Latin America. In 2007, there were 99 players from the Dominican Republic on 25-man rosters on opening day and in 2013, there were around 89. Either way, the Dominican Republic boasts the largest amount of players from a foreign country by far. Because of the Dominican Influx into the minor leagues, many Americans confused other types of Latino players with Dominicans. Every player known to them from Latin America was considered a “Dominican” instead of Puerto Rican, Panamanian, Venezuelan, or Colombian according to a minor leaguer’s autobiography “Odd Man Out”.

Just like Venezuela, Cuba is the root of how baseball came to be in the Dominican Republic. While the English came to the Dominican Republic and taught many players how to play Cricket in the mid 1800’s, Cubans escaped their home country during the 1870’s in the midst of the ten years of war that raged on from 1868 to 1878, and they brought baseball along with them. Historians dispute which city in the Dominican the game first started, but everyone is convinced that it came from the Cubans. Cubans came to both sides of the Island, with their business enterprises.

In Santo Domingo, iron-maker brothers Pedro Ignacio and Ubaldo Aloma created two baseball clubs called the Rojos and the Azules (reds and blues) in 1890. These teams didn’t carry many Dominicans to start out, but instead a lot of Americans and Cubans. Later on, not too many played in Santo Domingo, especially because it was considered a game for the rich.

On the other side of the Island was San Pedro De Macroís, which was a large sugar town. Cuban sugar makers came in and bought fields and factories and introduced Dominicans to baseball. With the influence being from Cuba, Dominicans working in various jobs played baseball on the side during their breaks and such to keep their minds diverted from the long and difficult work days. Many Dominicans worked in sugar cane fields, cutting long stalks down,and only receiving money for the rows of cane they cut down, not individual stalks. It was a long and difficult process for the workers each sugar season (season also known as the zafra).

Sugar worker’s diversions quickly changed from cricket, which came from English-speaking islands, to baseball. Mill towns and companies started to become teams, and sugar leagues sprouted up. In a time ravaged by malaria and mosquitoes, leprosy, and very difficult manual labor conditions, baseball was a prime time for many players in San Pedro. But while mills started playing exemplary baseball (according to local folklore), the red and blue squads in Santo Domingo turned into Ozama and Nuevo clubs in the early 1900’s. These teams were the start of a new Dominican League, boasting uniforms and schedules.

Soon after, Nuevo became so good (mostly because of one pitcher with an unbelievable curveball nicknamed Indio Bravo) that a group of Dominican players came together to beat Nuevo, called Licey. Licey became one of the biggest and best teams, but still couldn’t beat Indio Bravo or his curveball to say the least. But, after a dispute with his team, Indio Bravo switched from Nuevo to Licey, and then Nuevo’s team fell apart.

By the 1920’s new teams started to spring up, including Escogido, another Santo Domingo team, and Santiago made a team called the Sandinos (in 1928, and then later Aguilas Cibaenas), to protest American Rule, naming it after the Nicaraguan freedom fighter, Cesar Agosto Sandino. During that time, American armies had taken over most of the Caribbean, such as Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Panama, so Latin resentment was high against the American occupants. Also added to their professional league was the Estrellas, from San Pedro De Macroís. These four teams gained so much money and fame that they started buying multiple new players for their teams from the Cuban, Puerto Rican, and Negro leagues to compete for the crown.

Dictator Rafael Trujillo came to power in 1930, and became the infamous dictator of legend from 1930 to 1961 when an underground team that was funded by the CIA killed him. Like every other Dominican enterprise during that time, Trujillo wanted to control the profits of baseball. His brother owned Licey, and while Trujillo did not really care about the sport itself, he wanted to see his brother happy and since he renamed Santo Domingo to Ciudad Trujillo, he condensed Licey and Escogido into the team “Ciudad Trujillo” and stocked it with the best players. In 1933, Trujillo bought Negro and Venezuelan League star Josh Gibson, as well as Cuban Star, Luis Tiant, (father of the legendary righthander, Luis Tiant Jr.), and Satchel Paige, the top right hander of the Negro Leagues.

To try to compete against Trujillo’s large bankroll, a judge named Federico Nina Santana gave money to San Pedro de Macroís. He didn’t care to lose money buying up players away from Ciudad Trujillo, and gave San Pedro a winning season in 1936. But when 1937 rolled around, every team in the league went broke. They bought up all the talent everywhere they could. To many, this was considered the best baseball in the world during that time period, better than anything the Major Leagues had to offer.

ozzie virgil

Ciudad Trujillo won in 1937, but the league became broke and dissolved until 1951 when they turned into a winter league, and like Mexico, tried to raid players from the American majors and bring professional baseball back to the Dominican Republic. Until then, it was only amateur teams playing, and the constant problems from the dictator, and no hope of players breaking into the Major Leagues because most of them had dark skin, until Minnie Minoso, and then Ozzie Virgil.

Ozvaldo “Ozzie” Virgil was a Dominican who moved to the Bronx and was discovered playing sandlot baseball in the Bronx. Alejandro Pompez, who owned two Negro League Franchises, became a scout for the Giants and found Virgil in the Bronx and brought him to the Major Leagues for the Giants.

While not many cared that he was Latino, they were more concerned about his skin color, and when he was traded to Detroit, that was the main focus. Detroit had never brought in a black player to that point, so instead of paving the way for Dominicans, it seemed as if Virgil was paving more of the way for Blacks, along with his Cuban predecessor, Minnie Minoso.

However small it seemed to be though, Juan Marichal, a now-Hall Of Fame pitcher, would not have considered even joining the major leagues had it not been for Ozzie Virgil. Even with Marichal’s endorsement, a large amount of present Dominican players do not know who Ozzie Virgil was, and what he had done for Domincan Baseball.

Presented By Diehards

]]> 0
MMO Fan Shot: How About A 211 Game Suspension For Bud Selig? Sat, 18 Jan 2014 14:51:07 +0000 2011 World Series Game 7 - Texas Rangers v St Louis Cardinals

An MMO Fan Shot by Steven Pacchiano

Selig is the ninth and current Commissioner of Major League Baseball, he’s been at the helm since 1992. His reign began at in the steroid era, and that was his bad luck. He had the opportunity to protect the game at the time but chose the wrong path. He turned a blind eye to it when it served his needs and reaped all the rewards after the strike. Guys like Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire were at the forefront of the impending debacle in 1998 with their home run chase which sparked the MLB financial turnaround. Fans, owners and Selig all cheered them on. As fans poured into the seats money poured into MLB.

Bud’s resumé boasts that he oversaw Interleague Play and the World Baseball Classic, both of which I think aren’t good for the game, but lets not get off topic. I did like the addition of the Wild Card that came about during his tenure, but this was no genius idea, well maybe it was, but MLB just adopted it from the NFL, so lets give credit to the NFL for that one.

Bud’s true legacy is that of a commissioner who tolerated steroids to advance the game, then flipped on those players who re-populated the stands. These players, who we all cheered for, who brought baseball back into the spotlight and began the run of record-breaking attendance are now all tarnished forever. These players were thought of as living legends as we watched Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and Mike Piazza step to the plate every night. We all know the rest of the names of the best players that played in the 90’s and 00’s, we all had our favorites. Like a book with blank pages, the Hall of Fame – a history of the best players ever – over those 20 seasons will not have the greatest players of that era.

Some did it, some did not, no one stopped it, and everyone knew… That will be Selig’s legacy.

What’s the incentive NOT do steroids?

The player puts up numbers, helps their team win games, and makes a lot of money. The result is the Player, Owner and Commissioner are all happy.

If the player fails a test he’s suspended for 50 games and then gets right back to business. I can say, speaking for myself, that I would have no issue doing steroids if it meant being able to sign a nice contract that would take care of my family. Many players now don’t care about the HOF, they are looking for a big payday looking to take care of their family.

Lets not forget the owners, who don’t care either. When a player fails a test, let’s just take Jhonny Peralta for example; after the player is caught a team quickly signs him to a 4 year, $60 million dollar deal. It doesn’t seem that the teams care if they are on steroids or HGH or Fairy dust. The teams just want results and production. Owners are looking for wins and revenue and players are looking for a salary. It’s pretty simple.

If they really wanted to clean up the game, if a player fails a drug test, then the player would get his suspension, (50, 100 or whatever amount of games) but the team should also suffer a punishment.

What about if the team looses their First Round Pick in the upcoming draft if a guy on that team fails a test? Sounds good to me. And if there were two players on the team that failed a test, the team would loose their first AND second round picks in that upcoming draft. And so on.

That would make the team actually think, and say, “is it worth it to sign this player and risk losing a pick?”

If Selig and the owners want to really clean up the game I think this would be the best way.

Singling out Bonds, Clemens, and A-Rod, chasing them around town and spending tens of millions of dollars investigating them makes no sense. Hundred’s of players did it and no other professional sport hunts down clues outside of the sport beyond the basic random drug testing. Teams would actually police themselves and be responsible for their own players. MLB should randomly test players and the Owners should take care of their own locker rooms. Together they can clean up the sport, together they should be responsible.

The biggest joke is that Bud Selig intends to do a farewell tour of all 30 parks and say goodbye to all his loving fans. Hmmm wait a second, something’s wrong there. He’s not a beloved MLB player, jeesh he’s not even a player. I don’t think fans want to see him, at least no one I know does.

Does he think that chasing down three players who did steroids publicly will get him applause from the fans?

Does he think he transcends the game?

Is he admired by fans in the same way as The Mick, or Mo or even Chipper? Players who were worthy of doing a farewell tour?

I don’t think there will be any fan buying a ticket to go say goodbye to Selig, that is unless they want an opportunity to boo him. And I think he will likely get booed out of every park, maybe even Milwaukee where he was once their owner.

Maybe he’s delusional. Maybe he’s on something. Maybe Bud Selig should be suspended for 211 Games.

* * * * * * * *

This Fan Shot was contributed by Steven Pacchiano. Have something you want to say about the Mets? Share your opinions with over 25,000 Mets fans who read this site daily. Send your Fan Shot to Or ask us about becoming a regular contributor.

]]> 0
A Little Advice for A-Rod Wed, 15 Jan 2014 11:00:55 +0000 alex rodriguez

Alex Rodriguez Plans To Appeal Arbitrator’s Decision

A-Rod, I have a little bit of unsolicited advice.

Just say, “My bad.”

You see, the American public is very forgiving. Fess up, take your medicine, and we’ll eventually come back around. Those that do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it – so what have we learned from history?

Jason Giambi said “My bad.” He took his boos and eventually, we stopped caring he was tied up in the BALCO scandal and he was even being considered for the Rockies manager position last year before he decided to keep on playing.

Barry Bonds did not say “My bad.” Look at him.

Andy Pettitte said, “My bad.” He was given a hero’s welcome.

Roger Clemens did not say “My bad.” He’s getting the Bonds treatment.

Mark McGwire did not say “My bad,” at first. He didn’t want to talk about the past. Then he fessed up, said “My bad,” and now he’s been welcomed back into baseball and is coaching in a Major League dugout. He won’t get into the Hall of Fame, but he’s not being run up a flagpole, either.

Rafael Palmeiro wagged his finger in front of Congress, then he got caught. He never said, “My bad.” We still don’t like him.

Ryan Braun stood at a podium, said he didn’t do it, threw a poor guy under a bus, stomped on him a little bit and smiled for the cameras. Then he got caught again, said “My bad,” a bunch of times and he’ll get booed for a while, but eventually even what he did will all be water under the bridge for him, too.

You see, Alex – we’re not naive. We know that players are taking banned substances. Players have been cheating in some way, shape, or form since the game was first played. We know there are guys on all of our favorite teams that are taking stuff that haven’t been caught yet. Heck, two Mets were caught in the same scandal you were. We just signed another one this offseason. Bartolo Colon said “My bad,” and he got a two year contract. Jhonny Peralta said “My bad” and he got $53 million this offseason.

We know guys are cheating. That doesn’t make it right. It still makes it wrong. I don’t like that it’s in the game, but if you’re going to get caught, just fess up to it, take your punishment, and move on with life.

What we really, really, really don’t like is being lied to and treated like we’re stupid. That’s what we don’t like about Barry. That’s what we don’t like about Roger. That’s what we don’t like about Rafael. That’s what we don’t like about you.

So do yourself a favor. Stop acting indignant and making a federal case out of it. Just take your lumps, take your suspension, collect the millions more you’re still going to make, and stop paying the lawyers. Take out a full page ad in the Daily News with your picture that just says, “My bad.”


]]> 0
MLB: Drug Dealers Welcome Mon, 13 Jan 2014 18:06:19 +0000 bosch 60 minutes

Last night, 60 Minutes aired an interview with Anthony Bosch, founder of former South Florida anti-aging clinic Biogenesis.

During the interview (which I admittedly chose not to watch), I have read that Bosch admitted to injecting Rodriguez with PED, an allegation that conveniently came to fruition after Major League Baseball apparently took over paying for Bosch’s legal fees.

Now, I want to stop right there.

Put your anger toward Alex Rodriguez to the side. He’s a baseball player, a very unlikable baseball player who also happens to play for a team many people reading this despise.

But Anthony Bosch is a drug dealer. This is an undisputed fact. He didn’t just deal drugs to Alex Rodriguez or the other few names who were suspended last season. According to the same whistle blower Porter Fischer – Bosch was working with athletes from the NBA, NCAA, Tennis, MMA, boxing, soccer to name a few. He wasn’t MLB’s problem – he was a problem for every major athletic organization in this country – and Major League Baseball is now supporting him.

Let that sink in for just a second. This isn’t the first time Bosch’s name came up with regards to PED. In 2009, his father, Pedro Bosch was named as a supplier to the then recently suspended Manny Ramirez.

So Major League Baseball’s idea to clean up the sport and stop their players from taking banned substances is NOT to help authorities go after those SUPPLYING the drugs to their players – it’s to go after the players using the drugs in an attempt to scare everybody else from ever trying it.

You know who you aren’t scaring?

Drug dealers.


Because you’re paying their legal fees.

The next drug dealer that gets caught isn’t going to go down, they are going to turn over. They are the problem in real life, outside the scope of Major League Baseball.

When you’re trying to clean up a drug problem, explain to me how it makes sense to go after the user and not the dealer?

In what warped universe am I supposed to listen to a drug dealer, a slimy slithering (you like that?) drug dealer and think “he must be telling the truth!”

Now let’s get back to Rodriguez.

To our knowledge, he has failed one test for banned PED substances and that was during the 2003 survey test.

So this leads me to my next point. If Major League Baseball wants me the avid baseball fan to believe they are cleaning up the game with their great drug testing program – then you cannot at the same time be going after a guy who DIDN’T FAIL A TEST!


Because if you’re telling me Rodriguez was taking a banned substance, then you’re simultaneously telling me your testing program DOES NOT WORK!

This entire case to me, sums up what is wrong with the sport of baseball as far up as Bud Selig and as far down as the writers who vote on the Hall of Fame candidacy.

If Major League Baseball has the right to ASSUME a player is guilty and go to great lengths (somewhat illegal lengths) to prove it, then how can we hold even the writers accountable for ASSUMING a player like say Mike Piazza took PED when there is no actual evidence to support it?

The last point I will make it to the MLB Players Union. You know, for years I have heard that they have the strongest union in the country if not the world. Where are they right now? If you want players like Piazza, Biggio, Bagwell for example to get the respect they deserve – then where is the union to stand up and tell the public and the writers who vote that assuming guilt with no evidence is not how we fix this problem?

Where is the union while one of their members is being subject to a witch hunt? Where is the union to stand up and point to the owners and the Commissioner for funding a drug dealer in an effort to rid the game of 1 baseball player?

This isn’t about whether Rodriguez is innocent or not – it’s about the great lengths Major League Baseball is taking in an effort to rid the game of a player, not rid the world of a drug dealer. If Rodriguez is guilty, the correct process should be in place to ensure he is found guilty. The word of a drug dealer is not or should not be the “correct process.”

Baseball wants us to assume players like Biggio, Piazza, Bagwell and now Rodriguez are guilty. If we assume former players were guilty with no evidence – it makes the entire PED problem of the past fall squarely on their shoulders – rather than sharing it between them, the league, the writers and yes, even us fans.

If we assume Rodriguez is currently guilty without credible evidence, it assumes that a person’s rights as a citizen of this country do not exist while in the confines of being a baseball player.

And you know what happens when you assume…don’t you Bud?


]]> 0