ESPN’s Mark Simon Talks Mets With MMO

Mark Simon of ESPN and ESPN New York, was kind enough to answer a few questions for me about a variety of Mets topics. Mark is ESPN’s Baseball Research Specialist and does a fine job providing Mets fans and bloggers with great detailed information that you don’t find anywhere else regarding the Mets. He is one of several Mets historians working at ESPN, and he had some very interesting responses to my questions. And no… I didn’t ask him about the Madoff mess, Beltran or Pagan in CF, and whether the Mets will cut Perez and Castillo. 😉 Enjoy!

Hi Mark, Thanks for taking a few questions for Mets Merized Online. My first question is more about you than about the Mets, as I only recently found out that you are a die-hard Mets fan (or Mets historian). Who set you upon your path to Mets fandom and who were some of your early favorite players? What is your most memorable Mets moment?

I was born in Manhattan to a Mets-fan father, so it was ingrained in me that I like the Mets and not the Yankees. I became an avid follower after getting the book This Date in New York Mets History as a birthday present (age 6 or 7). I basically have that book memorized (I had some fun with the author, when I met him a while back).

My first favorite player was Neil Allen and I have remained loyal to him for nearly 30 years. The only other one who would come close is Edgardo Alfonzo. Neil was very nice to me at a baseball card show, a couple weeks before getting traded for Keith Hernandez. For the record, I approved of the trade, because even at age 8, I knew that Keith Hernandez was a good get. 🙂

My favorite Mets moment is the ball going through Bill Buckner’s legs in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. I wrote my college admissions essays (tell us something interesting about yourself) on why Game 6 of the 1986 NLCS was inspirational to me.

My favorite, among games I attended, was Game 5 of the 1999 NLCS (grand slam single) and Bobby Jones pitching the one-hitter against the Giants to clinch the 2000 NLDS. I got to work with Dusty Baker at ESPN a few years later and we had a fun chat about that game (at least it was fun for me!)

Despite denials from the new front office, it just appears to me that the Mets are in some sort of rebuild mode. If they could, they probably would have traded Beltran, Reyes and of course our favorite bookends Perez and Castillo. It seems to me that they have little confidence that this team could make a real push for a Wild Card otherwise we might have seen a more aggressive strategy in free agency. It looked to me like their strategy was filling in all the empty spots as cheaply as possible, and just ride the 2011 season out – whatever happens, happens. Do you agree? Was it the right course of action? What are your thoughts?

I agree. It feels like they’ve basically taken the approach that they’re gonna fill out the roster with players whose value, at some point, was greater than it is now … and that these players are gonna use this year to get back on track (or fade into oblivion).

Was it the right course of action? Well, it’s not like they haven’t spent. Problem is that Perez and Castillo are $18 million of what I call “dead money” and Johan’s deal is “dead money” until he comes back. So, they were working at a significant disadvantage all winter, unless they wanted to raise the payroll by $30 mil or so.

I look at it as a 2-year plan, focused on positioning themselves for 2012, even though right now, the free agent market looks a bit weak.

Playing off of my last question, if 2011 is more of a transitional season and one best served for evaluating players, I found a couple of their moves a little puzzling. I could see signing Scott Hairston or Willie Harris, but why both of them? It seems that we might have been better off seeing what we had in someone like Nick Evans who is out of options, rather than bringing in some aging veterans whose best days are far behind them. What were your thoughts on the two signings and what impact will they have on Nick Evans or Lucas Duda (who finished strong in 2010) making the team?

It does seem odd, doesn’t it? I guess the thinking was that Evans or Duda aren’t going to start, given the current composition of the lineup, so they’re better off in Triple-A (or in Evans’ case, somewhere else) at the start of the season. These things tend to work themselves out. One of these signees is probably gonna turn into Gary Matthews Jr. and be gone by May 1. Maybe the other works out. I can understand the issue with Evans, but don’t have a problem with Duda starting in Triple-A.

It looks like Bobby Parnell is the de facto setup man for the Mets this season, although that could still change depending on how things play out at camp. I’m not sure he’s up for the challenge yet, but I was very intrigued on your post on Taylor Buchholz the other day and agree that he could be a good candidate for the job. It looks like it’s going to be a real numbers game as far as making the bullpen with well over a dozen relievers vying for five available spots. Look into your crystal ball and tell us who you think will be joining K-Rod and Parnell up north when camp breaks.

I’ll take: Buchholz, Carrasco, Byrdak, Acosta, and Misch. That means Oliver Perez is cut. Misch over Tankersley for the last spot because he’s better suited as a long man.

And then I’ll grimace, cross my fingers, and hope for the best.

Buchholz has the most upside. I think the feeling is that if he can get his fastball velocity back up just a little bit, he’s gonna be pretty valuable.

Is it time to stop envisioning Jose Reyes as part of our core group of players? What are the odds the Mets keep him? I don’t see any help on the farm that would be major league ready by 2012. Where are we going with this, and is it me or are we planing his exit without an exit strategy in place?

I think I answered this in a recent chat. If I’m guessing now, Reyes isn’t a Met in 2012. He’s kind of damned if he does well, damned if he doesn’t from a Mets perspective. If he does well, he’s gonna want $15 mil a year, and this group won’t pay that much for a guy with his history of injuries (and frustrating AB’s that end in infield popups). If he doesn’t do well, the Mets won’t want him back. It’s too bad.

I don’t think they have an exit strategy in place. I think they’ll have one on July 25, and use trade deadline week to see what they can execute.

In 2010, we saw breakthrough seasons for Ike Davis and R.A. Dickey, who were two rare bright spots in another otherwise forgettable season. I happen to think that Lucas Duda is going to force the issue up in Buffalo this season and muscle his way into the Mets lineup at some point in the first half. What players are you keeping an eye on that could possibly impact the Mets the way Davis and Dickey did last season? Do you see any real sleepers?

I was intrigued about Emaus until another blogger (forgetting where I saw it) pointed out that his minor league stats last season are a product of playing home games in hitter-friendly Las Vegas. I would like to see Dillon Gee make the rotation, but that’s probably going to require someone to get hurt. He looked like a guy who knew what he was doing …but I don’t make the decisions. I just write about them. 🙂

You can follow Mark Simon on Twitter or read Mark’s posts on ESPN New York.

About Joe D 7944 Articles
I'm a lifelong Mets fan who loves writing and talking about the Amazins' 24/7. From the Miracle in 1969 to the magic of 1986, and even the near misses in '73, '00 and '15, I've experienced it all - the highs and the lows. I started Mets Merized Online in 2005 to feed my addiction and interact with other passionate Met fans like you. Follow me on Twitter @metsmerized.