Mets Merized Online » Interviews http://metsmerizedonline.com Tue, 07 Jul 2015 20:49:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.8 MMO Exclusive: Michael Conforto Focused On Improving His Game, Not On His MLB Debut http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/06/mmo-exclusive-michael-conforto-focused-on-improving-his-game-not-on-his-mlb-debut.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/06/mmo-exclusive-michael-conforto-focused-on-improving-his-game-not-on-his-mlb-debut.html/#comments Mon, 22 Jun 2015 15:20:28 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=185053 michael Conforto

The Mets drafted Michael Conforto because of his prowess as a hitter and he has yet to disappoint since making his pro debut for the Brooklyn Cyclones last season and starting off his career with a 10-game hitting streak. He would finish his first year in pro ball hitting .331/.403/.448 with ten doubles, three homeruns, sixteen walks, and 19 RBI in 42 games in short season ball.

Conforto introduced himself to all Mets fans this spring when he got into 5 games going 4-11 with three RBI while showing his sweet left-handed swing.

With no need for him to go down to Savannah the Mets bumped him straight to Advanced-A St. Lucie where he dominated in the month of April hitting .313/.396/.566 with six homeruns and nineteen RBI.

On May 24th the Fort Myers Miracle decided he had beaten them enough (7 hits, 2 HR’s in last 3 games against them) and the best way to avoid similar results was to intentionally walk him three times that day. For some reason they chose to try pitching to him the next day and Conforto went 3-4 with a homerun and a double before being intentionally walked in his last at-bat.

Other teams started getting sick of Michael beating them, they started pitching around him leading him to his worst pro month of baseball hitting just .255/.328/.387 while walking nine times and getting HBP three times. Despite the May struggles he was still named a Florida State League All-Star and finished hitting .283/.350/.462 with twelve doubles, seven homeruns, and 28 RBI for St. Lucie.

On May 29th the Mets finally did what most fans and prospect gurus had been clamoring about for weeks and promoted the first-rounder to Double-A Binghamton.

All Michael has done since being moved up is hit .377/.482/.623 with seven doubles, two triples, two homeruns, and 12 RBI with a 14/17 BB/SO while reaching base in all 19 of his games for the B-Mets. Conforto also has an isolated slugging of .262 in AA something only 12 Major League hitters have accomplished this year in the big leagues.

Michael has also worked on his defense in left field which was a big topic of discussion when he was drafted. He has only one error in 59 games this year after making five in just 41 games last year.

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Michael and I talked on Wednesday in Portland after watching him put on a power display in batting practice and here is our conversation:

MMO - First off I want to congratulate you on a great season and finally getting promoted to Binghamton.

Conforto - Thanks, just playing and coming out everyday like it’s the same! while trying to keep it simple. The day finally came and now here I am.

MMO - You started the year off really well in St. Lucie then the pitcher’s seemed to adjust to you or did they stop pitching to you?

Conforto - It was a combination of both, they started pitching around me a little bit and I started swinging at pitches that I normally wouldn’t if I was hitting well. Then they changed their approach to me by pitching inside more and I started swinging at those pitches which were low percentage for me, putting myself in a little slump.

But that’s baseball you know, those things are going to happen and I just had to find a way to work myself out of it which I did. I got in the cage and worked with my coaches and the hard work paid off. I got the call here with a spot open and have had a good start here too.

MMO - Now what adjustments have you had to make to pitching at the AA level?

Conforto - Just trying to stay simple, staying with the approach that I have and avoiding things I did during my first slump where I got out of my rhythm. It’s good to get that first one out of the way because you know you are not going to be hot all the time.

I need to just stick to the approach that gives me the best chance up there (at the plate), even if I’m facing a good pitcher. I need to make sure I am swinging at quality hitter’s pitches instead off chasing good pitcher’s pitches that way I have a better chance at the plate.

As far as adjustments I wouldn’t say I’ve have had to make many, the difference here (AA) is that the pitchers are more consistent, they make less mistakes and they can throw 3 or 4 different pitches for strikes. I need to make sure I’m keeping it simple here, it’s still baseball and its the same game. The consistency here might change but that doesn’t mean I have to change.

MMO - In St. Lucie you struggled against lefties but to start your career here in Binghamton you have faced seven left-handed starting pitchers in the first 10 games and you have obviously fared better. What do you think the reason is for that?

Conforto - I think it’s all part of coming up here (Binghamton) with a fresh start that allowed me to get back into what I was doing to start the season and in spring training.

I don’t think it was actually a lefty/righty thing as much as just getting back to my approach. I have never had a problem facing lefties, I have always felt comfortable against them it’s not like when I see that a lefty is throwing I say oh crap. I treat it the same way and now that no matter what hand they throw with as long as I keep my approach the same I have a good chance

MMO - When you were drafted there were a lot of draft experts that said you were below average defensively in LF and you might not stick there. Having watched you it seems like you have worked on your defense and throwing while improving both.

Conforto - I knew the criticisms, I had heard about them and the coaches here talked to me about it. I have put work in with them (coaches) and the best time to do it is in batting practice so you can get live reads off the bat.

Getting myself into the right position to throw was a big thing for me that helped me start throwing guys out (6 OF assists this year) and be more accurate. It’s just something that I had to work on, I had to be out there everyday playing and its incredible what hard work can do for you.

MMO - How much attention do you pay to the big club and fans wanting you to come up now? Do you pay attention to all the social media?

Conforto - I get sent stuff from my grandfather who is so into that stuff, he keeps up on everything and knows about anything that comes out. He will send stuff to my dad and he is careful about how much of it he sends to me. I try not to pay too much attention because it doesn’t have too much control on what is going to happen. All I can control is the way I am playing and to keep showing up to the ballpark everyday. 

MMO - What do you think you need to improve on to become a better player and to make it to the big leagues eventually?

Conforto - I think I need to be more consistent at the plate to try and avoid slumps like I had in St. Lucie. I also need to continue to work on my defense and putting myself in good positions to make plays.

I also need to work on my baserunning like taking extra bases, knowing when to be aggressive because it’s small things like that which separates the  guys here (AA) from the guys playing in the Majors.

MMO - Thanks Michael, good luck this year and hope to see you in New York soon. 

Michael went and signed some autographs as we were getting ready to start our interview, he also went back over to sign more afterwards. Kids were yelling for him the whole time during the interview and he signed for each one. After the game he was also the only guy to sign for kids right beside the dugout which is pretty unusual to do at that ballpark. He also made it a point to come over during batting practice to say hello to me and shake my hand.

I covered Binghamton when they were in Portland last month and it was completely different this time, the team had a different feel to it. The other players know that Conforto is/will be a star, they stood around batting practice watching as he hit mammoth homeruns just laughing at the ridicolous distance on some of them. At one point a teammate turned to me and said “this guy is a f**** joke” because he just hit one completely out of the park.

Before both games I was able to talk to multiple scouts that were there watching the Mets. They were impressed with the power/swing from Conforto. One scout did say that he needs more work on his defense but when I asked him if Conforto could hit in the big leagues right now he said “Yes, I don’t see why not”.

The Mets say they are not considering a promotion to the big league team for Conforto according to Mike Puma of the New YorkPost. But that’s okay with Michael who is only focused on improving his performance and becoming the best player he can be. We all wish him well.

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Getting To Know Mets Pitching Prospect Akeel Morris http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/06/getting-to-know-relief-prospect-akeel-morris.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/06/getting-to-know-relief-prospect-akeel-morris.html/#comments Mon, 15 Jun 2015 03:27:32 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=184484 image-1

Here’s an interview we did with recently promoted pitching prospect Akeel Morris. This was conducted this past Winter right after the Mets decided to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. As you’ll see, the St. Thomas, Virgin Islands  native spoke extensively about his success and what drives him. Enjoy…

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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.

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Doc Gooden On Mets Rotation: “With That Staff, Anything Can Happen” http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/06/doc-gooden-on-mets-rotation-with-that-staff-anything-can-happen.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/06/doc-gooden-on-mets-rotation-with-that-staff-anything-can-happen.html/#comments Tue, 09 Jun 2015 16:50:54 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=183926 dwight doc gooden

Although this year’s MLB Draft was relatively quiet for the New York Mets without their first-round pick, Flushing was well-represented at the draft with Doc Gooden in attendance.

Speaking at the draft in Secaucus, N.J. Monday night, Gooden said he was honored to have been asked to attend by the Mets.

“It’s a great feeling to be here to represent the (Mets), because I did play for a couple teams after the Mets, so to come back, you feel like you’re back into the family now,” he said.

For many former big leaguers at the draft, it was a time for reflection on the day they were drafted. Gooden, who was picked fifth overall by the Mets in 1982, said he was shocked to have been picked so high.

“I remember my high school coach telling me that I’m probably going to be picked between the fifth and tenth round. I said, ‘that’s fine, I just want to get drafted,’” said Gooden, then a 17-year old standout high school hurler from Tampa.

“So we’re watching the draft, it got to the Mets with the fifth pick, and I see my name across the screen, ‘Dwight Gooden,’ I’m like ‘I just got picked fifth.’ I actually called New York to make sure that was right just based on what my high school coach had told me. They said ‘yeah, that’s right.’”

Though the Mets were short a first round pick due to the signing of Michael Cuddyer, New York has fortified themselves with plenty of young talent in recent years, highlighted by their current starting rotation along with Steven Matz still incubating in Triple-A. Gooden said he sees serious potential in the group of arms the Mets have put together.

“Once you get into the playoffs, with that staff, anything can happen,” he said.

The 1985 NL Cy Young award winner has been highly complimentary of the Mets young pitchers in the past, going as far to compare them to the 1986 rotation. Gooden said such comments drew some flak from former teammate Bobby Ojeda.

“I actually got a call from Bob Ojeda the other day because I had said that this staff could be better than the ’86 staff, so he didn’t like that too much,” Gooden said with a laugh.

The 2015 Mets are well-positioned to capture their first playoff bid in nine years, so long as they can overcome injuries to their primary bats and the resulting offensive woes. Gooden said if the Mets are going to without Wright or d’Arnaud–who is expected to return this week–for a long period of time, they need to make a move.

“If you can’t get both back, I think they should go out and get a veteran hitter for the middle of the order,” he said.

Although acquiring a bat should be a necessity for the Mets, Gooden said they also have to be careful not to mortgage the future with dealing an abundance major-league ready talent. Instead, he said the Mets should look to deal from the talent in the lower minors.

“You have to make a move, but it’s got to be the right fit, because you don’t give up a young pitcher, then in 3-4 years have it come back to bite you,” he said.

“So I would try to trade my lower minor league guys, because they have prospect pitchers all through the system, and try to stay away from my Triple-A and big league guys if I can do that. But if trade comes along that you can’t resist, you need to figure out what guy you want to move and go for it.”

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MMO Exclusive: Interview with Matt Hall From Guerrero Academy http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/04/mmo-exclusive-interview-with-matt-hall-from-guerrero-academy.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/04/mmo-exclusive-interview-with-matt-hall-from-guerrero-academy.html/#comments Sun, 19 Apr 2015 13:00:42 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=179364 guerrero

The Guerrero Academy has been stealing all the international signing headlines mainly because of the uber-talented Vladimir Guerrero Jr. who has rumored to signed with the Blue Jays for $4.4MM. Kiley McDaniel reported two days ago that the Mets have a deal in place with SS Gregory Guerrero for $1.8MM, making all Mets fans wonder who the heck is Gregory Guerrero?

Well I was able to talk to Matt Hall who works for the Guerrero Academy about Gregory and the state of the academy itself. Here is what Matt had to say about the complex in Don Gregorio, Dominican Republic:

Mike M: Our readers are very interested in what happens at the Guerrero Academy, could you tell me a little about what you guys do? How do you help the players get ready for their tryouts and their eventual transition to living in the U.S?

Matt Hall: It’s an Academy of roughly 20 kids aged 13-16 from all around the DR. The kids don’t go to school just train to sign when they turn 16.They practice 6 or 7 days a week, starting at 530 am. They are trained by Vlads brother Wilton Guerrero who played in the MLB. They have tryouts usually twice a week with MLB scouts. They do weight training, take English and business classes etc.They practice in 2 fields, one of which Vlad built. When they practice in the cage it’s in Vlad’s backyard. 

Mike M: Wow sounds like the Guerrero family has done a lot to try and help these kids be successful.

Matt H: Yeah, it’s a passion for Wilton he gives them everything and they are all like his family to him. We’ve had two kids go with the Mets this past year already. 

Mike M: Can you tell me about the two players the Mets signed this past year?

Matt H: One is Rafael Valdez, a 17 year old SS. The other is Jose Guerrero an 18 year old pitcher, he is Vlad’s nephew and Gregory’s brother. Greg will sign July 2 for around 2 million or a little more.

Mike M: How would you describe Gregory as a player to someone that has never seen him play?

Matt H: Really quick feet, arm is better than any 16 year old I’ve seen. Hits for HR power. Plays a lot like Jose Reyes that’s who he models himself after. Extremely athletic kid and has been putting on a lot of weight in muscle.

Mike M: With the Mets already signing two kids from the Academy and rumored to have signed Greg, it seems they have a good relationship with the Academy.Can you comment on the last time the Mets had scouts have been down there and how many times they have seen Greg play?

Matt H: Yeah the Mets are great. They come often, but a lot if teams do as well so I wouldn’t say they come more than anyone else. They would come maybe once every month and a half or so. They’ve seen everyone play a lot. they are a great group of scouts and we do have a good relationship.

Mike M: Seems like every year there are more and more talented 16 year olds coming from the Dominican, how have things changed in that regard? 

Matt H: They dedicate their lives to baseball, like I said no school. It’s the only way out of poverty. MLB teams have flooded a ton of money into the DR these days.

Mike M: How do you think the inevitable international draft will affect these kids and the academies?

Matt H: I don’t think the draft is as close as everyone thinks. Scouts don’t like it, trainers in the DR don’t like it, and teams don’t particularly like it. Kids certainly hate it because that’s 2 more years to wait to help their families. I think they need a better education process put into place and that’s one of MLB’s goals, I think that will weigh into their decision. 

Mike M: Are PEDs still a significant issue in the Dominican?

Matt H: Yes, PEDs and lying about ages is still a huge problem.

Mike M: What do academies like Guerrero do to combat these two big issues?

Matt H: Having kids you trust and know. I mean the whole birth certificates, etc. are hard to figure out. You don’t want kids who lie because the scouts won’t trust anyone if you have one bad situation.

Mike M: What have Rafael Valdez and Jose Guerrero been doing since they signed with the Mets last year? Can you give me some info on what both of their strengths are as players?

Matt H: They have been at the academy in Boca Chica (Mets Dominican Academy) all but a few months. They both signed for like 40,000 so they aren’t exactly mega prospects. Jose has been improving fast though hits low 90s on his fastball, has good control. 

Mike M: What’s the likelihood of players that sign for that small of a bonus making it to the U.S. to play affiliated ball?

Matt H: I mean only 3 percent of all players who sign ever make the big leagues. If they don’t make it out of the Dominican in three summers their career is usually over.

Mike M: How does Gregory compare to Vlad Jr.?

Matt H: They are best friends so are enjoying going through this together. Vlad has more power obviously, but Greg is a way better fielder and has a way better arm in the infield and is faster. 

Mike M: How excited is Greg to sign his deal and play in the U.S.?

Matt H: He’s ready to go, very excited to work hard and keep moving up. Where ever he signs. 

Matt is currently back in the U.S. trying to decide between a few agencies to become an agent. He said he will be heading back to the Dominican soon and will talk to me again around July 2nd which is International Signing Day.

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MMO Exclusive: MiLB.com’s Jake Seiner on Matz, Nimmo, Syndergaard, Conforto http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/04/mmo-exclusive-milb-coms-jake-seiner-on-matz-nimmo-syndergaard-conforto.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/04/mmo-exclusive-milb-coms-jake-seiner-on-matz-nimmo-syndergaard-conforto.html/#comments Fri, 10 Apr 2015 14:04:15 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=178615 matt reynolds steven matz

On Wednesday evening, I had the pleasure of sitting down with minor league reporter and analyst Jake Seiner of MilB.com. Seiner covers the entire minor leagues very closely, but  agreed to keep our discussion limited to the Mets and we mainly discussed the teams top prospects as featured on the MMO Top 25 for the 2015 season. So, without further ado, here’s the full transcript from my interview with Jake. Please enjoy…

Quinn B: One general question before we get to the Mets. Yoan Moncada and Hector Oliviera are examples of recent Cuban prospects who received 30M+ signing bonuses. Still, the best American baseball players can only earn up to 8M through the draft. Do you see an international draft coming in the near future?

mmo exclusiveJake Seiner: The one thing new commissioner Rob Manfred seems set on is creating a single entry point for all amateur players, which makes a lot of sense if you’re Major League Baseball, but also presents a ton of hurdles. The detail involved in implementing an international draft is sort of mind blowing, when you think about working with all the governments and acquiring the visas and birth certificates, etc. I think that’s one thing that gets underplayed in all this discussion: MLB will find a way to make an international draft happen if it wants — and I think it does –  but it’s going to be a massive undertaking to set up. My bet is something is coming, but don’t be surprised if it’s a gradual process or takes more than a year or two to put in place. Then again, the international market is much more Ben Badler’s beat, so he’s really the guy to ask.

Quinn B: Dillon Gee beat out Rafael Montero for the Mets 5th starter role. Do you think that was the right move for the Mets? Do you see Montero as a starter long-term or a reliever?

Jake Seiner: I don’t think you lose much by trying Gee out in the rotation first. I’m not sure I’d definitively take Montero over Gee, but I’d lean that way, ceteris paribus. That said, I think Montero profiles in the bullpen better than Gee, and giving the veteran first cracks to start is probably a good move for clubhouse management on Terry Collins‘ part.

I do think Montero should be given the chance to start in the Majors at some point. He wasn’t at his sharpest when he made his debut last year. He definitely has another level beyond the guy who posted an 87 ERA+. Is that next level a legitimate MLB starter? I’m not sure, but I think it’s close enough that you want to find out at some point. That time doesn’t have to be this April, though, and I think Montero has enough feel for pitching that he’ll handle jumping between rotation and bullpen better than most. So, right move? Maybe. Reasonable one? I definitely think so.

Quinn B: If you were Sandy Alderson, would you feel more comfortable with Travis d’Arnaud or Kevin Plawecki as your catcher of the future?

Jake Seiner: I’m not sure Alderson is ever actually going to have to choose. Catchers are tough to keep healthy, and having two guys who can start at the Major League level is a conundrum most GMs and managers would welcome. I think this one works itself out either way. If d’Arnaud is outstanding out the gate this year, I think you’re fine to let Plawecki marinade for most or all of 2015 in Triple-A, then let him break in as d’Arnaud’s backup in 2016 — that’s an ideal way for most catchers to break in, regardless of prospect status. If d’Arnaud struggles this year, maybe Plawecki comes up a bit earlier and takes the reigns and d’Arnaud falls into a backup role. The point at which Alderson needs to make a call to keep one and trade the other doesn’t come up this year. If d’Arnaud breaks out as a no-doubt first-division starter this year, then Plawecki is probably expendable if he brings back MLB pieces, but he’s not a must-move at that point. It’d be totally reasonable to break him in as a backup and make that decision in 2017 or ’18 if he really hits.

Quinn B: Wally Backman claimed Steven Matz is a better prospect than Noah Syndergaard. Do you agree? And what do you think are the respective ceilings for both starters?

Jake Seiner: I’ll still take Syndergaard based on track record, but I see what Backman sees. On his best day, Matz looks every bit the stud that Syndergaard is. The difference for me is that Syndergaard has been that guy for much longer. If you’re talking pure stuff and ceiling though, yeah, I don’t think Backman is off base. Either could become a legit No. 2 starter, if not a little more.

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Quinn B: What kind of players do you think Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmon will look like at the major league level, and how soon can we expect to see them in Queens?

Jake Seiner: Nimmo fascinates me. He has a really unique approach, especially considering his background. For many first-round picks, the one thing they know how to do almost preternaturally is crush fat pitches. If you’re trying to get noticed out of Wyoming of all places, crushing BP homers seems like a good way to do it. Many prospects start out with that powerful, BP swing in place, then they refine their game from there. Nimmo is the total opposite.

His pitch recognition is above average and his ability to barrel balls while behind in the count is incredible. But if he’s sitting on a 2-0 fastball and gets it, he doesn’t consistently drive the ball with authority like you want from an elite prospect. I’m not sure he has that swing in him.

He’s one of the best in the Minors at hitting behind in the count, but has a long way to go learning to hit when ahead. I don’t have any feel for how prospects like that develop. I’d hedge on him becoming a second-division starter who can play all three outfield spots.

Conforto I actually don’t have a whole lot on other than what others have written. Seems like opinions on his bat varied around draft time — I think Keith Law had him as one of the two or three best sticks in the draft, while others thought he was more of a late first-round talent. The Mets could use a few more power bats in the system, though, so I think his profile fills something of a need — not that I support drafting for need.

Quinn B: Is Matthew Bowman minor league filler, a bullpen candidate, or a legitimate starting pitching prospect in your eyes?

Jake Seiner: I want to see him get a shot at starting. Like with Montero, I’m not 100 percent on him as a starter, but it’s a good enough chance that I’d want to see him fail in the rotation before relegating him to the bullpen. That said, opportunity could be tough to come by, and the profile isn’t so enticing that you wouldn’t make him a reliever now if it’d help you make the playoffs.

I’d let him start in Triple-A for a while this year, try to get a better read on what it is you have in Bowman and what the big league team will need this year. Maybe he shows you he’s a no-doubt starting pitcher, and then it’s a matter of finding a spot for him. If his role is still questionable by midseason and the team is competing, then you use him wherever he fits best and ride with it. If the team isn’t hunting for the playoffs, you let him get more Triple-A innings and continue to evaluate. That’s usually how these things work out.

Quinn B: What’s your opinion of Matt Reynolds? Can he be a starting shortstop at the major league level?

Jake Seiner: I think the ceiling is a second-division starter, but much more likely he’s an excellent utility piece on a good team. The hit tool is good, but not good enough for him to thrive with his current power. I’d expect an 85-90 OPS+ type guy whose maybe an average defender at shortstop in his peak. That’s a slightly below average starter, but a really useful bench guy since he can play a bunch of positions.

Quinn B: What can we expect out of Cesar Puello this season? Does he still have the tools to be a starting outfielder?

Jake Seiner: He’s looked like a probable fourth outfielder every year except for 2013, and that was his Biogenesis season, so it’s a real question whether he can cleanly replicate that. I’d wager he carves out an MLB career bouncing around as a bench outfielder.

Quinn B: Which Mets prospect would say is most likely to outperform expectations?

Jake Seiner: Not sure I have a good sleeper for the Mets’ system, actually. I’ve been aboard the Marcos Molina bandwagon since I saw him a few times in Brooklyn last year, and I think he could be a top 100 prospect by year’s end. But I think that might be an expectation for a lot of people, so I’m probably picking a pretty sturdy limb to stand on with him.

Quinn B: Conversely, which player is most likely to bust as a major leaguer?

Jake Seiner: I’d take Nimmo in my farm system in a heartbeat and think he’s an excellent prospect, but as I mentioned before, I really don’t know what he is if he doesn’t become a better 2-0 hitter. I worry that what happens if Major League pitchers just pound him with inside heat and that he doesn’t have the swing and approach to stop them. I still think there’s a better chance he adjusts than doesn’t, but I guess my uneasiness with that profile probably makes him a good answer for this question.

Quinn B: Lastly, which team do you think will have more wins over the next five seasons, the Mets or Yankees?

Jake Seiner: I’ll take the Mets. Yankees have a lot of money and playing time committed to aging assets and I’m not all that enamored with the players they’re counting on to age well, like Tanaka and Headley. The Yankees have the money and prospects to where they’ll probably be able to field competitive teams the next five years, but I have more faith in the Mets and their pitching depth right now. Plus, there aren’t any Yankees blogs lining up to have me chat as a guest.

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Where Are They Now: Catching Up With John Maine http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/04/where-are-they-now-catching-up-with-john-maine.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/04/where-are-they-now-catching-up-with-john-maine.html/#comments Sun, 05 Apr 2015 13:15:13 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=178063 700.hq

Baseball players tend to disappear after retirement. Without the spotlight of national media, or admiration of thousands of fans, they fade back into mainstream society. They leave only memories, and their absence from the game makes it easy to forget that these guys we watched on TV are still real people. My mission is to make fans remember these forgotten players by having them talk to us and answer our burning question, “Where are they now?”

Today I chatted with former pitcher John Maine, one of the few Mets of the millenium who remembers playoff baseball in Flushing. Here he is, reflecting on his time with the team.

mmo exclusiveNoah: What was your favorite memory from your time with the Mets?

John: Probably the playoffs in 2006. Pitching in the playoffs no matter where you are is an experience, but doing it in New York City; that was pretty awesome. Even in 2007 and 2008, where we ultimately lost out, but we were in the thick of it, we played a lot of exciting, wire to wire “every game matters” baseball. That was a lot of fun.

Noah: Are there any specific games or moments that stick out in your mind?

John: If I had to boil it down to one specific moment, I guess I would say game 6 of the NLCS. We were down 3-2 in the series and if we lost, we would have been done for the season. But we won, forcing a game 7, that was very exciting.

Another one would be my last start (the second to last game) of the 2007 season against the Marlins where I almost had a no-hitter. That again was a do or die game that we had to win, and I’m glad that I had the opportunity to pitch.

Noah: Was there any player or coach who shaped you not just as a baseball player, but as an individual as well?

John: Rick Peterson was my first pitching coach in New York and he shaped me as both a pitcher and as an individual. I learned a lot from him, not just about pitching mechanics, but also about the mental aspect of baseball. Of course that helped me out a lot with pitching, but more importantly, it helped me in life. Everything is a mental game, it’s how you prepare for things and how you deal with stuff thrown in your path. It’s really given me a better outlook on life.

I also had the pleasure of playing with Tom Glavine, Pedro Martinez, and Billy Wagner. All guys with loads of big league experience, I learned a ton about pitching and baseball from them.

Noah: You also played under Willie Randolph, a manager that Mets fans didn’t always appreciate because of his reserved nature. What was he like behind closed doors?

John: Willie was a player’s coach. He would come up to you and he was personable, he was willing to discuss things that were bothering you, not necessarily about baseball. He had an open door to his office and he always wanted to talk with his players and get to know them not just as players, but as people too.

I understand that in New York, fans like coaches that get fired up, but that doesn’t always translate into combining successful players to make a successful team. I think Willie handled New York perfectly and I really enjoyed him as a manager.

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Noah: What have you done since moving on from professional baseball?

John: After I was released by the Marlins in 2013 (after two shoulder surgeries) I realized that I wasn’t the same pitcher and I wasn’t going to embarrass myself on the field so I decided to retire. Now I have two young girls, and I get the pleasure to stay home and watch them grow up. I also moved down south after I retired. I went to school at UNC Charlotte and I started helping out with coaching the pitchers on the baseball team.

Noah: What do you see in this current Mets team? How far do you see them going this year?

John: Honestly, I haven’t kept up with much baseball at all, let alone the Mets. From what I see, they have a young team, and their pitching is outstanding, from top to bottom. Whenever a team has good pitching, they’re always going to be in it, contending. I think the Mets will also be helped by a division that is a little less stacked than in the past. They’ll be competitive, they still have guys that can hit too. For what it’s worth, I hope they do well because I actually grew up as a Mets fan, I really want them to win.

Noah: One of those guys that can still hit is David Wright. You played with him back when he was just two years into his major league career, and back then he was just a piece of a very talented team, now he is the leader of an equally talented team. Could you talk about his maturation into a leader?

John: David was with the Mets before me, but when he came up, he was obviously a stud. He’s a big name, one of the best players in baseball. I think that one of the best things about the Mets was that there were a lot of guys with 10 or 15 years of experience. He got to learn from guys that handled themselves the right way. Guys like Glavine, Carlos Delgado, and Pedro Martinez all practiced and played the right way. In addition they were also great clubhouse presences. As those older guys started to leave, David became the face of the team, the longest tenured Met, and he is now teaching the younger players now how to conduct themselves, how to properly do things at the stadium. He’s really taken on a mentor role.

Noah: If you could share any message with Mets fans today, what would it be?

John: I wish I was still playing and I wish that I did better in my time with the Mets. I don’t have any regrets, I worked hard, but I really wish that I could have been a better player.

Noah: Lastly, what was it like to hit a homerun at Shea Stadium?

John: It was pretty cool. I didn’t hit in college, didn’t hit when I got drafted by the Orioles, so when I was traded to the Mets, I hadn’t picked up a bat in seven years. Needless to say, I was God awful when I first started swinging at the plate. Still, I worked at it, and I got to be decent. I guess anybody who goes up to bat swinging can run into one, and that’s what I did. To be honest, I thought that it was going to be a pop fly to the left fielder. But I heard the crowd roar and saw the umpire circling his finger in the air, and I realized that I just homered.

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MMO Exclusive: Hardball With Baseball Maverick Author Steve Kettmann http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/04/mmo-exclusive-hardball-with-baseball-maverick-author-steve-kettmann.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/04/mmo-exclusive-hardball-with-baseball-maverick-author-steve-kettmann.html/#comments Thu, 02 Apr 2015 10:00:28 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=177858 sandy alderson

Here is an MMO exclusive interview with Steve Kettmann, author of the new Sandy Alderson bio, Baseball Maverick.  We thank Steve for his graciousness and generosity in answering our questions. He is by all accounts a very busy man but still managed to make time for us. I tried to pick and choose questions on some of the more interesting aspects of the book without sacrificing Steve’s particular insight on a few issues that go beyond the book’s purview — particularly as he is a seasoned journalist and we don’t often have the ear of an industry insider. Hope you enjoy the interview.

mmo exclusiveMatt Balasis (MMO): Steve, in Chapter 5 you talk about some of the antecedents of Sandy Alderson’s statistical approach. You mention Bill James and Eric Walker as influences, however you point out how Sandy drew on his own experiences as a fan, embracing Earl Weaver’s “get people on base and hit a three run homer” strategy. I find this interesting because we all have formative influences as fans and for many Mets fans Earl Weaver’s power approach clearly had its limitations. 1969 comes to mind. The Mets’ NL heritage is rooted more in Whitey Herzog’s small-ball approach and an overwhelming dose of pitching. In light of how ill-suited the Mets appeared in their own home confines in recent years, was there ever any discussion that you know of about how the Earl Weaver approach was maybe a poor fit? The Mets at times looked like a band-box team playing in a pitcher’s park.

Steve Kettmann: Hence the choice to move in the fences at Citi Field not once but twice. Alderson has always emphasized pitching. You think of his A’s teams and what comes to mind? A loaded lineup, sure, but also Dave Stewart and Bob Welch and Dennis Eckersley. One of the things that came through in my research was the extent to which Alderson did not develop a new offensive philosophy as he delved deeper into statistical analysis, he merely found a vocabulary to articulate what he already believed. Eric Walker told me he didn’t think Alderson’s basic philosophy shifted much over the years at all. So Alderson, talking to me, compared the Weaver approach to the bunt-‘em-over small ball of Gene Mauch and then dismissed that as a viable option, saying, “Baloney! You get a couple guys on and hit a bomb. That’s how you win games.” That’s the Alderson view. No one who writes about baseball for a living is ever inclined to make too much of spring training – they’re just practice games – but compared to last year, it’s interesting to see that the Mets this spring have relied on the long ball to win. Going into Wednesday’s games, they were third in homers as a team with 38, behind only the Dodgers and Cubs, and at 18-11, first in the Grapefruit League.

Matt Balasis (MMO): On the subject of steroids and their effects, given this front office’s statistical predilections, have there been any efforts to your knowledge to establish post-steroid era norms?

Steve Kettmann: I’m not sure that we have entered a “post-steroid” era or that we ever will. The cheaters are smarter and more sophisticated now than they were, and juicing is less prevalent; we’d be naive to think it no longer occurs.

Matt Balasis (MMO): Any insight on how very little love appears to be lost between Alderson and Boras? Is it just a personality thing or is there more to it? On page 243, did Boras try to undermine Sandy Alderson by talking directly to Jeff Wilpon? Did Jeff Wilpon rebuff the breach in protocol? Anything else you can tell us here?

Steve Kettmann: If the word we’re using is “love,” you have to work pretty hard to find people in baseball – other than his clients – who “love” Boras or are “loved” by him. We’re talking about a man who has clearly internalized Machiavelli’s dictum that there is “greater security in being feared than in being loved.” I actually think he and Alderson have a good relationship; they are two strong figures who know just how much they are willing to take from someone else, and I think each enjoys watching the other operate.

Boras is well known for going around general managers and trying to deal with owners whenever possible. Why not? He’s the most powerful agent in the game, he might as well leverage that status when and if he can. His effort to go around Alderson and straight to ownership on Stephen Drew was not successful; I think that fact speaks to a strong working relationship between Alderson and the Wilpons. I’d also point out: Good move by the Mets not to sign Drew.

Matt Balasis (MMO): On page 135 you talk about Alderson creating a new culture and rebranding the Mets, was there ever any discussion about alienating a fan-base that already felt slighted over Citi Field’s Dodger-themed homage to Ebbets, and how for many fans there was already a Mets culture in place apparently unbeknownst to ownership?

baseball maverickSteve Kettmann: I think it was important Fred Wilpon admitted that mistakes were made when it came to designing Citi Field. “All the Dodger stuff – that was an error of judgment on my part,” he told The New Yorker in May 2011. Those choices predated Alderson joining the Mets in late 2010. Safe to say, though, that there are unending discussions in the Mets front office about how to engage the Mets’ fan base and have those people feeling excited about the team – and connected with Mets history. Going into the 2015 season, there are indications on numerous fronts that they’re on their way to doing that, but we all know it comes down to wins and losses in the regular season – and to appearances in the playoffs. When Alderson flew down to Virginia in late 2012 to play golf with David Wright and discuss the future of the team, it was in a sense as if Wright was serving as a spokesman for the fans: He wanted to know that the team had a plan to become a force again, not just to make a dip into the playoffs every few years, but to become a fixture there. That is the goal toward which Alderson and his assistants have been working and even doubters are starting to think they’re now on track. I’ve taken some flak for the second verb in the subtitle of my book, “How Sandy Alderson Revolutionized Baseball and Revived the Mets,” but I stand by it 100 percent, as I explained in a recent New York Daily News article. – I do think the Mets are revived.

Matt Balasis (MMO): In chapter 10 you talk about Selig’s nod to Alderson as Mets GM … I don’t want to read into this too much, but between the MLB loan extended to the Wilpons, the Madoff mess, and Ownership’s debt burden, was Selig’s “approval” of Alderson more of an offer the Wilpons couldn’t refuse? If I’m the Wilpons at this juncture I wouldn’t want to do anything to get on Selig’s bad side.

Steve Kettmann: Fred Wilpon and Bud Selig go way, way back, as Selig reminded me when I interviewed him for the book. They are not just work friends, but personal friends, and their families are close as well. Fred Wilpon could not get on Selig’s bad side at this point even if he tried. Also, Fred Wilpon is not a man who does things because someone else demands that he do so. Selig took an interest because the franchise was in trouble. It needed help. Alderson was a good fit. As John Ricco, the Mets GM at the time, told me for the book, it was widely assumed that the job was Alderson’s if he wanted it, his qualifications were that strong.

Matt Balasis (MMO): The beginning of Chapter 11 is one of my favorite parts of the book. It gives the reader a brief but lucid insight into a media landscape rarely seen … your language takes on a passionate and forceful elocution in discussing how the industry has in a sense degenerated into a banal and obtuse transfer medium for wholesale sports information. Peddling quotes, statistics, salary figures, and rankings, appears to take up the bulk of exchanges in most press-boxes that I’ve been privy to, with only an occasional substantive exchange – almost always involving an older established journalist, someone like Patrick Reusse. It’s as if any thought provoking feature would be too long on the attention span to survive the cut in this age of instantaneous information. Where do you see the industry going in the next 10, 15, 20 years?

Steve Kettmann: A funny thing about that passage: I wrote it on my laptop sitting in a bar at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, right in the middle of that crazy, garish scene I describe, so it captured my perspective at the time. I was a little surprised when I showed up in San Diego this past December for the most recent version of the winter meetings, and found a much different sort of dynamic. Partly that was just that Mets people were all in a great mood, feeling like the team was in the best shape it had been in for years. But everywhere I went, there was a lot of energy and excitement, a great vibe. That had to do with the spectacular setting near the beach in Southern California, but also, I think, reflected more comfort with the new realities. Social media is here to stay. Twitter matters. I myself had avoided Twitter, but that visit to San Diego shifted my thinking: if you wanted to know what was going on, you followed the Twitter feeds of people like Ken Rosenthal, Jon Heyman and Buster Olney. Now, I don’t love everything about Twitter. It still cracks me up when someone tweets to me – at @stevekettmann – “If you can’t explain your book in one tweet, I won’t buy it” or some such: Books take time, time to open up actual insight. So to get back to your question, it’s my view that books will play an ever more important role in the discussion on sports. Twitter is pushing all media toward quicker attention spans; books hold down the other end, offering more story-telling, more insight into the people who make sports happen, and simply a more considered view. I think books – and ventures like Derek Jeter’s publishing enterprise – will matter more and more.

Matt Balasis (MMO): In the chapter “Come On, Blue!” you talk about the depth and quality of Mets pitching. In light of the organization’s vested interest in protecting their pitching assets, have there been any discussions to your knowledge on incidence and prevention of UCL injuries? Surely it must occur to this front office that an effective protocol which could mitigate risk factors and head off injury would give the originating team a colossal advantage.

Steve Kettmann: I wrote a piece for Wired back in 2002 on “The Science of Pitching, Redux” – looking at the Oakland A’s attempts to be smart in preventing injuries to pitchers. But you know what? A’s pitchers still got hurt. The Mets organization certainly has pondered this question at length, and I believe we will see more innovations relating to individualized regimens for every player in the organization, focusing on diet and nutrition, stretching, weight lifting and mental health and mental-strength conditioning. Too often in old-school baseball the notion was that everyone did the same drills, the same stretching, the same weight work – and if it was hard for some of them, well they ought to toughen up. I expect the Mets to move in this direction in a big way.

Matt Balasis (MMO): There’s been a lot of speculation about why so little attention was focused on the Wilpons. Yes the book is about Sandy Alderson, but one question that many Mets fans have is whether a lot of the stories that have been floated over the years about the Wilpons are true. In particular Jeff Wilpon has often been painted as difficult and meddlesome. Was this ever an issue for Sandy? Many have openly speculated that one of the reasons Alderson was recommended for the position by the Commissioner was precisely because he had the clout and bearing to resist tampering from sources outside of his baseball operations department … would you concur?

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Steve Kettmann: Is Jeff Wilpon sometimes difficult? Of course he is. Is Sandy Alderson sometimes difficult? Of course he is. Is Fred Wilpon sometimes difficult? Of course he is. One thing we all know – fans, media, book authors – about each of these three individuals is that they all badly want to win and hate losing. They might not show that with Steinbrenner-style tantrums, but not everyone craves drama the way he did. Alderson told me that far and away the toughest part of the job of GM is having to deal with the sting that each loss brings. The view from the outside may cast each of these three at times as aloof and above it all, but when it comes to being frustrated over a loss, or a losing season, most fans would be amazed to know how similar the reactions of the Wilpons and Alderson are to their own. That’s my honest take on it. The Wilpons hired Alderson because it made sense, and they’ve given him the time to change the culture of the organization and instill a new attitude. To do that, he needed the standing of having been in the game for years. Alderson has built up a lot of respect. There’s a reason why he heads baseball’s rules committee. I laugh when people – perhaps just reading the title – take shots at the book for trying to build Alderson up as a genius. Alderson is no genius. He’s a smart guy and a good leader who has been shaped by a fascinating and diverse series of life experiences, from working for the CIA briefly when he was young to having a press pass as a credentialed war correspondent during the Vietnam War to showing up in the Oakland A’s front office just in time to witness the genius of Billy Martin. My focus in the book is on a biographical study of a figure I see as being interesting partly because he’s unique, and partly because he strikes me as a kind of everyman, someone who could easily have wound up in any number of other careers. It just so happens that through his own experiences in the game, from the 1980s to now, Alderson’s life provides a window into the evolution of baseball. That’s my larger subject in the book, and I hope readers who take the time to give the book a careful reading will, by the time they’ve come to the last page, enjoy that panoramic aspect of the book.

Matt Balasis (MMO): You mention the peanut gallery in chapter 18. There seems to be a lot of discontent in comment boards across the Mets blogosphere, much of it divided into two camps, the anti-Alderson contingent and the Alderson apologists, I’m not sure I can remember a time when Mets fans were more divided on a GM. Why do you think this particular GM has been so polarizing?

Steve Kettmann: I defer to your greater sense of the Mets fan base, but from where I sit, it was amazing that Alderson’s insistence on a patient approach to rebuilding has been accepted and supported by as many fans as it has. No fan wants to defer until tomorrow the pleasures of rooting for their team with the hope of winning the World Series. They want immediate results. Instead they’ve had to be patient – especially when Matt Harvey’s injury pushed everything back a year. They’ve had to deal with a “Groundhog Day” sense that this rebuilding effort was taking forever. Of course some frustration with Alderson has come through. That’s what happens when the team does not win. Did Steve Phillips have both his advocates and detractors among fans? He sure did. Did Omar Minaya? He sure did. What’s polarizing is losing. Fans seem excited by the potential of this year’s Mets and buoyed by the team’s performance this spring – and maybe you’d disagree, but what I’m seeing from sportswriters is a sense that this team has a good shot at being ready to compete from Opening Day. Keep in mind that the last two seasons, the Mets did well late in the season; it was their early-season doldrums that sunk them and in particular a porous bullpen, which has now been upgraded significantly. So if they can improve noticeably in April, there’s reason to think that could bode well for the rest of the season.

Matt Balasis (MMO): What inspired you to write this book?

Steve Kettmann: I loved the challenge of trying to capture a complex figure and show rather than tell readers some of the chapters of his life, which offer a unique and illuminating perspective on baseball in recent decades, and having covered Alderson and Billy Beane back in the 1990s, years of observation gave me insight – and contacts – that I knew made me well equipped to tell this story. To me Sandy Alderson is an inspiring figure on several levels; this is not the sort of book clogged up with a lot of pro forma space-filler quotes, just to show one made a call and did some typing, quoting people sounding off on this or that “on the other hand” aspect of Alderson’s life in baseball. What interests me about the story is looking at the way that one experience in Alderson’s life led to another, and had an impact. He had an amazing mentor in his Oakland years in A’s president Roy Eisenhardt, a law professor, a Renaissance Man in the truest sense, and he came into baseball under the leadership of the Haas family, who got into baseball for the simple reason (slip your cynicism off at the door, please: facts are facts) that they wanted to help the community of Oakland, and that’s what they did, too, re-imagining along the way what a baseball team could be. That was an era of dynamism that I try to capture in my book, and I think anyone who reads it can’t help but get caught up in some of the excitement, the same sort of excitement that one feels nowadays visiting Google. (That’s no metaphor – Google is an hour from my front door and I am always amazed at the energy of the place when I visit.) Alderson has always been about working with others and trying to get the best out of them; in Oakland, he was lucky to have some great people around and that made him better at what he did. Later, he passed that on to Billy Beane and others. It’s my belief, and that of many, that in this passing on to others, a revolution in baseball was set in motion. That to me is a lively story line for the reader to follow. I hope I’ve done some justice to it here.

New York Mets v Arizona Diamondbacks

Matt Balasis (MMO): The 2014 Mets seemed to follow a pattern of blowing an opponent out then losing a bunch of close ones. There was this perception that they should have been better than their record. On page 285 you discuss Pythagorean win theorem and run differential and in Hanging by a Thread you reveal that Alderson was at one point considering cutting Collins loose. Given the fact that 2015 is shaping up to be a make or break year for the organization, why do you think he decided to stick with Collins?

Steve Kettmann: Terry Collins has learned from his mistakes to become a manager who is very good at staying connected to his players. He’s done good work in leading the team forward and earned the right to get a shot at winning this season. That’s Alderson’s view, and it’s one that many others, myself included, share. Yes, there were frustrations last year and I think anyone who reads that chapter will get a good look at some of the things that happen behind the scenes that fans do not hear about. But its importance also shouldn’t be overstated. That was one flare-up in tension over a long season, and in general Alderson and Collins clearly have a good rapport. They both know that if the team struggles in 2015, it’s on them – and there will be consequences.

Matt Balasis (MMO): To this day, Alderson’s greatest claim to fame is his transformative approach to market inefficiencies in Oakland which enabled him to construct competitive teams on some very limited payrolls. Establishing a successful franchise in baseball’s largest market on a proverbial dime would open a lot of eyes given the staggering profit margin at stake in NY. Do you believe there may be an opportunistic “small-marketization” experiment being conducted in our midst largely orchestrated by forces in MLB ownership who would trumpet a paradigm of big market contention achieved on a limited budget? It’s no secret that Selig bemoaned big market spending trends … with Sandy Alderson (knowingly or not) spearheading the effort, a low budget contender in a big market could set quite a precedent. Do you think there may be any substance to this?

Steve Kettmann: Actually, the Oakland A’s teams under Alderson in the 1980s and into the early 1990s were high payroll teams. They won the World Series in 1989 with a payroll of $17.5 million, which was fifth in baseball that year, behind only the Mets ($21.2 million), Dodgers ($21.1 million), Red Sox ($19 million) and Yankees ($18.4 million). Alderson’s greatest claim to fame in those years was probably not even winning the World Series, but pulling off the feat of having three straight Rookies of the Year in Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire and Walter Weiss. Alderson would love to repeat that run in New York, starting with 2014 Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom. In other words, for all the justifiable attention paid to Alderson’s belief in advanced statistical analysis, he looks to scouting and player development as a crucial part of the project of turning the Mets back into consistent winners. Major League Baseball needs to have at least one exciting, strong team in New York and the Yankees have had a nice run, but look to be in for a time of transition. Baseball needs the Mets to make some playoff runs and help boost October ratings, which have been sagging. I think that concern trumps any desire to slow down runaway spending – and I myself would love to see the Mets in the playoffs, Matt Harvey starting Game 1, Juan Lagares making a flying catch in the gap to rob a hitter, the imagination just keeps spinning. Any sportswriter who is honest will admit that yes, we in the press box do root – we root for story lines. A Mets’ return to postseason baseball would be a great story line.

A few brief reflections:

I have to say, I was a little floored by Steve’s thoughtful and comprehensive attention to my questions. He’s confirmed some of our suspicions about Scott Boras, and his answer to the steroid question was almost ominous. I found his response to question 6 on the direction of the industry enlightening — I agree that there is a polarization of sorts in the media with the instantaneous and the comprehensive drawing a higher share of focus at the extremes. Hopefully books like Kettmann’s will continue to offer the breadth and depth that more complex topics demand.

I wanted to mention also that Alderson as a kind of everyman is a perception I share … Sandy granted me an interview a couple of years back in the midst of a blizzard in Minnesota without questioning my credentials or affiliation which was a surprise to say the least, but his passion for the team was palpable. I think a lot of fans focus on “results” and fail to appreciate how difficult changing an organization’s culture is — the book really brings this out. It’s not just about Alderson the man but his influence on those around him. As a former Marine myself I admit there may be some bias here but I’ll take it if it engenders some insight on my part, which I think it does … Alderson’s bearing, confidence, intellect, and passion embody many of the traits that make Marines, Marines … So yes, I admit, I’ve been rooting for the guy because I know how transformative good leadership can be, and because I want sustained Met success, not a flash-in-the-pan one year thrill ride.

As far as the raised eyebrows over the “revived” language on the book’s cover … I’ve come to see Steve’s point. The Mets are revived in a very important sense, namely the groundwork for sustained success is there. I agree with Verducci and Kettmann and others that this team should be competitive. I’ve said it before — they almost have to be successful at some point given the talent build-up in the minors — Baseball is still a young man’s game and pitching wins championships … the Mets are well positioned in both respects.

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Featured Post: Keith Law Talks Mets Prospects With MMO http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/02/mmo-exclusive-interview-with-espns-keith-law.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/02/mmo-exclusive-interview-with-espns-keith-law.html/#comments Sun, 08 Feb 2015 00:36:47 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=173997 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.

jeff-fred-wilpon

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?

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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: Talking Mets With Best-Selling Author Jeff Pearlman http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/02/mmo-exclusive-talking-mets-with-best-selling-author-jeff-pearlman.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/02/mmo-exclusive-talking-mets-with-best-selling-author-jeff-pearlman.html/#comments Wed, 04 Feb 2015 16:59:51 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=174283 Here is an interview I conduced with author and Sports Illustrated columnist Jeff Pearlman, who wrote the New York Times bestselling book on the New York Mets, “The Bad Guys Won”. The book is a must read and is available at Amazon.com. Enjoy.

the bad guys wonMMO – The Mets came out like gangbusters this offseason and signed Michael Cuddyer to a two year, $21 million dollar contract as soon as free agency started. However aside from picking up a bat for the bench, it ended up being all they did. Did they do enough to win 89 games as Sandy Alderson said on MLB Network, and is this a team that will be playing October baseball as the manager and players are saying?

Jeff – No. They remain a bad team with some good young pitching. But that wasn’t much of a splash, and you have a franchise player (David Wright) in decline, a painfully sub-mediocre lineup and a thin bench. Eighty nine losses are much more likely. Bummer.

MMO – The Mets currently have six very capable MLB starters for their rotation, plus three more top pitching prospect who are MLB ready – or close to it – in the minors. It is often said that you can never have enough pitching, and Sandy reiterated that on Monday. He’s been getting a lot of heat for not moving one of his pitching prospects to fill a glaring need at shortstop. Is he doing the right thing by hanging onto all this pitching depth?

Jeff – No, they need offense, they need a shortstop. Right now they’re dealing from a position of pure strength—because potential is the most enticing drug in sports. Of those six pitchers, how many are truly going to become great? Not just Bobby Jones or Craig Swan, but legitimate 15-to-20-game winners? Maybe two—max. But we don’t know. No one knows. So trade now, and hope you’ve peddled the right ones.

MMO – Can you draw any comparisons between the 1986 Mets team that your best-selling book was based on and this Mets team? Are there any similarities in makeup, style, philosophy, etc.?

Jeff - Honestly, I see none. That was a very special and unique cast of characters. This is a so-so Met team playing in a blah era.

MMO – Give me a preseason prediction. Who are the three division winners in the NL and your two wild cards.

Jeff – Nationals, Pirates, Dodgers, (WC: Cardinals Giants)

MMO – If the Mets could do one thing better than they showed last season, aside from winning more games, what should they work on improving?

Jeff - You touched on it, but they need a competent shortstop in the worst way imaginable. It’s not a singular skill, but it’s a gaping hole that has sat there, oozing and open, since Jose Reyes left.

MMO – Is Terry Collins the manager to lead this team to the postseason? Give me your thoughts on him as a manager.

Jeff – I honestly think Terry Collins has done wonders with a shit roster. I’m not saying he’s Joe Torre, but look what he’s been handed. A bunch of young pitchers and a brutal offense. What do people expect of him? Seriously? As for the playoffs—I doubt it. Because I think, by the All-Star break, Wally Backman is managing.

MMO – Speaking of, why is Wally Backman still toiling in the minors and do you think we’ll ever see him as a major league skipper someday, perhaps even guiding the Mets?

Jeff – Wally is a great guy and a motivational manager who’s had some legit success. But the whole domestic violence thing has plagued him. He’s also a bit unpredictable—chasing down reporters after games in indy ball, etc. So … it’s been hard. But he’d be perfect for a young team like the Mets. Kids listen to him.

MMO – The Madoff situation is in the rear view mirror (so they say) and It’s been 5 years since Alderson replaced Minaya. Did the Mets finally fix their image problem?

Jeff – No. They fix it when they’re good. Madoff was brutal, but it’d be significantly less brutal had the team been winning 95 games a year.

MMO – Ken Rosenthal pointed some sharp criticism at Mets ownership last month, calling their bottom 10 payroll an embarrassment for a team in MLB’s number one market. Fair or foul?

Jeff – 100% fair. If you’re gonna charge this much for tickets, parking, food, etc, and you’re playing in New York, you can at least spend money on players and try to win.

MMO – Who will be this season’s biggest free agent busts?

Jeff – No way Jon Lester can live up to the money. No possible way. I also hate the addition of Hanley Ramirez in Boston. He’s a paycheck player and a locker room fungus. Never met a player who liked him.

 MMO – Who will be the first manager to get fired in 2015?

Jeff – Terry Collins. Sorry.

MMO – Which MLB teams improved the most this offseason?

Jeff – I love what the White Sox are doing, and the Nationals are just a beast.

MMO – Thanks for your time, Jeff. Enjoy the new baseball season.

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8 Things We Learned From Keith Law http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/02/8-things-we-learned-from-keith-law.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/02/8-things-we-learned-from-keith-law.html/#comments Tue, 03 Feb 2015 16:42:52 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=174231 keith law

Last Thursday, ESPN senior baseball analyst Keith Law was kind enough to grant our own Tommy Rothman a phone interview which you can read in its entirety here.

Law, who ranked the Mets as having the fourth best farm system in the game and also included six Mets in his Top 100 prospects, discussed a great variety of topics with us and I wanted to summarize what I thought were the eight most interesting insights he shared with us.

1. The Mets Are Drafting Better

“You had the one year with scouting director Chad McDonald, 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.”

“It’s hard for me to really characterize what the draft strategy was under the Omar Minaya regime because I never really got it, 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.”

2. Not Sold On Wilmer Flores At Shortstop

“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.”

“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.”

3. Could Mets Keep Young Core Intact As They Get More Expensive?

“They’re not in Rays and A’s territory where they’re just gonna have to move everybody. 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.”

4. Still Very High On Dominic Smith

“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.”

“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.”

5. Will Mets Ever Make A Mike Piazza Type Splash Again?

“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. …If I were a Mets fan, that’s what I would be focused on. 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.”

6. Mets Shortstop Of The Future

Amed Rosario is a star, he’s in my top 100. Gavin Cecchini, he’ll play for somebody because he can play shortstop. 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.”

“Rosario 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. 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.”

7. Will Mets Be Buyers If They Are In Thick Of It?

“I think that everything they’ve done and said so far indicates that they’re not going to be buyers. 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 Wil 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.”

8. Mets Chances To Make Postseason

“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. 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.”

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MMO Exclusive: Catching Up With Mets Prospect Xorge Carrillo http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/01/mmo-exclusive-catching-up-with-mets-prospect-xorge-carrillo.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/01/mmo-exclusive-catching-up-with-mets-prospect-xorge-carrillo.html/#comments Mon, 05 Jan 2015 14:11:30 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=172610 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 http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/01/interview-with-fan-behind-mets-billboard-and-freemetsfans-campaign.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/01/interview-with-fan-behind-mets-billboard-and-freemetsfans-campaign.html/#comments Sat, 03 Jan 2015 16:31:50 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=172512 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

PLEDGE A DOLLAR AND BE HEARD!

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.

METS BILLBOARD

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.

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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 http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/12/mmo-exclusive-mets-prospect-kyle-johnson-looks-back-on-championship-season.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/12/mmo-exclusive-mets-prospect-kyle-johnson-looks-back-on-championship-season.html/#comments Sat, 20 Dec 2014 05:21:57 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=172121 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 http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/11/mmo-exclusive-mets-prospect-akeel-morris-reflects-on-breakthrough-season.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/11/mmo-exclusive-mets-prospect-akeel-morris-reflects-on-breakthrough-season.html/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 17:22:42 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=169606 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 http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/11/mmo-exclusive-i-guess-sandy-wasnt-kidding-after-all.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/11/mmo-exclusive-i-guess-sandy-wasnt-kidding-after-all.html/#comments Tue, 11 Nov 2014 16:34:01 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=169452 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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Korean Slugging Shortstop, Jung-ho Kang, To Post In December http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/11/korean-slugging-shortstop-jung-ho-kang-to-post-in-december.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/11/korean-slugging-shortstop-jung-ho-kang-to-post-in-december.html/#comments Sun, 09 Nov 2014 17:48:44 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=169736 Jung-ho kang

Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that Alan Nero, the agent for the Korean slugging shortstop Jung-ho Kang, said he anticipates his client will be posted shortly after the December Winter Meetings. He joked, “If he were Cuban, he’d get $100 million.”

MLB Trade Rumors spoke to an international scouting director who says Kang doesn’t possess any plus tools, and may profile as a utility guy with good instincts and a little bit of pop.

Sherman points out that there are concerns if Kang would be athletic enough to handle full-time play at shortstop in MLB. Regarding those concerns, Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal recently wrote that while Kang’s arm strength is widely praised, questions remain about his overall defensive capability. He adds that multiple scouts suggest that a move to either second base or third base will be necessary for Kang to secure a regular playing time.

Kang, who turns 28 next April, batted .360/.463/.756 with 33 doubles, 38 home runs, and 107 RBI in 107 games this past season for Korea. However, executives from MLB teams have been dubious about how his power will translate in the States because the competition in Korea is even more inferior than that in Japan, writes Sherman.

The Cardinals are among 6-7 teams that have reportedly shown early interest in Kang. Not sure this is someone that would have any appeal to the Mets, especially with the MLB consensus that he’ll play second or third base in the majors.

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Alderson Met With His Staff and Scouts, Now Ready To Tackle Offseason Goals http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/11/alderson-met-with-his-staff-and-scouts-now-ready-to-tackle-offseason-goals.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/11/alderson-met-with-his-staff-and-scouts-now-ready-to-tackle-offseason-goals.html/#comments Mon, 03 Nov 2014 06:00:18 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=169174 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 http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/11/sandy-alderson-sees-a-lot-of-reasons-for-optimism.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/11/sandy-alderson-sees-a-lot-of-reasons-for-optimism.html/#comments Mon, 03 Nov 2014 04:42:31 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=169030 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 http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/alderson-expects-middle-infield-to-be-in-flux-next-two-years.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/alderson-expects-middle-infield-to-be-in-flux-next-two-years.html/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 17:41:12 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=169045 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 http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/sandy-alderson-weighs-in-on-matz-conforto-plawecki-nimmo.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/sandy-alderson-weighs-in-on-matz-conforto-plawecki-nimmo.html/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 16:36:00 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=169037 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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