Mets Merized Online » NY Mets http://metsmerizedonline.com Sun, 07 Feb 2016 19:15:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.13 Greed is Good… Except If You’re A Baseball Fan http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/01/greed-is-good-except-if-youre-a-baseball-fan.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/01/greed-is-good-except-if-youre-a-baseball-fan.html/#comments Sun, 31 Jan 2016 14:25:47 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=205417 wall-street-douglas

If you’re Gordon Gekko greed is good.

If you’re Bernie Sanders greed is bad.

If you’re a baseball fan you wonder if MLB’s greed has a direct impact on winning the World Series.

Although none of us like to admit it Baseball is a business. But what happens when the desire to make a buck intrudes on the integrity of the game we all cherish? Case in point: The post-season.

I applaud MLB’s effort to prolong fan interest by adding first one wildcard, then a second. Stadiums that would be barren much of September are now filled as spectators cheer their team into a post-season berth. But as a longtime fan I feel October baseball is greatly lacking.

I became a fan in 1973 when making the playoffs meant something. It meant you were good, damn good. But that prestigious honor has lost its luster.

Casey Stengel Holding Drawing for New Baseball Uniform

The addition of the Mets and Colt 45’s in 1962 brought the total of professional teams to 20. Two 10-team leagues. No playoffs. You won your league, became league champion and played in the World Series. 20 teams, just 2 made the post-season.1 out of 10.

Baseball expanded in 1969, adding the Padres, Royals, Expos and Pilots and launched divisional play. Two divisions per league with each division winner meeting in a best-of-5 to determine league champion and earn the right to appear in the Fall Classic. 24 teams, 4 made the playoffs. 1 out of 6.

The addition of the Blue Jays and Mariners in 1977 brought the total to 26 clubs. But the powers-that-be kept the format the same. 26 teams, 4 made the playoffs. 1 out of every 6 ½.

The message was clear and this is what separated Baseball from other sports where seemingly mediocre teams faced off in the playoffs, playoffs that went on and on and on and on. To make Baseball’s post-season, you had to fight for it. Mediocrity wasn’t rewarded.

After the cancellation of the World Series, and in an attempt to return fan interest, it was decided to have three divisions and one wildcard. This was immediately after baseball expanded into Denver and Miami. A few years later, clubs were added in Phoenix and Tampa. 30 teams, 8 made the playoffs. Almost 1 out every 4 were now in the post-season.

When the second wild-card slot came along a few years back that brought the total of teams eligible to 10. 10 out of 30. 1 in every 3 teams now make it.

The 21st worst team in Baseball has now ‘earned the right’ to possibly call themselves World Champions.

Or to look at it differently, in the last 22 years MLB added 4 teams while adding 6 post-season slots.

Granted, fans hand over cash in late September they normally wouldn’t and tune in when they’d usually be watching something different. Everyone makes a buck. Everyone’s happy. But should a team who plays just average baseball for 5 ½ long months be worthy of winning it all if they get hot at the right time?

Play solid baseball for 3 weeks in early May, no one notices. Play solid baseball for 3 weeks in October, you get a trophy.

I believe the question that begs to be asked is this: By adding so many levels to the post-season, does MLB’s greed have a direct bearing on who wins it all?

Baseball’s a streaky game. Superstars like Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, Buster Posey or Yoenis Cespedes can get hot, put the team on their back and carry them for a couple weeks. Clayton Kershaw can turn into Sandy Koufax for a month and go 5-1 with a 0.85. We’re all familiar with the expression ‘You can’t turn it on and off.’ Yet that’s what MLB now expects. In the post-season, a number 3 starter, for example, can conceivably go 10 days between taking the hill.

In 2010, the Rangers were clicking on all cylinders and defeated the Yankees in the LCS. They then had to sit around 5 days waiting for the NL to finish. Texas lost the World Series in 5.

The 2012 ALCS saw the hot-hitting Tigers crush the Yankees in 4 straight. They now waited 6 long days before facing the NL Champions. It was then Detroit who got swept by the Giants.

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This past year saw the Mets stun the heavily favored Cubs, sweeping them in 4. The Mets had a 6 day layoff and when the World Series ended, the Mets lost in 5.

In the LDS, Daniel Murphy went 7-21 (.333), 810 slugging percentage with 3 HR’s and 5 RBI’s. In the LCS, Murphy stayed hot, going 9-17 (.529), slugging at 1.294 and hit 4 HR’s and knocked in 6 RBI’s in 4 games.

After almost a week layoff, Murphy went 3-20 in the World Series, (.150), a .150 slugging percentage. 0 HR’s 0 RBI’s.

When I was younger I’d make a point to watch every playoff game I could. I knew that not only was I seeing the best of the best, but also there weren’t too many games. The LCS was 3 out of 5, the Series 4 out of 7. At the most I could watch 17, just 10 if all rounds were sweeps.

With today’s format, the post-season will go, at the very least, 26 games. Perhaps as many as 43.

There’s no sense of urgency to watch a playoff game today because you can watch one tomorrow, or two or three or sometimes four tomorrow.

How many of you tuned in to non-Mets games last October? Maybe you watched an inning here and there, but did anyone watch the entire Rangers/Jays series? I’m guessing only a few.

Psychologists refer to Cognitive Dissonance as a disorder where an individual can hold two contradictory beliefs, ideas or values at the exact same moment. I’m starting to wonder if the powers-that-be atop MLB’s food chain should seek out help.

For years now, owners and commissioners have looked into ways to alter the very fabric of the national pastime and speed up the game, to make the game shorter.

Meanwhile, as they look into speeding up pace of play, they continually make the season longer. Longer, and less meaningful.

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On October 16, 1969, Davey Johnson flied out to Cleon Jones and the Mets won their first championship. On October 16, 2015, the Mets were still 24 hours away from the first game of the post-season. When Johnny Podres was the winning pitcher in game 7 for Brooklyn’s one and only title the date was October 4, 1955. Sixty years later, October 4, 2015, the regular season hadn’t even ended.

The 2015 post-season continued for nearly a full month, beginning on October 6 and running through November 1st.

Nothing will change anytime soon. Everyone’s making money and everyone’s happy. But is that what’s best for the game? There’s even been some scuttlebutt that some higher-ups were kicking around the idea of adding yet a third wild-card spot. Or expanding the one game wildcard to a best of 3 series.

The pinnacle of the season is always the World Series. It’s called the Fall Classic for a reason. It’s the mountaintop, the exclamation point on an arduous 162 games. It’s a chance for the 2 best teams to be showcased and battle it out for the world to see.

But has this also become anticlimactic?

The LCS, like the World Series, is 4 out of 7. One could almost argue that the LCS is a National League and American League World Series.

I feel that the wildcard should remain one game, the LDS 2 out of 3, the LCS 3 out of 5 and the World Series – the culmination and high point – remain 4 out of 7.

“Baseball must be a great game to survive the fools who run it.”

Hall of Fame First Baseman Bill Terry

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Unraveling The Arrieta Enigma http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/10/unraveling-the-arrieta-enigma.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/10/unraveling-the-arrieta-enigma.html/#comments Sun, 18 Oct 2015 16:06:12 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=197078 arrieta

There have been late bloomers before. Jamie Moyer didn’t really see any sustained success until the age of 33. Also at age 33 R.A. Dickey began a fantastic string of three seasons with the NY Mets where he posted a 39 – 28 record with a 2.95 era and a Cy Young in 2012. Hoyt Wilhelm didn’t even make it to the major leagues until the age of 29. And of course there’s Randy Johnson who really was a mediocre pitcher until about the age of 30.

It isn’t unprecedented, but when you consider that Dickey reconfigured himself into a knuckleballer and Wilhelm spent several of those early years in military service, it is exceedingly rare to se a pitcher struggle early in his career only to bloom into an ace level pitcher in his late 20’s, and yet that is precisely what Jake Arrieta has done.

Consider for a moment the following: 4.66, 5.05, 6.20 and 7.23. Those numbers reflect Arrieta’s earned run averages in his years with the Orioles. His command was below league average (he averaged over 4.5 BB/9 in his Oriole years), and while he always had a decent sinker, he never accumulated more than 1.6 WAR in a season and never pitched more than 114 innings. He also averaged under 7 K/9 prior to coming to Chicago.

Eno Saris over at FanGraphs points to his sudden improved command and an even better, more versatile sinker but when you look at his 2015 numbers it is astonishing, a 9.28 K/9 and an insane 56.3% GB rate. Saris believes his sinker has become such a versatile weapon, he not only is able to spot the two seamer on different sides of the plate, he can use it down and in to righthanders as a strikeout pitch.

Arrieta throws a four seamer, his signature sinker, a changeup, a slider, and occasionally a curveball and a cutter. But he is for all intents and purposes a sinkerball pitcher, albeit one who can get more than his share of swings and misses on the pitch. He had a 7.4% swinging strike rate on his two seamer, with, again, that 57.9% ground ball rate. The four seamer is primarily a strikeout pitch high in the zone that Mets hitters should lay off of, but he seems to be using it less and less.

There are a lot of fans out there who believe it’s that sinker that makes him so effective. He is able to power it by hitters and, when they do make contact they drive it into the ground. It sounds a lot like our very own Familia doesn’t it? I differ somewhat on my analysis, yes his sinker is indeed more effective with perhaps an inch more of drop than his already great sinker from last year, but the most striking thing about this new improved Arrieta is his command. His control back in his early years was always a problem, and that is certainly no longer the case with his 1.9 BB/9 rate in 2015.

If the Mets are going to beat this guy they’re going to have to pick their spots and find some holes. Weaknesses? Well his HR/FB rate is somewhat high but that is probably an artifact of playing in Wrigley. He has few weaknesses, but there is perhaps one. While his command has never been as good as it’s been in 2015, he’s also pitched 243 and 2/3 innings this season (73 innings more than his previous high) and he wasn’t sharp in his last outing. Joe Madden even commented that his performance may have been fatigue related … so there’s that, but then he’ll be going on extra rest today. His record this year against the Mets? 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA in two starts.

The Mets will certainly have their work cut out for them. They have to believe that Syndergaard can pitch with him, and that’s certainly possible, but the Mets will have to hope his command is still somewhat off, that fatigue may still be an issue, and that some of their grounders find holes. No matter how it goes, tonight promises to be another great pitching match-up.

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MMO Fan Shot: Cespedes Has Made The Mets Offense Lethal http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/09/mmo-fan-shot-cespedes-has-made-the-mets-offense-lethal.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/09/mmo-fan-shot-cespedes-has-made-the-mets-offense-lethal.html/#comments Thu, 03 Sep 2015 17:28:35 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=192288 yoenis Cespedes

An MMO Fan Shot from Sgt. Kevin Belickis, USMC

Entering play on July 31st, The New York Mets offense ranked at the bottom of the MLB at 3.56 runs per game. Let’s be honest with ourselves, they were horrible. They were three games over .500, but somehow just three games out of first place coming into a HUGE series with the rival Washington Nationals.

As I stood in my kitchen prepping food to cook for the opening game, I anxiously watched the clock. As of 3:59 I hadn’t gotten an update or a tweet or anything about The Mets acquiring the bat that we so coveted, desperately needed, and seemingly had missed out on in the trade for Carlos Gomez that wasn’t.

I was paranoid. “Could we really have come so close to making a big move, with the division in reach, only to let the deadline come and go without an upgrade? How could they do this to us again?” I started throwing more food on, I had a feeling I was going to be stress-eating my hurt feelings away over the course of what could be a painful weekend.

Then, something amazing happened. At 4:00 my phone started buzzing. Then it buzzed again, and again. I could hear it vibrating across the counter as I was wrist deep in a bowl of chopped meat. My computer started chirping from the table with the sound of incoming Facebook messages.

“Oh God,” I thought, at first. “We didn’t make a move, and these are my Yankee and Cardinals fans friends calling to give me a hard time.”

I was down trodden and a little depressed, but in the back of my mind I still had hope. Maybe we had managed to do something. Maybe Sandy held true to his word and went out and got us an impact bat, and this buzz was the excitement of Mets fans across the country that I talk baseball with every day.

I washed my hands and grabbed my phone, I’ll never forget it. The first notification was from twitter. “NY Mets trade minor league pitchers Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa to Detroit.” I didn’t even have to read the rest. I knew, in that moment, that we had gotten the man I wanted us to get. I wanted Yoenis Cespedes at the deadline last year when Oakland prepared to unload him, and was let down. I wanted him in the offseason when Boston needed pitching, and we hadn’t yet signed Cuddy. I wanted him the moment I heard we were looking for an outfield bat. And now it was really happening, he was coming to Citi Field.

Cespedes made his way into the lineup on August 1st, and we haven’t looked back. Since that day, the Mets have gone 22-9 and blew past the Nationals with a 6.5 game lead as of this writing. We have scored 6.35 runs per game and have hit over 45 homeruns and set a new franchise record for homers in a month, including a franchise record breaking eight HR in a HUGE come from behind victory in Philly.

To put all of that in perspective, the Mets hit 125 homeruns ALL of last year. However after Wednesday night’s 9-4 win over the Phillies they already have 138 this season, with 29 games still left to play. And 36% of our HRs have come since Cespedes entered our lineup. I don’t think it’s a coincidence.

After a huge 3-for-5 night with an eighth-inning home run, Cespedes has 18 RBI over his last 12 games and is hitting .295 (38-129) with 23 runs scored, six doubles, two triples, 10 home runs and 26 RBI in 30 games for the Mets. His 18 extra-base hits in his first 30 games with the Mets has also tied a franchise record.

It’s not just the numbers that he has put up that have made this team better. His presence in the lineup was felt immediately, when he was intentionally walked in front of Lucas Duda in the 8th inning of his first game. The red hot Lucas promptly deposited a screaming double to left allowing Granderson to score the all-important insurance run, putting The Mets up 3-1 late in the game, on their way to sweeping themselves into a tie for a hold on 1st place that they have not since relinquished.

Think about that. Lucas was absolutely scorching hot at the time. He had homered 8 times in the past 9 games, including 2 earlier that day. The Nats STILL chose to face Duda over Cespedes, and he made them pay for it.

This team has played fantastic baseball since Cespedes arrived. He has been a catalyst for this team to excel, and excel they have. His contributions to this team are immeasurable.

It’s still a bit early to discuss this and it’s probably not going to happen, but if Cespedes keeps on producing and the Mets keep on winning, could it be possible that we have our first MVP in team history? Probably not as Bryce Harper is having a great season for a team that is falling out of the race, despite his production. But Cespedes has certainly impacted the Mets in an MVP kind of way and that’s what MVP’s are supposed to do.

Cespedes has lit his team on absolute fire. The Mets were 17-32 on the road when he showed up. It was a glaring weakness, as they had such great success at home. Now, they’re 29-35 on the road.

Being under .500 isn’t great, but this is a HUGE improvement with as they’ve gone 12-3 since Cespedes arrived. If they can get to a point that they win 35+ road games, I’ll be ecstatic and I think you all should be too considering how poorly the year started. They have 18 games left each on the road and at home.

Could we see a 90 win team in Queens? 93? 95? With Yoenis Cespedes in the line-up, he’s got Mets fans (and Nationals fans) thinking anything is possible, and that this team might just be invincible. The sky is the limit, and it’s a good thing because I’m so incredibly high on this team.

Yoenis Cespedes has completely transformed the Mets offense and has taken it from impotent to a mind-staggering lethal.

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This Fan Shot was contributed by Sgt. Kevin Belickis, USMC. Have something you want to say about the Mets? Share your opinions with over 30,000 Met fans who read this site daily.

Send your Fan Shot to FanShot@MetsmerizedOnline.com. Or ask us about becoming a regular contributor.

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Mets Don’t View Kevin Plawecki As A Trade Chip http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/06/mets-dont-view-kevin-plawecki-as-a-trade-chip.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/06/mets-dont-view-kevin-plawecki-as-a-trade-chip.html/#comments Mon, 08 Jun 2015 15:45:11 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=182643 kevin plawecki 1

According to Mike Puma of the New York Post, the Mets do not view rookie catcher Kevin Plawecki as a potential trade chip this season, preferring instead to hang onto him as insurance for regular catcher Travis d’Arnaud.

Last week, William Li made a strong case for hanging onto Plawecki, which you can read below. – Joe D.

June 2 – Why Kevin Plawecki Should Not Be Traded

With Travis d’Arnaud set to return to the big league club shortly after as he wraps up his rehab assignment, the Mets appear to be set on sending Kevin Plawecki back to Las Vegas as playing time and service time are both factors in this decision.

On the big league club, Plawecki will likely be sitting on the bench 5 out of 6 games, doing him no good. And considering that sending him down for a few months will ensure that he does not accumulate a year of service or reach super two status, Plawecki is almost certain to return to Triple-A.

Catching Depth

Looking forward to 2016, one of the biggest questions will be whether both d’Arnaud and Plawecki should be kept. If both remain with the Mets, how will playing time be divided? Before we look at playing time scenarios, I think we should anticipate what the upside and downside are to trading away one of the two.

Assuming the less established Plawecki is traded and TDA ends up on the disabled list as he did this year, the Mets take a significant hit to their production at the catcher position. Could you imagine seeing Anthony Recker penciled into our lineup for two months? This is one dreadful scenario that the Mets absolutely cannot afford.

On the flipside, if the Mets keep both, they should continue to see above average production out of their backstop, no matter who is starting.

Plawecki/D’Arnaud As A Trade Chip

Common sense will tell us that you should trade abundance at one position for dearth at another when constructing a roster. Teams who have many holes will need every trade chip they can use to fill their other needs. However, the Mets have the luxury of having a very deep farm system and one where most of the talent is in the upper minors so they have plenty of pieces to deal from without having to include Plawecki or d’Arnaud’s name.

Playing Time Distribution

Since there is not enough playing time behind the plate for both catchers, one of them will need to learn a new position or two. Plawecki has played 1B in the minors and he is the younger and slightly more athletic of the two so I propose that he spends a good part of the rest of 2015 in Vegas with a first base and/or outfield mitt.

In 2016, the Mets can distribute their playing time as follows.

Travis d’Arnaud – 110 starts at catcher, 10 starts at DH.

Lucas Duda – 140 starts at 1B

Kevin Plawecki – 50 starts at catcher, 20 starts at 1B, 10 starts in LF

At the catcher position, you see a minimal or non-existent downgrade going from D’Arnaud to Plawecki. At 1B, you would likely rest Duda for 10 games a year anyway so giving him 10 additional days off is the trade off for NOT running into a scenario where Anthony Recker starts for two months. With this setup, it will also help keep all three players fresh for a long season.

Potential DH Implementation

One final factor to consider is the potential implementation of a designated hitter in the National League. After Adam Wainwright tore his achilles running to 1B on a ground ball, there was a firestorm of discussion on the benefits and harm of requiring a pitcher to bat in the NL. With the way that the league has shifted to protect their players (home plate collision rule), there is an outside chance that major league baseball could make a change in the next year or two.

If this does indeed happen, the Mets stand to be one of the top benefactors by having two catchers who both project to be above average hitters.

All of these factors should make it very clear that dealing Kevin Plawecki would not be beneficial to the Mets. Keeping both of our above average catchers allows us to avoid possibly exposing a backup quality catcher to day in and day out pitching for an extended period of time.

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Some More Managerial Options For The Mets http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/05/some-more-managerial-options-for-the-mets.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/05/some-more-managerial-options-for-the-mets.html/#comments Mon, 18 May 2015 14:00:29 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=181621 collins joker

Couple of years back I wrote a piece where I detailed several alternatives to Terry Collins as Manager of the NY Mets. You can read it here if you are so inclined. Well, here we are two years later and wouldn’t you know it, Terry is still our manager. I guess none of the options I so graciously put forward were considered. I especially thought the sign-language speaking gorilla would have done well, but you never know with these things. Some people just don’t appreciate the value of a gorilla in the dugout.

Anyway I thought I’d give it another shot. Maybe broaden the candidate pool … why limit ourselves to higher primates? I think a pigeon would do nicely, one of those messenger pigeons. We could name him Lefty.

You could outfit it with a little Mets cap and maybe some tiny cleats, this way Lefty can truly take the role of “middle management” and fly directly from the front office to home plate with the lineup card rolled up and stuffed in a little pill bottle around its neck …

MLB: New York Mets at New York YankeesAfterwards Lefty can waddle into the dugout and munch on sunflower seeds, giving funny sideways glances that the camera can zoom in on every time the ump misses a call. If we need to challenge a play? Lefty can fly right out to the ump with a red flag in its beak and sit on the Ump’s shoulder while they look at the video … if he doesn’t like the results Lefty can leave a little present on the Ump’s shoulder!

Or how about an unused Mars Rover prototype? NASA is practically giving those things away! I know, I know this is kind of like the robot suggestion from the earlier piece, but the Mars Rover isn’t your run of the mill robot. It’s solar powered for one so you wouldn’t need an extension cord all the way back to the clubhouse. It can take earth samples as well, so it could give a detailed reading when the grounds are getting too wet for continued play.

While we’re at it, with an inconspicuous little poke in the buttocks of opposing batters as they walk out of the dugout, Mars Rover could get an instant steroid reading — how useful would that be?

getPartMars Rover has all kinds of flashing lights and whistles and camera-sensors so it could speed up turn-around time on reviews.

The all terrain capabilities are nice too … and, as always Mars Rover would feel right at home in Terry’s office as a fellow deep space traveler. Also, instead of kicking dust at an umpire, Mars Rover could simply put its tracks in reverse and literally bury the Ump in dirt in a matter of seconds!

We could try and sign one of those creepy gremlins from the original “Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark” movie. Someone (perhaps Bob Geren?) would have to carry around an umbrella to shield the spooky nether-worlder from the sun’s rays.

These particular gremlins are unusually persistent and are very good at setting booby traps. The official word in the paper the next day might read “opposing player tripped and fell into a bottomless abyss while entering the visiting clubhouse.”

The nice thing with one of these guys is you wouldn’t need to pay for new uniforms as Collins is pretty much the same size. Creepy “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” gremlin could also scare the hell out of the opposition with its weird whispered-tone taunting.

And finally, unlike Collins, creepy nether-world gremlin is clearly capable of forethought — showing the capacity to lure women named Sally to their inevitable demise in a chimney shaft — so he’d probably be good at figuring out ways to get Bryce Harper to slip on banana peels and stuff, just sayin’.

There’s also the gopher from Caddyshack. Again, pretty much the same size as Collins so Jeffie could use those extra bucks on fender-bender bumper-cars at Six Flags. Gopher could create an underground network of tunnels at Citi Field and scamper out to tell Granderson to play Markakis more to pull, delivering the message himself. Of course the team would have to learn Gopher’s strange scratch & snort language but we could easily hire a linguist. Money is no object here.

Gopher Manager could scoot right out to the bullpen and see with his own beady eyes that maybe Torres doesn’t have it tonight … So he could go with, oh I don’t know, pretty much anybody else. This particular candidate has mad people skills as well, and he sports an impressive resume listing Rodney Dangerfield, Bill Murray, and Punxsutawney Phil as references. Gopher Manager is also good for lots of laughs (he is a much better dancer than Collins), and I have it on good authority that Gopher Manager would work for a salary of peanuts and small shiny objects.

Finally we could just hire a pastrami on rye sandwich to manage the Mets. As the diametric inverse of a ruben (on whole wheat), there is little to no chance Pastrami Sandwich Manager would pencil Tejada in at shortstop, second base, or even third base.

Pastrami Sandwich would not only rival and perhaps surpass Terry Collins intellectually, those little toothpicks that keep Pastrami Sandwich together could also be used to pin down a lineup card – a lineup card, mind you, conspicuously lacking in feather-brained permutations passed off as “unorthodox new-ageisms.”

Also Pastrami sandwich could act as quite the distraction were it conveniently placed slightly off the third base line as a runner were rounding third — they’d go right for the sandwich and totally miss home plate just as Tim Teufel pulls Pastrami Manager away with a string.

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MMO Hall of Fame: Left Fielder Cleon Jones Was Always At Center Of Things http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/04/mmo-hall-of-fame-left-fielder-cleon-jones-was-always-at-center-of-things.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/04/mmo-hall-of-fame-left-fielder-cleon-jones-was-always-at-center-of-things.html/#comments Sat, 11 Apr 2015 16:35:27 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=177997 cleon jones 2

When he removed his Mets uniform for the final time he was our all-time leader in hits, runs, RBI’s, doubles and 2nd in batting average. There was no fanfare, no celebration of his achievements, no day honoring his accomplishments after a decade of playing in New York.  Instead, he lumbered away, head down, disgraced, a beaten man.

He’s one of very few Mets who can call himself a two-time pennant winner. He had a direct impact on both the 69 and 73 season. Teammate Buddy Harrelson said of him, “Even if he was in a 0-for-20 slump, he was the guy you’d still want at-bat.” Tom Seaver was our first superstar. But this man was our first offensive superstar. He caught a fly ball off the bat of Davey Johnson and dropped to one knee, an image that remains one of the most iconic in team history.

He was never given a snazzy nickname like Doctor K, Nails, Kid, or The Franchise. Instead, we referred to him by his given name only: Cleon

Cleon Joseph Jones was born August 4, 1942 in Mobile, AL, the same birthplace as Hank Aaron. He’d wear number 21, the same as Roberto Clemente. His first Major League game was playing center field in the Polo Grounds, the same position patrolled by Willie Mays. And although Cleon was nowhere near the player these Hall of Famers were, it was okay. He was our legend.

Numerous players throughout history have been seemingly predestined for a career in the majors, be it the ability to throw a ball at 100 MPH with pinpoint accuracy, blinding speed or remarkable hand-eye coordination. Cleon was not one of them.

Whereas some burst on the scene, Cleon yo-yoed for several years. Wearing number 34, he made his major league debut on September 14, 1963. Manager Casey Stengel put the 21 year-old in as a defensive replacement for Duke Carmel. In what would be one of the final games ever played at the Polo Grounds, Cleon played CF. And like Moonlight Graham’s one inning, they never hit the ball anywhere near him. .

Cleon had 15 AB’s that September, getting just two hits for a forgettable .133 BA.

He spent all of the 1964 season with the AAA Buffalo Bisons. The next year, he made the team out of spring training. However, after one month and a meager .156 BA, he was once again demoted to Buffalo. Cleon was a late-season call-up and on September 22, 1965, in a 6-2 loss to Pittsburgh, he hit his first HR, a solo blast off of Bob Friend. Despite the dinger, however, he batted just .149, 11-for-74. The Mets finished in 10th place, 50-112, 47 GB.

In 1966, Cleon was named the Mets everyday starting center fielder. Not because of a overwhelmingly solid performance, but largely due to the fact the Mets had little else. In his first full season, Cleon improved. .275-8-57 and 16 steals. His performance earned him fourth place in Rookie of the Year voting.

There was optimism coming into 1967. For the first time, the Mets had NOT lost 100 games the previous season and two rookie pitchers, Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman, showed lots of potential. However, Cleon backpedaled. His BA dipped to a disappointing .247 and he ended up in a CF platoon with Larry Stahl. The team as a whole also backtracked, once again losing over 100 times that year. Six seasons, five of which saw more than 100 losses. Would things ever improve?

In 1968, Cleon was shifted to LF to make room for a newly acquired CFer. Tommie Agee had been AL Rookie of the Year in 1966 and was a childhood friend of Cleon. Management also brought in a new manager, much loved former Brooklyn Dodger Gil Hodges. Despite Hodges, Agee and defending NL ROY Tom Seaver, Cleon’s struggles returned. Six weeks into the season he was hitting just .205 and found himself in a platoon again, this time with Art Shamsky.

Then it happened. Something clicked.

On May 18, Cleon went 3-for-4 with a home run, two RBI’s and a pair of runs scored. He started to hit. And there was no stopping him. On July 16th against the Phillies at Connie Mack Stadium, number 21 went 4-for-6 with 3 RBI’s, 1 RS and played all 3 OF positions. He ended the season batting .297, fourth best in the NL. Next up: 1969. And our left fielder was in the center of it all.

Although he notoriously started slow and was always a streaky hitter, Cleon was 26 and coming into his prime. He kicked butt from Opening Day and never looked back. By the All-Star Break he was batting .341 with 10 HR’s and 56 RBI’s, good enough to earn a starting spot in the Mid-Summer Classic along with the likes of Aaron, Johnny Bench, Willie McCovey and future teammate Felix Millan. Cleon went 2-for-4 with two runs scored against the best the American League had.

By that summer Mets fans were beginning to think the unthinkable. The team that had lost 737 games in seven seasons actually had a good chance to finish .500. However, Gil Hodges, a man who knew a lot about winning, wanted more. In late July the Mets were 55-41 and in second place, just five games behind the powerhouse Cubs. Despite the fact Chicago was laden with future Hall of Famers Billy Williams, Ron Santo and Fergie Jenkins, Hodges kept the Cubs right in the Mets’ crosshairs.

July 30th in Houston was the turning point in the season. And yes, Cleon was again in the center of it. The Mets got trounced in the first game of a doubleheader, 16-3. The Astros continued the embarrassment in the nightcap, jumping all over Gary Gentry for 8 ER in 2 2/3 IP. In the third inning, Cleon failed to hustle after a ball that went for a double.

gil hodges

To Gil Hodges, it didn’t matter that the Mets were in a pennant race for the first time in their history. It didn’t matter that Cleon Jones was an All-Star. It didn’t matter that he was our best hitter. The Mets skipper would not sit idly by tolerating lackadaisical play. Hodges, stoic as always, stepped from the dugout, took a lengthy slow walk to left field and conferred with his star hitter. After a few words, Hodges turned and walked off the field. Cleon, like a chastised little boy, shadowed Hodges into the dugout.

Years later, Jones claimed he advised Hodges the turf was wet. Hodges replied there must be something wrong with his ankle and pulled him from the game. “Gil was my favorite manager I ever played for,” Cleon clarified years later. “He’d never embarrass a player that way.” We may never know the true content of the conversation. However, the implication was undeniable. This was Gil Hodges’ team. You either play hard or you don’t play. The Mets lost the nightcap, 11-5. They wouldn’t lose too many more.

Hodges’ club played .780, winning 39 of the last 50 games and capturing the division by 8 games. Cleon ended up hitting 340, third behind Pete Rose and Roberto Clemente.

In the first ever NLCS, the Mets swept the Braves. Cleon hit 429.

In the World Series few gave the Mets any chance of defeating the mighty Baltimore Orioles. And when Don Buford opened the Fall Classic with a HR off 25-game winner Tom Seaver, it appeared we were out of Miracles.

The Mets tied the series when Jerry Koosman outdueled Dave McNally 2-1. Back in New York for game three, the Mets drew first blood. Tommie Agee opened the game with a HR. He also made not one but two of the greatest catches in history. Gary Gentry outpitched future Hall of Famer Jim Palmer for a 5-0 Mets win. In game 4, Seaver returned to form. After struggling in the opener, Tom Terrific threw 10 innings, the Mets prevailed 2-1 and were now one win away from a championship.

The Orioles, however, showed why they won 109 games. Needing a win to return the series to Baltimore, they scored early off Koosman and took a 3-0 lead. In the top of the 6th, Kooz delivered an inside pitch. Frank Robinson claimed the pitch hit him. Home plate umpire Lou DiMuro disagreed. Replays clearly showed DiMuro blew the call.

Lightning struck again in the bottom of that same inning. And once again, Cleon was in the center of it. McNally threw a pitch low. Cleon danced out of the way, the ball ricocheted into the Mets dugout. Cleon, like Robinson, claimed the ball hit him. DiMuro claimed it did not. Gil Hodges ever-so-slowly walked onto the field and presented a ball with shoe polish to the umpire. DiMuro changed the call and awarded Cleon First Base. Seconds later, Donn Clendenon deposited McNally’s offering beyond the LF auxiliary scoreboard to cut the lead to 3-2. And one hour after that, Cleon caught that fly ball and dropped to one knee.

In the late 60’s/early 70’s, pitching dominated the game, especially in the NL. Bob Gibson, Steve Carlton, Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry, Don Sutton and Phil Niekro, all future inductees in Cooperstown, quieted NL bats. But don’t tell that to Cleon. From 68-71 Cleon averaged 308.

The 1973 NL East was a dogfight of mediocrity. On August 30th, the Mets were in last place, but just 6 ½ back with 30 games remaining. Just like 1969, the Mets got hot at the right time. By September 17th, the Mets inched up to 4th, were just 3 ½ GB of Pittsburgh—with the Mets and Pirates playing a rare 5-game series–2 in Pittsburgh, 3 in New York. The two contests at Three Rivers were split and the series moved to Shea for three crucial games.

The Mets captured the opener, 7-3, and for only the second time in his career, Cleon went deep twice in one game. The lead was trimmed to a game a half. The following day, September 20th, one of the strangest yet most memorable play in team history occurred. And once again, Cleon was in the center of it.

Jerry Koosman faced off against Jim Rooker. A Mets victory would bring us to within a half, a loss would shove us 2 ½ back with just 9 games remaining. It was a back-and-forth contest. Pittsburgh took a 1-0 lead in the 4th. The Mets tied it in the bottom of the 6th. Pittsburgh took a 2-1 lead in the top of the 7th. The Mets tied it in the bottom of the 8th. Pittsburgh scored 1 in the top of the 9th to go up 3-2. The Mets tied it in the bottom of the 9th.

In the top of the 13th, Richie Zisk singled with one out. Pinch Hitter Dave Augustine came up and sent the Ray Sadecki pitch into the night. Cleon turned and ran…and ran…and ran some more. The ball did not go over. Nor did it bounce off the wall. It bounced on top of the wall. Cleon played the carom perfectly, pivoted and fired to relay man Wayne Garrett who turned and threw a bullet to catcher Ron Hodges who applied the tag to keep the game deadlocked at 3-3. In the bottom half of the inning, the Mets won, First place and the post-season was now within our grasp.

all-time-mets-left-field-cleon-jones

In the 1973 League Championship Series against the Big Red Machine, Cleon batted .300, 6-for-20 with three RBI and three runs scored. In the World Series against Oakland, Cleon hit .286. Of his eight hits, three were for extra bases. He scored five runs in seven games.

In 1975, it would all come crashing down like a Shakespearean tragedy. Spring training saw Cleon suffer a knee injury. He stayed behind when the team went north. On the morning of May 4 in St. Petersburg, FL, Cleon was arrested at 5:00 am. The charge? Indecent exposure.

Police found the 33 year-old sleeping inside a van next to a 21 year-old female who was in possession of marijuana. Cleon insisted he didn’t know the woman, that he met her at a party and was giving her a ride home when the van ran out of gas and he fell asleep. Ultimately, the charges were dropped. “Indecent exposure” was the fact Cleon was barefoot. However, in the eyes of Mets chairman M. Donald Grant this was inexcusable debauchery.

Grant was an autocrat, a tyrant who viewed his players as chattel. He once relinquished his membership to an exclusive Connecticut country club when he learned an inferior individual named Tom Seaver was also a member.

Grant fined Cleon $2000, four times more than any other player had ever been fined. Worse than the financial punishment was the degradation imposed on the Mets superstar. In the glare of the media, with cameras recording every mannerism, spotlights bathing him in a stifling glow and situated behind a bank of microphones angled like missiles about to launch, Cleon was ordered to apologize—to fans, to teammates, to his employer. And to his wife, Angela, who Grant insisted appear at his side.

In October 1969, Cleon caught a fly ball and cemented a miracle. It was the highest point in Mets history. Now, less than six years later, Cleon was again in the center, but this time it was the lowest point in Mets history.

He returned to the team in late May. But was not welcomed back. As if the financial punishment and humiliation were not enough, the order had come down from management that Cleon was to only play sparingly. For two months, the Mets icon was largely relegated to riding the pine. He seldom started and was used meagerly as a pinch-hitter. Such sparse play inhibited his ability to get any timing, extra burdensome knowing he was notoriously streaky. In July Cleon reached his breaking point. Hitting only 240 he got into an altercation with manager Yogi Berra. Grant now had more ammo and fired the fatal bullet. After 13 seasons, he was released outright.

The following year, 1976, he played for the White Sox but Cleon, a slow-starter, was hitting just 200 and promptly released. Cleon Jones, loved and adored by fans in New York, a World Champion, an All-Star, an almost Rookie of the Year and almost batting champion, was unwanted by any club. He was shamed out of Baseball by age 33.

For those of us lucky enough to have seen him play, he was the one that made you sit a little closer to the TV, move up onto the edge of your seat at Shea and chant Lets Go Mets a little louder. He was the one you always made sure to watch when he stepped to the plate, the one guy you wanted to get to in the batting order if you were trailing. He was flashy without being flashy.

It’s been nearly forty years since Cleon wore a Mets uniform. He played in a time when pitching dominated the game. And despite the fact that names like Strawberry, Hernandez, Piazza, Carter, Wright, Ventura and Reyes came after him, Cleon Jones still remains near the top in runs, hits, doubles and RBI’s.

In July 1969, he was involved in a play that turned around the season. In October 1969, he was involved in at-bat that opened the door to the Mets comeback in Game Five. In 1973, he was involved in one of the most famous, most strange plays in history, yet another turning point that led to yet another pennant.

MMO Hall of Fame cleon jones

And with that, Metsmerized Online is pleased to announce that Cleon Jones is this year’s inductee into the Metsmerized Hall of Fame.

Jones now joins mike Piazza, Tom Seaver, Keith Hernandez, Jerry Koosman, Dwight Gooden and David Wright in our own hallowed halls honoring the best players the Mets ever had. Congratulations, Cleon!

Feel free to leave your best memories and most heartfelt recollections of Cleon in our comment threads.

MMO HOF BANNER

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Framing A Defensive Argument For Travis d’Arnaud http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/02/framing-a-defensive-argument-for-travis-darnaud.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/02/framing-a-defensive-argument-for-travis-darnaud.html/#comments Fri, 13 Feb 2015 11:20:15 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=174585 New York Mets v Minnesota Twins

The following is an in depth look at Travis d’Arnaud’s overall value as a catcher.  The idea that he is incapable of being an everyday backstop is based on two conventional defensive metrics.  The lack of credit surrounding his framing skills leaves something to be desired though.  Stolen bases and passed balls rarely result in a run scored for the opposition, yet a framed pitch always produces a positive effect.  The two fold advantage of a called strike versus a ball can be felt by the opposition, the pitching staff, the offense, even the entire division.  If weighted properly, what could the value of d’Arnaud’s framing skills mean for his future and that of the NY Mets?

Scott Lindholm from Beyond The Box Score did an excellent job collecting and analyzing stolen base data that was recorded from 1950-2010 (Tom Tango – “Run Expectancy Matrix”) only to find that over the last 60+ years, stolen base attempts have proven largely inefficient. The Kansas City Royals did make it to the World Series last year as the only MLB team with more stolen bases than home runs, so I do understand that the art of thievery has its rightful place in the game.  However, take a look at some of the following statistics as they pertain to d’Arnaud.

A runners best odds of stealing first to second are when there are zero outs, yet doing so only increases the opposition’s odds of scoring a run by 20%.  Take  a moment to appreciate the inverse of that statement.  That means that at least 80% of the time second base is stolen, it’s unlikely to result in a run scored- 80%.  Granted, these numbers only go up to 2010, but 60 years of data is a reasonable sample size to support the last four seasons.

The matrix also shows that having a solid caught stealing rate behind the plate significantly decreases the oppositions odds of scoring a run in that inning – it sounds obvious, but look at what I mean.  From 1993-2010, throwing out the runner at second actually decreased the opposition’s chances of scoring a run, in that inning, by 26.3%.  It’s only fair to point out that improvements in this area can offer significant upside.

The runner’s success increases greatly as he progresses around the diamond, but to be honest, throws to third base are infrequent and d’Arnaud has already shown excellent positioning and execution with home plate defense.  The attempts on second base from first are the real issue, but it’s very reasonable to expect vast improvements after a full offseason of training.

Defense, aside from pitch framing, was a priority for d’Arnaud, even when he was still with the Toronto Blue Jays.  While reading a pitch blocking analysis on TDA (Amazin’ Avenue), I noticed an excerpt from Baseball America back in 2012:

“d’Arnaud made good strides with his defense in 2011 by working with then-New Hampshire manager Sal Butera, who caught in the majors for nine seasons. Those improvements carried over to 2012, when d’Arnaud threw out a career-high 30 percent of basestealers. He has average to plus arm strength and has refined his footwork and throwing accuracy.”

If the opposition steals a base, it’s worth a 20% in their favor.  If d’Arnaud throws them out, it’s worth 26.3% in the Mets favor.  Point being, he needs to improve his 19% caught stealing rate because the positive upswing holds a lot of value, but shows a history of improving in this area.  Working with Mike Barwis will improve his explosiveness and the surgically removed bone chips in his throwing elbow will certainly improve the accuracy of his throws.  As far as last year’s stats though, this narrative that base runners will cost him his job is such a stretch.

travis d'arnaud hr

Also on Beyond the Box Score was a great piece by Rob Castellano, who wrote about the value of d’Arnaud’s pitch blocking, or lack thereof, except unlike many-  he compared that value to impact of his pitch framing skills.  The net value is surprisingly positive, enough to make you wonder how so many justified knocking his flaws when the upside to his best attribute is so high.

D’Arnaud is adept at controlling the very bottom of the strike zone. Castellano offers a reasonable explanation for the young backstop’s elevated number of passed pitches by comparing TDA’s skills to one of framing’s original pioneers, Jose Molina, during his time with the Tampa Bay Rays.

“In short, there seems to be an element of robbing Peter to pay Paul when it comes to framing pitches, except teams like the Rays have realized that Paul brings back much higher rates of return…d’Arnaud keeps on calling for those breaking balls in the dirt, difficult to block though they may be, because those are also the pitches he’s going to have the best chance to ‘steal’ from his opponent”

In the article, Costellano included an analysis by Max Marchi (Baseball Prospectus) on the run value for blocked versus framed pitches.  From 2008-2011, Carlos Ruiz was considered the best pitch blocking catcher in MLB with 9.5 blocking runs created.

However, what’s interesting is the stark difference in value for catchers who focus more on framing.  During that same four year period, Brian McCann was the best framing catcher, generating 79.3 runs with his glove work.  Costellano adds:

“Based on linear weights, the very best framers were worth, on average, over ten times as many runs as the top blockers.”

Current advanced catching metrics on Baseball Prospectus are built further on the work that Marchi did, but still stay consistent with the weight he applied.

In 2014, d’Arnaud was worth -2.7 blocking runs for the 22 passed pitches (passed balls + wild pitches) assigned to him, but added 11.2 runs off of the 75.1 extra strikes he created.  That means d’Arnaud was worth a net of +8.5 runs based on framing alone.

These results in other areas of the NY Mets though, particularly the young starters Zack Wheeler and Jacob deGrom.

August Fagerstrom (FanGraphs) evaluated Zack Wheeler’s historic 0-2 hit(less) streak that went deep into the month of August (couldn’t have written in September?).  Fagerstrom credited the increased effectiveness of Wheelers breaking pitches down in the zone as the catalyst for his hitless streak.  Granted, most pitchers perform at their best in 0-2 counts, but Wheeler was in the midst of what may have been a major league record had the data gone back far enough to prove it.

Zack produced some of the best results in the league with his curveball and slider once he was paired up permanently with TDA:

Wheeler appears to have more confidence in his slider. He appears to have more confidence in his curve. Both for good reasons. You can see these changes reflected in his two-strike heatmaps…his highly-praised curveball is up to 33% from 27% last year and his whiff percentage has gone from 10% to 15%.  Now, that curveball finds itself on the other side of the spectrum, grading out as a top-25 curveball.

Also…

“Wheeler has doubled the use of his slider against left-handed batters, from 6% to 12%. That’s good, because lefties have gotten exactly one hit off Wheeler’s slider this year [as of August 28th]. 14 of the 28 strikeouts Wheeler has generated with the slider have come against lefties.”

It’s nearly impossible to say that d’Arnaud didn’t directly impact those results, Wheeler has even said himself:

“He’s just smooth back there…when the balls are down, he does something that makes them look like they’re strikes.”

With a full season behind the plate, d’Arnaud could increase his framing value significantly.  The most efficient way to do it would be to up that value, while also decreasing the number of passed balls.  As Costellano pointed out, he has a preference for breaking balls in the dirt in order to ‘steal’ that strike from the hitter, but fastballs are a lot easier to catch and his framing skills are perfect for stealing heaters located just below the bottom of the zone.

Fastball location is the staple of any power pitcher’s arsenal (i.e., the very foundation by which this organization is built on).  Wheeler, deGrom and Matt Harvey all rely on the pitches down in the zone to strikeout hitters and according to Noah Syndergaard’s recent interview with SNY, this is what the Mets are looking to see from him before he earns a promotion.  It’s also the reason why many see Steven Matz as a candidate to challenge Syndergaard for a promotion.  Pitching down in the zone has earned him praise at such an early stage in his career.

Take a look at that ESPN heat map again and keep that horseshoe figure in mind when you watch this clip of deGrom’s 13 strikeout performance against the Miami Marlins.  TDA had a 2.65 cERA with deGrom on the year and much of that had to do with the deceptive location of Jacob’s two and four seam fastballs.  If d’Arnaud can replicate this type of game calling with Harvey, Wheeler and eventually Syndergaard and Matz – the ceiling for his glove is very high.

Hopefully the idea here is starting to become clearer.  The Mets have a healthy crop of power pitchers who attack the bottom of the strike zone regularly with high 90’s fastballs and slick breaking pitches.  When it comes to this organizations most prized assets, the arms we’ve all been waiting for, TDA is subtly maximizing their value.

Lastly, I want to make good on that comment I made about the division.  Costellano also included a piece by Jeff Sullivan (Grantland), which calculated the called strike effect on all 30 teams in baseball last year.  Basically, there were teams who benefited greatly from pitch framing, teams who suffered from it and those somewhere in the middle.

The NL, with the exception of the Mets, is baron in terms of framing catchers.  This makes the effect of d’Arnaud’s glove incredibly significant, again with a two-fold effect.  He’s able to steal from the opposition, while the rest of the division finds themselves being robbed and unable to return the favor.

The Mets benefited from the fifth highest positive total, registering 147 strikes in their favor.  The rest of the NL East experienced much less of an advantage.  The Phillies (+33), Nationals (-92), Braves (-197) and Marlins (-262) were far behind the Amazins and the impact is definitely significant.  Consider the difference from the top and bottom teams in the whole league:

“What does a single strike mean? Calculations in the past have put the value of an extra strike somewhere around 0.14 runs. That’s not very much, but then, you can do the multiplication. These things add up fast. If you use that estimate, then the difference between the Brewers and the Blue Jays, here, comes out to about 95 runs, just from pitch-framing alone.”

Ok, so the difference isn’t that beneficial for the Mets, but using those calculations, I was able to derive run differential enjoyed by the Mets by comparison to their divisional opponents.  NY had a 16 run advantage over the  Phillies, 34 run advantage over the Braves, 48 runs over the Nationals and 57 runs over the Marlins.

There are a number of studies on the number of runs equal to a win, but the general consensus is between 10-11 runs per 1 win.  Using conservative estimates (11 runs/Win), pitch framing gave the Mets a 4 win advantage over the Nationals last year and a 5 win advantage over the Marlins.  It’s going to be a tight race against those bottom two teams specifically, that kind of win advantage could be the difference in the division title.

I wrote about d’Arnaud’s offensive upside earlier this year and that, combined with what I was able to take out of the above, tells me this.  For once, the Mets landed in the right place, with the right players, at the right time.

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Mets Brass Needs To Realize That Loyalty Goes Both Ways http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/11/management-needs-to-realize-loyalty-goes-both-ways.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/11/management-needs-to-realize-loyalty-goes-both-ways.html/#comments Sat, 01 Nov 2014 18:00:32 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=168910 goodfellas paulie

In one of the opening scenes of the film Goodfellas we hear a voice-over from Henry Hill played brilliantly by Ray Liotta who describes the downside of going into business with a mob boss named Paulie. If he has trouble with the cops, deliveries, etc. he can always call Paulie. But now he’s gotta come up with Paulie’s money every week, no matter what, without fail… or else.

“Business is bad? ***k you, pay me. Oh, you had a fire? ***k you, pay me. Place got hit by lightning? ***k you, pay me.”

In many ways, this is similar to how Mets ownership currently operates. In May, Mets fans were affronted with an insulting letter, sent by a marketing department with a high school mentality on behalf of an ownership, that asked for a “Declaration of Loyalty.”

From 2009 through 2013, the Mets posted five consecutive losing seasons and a meager .462 winning percentage. Despite this, almost 12.5 million fans paid their way into Citi Field to watch this unsuccessful product. Apparently, in the minds of ownership, that does not constitute loyalty. They still want more.

Haven’t played .500 baseball? ***k you, pay me.

Six straight losing seasons? ***k you, pay me.

Even more offensive was Sandy Alderson’s comment last Spring, when he claimed that if more people showed up at the games, he’d have more money to spend and could improve the product.

I’m no entrepreneur. I’ve never owned a business, nor have I been a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. I have a little ol’ Liberal Arts degree from a mediocre university, not an MBA from Stanford. But even I have the common sense to know that business does NOT operate that way.

This post-season we’ve all been bombarded with commercials by Ford and Chevy. Ford touts the towing capacity of their F-150 and Chevy brags about the many bells and whistles on their vehicles. But if the Wilpons ran General Motors, they’d want us— no, expect us—to purchase a 2015 model while telling us how much better the 2018 model will be.

Successful businesses thrive on loyalty and repeat business. But in Flushing loyalty is a one way street. With one hand ownership slaps us in the face while their other hand slips into our pocket to grab our wallet.

Haven’t made the postseason since 2006? ***k you, pay me.

Haven’t been in a pennant race since 2008? ***k you, pay me.

tormented souls fans citi

When Citi Field opened in 2009, it was immediately criticized for completely ignoring Mets tradition and history. US Cellular Field displays images of past White Sox heroes on their outfield wall. Busch Stadium has two massive Cardinals high atop the scoreboard. The right field wall at PNC is 21 feet high, a tribute to Roberto Clemente. The perimeter around AT&T Park has statues of Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal. By contrast, when you walk into Citi Field, you can be walking into any team’s stadium. You have to look hard to see ‘Let’s Go Mets’ in the outfield. It’s smaller in size than logos for Goya and Fox News.

Only after much public outcry and pressure from fans and the media did management finally react and established a Mets Hall of Fame, changed the color of the outfield wall from black to blue, and added player banners and art around the stadium and parking lot. Paying tribute to our own storied past was never even initially considered. Honoring the ’69 and ’86 teams, and paying homage to iconic Mets like Tom Seaver, Keith Hernandez and Dwight Gooden simply never occurred to the Wilpons. That in and of itself says a lot.

The facade of the stadium, while impressive, carries no significance to most fans. The Brooklyn Dodgers played their last game in New York five years before the Mets came into existence. How many of us have any memories or sentimental attachment to Ebbets Field other than some stories from your grandparents who once supported the Dodgers? When the Expos relocated to our nation’s capital, they didn’t design their park to resemble Griffith Stadium where the Senators played for 71 years.

Think of the contrast in mindsets. Original Mets owner Joan Payson was a die-hard New York Giants fan who even sat on their board. She was one of only two dissenting votes prohibiting her team from moving west. However, when her new team moved into Shea Stadium seven years later, there were no signs, no links and no references to the Giants. The Giants were dead to her and it was now all about the Mets. By comparison, Fred Wilpon elected to design a stadium honoring the team he rooted for as a boy, rather than the team he’s owned since 1980 and that us fans have supported all our lives. Citi Field is Fred’s temple and a monument to his childhood.

Not enough Mets history for you? ***k you, pay me.

Want to see your Mets heroes honored?  ***k you, pay me.

buddy harrelson pete rose

Despite the fact Davey Johnson was our most successful manager and the only skipper at that time to lead the Mets to two post-seasons, he was fired in 1990. GM Frank Cashen knew there would be backlash. However, he also knew he still needed fans to come out to Flushing. Cashen lessened the blow by hiring Bud Harrelson. One of the most beloved Mets and connected to the franchise for over three decades, Biddy connected with fans both as a gritty hard-nosed player and then as a well-respected and successful coach. He was a 1969 Miracle Mets icon, and Cashen knew it would please the fans. Cashen connected with the fans and respected their bond to the team.

Today, the attitude is different. Wally Backman, like Harrelson, has been a fan favorite and has served the Mets with distinction for a long time. He was, like Buddy, another blue-collar guy and hard-nosed player. And like Buddy, he is one of a handful of Mets who can call himself a champion. However, despite guiding his Triple-A team to two consecutive postseasons, he was passed over once again as Mets manager. The front office and ownership chose to retain Terry Collins, the only manager in our history to post four straight losing seasons.

I don’t know if Wally would be a good manager or not. But based on his winning ways, both as player and manager, and his long standing affiliation with this organization, he at least deserves his shot. And we deserve to see him in the dugout. When hearing of the decision to bring back Collins, did any of you jump online and instantly buy season tickets for 2015, or did your stomach sour as mine did?

Don’t care for our choice as manager? ***k you, pay me.

Want someone with a winning pedigree to lead the team? ***k you, pay me.

Jeff+Wilpon+Sandy+Alderson+New+York+Mets+Introduce+hIi7kWeRE_bl

Current ownership takes Mets fans for granted. They ignore the past, have yet to deliver on the present, and only offer blanket promises about the future.

In 2009, the Mets drew nearly 3.2 million fans, 7th most in Major League Baseball. This past season, the Mets drew 2.1 million, a drop off of 33% in six years, ranking 21st. To put that into context, the Twins, Padres, Phillies, Reds, Cubs, Rangers and Rockies — all teams that play in smaller markets and all teams that won fewer games — drew more fans. As ownership continues to demand our loyalty, attendance continues to plummet.

Most Met fans are believers and are positive by nature. We want to believe… We love our rich history and our iconic players… We love to wear our Mets gear and display our team colors… . We also want a team we can be proud of… But what management needs to realize is this:

While the vast majority of Mets fans will always be forever loyal, passionate and patient, financially supporting this team is not a given. Loyalty goes both ways and so far you haven’t been holding up your end of the bargain. And yes, we do have our limits.

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The Outrage Of It All: Another Violation Of Public Trust http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/the-outrage-of-it-all-another-violation-of-public-trust.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/the-outrage-of-it-all-another-violation-of-public-trust.html/#comments Fri, 12 Sep 2014 18:10:06 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=165521 Queens Flushing Meadows

My parents did a lot of embarrassing stuff when I was a kid. As immigrants who spoke very little English, they faced their share of challenges adapting to life in the big city.They once walked into a dry-cleaners thinking it was a clothing store with my mom looking at the receipts, amazed at how inexpensive the dresses were. On another occasion, having clarified the meaning of the word “boiled,” she ended up boiling already boiled lunch meat … that was some chewy ham right there.

The most embarrassing thing of all was how she’d occasionally venture out into the park spaces around our neighborhood, in search of dandelions. My friends, genuinely curious, would ask, “Hey man, why was your mom digging up the grass in the park?”  My responses would vary from, “Oh that wasn’t my mom,” to, “Our chinchilla will only eat fresh greens,” to “I think she lost her wedding ring or something.”

What I didn’t want them to know was that after she’d gathered a good shopping bag full of dandelion leaves, she’d boil them in a pot, douse them in olive oil and lemon juice and serve them to us as a side with broiled porgies from the fish store. Of course the greens were delicious and we never complained — least not as long as she promised to stay away from places where people would, you know, walk their dogs.

Little did I know then that my mother was violating the public trust. She was never cited. The Bureau of Land Management didn’t slap the cuffs on her or take away her trowel. You might recall how only a few months ago, a certain cowboy situated only a hundred miles or so from where our Las Vegas 51’s play their home games, brought about an armed confrontation with the feds over whether his cattle could graze on public land. It occurred to me that my family had grazed on public land my whole childhood and no one even noticed. Of course we didn’t eat as much as several hundred head of cattle, but still, the principle … anyway, as I continued to peruse the myriad of anti-Wilpon rants and diatribes the other day, I came across a couple of interesting pieces.

The New York Law Journal published an article on August 21st by Joel Stashenko reporting on Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Manuel Mendez’ dismissal of a claim against, you guessed it, Sterling Equities and Related Companies.

Sen. Tony Avella and a consortium of neighborhood businesses brought a claim against the Willets Point Development asserting it violates the public trust doctrine which prohibits “non-park” projects from being built on top of parkland without approval of New York State Legislature.

A 1961 law permitted owners of the NY Mets to use a portion of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in constructing Shea Stadium, but it was understood that this law did not apply to new construction. Citi Field, it could be argued was new construction, but in so far as it effectively replaced the old outdated venue, it was deemed permissible, however, it also opened the door to broader revitalization efforts. Mendez argued,

“The public trust doctrine does not apply,” Mendez wrote in Avella v. City of New York, 100161/14. “Administrative Code §18-118[b] applies to the use of the property for a shopping mall, because it will serve the public purpose of improving trade or commerce. The legislature in designating other purposes for the use of the property has already resolved the issues related to the public trust doctrine.”

willets point

So as I understand it, parkland adjacent to Citi Field would no longer be available for the pilfering of dandelion greens or any other public use because the 27 acre site would be paved over and turned into, among other things, a hotel, an apartment complex, a movie multiplex, and a $3 billion, 1.4 million square foot mall. So you can forget about getting that discounted alternator for your 2001 Galant from your favorite chop shop.

Now you may ask, what does this have to do with baseball and the New York Mets? You can barely tolerate arugula, you say? You couldn’t care less about dandelions and the Wilpons’ behemoth development? Well, Michael Geus over at 2 Guys Talking Mets put it all together in a brilliant piece on September 8th where he in essence argued that the Mets are a toxic asset and that the Wilpons or any sane owner would cash out and settle their debts were it not for some ulterior motive.

Now I always thought the Wilpons clung to the Mets for the prestige and honor inherent in owning a baseball franchise in baseball’s biggest market, because they saw it as a family heirloom, yada yada. Geus argues it isn’t that at all, that the real reason they hold onto the team is because owning the Mets offers the WIlpons unique rights to to their little corner of WIllets Point, a.k.a. Flushing Meadows-Corona Park … our Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

So which is it? I’ve argued ad nauseam that the Mets are all the WIlpons have, a blue and orange badge of respectability, an honor like no other that gains them access to circles and country clubs and the back pages. In the grand hierarchy of New York royalty, the Wilpons would be a footnote in a real estate magazine without the Mets. On the other hand, you have this prospect that the Wilpons are really holding onto the Mets because team ownership offers them the opportunity to develop a sizable chunk of NYC park space for considerable personal gain.

jeff wilpon

The bitter irony in all of this is that Justice Mendez’ controversial decision (which is being appealed by the way), not only violates land use regulations for property held in public trust, but the Wilpons continue to violate the public’s trust as irresponsible stewards of a major baseball entity.

They stubbornly maintain control of our beloved franchise, in spite of their sweeping incompetence and staggering ambivalence to the public’s needs. Insult, say hello to injury.

It is probably some combination of the Wilpons’ desire to redeem their family’s sports legacy and the potential windfall from the massive WIllets Point development that pushes them to sustain their hold on the Mets.

My mom did eventually refrain from her old-world habit of collecting greens from the park, if only to spare us the embarrassment. It’s a shame our ownership group lacks the decency to spare us all the embarrassment of their flawed and crippling hegemony.

Sadly, no amount of embarrassment, not involvement in two Ponzi schemes, not a reputation for being one of the most ineffectual ownership groups in the game, not a sexual discrimination lawsuit, nothing short of MLB intervention or outright default will prompt the WIlpons to sell. It isn’t a matter of dignity. If there were any shred of that left they’d sell for the good of a game they purport to love. No, it is a tragic confluence of pride, hubris, and greed, that keeps our Mets tethered indelibly to their folly.

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3 Up and 3 Down: How Sweep It Isn’t http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/3-up-and-3-down-how-sweep-it-isnt.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/3-up-and-3-down-how-sweep-it-isnt.html/#comments Fri, 15 Aug 2014 15:34:28 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=163476 recker laroche

The Washington Nationals stopped by Queens on Tuesday night to kick off a 3 game set against the NY Mets.  If there was ever a point in the season where the Amazins’ could have used a miracle, it was this series.  Having taken 3 of 4 from the lowly Phillies, the Mets had the potential to surprise the baseball world with a last minute turnaround had they taken even 2 out of 3 from the Nats.  Enter worst case scenario, the short end of a series sweep.  It was tough to salvage any valuable gems from this set, but here’s 3 bright spots from the series followed by 3 stark realities.

3 up

1. Travis d’Arnaud, while a times taking small dips in production, has given Mets fans a solid glimpse into the type of offensive talent he truly is.  Honestly, if there’s one takeaway from this season, it’s that d’Arnaud has learned to be a middle of the order offensive threat, in an organization that is riddled with all types of financial, managerial and developmental issues.  In this series, Travis batted an even .300 with a double and a home run.  Over his last 7 games, he’s hitting .318 with 3 bombs and 3 walks, giving him an impressive OPS of 1.173.

2. Bartolo Colon delivered another solid outing in a game where his offense just didn’t show to play.  The Mets mustered 9 hits compared to 8 by Washington, but couldn’t drive anyone over home plate.  Regardless, big ‘tolo still churned out 7 innings, registering 8 strikeouts, while giving up 1 earned run, lowering his total ERA on the season to 3.85.  As ironic as it sounds, The two most durable starting pitchers for the Mets this year have been the oldest, 41 year old Colon and the youngest, 24 year old Zach Wheeler.  I’ve begin to accept that keeping Colon may be in the Mets best interest next year, given his track record of availability.  Besides, looking at his numbers and realizing that he’d probably be the number 4 starter behind Matt Harvey, Zach Wheeler and Jacob deGrom says volumes about how dominating this squad can be next year.

3. This is a backhanded positive thought, but CBS did report on Wednesday that Terry Collins is “likely” to return as Mets manager barring any collapse or serious concerns.  Being swept by the Nationals at home should be a startling message to the front office that the baseball “sources” leaking the vote of confidence for Collins need to remain quiet.  If the Mets are going to return to the playoffs in 2015, they’ll have to go through Washington and this team’s results under Terry are certainly a serious cause for concern.

3 down

1.  The Nationals have now won 11 consecutive games at Citi Field dating back to last season.  Washington has produced a dominating run differential of 74-21 during that span.  Those 11 games are now an MLB franchise record, overtaking the 10 game record held by the Montreal Expos when they visited the Chicago Cubs between the 82-83 seasons.

2.  Home runs were a massive issue for Mets starters Rafael Montero and Dillon Gee in this series.  Montero allowed 3 home runs on 7 hits, surrendering 5 earned runs in 5 innings pitched.  Gee only allowed 4 hits in his start, but also allowed 4 walks which maximized the long balls served up to Mets killer Adam LaRoche and young superstar Bryce Harper, who each had two run blasts. As manager Terry Collins noted, “We can’t keep the ball in the park and we can’t hit them out”.  I’ll let the comment section discuss that analysis by the skipper.

3.  Touching upon the above, the Mets were right in line with the Nats in terms of hits.  In the series, Washington had a total of 25 hits, compared to 21 by the Mets.  However, the Mets couldn’t hit the ball far enough when there were men on base to complete that crucial part of an offensive life cycle called scoring.  New York left a total of 20 men on base this series.

The “youth initiative” involving Matt den Dekker and Wilmer Flores‘ recent promotions was a step in the right direction, but not a full shift of momentum.  This club is still plagued by the inability to remain consistent and play like a team that is truly a “piece or two” away from contentIon.  Leadership is a glaring deficiency, even more so than the offensive woes.  This organization has such an incredible wealth of young talent that has flourished this year, but it won’t be enough until a signal is sent to the whole squad that losing isn’t acceptable and will not be tolerated by anyone in the dugout.

Lets.Go.Mets.

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Video: Gil Hodges Once Again Up For Hall of Fame Election http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/video-gil-hodges-once-again-up-for-hall-of-fame-election.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/video-gil-hodges-once-again-up-for-hall-of-fame-election.html/#comments Wed, 13 Aug 2014 13:04:19 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=163311 I’m sure it’s been something that has been debated quite often on this site as to whether Gil Hodges should be enshrined along with his legendary Brooklyn Dodgers’ teammates in Cooperstown.

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

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

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Conforto Discusses Approach; Not A Candidate For Arizona Fall League http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/conforto-discusses-approach-not-a-candidate-for-arizona-fall-league.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/conforto-discusses-approach-not-a-candidate-for-arizona-fall-league.html/#comments Tue, 05 Aug 2014 20:30:59 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=162580 michael conforto Patrick E. McCarthy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mets Have Reached Critical Mass http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/mets-have-reached-critical-mass.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/mets-have-reached-critical-mass.html/#comments Fri, 01 Aug 2014 17:43:22 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=162040 MattHarvey1When Matt Harvey was diagnosed with his UCL tear my initial reaction was the sad resignation to an even longer wait for relevance. I wondered, with all our pitching depth, whether any rotation could absorb the loss of Harvey. Oddly enough, the Mets as currently constituted are in perhaps one of the best positions in baseball when it comes to absorbing the loss of a starter, even, apparently, a front of the rotation starter.

I was watching Zack Wheeler the other day … it’s funny because we think of Harvey as this bulldog competitor, but I swear if I were a member of an opposing fanbase Wheeler is the guy who’d tick me off. He is nasty and he appears to have a thing for kneecaps … the hitters were not comfortable. I actually think his wildness works in his favor. You have to love it as a Met fan. The Mets, wins and losses be damned, have nevertheless been able to employ a two and sometimes three starter combination pitching at an ace or close to ace level for much of this season, and, are well-positioned to absorb the loss of Bartolo Colon.

Are we there yet? Have we reached the promised land, that “critical mass” that triggers a tipping point, a steel ball rolling down a chute? The short answer is that, yes, we may in fact be seeing the early returns on the strategy as articulated by Paul DePodesta — namely stockpiling starters of all sorts and sizes system wide.

jacob deGromJacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler, Rafael Montero, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey and Steven Matz, yes Matz! The bottom line is that the NY Mets have a ton of pitching and are deep at every level in their minor leagues at a time when pitching is at an even greater premium. You couldn’t have scripted it any better if you tried.

Sandy Alderson stockpiles a commodity that a rash of elbow injuries makes even shorter … Aren’t there laws about that sort of thing? I mean, was it arranged? You know, like how you might take out your competition’s supply so that you can boost your prices on the street … isn’t that how the drug cartels do it in the movies? But then that would imply that Sandy Alderson is behind this rash of TJ injuries which I’m afraid might be beyond even his own substantial powers.

If my calculations are correct, my friends, and if the stars align and the ashes fall as I believe they will. We are, by several indicators, poised for a bit of a run. It’s this idea that good second half teams (the Cardinals come to mind but the Mets last year weren’t bad either) resist the natural attrition of a 162 game slog with good organizational pitching depth. The deeper the team’s pitching, the greater the likelihood that team will outperform it’s competition in the second half.

At a time when most teams are scrambling to fill rotation spots, we have two of our converted starters setting up and closing games, while another is being shopped. The bullpen, in line with the notion that organizational depth and bullpen effectiveness tend to be convergent, is yet another indicator that we may have in fact reached “critical mass.” Our bullpen with a lead has been a death knell to opposing offenses from the 7th inning on. It’s been one Mejia hulk stomp after another lately. And the arms just keep coming.

It’s early and wildly presumptuous but I’m calling it …

Hold onto your seats folks, it’s about to get interesting in Flushing.

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MMO First Half Report Cards: No Straight A’s, But Plenty Of High Marks http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/mmo-1st-half-grades.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/mmo-1st-half-grades.html/#comments Sun, 20 Jul 2014 12:00:55 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=161282 mets - logo

With the All-Star Break behind us, we’re officially into the 2nd half of the 2014 MLB season. Over the break, I opened up a roundtable and invited some other MMO writers to chime in with their grades. How did the Mets do on their first-term report card? Keep reading to find out!

INFIELDERS

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Lucas Duda, 1B: Duda won the 1st base competition over Ike Davis, leading to the trade of the latter to the Pirates. Lucas has been hitting pretty well, getting on base at a nice clip, and has shown off his power this season. He also plays a capable 1st base, a far cry from the debilitating defense we saw from him in the outfield earlier in his career. – Tommy R.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Murphy has been the Mets’ most consistent hitter this season. His hot streaks last for weeks and his cold “streaks” only seem to plague him for a couple games. His defense is better than it used to be, but the slip-ups still come a bit too often, and he doesn’t hit for much power either. Overall, however, it has been a very nice season for Murphy. - Tommy R .

Ruben Tejada, SS: Tejada got off to a slow start this season after having a miserable 2013. However, Tejada has turned it on as of late, and is starting to look like 2011-2012 Ruben Tejada again. – Rob P.

david wright swings

David Wright, 3B: David hasn’t played up to his usual standards so far this season, but then again, those standards are very high. Wright has had a pretty solid last year, and 95% of the league would gladly take the numbers he has at this point. He is starting to pick it up a bit lately, and the power seems to be returning, so while it’s disappointing not to be getting an “A+” season out of the captain thus far, David probably deserves a bit more credit than he’s been getting. – Tommy R.

Travis d’Arnaud, C: As Rob’s grade reflects, it has been a tale of two seasons thus far for TDA.  However, the first stretch, the part where he struggled mightily, took place over a much larger number of games than his hot streak has. Travis has really picked it up since getting demoted and recalled, and he’s starting to show why he has been traded for 2 different Cy Young winners. I always said it was foolish to give up on Travis, or any big prospect, so early. He’s starting to make me look right. But a few good weeks can’t fully erase his dreadful start, so it’s hard for me to give Travis a very good grade. – Tommy R.

Anthony Recker, C: Recker is a fine backup catcher, but that’s all he will ever be. He will park a few over the wall and isn’t a defensive liability. I expect him to perform about the same as he did in the second half that he did in the first. – Rob P.

Eric Campbell, 1B: Campbell has been a pleasant surprise for the Mets this year. He always seems to perform when we need him to, whether it be the occasional start or coming off the bench. Gotta love Soup! - Rob P.

Wilmer Flores, SS: The kid is so young, and Terry Collins has used him about as often as he has rested Carlos Torres. We have seen his offensive skill set so far in the minors, but it hasn’t translated to the majors. Maybe he hasn’t been challenged a lot defensively but I haven’t seen a crazy awful fielder like scouts have said. Yes he doesn’t have much range and will take some improvement. But Murph has come a long way and I would argue that Flores looks less clumsy in the field then Murph. - Avery D.

OUTFIELDERS

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Curtis Granderson, RF: Grandy got off to a miserable start this season and Jason Bay-related nightmares haunted all of our dreams for about a month and a half. In May, Curtis started picking it up, making solid contact, showing better pitch selection, and driving the ball with authority. But games in April count too, and Curtis still falls into occasional slumps. A “B” is all I’m giving him for now, but I expect him to outperform that grade going forward. – Tommy R.

Juan Lagares, CF: Anybody who has read my recaps and articles this year knows I love to sing Lagares’ praises. Lagares has solid speed and a golden glove (I fully expect to be able to write “golden” with a capital “G” at year’s end). When he isn’t hitting, he is still a guy you can run out there. Fortunately, the bat hasn’t been a problem this year. He came out of the gate red-hot before landing on the DL, then returned and started hitting again before suffering another injury. Juan is back once more, and while he is no longer red-hot with the bat, it looks like he has developed into a pretty good hitter who will have his ups and downs at the plate. And as long as he keeps up the excellent work in center, I can live with that. – Tommy R.

Eric Young, LF: Yes, Young is fast. Yes, he is the reigning Stolen Base Champion. Yes, he makes the occasional outstanding catch in the outfield. He’s also hitting an underwhelming .236/.316/.310. I’m sure he will be dangled to other teams at the trade deadline, if not, he needs to be a fourth outfielder/pinch runner for us off the bench going forward. – Rob P.

Chris Young, LF:  Don’t worry Chris, I won’t be too hard on you. You won’t get an “F” from me. Instead, I will blame the front office. We all knew that your best years were behind you and the Mets put you in a position where you would be demanded to perform in a starting role. I’m sorry Chris. You seem like a great guy. – Avery D.

That 7.5 million dollar contract is looking like more and more of a mistake as each day passes. Young has hit the occasional home run for us in the first half, but he’s hovered around the Mendoza line all year and has a .287 OBP. I don’t see him getting traded at the deadline because no one will want to take on that ridiculous contract. It’s not worth keeping him on the bench for that kind of money either. There’s nothing Young does that Kirk Nieuwenhuis can’t do, and do much better. – Rob P.

The fact that you’re not Nelson Cruz will always hang like an albatross around your neck, in my eyes. Sorry, Chris. – Tommy R.

Bobby Abreu, RF: -Not much to say about Abreu, he’s been good enough for us at his age, and is a fourth/fifth outfielder at this point. Don’t see him being any better in the second half than he was in the first, and that’s not a terrible thing. – Rob P.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis, CF: Kirk has been solid for the Mets this year, but because he has spent so little time on the Major League club, it’s hard for me to give him a grade in the “A” range. Still he has a great glove, nice speed, and a decent bat with some pop. He could run away with the 3rd outfield job in the 2nd half. – Tommy R.

STARTING PITCHING 

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Jon Niese: Niese has been fantastic this year, and if not for a brief stint on the DL, I would give him an “A” and argue that he deserved a spot on the All-Star team. Jon has really stepped up in Matt Harvey’s absence, and will hopefully anchor the rotation for the rest of the way. – Tommy R.

Dillon Gee: Gee was off to a great start to the year after a strong campaign last season, but missed 2 months with what originally was expected to be a 2 week injury. Dillon’s work on the mound has been worthy of at least an “A-”, but he hasn’t spent enough time on the mound to garner that high of a grade, in my opinion. Anyway, now that he is back, he gives the Mets another solid arm at the top of their rotation. – Tommy R.

zack wheeler

Zack Wheeler: Matt Harvey spoiled us last year, so a lot of us were really looking for Wheeler to come out and dominate the league this season. That hasn’t happened, but Zack has still been pretty good. When he is getting ahead in the count, he is fantastic. When he falls behind the opposing hitters, he gets himself into trouble. Wheeler has the stuff to be a great pitcher, so the only question is his command. It looks like he’s starting to figure it out, so let’s see if he can bump this grade up before year’s end. – Tommy R.

Bartolo Colon: Bartolo’s win-loss record is hampered by the fact that he is a Met, and his ERA is hampered by the fact that, despite being pretty solid nearly every time he takes the mound, he has had a few absolutely horrendous starts that really put a blemish on his stat line. Still, Bartolo has given us several good starts, a lot of innings, and, of course, a ton of laughs. The Mets will likely receive many offers for the big fella as the trade deadline approaches, so he might not be here in a couple weeks. Still, Colon has been pretty solid, albeit not great; a classic “B” performance in my book. – Tommy R.

Jacob deGrom: DeGrom has been maybe the single most pleasant surprise for the Mets in the 2014 season. Jacob’s 3-5 record doesn’t do him any justice, as he should have several more wins, but has been a victim of poor offense. In 10 of his 12 starts, deGrom has allowed 3 or fewer runs, and is pitching to a 3.18 ERA on the season. deGrom will most likely remain the rotation when Niese returns from the disabled list, so I’m excited to see what Jacob can do from here on out. – Rob P.

Daisuke Matsuzaka:  Dice-K, you haven’t been spectacular. But you do everything and anything the Mets ask of you. You go to AAA, you come out of the pen, you close games, you start games. Not to mention, you stay healthy. No complaints here. - Avery D.

RELIEF PITCHERS

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Carlos Torres: Torres has done everything we have asked of him this year. He owns a 4-4 record and 2.88 ERA over a span of 43 games. Torres is the kind of guy every team needs and has been quality for us since he joined us last season. I hope Terry doesn’t blow his arm out, however. - Rob P.

Jenrry Mejia: Our starter-turned-closer Mejia has learned to enjoy his new role on the Mets and has been a nice replacement to the injured Bobby Parnell. Mejia has ten saves in twelve chances, and will look to add on to his success as our closer in the second half. – Rob P.

Jeurys Familia: I’ll take Familia’s 2.06 ERA any day of the week. He still lacks control at times, but he’s still so young and will only get better over time. – Rob P.

Vic Black: Black had the set-up role locked up going into 2014 and pitched himself out of a spot on the roster during the spring. Since being called up, however, Vic has been solid, and his strong performance, along with that of Dilson Herrera in the minors, makes the Marlon Byrd trade look better and better each day. If Black can keep working on his control, he can be a major piece in this bullpen. – Tommy R.

Josh Edgin: Coming into the year, I thought Josh Edgin was a bum. But it’s hard to argue with a 1.76 ERA, and Josh has performed to this high standard equally well against both lefties and righties. However, Terry Collins still mostly uses him as a LOOGY, and Edgin averages far less than an inning per outing, so I can’t put him in the “A” range just yet. – Tommy R.

Gonzalez Germen: Germen had an absolutely ridiculous start to the season, but then started to struggle, got hurt, and was ineffective upon his return. Gonzalez is now in the minors, and might not be back too soon. – Tommy R.

Dana Eveland:  The second lefty out of the ‘pen has also been good for us so far. I’ll take his 2.63 ERA. He’s only pitched in 13 games so far, so let’s see what he’s got when being exposed a bit more. – Rob P.

METS BRASS

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Terry Collins, Manager: I’m not a big fan of Collins. I don’t particularly like how he manages the team during games. But you can only pin so much on a manager, and the team seems to play hard for him, if not always well. – Tommy R.

Sandy Alderson, General Manager: So how exactly do we grade the GM during the season? By looking at how his acquisitions have fared? Does the performance of a prospect he acquired back in 2011 have an impact on his grade in 2014? I’m not exactly sure. Anyway, I’m not a huge Alderson fan, as I think he lets far too many opportunities go by the wayside, but most of his moves (at least the ones that aren’t “flyers”) seem good, and it’s not like the Wilpons have given him the appropriate resources, so it’s hard to grade him too harshly. Alderson gets a C for his seemingly passive approach, but to give him a lower mark would be unjust, in my opinion. – Tommy R.

The Wilpons, Owners: Many Mets fans think that the team’s struggles begin and end with the Wilpon Family. My brother, who doesn’t watch baseball, noted how much of a shame it is that the Wilpons are in enough of a financial bind that they are unable to spend freely on the team, but aren’t in enough of a pinch that they have to sell the team. Sometimes, it feels like we are in limbo… permanent limbo. Still, teams have won with payrolls equal to or lower than the one the Mets currently have, so giving the Owners an “F” because the team doesn’t win very much isn’t something I’m prepared to do. They won’t earn anything much higher though, at least not out of me. – Tommy R.

TEAM UNITS

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Offense: Our offense has been middle-of-the-pack in terms of getting on base and scoring runs. But beware: those numbers are skewed by the occasional huge game at the plate. There have been far too many games where the bats have been completely impotent and the valiant efforts of our pitchers have gone to waste. Consistency is a must at the plate, and while the offense has been better of late, it hasn’t been consistent enough this season to earn a very high grade. – Tommy R.

Starting Pitching: We all knew that our rotation would be our main strength going into the season, and there have been no surprises on that part. Niese has been great, Gee has been great when healthy, deGrom has been great, Colon has been pretty steady, and Wheeler looks like he’s going to really turn a corner before too long. Matsuzaka has been solid when called into duty. I miss Harvey, and I hope Noah Syndergaard can pick it up in AAA and get his electric arm up to Flushing before too long, but I have no real complaints about the pitching thus far. – Tommy R.

jenrry mejia

Bullpen: Our bullpen looked weak coming into the year and things got even worse when Bobby Parnell’s season ended after just 1 game. However, Torres and the young guys like Mejia, Familia, Edgin, and Black have really stepped up to make this bullpen respectable, albeit still a bit more shaky than you’d like. Good teams usually need good bullpens, and while our pen isn’t great, it’s not the main culprit for our sub-500 record. – Tommy R.

Bench: The bench has been pretty disappointing in general this season, although some of the reserves have had their moments. Eric Campbell’s efforts salvage this unit from the “D” range. – Tommy R.

Defense: The defense has been decent, but nothing more. We have some solid speed in the outfield, which helps keep the number of extra-base hits down, but the fundamentals haven’t been pretty. How many times have our infielders failed to turn an easy double-play? I don’t even want to know the answer to that. – Tommy R.

Overall: The Mets have been alright this year. Alright, but not good. Mediocre, you could say. However, they are red-hot right now, and are slowly climbing back into the picture. If they can keep it up, maybe they can make this an exciting season. If not, it’s not like we have been trained to expect more, lately…

There have been some ups and downs this season. Let’s hope the Mets can make this a special year as we head into the second half! - Tommy R.

ya gotta belive gfx mr. met

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MMO Game Recap: Padres 6, Mets 0 http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/mmo-game-recap-padres-6-mets-0.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/mmo-game-recap-padres-6-mets-0.html/#comments Sun, 20 Jul 2014 04:00:54 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=161299 Screen Shot 2014-07-19 at 11.58.06 PM

The Mets (46-51) lost to the Padres (42-55) by a score of 6-0 on Saturday night in San Diego.

Dillon Gee got the start for the Mets and struggled, allowing 4 (3 earned) runs on 5 hits in 5 innings. Gee struck out 8 and walked none, but a pair of solo home runs and an error ended up hurting him.

The Padres got on the board first in the bottom of the 2nd when Yasmani Grandal led off the frame with a shot over the wall in right-center. Gee gave up another leadoff hit, this time a single, in the bottom of the 3rd, but a nice play by David Wright to nab the lead runner on a sacrifice bunt attempt seemed to give Gee a chance to settle down. However, the Padres got two more quick hits and a pair of runs against Dillon, thanks in part to an errant throw to third base by Kirk Nieuwenhuis. San Diego got to Gee again in the bottom of the 4th, thanks to a leadoff homer from Will Venable.

The Mets went hitless against Tyson Ross for the first 4 innings, and Travis d’Arnaud was lucky to break it up leading off the top of the 5th. TDA hit a slow dribbler up the 3rd base line, and Headley elected to let it roll, hoping it would go foul. The ball, however, ended up bouncing off of the bag, and Travis was on with a cheap single. The Mets would not make anything of the lucky break, however, as d’Arnaud was erased on a double-pkay.

Gee settled in a bit and ended up striking out 5 of the final 6 batters he faced, but Terry Collins pulled him in the top of the 6th after 80 pitches for pinch-hitter Eric Young. Young worked a walk, but was caught stealing on the next pitch and the Mets once again did not score.

Carlos Torres came in to replace Gee and pitch the bottom of the 6th, was greeted with a home run by Seth Smith, San Diego’s 3rd leadoff shot of the ballgame.

The Mets threatened to break through in the top of the 7th, against Ross. A single from Lucas Duda and a walk drawn by Kirk put men on 1st and 2nd with 2 outs. Juan Lagares lined a single into right field, but with 2 outs and a 5-run deficit, Tim Teufel decided to play it safe and held Duda up at 3rd. Ruben Tejada came up to the plate with the bases loaded, but Ross struck him out to end the threat.

After Torres pitched a scoreless bottom of the 7th, the Mets got a runner in scoring position in the top of the 8th when Daniel Murphy hit a hard shot to the wall in right which bounced off of a lunging Venable’s glove and was scored a double. However, Murphy would not come in to score, as David Wright flew out to end the inning.

The Padres got one more insurance run in the bottom of the 8th against Josh Edgin. Headley led off with a liner down the left-field line, and Kirk was unable to throw him out at 2nd due to a bit of a bobble as he tried to pick up the ball. Headley advanced to 3rd on a sacrifice fly which sent Lagares to the wall, and scored on a passed ball by d’Arnaud.

The Mets got a baserunner in the top of the 9th against Blaine Boyer when d’Arnaud lined a hard shot which went under the glove of Chris Nelson at 2nd for an error, but were unable to muster a rally and succumbed to the shutout.

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It’s not the reason we lost tonight, but the Mets made several mistakes in the field tonight, and they really have to focus on tightening up their defense. When the game is closer, bad defense will stick out like a sore thumb.

Gee didn’t really have his best stuff tonight. Still, I would have liked to see him stay in the game longer for a few reasons. First of all, why pinch-hit so early with nobody on and a 4-run deficit, especially when the guy you’re bringing in is barely hitting 230? Granted, Young did work a pinch-hit walk, but he was immediately thrown out trying to steal 2nd, so… Gee could have made an out just as easily. More importantly, however, Gee hasn’t gotten much work lately. He missed nearly 2 months with an injury. He made 1 start after returning from the DL and then had another layoff due to the All-Star Break. Now, he comes back, pitching for the 1st time in 10 days and the 2nd time in 2 months, and he only gets to throw 80 pitches? He’s not going to build his arm strength back up by sitting in the dugout, Terry.

The offense never got it going tonight, as Tyson Ross stymied the Mets’ bats all night long. When we finally got the bases loaded in the top of the 7th, it was with 2 outs and our number 8 hitter at the plate. Sigh…

The guy the Padres put in to pitch the top of the 9th looked a lot like Justin Turner, if Turner had a beard. I better not be the only person who noticed this. Come to think of it, Turner did have a beard for awhile. Justin? Is that you?

A pretty bleak game, overall. The Mets never seemed to be “in it”. Hopefully they’ll bounce back tomorrow.

Also, stay tuned for our MMO 1st Half Grades, which will go up tomorrow at noon!

Up Next: The Mets will try to take the rubber game of their series with the Padres tomorrow at 4:10 PM. Zack Wheeler (5-8, 3.90 ERA) will face Odrisamer Despaigne (2-1, 1.35 ERA) at PETCO Park.

]]> http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/mmo-game-recap-padres-6-mets-0.html/feed/ 0 Featured Post: The Case for Shortstop Javier Baez http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/featured-post-the-case-for-shortstop-javier-baez.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/featured-post-the-case-for-shortstop-javier-baez.html/#comments Mon, 14 Jul 2014 21:16:02 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=160567 javier-baez-mlb-all-star-game-futures-game-850x560

On Sunday, highly-touted Cubs prospect Javier Baez drove a Lucas Giolito curveball over the right-field fence for an opposite-field, two-run homer in the All-Star Futures Game at Target Field. The homer gave the World Team a 2-1 lead at the time, but the U.S. Team prevailed and won the contest 3-2.

“It was great,” Baez said after the game. “I was just looking for a fastball, and he threw me a curveball. … I knew it was going to be in the zone, so I swung at it. It feels great. I just want to play in the big leagues and do the same thing.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Real quick, would like to thank Metsmerized for giving me the opportunity to come on here and share my thoughts alongside an already stellar cast of writers.  This is an exciting opportunity and I will certainly take it with a lot of pride.  Now, let’s get down to the business.

The Chicago Cubs and the NY Mets have a lot in common.  Both are storied NL franchises with a desperate need to return to post-season relevancy and both have gluts at premium positions that could prove useful in a trade with one another, should both sides agree to the right terms.  The Cubs now have three different and highly desired shortstops in order to build a trade package in return for young power pitching.  The questions is, after spending so many years marketing their many prized hurlers to the fan base, what are the Mets willing to give up to execute a trade?

Starlin Castro is the main target in trade rumors swirling around the internet right now.  A lot of teams are interested in the 24-year old, three-time All Star, but few clubs have the pieces like the Mets do to draw Theo Epstein’s attention.  Castro is having a career year at the plate cranking 26 doubles, 11 home runs and knocking in 52 RBI’s at the break. The Cubs GM will most certainly look to Sandy Alderson to see who is available, but we can easily surmise those names will include Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler or Noah Syndergaard.  The first, definitely not, no further need for discussion there. The latter two, I could possibly part with, except I’ve spent too many days pondering the likes of those names as a 1, 2, 3 punch in our 2015 rotation.  If there were no other options, I could be realistic and settle into a Castro for Wheeler or Syndergaard deal, but I’m more curious about what it would take to extract Addison Russell or Javier Baez.

Of the two prospects, I think Russell would be the more difficult to pry away.  For whatever reason, I believe the Cubs want to retain him since his quick hands and plus range make him a true shortstop.  Castro is not known for being a proverbial vacuum up the middle, so many scouts see him eventually moving to second base once Russell ascends to the majors.   I’m ok with that though because I’m not sold on all the hype compared to his AAA counterpart, Baez.

Russell had a great stint in Hi-A Stockton last year with a triple slash line of .275/.377/.885 and overall, his minor league career slash is a clip better at .299/.386/.898, but we’re talking about the very bottom of the minor leagues where pitching is nowhere near as developed.  When you isolate that same slash line between AA and AAA it comes out to .249/.318/.676.  He needs more time to develop, but he would probably still cost the likes of a Wheeler or Syndergaard to have him shipped.

Right now, the Mets need someone that will at least be MLB ready by next Spring and compete with Tejada for the job at short.  The best scenario would be to take some risk in order to lower the demand on our end to avoid giving up Zack or Thor.  So this begs the question, is Baez being overlooked?  I think so.

Baez started off very slow at AAA Iowa this year, but worked very hard to adjust to the next level and as of June 19th, he has been tearing the cover off the ball.  Over the last two calendar months (39 games), Baez has a slash line of .261/.333/.820 with seven home runs and 52 RBI and he is continuing to develop patience at the plate.

In his breakthrough 2013 season, Baez showed the power scouts have been raving about, batting .282 with a .920 OPS and combining to hit 34 doubles and 37 home runs between Advanced-A and Double-A. Coming into this season, Baez was ranked 5th best prospect by Baseball America and 4th best prospect in baseball by Baseball Prospectus.

Additionally, his defense is a shining part of his game and this is just as important as the offensive production.  With Baez and Lagares up the middle, our pitching staff will thrive even more.  And the cost?  I think moving a bulkier package of Dillon Gee or Jacob deGrom and a minor leaguer such as a Rafael Montero or Steven Matz would spark enough interest. 

Epstein wants Syndergaard because he likes to pride himself on blockbuster moves, but at the end of the day, he won’t be able to get a return like that.  The Mets have just as much to boast at pitching as the Cubs do at short.  I like Castro and could easily get past the low walk rate and average defense, but would prefer to acquire Baez and his higher ceiling, while retaining our coveted three.

Lets Go Mets!

mmo presented

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From Left Field: Sloppy Defensive Fundamentals Dooming Amazin’s http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/05/from-left-field-sloppy-defensive-fundamentals-dooming-amazins.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/05/from-left-field-sloppy-defensive-fundamentals-dooming-amazins.html/#comments Thu, 22 May 2014 14:04:02 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=156515 Wilmer Flores (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Wilmer Flores (Photo by Jim Mancari)

I was sitting on the edge of my seat at Citi Field last night in the top of the eighth inning with one out and runners on the corners for the Dodgers.

The dangerous Hanley Ramirez was up with the Mets only down by one run. Boy did we need a double play in that spot.

Ramirez likely would have been tough to double up, except maybe if he wound up hitting a sharp comebacker right to Jeurys Familia on the mound.

To my surprise, he did. Right off the bat, I’m thinking, “Wow, what a huge double play in that spot!”

But Familia all of sudden double clutches, and I see two guys – Daniel Murphy and Wilmer Flores – both hovering around second base and in each other’s way.

Naturally, the Mets fail to turn the double play and allow an insurance run to score. As if the script was written prior to the game, the Mets only muster one run in the next two innings – meaning the fielder’s choice off the bat of Ramirez produced what was essentially the game-winning run.

And it’s all because the Mets have trouble with the fundamentals.

In recent memory, the Mets pretty much have been in every game they’ve played. Yet they’ve now lost three in a row and 14 of the last 19 games.

How many times is this team going to shoot itself in the foot by making mental mistakes?

A slow trickler out in front of the plate with two outs, and Anthony Recker and Carlos Torres can’t communicate to get an out at first, allowing a run to score. And that was after a wild pitch that allowed the runner to move from second to third.

Another huge double play situation the next night, and Jacob deGrom induces the dangerous Brian McCann to hit a sharp grounder. Murphy throws to David Wright covering second due to the shift, but Wright makes a weak and wide throw to first. Of course, Alfonso Soriano follows that with the only run-producing hit of the game.

We know this team is not going to score five-plus runs per game. But the starting pitching has been better than the team’s record shows.

I’ve written about it already this season that the Mets can’t rely on playing “perfect games” every single night. But what they have to do is make the plays they are supposed to make – especially in game-changing situations.

On the play last night, there’s two ways to look at it. With a right-handed hitter batting in Ramirez, maybe Murphy and Flores communicated that Murph would cover on a comebacker. But the traditional play is that the shortstop takes the throw, since his momentum is already carrying him towards first base to complete the double play. They were already positioned in double-play depth, so it’s not like Flores had far to go.

Sure, Familia should have just thrown it in the general area, and hopefully one of the middle infielders still would have had enough time to take the throw and complete the play. But still, it should have been clear who was covering the base before the play, and the other middle infielder should have then backed up the play.

“Shoulda, woulda, coulda” at this point – and sadly, this phrase has been used way too often this season.

So after another tough loss, I left Citi Field discouraged. The silver lining: deGrom has looked great through two starts.

But without offense and with routine defensive miscues, his starts – and all the pitchers’ starts – will come to naught.

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From Left Field: Smart Baseball Is Key For Mets http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/05/from-left-field-smart-baseball-is-key-for-mets.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/05/from-left-field-smart-baseball-is-key-for-mets.html/#comments Thu, 15 May 2014 13:45:31 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=155778 Chris Young (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Chris Young (Photo by Jim Mancari)

We were riding high on Monday and Tuesday. The offense was clicking, especially with the long ball, and the defense made a few key plays to increase the Mets winning streak to six games over the Yankees.

But then last night happened.

Before I get long-winded, Masahiro Tanaka is looking like a bona fide ace. Though games are never over until they are played, it was a tall order to think last night that Rafael Montero in his first big league start could outduel a guy who hasn’t lost a regular season game – albeit the majority in Japan – in nearly two full years.

But here’s the thing as we dissect the game: There were a few boneheaded plays that wound up costing the Mets big time.

Let’s start with the top of the second inning with two outs and Brian Roberts at the dish. He lines one to left, and Eric Young Jr. dives for it and comes up empty, allowing the ball to go to the wall and Yangervis Solarte to score easily.

I will never knock a guy for giving 100 percent effort, and that’s what Young Jr. did in that spot. But you have to know the situation there.

We all learned in Little League that you have to know what you are going to do if the ball is hit to you. You also always have to know who is up next.

In this case, Tanaka was on deck, so a single there really wouldn’t have hurt the Mets that much. Sure, Tanaka got a hit later in the game, but you’d rather take your chances in facing Tanaka with two outs then surrender a cheap run.

Again, it was a great effort by Young Jr., but it’s all about knowing the game situation at hand. That’s a lot easier said than done, especially in the heat of the moment, but he has to play that ball on a hop.

So then we move on to the bottom of the fifth. The Mets were only down 2-0 at that point, and Chris Young led off the frame with a single.

Remember, earlier in the game Daniel Murphy swiped second base as the Yankees were meandering around. That was a great heads-up play but one that happens so rarely that you can’t expect it to happen again.

Young however thought he could leave early and catch the Yankees napping again. But catcher Brian McCann signaled to Tanaka, who stepped off and threw to Solarte for the easy out.

Young was visibly mad at himself when he got up, and he should have been. There’s no reason to be making the first out in that fashion. That’s giving away an out to an ace pitcher who is already dominating you – which is not exactly the recipe for success.

I can understand a bit where Young is coming from. With Lucas Duda batting, anything on the ground is an easy double play. But in that case, why not just try a straight steal rather than a leave early play? It’s not like McCann is Yadier Molina behind the plate.

This team cannot afford to be making mental mistakes. Physical errors happen, but mental mistakes can be controlled.

If Young Jr. plays that ball on a hop, the Yankees have a much less chance of scoring that inning. And if Young was not caught trying to steal, who knows how that inning would have gone?

It wasn’t a great night to have “Young” as your last name. These plays were crucial, and though they didn’t necessarily cost the Mets the entire game, every play counts in the grand scheme of a baseball game.

Especially at home – where runs for the Mets have come at a premium – playing smart baseball is essential.

Sure it’s fine to take a calculated risk every so often, like Murphy did. But this team cannot afford to give opponents extra bases on defense and gift outs on offense.

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From Left Field: Would You Sign Up For 16-17 At This Point? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/05/from-left-field-would-you-sign-up-for-16-17-at-this-point.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/05/from-left-field-would-you-sign-up-for-16-17-at-this-point.html/#comments Thu, 08 May 2014 19:47:08 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=155170 juan lagares

Today is a much-needed day off for our Mets, who are now 1-6 in their last seven games.

That skid puts the team at 16-17 overall and fourth place in an NL East division that’s shaping up to be quite competitive.

We knew that the first month’s schedule was going to be tough, including the opening series against the Nationals, the early nine-game West Coast road trip, and tough series against the Braves and Cardinals.

So if you would have told me that the Mets would be 16-17 at this point based on their schedule, would I have signed up for that? I guess I would.

But honestly, with the way they’ve been losing games recently, I am forced to reconsider that answer.

Not too long ago, the Mets were sitting pretty at 15-11. Sure, a tough series at Coors Field was on the horizon, but a split and then taking two out of three from the Marlins would have been a great way to start the second month of the season.

But that’s not how it unfolded.

You have to always pencil at least one blowout loss in Colorado, but to lose a game after being up 6-0 is unacceptable.

Then on to Miami, the starting pitching in the series was great, but the bullpen and offensive woes cost the team a chance at salvaging the road trip.

A few losses this season have been beyond gut-wrenching – from Opening Day, to bullpen blow-ups, to walk-off losses, especially via the hit-by-pitch.

So would I sign up for 16-17? If I did not watch a single pitch this past month, then yes, I would have signed up for that mark at this point, given the question marks surrounding the this team in Spring Training.

But after following closely this year, there’s no way I’m signing for that mark.

It’s nice that the team has been alive in the majority of its games, but they have to be able to close out opponents.

When they have a three-run lead early, the offense can’t just shut down. But if it does, the bullpen has to be able to pick up the slack.

The starting pitching has certainly been a bright spot, but how many Jon Niese or Dillon Gee no-decisions is this organization willing to put up with before a change is made?

What that change will be, I do not know.

It starts with Wilmer Flores getting a look at shortstop. And maybe the next step is promoting some of the young arms to play a role in the bullpen.

Whatever happens, there’s still plenty of season left. Yes, giving away games in April and May is tough to swallow, but blowing what hopefully will be meaningful games in August and September just won’t cut it.

16-17 isn’t the worst thing in the world at this point, but it’s the way they’ve lost the 17 that has been tough so far.

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Could Rangers and Tigers Blockbuster Deal Impact Mets? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/11/could-rangers-and-tigers-blockbuster-deal-impact-mets.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/11/could-rangers-and-tigers-blockbuster-deal-impact-mets.html/#comments Fri, 22 Nov 2013 13:39:46 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=133394 I’ve seen a few blog posts out there in which a team analyzes how the recent Tigers-Rangers blockbuster deal impacts their individual team.

For example, how does this deal affect the Boston Red Sox? Or the White Sox? Or the Rockies?

So here’s the Mets’ view of the situation.

andrus

Let’s look at the facts: The Mets need a shortstop, and even after the blockbuster deal, the Texas Rangers have t

With Ian Kinsler heading to Detroit, all signs point to Profar moving to second base and Andrus – and his huge contract – remaining at shortstop.wo good ones (Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar).

But I’ve been hearing interesting rumors that could affect the Mets in some way. Even after acquiring a big bat in Fielder, the Rangers could be a potential destination to land this offseason’s top free agent: Robinson Cano.

Of course, a few things would have to fall into place for the Rangers to land Cano, the first of which would be a willingness to trade either Profar or Andrus.

Andrus has become a proven commodity at shortstop, but in order to commit at least $200 million to Cano, the team would have to move the bulk of the money due to Andrus, who signed an eight-year, $120 million contract early last April.

If Texas signed Cano, Profar would remain at shortstop, and the Rangers would easily have one of the best infields in the game with Fielder, Cano, Profar and Adrian Beltre.

Enter the Mets, who again need a shortstop. I’d much rather see this team acquire Andrus and take on the bulk of that contract than overpay for Jhonny Peralta or Stephen Drew.

In fact, the Tigers are looking at the possibility of bringing back Peralta to play third base, even though prospect Nick Castellanos is waiting in the wings.

Andrus is only 25 and has put together a good start to his pro career. He’s a two-time All-Star, a consistent base stealer and better offensively than any shortstop the Mets have run out there since Jose Reyes.

Defensively, Andrus has incredible range and one of the best throwing arms in the game. Sure, he’ll make some errors, but he’ll make up for them with turning infield hits into outs.

Andrus looks like a great fit for the Mets, right? Unfortunately, it’s not going to be easy to pry him away from Texas.

First, it’s not a given that Cano signs with the Rangers, especially with the Yankees still heavily involved.

But more importantly, the Mets and Rangers would have to agree to a trade. The only thing the Mets have to trade right now is a few promising pitching prospects.

Back when the Rangers had dominant teams of the mid-1990s, those teams were made up of all hitting and no pitching. But lately, the Rangers have had decent pitching staffs and appear set heading into next season.

Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Alexi Ogando, Martin Perez and Matt Harrison (return from back surgery) should form the starting five. The team also has promising youngsters Nick Tepesch and Robbie Ross as insurance. Neftali Feliz is also an option as he continues his recovery from Tommy John surgery, though he might slide back into the closer role with Joe Nathan being a free agent.

So the Rangers’ pitching staff looks good. But catcher and at least one of the corner outfield spots would need to be filled. I doubt the Mets would trade Travis d’Arnaud to get Andrus, and the Mets have their own outfield problems to be worried about.

That’s why, as good as Andrus would look in a Mets’ uniform, let’s not get our hopes up too much.

The most likely scenario is that the Rangers keep Andrus at shortstop and try to sign one or even both of Brian McCann as the catcher and Jacoby Ellsbury as an outfielder.

But if you start hearing rumors that the Rangers’ interest in Cano is intensifying, that would at least mean there could be a light at the end of the tunnel for the Mets potentially making a deal for Andrus.

It’s OK to dream right?

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