Mets Merized Online » Interviews Sun, 01 Feb 2015 12:00:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 MMO Exclusive: Interview with ESPN’s Keith Law Fri, 30 Jan 2015 20:00:47 +0000 Screenshot_2015-01-29-21-44-47

On Thursday morning, I had the chance to conduct an interview over the phone with ESPN senior baseball analyst Keith Law, who is also the lead baseball analyst for ESPN’s Scouts.Inc and the former assistant to the GM of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Keith, who ranked the Mets as having the fourth best farm system in the MLB before our interview and named six Mets in his Top 100 prospects article shortly after our interview, was kind enough to take several questions. Check out what we discussed, including the prospects, trades, the shortstop situation, the money, the upcoming season, and, of course, the future!

Tommy Rothman, MetsMerized Online: Hey Keith. So first of all, thanks so much for agreeing to do this interview.

Keith Law, ESPN: No problem, happy to do it.

Rothman: I guess we’ll start with your farm system rankings, the Mets are ranked number 4. When you rank farm systems, how deep does it go? Because obviously we all know about Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, et cetera, but are you just ranking teams on their top guys? How deep do you go into the system when you do these rankings?

Law: What I do for each team— and this will be up on Friday— I do team reports where I do at least 10 prospects per team, but I’ll keep going through the team, maybe as many as 20 guys depending on the system. I go as far as I believe that there are players with potential Major League value. In the Mets’ case, it’s pretty deep. There’s probably 17 or 18 guys there who I think have a legitimate shot at some kind of Major League role. Not necessarily all starters, but there’s something there. To put in other words, you could see it as asset value… you could take a lot of these guys and trade them for something.

michael conforto Patrick E. McCarthy

Rothman: So next let’s talk about the history of the Mets in your rankings. You did your first rankings in 2008, the Mets were 28th. 2009 they’re 17th, and you’re excited about Fernando Martinez, Wilmer Flores, Jefry Marte and Brad Holt. 2010, the last year of Minaya, we’re at 15, and you criticize their penny-pinching in the draft but praise their work in the international market. Sandy takes over heading into the 2011 season and starts off with a system you rank as 26th, again bashing the Wilpons for not spending in the draft. The next year Sandy gets us to 22nd, of course we know about the Beltran trade. Then the Dickey trade, and we’re 14th. 2014, we’re 6th. Now here we are, and we’re 4th despite not having many very high draft picks (unlike teams like the Cubs and Nationals). We know about the trades, but other than that, what has been responsible for the rebirth of the Mets system on a deeper level?

Law:  I just think they’re drafting better. They’re drafting a lot better. You had the one year with (scouting director) Chad McDoland, now Tommy Tanous has taken over, he’s had a couple of drafts, and I just think they’ve drafted a lot smarter, especially towards the top. We’ll see if some of the later picks work, they’ve had some later picks that were interesting, those often take a little longer to percolate and show that there’s real value. But I think that they’ve clicked on most of their high picks the last few years. I really loved the Conforto pick (in 2014), I think they got the best pure hitter in the draft class. And that’s the kind of player they just didn’t seem to be taking previously. It’s hard for me to really characterize what the draft strategy was under (Omar Minaya’s) regime because I never really got it (laughs), I never understood it. Now, they’re doing a better job of just saying “who’s the best player on the board? We’ll take that guy.” They’re not trying to trick anybody, or trick themselves. Conforto was the best player on the board, they didn’t even think he’d be available for their pick, so they took him. That’s the way you should approach the first round. And then you look at the results of the last couple of drafts so far, it’s a nice mix of college and high school, upside and probability, that’s what you want to be getting out of your drafts… they’ve done a much, much better job with that.

Rothman: As you see in the rankings, there are some really good teams at the bottom, like the Giants and Tigers, and as you explain it’s because they use what they have. But the teams at the top aren’t that bad, the Cubs could be good this year, the Red Sox could be great. So having a good MLB team and a good farm system aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. And the Mets have made it clear that they’re not going to gut the system and just “go for it” now, despite the angry fans and the billboards, they’ve made it clear that they’re not going to spend Yankee money, or Dodger money, or Pre-Ponzi Met money. So how do the Mets plan on taking this #4 farm system, a 79 win team, all the still-improving guys already on the Major League roster, and other boosts like Wright being healthy, and using the opportunity they now have to build a serious contender?

Law: Right. Well I think what they’re going to have to do at some point is trade some of this pitching depth for a bat. I love Conforto but it’s not like he’s going to help them this year. He alone, is not the guy who’s going to save the offense. They’re going to have to acknowledge that Wright is getting older, and that they’re probably going to need some beef-up somewhere in the lineup. First base, right field, it doesn’t have to come from a specific spot, but they don’t really have— other than Conforto— that guy. I almost said “shortstop,” but Amed Rosario I think is going to be a star, it’s just he’s a tick further away. So you don’t want to go out and necessarily get the guy who’s going to block him for the next six years, but you probably want to get a guy for the next three years, until he arrives. And that’s something I think they could do with all this pitching depth.

Rothman: But at the same time, if some great shortstop comes along, I don’t think they’d pass him up and say “no thanks, we have Amed Rosario.”

Law: No, of course. If someone’s gonna call and offer you the all-world shortstop… you know the problem is– I’ve always been a Troy Tulowitzki fan (note: Keith mentioned Tulo first, not me!), you don’t want him for the next eight years, though. You want him for the next three.

jacob degrom

Rothman: Yeah. Another concern people have is, they have young guys like Harvey and deGrom and Wheeler and d’Arnaud and even Duda, but those guys will eventually be due for some real money, some sooner than others. So when the money gets serious, and it comes time to pay these guys, do you think they can and will do it? Or do you think they’ll be like the Rays and the Athletics, and start selling these guys off the moment money starts to be a real factor.

Law: I don’t think… they’re not in Rays and A’s territory where they’re just gonna have to move everybody. But my guess is, they’re not gonna keep them all. Some of those guys will get towards second or third-year arbitration and they’ll get up towards $10 million a year, and the Mets will decide to pass on some of them. You know that said, they kept Murphy who I thought they would deal because, why pay him $8 million dollars? That was kind of my guess talking to people in the industry. It’s a lot of money for a not-great player when you have Dilson Herrera, who probably could benefit from a little more time in the minors, but he could play 2nd base every day if you wanted him to.

Rothman: And at the same time, if they don’t want to keep them all, if they look at it and say, for example, “OK Wheeler’s the guy we’re not going to pay,” some of those guys have real trade value if they don’t want to hand out an extension.

Law: Oh yes, yes, absolutely. If you’re willing to trade a good young pitcher, going into his first or second year of arbitration, you’re going to get a lot. That could be a situation where they go and get “that guy,” the Addison Russell-type prospect in return, the high-upside hitting prospect who’s not that far off. Or maybe even you get the Wil Myers type. That’s a guy you never expect… if we had talked 3 months ago you’d say “he never gets traded” and now he has been. Things that we always assumed to be true are changing very quickly, I think because of the changing financial landscape in the sport.

wilmer flores dilson herrera

Rothman: So talking about a specific guy… Wilmer Flores. A lot of people say the Mets botched their shortstop hunt, and well I guess you HAVE to say they did because they didn’t get a shortstop.

Law (laughing): You come home without a deer, then you did not have a good day.

Rothman: What’s debatable is whether they have a real problem or not, some people like Flores. He’s been around forever, he’s been on your radar since 2009, but he’s still young, he’s hit in the minors… so what do you think about Flores, and what do you think the METS think about him. Do they think he can be the answer, or are they putting on a poker face while they scramble to replace him?

Law: I think he can hit. I don’t think he can play short, I never even thought he was very good at third. I think there’s a real good chance he ends up at another corner, and my question then is whether the bat’s going to profile enough to warrant playing him every day, if he’s in left field or at first base. Again, I think he can hit, I think he’s got good hand-eye, I think his swing works, he’s gonna make a fair amount of contact, but it really hasn’t developed into any kind of power. He’s not very quick, not very athletic, but his feet… I’m very, very surprised that a team that’s clearly aware of defensive metrics would even TRY him at shortstop. I mean really, what are you expecting, running this guy out at short. So no matter what they say publicly, my guess is privately, we don’t wanna go out and spend on a shortstop, we don’t wanna trade the pitching depth yet, and this is the best of the internal options, none of which are good. I like Dilson Herrera a lot and I think he’ll be a good 2nd baseman. I wouldn’t put him at short either, he wasn’t good there. So unless you want another 150 games of Ruben Tejada, you know, you can’t put a pointed stake out there, somebody has to play.

daniel murphy

Rothman: And it’s tough because you also have Murphy out there, it’s not like you have a gold-glove 2nd baseman covering up for him.

Law: No, there’s gonna be a lot of ground balls, not even just up the middle, but sort of on a whole 90-degree swing on either side of the base.

Rothman: So when it comes to making moves, the Mets have been sellers at the deadline since, well probably since Luis Castillo. Is this the year that you think they have to be buyers, and how serious do you think the buying could be? Could you see them pursuing a trade for a real game-changing player around July, somebody like a Tulo, or would it be like a 2nd-tier star or even less?

Law: I think that everything they’ve done and said so far indicates that they’re not going to do that. They’re not going to trade a bunch of the young guys to get a veteran, to get an established, older Major League player. I think if the opportunity came up to get the Myers type, the young player who’s in his peak years or they’re still ahead of him, where the money hasn’t gotten big yet, I think that they would do something like that. So they’re opportunistic, but not in a mode where they’re going to say, “yes, we’re going to go get that guy.” And I think part of it is, they’re not likely to win the division. They’re going to have a respectable team this year, but how many games would you say there are on paper right now between them and the Nationals?

Rothman: A lot.

Law: Yeah, and I mean it’s too much for me to say that they’re going to go into the season and plan to be buyers. Obviously they could beat expectations, and something could go wrong with the Nationals, but right now just looking at the clubs, as they’re constituted now, I’d have a very hard time anticipating being flat-out buyers, willing to trade a Steven Matz and something else, to go get the older player in July.

Rothman: And maybe they’ll find themselves within a game or two of the Nats in July, but with the new wild-card format, where you only get one game in the playoffs unless you win the division, it’s tough to justify “going for it.”

Law: I totally agree. It’s foolish when teams do that, because if you look at the number of teams that treat themselves as contenders, and the number of teams that can actually make that wild-card, it doesn’t really add up.

dominic smith

Rothman: So going back into the farm system, we know about the top guys like Noah, Matz, Plawecki, Nimmo and such, you mentioned that you think Rosario can be a difference-maker, how about some other guys who are farther away, like Dom Smith, how long would it take him to get to Flushing?

Law: Those guys are in my top 10 for them, I still love Dominic Smith, I understand he only hit one home run for them, Savannah has turned out to be a brutal place for left-handed power hitters. I loved him in high school, and I talked to people about him. He really worked on just going the other way, recognizing he’s not going to be able to pull the ball out, so why not focus on making a whole lot of contact, and really using the whole field, particularly going to the opposite field. Which is a great thing for a young hitter to do, it’s just not going to produce a pretty stat line. So if you’re just going to scout the stat line, you’re going to think he’s terrible, a first baseman with one home run. I believe he’s got plus-plus raw power, at some point I think it’s going to surface, you’ll probably see more of it this year in St Lucie, even more the next year in Binghamton once he gets out of those pitcher’s parks. But I do believe that their best chance for a first baseman of the future is currently in the organization.

Rothman: And Gavin Cecchini, is he still a prospect or can we look past him at this point?

Law: Cecchini, well, the issue is, Rosario’s just a better prospect. Rosario’s a star, he’s in my top 100. Cecchini, he’ll play for somebody because he can play shorstop (in the field). He’s not a lock to be an average regular, there are still a lot of variants as to how he turns out. At some point, the Mets will have to make decisions that will probably end up favoring Rosario over Cecchini, because Rosario has a chance to move very quickly through the system due to his bat. Not even because he has such an advanced approach, he’s just so… he’s just so freakishly talented. I have a feeling they’re going to have to push him a put more quickly through the system to get him to the point where he’s appropriately challenged by pitching.

Rothman: So Rosario’s ETA…

Law: I’d say three years. He was in short-season ball all summer, he’ll go to Savannah and hit one home run because that’s how it works (laughs). Well, he’s right-handed so maybe he’ll hit more, but it’s funny, he doesn’t just have pull power, he has power all the way out to right-center, where in Savannah it’s a double to the wall at best. That’s going to be frustrating for him. Going through the four levels of the minors, I could see him doing it in three years, maybe two-and-a-half if he’s just as gifted as I believe he is. The swing, bat speed, it’s all there, it’s just a matter of pitch recognition, ball-strike recognition… he doesn’t have a lot of pro at-bats yet. It’s not really that I know he needs it, it’s just that, I couldn’t tell you exactly how advanced that approach is.

yoan moncada

Rothman: So with International free agency… the Mets used to be pretty good with that, like you said. But they sat on the sidelines for Tanaka and this latest Cuban wave. One of the Wilpons said they would have signed José Abreu if he had been an outfielder, which annoyed people. It was even more annoying when they passed on Yasmani Tomás, who IS an outfielder! And the biggest hole is shortstop, but it looks like they have absolutely no interest in being in the discussion for Yoan Moncada, who might sign a $30 million deal that really costs $60 million because of the double penalty. And it looks like he could very well end up with the Yankees, which kind of makes it worse.

Law: Of course.

Rothman: So this is the cheapest way both in terms of money and assets. You’re not trading the farm or giving away a ton of money to get an aging shortstop, you’re getting a pretty cheap young guy. But the Mets aren’t gonna do it. So first of all, do you agree with that consensus, that the Mets aren’t going to be in the discussion for him? And second of all, for the people who are saying “if they don’t get involved here, they’ll never get involved in international free agency,” because this is the time to do it… do you agree with that thinking?

Law: I don’t know if I could tell you whether they’ll never get involved in that market, sure I’d like to see them more aggressive in this market, but Moncada is not a Major League shortstop right now, and frankly everybody I’ve talked to who’s seen him live— I have not seen him live yet— does NOT see him as a shortstop, they think he’s gonna be way too big for it. So you can be upset as a Mets fan that they’re not more aggressively involved, and you wonder how much of that is due to the fact that they’re a team that just does not pay any sort of penalties ever. That’s the Wilpons, their kind of tacit agreement with Selig, that they would follow all his rules and not go into the penalty in the draft and international or anything. They follow Bud’s dictates. Now Bud’s not there anymore, and I don’t know if that’ll change, but that’s been their practice. And you can be upset that they’re not involved in Moncada because he’s extremely talented… but he’s not a shortstop, I don’t think he’s anybody’s solution at shortstop. You go after him because he’s got a chance to be an elite hitter, certainly a high-end prospect. From everyone I’ve talked to, it’s most likely third base.

curtis granderson

Rothman: You mentioned the Wilpons. We have all this talk about the Wilpons, people saying they’ll never change, they’ll never spend, they’ll never leave, they’ll be a low-budget team that might win 84 a year but won’t spend what’s necessary to supplement the home-grown talent. So to the Mets fans looking to be convinced that the current front office is committed to putting a winning team, a REAL WINNING TEAM on the field in the reasonable future, what do you have to say? We’ve heard about “the plan,” but do you think the plan will be backed up with the necessary aggressiveness and, when appropriate, the necessary financial support?

Law: Yeah, I mean they spent for Granderson. It turned out to be a disaster, but at least they spent on the player. So it’s not like they’re not willing to spend anything. What I would question is, would they go out and get the $22 million player. Guys in that stratosphere. Will they do that? Because the Mets would have, 6 or 7 years ago. And frankly, they’re going to be at a point where getting that player is going to make financial sense. They’re going to put together, say, an 89-win team with homegrown talent, and they’re going to be at the point where getting that elite player makes them a 94-win team, which is a real playoff contender. So (them not spending there) would be frustrating… the Nationals window won’t last forever and the Mets will have a real chance in the next 3 or 4 years… now I don’t know for sure about the answer when it comes to the Wilpons, will they spend $22 million a year on the elite guy hitting free agency. If I were a Mets fan, that’s what I would be focused on. Because they’ve shown they’re willing to get the $12 million guy. You might not want them to do that, eventually you’re going to want them to get the 6-WAR player, one of those guys hits free agency every year and you want to make sure the Mets are going to do that, when it makes sense, when those 6 wins are going to put them into the playoffs.

Rothman: So if you had to give a number, in the next 6 years, how high could you see the Mets getting in terms of payroll rank?

Law: I could see them being top 10 but not top 5, I think that’s where they’ll peak. Yeah it would be better if somebody other than the Wilpons owned the team, but I’ll try to take a slightly optimistic view.


Rothman: And lastly, if you had to put a number on it, what do you think the Mets’ chances are of getting a playoff game this year?

Law: This year? Oh, ten percent or less. Because it’s wild-card only, and I don’t think they’re as good as some of those other contenders.

Rothman: So you see them being relevant…

Law: Yes, and I think they’re going to be very enjoyable to watch because there’s going to be a lot of home-grown talent on the field, but you’re really hoping Harvey comes back, and you might get half a season of production out of him but they’re not going to want to push him right away. I think 2016 is much more reasonable. And how much less likely are they to add a piece this July, when you really think they’re probably not gonna be contending for the division, are you gonna go spend and add a piece, when it’s really just competing for the one-game playoff. Just like you said earlier, I think you nailed exactly what the internal debate is gonna be, how far do they go when it’s just one game, and maybe not even a home game.

Rothman: Alright, so that’s all I have for you! Thanks so much for doing this.

Law: Yeah you’re welcome, thanks!

Rothman (to himself, after hanging up): Wait, did I just go a whole interview without asking about Juan Lagares?

* * * * * * * * * *

I would like to thank Keith Law for agreeing to this interview. I would also like to thank the people at ESPN’s PR department who made this possible. Keith and I had a lot to talk about, and I’m sure you guys will all have a lot to say in the comments. Start sharing those thoughts!

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MMO Exclusive: Catching Up With Mets Prospect Xorge Carrillo Mon, 05 Jan 2015 14:11:30 +0000 xorge carrillo

Amidst the Mets catching talent, prospect Xorge Carrillo has gotten lost in the fold. The 2011 14th round draftee recently enjoyed a career year at Double-A Binghamton, batting .283, posting a .355 on base percentage and catching 29% of would-be base stealers in 2014.

I just profiled Carrillo’s 2014 performance and speculated about his major league future for my site Grading on the Curve, so give that a read if you’re interested in learning more about this intriguing and talented ballplayer.

This week, I was lucky enough to be able to contact Xorge and ask him specific questions about his professional career and future. He’s an impressive young man, and I’m really hoping to see him in Queens in the near future.

Quinn B: You were drafted three times before the Mets selected you in the 14th round of the 2011 Amateur Draft, what was different about the Mets’ selection from the others that made you want to sign with New York?

Xorge Carrillo: I got bit by the injury bug my junior year, so a sign couldn’t happen. I went back to school and was lucky enough to get an opportunity with the New York Mets, but prior to that I didn’t want to sign the other two times because I promised my family and especially my mom that I would get the most school done I could.

Quinn B: Why did you play in only 11 games during the 2011 regular season?

Xorge Carrillo: Unfortunately in this game/business there’s a lot of things that one as a player can’t control. It’s a numbers game and I didn’t get the opportunity I was hoping for, but I stuck by my work ethic and motivation because I’ve always known that I can do it anywhere.

Quinn B: You really struggled in your first year of pro ball in Brooklyn, hitting only .217 with a .602 OPS. What caused your massive career turnaround that led you to surpass a .280 average and .700 OPS in both 2013 and 2014?

Xorge Carrillo: As you move up and fail you learn. I was fortunate enough to come across great coaching with the Mets organization, especially in Double-A Binghamton with Luis Natera, Pedro Lopez, and Luis Rivera. They helped me a lot in making that turnaround, but I still have a lot of work to do and will continue to do it.

Quinn B: Baseball America says your best attribute is your solid defense. Are they correct, or is your game predicated on something else? Ultimately, I would like to know how you would characterize yourself as a player.

Xorge Carrillo: Yes, I believe my defense is my stronger suit, especially in my relationships with pitchers and the way I manage the game. However, I never stop working on my offense, and on both offense and defense I can definitely get better and keep working for more progress and improvement. I like to put defense first because of my position and the responsibility that a catcher has in every game, so I’d say i characterize myself as a defensively-minded player with a good bat to help the team

xorge castillo c

Quinn B: Often in your pro career you were slated as the backup catcher to higher-ranking prospects; Have the Mets front office/minor league managers told you anything about where you stand as far as starting in 2015 and where you are likely to begin next season?

Xorge Carrillo: Like I mentioned before in this game/business there’s a lot of things me as a player cannot control and knowing where I’m going to be is one of them. They haven’t said anything to me, I just try to take advantage of opportunities I get and focus on getting better and better everyday.

Quinn B: How do you continue to improve even when you aren’t getting consistent at-bats?

Xorge Carrillo: I’m not going to lie to you it’s not easy, it’s a lot of extra reps everywhere: cage, weight room, batting practice, but this is my dream and I’m going to do everything in my power to do the best I can. God willing I’ll keep getting better everyday and one day get to the major leagues.

Quinn B: Last year, your strikeout percentage dropped 2.5% to 14.9% and your on-base percentage improved for the third straight year. Is plate discipline one the aspects of your game that you are currently focusing on developing?

Xorge Carrillo: Yes plate discipline is definitely something I am focusing on. It helps every aspect of my offensive game and I really like battling against the pitchers in my plate appearances.

Quinn B: What do you carry from your college success at Arizona into the pros?

Xorge Carrillo: The most important thing that helped me was how to handle competition, there were good players trying for the same position every year in my college career and in the pros there’s even more so it really taught me to handle that and work even harder than the guy next to me.

Quinn B: What was it like catching for a championship team in the B-Mets, and specifically what was your relationship with blue-chip starter Steven Matz on a baseball and personal level?

Xorge Carrillo: Being the catcher on that championship team was one of the best experiences of my life and career. It was such an amazing group to be around and win. That league is so tough in every aspect I think it’s an incredible accomplishment for all of us and the Mets organization as a whole. Steve is a special talent but a better person and I was happy to finally catch him and get to know him. We became really good friends and I don’t doubt he belongs in the big leagues now.

Quinn B: Reports (at least the ones I’ve read) detail how one of your most important tools is power, yet the most home runs you’ve hit in a minor league season is two. Do you expect more of that ‘raw power’ to translate into games in the near future, and what are you doing to work on that?

Xorge Carrillo: That’s just things that happen, but I can always work on them. This winter I did and more numbers came (He has nine homers and 16 doubles in winter ball) but I can only keep working to get better and be the player I know I can be to help my team win.

Quinn B: Your Caught-Stealing percentage has improved every year you’ve been in professional ball; what does that say about your dedication to improvement, your knowledge of the game, and your defensive prowess behind the plate?

Xorge Carrillo: Well I really want to be the best defensive catcher everywhere level I play at and I thrive for that. I always see room for improvement, thanks to the lord I’ve been able to get better, but I am not done yet I still have more to do and enjoy this position that I have such passion for.

Quinn B: What is something that you can’t interpret from the stat lines or scouting reports, but plays a huge a role in your game?

Xorge Carrillo: I think the best thing that no one knows is how I handle the pitching staff and the game. I take a lot of responsibility and work hard in that area, and I am proud of it.

Quinn B: Finally, I’d like to conclude this interview with a question about your personal life. What do you enjoy doing off the baseball diamond?

Xorge Carrillo: Honestly we are always so apart from our families, especially me because I play year around, that every opportunity I am off the field I like to just spend time with my family my siblings and my girlfriend as much as I can.

Quinn B: Thanks Xorge and good luck to you in 2015.

Read my profile on Xorge Carrillo here.


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Interview With Fan Behind Mets Billboard and #FREEMETSFANS Campaign Sat, 03 Jan 2015 16:31:50 +0000 Billboard_3064_x_6592_(10.64_x_22.89)

Here’s a Q&A I conducted with Gary Palumbo on Friday. Salty Gary, as he is better known in the MMO community, is the Mets fan behind the Twitter account @MetsBillboard and the #FREEMETSFANS KickStarter Campaign to erect two “Sell the Team” billboards on Roosevelt Ave. – a stone’s throw away from Citi Field.

What inspired you to pursue your #FREEMETSFANS KickStarter campaign?

I was really inspired by the “Fire John Idzik” Jets billboard campaign. In this current age of social media, and other communication technologies, the Jets campaign proved there is still value in traditional media. If you don’t want to see something on an application like Facebook or Twitter, there are tools to block and ignore those messages. If you have eyes and are driving or riding on a train, you cannot block the billboard image. Getting a collective message from a fan base that cannot be turned off is very powerful and compelling.

Why is it important to let ownership know how most Mets fans feel about them?

No matter how fans view the team, the one thing that connects all Mets fans is that the Wilpons are poor owners whose priorities are not to construct a winning franchise, but lie mostly in real estate development.

They told us to be patient as they navigated through the entire Bernie Madoff mess. They also said they were going to rebuild the team through the farm system and when that team was ready to compete, then efforts would be made to further support the team financially at the Major League level to fill in the missing pieces.

The only effort that I see from the Wilpons is putting all their last dollars into building a shopping mall and more condos. That is what they want more than anything. The Mets are just a means to that end. As they develop Willets Point, if the team does happen to be competitive, it’s purely incidental and not part of a master plan.

I also feel that they often blame the fans for their small market payroll level. “Payroll is a function of revenue”. So since fans choose not to spend significant money on meaningless games in August and September, then it must be our fault that they don’t have the resources to make any necessary improvements. This is just infuriating to me and many others. In what industry do companies force their consumers to invest in a bad product before they release an improved version? Apparently that’s what the Wilpons want fans to do.

Are you seeing any support from some of the bigger voices in the Mets fan base who have large followings of their own?

Radio personality Mike Silva has been really supportive, but honestly, aside from MMO, all other major voices and sites have been very silent and seem to prefer not bringing any added attention to this project. Most of them are choosing to act like this campaign is non-existent. They seem afraid of being connected to it even if it was just to say they don’t support it. Many of the bigger voices all have some financial or professional connection to the Wilpons or the Mets and perhaps are fearful of angering the powers that be, lest they lose any access to the team or the compensation they receive from them. I can understand why they choose not to get involved and respect their decisions.

There seemed to be quite a stir on Twitter last week, with some well known Mets fans strongly speaking out against your efforts. Why such heated opposition?

Honestly, I would say there was only one that was well known, who is Darren Meenan from The 7 Line, the rest were just a couple of people that regularly complain about complaining Mets fans, or are supportive of ownership, or simply feel that the best course of action is to smile and be positive no matter what is happening with the team. I never expected that particular fan segment to support this, and they are in the minority anyway. So their opposition against this really didn’t bother me. Most of the support on Twitter has been fantastic and over 30 percent of what we’ve raised so far has come from our Twitter link.

As for Darren, I was really disappointed that he chose to speak out against this fan driven effort and was hoping for his support. He personally called our efforts “dumb” and then re-tweeted others that used much harsher words to put down our campaign. This is a guy that used a grassroots effort to create a “Life Style” clothing business and one of the best selling t-shirts he designed read, “Sell The Mets”. I can appreciate why he’s changed his stance and respect his concerns about backing a “Sell the Team” campaign, now that he’s negotiated a business relationship with the Wilpons to sell his t-shirts at Citi Field. But to call the effort “dumb” is what really disappointed me the most, it came off as being very hypocritical.

sell the team 3.0


What do you say to those who would rather protest by not going to games?

I think those types of protests are extremely difficult to organize and implement successfully. There are 20 million people in our market that can possibly go, and you can’t reach all of them with that type of message or convince them to all stay at home. It’ll never happen.

As for me, I like going to games, I don’t want to boycott. I purchase the MLB channel to watch. I support the players and that is exactly why I want to do this.

To me it is the owners who are not supporting the players, not the fans. The fans love the team and the players. Everyone wants a competitive team and the owners are not doing anything to maximize that effort. When I see players like Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom, Jenrry Mejia, and Juan Lagares perform as they did, I become frustrated that ownership hasn’t supported them by surrounding them with the missing pieces to take this team to the next level. The team still lacks the financial resources to address the shortstop position going on four years now. This is unacceptable to me.

Ultimately, what do you hope to accomplish?

The main push-back message I hear is “the Wilpons will never sell so this effort is a waste of money”. Well if this is a waste of money then we might as well stop going to fan sites like MMO or using social media altogether to voice our frustrations or discuss the changes we would like to see happen. If it’s a waste of time and money then why complain at all?

If time is money, then all the time we spend interacting on sites or social media to discuss the Mets is far more expensive than contributing a dollar toward a billboard that will deliver a much stronger message than anything we can compose on our smart phones or tablets.

If I actually thought I could remove a billionaire from Mets ownership with just a billboard I would of gladly paid for the whole thing out of my own pocket years ago. The notion that this will force the Wilpons to sell is just silly, and only a simpleton would believe that that’s what this is all about.

Right now the main goal is to convey a message that cannot be turned off. When the billboards go up, it will be picked up by the media (that has already started) and we can let everyone know that Mets fans have upheld their end of the bargain by being patient, and that now the Wilpons have to keep up their end of the bargain and invest in this team.


Do you think you’ll reach your $5,000 goal to erect these billboards?

I am positive we will reach the goal as long as we keep working hard to get the message out. We needed to raise $5,000 in 30 days and we are currently at $2,667 with two weeks to go. We need to stay positive, determined and focused and this will happen.

Is there anyone helping you to drive this promotion that you’d like to acknowledge?

There is a friend that frequents this site that has really done most of the legwork on the graphics. These graphics have really helped bring legitimacy to the effort. He will remain anonymous, but he knows he is appreciated.

I also wish to acknowledge you and the entire MMO community. Joe, you have given me a forum to promote this message and have given me some great advice all along the way. The MMO commenters here have also been extremely positive and supportive both in voice and money. I also appreciate the MMO commenters that do not support the effort because the dialog has always been civil, productive and respectful, which is more than I can say about some of the other venues. I now understand why you refer to MMO as a true Mets fan site – it truly is.

I want to thank the vast majority of Mets Twitter for helping me drive home this effort. For the most part they have been very supportive and all their RT’s and positive comments have helped popularize our Mets Billboard campaign to where it’s even been picked up and talked about on satellite radio and WFAN. As I mentioned, over 30 percent of what’s been pledged has come via Twitter. Thanks to all you tweeps.

What can other Mets fans do help to promote this besides pledging money?

Just help us spread the word. If you know any Mets fans in person, talk to them about the billboard. Let them know what we’re trying to do. Bring it up at the “water cooler” at work. The more eyes and ears that know about this campaign, the more successful it will be.

Anything else that you would like to say?

I know this campaign can be seen as a negative. I appreciate that concern and trust me I never in a million years thought that I would ever be creating something like this. I love the Mets. When they have given me joy, it just feels like magic. But right now I feel like I am being duped. I don’t like this feeling and I can’t stand giving in to apathy.

Now that the team really has something going for it and is on the verge of great things, I want the owners to know we expect them to fully support this team and to provide the flexibility for the front office to do what’s necessary to bring home another championship.

I feel that this is the right moment to speak up. When these billboards are erected our message will be seen and heard far and wide, and the Wilpons will know we are a great and passionate fan base who loves their team and demands more from them.

* * * * * * * * * * *

We wish Gary good luck with his campaign and thank him for taking some time to respond to my questions. If you would like to learn more or find out how you can help, go to the official #FREEMETSFANS Kick Starter page or follow @MetsBillboard on Twitter.

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MMO Exclusive: Mets Prospect Kyle Johnson Looks Back on Championship Season Sat, 20 Dec 2014 05:21:57 +0000 mets - kyle johnson

Outfielder Kyle Johnson was a key part of the Binghamton Mets run to win the 2014 Eastern League Championship. Kyle played in 103 games and hit .259/.344/.384 with 25 doubles, 4 triples, and 4 home runs. He also stole 12 bases and had 14 outfield assists while playing all three outfield positions.

Kyle was drafted in 2012 by the Los Angeles Angels in the 25th round out of Washington State University. In his first full professional season in 2013 he batted .289/.385/.393 with 44 stolen bases and only struck out 89 times. On June 25th, 2013, he was traded to the Mets for outfielder Collin Cowgill who had been designated for assignment.

Kyle is a versatile outfielder who plays the game hard and has a knack for putting the ball in play in big spots proven by his .313/.423/.450 line with RISP last year. He also enjoys hitting from the leadoff spot where he batted .272/.354/.413 last year. He was nice enough to answer some questions for us about his season, so lets jump right into them:

Michael: First off just wanted to thank you for taking your time to answer some questions and congratulate you on being part of the EL Champions! What was it like to be part of a championship team? What was so special about this Binghamton team?

Kyle: The special part about our team was we had a core group of guys that didn’t move.  We had a great pitching staff, who knew how to compete.

Michael: For fans that haven’t seen you play how would you profile your own game?

Kyle: I take pride in my defense. Wherever I am in the outfield, I know I can make a play that will positively affect our team. With such a long season, some days the bat won’t show up, but I know my defense will always be there. Good defense and base running. Offensively, I do what I can to get on base. I take pride in scoring runs. Setting myself up for other guys to knock me in.

Michael: When on the road where is your favorite city/stadium to play?

Kyle: In the Eastern League, I really enjoyed Maine. Their atmosphere is something special. They have a unique field, plus the series were tough.

Michael: What do think you need to improve on to get to the Major League level?

Kyle: More consistent at the plate.  I’d have a month of .360 then a month of .220.  Just need to stay consistent for all 142 games.

Michael: What is life like for a Minor Leaguer when you are on the road?

Kyle: It’s tough. Long bus rides, get in late. But it’s all part of it. Makes you appreciate this game and the opportunity to continue to play. It’s fun going to different cities and parts of the country. You get to see a lot of the USA that otherwise I probably wouldn’t have seen. That’s one of the greatest treats of this game. I’ve been to every state now beside the Dakotas all because of baseball.

Michael: One last question,  what are you doing this offseason to prepare for the upcoming year?

Kyle: I spent the off season so far in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, where I grew up. I train at Ultimate Athlete, a local gym in the area. I have my hitting coach there who I have worked with for the past seven years. Primary goal is to create a more consistent swing. I had hot months and cold months this year, working to stay more consistent. I am heading to Puerto Rico to play for a month or so. Best way to practice is by playing, and I’m extremely excited for the opportunity.

Michael:  Glad I got a chance to talk to you! Hope to see you at Citi Field soon!

Kyle: Hope so too, going to work as hard as I can to get there.

Michael: Thanks again from everyone at MetsMerized Online!

Unfortunately for Kyle the Las Vegas outfield will probably be stacked with the likes of Nimmo, MDD, Ceciliani, Allen, Castellanos, etc next season. Tough not to root for a guy who works hard and is dedicated to making himself better. Everyone loves an underdog story and guys like Dillon Gee have proved it can happen!


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MMO Exclusive: Mets Prospect Akeel Morris Reflects On Breakthrough Season Mon, 24 Nov 2014 17:22:42 +0000 Morris - Akeel

The beginning of last week I had just finished reading an email from Mets pitching prospect Akeel Morris. He had kindly consented to doing an interview with me for MMO. I then went into the MMO Interview Archives, and way back on page 16 or 17, I found the first interview I did with Akeel when he was toiling as an 18-year-old in the rookie league and I was surprised to see it was over three years ago… Wow, time sure flies when you’re young, and a Met, and are living the baseball life.

In those three years Morris has come a long way. He utterly dominated the South Atlantic League this past season, was selected to the  All-Star team, pitched in the play-offs, and led the SAL in Saves, strikeout rate, WHIP, ERA, total and strikeouts for a reliever. In recognition of his achievements, Morris received the prestigious Sterling Award, given by the Mets Organization to the best player at each minor league level.

Last week, the Mets even made the decision to add Morris to their 40-man Major League roster. That speaks volumes about what the Mets think of this talented right-hander.

When drafted by the Mets in the 10th round in 2010 out of Amalie High School in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, Akeel was just a raw, untested young pitcher with a very live arm. In our previous interview he explained that he was working on repeating his delivery and his overall command.

It seems to have worked out pretty well so far because in 2014 , while closing games for Single-A Savannah, Akeel led the league in Saves (16), ERA (0.63), WHIP (0.72), and K/9 (14.1). Yes that last stat is a real eye-opener, 14.1 strikeouts per nine innings. His 89 K’s in 57 innings was so far out of the ordinary that the closer with the next highest strikeout total in the league had 66 K’s in 58.2 innings.

So here we go… Let’s check in with this exciting young man and see what he has to say about his truly incredible season  Enjoy…

Petey: Hi Akeel, thanks for taking the time to do this interview for all of us at MMO, all the readers will really enjoy hearing from you.

After your amazing season this year in Savannah, there is a great deal of buzz about you in and around the organization not to mention the rest of baseball. How do you feel about the year you just had now that you have had a little time to decompress?

Akeel: The year I had personally was for me a great accomplishment. To see what I could do in a full season, the competition level and just moving up and being successful at every level for me is an accomplishment. I’m happy about that and excited to keep moving up and challenges, and challenging better hitters. So that really was an accomplishment for me personally. About the baseball world, it was a really great year, for me to make the All-Star team and post-season All-Star team, and the Sterling Award. On top of a great season that was even more than I could have asked for.

Petey: Well all those awards and accolades were well deserved my man. It is great to see your hard work and dedication paying off like that. Are you going to play any winter ball?

Akeel: No I’m not going to play any winter ball.

Petey: I went back in the MMO archives to find the interview you and I did before and I was shocked to see that it was just over three years ago, October 2011! A lot has gone down since then. It seems things really started to roll when you were switched to relief, that was the beginning of 2012 I think?

Akeel: Yeah I was put in a piggy-back role in 2012 so I was coming out of the bullpen. Yeah so you could say I started relief in 2012. And 2013 I was with the Brooklyn Cyclones. I wasn’t on a full relief schedule there, the appearances were just as much but I was out of the bullpen. I was on a starter’s schedule but I was piggy-backing as well. But yeah this year in Savannah was the first full year in the bullpen. Doing back-to-back outings, that was a big difference. You’re on a throwing program everyday, and you got to pitch that night. You have to learn how to pace yourself and how your arm is feeling going into the game and stuff. It was also a learning experience for me coming out of the bullpen.

Petey: Yeah and if you’re facing the same team two nights in a row you have to be able to show them something different right?

Akeel: Exactly. So it was definitely a learning experience.

Petey: Was there a moment when things really started to ‘click’ for you, and did that help your confidence?

Akeel: Confidence-wise, when I’ve got my good stuff, on most nights consistently like that I kinda got a feel for. I know what I gotta do to have this and this, and you’re not going to have it every night. But when you can have it on most nights that’s all you can really ask for, and you have to battle it the other nights. I got a feel for how I need to be, what I need to be, and what I need to do, to have my stuff be effective most nights, you know? I guess that’s what really ‘clicked’, learning about myself.

Petey: That’s really cool man. So how would you describe your mindset when you are entering a game as a closer? How is it different from starting a ball game?

Akeel: Yeah, it’s definitely different, I mean as a closer or even late in a ball game, you’re going to come in when the game is tied or most likely when your team is up and your like okay, they play nine innings, you’ve got to shut it down. No free passes, no anything. You don’t want to give them any momentum, you know? It’s really just like shut it down, shut it down, that’s all you’re really thinking.

Petey: Being aggressive.

Akeel: Yeah. Basically that’s a simple message in my head, I got to shut it down, go right after these guys. Don’t give them any free passes.

Petey: Is there any ritual or mental prep you do in the bullpen before coming in with the game on the line?

Akeel: Mental preparation, I mean that’s gradual throughout the game. As the later innings come buy I start to get a little more locked in. I start to move around in the bullpen, even as the the game is close in the eighth inning sometimes I just sit around and it’s about mentally locking in. When the whole process really starts for me is before I get on the mound to warm up. Sometimes you don’t have as much time but it doesn’t feel like that once you mentally prepared yourself. So that’s what works for me.

Petey: When we did our last interview for MMO we discussed your pitches at the time. I would imagine they have come a long way since then. Back in 2011 this what you said on the subject:

“As of now I’m throwing a fastball, curveball and a change up. My fastball is usually low to mid 90′s, it peaked at 96 this season. My curve is mid to upper 70′s, and change up is upper 70′s to low 80′s.”

What kind of speeds and movement is your fastball exhibiting these days?

Akeel: My fastball has been sitting at 93-95 mph this season, topped out at 97. Most people tell me it has like a downhill plane, most times it has life to it. Sometimes my catcher will tell me it looks like it’s coming down and looks like it’s going to hit the ground, but it just rides out and it reaches the catcher. So it kinda looks like it’s downhill, downhill, downhill, but it somehow rides out to the plate. So I don’t know how to explain it, that’s what he told me.

Petey: Wow, it sounds like the pitch has natural rise or carry but you’re keeping the ball down in the zone as well.

Akeel: I guess so yeah something like that.

Petey: That’s a four-seam fastball?

Akeel: Yeah I throw a four-seam fastball.

Petey: How bout your change-up? The last time I talked to you it was something you wanted to focus on.

Akeel: The change-up has been really great. Sometimes I keep it down and there’s not as much movement, but it’s so much slower than my fastball and it looks so much like my fastball too, it’s hard for hitters to pick it up. And sometimes it’s even better when it has that drop-off to it. Sometimes it just drops off the table and they swing over it. And sometimes it doesn’t even have that much movement but it’s so slow they don’t see it and can’t put a good swing on it.

Petey: And your arm-speed? It’s the same as with the fastball?

Akeel: Yeah my arm speed is the same.

Petey: That’s awesome. Now what about your breaking pitches?

Akeel: I throw a slider. The slider has really come along a lot more this year. I started throwing it last off-season and at the beginning of this season I didn’t throw it as much. But when the second half came I started to bring it out and throw it, and it really started to develop a lot more. I even got a feel for it where I was throwing the slider even more than my change-up at times. And I love that feeling because I didn’t even have to depend on the fastball/change-up combination. I could go fastball/slider combination and when I mixed it in with the change-up too, it was even a lot better.

Petey: Yeah and the results from this last season certainly attest to that. Say Akeel, what are some of the things you hope to accomplish in your development this upcoming season? Do you set any goals for yourself?

Akeel: This upcoming season I would really like to get better control of my slider. Like be able to throw it for a strike more often. I would throw it for a strike at times but most times I’d throw them a slider it would break outside the zone and they would swing over it or they would take it. But it was more for them to see the pitch. So if I can throw it for strikes more often that’s what I really want to do.  So basically just develop the slider some more.

Petey: Are you able to throw the slider when you are behind in the count?

Akeel: Yes I’ve thrown it in various different counts and I feel that’s a big thing about pitching too. I feel whatever pitches you have you need to be able to throw it in any count. So yeah I have been working on that and I have thrown it in different counts.

Petey: Is there any one coach, or coaches that have helped you significantly since joining the Mets organization, in regards to your development?

Akeel: Coaching-wise, I’ve been with Jonathan Hurst for two years in Kingsport, he helped me a lot, and different coaches in extended spring training. But one of the coaches who really took a lot of time out with me and worked on mechanics while I was in extended spring training day-to-day was Miguel Valdez. He was the pitching coach for short season and I mean he’d really break down my mechanics  for me to understand it and I worked on it. It took a little time but it definitely paid off to where I understand my mechanics and I can see what I’m doing wrong. And as soon as I figured that stuff out it’s been going a lot better, a lot better. So Miguel Valdez has really helped me out a lot.

Petey: You were on a very talented Savannah ball club this past season, lot’s of excellent position players and pitchers. And of course you guys made the SAL playoffs. But let’s focus on the pitching staff for a moment. As someone who watched your starting pitcher’s performances in every game, are there any that stand out for what they bring to the table?

Akeel: That’s really hard, I mean we got so much talent. Actually the starting pitching, I mean for the full year I would say, John Gant for sure. He impressed me. I mean anytime he’s going into the game your guaranteed he’s gonna go at least six innings. He usually goes deep into the ball games and he’s  keeping the score close, giving your team a chance to win. So John Gant really impressed me with his consistency and being able to do that. Other pitchers, I like Robert Gsellman a lot too but he got hurt a little bit into the season. But I mean he really pitched good, he had a good year as well.

Petey: Yeah a lot of Mets fans that follow the Mets Minor League teams are very high on those two guys.

Akeel: And also Kevin McGowan too because he had a game, he went deep into the ninth and I like when your starting pitcher is out there. His pitch count was up and he couldn’t pitch anymore in the ninth inning if he wanted to. And I had to come in and close the game, and he didn’t even want to get off the mound, he wanted to finish the game. So when you have your starters out there with that sort of fire, it pumps you up more to come in and save their game.

Petey: One more question. Now that you are a professional ‘closer’ Akeel, do you ever imagine yourself on the mound in the 9th inning of the World Series trying to preserve a one-run lead? How does it work out? Ha ha!

Akeel: Definitely, as a kid people have those fantasies, whatever scenario it is. Fortunately for me I was always pitching, since I became a pitcher that’s always been the fantasy. The World Series, last inning, game on the line and they call on you. I mean how that turns out is I’m just ready to pitch. Like I said, always in the minors to shut it down, and it goes well for me in my mind.

Petey: That’s is awesome man. Seriously Akeel, I want to thank you again for being so accommodating and taking the time to do this interview. You have always taken time out to talk to me and my colleagues at MetsMerized Online and we all really appreciate it.

Akeel: Alright man sounds good, anytime. I’m already psyched.

* * * * * * * * * * *

I hope you enjoyed our interview. Although Morris is still a year or two away from the big leagues, the fact that the Mets found it necessary to protect him from the draft this winter by adding him to the 40 man roster shows how highly regarded a prospect he truly is. I look for him to be fast-tracked all the way to AA this year. He’ll surely have a chance to get his feet wet in the Florida State League coming out of spring training, but I would be very surprised if he doesn’t wind up at Binghamton by mid-season at the latest.


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MMO Exclusive: I Guess Sandy Wasn’t Kidding After All Tue, 11 Nov 2014 16:34:01 +0000 sandy alderson matt

One of our readers named Matt, reached out to me last week and wrote:

I’ve been following MMO for the last two years or so, although I’ve only commented maybe once or twice. Thank you for the great content and dedication.

Anyway, the reason I am writing is because I am taking a Literature of Baseball class this term at Drexel University, and my professor is a consultant for the Mets. Tonight, at 6 pm, Sandy Alderson will be coming to speak to the class and will be open for any questions.

The class only has 15-20 students or so, and I should have plenty of time to ask him anything and everything. I was just wondering if there is anything you would like me to ask on behalf of MMO and then pass along the answers. We were told anything is fair game, but to please refrain from the ongoing Leigh Castergine lawsuit.

Having just ran a series of posts covering MMO’s John Bernhardt’s exclusive one-on-one interview with Sandy Alderson last week, there was really only one more question that never got asked that I wanted to throw at Sandy:

“There are many fans who have become frustrated with how every decision still seems to be heavily based on dollars. There are those who believe the team should be operating with a payroll that should be on par with other teams that play in large markets. My question to you Sandy is, what do you believe is an appropriate payroll range for the New York Mets and how long until they can operate at that level again?”

About three hours later, Matt responded to me with a photo he took with Sandy and the following response:

It was a great experience, he is probably as knowledgeable as anyone in baseball. Some very interesting things about the Mets, as well as Major League Baseball in general. I’ll send you another email soon with more about what he said, but as for the payroll question…

In typical Sandy Alderson fashion, he said that payroll should be so that the team at least hits a break even point. Now that the Mets are at that point, payroll increase will correlate with revenue increase which he acknowledged would only come from winning.

He also said that right now, the Mets need to continue to get a little more out of their players than what the team is paying for them – a la Lucas Duda, Jacob deGrom, and others. That would lead to more winning and give the Mets increased revenue, and thus increased payroll, and hopefully even more winning.

It was an interesting response. I never expected Sandy to give me an actual payroll range simply because the truth would probably not coincide with what his employers have in mind. But that Sandy transitioned into a player’s performance outpacing their cost to the team was interesting to hear. That is the essence of the advanced metric revolution, of course.

But there was one more thing Matt mentioned that we both probably had a good laugh about.

I don’t think you can quote him on it, but a Phillies fan took a jab at Sandy and asked him, “When are the Mets ever gonna make the playoffs again?”  Sandy replied,  “Next year.”

I can tell you that neither me or Matt took that exchange very seriously, and in fact, I wasn’t even going to mention it. But in light of yesterday’s stunning events, maybe Sandy wasn’t kidding after all… Maybe he was dead serious about making the playoffs in 2015… Anyway, I’m keeping my fingers crossed. :-)

I want to thank Matt for reaching out to us and letting us share his experience with the MMO community.


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Alderson Met With His Staff and Scouts, Now Ready To Tackle Offseason Goals Mon, 03 Nov 2014 06:00:18 +0000 sandy alderson

Sandy Alderson was kind enough to agree to an interview with MMO senior writer John Bernhardt on his weekly radio show called Tip-Off. Sandy’s interview had a number of fascinating insights and revelations, many of which we’ve already posted on MMO.

As we head into Sandy’s fifth offseason as Mets GM, he was asked to describe the processes and preparation that will go into this very important hot stove season.

“I think you could say it’s a two-fold process. One – you have to assess what you have currently and what your needs are. We spent part of this offseason with our staff in New York as well as our professional scouts, looking at what we have and where we think we need to improve.”

“And the second part of the process is actually canvassing both the market for free agents and also trade possibilities to see what may be out there to fill those holes.”

“So that’s the prefatory phase… but then you actually have to go out and sign players or make those trades. That happens over a period of three months starting about now – right after the World Series – when free agents can be acquired, through the the end of January pretty much.”

How is the implementation of the plan executed once you’ve done all your assessments and decided which areas you intend to improve and who you’re targeting?

“Because it’s such a long three month process, one of the things you have to decide is just how aggressively you want to pursue certain players or whether you’re going to be more cautious and let the market develop to see where it goes and what may be left at the end of the season.”

“So once you’ve assessed your needs and then sort of target these needs, it’s a question of approaching individual players through free agency versus approaching individual clubs in terms of acquiring players through trades. It all kind of works its way through in that three month window..”

This will give you a basic look into how the front office intends to navigate through the next three months. Sandy made clear to us that he’s looking to upgrade left field. Other than that, he didn’t go into any other areas he’s looking to improve. But he did take the time to share his thoughts on a number of players he is very high on for 2015, including Juan Lagares, Wilmer Flores and a number of prospects. This should be a fun offseason to monitor and I look forward to seeing how the drama unfolds.


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Sandy Alderson Sees A Lot Of Reasons For Optimism Mon, 03 Nov 2014 04:42:31 +0000 New York Mets Sandy Alderson at Citi Field

Sandy Alderson was a special guest of MMO’s John Bernhardt Tip-Off Show on Friday. He had some interesting things to say about a variety of topics regarding the Mets and their minor league system. Rather than post the entire interview in it’s entirety, I wanted to break it up into several parts so that each of his insights get the attention they deserve.

John (MMO) – Despite only a 79 win season in 2014, we feel that the Mets took some positive steps forward this season. What were some of the silver linings you saw this season that bode well for the Mets future?

Sandy (NYM) – “We only won 79 games, but it was a five game improvement over the last two years, and looking at some of the peripheral numbers, we might have been a game or two better than that. I think individually, there’s a lot of reason for optimism…”

“To begin we had Matt Harvey who didn’t play one inning, but his rehab was uneventful, thankfully, and we expect him to be back and that should be a huge plus for us. Jacob deGrom and his emergence this season was big story. He’s a strong rookie of the year candidate and what a terrific year this was for him. And of course at the minor league level, players like Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Rafael Montero all had very good seasons. So all of this bodes well for our starting pitching depth.”

John (MMO) – The bullpen was certainly a bright spot and that was very exciting to see.

Sandy (NYM) – “The bullpen was far better than any of our bullpens in recent years and it’s all built around young pitching. Mejia, Familia, Black, Edgin… So both our starting pitching and bullpen already look to be strong for us next year, and I think that’s very encouraging.”

“Position wise, we have Travis d’Arnaud who improved tremendously in the second half of the season at the plate. We expect him to improve both offensively and defensively next season. Lucas Duda had a breakout season, Daniel Murphy was an All Star and we have Dilson Herrera behind him.”

“But Wilmer Flores, who was someone who was completely written off as a shortstop, came in and proved to be very capable there. David Wright had a poor season, but that only means the potential for improvement is great. Juan Lagares is terrific defensively and he hit .280. If he can supplement his offensive production with a little more on-base and a bit more power, he could be a very special and terrific player.”

Curtis Granderson certainly has room for improvement and was very up and down. But when he was up he was terrific and a great addition to the team. Obviously, in left field we need to improve, but one of the things that’s encouraging for me is that we no longer have multiple, multiple, holes to fill.”


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Alderson Expects Middle Infield To Remain In Flux Fri, 31 Oct 2014 17:41:12 +0000 daniel murphy

Sandy Alderson told MMO’s John Bernhardt this morning that he expects his middle-infield situation to be in flux over the next couple of years while discussing potential playing opportunity for Dilson Herrera.

With second baseman Daniel Murphy expected to earn roughly $8 million next season in arbitration, it sure sounded like an extension is not forthcoming and validates speculation that , that he could be traded this offseason. The Blue Jays, Orioles, Nationals and Giants could all be interested.

Sandy told John that, he was very happy with the progress of Herrera.

“It was phenomenal last year really coming from Port St. Lucie through Binghamton and up to the major league club. …Herrera has surprising power for his size. He runs well. He’s very athletic. Turns the double play. I think he’s going to get more consistent defensively. He’s got pretty good hands and moves laterally well. We were impressed with him during his time with us. He had very good at-bats.”

Wilmer Flores also plays into the second base situation where he’s better defensively than at shortstop, and Sandy spoke very highly about him as well..


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Sandy Alderson On Mets Prospects: Matz, Conforto, Plawecki, Nimmo Fri, 31 Oct 2014 16:36:00 +0000 steve matz

MMO’s John Bernhardt had Sandy Alderson on as his guest during today’s Tip-Off show on WIOX Radio. Here is what he had to say about several of the Mets prospects.

Steven Matz, LHP

“He had a very good season in 2013, and exceeded that in 2014, both at St. Lucie and at Binghamton. His numbers were very similar at both places, which is very positive given the fact that he had moved up a level. I would say Steven is probably one of the top handful of left-handed pitching prospects in the game right now. The guy who was supposed to be the best left-handed prospect, Andrew Heaney, came up to the Marlins last year and didn’t do particularly well in his transition, but I think Steven is very comparable. He’s got an excellent fastball for a lefty, at 93, 94 mph. It can get a little bit higher than that. His breaking ball has gotten much better. And he threw some excellent changeups that night in Binghamton in that championship game.

“He’s been on the roster. He was on the roster last year. He’ll, of course, be on the roster again this year. I think the difference is that last year we put him on the roster to protect the talent. This year I think he’s got a chance potentially sometime during the season to help us at the major league level.”

Brandon Nimmo, OF

“There are several qualities that I think distinguish Brandon. One is his commitment to excellence, if you will. He’s a tremendously competitive individual. He takes his preparation very seriously. He has grown physically very impressively over the last couple of years through offseason workouts. He has an approach that’s very consistent with what we try to promote, which is selectivity at the plate. Being aggressive with good judgment, I guess, is how we look at it — getting a good pitch to hit. If anything, at Binghamton, I think he began to demonstrate a little more power, which we think he has. There may be a little trade-off between his discipline at the plate and his ability to turn on the ball, but I think that’s something that’s coming. He’s a very committed guy.”

Dilson Herrera, 2B

“We’re very happy with his progress. I mean, it was phenomenal last year really coming from Port St. Lucie through Binghamton and up to the major league club. It was tough for me to make the decision to bring Dilson up to the major leagues knowing how important he had been to Binghamton. I think I called [B-Mets owner] Mike Urda and said, ‘Look, I really apologize, but this is really what we need to do.’ And he was the right guy at the time. We had some playing time because [Daniel] Murphy was down.

“Herrera has surprising power for his size. He runs well. He’s very athletic. Turns the double play. I think he’s going to get more consistent defensively. He’s got pretty good hands and moves laterally well. We were impressed with him during his time with us. He had very good at-bats. I think he hit three home runs. So he’s got some real potential. And we were very happy with him during the course of his time with us, and he’ll come to spring training.

“You know, our middle-infield situation over the next couple of years is probably going to be in a little bit of flux. So he’s got an excellent opportunity.”

Matt Reynolds, SS

“He’s been solid at shortstop. And we’ve left him there and expect that he’ll be able to remain there. He’s also an excellent athlete. He’s got a strong arm, pretty good range defensively. Offensively, he had just a great season last year — really a breakout season for him both at Binghamton and at Las Vegas. The numbers get a little inflated at Las Vegas, but his were right in line with what he had done in Binghamton.

“I think what he’s done — by his own word, he’s indicated — he’s started to use all the field. He’s not really trying to pull everything. And although he had some home runs, and I think he’s got three home runs already in the Arizona Fall League, he tries to use the whole field. He’s sort of a gap-to-gap guy. So we’re very high on Reynolds and hope that he can at least at the outset of 2015 duplicate what he was able to do last year.”

Kevin Plawecki, C

“Plawecki is very solid — one of the handful of best catching prospects in baseball. I think we’re fortunate to have two young guys like [Travis] d’Arnaud and Plawecki. Plawecki is a little different hitter — more of a contact hitter, more patient at the plate. But I think he has some power potential. He’s a big guy.

“Defensively, he catches the ball well, blocks reasonably well. He probably has an average arm, but is very solid behind the plate and I think develops a pretty good rapport with his pitching staff. So we’re very high on both of those players. …

“Right now we’re fortunate that we have two who are essentially major league ready — I think Plawecki is close — of such high quality. At the same time, as they sort of both converge on the major leagues, it’s a question of whether both can be accommodated. I think there are circumstances under which that’s possible. For example, sharing the catching duties and then one of them playing first base a little bit or playing in the outfield. Or, during interleague games one of them DHing against left-handed pitching. I think there are ways to do it. The question is really whether that’s the best use of those two resources. And it may be, because beyond those two there’s a little bit of a drop-off at least in the catching we have in the system. We’ve got a couple of very young guys that we really like, but there may be a little bit of a drop-off after Plawecki. And so we have to be careful about trying to keep both of those guys in the system.”

Michael Conforto, OF

“Since I arrived in New York, he’s the first first-round pick out of college that we’ve drafted. Our other three had been high school players. So I do expect that he’ll move a little more quickly. We did get him to Savannah for the playoffs late in the season this year. So I would expect that he’ll move more quickly than some of our other top draft picks have certainly.

“Michael comes from a very athletic and competitive family. His father, I think, was a linebacker at Penn State. He played football there. His mother is a former Olympic athlete — a medalist in synchronized swimming. So he comes from a very athletic family. He’s a great kid, very humble and committed to the game and has interacted with fans — I think a terrific individual, and an outstanding hitter.

“A left-handed hitter, power is probably not his foremost quality. He’s got some, but he’s more of a gap-to-gap guy — high average, high on-base percentage — and a pretty good defender, which was not his reputation coming into the draft. But based on the time he spent in Brooklyn and then Savannah, our guys were very pleased with him defensively. He’s kind of an all-around player, and we do expect that he’ll move very quickly.”


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Wright ‘Excited’ To See What Herrera Can Do Mon, 01 Sep 2014 00:17:56 +0000 DSC_0398

Citi Field is quiet; there is not a soul in the stands, say for an usher catching some shut-eye before the gates open up.

Nearly four hours prior to first-pitch Friday, a handful of personnel remain on the field, finishing their first round of batting practice.

Among those taking there cuts, wearing a grey “Mets Baseball” tee, is the organization’s longest tenured player, David Wright. Looking on, already in uniform, is the newest–and youngest–addition to the big leagues, Dilson Herrera.

Now more than a decade since his own debut, Wright said he looks forward to getting a look at what Herrera can do.

dilson herrera fielding practice

“It’s exciting seeing these players you read about and hear about come up and see what they’re all about,” Wright said.

Herrera collected his first major-league hit Saturday, going 1-for-3 in his second game in Flushing. Terry Collins said that although Herrera faces a level of competition he has never seen before, the Mets skipper is confident in his new second baseman’s abilities.

“He’s coming with really, really outstanding reports on how he plays, the way he plays, intelligent kid; all the things you want to hear,” Collins said.

The 20-year-old Colombia-native was called up from Double-A Binghamton late Thursday night after Daniel Murphy was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a right calf injury. Once upon in time in baseball, the young-bloods coming up were not always greeted positively. Nowadays, rookies are treated as part of the team, something Wright said he feels is important.

dilson herrera wilmer flores sandy alderson

“One of the biggest things to feel comfortable and confident on the field is being welcomed and feeling comfortable in the clubhouse,” he said. “I think that is part of my responsibility and part of everyone’s responsibility.”

Collins admits that skipping Triple-A and going straight to MLB is a difficult transition, but cites past players he sees as similar to Herrera, namely Steve Sax, as examples that it can be done. Collins went on to say that he believes in the minor league coaching staff who have recommended he make the jump.

“I trust them,” he said Friday. “And like everyone else, I am anxious to see him play.”

Photos By Clayton Collier, MMO

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DeGrom Remains In Rookie of the Year Hunt Sat, 30 Aug 2014 12:07:57 +0000 jacob degrom

Jacob deGrom tossed seven strong innings against the Phillies on Friday, scattering four hits, allowing one unearned run and striking out five.

The young right-hander didn’t allow a hit until the fifth inning and was at his best during any hint of trouble when he’d reach back and pitch with some extra zip on his fastball. He recorded 16 of his 20 outs with his two and four seamer and commanded the lower part of the strike zone all night long. The kid has a lot of moxie.

“The location was really good all night with all of my pitches,” said deGrom who won his seventh game of the season and remains a top contender for the league’s rookie of the year award.

DeGrom has pitched at least six innings in 14 of his 18 starts this season, allowing just three runs or fewer in 13 of those contests. 

Boasting an ERA+ of 119 and a 3.07 FIP, deGrom also leads all rookies in innings pitched and strikeouts while checking in with a 1.196 WHIP and a 2.94 ERA for the season.

It’s been quite a debut for deGrom who continues to shine and has entrenched himself in what’s shaping up to be a very formidable and young Mets rotation in 2015 and beyond.

(Joe D.)

August 29

Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen said Jacob deGrom‘s stuff was not the issue in Saturday’s 7-4 loss to the Dodgers in Los Angeles, but rather the overuse of his fastball.

“I’m very happy about the way he threw the baseball in LA,” Warthen said. “I wasn’t happy about his pitch selection.”

deGrom surrendered five runs and five hits over six innings of work in his return from the disabled list after battling rotator cuff tendinitis. The Rookie of the Year candidate threw 86 pitches, allowing a three-run homer to Adrian Gonzalez, inflating his ERA from 2.87 to 3.13.

Warthen explained that deGrom getting carried away with his fastball was “understandable” as he was throwing harder than he ever had in his career–topping 97mph–but said the key for the 26-year-old tonight is to utilize all of his pitches. He has no other concerns regarding deGrom.

“His stuff was better than it had been all year,” Warthen said. “He just kind of forgot how to pitch, and we talked about that.

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MMO Exclusive: Dilson Herrera Goes From Big Dreams To Big Leagues Fri, 29 Aug 2014 15:34:19 +0000 herrera

Wow, what a dramatic change of events for the Mets on Thursday night, first Daniel Murphy goes on the DL and then the Mets catch everyone off guard and call up top prospect Dilson Herrera.

When I first heard the news, I was shocked and not because Herrera does not deserve the opportunity, oh he definitely does, but because the Mets actually thought enough of his amazing season to jump him straight from Double-A.

I spoke with Dilson last night after finding out the news and he was just so thankful that his dreams are finally becoming a reality. But from what I have witnessed from spending time with him and just chatting about baseball and life, was that he has a confidence that I have never seen before in a player so young and he knows in his mind that he belongs in the majors.

The Mets bring up a player that has played exciting baseball in both Advanced-A St. Lucie and then got better at Binghamton. For his reward, he’ll now showcase his amazing talent on the big stage and what better place to do that than New York City.

What he isn’t is a flashy player. What he is is a player with a solid bat that can turn on a fastball and drive it. He can also take the ball the other way and knows how to get on base. He plays good defense, gets the job done, and has proven to be a winner.

I am very excited about this move and looking forward to seeing him perform in the show. Also with Herrera being the first Colombian native to don a Mets uniform, Citi Field should be rocking again very shortly.  The team will not be in contention this season, but with a few more moves the future is going to be brighter than ever.

Below is an interview I conducted with Herrera this past season..

When the Mets knew that their 2013 season wasn’t going anywhere, they decided to unload two main players, Marlon Byrd and John Buck to the Pittsburgh Pirates, hoping that in return they would receive some future value to the organization. What they did receive would not pay any dividends for years to come, but it was a way to continue to solidify their farm system with additional talented ballplayers.

In last summers trade with the Pirates, the Mets brought in relief pitcher Vic Black and middle infielder Dilson Herrera, and even though Black may have been the player to make an immediate impact to the big league roster, Herrera could actually be the most significant part of the deal.

Herrera signed an international contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates at 16 years old. I asked him if they were the only team that showed interest in him, “I tried out with a few organizations and wasn’t sure who I would sign with, but the Pirates showed the most interest, so I decided I would sign with their organization,” he says.

While growing up in his native land of Colombia, both his father and grandfather played baseball and he tells me that he owes his talents to his upbringing, “My family has always loved baseball, and because my father played the game, he was able to show me how to play the right way.”

Before signing a contract to play professional baseball, Herrera was molded to be a shortstop and he even emulated how Jimmy Rollins played the position. But the Pirates had other plans and decided to sign him to play third base. But then after one season they moved him to second base.

Even though Herrera preferred to play short, he tells me that the move to second was a better fit.

“I felt that I was more comfortable playing second base, because shortstop was a bit more difficult to get adjusted to early on and the throws were much longer. But now, I have shown that I am capable of adjusting and playing both positions very well.”

In 2011, the he played his first pro season in the Venezuelan Rookie League for the Pirates and he hit .308/.413/.472 with 19 doubles, five triples, two home runs, and 27 RBI’s. The following season he was promoted to the Pirates’ Gulf Coast team and in 53 games, he batted .281/.341/.482 with seven home runs, and 27 RBI’s. Herrera finished out the 2012 season with a bump to Low-A State College in the NY Penn League and in seven games batted .321/.345/.536.

Herrera would call the South Atlantic League home in 2013, and in 109 games for Single-A West Virginia he batted .265/.330/.421, with 27 doubles, 11 home runs, and 56 RBI’s. His prospect status was on the rise.

During that summer, Herrera represented the Pirates in the All-Star Futures Game at Citi Field, and became the second-youngest player to ever play in the game.

“It was an amazing experience to be in New York and have an opportunity to play at Citi Field. It was very special to me to be chosen for the game and something I will never forget,” says Herrera.

When the Pirates decided to part ways with the young infielder, initially he says he didn’t take it too well.

“I was a bit confused and down when I was traded to the Mets, because I didn’t understand why the Pirates would trade me especially since they were the first team to sign me. I felt like they were my team.”

For a young kid from another country who was still not comfortable with the English language, leaving the only organization he ever knew was a shock to the system. But the one of the good things that came out of it was the immediate connection he made with the Mets organization.

Pedro Perez, a player within the Mets farm system, knew Herrera from their homeland of Colombia and he played a big part in helping Herrera to adjust to his new organization.

“Pedro was the first person to contact me and welcome me to the Mets and I was very thankful that I had a friend that understood me and could help me feel comfortable in my new surroundings.”

After the trade, Herrera was assigned to Single-A Savannah for the last seven games of the season. He batted .316/.417/.316 with his new club. The move also allowed him to be a part of a team that would capture the 2013 SAL Championship.

“When I arrived in Savannah, the players, especially our manager Luis Rojas welcomed me and instantly made me feel like a member of the team. It was a great feeling to play with a group of guys that were good enough to win the league championship. I was very grateful for the opportunity to not only play but help the team win.”

For a player that is 5’10”, Herrera has displayed some surprising power, belting 22 home runs in three minor league seasons. But his plate approach is not about hitting home runs, but as he says, playing the game the right way. “I like to drive the ball the other way, and I don’t focus on hitting home runs, I just focus on putting the bat on the ball and making things happen,” says Herrera.

Dilson  Herrera Bunting

Herrera oozes with confidence and focuses on producing the best he can from day to day. He tells me that he doesn’t worry about things beyond his control. “My main focus is to do what needs to be done on the field. I can only control that part of my game and I know that in time I will get my opportunity.”

Herrera, who is now playing with Advanced-A St. Lucie in his first full season with the organization, started the year 3-for-17 (.176) in his first five games. But since then he reeled off an 11-game hit streak in which he batted .391 (20 for 51), with three doubles, a triple, home run, five RBIs and four walks.

Overall this season, he has been a catalyst, batting .333/.389/.432, with eight multi-hit games. After seeing his hitting streak come to an on Monday, he started a new one on Tuesday with three hits and one more hit in Wednesday night’s game.

This exciting infield prospect has solidified himself in the lead-off spot for St. Lucie and he is one of the main components in a potent lineup that leads the Florida State League through Wednesday games with a .283 batting average, 99 runs, 190 hits, 92 RBI’s, 267 TB, and a .356 OBP.

“I feel very comfortable playing with St. Lucie and we have a very good team with a great group of talented guys that go out each and every night and compete.”

I had a chance to watch Herrera play from April 17-19, when the Mets visited the Miracle in Fort Myers, and what I witnessed was a very talented ballplayer that could turn on any fastball and drive it with power. His range at the shortstop and second base were flawless and his throws to first were very strong and accurate.

Only 20 years old, Herrera has had an incredible minor league career thus far, producing at every different level he’s played. He’s been dynamic both at the plate and in the field. In a few short years I can see him becoming an impact player on our big league roster. I’m excited for the day he makes his debut and electrifies our lineup.

Interview was conducted in Spanish and translated into English for our readers to enjoy.

mmo always believe

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MMO Exclusive: Dillon Gee Discusses Pitching, Outfield Defense, Having A Solid Bullpen Mon, 25 Aug 2014 19:28:19 +0000 dillon gee

A couple weeks ago, I reached out to Mets pitcher Dillon Gee for an interview, and Dillon was kind enough to let me do an online Q&A with him. Gee had the 7th-lowest ERA in baseball from the end of May 2013 to the time at which he was placed on the DL in May 2014. The righty missed a couple months, but is now back in action and starting to round back into form. Check out what Dillon had to say!

Tommy Rothman, MetsMerized Online: How did you get started playing baseball? What made you fall in love with the game?

Dillon Gee, New York Mets: I have an older brother that played, and I just always wanted to do whatever he did. Not sure [if it was] one thing that made me fall in love, [I] just have always loved playing!!

Tommy: What’s it like to be a member of the New York Mets?

Dillon: It’s awesome. The Mets are a great organization and treat you like family. The future is bright here.

Tommy: You got off to a nice start as a Met, but in July of 2012 a season-ending, career-threatening and potentially life-threatening blood clot was discovered in your right shoulder. What were the 9 months between your diagnosis and your return to the MLB like? Baseball is obviously such a huge part of your life; how did it feel not knowing for sure whether you would ever throw another pitch? Please tell us a bit about that period in your life.

Dillon: It’s a scary feeling not knowing how you will bounce back from an injury. Especially one as weird as that was. But instead of fretting about it, I decided all I could control was my attitude about it and how hard I would work to come back strong. Everything else just happens.

Tommy: Fortunately, you were able to return to the mound for the 2013 season. However, you struggled early in the year and as the month of May drew to a close with Zack Wheeler‘s MLB debut, there was a lot of speculation about whether your spot in the rotation was secure. On May 30th, in Yankee Stadium (the last place a pitcher wants to be), you threw a gem, and since that point, there is no way around it: you have statistically been one of the very best pitchers in baseball. What do you think was responsible for the turnaround? Is there something you started doing differently? Or was it just a matter of needing some time to regain your form after the surgery?

Dillon: I think it took me a while to find myself after being out so long. That night in Yankee Stadium I was aggressive and challenged hitters with all my pitches. That’s my game, and even though I still forget that sometimes, I have maintained that for the most part during that good stretch.

Tommy: What’s your gameday routine like, when you are the starting pitcher that day? Walk us through a “#GeeDay”.

Dillon: Wake up and have some breakfast. Go walk around and get the body going for an hour or so. Then maybe take a little nap before lunch. Head to the park about 3-3:30. Try and relax and really not think about much. PB&J at 5 then start getting ready about 5:45. Head out to the bullpen at 6:35.

Tommy: Let’s talk about the Captain. David Wright may not be having an “amazing” season so far, but most hitters in baseball would still gladly take the numbers he has right now. When David is raking, his contributions are obvious. But of course, David has responsibilities other than driving in runs. What kind of impact does he have on the rest of the team, apart from his tangible production?

Dillon: David does a great job of leading by example. He shows people what it’s like to prepare like a professional.

Tommy: MLB Pitchers don’t tend to do very well at the plate. But in the National League, they make you guys hit anyway. With the exception of bunting practice, do you spend any time practicing what to do with the bat in your hands? Or do you just go out there and try to get the bat on the ball, and keep all of your focus on what you do on the mound?

Dillon: We try to take BP when we are at home the days you’re not pitching. But it’s still tough to get ready for live big league pitching. Hitting against live pitching once every five days is very hard.

Tommy: Another thing pitchers tend to have trouble with is throwing to the bases when a ball is put in play. Obviously, your career depends on your ability to throw a ball at high speeds and with a lot of movement into a very small “strike zone”, and most pitchers don’t have a problem with this. But when asked to make the more relaxed throw to a bigger target at 1st base (or any other base), pitchers often struggle. Why is that? Is it just psychological?

Dillon: I think sometimes guys are just used to throwing at 90-100% down the mound. All [of a] sudden you get a comebacker and just need to toss it, [we] ease up and arm angles change. You see the same thing with intentional base on balls. A lot is mental too. If you mess one up, then the next time, that’s what you think about.

Tommy: A lot of fans don’t understand the role of coaches in baseball. For instance, some people might wonder how Dan Warthen can give advice to a pitcher who is already at the top of his profession. Granted, Warthen was a major league pitcher for couple years, but he was no Johan Santana, or Matt Harvey, or Dillon Gee. Can you explain to us how the coaching staff works with the players and how they aid in your development?

Dillon: They have been around the game a long time and know pitching. It’s also nice to have another set of eyes on you all the time that may be able to pick up subtle changes that you might not feel or realize. They also help with scouting reports, teaching how to read swings, etc. There is a lot of knowledge they have from just being around the game for a long time.

Tommy: From a pitcher’s perspective, how has it been working with Travis d’Arnaud over the past year? People talk endlessly about his hot and cold streaks at the plate, but how is his relationship with you and the other pitchers as a battery-mate?

Dillon: Travis is great to work with. He takes his job behind the plate seriously and has done a great job learning the staff. He does a great job receiving the ball too.

Tommy: In the past, outfield defense and mobility has been a problem. But this year, with guys like Curtis Granderson, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Matt den Dekker, Chris Young, and especially Juan Lagares, the Mets have had some very athletic gloves out there patrolling the gaps. Heck, even Bobby Abreu ran into the wall to catch one a couple weeks back. How important is it for you on the mound to know those guys have your back if one of your pitches gets a bit too much of the plate? Also, does Juan have superpowers? Asking for a friend.

Dillon: I don’t think Lagares has superpowers [Editor's note: I think Dillon was fibbing here. -Tommy] but sometimes it seems so. It is great knowing guys are out there who can all run down some fly balls.

Tommy: When a starter gives up a late home run, everybody says he was left in too long. When the reliever gives up a big hit, everybody says the starter should have been left in. But hindsight is 20-20. How does fatigue impact a starting pitcher over the course of a game? Can you feel it setting in gradually from the first pitch onward? Or do you just hit a “wall” at some point, where your body tells you you’re almost out of gas?

Dillon: You know, I think it gradually sets in, and before you know it, your release point starts to falter and you lose command. But the only way to get better at pitching [while] tired late in a game is to be out there doing it more often. You’re right though. Someone is always going to point fingers when it doesn’t work out. There is no clear-cut answer.

Tommy: You’re only 28, but after Bartolo Colon, you’re the oldest guy on the staff. When you first came up, guys like Johan Santana were presumably there to offer some guidance. Do you feel some responsibility, now, to be a mentor to guys like Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom, Rafael Montero, and the other young pitchers in the organization?

Dillon: I feel a responsibility to offer help [to those guys] if they want it. I don’t like to act like I have it all figured out, cause I don’t. We are all continuing to learn in this game.

Tommy: Coming into this season, a lot of people saw the bullpen as a question mark. However, the relievers have been one of the most pleasant surprises of the 2014 campaign. Does it help you when you’re out there on the mound to know that you don’t necessarily need to go 7 or 8?

Dillon: It’s great knowing you have a bullpen out there that can get you out of a jam. But as a starter, I always want to go as deep into the game as possible.

Tommy: You’re now a veteran who has had a good amount of recent success. So what’s the next step? What specific parts of your arsenal have you been working on, as you try to keep improving and maintain that success?

Dillon: It’s an ongoing process to just keep getting better all around. Sometimes we get into bad habits and struggle for a bit. It’s about trying to right the ship as quickly as possible, and keep the down spells few and far between. Being consistent is the goal, and that’s not always easy to do.

Tommy: What advice do you have for young athletes?

Dillon: Don’t let people tell you that you can’t do something. Dream it and believe it. I was told by many I would never pitch in the big leagues. Well those people haven’t said much lately. Find what motivates you.

Tommy: You’ve recently been working on a campaign to ‘K Cancer’. Can you just explain a bit about that to our readers?

Dillon: I was approached by the Jason Motte Foundation to help with the “K Cancer” campaign. I was able to choose the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society as a charity to receive some of the proceeds. That meant a lot to me, because that hits close to home for my family. I also think the shirts are awesome.

*End of Interview*

Thanks to Dillon for taking some time out of his busy day to answer some questions for me. Dillon will be taking the hill tonight against the A’s in Oakland.

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Video: Gil Hodges Once Again Up For Hall of Fame Election Wed, 13 Aug 2014 13:04:19 +0000 I’m sure it’s been something that has been debated quite often on this site as to whether Gil Hodges should be enshrined along with his legendary Brooklyn Dodgers’ teammates in Cooperstown.

Well, Gil will be up for election again this December at the Winter Meetings.

To increase awareness of Gil’s cause, here is a television segment I put together. Please share it out, so that Gil rightfully takes his place this winter alongside baseball immortals.

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MMO Exclusive: Pitching Prospect Rob Whalen Is Coming On Strong Fri, 08 Aug 2014 14:23:53 +0000 robert whalen

Strap yourselves in and enjoy an interview with pitching prospect Rob Whalen, fresh off of his stellar performance on Wednesday night, tossing 5.1 shutout innings to collect his seventh win of the season and improve his record to a perfect 7-0 for the Savannah Sand Gnats.

The 20-year old righthander has not allowed an earned run in his last 12.1 innings pitched and on the season he has a pristine 1.42 ERA and 0.974 WHIP for Class-A Savannah.

You may remember Rob as the 2013 Sterling Award winner, recognized for being one of the Mets’ top pitching prospects after a big campaign in Kingsport where he allowed just one home run all season and owned the second best ERA in the entire Mets system among starting pitchers.


Joe: Rob, it’s great to catch up with you again… What a year it’s been for you. After a breakthrough season in 2013 where you posted a 1.87 ERA AND 0.926 WHIP in 12 starts for Kingsport, here you are in Savannah, having skipped a full level and posting an even better season than last year. What’s been the biggest difference going from rookie ball to the Sally league?

Rob: This season has been a wild one that’s for sure. Coming into spring training this year I had a goal to make a full season team. I believe I have good enough stuff and I think I proved last year that I know how to pitch and can do it at a higher level. So not to knock on Brooklyn or anything, but I definitely believed I was ready for a full season league and I’m glad the organization agreed.

But honestly, there hasn’t been a huge difference, I’m not really doing anything drastically different than last year. Unfortunately, this season has been cut short due to the infection I had from a small cut on my hand, just a freak thing that cost me 2 months. It stunk not being able to pitch especially because I was throwing the ball so well at the time, but it is what it is. I just wanted to come back and finish the remainder of this season strong and help make a serious run in the playoffs.

Joe: Noah Syndergaard may have the “hook from hell” but Baseball America rated your curve as the best in the Mets system. Is that your primary weapon?

Rob: To be recognized as having the best curve meant a lot to me because we got some great pitchers in this system with some filthy stuff. Only thing is, yes I throw a curve, but I think they are referring to my slider. My curve has been my bread and butter pitch since I was little, I’m able to get a true 12-6 with it that I mostly throw early in the counts for strikes. My slider though has been my strikeout pitch. It’s been “slurvy” at times so I can see why people might think it was a curve, but I’ve worked hard this season on trying different grips to try to tighten it up and get a little more on it.

I saw an article on another site from a writer that said I worked with Frank Viola on tightening it up, that’s false. I wish Frank had the time to work with me, but obviously he’s not here in Savannah anymore. But really it was talking to our pitching coach Marc Valdes and teammates about different grips and testing them out.

Joe: Is there a particular pitch or pitches that you’re trying to improve this year? How’s your changeup coming along?

Rob: You always want to improve all your pitches. I’m extremely comfortable with my sinker that I throw 90% of the time when I throw a fastball. It’s gotten me early count outs and a ton of ground balls. Like I said I’ve worked on tightening my slider and being more consistent and aggressive with my changeup. Not pushing it or babying it, but getting that fastball arm speed and really finishing it and it’s coming along well.

Joe: What’s your mentality on the mound?

rob whalen cardRob: My mentality on the mound is just that I’m going to attack the zone and I’m going beat you. I’m going to execute my pitches and get you out. I believe you should always be confident in your abilities and at times be cocky. Not arrogant, but have a little cockiness out there. I expect to win every time I step on the mound. Doesn’t mean it’s going to happen but that’s what I expect from myself.

Joe: Who are some current major league pitchers you admire?

Rob: There isn’t really anyone that I admire due to us never really having a chance to watch big league games because in full season our schedules are similar. I’ve said before that I like watching Dillon Gee and Matt Harvey pitch. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting both of them while I was rehabbing and they are both great guys.

Joe: You are now just three more levels away before fulfilling your dream and playing for the team you grew up rooting for all your life. Can you describe what that feels like?

Rob: I’ve actually never thought of it that way. Savannah isn’t that far from the bigs. A lot of people know how big of a fan I am of the Mets and everyday I’m able to put a jersey on for them is a blessing. I’m just trying to take it one start at a time and enjoy the ride.

Joe: Do you still follow the Mets daily? Do you have any favorite current players that you root for? Are you happy with the direction of the team?

Rob: I still follow the team as much as I can. I’ll watch the highlights on my phone and read Metsmerized at night. David Wright has been my favorite player since Mike Piazza retired but I’m a fan of a lot of the players on the current team as well.

Am I happy in the direction that the team is going? (laughs) Haha that’s putting me in a tough spot. As a fan? I think we are only a couple pieces away from being a really good team. There’s always moves that I wish we would make but I understand how it works now that I’m in professional baseball. Every fan plays GM but there’s so much to it. As a player, there are a lot of great players coming up that fans should be excited about and I just hope I can be one of those guys that gets there soon and can help contribute at the big league level.

Joe: What has been the most exciting moment since turning pro?

Rob: My most exciting moment since turning pro has probably been winning the Sterling Award while with Kingsport last year. Just being around all the big leaguers at Citi Field and hanging out in the clubhouse with them and being out on the field for BP, kind of felt like home. Not as if I should be there now, but as in “this feels right, this is possible”. It really motivated me even more.

Joe: You have a bunch of talented young players like yourself in Savannah including a couple of first rounders. Which player has impressed you the most and can you tell us a little about him?

Rob: We definitely have a talented roster. I think we have a deep pitching staff, everyone fills it up well and has great stuff. Our lineup has been solid all year, but if I had to pick 1 guy, I would probably say Akeel Morris. He has been unbelievable all season. His stuff is electric. When he comes in, you know the game is over. He has been nearly untouchable all season. Been really fun to watch him.

Joe: I love that kid too, interviewed him back in April. Okay, lightning round… What’s your favorite meal?

Rob: I’m simple, I love a good homemade plate of Spaghetti and Meatballs.

Joe: Favorite recording artist or band?

Rob: I’m a big fan of Florida Georgia Line, not too many songs of theirs that I don’t like. I listen to just about everything though.

Joe: Do you enjoy Twitter or not really?

Rob: I love Twitter. I enjoy interacting with the fans and having them get to know me. At the end of the day, I’m still the same kid from the Northeast that grew up rooting for the Mets, I just have the privilege of playing for them now!

Joe: Designated Hitter – Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down?

Rob: This is another one that I’m torn on because I’m a player. As a fan, I like the DH. But as a pitcher, I’m glad I’m in the National league because I love to hit.

Joe: Is there anything you’d like to tell Mets fans?

Rob: Nothing in particular other than letting them know how much I truly appreciate the love and support I’ve gotten from a lot of the fans. It feels good to have people believe in you. The Mets have a bright future ahead. Just keep the faith and Lets Go Mets!

Joe: Let’s end it at that… As always, it’s been real…

Rob: Joe, thanks for having me man!

Follow Rob on Twitter @RobWhalen38
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Conforto Discusses Approach; Not A Candidate For Arizona Fall League Tue, 05 Aug 2014 20:30:59 +0000 michael conforto Patrick E. McCarthy

Update: According to Adam Rubin Michael Conforto is not a consideration for the Arizona Fall League. The Mets will not announce their contingent until late this month, but Brandon Nimmo and Gavin Cecchini are candidates.

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The Brooklyn Cyclones burst out of the gate this summer season to the tune of an 11-4 record in their first 15 games.

However, over the next three weeks, the team struggled offensively after its fast start to come back to the pack in the New York-Penn League.

But on July 19, the Cyclones finally received the consistent offensive punch the lineup lacked in the form of Mets first-round draft pick Michael Conforto.

Signing Conforto proved to be a lengthy process, but judging by his first 16 games for Brooklyn, it seems the organization’s patience has certainly been worth the wait.

In these games, the lefty-swinging Conforto is hitting .362 (21-for-58) with five doubles, two home runs and nine RBI. He’s homered in each of his last two games, including an absolute bomb into the right-field bleachers on Saturday – where long drives typically get gobbled up by the Coney Island wind – and an opposite field shot on Sunday.

IMG_8348Right away, it seemed that Conforto had an idea in each at-bat of what he wanted to do at the plate.

“I’m very comfortable,” the first rounder said. “I think I’ve just kind of settled into a mode where I’m seeing the ball well and I’m in a rhythm. I’m getting a lot of pitches to hit, so I’m just doing what I can with them and hitting the ball where it’s pitched.”

The Cyclones are 11-5 since Conforto joined the team, and the team’s offensive attack has picked up significantly. With his presence in the lineup, the other hitters have undoubtedly been getting better pitches to hit.

“A lot of guys have really stepped up swinging,” Conforto said. “I think it is fair to say that maybe me being there in the middle of the lineup helps other guys and maybe I’m protecting some people, but I wouldn’t be taking all that credit. We’ve just been playing really well together as a team.”

Cyclones’ manager Tom Gamboa has praised Conforto’s approach offensively and said he hopes the other Cyclones players are paying attention when Michael is at the plate or even taking batting practice.

Conforto said he credits the coaches and players at Oregon State University for helping him develop his patient approach – that seems to fit in very well with the Mets’ current hitting philosophy.

“Out of high school, I wasn’t the hitter I am now at all,” he said. “They (college coaches) really stressed the importance to me of swinging at high percentage pitches for hitters and letting the pitches that are low percentage go, which are out of the strike zone anyways. You take those balls, you get on base, you walk, and you’re also getting better pitches to hit as a hitter. There’s really no down side to it.”

It seems like every Conforto at-bat is pre-scripted. He’ll get up there and take a few pitcher’s pitches – even if they wind up being called strikes – until he a gets pitch he can handle. And when he does, he usually hits it hard somewhere.

“My hitting approach is fairly simple: I’m hunting for fastballs,” Conforto said. “Something straight is the easiest ball to hit, and I’ve been getting a lot of those lately, and that’s why the results have been showing up. Staying to the opposite field has helped me with the off-speed stuff because I’m still staying back long enough to get the bat on the ball when it’s coming in slower.”

As for his defense, the knock on him when he was drafted was that he wasn’t exactly a prototypical Major League outfielder. But he seems to be on a mission to prove the naysayers wrong.

Already he has four outfield assists and has made several acrobatic plays in left field. He said he kept his arm in shape while he was at home prior to reporting to Brooklyn and that the Cyclones’ coaching staff has helped him work on some little things to help refine his defense.

“That (defense) is something that I think was out there as a question mark, and I took that as a challenge personally,” Conforto said. “I made it a priority to work on that part of my game. I can see where that might come from to be honest. Maybe I had a bad couple of games in the outfield that some people saw, so any of that criticism is constructive for me, and I take that and use it to make myself better.

“I definitely have worked at it, and I will still work on it. You’re never perfect in this game, and so I’ll keep working on it and practicing. Repetition makes you as good as you could possibly be.”

IMG_8381It’s this sort of hardworking attitude that has made Conforto an instant fan-favorite in Brooklyn. He said he loves interacting with the fans before and after games.

“It’s really cool hearing them call my number and my name,” the 21-year-old said. “It’s pretty awesome that so quickly they’ve taken to me, and I enjoy it and that’s why I’m out there signing autographs.

“I like signing stuff for kids. It’s a lot of fun for me. As a kid, I was always asking for autographs, and I remember not getting them and being upset about it. I like to sign as many autographs as I can.”

Here’s a note to Cyclones’ fans that still haven’t gotten Michael’s autograph: You better hurry up!

If Conforto keeps hitting at his torrid pace, the Mets may be wise to promote him to Savannah. Sure, there’s no rush in his progression through the system, but he eventually needs more of a challenge than Single-A short season pitching.

But meanwhile, the Cyclones are in the thick of a playoff race, and it’s no secret that Conforto is a major factor in the team’s postseason hopes. Winning a New York-Penn League title maybe isn’t tops on the Mets’ priority list, but getting Conforto some seasoning in big spots – like a meaningful playoff series – could pay dividends in his development.

For now though, Conforto seems content with raking for the Cyclones, and Gamboa is happy to pencil his slugger’s name into the lineup each day.

Here’s hoping for continued success, and of course a clean bill of health, for the Mets first-rounder.

Photo Credits: Jim Mancari, MMO, Patrick E. McCarthy

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MMO Interview: After Eventful Year, Murphy “Humbled” To Get All-Star Nod Mon, 14 Jul 2014 16:50:47 +0000 daniel murphy

Daniel Murphy has had a season of firsts in 2014.

Murphy celebrated the birth of his first child on Opening Day, resulting in an unjust ribbing from local radio personalities for missing time on paternal leave—also a first.

Murphy also made his first trip to the White House last month, speaking at the Working Dads Summit on the aforementioned topic of leaving his team for his wife and newborn son, Noah.

Although it wasn’t the first head-turning season for the 29-year-old Jacksonville native, Murphy finally received his first all-star selection this past week.

Murphy said he feels honored to have been selected to the All-Star game and that he and his family are “excited” to attend the three-day event.

“It’s very humbling to be even mentioned in the same breath as some of the guys that are going to be at this game,” Murphy said.

Murphy will be the lone Mets representative in Minneapolis, just the second time David Wright has not been chosen since 2006. Manager Terry Collins said he was proud of Murphy for his achievement.

“He’s so pumped up and he should be,” Collins said. “It’s a tremendous tribute to one of the hardest working players you’ll ever be around.”

Murphy is batting .294 on the season with 113 hits and 56 runs scored. He has committed to his gap power, ripping 101 doubles since taking over as the full-time second baseman in 2012.

As efficient as Murphy has been with the bat, his defensive improvements have been even more impressive for third base coach Tim Defuel, specifically on his ability to turn double plays.

“It’s increasingly getting better, he’s getting more familiarized with the footwork, the timing of the plays,” Teufel said. “He’s evolving he’s trying different techniques and making it his own.”

Murphy credits Teufel for helping him to make his transition to second.

“I don’t think I would be the second baseman I am today if it wasn’t for the work he put in with me,” he said.

Outside of speaking with six-time all-star Chase Utley, who Murphy says he sometimes “shoots the breeze” with when the Phillies come to town, he doesn’t have anyone he plans to talk to. He is just looking forward to the week ahead.

“My wife and my family are excited,” he said. “We’re just trying to soak it in for a couple of days.”

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Niese Says Shoulder Only Fatigued, Expects To Make July 21 Start Sat, 12 Jul 2014 21:06:26 +0000 jon niese

Jon Niese downplayed the severity of his shoulder strain Saturday, telling MMO he will start the fourth game out of the All-Star break in Seattle on July 21.

Niese, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to July 5 last week, said his shoulder is fatigued, not necessarily injured. 

“It really is not an injury, it’s pretty much just a little resting period,” Niese said. “My shoulders just got fatigued and it got progressively got worse and worse each outing.”

The 27-year-old said that although his nagging injuries in Spring Training were not related to his tired shoulder, they did hamper his ability to get his arm into the “best possible shape” entering the regular season.

Terry Collins told reporters prior to Saturday’s game that Niese will throw tomorrow, but the team has not made any determination as to when the lefty will return.

“We’re just going to wait to see, once we get out of the break, how he’s doing,” Collins said.

Bartolo Colon was announced as the starter for the second-half opener in San Diego today. Collins also said that he plans to start Dillon Gee in the Padres series as well.

Niese is 5-4 with a 2.96 ERA in 17 starts this season.

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Mets Minute: Jenrry Mejia and Juan Lagares Thu, 10 Jul 2014 14:54:48 +0000 jenrry mejia

Yesterday, I was able to catch up with Jenrry Mejia and Juan Lagares before the game at Citi Field.  I asked them a variety of questions, ranging from what their favorite moments of the season were so far to where is the best place to eat in Citi Field.

Both guys are very confident and believe the Mets’ future is bright, and Lagares added that he has faith in manager Terry Collins.

By the way, Mejia thinks he has better hair than Jacob deGrom.


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