Mike's Mets

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Mets Hot Stove: Manny, Baez and More, Oh My!

For a Saturday, there was quite a lot of Mets news to report, including the continuing possibility of a multi-team blockbuster, and the ongoing search for bullpen help.

Daily News: Manny Megadeal
Bill Madden and Anthony Mccarron cite "multiple baseball sources" that talks with the Devil Dogs over mediocre reliever Danys Baez could morph into a four-team blockbuster involving Manny Ramirez and Miguel Tejada. They explain the driving forces behind the deal as follows:

According to sources, both the Red Sox and Orioles have resigned themselves to accommodating the trade requests of Ramirez and Tejada, who want off of their respective teams. But since the Orioles have signed Jeromy Burnitz to complete their outfield, they may not have a match with the Red Sox in a straight-up Tejada-for-Ramirez deal, so several baseball executives said they'd have to get other teams involved.

That's where the Mets and Devil Rays come in. The basics of the four-team deal that had the baseball executives buzzing yesterday and would appear to satisfy the needs of all four clubs would have Tejada and Tampa Bay's Joey Gathright going to the Red Sox to fill Boston's holes at shortstop and center field.

Ramirez and Baez would go to the Mets, giving them one of the game's best sluggers and a setup man. The Orioles would satisfy their need at shortstop by getting Julio Lugo from Tampa Bay and add pitching by getting Matt Clement from Boston and possibly Kris Benson from the Mets.

The Devil Rays, who have always been difficult to deal with, especially in complicated transactions, are seeking top prospects and young pitching and would be satisfied in that regard by getting third baseman Andy Marte from Boston and Jae Seo and Aaron Heilman from the Mets. In addition, the Mets would send Kaz Matsui to Tampa to give the D-Rays a stopgap shortstop replacement until prospect B.J. Upton is ready.

So in this scenario, the Mets would be giving up Kris Benson, Jae Seo, Aaron Heilman and Kaz Matsui (along with most of his salary, I would assume), and in return would be getting Manny Ramirez and Danys Baez. This deal doesn't stink as badly as some of the potential deals we've heard this week, but it wouldn't make me happy if it went through. It's a lot of pitching to give up, although sometimes I think the Mets are committed to going into 2006 without Seo and Heilman, which to me is a shame.

I believe the best teams put together a blend of youth and experience, and combine pitching and defense along with offensive power. This team is getting quite old, even without Ramirez. If you make this deal, you're parting with 3 picthers, 2 of them young and showing a lot of promise, and receiving one mediocre closer back that doesn't even want to come here and setup. The defense, even without Manny, looks worse than last year. Cameron was a huge loss in that regard, and Delgado -- defensively -- is a downgrade at first. I just don't like where this deal would take the team -- older and more one-dimensional.

Madden and Mccarron also mention the more likely scenario of a trade between the Mets and Rays for just Baez. They cite two Mets sources that the team would "absolutely" not trade Heilman for Baez, which is somewhat comforting. As I've stated previously, I just don't see Baez as a significant upgrade to Heilman -- just older and more expensive.

Newark Star-Ledger: Looking for an arm
Dan Graziano also reports on the Mets' search for more bullpen help. Along with trying to obtain Baez, Graziano still feels a trade might be worked out between the Mets and Orioles for that Benson - Jorge Julio deal, if the O's are willing to give up more than Julio for Benson.

I still feel the same as I felt at the beginning of December when this trade was discussed. A friend of mine from Baltimore characterizes Julio as "Armando Benitez with less talent." Unless the Orioles are willing to part with a significant prospect, I wouldn't do it. Moreover, don't forget, when this was first discussed, the rationale behind it was to clear Benson's salary space to add a quality starter. Unless the A's change their mind about Zito, that door would seem to be closed.

St. Petersburg Times: Baez doesn't want setup role
In an interview with Damian Cristodero, Danys Baez is quoted:

I don't know if I want to be a setup guy. I want to be a closer. But if they trade me I don't have a choice. If they want me to be a setup guy, that's what I'll do.

What I want is to be a free agent (after 2006) and then I can control what happens. [my emphasis] This way, I don't have any choice. But whatever happens, I'll be ready.

Whatever else can be said about this potential trade, Omar Minaya should not give up Aaron Heilman or Jae Seo for a one-year rental of Danys Baez. The Devil Rays have already fattened up once on Mets stupidity, let's not go there again.

Newsday: Of course, Heilman doesn't want to setup, either
Jim Baumbach informs us that Aaron Heilman would rather be traded to a team that would use him as a starter. He quotes Mark Rodgers, Heilman's agent:

He's been polite but persistent. He's enjoyed the Mets, the city and the people, but he can do the math. He knows right now there's no room for him.

Rogers also says that Heilman told Minaya, "The reason why I went and played winter ball was to prove that I can start."

Fair enough. This doesn't bother me like Baez' statements did. I'd like to point out here that, unlike Baez, Heilman is nowhere close to being a free agent. It certainly is conceivable that a starting role can open up for him with the Mets, if not this year than next. Omar just needs to schmooze him a little.

Bergen Record: Klap: Darling to join Mets broadcast team.
Bob Klapisch reports that former Mets pitcher Ron Darling is close to signing a deal to do color commentary for Mets games on SNY. With Darling, Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez in the TV booth, the upgrade there will be as significant as on the field.

Klap also informs us that the Mets are denying any sort of deal is in the works for Baez:

When asked about a possible deal for Baez, which had been reported by the New York Post, one club official said, "We're not really close to anything right now. We haven't talked to [the Devil Rays] since the winter meetings."

The wild, whacky world of the Mets hot stove goes rolling on...

MetsDaily.com: Brian Bannister Interview Transcript
The highlights of yesterday's MetsDaily.com audio interview with prospect Brain Bannister is now available as text for those that prefer it. The Real Audio version is still available from the "In the Studio" page, too.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Mets Hot Stove: Keep it in your pants...

I was reading MetsBlog this afternoon and found a link to the following story:

Sheriff Sully: What not to do when caught cheating
This blogger offers us the reason Manny wants out of Boston so badly:

I've been telling friends the last few weeks that every media member in New England has this story but for whatever reason, no one was running it.

...Last season, Ramirez supposedly cheated on his wife of nearly three years and feeling guilty, told her.

...Without getting into specifics, supposedly, Mrs. Ramirez feels that her husband would be less likely to stray outside of Boston and thus, her demand.

In closing, despite having enough smoke that a fire appears likely, we weren't going to share this information.

However, apparently, the majority of the New England and national media have been talking about this for weeks, and it's time Red Sox fans knew the rumors, too.

So the reason that I'm being tormented by the constant Manny rumors is that:

A. Manny slept with some baseball groupie and

B. He was dumb enough to tell his wife about it afterward.

Apparently, Manny never learned the 3 keys to any relationship: deny, deny, deny.

Former President Clinton was a master of this strategy. If you are literally caught in the act by your significant other, you deny that you were cheating. You deny things that don't even matter, like what you ate for lunch yesterday. You absolutely wear your partner out with denials. Soon, they're not sure what's true and what's not. But, whatever you do, never-ever confess to anything when you haven't been caught.

It's not too late, Manny, you can stay in Boston. Deny to her that you ever confessed. Deny that you ever cheated. Deny, deny, deny...

Repeat after me, Manny: "that's my story, and I'm sticking to it."

You dumb bastard.

MetsDaily: Audio Interview with Brain Bannister
John Strubel once again offers a nice antidote to non-stop Manny mania with an "In the Studio" interview with top surviving Mets' pitching prospect Brian Bannister.

Since relaunching the web site earlier this month, Strubel & company have done a terrific job, especially with the interviews. If you love following the Mets year round, bookmark this site.

Mets Hot Stove: All Manny, all the time...

I give up. I understand now that bringing Manny Ramirez to New York will assure world peace, and I am now all for any deal, no matter how unsound from a baseball sense, that would bring him here. I am even growing out my hair so I can affect a personal "Manny look" for 2006. I am starting a web site called IDontCareWhatItCostsICantLiveWithoutManny.com. T-shirts are being printed up now and will be offered at a nominal cost reasonable price huge markup. I'll also be accepting PayPal donations that I promise to do absolutely nothing to earn. Basically, I will be looking to fleece you under the pretext of running a populist movement of Met fans.

Oh, by the way, the Post is reporting the Mets might be close to acquiring someone other than Manny:

New York Post: Baez coming?
Joel Sherman is characterizing the Mets as being "on the brink" of acquiring reliever Danys Baez from Tampa Bay. According to Sherman:

The Devil Rays would receive a package in return that would be headed by either Jae Seo or Aaron Heilman... If they did not include Heilman in the trade -- and they have been very resistant all offseason to move the young righty -- the Mets would have a late-game trio of Heilman, Baez and Wagner that combined for a 2.17 ERA in 2005, allowing just 161 hits in 216 innings.

I'm not in love with Baez. To me, he is a somewhat younger and slightly better Braden Looper. Even Sherman's description of Baez is reminiscent of Looper:

Though he throws hard (in the 93-95 mph) and has a strong split, Baez is not an overpowering strikeout pitcher and he does fight wildness at times.

I guess the key for me here would be if this trade could be accomplished with Jae Seo rather than Heilman. I like Seo, but understand the need to have a fallback closer if Wagner gets hurt. A bullpen with Wagner, Baez and Heilman, along with whatever retreads survive spring training, isn't too bad, and they wouldn't have to sign Tavarez.

My problem is if this trade includes Heilman, especially since we hear that Baez doesn't want to be a setup man, and can walk after the 2006 season. I'm not convinced that Baez is an upgrade to Heilman, to make this deal for one year of Baez is crazy. Even if you manage to resign Baez after the season, you'll be paying him much more money than you'd be paying Heilman, but will you have a significantly better pitcher? I'm not convinced.

Newark Star-Ledger: Some might characterize this as bad news
Dan Graziano informs us that a "Mets deal for Ramirez won't be easy". He states that the Mets are monitoring the Tejada trade talks in the hopes of being involved in a multi-team deal that would bring Manny to Queens:

According to two baseball officials familiar with the talks, the Mets have been involved in several complicated trade discussions with the hope of landing Ramirez. Both officials said the large, complex deals still required a lot of work, but that the Mets were keeping their toe in the water in case they still had a chance to add Ramirez to their 2006 lineup.

One of the possibilities would involve a multi-team deal in which Mets pitcher Kris Benson would end up in Baltimore, Tejada in Boston and Ramirez with the Mets (with a variety of other players and cash bouncing around in the deal as well). The Orioles like Benson and, earlier this off-season, offered reliever Jorge Julio for him. The Mets have been looking to trade him and certainly would do so if it meant bringing in Ramirez for right field


Even I couldn't argue against Benson for Ramirez -- it's just the rest of the players that the Mets would have to include that would make this deal suck.

My biggest hope right now is that the Orioles and Red Sox swing a Tejada for Ramirez and Clement trade that would put an end to this crap once and for all.

MinorLeagueBaseball.com: Can Anderson Garcia offer any relief?
Kevin Czerwinski pens a story on Anderson Garcia, a Mets minor leaguer who has the potential to challenge for a bullpen spot in 2006. The 24 year old Dominican came over to the Mets from the Yankees in the Armando Benitez deal of 2004. After a successful campaign for the Mets' High-A and Double-A affiliates, Hernandez was rewarded with a spot on the 40-man roster. Czerwinski offers the following scouting report on Hernandez, courtesy of an AL scout who saw him pitch in the minors this past season:

He's not bad and he has a good arm. He just needs to be more consistent with his finishing pitches. He's raw and a good arm strength guy who can get his fastball up to 95 miles an hour. But he needs to improve his command down in the zone. He's a prospect, though, and may develop into a closer type but right now it's a little too early to tell.

He doesn't have a good second knockout pitch. There are a lot of guys around now who throw in the mid-90s. If you don't have a second hammer, the fastball just isn't as effective. He needs to develop a second pitch where he can tell hitters, hey I have a good fastball but I also have this pitch. ... I'd say he's a seventh-inning guy now but he could get better, so them putting him on the 40-man doesn't surprise me.

That might not sound all that scintillating, but when you look at some of the guys who will be competing for a bullpen role in 2006, a kid with potential in the system couldn't hurt.

Gotham Baseball: The obligatory Manny rumor
From the people that give you those wild Manny rumors, Mark Healy provides the latest:

Mets would send Lastings Milledge, Anderson Hernandez, Aaron Heilman and Xavier Nady to Tampa Bay for Lugo, Huff and Baez. New York would then send Lugo, Huff, Kris Benson and Cliff Floyd to Baltimore for Tejada, and then send Tejada to the Red Sox for Manny Ramirez.

From New York's end of things, they would be saving more money than the original deal, but would be parting with their top three prospects (as well as Floyd and Benson) for an aging, but potent superstar player in Ramirez and a closer in Baez who's said to be against setting up another closer in his contract year.

I though Wednesday's GB proposed deal was a terrible one for the Mets, but I'll give Mark Healy credit, this one is worse. The Mets would be giving up Cliff Floyd, Kris Benson, Aaron Heilman, Xavier Nady, and prospects Lastings Milledge and Anderson Hernandez for Manny Ramirez and Danys Baez. Essentially Manny replaces Floyd and Baez replaces Heiman; Benson and Nady are just gone, and the farm system is a vast wasteland of mediocrity with little potential to provide anything of value over the next 2-3 years.

I heard one caller to WFAN yesterday tell Ed Coleman that he would trade everyone on the Mets to get Manny. If this trade goes through, he comes close to getting his wish. Funny, though, if the Mets get Manny and it backfires, guys like that are going to be bitching the loudest.

I don't pretend to have any "insider sources" feeding me information, I'm stuck depending on my own common sense. A year ago, Omar Minaya promised us a team that would be younger, more athletic and featuring pitching and defense. Was that just a joke or a sincere blueprint for the future? If we get Manny, Omar wins the battle for the back page of the newspapers, and we get to watch a team full of aging big names that really isn't well constructed from a baseball standpoint. Kind of sounds like that team in the Bronx over the last few years -- how has it worked out for them?

I need a drink...

MetsBlog: A new Matthew Cerrone Notebook
Matthew Cerrone has built MetsBlog into one of the best independent New York Mets web site by staying on top of all that is going on. The information he gathers from solid baseball sources, as well as his talent for presenting it, set his site apart.

One of my favorite features on MetsBlog is Matt's Notebook, where he goes into detail on a subject. This week it's the I-95 Rumor Drive, featuring all of the Ramirez/Tejada/Mets rumors.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Mets Hot Stove: More on the Manny rumors

We spend a little more time on the Manny Ramirez Rumors from yesterday, and get Rick Peterson's take on Chad Bradford:

Daily News: Rick Peterson on Chad Bradford
We covered the Chad Bradford signing in our previous post, but Anthony McCarron has a quote from the Mets' pitching coach that's worth passing along:

When you're a guy with a unique delivery and you switch leagues and guys have no history with you, it's a great advantage. He's been a dominant ground-ball pitcher. Before the back problem, he was a premier right-on-right specialty guy because he gets grounders. He had a couple of big years for us in Oakland, facing the best righthanded hitters in the league.

For those that care, McCarron also reports that Miguel Cairo and the Yankees have agreed to a one-year, $1 million contract.

The Providence Journal: Manny Rumors, part three
The Journal's Baseball Notebook takes note of Gotham Baseball's rumored four-way deal from yesterday. Their take on it:

Skepticism abounds surrounding this rumor, for several reasons. For one thing, it still doesn't address the Orioles' reluctance to trade Tejada in their own division. For another, the Mets would be trading five players (Heilman, Matsui, Benson, Bannister and Diaz) and $5 million for the Sox' left fielder, which would seem to be too high a price.

But the Web site (www.gothambaseball.com) also quoted a source as saying the Mets -- spurred on, perhaps, by the cross-town Yankees' acquisition of Johnny Damon and needing more star power for their in-house television network, which starts this year -- "will not rest until they acquire Ramirez." That may prompt them to overpay in a deal.

There seems to be a consensus out there in media-land that the Mets would overpay to get Ramirez to keep the buzz going for the TV network. In fairness to Omar Minaya, for every deal rumored to happen, nothing completely undefendable has occurred this off-season. You can argue the Cameron and Lo Duca deals, even the Delgado pickup, but there are good points to be made in defense of them. I'm going to hope that all of the people that are coming out in print to tell us what Omar is thinking really don't know. I'll hold on to the dream that the Mets' primary goal is to build a winner that can sustain itself for more than a couple of years. A deal such as this would surely dash all of my hopes, and leave me just counting the days until Omar joins Steve Phillips as ex-GM of the Mets.

Boston Globe: Manny again
Eric Wilbur pens a story primarily focused on Boston's efforts to trade Manny Ramirez for Miguel Tejada. Wilbur notes the statement from Orioles management yesterday that they will not trade Tejada, and that the Red Sox have not followed suit with Manny:

The Red Sox have yet to issue such a statement of course based on the fact that there’s nothing more they’d love to do than unload Ramirez.

But without some semblance of equal value in return, it is simply not going to happen, which will spark a spring training / World Baseball Classic watch to see whether or not Ramirez will indeed hold out in lieu of donning the B cap once again. The Angels will not trade any of their top prospects, including Brandon Wood and Ervin Santana. The Troy Glaus possibility it now off the table, the slugger heading to Toronto to play for the revamped Blue Jays. If you believe the New York tabloids, the Mets have presented 5,675 scenarios in which to land Ramirez, but unless they give up a heck of a lot more than they have previously offered, Omar Minaya will not be getting his Bobo.

Again we hear of the Red Sox management's desire to obtain "equal value" in return for Manny. Of course, they can offer no guarantees against the fact that, at 34 years of age next year, Manny might be on the decline. As we've seen with so many others, including Mike Piazza, that decline can be steep and sudden rather than gradual.

Even if we accept the unlikely scenario that Manny is still mostly Manny at 35, 36 and beyond, the simple fact is that Manny is worth more to the Red Sox than to the Mets. Manny is an American League ballplayer to the max, playing pretty badly in one of the easiest left fields in baseball. If he gets a little banged up they have the option of playing him at DH. If, by the last year or two of his contract, he is not nearly worth the paycheck he is receiving, Sox fans can at least say that they had Manny at his best for several years. What will Mets fans be able to say? Please, Omar, pass on this one and concentrate on winning. If the team succeeds, TV ratings will take care of themselves.

Mets Daily: Interview with Michael Morrissey
If you want to get your Mets fix on more than just rumors, and you missed this last night, John Strubel has a very good "In the Studio" audio interview with Michael Morrissey, the Mets beat reporter for the New York Post. Thankfully, this interview covers much more than whether the Mets will land Manny.

Mets Hot Stove: Bradford Signed, More Ramirez Talk

Chad Bradford is officially the newest member of the Mets' bullpen, MetsDaily.com has another excellent audio interview on-line, and that crazy Manny talk goes on and on...

Mets.com: Bradford signing official
A press release on the Mets' web site announces that the Mets have signed reliever Chad Bradford to a one-year contract. The righty sidewinder is coming back from a back injury that cost him half his season in 2005 and diminished his effectiveness. Still, Omar Minaya was pleased with the signing:

Chad is a veteran guy who has had success in the post-season. He brings valuable experience to our bullpen.

Bradford is looking forward to pitching in New York:

New York is a great situation for me. I worked with Rick Peterson in Oakland and I know what he can do. With all the off-season additions, I'm sure the Mets will be contending for a playoff spot and I want to do all I can to help.

Although his numbers were down last year, Bradford is a pitcher who has enjoyed great success against right-handed batters in his career:

For his career, righthanded batters have a .225 (188-834) average against Bradford. Chad has permitted 10 home runs in 834 at-bats against righthanded batters lifetime, an average of one home run per 83.4 at-bats.

For those of you that are interested, the AP is reporting the dollar value of the deal at $1.4 million.

Mets Daily: Interview with Michael Morrissey
John Strubel has a very good "In the Studio" audio interview with Michael Morrissey, the Mets beat reporter for the New York Post. The 15 minute interview features Morrissey's thoughts on both what happened last season and what the Mets might still do this off-season.

Gotham Baseball: Manny Rumors, part duex
Gotham Baseball's Mike McGann offers this on the four way trade that GB's Mark Healy wrote about earlier:

So, the Battle Continues
All this talk - and it's very real my sources tell me - of the giant Manny Ramirez, Miguel Tejada, four-team deal appears to be the next shot fired in the growing Mets-Yankees war for New York. On the heels of the Yankees bringing in Johnny Damon, Mets' GM Omar Minaya seems determined to make a very hard run at getting Manny to play left field at Shea.

Remember, when you look at these proposed deals, it's not just wins and losses, but dollars and ratings points that figure into the math. Add Manny and Mets telecasts on SNY gain "X" number of rating points, increasing ad dollars - two-thirds of which ends up in the Mets' pocket at the end of the day. So star power may prove to be just as important as winning in Flushing. While the trade talk might seem excessive, especially when it comes to trading the team's prospects, don't forget the business side of the game. [my emphasis]

I couldn't disagree with Mr. McGann more strongly on the two lines I emphasized. Although it wouldn't shock me if the Mets did acquire Manny Ramirez, to equate star power and winning is just plain wrong. If the Mets don't build a consistent winner no one is going to care how many big names are on the team, and if they suck, no one will be watching the telecasts, either. Didn't we learn this lesson in 2002?

Omar's job, first and foremost, is to build a winning team. To do this, it's going to take more than a bunch of big names all getting old at the same time. It's going to take a strong bullpen and the best starting pitching they can throw out there. It's going to take a blend of cheap young players mixed in with the veterans to give Omar enough payroll flexibility to make the moves that he needs to do to succeed. The trade as outlined by Mark Healy earlier would hurt the balance of the team.

A move like this might impress some of the casual a--holes that don't really understand the game, but the real Mets fan wants a solid team that has a chance to win -- this year, and 2 or 3 years down the road. Winning the back page of the dailies from the Yankees means absolutely nothing. Mere buzz, like talk, is cheap. Give us a winner on the field.

AP: Oh, by the way
David Ginsburg, in a report on the Orioles reaching agreement with Jeremy Burnitz, also offers this news on Miguel Tejada:

In other news, the Orioles are on the brink of abandoning their effort to trade disgruntled shortstop Miguel Tejada, who has expressed a desire to leave Baltimore because the team has not done enough to improve itself during the offseason.

"There is absolutely no deal we find acceptable to trade this very special player to another team," an Orioles official said.

That, if true, would seem to throw a monkey-wrench into the proposed four team deal.

New York Times: Rick and Chad, together again
Pat Borzi reports that the Mets hope that reuniting reliever Chad Bradford with pitching coach Rick Peterson will help him to regain the form he had when they worked together in Oakland:

Bradford first excelled with Oakland while Peterson was his pitching coach. Bradford's unusual delivery, bending so his knuckles nearly scrape the dirt of the mound as he throws, baffled right-handers from 2002 to 2004, when he held them to a .214 average. Peterson left Oakland for the Mets after the 2003 season. In eight postseason appearances from 2000 (with the White Sox) through 2003, Bradford did not allow a run in eight and a third innings.

Borzi points out that reuniting with Peterson revived the career of Roberto Hernandez. I've heard some Mets fans express the hope that Bradford might possibly be the eighth inning guy if Heilman is moved in a Manny Ramirez trade. Keep in mind that, as a submariner, Bradford is suited for a situational role in facing right-handers. He's never enjoyed much success against lefties, and that would seem to argue against his suitability for a set-up role.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Manny Ramirez: Food for thought

Mike, one of my readers, left this comment on an earlier post regarding Manny Ramirez:

Take a look at baseball-reference.com and see the most similar players by age (33) for Manny. Thome, Mays, Robby, Thome ... All of them began there decline after age 33. The only one who didn't was Barry - and we all know that story.

It was such a good idea, I thought I'd give it a shot. Let's look at what some of these guys did after age 33, with age and injuries taking their toll. I’m going to let the bare numbers speak for themselves.

Jim Thome34193730.207.352
Willie Mays3455852112.317.645
Jeff Bagwell345713198.291.518
Frank Robinson344712578.306.520
Frank Thomas345232892.252.472

Mets Hot Stove: An arm for the bullpen, wild Manny rumors

Today's news offers an update to the sad Jeff Reardon story, a report that the Mets are close to signing another bullpen arm, and another Ramirez rumor.

New York Post: Bradford on the way
Joel Sherman of the Post reports that sidewinding right-handed reliever Chad Bradford is close to signing a one-year contract with the Mets. After missing half the season with back surgery in 2005, Bradford wasn't quite as effective as he's been in past years:

When he returned, pitching for the A's and Red Sox, he failed to overwhelm righties as he had in the past. Righties batted .282 against Bradford in 2005 after previously managing to hit just .220.

Nevertheless, Bradford still did not allow a homer to a righty batter, and has permitted just 10 homers in 835 at-bats against righties in his career. However, his funky motion does not deceive lefties, who have hit .319 against him during his career.

Hey, the more the merrier in this year's bullpen quest. He can't be worse than last year's funk, Shingo Takatsu.

New York Times: Reardon update
Charlie Nobles fills us in a little more on the sad, weird Jeff Reardon story. He was released from Palm Beach jail on a $5,000 bond, under house arrest, and with the stipulation that he seeks a mental health evaluation. Using a police affidavit, Nobles describes the incident in detail:

According to a police affidavit, a man later identified as Reardon walked into the Hamilton Jewelers store at the Gardens Mall shortly before noon Monday. He was wearing an all-black outfit and carrying two white garbage bags and a note that indicated he had a gun, but nobody would be harmed if he received cash and jewelry, the affidavit said.

The note was passed to a store associate, Barbara Myer, who later told the police that she had felt threatened and was "in fear." Myer said she told the man that the store did not have much cash, according to the affidavit. She said she put $170 into a green bag marked with a Hamilton logo and handed it to the man.

According to the affidavit, the man also asked for jewelry. But no jewelry was found in the bag.

The man then hurried out the door, with the store's manager, James Silfies, chasing him as store employees called the police.

Lt. David O'Neill and another officer, Sheree Brown, of the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department, were the first to the scene, about three or four minutes after the robbery was reported.

By then, according to the affidavit, the man had approached a mall security officer, Sanford Berman, who was sitting in a car. He told Berman that he had just robbed Hamilton Jewelers, the affidavit said. Berman told the police that he asked the man if he had a gun and that the answer was no. As the man handed over the Hamilton bag, the police arrived, according to the affidavit.

When the man was being handcuffed near a curb outside a restaurant at the mall, O'Neill said that he confessed, saying: " 'I completely lost my mind and tried to rob jewelry store. I flipped on my medications and didn't realize what I was doing.' "

Reardon's attorney, Mitchell J. Beers, seems to be laying the groundwork for a defense based on an interaction between antidepressants Reardon has been on since his son's overdose death 2 years ago with some new medication Reardon has been taking since undergoing angioplasty Friday.

Gotham Baseball: Manny Rumors
Mark Healy is citing "Multiple independent baseball sources" that a four team deal is in the works that would (be still my heart!) land Manny Ramirez on the Mets. According to Mark Healy:

We've been able to piece together some aspects of the deal, but they are subject to change as the teams continue to communicate with one other.

Mets would send Heilman and Matsui (and $5 million) to Tampa Bay for Lugo. Then New York would send Lugo, Kris Benson, Brian Bannister and Victor Diaz to Baltimore for Tejada, and then send Tejada to the Red Sox for Manny Ramirez.

For example:

Mets would get Manny Ramirez
O's would get Lugo, Benson, Bannister, Diaz
Red Sox would get Tejada
Devil Rays would get Heilman and Matsui

Nothing's close, but "these are the kind of deals that either fall apart immediately, or take until the spring to complete."

Nice weasily wording of that last sentence, Mr. Healy. A couple of things here. First, this column is labeled "The Rumor Mill", which means anything that's even discussed is fair game, but a reader should be careful as to what they are willing to swallow. Second, almost any Manny rumor is sure to send my stomach acid churning at this point. But let's look at this more closely.

In this deal, the Mets are losing Aaron Heilman, Kaz Matsui, Kris Benson, Victor Diaz, and Brian Bannister, the top pitching prospect left in the organization. They're also paying out $5 million in cash. They're getting back Manny Ramirez.

With Benson's and Matsui's contracts gone, the Mets payroll isn't going up by more than a few million, so that part makes some sense. My God, though, is there anyone out there, including Mr. Healy, that believes the players mentioned make sense for the Mets?

Losing Heilman from the bullpen, even if they sign the unstable Julian Tavarez, would be almost impossible to replace at this point -- which is why the Mets haven't moved him in any deal up to now. Matsui is no loss, but Benson is still the third best pitcher on a team that isn't sure if their ace is going to be healthy to start the season. Victor Diaz is a very promising young, cheap player. Brian Bannister is the only Mets' pitching prospect close to the majors -- discounting Alay Soler, who we need to remember hasn't thrown a pitch in this country yet.

When you look at the individual components of this trade, both the Mets and the Devil Rays look like losers in this deal. If the Rays are inclined to deal Lugo, they should be able to get more than Heilman and Matsui for him. The Mets are by far the biggest losers here, however; giving up a ton, in both pitching and cheap young talent, for one aging, defensively lacking slugger. Rumors are meant to be read for entertainment, I guess, but I'd question Omar's sanity if anything close to this deal happened.

Note: I found the link to the previous story in MetsBlog.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Jeff Reardon Arrested

A sad story about a former Mets player leads off on a slow post-holiday news day.

AP: Reardon arrested in Florida
In a truly bizarre story, former Mets reliever Jeff Reardon was arrested in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, after robbing a Jewelry store with a note claiming he had a gun. He was found in a nearby restaurant and arrested without incident. Apparently this was due to some interaction between medications:

Reardon made a brief appearance in court Tuesday and was to be released on $5,000 bail, said his attorney, Mitchell Beers.

He said Reardon had a 20-year-old son who died of a drug overdose in February 2004, which "has been very difficult for him and his family," and has been on medication for depression. Reardon, who is married and has two other children, also underwent a heart angioplasty last week and has been taking medication for that.

"He asked me to apologize to his fans and friends," Beers said. "This bizarre incident is completely uncharacteristic of Jeff Reardon."

He said Reardon, who made more than $11.5 million in his career, according to baseball-reference.com, was not having financial problems.

Jeff Reardon didn't pitch for the Mets very long, being traded for Ellis Valentine in one of Frank Cashen's worst moves before 1986. His best years were spent with Montreal, Minnesota and Boston. I hope things work out for him and his family.

Daily News: Mets one of top 10 sports stories of 2005
The Mets off-season acquisitions were picked by the Daily News as number 8 of the top 10 sports stories of 2005. According to Adam Rubin:

Omar Minaya landed Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran during his first winter as Mets' GM. This year, Minaya rivaled that extreme winter makeover, bringing first baseman Carlos Delgado, closer Billy Wagner and catcher Paul Lo Duca to Flushing.

In the process, the GM weakened the rival Marlins and Phillies by swiping marquee players from both NL East clubs. And he made the eighth spot on the Daily News' Top 10 list of New York sports stories of the year.

It would be nice if the Mets can become one of the top stories of 2006 by what they do on the field.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Mets Hot Stove: Looking at Padilla, Seo gets married

The Christmas holiday is over, and we start to get back in the groove with a few items of interest:

Hardball Times: Juan Padilla
I had a link a few days ago to an article I found in the Hardball Times about Heath Bell. It was written by a man named David Appelman who is the creator of the FanGraphs website. In the article, Mr. Appelman used statistics to prove that Heath Bell was somewhat unlucky last year and could reasonably be expected to do better in 2006. The primary reason that Appelman felt that Bell was unlucky was that his Batting Average on balls put into play (BABIP) was the ninth worst in the league.

In his latest look at a Mets reliever, Mr. Appelman uses stats, including BABIP and Left on base percentage (LOB%), to show that Juan Padilla pitched in some good luck in 2005, and that it might not be reasonable to expect results as good in 2006:

Starting off with ERA, his first trip around the majors was pretty awful. In 2004 he had an insanely high ERA of 7.71, which plummeted to an incredibly low ERA of 1.49 in 2005. With such a steep decline, I'd expect some sort of drastic change in his strikeouts or walks. This was not the case.

In 2005 his strikeout to walk ratio (K/BB) was slightly worse than it was in 2004. His strikeouts per 9 innings (K/9) was a poor 4.21 and his walks per 9 innings (BB/9) was a pretty average 3.22 bringing his K/BB to a poor 1.31. His minor league numbers definitely deviated from his major league numbers where he managed a pretty healthy K/9 of 8.22 the past two seasons in AAA.

Moving on to the part which made him the "luckiest" pitcher in all of baseball, he gave up zero home runs last season. I don't care who you are, things like that generally don't happen more than once. To go with his zero home runs, he had an extremely low BABIP of .219 and a pretty high LOB% of 81%. Combine all three of these and he had the best single season "Luck Factor" in the past four years! Pitchers with a K/9 under 7 that have displayed similar luck have seen, on average, a 2 point rise in ERA the following year.

Not really good news to those of us who are hoping that Padilla can indeed be the pitcher he was last year for a bullpen that desperately needs it. I'm fairly new to statistics, growing up in an era when on-base percentage was fairly cutting edge. For some time I really mistrusted the use of statistics to predict performance in baseball. I've come around quite a bit, and believe that statistical analysis can be quite useful when combined with traditional evaluation methods.

I did get the feeling Padilla was somewhat lucky watching him pitch last year. He just walked too many guys for a pitcher that didn't strike out all that many batters. I think Juan Padilla can succeed as a reliever if he cuts the walks way down. With his stuff, I can't see him matching the low hit total he gave up this year, only 24 hits in 36.1 innings. I don't think he has the pitches to increase his strikeout rate much higher. If he's to succeed, in my mind it will be by improving his control. At 29 going into next season, the potential for improvement with Padilla will be in the mental aspects of his game rather than the physical.

Chosun.com: Another one bites the dust
Found this about Jae Seo getting married on a Korean web site. I liked the "mock punishment of standing and sitting 10 times carrying his bride in his arms". Learning how to bear up under suffering is the key to adjusting to married life. (Just kidding, Lisa) Cute picture of the happy couple, too.

Mets.com: A look back at 2005
Marty Noble offers a month-by-month look back at the year that (almost) was, from the signing of Beltran in January to the signing of Julio Franco earlier this month.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah

Happy Holidays to all Mets fans everywhere, whichever holiday you celebrate. Thank you so much to all of you that share your love of the New York Mets with me. Be safe and well.

ESPN.com: Pedro named in Phone Card Suit
ESPN is citing a report from the St. Petersburg Times that Pedro Martinez is one of five major league players named in a civil suit:

At least five major-leaguers have been named as defendants in a $35 million civil suit involving defective phone cards known as Grandes Ligas (Major Leagues).

According to a report in the St. Petersburg Times, Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, Mets pitcher Pedro Martinez, Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada, Yankees pitcher Octavio Dotel and Devil Rays shortstop Julio Lugo are named in the lawsuit, along with American Worldwide Telecom, STX Communications, TWD Prepaid Cards, STI Mobile and Global Compass Inc.

Salvador Delgado, a lawyer representing convenience store owners who claim they unknowingly sold defective phone cards advertised by the players, told the Times that most of the cards were bought by Dominicans in the New York area who used them to call home. According to the lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in New York and claims fraud and deceptive advertising, a $2 card that was supposed to provide a 70-minute call actually provided nine or 10 minutes.

According to David Ortiz' agent, Diego Bentz, it was Octavio Dotel that lured the other players into the deal:

They were trying to do a favor and it just snowballed.

Mets.com: Glavine Christmas Interview
Marty Noble does a holiday-based interview with Tom Glavine on the Mets' web site. Some of the revelations:

MLB.com: What is your favorite Christmas Carol?
Glavine: "Silent Night."

MLB.com: And your favorite Christmas song?
Glavine: "Walking In A Winter Wonderland."

MLB.com: Whose version? The Phil Spector version?
Glavine: No, I'm pretty traditional with that stuff.

MLB.com: Now, traditionalist that you are, do you leave a snack for Santa?
Glavine: Absolutely. A sandwich, cookies and carrots outside for the reindeer.

MLB.com: Are crumbs left behind the next morning?
Glavine: Yes, of course.

MLB.com: And the carrots?
Glavine: Well, I pick 'em up ... or the local reindeer do.

Riveting stuff -- and some of my friends think that Marty Noble doesn't have a sense of humor.

Enjoy the rest of your holiday!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Mets Hot Stove: Endy Edition

Chavez is a Met yet again -- will he actually play for them this time?

Mets.com: Endy is back
Marty Noble reports on the return of Endy Chavez to the New York Mets for the fourth time in his young career (he's only 27). He was signed by the Mets in 1996, then selected by Kansas City in the rule 5 draft in December 2000. They returned him to the Mets in the spring of 2001 because they were unwilling to carry him on their major league roster all year -- a requirement for a player taken in the rule 5 draft. A week later KC got him back via a trade. In 2002 the Mets claimed Chavez off of waivers from Detroit, but then lost him on waivers to les Expos 10 days later. So, despite being a Met four times, Chavez has never actually played a game for them. Quite an accomplishment.

Omar loves the kid, and he is a very good defensive outfielder -- something the Mets lack on their major league roster. If he made the team, he would be the only player I'd feel comfortable with in CF when Beltran gets a day off.

Acquiring Chavez and signing him to a major league contract creates a glut of backup OFs on the team, and would seem to indicate that the Mets might be looking to trade Xavier Nady or Victor Diaz. On the other hand, given that Chavez and Tike Redman are both left-handed hitting reserve outfielders, maybe Redman will go. I'm not really going to sweat this one.

New York Times: More Endy
Ben Shpigel fills us in a little more on the storied career of Endy Chavez, including:

For the most part, Chavez plays center field, though he has dabbled at the corner outfield positions, too. He is a rare left-handed hitter whose career trends indicate he hits better against left-handers (.279 in 276 at-bats) than he does against right-handers (.254 in 1,027 at-bats).

Shpigel also points out that Chavez didn't have to shave his beard and cut his hair, unlike that centerfielder the other New York team signed this week.

Sports Illustrated: The birth of modern free agency
Alex Belth has an excellent feature on SI.com about the Andy Messersmith / Dave McNally ruling that brought an end to baseball's reserve clause, creating the free agency system that we're all familiar with today. Curt Flood, the all-star centerfielder of the Cardinals, basically killed his own career by challenging the system and losing. According to Belth, Marvin Miller, the executive director of the Players Association, knew that the system was still vulnerable:

[Miller] knew the way to overturn the reserve system was more narrow and direct. It involved the interpretation of Paragraph 10a of the Uniform Players Contract, which stated that a team could renew a player's contract without the player's approval for the period of one year [my emphasis]. The owner's contended that this clause could be renewed indefinitely. Miller believed the language was clear: one year meant just that -- one year.

In the 1970 basic agreement, Miller got the owners to agree to the introduction of an impartial arbitrator to mediate grievances between the players and owners. Previously, the commissioner had been the final arbitrator, but Miller and the players didn't believe that the commissioner was a fair judge. With an arbitrator in place, Miller's hypothesis could be tested. It was, he believed, the key to the players' salvation.

In Messersmith, Marvin Miller saw an ideal test case of the reserve clause. The Los Angeles Dodgers were playing it extremely cheap with Messersmith. After a year (1974) when he had gone 20-6 with a 2.59 ERA in just under 300 innings, the Dodgers only offered a small raise and balked at giving Messersmith the no-trade clause he wanted. When the two sides couldn't work out their differences, the Dodgers renewed the contract unilaterally.

Messersmith went 19-14 in 1975, with a lower ERA (2.29) and even more innings (321 2/3). Still the Dodgers wouldn't budge. Alex Belth quotes Messersmith from a Sporting News article more than 10 years later:

It was less of an economic issue at the time than a fight for the right to have control over your own destiny. It was a matter of being tired of going in to negotiate a contract and hearing the owners say, "OK, here's what you're getting. Tough luck."

I think we all know how the case turned out, but please take a look at this great article. Whenever team ownership accuses a player of being greedy -- and many indeed are -- don't forget there was a time when the players played under a truly unfair system where the player danced to the team's tune or simply didn't play.

The Virginian-Pilot: Soler Sighting
Paul White pens the story of new Mets pitcher Alay Soler's Christmas visit to some kids at the Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters in Norfolk, Virginia. He lives in Newport News, because that's where his agent is from. Since none of us have seen Soler yet, here's White's description of the Cuban defector:

In person, Soler seems a tad shorter than his listed 6-foot-4. The 240 pounds seems dead-on, though. And judging from the way his midsection protruded slightly from his couple-sizes-too-small Tides jersey, those pounds aren't ideally arranged.

So now we know he's a little chunky. White reports that Soler is pitching quite well in the winter leagues, which might accelerate the Mets plans for him:

According to Tides general manager Dave Rosenfield, the most likely scenario would have Soler making his American debut with the Tides. But Soler's Puerto Rican League brilliance has encouraged the notion that, now 26, Soler may vault straight to the Mets.

As Soler's agent, Joe Rosario says, "They're not paying him $2.8 million to play in Norfolk." I'd still have to believe that, after missing a year with visa problems, the Mets are going to give him some time in Norfolk before calling him up. Since he is a starting pitcher right now, if they plan to use him in the bullpen they might want to let him get his feet wet as a reliever in Norfolk.

Happy Holidays, Everyone
Once again: I will try to post tomorrow if there is anything out there worth talking about. If not, we'll be back Monday. Be well and safe, and enjoy your families.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Mets Hot Stove: Manny Claus not coming to town

Sorry for posting so late today, I got caught up in some holiday responsibilities. There is some interesting news to discuss, and a couple of interesting Marty Noble profiles on Mets.com, so let's get started.

Daily News: Of Manny and Money
Adam Rubin pens another of those Ramirez articles. He writes that Johnny Damon considers it likely that the Red Sox will trade Manny this winter, and cites Damon that the Mets would be a good fit for the petulant diva. But Rubin also catalogs the reasons it is unlikely we will see Manny in a Mets uniform:

The Mets are holding the line on payroll after another winter of spending, as evidenced by their pursuit of low-priced relievers while letting Roberto Hernandez walk and hesitating to bid over-aggressively on Julian Tavarez.

Also, Boston brass has maintained its desire to get equal value for Ramirez. The Mets would be hard-pressed to put together such a package, even if the money issue was resolved. It's doubtful the Red Sox would accept Lastings Milledge as the primary chip back because they already have to make up for the loss of Damon's bat. And Aaron Heilman isn't expendable because of the lack of proven relievers leading to Billy Wagner.

I'd like to make some points here. First of all, I think the Red Sox are going to have to revise their definition of what constitutes "equal value" for Ramirez. For all he can bring to a club offensively, he's carrying a lot of baggage, both of a personal type and financially. If they hope to trade him, the Red Sox are going to have to eat more of his contract than they wish. As to what they receive in return, I think they're going to have to give up on the fantasy that they can receive talent in return that is going to make the fan base happy. If I was the Sox' GM, I'd be happy with some young talent and getting out from under that contract. Whether they wish to admit it or not, Boston is in a rebuilding mode. Besides losing the players they have lost to free agency and giving Renteria away to Atlanta, there are question marks about Curt Schilling, too.

If I'm the Mets, I'm not helping them out. We don't have that much young talent left, and what we have I'd like to see them hold back in case a top line pitcher becomes available. I'm certainly not trading Aaron Heilman, not with the huge question marks that already exist in the 'pen. I was amused by all of the Mets fans calling into WFAN a while back, offering to drive Heilman to the airport to bring back Manny. I'm positive they would be the same ones calling in to complain about the bullpen once the season started.

On top of everything else, I don't believe with the other moves they have made over the last two seasons that the Mets can afford another huge contract to an aging ballplayer. Adam Rubin does a good job of summarizing the potential problem:

From a Mets perspective, obtaining Ramirez also could be dangerous down the road considering the organization's other financial obligations. The slugger is owed $57 million over the next three seasons. When 2008 arrives, the Mets will be in the final year of Pedro Martinez's contract, when he's 36 years old and making $11.5 million. They also will be in a final guaranteed year at $16 million (with $4 million paid by the Marlins) with Carlos Delgado, who will be 36 then. Billy Wagner will make $10.5 million and be 37 in '08. Carlos Beltran will be making $18.5 million (with $8.5 million of that deferred). Plus, David Wright and Jose Reyes' salaries figure to increase dramatically as they enter arbitration and approach free agency.

I understand that the Manny talk isn't going to go away unless the Red Sox manage to find a trading partner. I know that some of you out there believe that the Mets acquiring Ramirez would be the coup de grace of a great winter, a way to steal back the headlines from the Yankees. I'm sorry, I just see it as a huge mistake, and one so typical of the kind of mistake the Mets have made so often over the last 15 years. Winning a back page battle with the Yanks in 2005 is cold comfort down the road when the team sucks again because of it.

Boston Globe: Omar the stealthy
I was also amused by this paragraph in Gordon Edes' story in the Boston Globe:

Ramirez's future with the Sox remains as unsettled as ever, with multiple industry sources insisting they still believe Mets general manager Omar Minaya, who has shown a keen interest in Ramirez in the past, will make another run at Manny. Given the stealth-like fashion with which the Yankees made off with Damon, it should surprise no one that Minaya might just be waiting for the opportune time to strike.

The only thing I'd like to point out here is that it is much easier to be stealthy with a free agent than with a player you need to make a trade to obtain. Perhaps Mr. Edes had a little too much spiked eggnog before he wrote this piece. As for the "opportune time to strike", may I suggest that it would be the point that the Red Sox are willing to eat at least half of Manny's salary, and accept a package of Kaz Matsui and Victor Zambrano in return.

AP: Endy Chavez?
The AP is reporting that the Mets and outfielder Endy Chavez have agreed to a one-year, $500,000 contract. I hope this isn't guaranteed. Omar is quoted regarding Chavez:

Chavez is an athletic player with excellent defensive skills in all three outfield positions. He gives us another outfield option as we approach spring training.

Just what the Mets need -- another speedy guy that doesn't get on base. On the plus side, he's a better outfielder than Tike Redman.

ESPN Insider: Shopping the bargain aisle
Buster Olney has an interesting look at some of the bargain basement free agents available:

The Konerkos and Burnetts and Wagners and Damons are off the board, and yet there are still dozens of free agents available -- most of them attractive for one reason or another, so long as they come in at the right price. Some are guys who may or may not be finished as effective players, but they have so much passion for the game and are such a positive influence that you would always be willing to bring them into spring training to see if they have just a little bit left.

Some of the names are interesting, in particular Bengie Molina, who had a remarkable drop in value in a short period of time. That 3 year, $24 million deal looks good now, doesn't it?

Mets.com: Gregg Jefferies
Marty Noble informs us that Gregg Jefferies' name has appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot. Noble does a good job of summarizing Jefferies' career:

The weight of expectation fell hard on Gregg Jefferies, partly because of his brilliant Minor League career and partly because the Mets brought him to the Major Leagues when only his bat was ready for the challenge.

A skilled offensive player with speed and the ability to drive pitches to all fields, Jefferies never conquered the defensive part of the game.

I remember when Jefferies came up with the Mets. He was a good looking hitter that really didn't have a defensive position. Some of the Mets veterans didn't like his cockiness, and the Mets and manager Davey Johnson did an absolutely horrible job of integrating Jefferies into the team. A really sad piece of Mets' history, for a team that produced so few attractive position player prospects.

Also on Mets.com: Barry Lyons
Marty Noble has another nice piece on former Mets backup catcher Barry Lyons, whose world was smashed by Hurricane Katrina. This was a nice story of faith helping him to carry on after a catastrophic event, and, in an odd way, a nice antidote to the downer of remembering the waste of potential that was Gregg Jefferies.

Happy Holidays, Everyone
I repeat what I said yesterday: I will try to post over the weekend if there is anything out there worth talking about. I wish all of you a safe and happy holiday season. Thank you for sharing your love of the Mets with me.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Mets Hot Stove: Return of the Manny talk

Courtesy of the Yankees signing of Johnny Damon -- as we knew it would -- a resurgence of Manny rumors. This is a most unwelcome Christmas present. Meanwhile, we're still looking for bullpen help.

New York Post: Manny is sulking... again
Michael Morrissey reports that the Johnny Damon defection to the Bronx has Manny in quite a tizzy:

...Boston's bungling of the Johnny Damon negotiations has made Ramirez, the Red Sox left fielder, even more angry, a source said yesterday, and he's now open to a trade to the Mets.

The rest of the article actually seems to be more about how the Mets really are not pursuing Manny, but now they could be. I don't know whether the Damon thing has made a Manny deal more or less likely to happen, I just know that we're bound to see a bunch of these stories now. Actually, with what we know about Manny, would anyone be surprised if Manny doesn't figure out that Damon isn't on the team until spring training?

One thing is for sure, until the Sox get a centerfielder, some sort of Beltran/Manny deal will be the rumor d'jour. No one really mentions that the great Tike Redman becomes the top in-house centerfield candidate once Beltran goes. I don't know, with concerns about Pedro's health and the bridge to Billy Wagner still Aaron Heilman-and-a-prayer, do we really need this?

Daily News: Newly available pitchers
Adam Rubin reports that the 50 non-tendered free agents from yesterday present new opportunities for Omar Minaya to come up with a hidden gem for the bullpen, although the more attractive players seem to be the starting pitchers that the Mets don't need right now. Rubin quotes GM Omar Minaya on the opportunity presented:

I think this year has been one where there are a lot more [non-tendered] players on the market . Of course it can help you. It's another avenue of acquiring players. It can be useful if you're aggressive and know what you want.

Rubin cites a team insider that there didn't seem to be that much out there attractive to the Mets; however, Chad Bradford, cut loose by Boston, was of some interest. Bradford is a right-handed submarine pitcher. Willie loves those funky deliveries, but the Mets have a more desperate need for a left-handed specialist.

Happy Holidays, Everyone
I will try to post over the weekend if there is anything out there worth talking about. I hope of all of you have a safe and enjoyable Holiday season.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Mets Hot Stove: (Non-)Tender is the night

For our evening news wrap-up, some interesting items -- mostly concerning players who were not tendered contracts by their teams. For more on what it means to be non-tendered, please see this article on MLB.com.

MLB.com: Fifty new free agents
Tom Singer reports on the fifty players non-tendered yesterday. Former Met Jason Phillips was one of them. Despite trading with the Braves to reacquire him, the Brewers have non-tendered relief pitcher Dan Kolb, whom they hope to resign. Sure, he was awful with the Braves last season, and he doesn't strike anyone out, but you would think that he would be one guy Omar would be looking at hard. Two years ago he was an effective closer. Can he handle New York? We don't know, but we can say the same about plenty of the other stiffs Omar has already signed, and the unstable Julian Tavares that's still out there.

NY Sports Day: The complete list
Mike McGann has the complete list of non-tendered players.

No Joy In Metsville: They might be Mets
Vinny has a look at how some of the available players might fit in with the Mets -- or not.

Flushings Future: Another look
Jordan Zakarin has his own look at who might be worthwhile of the non-tendered fifty.

Baseball America: Want to be a GM?
Baseball America has a series of articles on how to get a job in baseball, culminating with this roundtable discussion with 4 current GMs. Even if you're an old fart like me that isn't looking for a new career, it's still fascinating. (Some articles require a subscription -- this one didn't.)

Mets Hot Stove: The stubborn digit

Pedro's recalcitrant toe is still the big story for Mets fans, while the "other" New York team dominated the local sports news yesterday.

New York Post: More on the offending digit
Michael Morrissey fills us in a little more on Pedro's achy right big toe, which is suffering from cartilage damage. Martinez still doesn't feel comfortable throwing off a mound, but the news isn't all bad:

...Martinez's agent, Fernando Cuza, said Martinez is working out and is otherwise staying in shape.The three-time Cy Young Award winner isn't doing bullpen work, Cuza said, because special insoles to minimize the pain haven't arrived yet. Cuza has spent time with Martinez and said he's not in poor spirits despite the injury.

According to Martinez's agent, the Mets and Martinez are working together, and the answer might be footwear. Nike is apparently designing special insoles for Martinez after making molds of his feet. The Mets and Martinez still feel that the custom footwear and rest will do the trick, and surgery is not necessary.

Mets.com: Phil Humber Starts His Comeback
Kevin Czerwinski reports that 2004 first round draft pick Phil Humber has begun soft tossing from 45 feet as he begins his comeback from July's Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Humber will take part in the January mini-camp, and expects to be pitching in games again by June. According to Humber, the surgery was a :

Everything has been going real smooth and I haven't had any trouble. I really feel like I will come back stronger... I definitely don't have any pain and that's a good sign for me. Even before the surgery, when I wasn't throwing I had pain in my elbow. I'm really excited about that and the prospects of throwing without pain and not having to think about it anymore.

If the Mets can get Humber back on track, and this year's first rounder Mike Pelfrey signed, that would go a long way towards beginning to rebuild their depleted farm system.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Mets Hot Stove: Dotel gets away, doing it right in Southern California

In today's evening news wrap up, we miss out on Octavio Dotel, and take a look at a different way of running an organization than we're used to here in New York.

Newsday: One who got away
John Heyman is reporting that free agent reliever Octavio Dotel and the Yankees have agreed to a one-year, $2 million dollar contract. If the Mets hope to acquire an experienced pitcher for the bullpen, this would seem to leave them the choice of signing the volatile Julian Tavarez or making a trade.

Baltimore Sun: Orber Moreno signs with the Orioles
Roch Kubatko reports that the Orioles have signed former Mets reliever Orber Moreno. I was hoping, based on his decent performance with the Mets in 2004, that the Mets might take a flyer on Moreno again. Not that he's wonderful, but he's better than a lot of the flotsam and jetsam floating around out there.

ESPN Insider: Walking With Angels
Jerry Crasnick gives us an interesting look at the flip side of the New York attitude toward the farm system, where despite good finishes year in and year out, the Angels have managed to put together one of the best farm systems in baseball. The reason? Crasnick says to look no further than Angels' GM Bill Stoneman:

Stoneman, who spent 16 years in the Montreal front office, has an appreciation for scouting and player development bordering on reverence. He believes in giving prospects a chance rather than burying them or using them as trade bait, so he took vicarious pleasure in watching Atlanta use 18 rookies on the way to a National League East title last year. [my emphasis]

Crasnick quotes Stoneman on his philosophy:

We're very much committed to doing it right, and by that I mean making sure you're building from the ground up. Young guys need opportunities. That's not saying we'll never trade any of them. But to unload a good chunk of your system for one experienced and proven guy? That's fine for now, but where does it leave you tomorrow?

Hint: It leaves you where the Yankees are right now, struggling to gain some flexibility back -- where the Mets might be 2 or 3 years down the road if they're not careful.

Stoneman and the Angels are somewhat of an extreme example -- his unwillingness to move young players to fill some of their current needs has probably hurt the team's chances. Still, you have to admire his commitment to the system, and whatever else you can say about it, the Angels have been a much more successful team than the Mets have been over the past decade.

As Stoneman said, young guys need opportunities. It's not going to be enough for the Mets to do a better job of scouting talent. They're also going to have to do a much better job of developing that talent -- not just the "can't miss" 4 or 5 tool guys, but the other guys, too -- the ones that can give you some depth, the ones that can pitch out of your bullpen, and the ones you can call up in a pinch when someone goes down.

Finally, when you develop these guys, you have to be willing to give them a chance to succeed, the way Bobby Cox does so well in Atlanta. It's not enough just to throw them out there if you're ready to yank them after one mistake. You're going to have to change the culture and expectations of sports in New York City. It takes a little bit of guts to do it right.

Mets.com: More on Pedro's toe
Marty Noble has an article on the Mets' web site that's basically just a rehash of the AP story, but he also reports that the Mets did not tender a contract to potential relief pitcher Tyler Yates. Like Orber Moreno, I'm not trying to make this guy out to be more than he is, but as desperate as we are for bullpen help, I'm a little surprised. Of course, the Mets can still negotiate with Yates.

Pedro's Toe Still a Problem

We've been hearing rumors of this for a while, now we have confirmation. The AP is reporting that, even after almost three months of rest, Pedro Martinez' troublesome right toe is still bothering him. This is despite wearing a protective shoe and other remedies Martinez has tried.

At a dinner with the president of the Dominican republic, thrown for major league players from that nation, Pedro was quoted:

This worries me a little because generally by this time of the year I'm already throwing.

Pedro's concern is over whether he will be able to begin training to represent the Dominican in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. He said that he expects to receive permission from the Mets to begin training soon, and apparently hopes to pitch at least a little in the Dominican winter league. He still hopes to represent his country this spring:

I want to participate and, if were up to me, I'm 100 percent committed to the Classic and to the Dominican Republic, but it will depend on my health.

Even before I saw this I didn't consider it a bad thing that the Mets have six starters, plus the possibility of Aaron Heilman as a seventh, competing for five jobs. There are just too many question marks heading into the season. As bad as the Mets seem to want to dump Kris Benson, it just doesn't make any sense right now, unless they land a Zito or other starter. And, for those that favor signing Millwood, you have to ask yourself if this team needs another medical question mark in the rotation.

Mets Hot Stove: Decisions, Decisions...

Some interesting items kicking around this morning, as the Mets are still in the running for Octavio Dotel, and the non-tender deadline approaches.

Daily News: Still pursuing Dotel
Despite reports yesterday that the Yankees were close to signing free agent reliever Octavio Dotel, John Harper reports the Mets are still trying to sign him. Harper even suggests the possibility that signing Dotel might be preferable to the Mets than giving Julian Tavarez the long-term contract he's looking for.

Also in the Daily News: Willie is looking forward to next year
Christian Red reports that Mets manager Willie Randolph is exited about the prospects of going to the season with all of the Mets' new additions. Yet there is something else Willie would like to see:

You know what I'd love more than anything? For someone in our organization to step up and take a job next spring, whether that's in the middle relief or as a backup or whatever. When you build within, you get the incentive for all the other young players to aspire and do well.

It's always good to trade or go for a free agent. But I prefer to build within and let these kids see that if you work hard in this system, then you're going to be rewarded for it. I'm hoping someone will step up.

He's right, of course; when players can make it from the organization is does give added incentive to others in the system, and conversely, when a system doesn't promote players to the majors, it creates the feeling that the only way to make it is to get traded to a more hospitable environment. Success tends to breed success in player development; of course, it doesn't hurt if you draft correctly in the first place.

New York Post: Mets will tender Zambrano
Michael Morrissey informs us that the Mets plan to tender a contract to pitcher Victor Zambrano by today's deadline. Other arbitration-eligible players on the Mets are Eric Valent, Chris Woodward and Tike Redman. Morrissey states that, as favorites of manager Willie Randolph, both Woodward and the newly acquired Redman are likely to return.

If the Mets fail to tender an offer to an eligible player by today's deadline, they become free agents and can negotiate with any team, including the Mets. For more on this process, please see this article on MLB.com.

The Hardball Times: For whom Heath Bell toils
David Appelman has an interesting look at why Heath Bell had a rough year in 2005, and why he thinks that Bell will improve in 2006.

Appelman points out that Bell had a very good strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate of 8.87, gave up a low number of HRs against, and a walk rate below the league average. So what went wrong?

Most of his ERA is to blame on an extremely high batting average on balls in play (BABIP). Nearly 38% of the balls he hit into play became hits, which was poor enough to give him the ninth-worst BABIP of any pitcher in baseball.

So what does Appelman see for Bell in 2006?

I'd be somewhat shocked if Heath Bell wasn't back in the majors next year and much improved. As far as his strikeouts, walks and home runs go, he's better than a lot of team's current closers. He might be a bit hittable at times, but there is no way his BABIP will be as high as it was in 2005 again. It's also worth mentioning he's very much a ground ball pitcher which only adds to his appeal. Don't be surprised if he becomes an important piece of the Mets bullpen next season.

I have a good feeling about Bell going into this year, too, and it was nice to read this piece that gave me something solid to hang it on. I guess the only question I had was, why was Bell not used after his September call up? If I had the answer to that one, I would have a better feel for what might happen next year.

Inside Pitch Magazine Online: Interview with Jeff Keppinger
Inside Pitch Magazine Online is a subscription-based site, but Bryan Hoch's interview with New York Mets second base prospect Jeff Keppinger is free to everyone, and well worth checking out. Keppinger, who is recovering from a leg injury that cost him the second half of the 2005 season, reports that he is 100% recovered, and ready to challenge for the second base job this spring. He's hoping for a better opportunity than the one he received last spring:

I was told at the end of 2004 that, 'Hey, you've done a good job.' Obviously, we have Matsui, and he was in front of me. I knew that, so I asked about the possibility of coming into spring training this year and being a utility guy. They said they weren't going to hand me the job, but I was going to get a shot. Well, I came into spring training and got 11 or 12 at-bats. It didn't really seem like they were giving me too much of a chance.

Keppinger was candid with Hoch in assessing his own capabilities as a second baseman:

I grant, I'm not one of those little speedy guys who can run all around the field and who can make stupid plays, but at the same time, those guys who do that will probably make 10 or 15 more errors a year than I will. It all depends on what you're looking for. If you want someone who's going to be your Steady Eddie when you get a ground ball, and who's going to turn that double play, make the play, not cost you a run - man on third, ninth inning, up by a run. It all depends what you're looking for.

Keppinger did a nice job with the Mets at the end of the 2004 season, and deserves a shot at least at a utility role. It would be really nice to have someone a little younger and hungrier on the roster. This goes to what Willie Randolph was saying in the Daily News article, giving the guys in the organization hope that there are big league jobs to be won.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Mets Hot Stove: Marty's Bag; Comings and Goings

Some items of interest this evening for Mets fans:

Mets.com: Marty Noble's Mailbag
Once again, Marty Noble is answering the questions of the Great Unwashed at Mets.com. In response to a question regarding Seo vs. Zambrano for the fifth starter job, Noble offered the following:

There is no reason for the Mets to identify their No. 5 starter in December, and no benefit, either. But based on what happened late last season, Seo seemingly would have an edge. As always, Zambrano has a higher ceiling. His stuff makes him the clubhouse favorite to pitch the Mets' first no-hitter. But the footnote to that is one teammate's suggestion that Zambrano could pitch a no-hitter and lose. Seo is more consistent and reliable.

My favorite Noble response was to the question of who Marty believed should have their numbers retired by the Mets:

If the club were to retire another number, it seemingly would have to be 17, for Keith Hernandez, the player most critical to the team's run of success in the 1980s. Hernandez's arrival in 1983 initiated the transformation of the Mets' clubhouse culture. The emergence of Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden and the acquisition of Gary Carter transformed the team into a power.

But Hernandez was the key factor. Hernandez didn't win his MVP Award with the Mets -- the one he shared with Willie Stargell came in 1979 when he still was with the Cardinals -- but he was the leader in MVP points in the National League from 1984-88 and, not coincidentally, played in more victories than any Major League player during that five-year sequence.

I couldn't agree with him more. The years from 1977 - 1983 constituted the absolute nadir of Mets' history, with 6 90+ loss seasons out of 7; only the strike in 1981 stopped them from "achieving" this an imperfect 7 out of 7 years. When Hernandez came to the team in 1983, the attitude changed. Losing was no longer "okay". To this day, Hernandez is my image of what a ballplayer should be; at bat, in the field, and as a leader. It's an absolute crime the Mets haven't retired his number 17.

Also at Mets.com: No More Ishii
In a press release at Mets.com, the sad news that Mets and Kaz Ishii have parted ways is mitigated by the happier news of a trio of signings. Relievers Darren Oliver, Pedro Feliciano and Jose Parra have all signed minor league contracts with the Mets, and will report to spring training to battle for a bullpen position. Here's what the press release had to say about the 3 amigos:

A 12-year Major League veteran, Oliver has compiled an 87-79 career record with a 5.07 ERA in 306 games and 228 starts. He has won 10 or more games in a season five times, most recently in 2003, when he was 13-11 for the Rockies. Oliver won a career-high 14 games in 1996 for the Texas Rangers.

Feliciano, 29, spent the 2005 season with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of the Japanese Pacific League. He compiled a 3-2 record with a 3.89 ERA (16 ER/37 IP) and 36 strikeouts in 37 appearances. Feliciano appeared in 22 games for the Mets in 2004, going 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA (11 ER/18 1/3 IP). Feliciano also appeared with New York during the 2002 and 2003 seasons. For his Mets career, he is 1-1 with a 4.21 ERA in 51 games.

Parra, 33, began the 2005 season with the Minor League affiliate of the Orix Buffaloes of the Japanese Pacific League. On June 1, he was called up to the Major League level, where he went 4-2 with a 4.09 ERA (15 ER/33 IP) in eight games (seven starts). Parra made 13 relief appearances for the Mets in 2004, going 1-0 with a 3.21 ERA (five ER/14 IP) and 14 strikeouts.

We already knew about Oliver. He's an extreme long shot, but falls into the "why not?" category. I never loved Feliciano all that much, but he's been here before and understands how to pitch in New York. The same could be said for Parra, who was actually impressive in his first go-round in 2004. I couldn't understand why he wasn't invited back last year. He had decent stuff, and a cool demeanor on the mound. Who knows with the Mets sometimes? 2004 was the year they virtually gave away Dan Wheeler.

Also at Mets.com: Next Stop: Shea
The Hot Stove edition of Next Stop: Shea video is on-line, featuring interviews with Carlos Delgado, Billy Wagner, Omar Minaya, and Lastings Milledge. Milledge? Is he still here?

MLB.com: Graves signs with Cleveland
Justice B. Hill (yes, that is his name) reports that former Mets failed experiment Danny Graves has signed a minor league contract with the Indians, and will attempt to make the major league club so that he can blow 8 run leads for them. Good luck.

The Metropolitans: Paul Lo Duca
Mike from the Metropolitans takes an in-depth statistical look at the likelihood that teams will be running on the new Mets' catcher. On the bright side, it should offer extra incentive to Mets pitchers to keep runners from getting on base.

Mets Geek: It's not easy being Kaz
Andrew Hintz does a very interesting profile on Mr. Matsui, the Kaz the Mets still have; what went wrong and what might possibly still go right.

USAHockey.com: The puck stops here
Randy Schultz offers a look at the Tom Glavine who almost had a pro hockey career. Coming out of high school in Concord, Massachusetts, Glavine received scholarship offers to play hockey in college, and was drafted by the LA Kings. He was also drafted in the second round by the Atlanta Braves, and we all know the choice he made.

Even though baseball won out over hockey, Glavine still loves the sport, and is a big fan. But he doesn't second-guess himself:

I have no regrets about my professional decision. I know I made the right one for myself, but I'll always love the game of hockey. It's in my blood.

Just don't give us Met fans any regrets, either, Tom.

Mets Hot Stove: Dotel, Lo Duca and Filthy Fingered Fans

It continues to be a slow period for Mets news. I will try to post every day this week, anyway, with whatever might be out there. I have one more installment left to go in the series on Key New York Mets Free Agents and Trades that I will attempt to get up this week or next.

New York Post: Dotel may pick his team today
Michael Morrissey reports that free agent relief pitcher Octavio Dotel will "most likely" chose today which team he will play for in 2006. Morrissey cites a source that the Yankees "showed more substantial interest" than the Mets, and it looks like they would be more likely than the Mets to sign him. The Cardinals are also reported to be one of the finalists.

Although it has been reported that Dotel wouldn't be ready to pitch until some time after June, his agent Dan Horwits says, "According to the doctors, sometime in April he'll be major-league ready."

I'm curious to see what Dotel signs for, and if it's a reasonable contract I'd wonder why the Mets didn't pursue him more aggressively. As I mentioned yesterday, the Mets do have some in-house options, with Orber Moreno, Tyler Yates and Bartolome Fortunato coming off of injury, and Cuban Pitcher Alay Solar a possibility, too. Morrissey and others report that the Mets are still pursuing former Cardinal psycho Julian Tavarez, although they are unwilling to offer him more than 3 years.

New York Times: Paul Lo Duca
Ben Sphigel has a really nice, long profile on new Mets catcher Paul Lo Duca, offering Mets fans the following snapshot:

Although the Mets' off-season overhaul has yielded stars like Billy Wagner, an intimidating closer, and Carlos Delgado, a feared power hitter, their acquisition two weeks ago of Lo Duca, a three-time All-Star catcher, could prove just as important in their quest to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2000. The 33-year-old Lo Duca is a more dynamic clubhouse presence than his predecessor, Mike Piazza, and he handles pitchers like a snake charmer, coaxing their best. Lo Duca rarely strikes out, excelling as a situational hitter, and he does not let his ego get in the way of good sense.

Sphpigel quotes Eddie Bane, the Angels' scouting director, who signed Lo Duca while with the Dodgers:

The fans in New York are going to love him immediately, because he's not all about Wall Street or Madison Avenue. Paul is someone they can identify with. He's about as genuine and humble as you can get.

With this, and other things that I've read recently, I'm sold on Lo Duca as a person, and a handler of pitchers. His low percentage of throwing out baserunners, his age, and his tendency to wear down as the season goes on still concern me. But he's definitely someone I can root for.

AtlantaBraves.com: Still arrogant
Just in case you thought obnoxious arrogance might be disappearing from that magical land where playoff games don't sell out, and people don't bother with washing their hands after going to the bathroom, we offer the following from the Braves' Mailbag:

Question: What will be the Braves do in order to compete against a team like the Mets, which has acquired so many great players?

Answer: They're hoping to do the same thing they did in 2002, when the Mets entered the season confident that the acquisitions of Mo Vaughn, Roberto Alomar, Jeromy Burnitz and Pedro Astacio would allow them to unseat the Braves...

So we're comparing the signings of Wagner, Lo Duca and Delgado to those stiffs they brought here in 2002? Conveniently ignoring the fact that the Mets added these players to a more solid existing base than there was in 2002?

Criticism of Mets past moves is fair and warranted, but as guilty as the Mets were of thinking they could buy a good team, Braves fans think John Schuerholz can wave his magic wand, and the Braves will magically win the division again.

Contempt for the Mets and other teams in the NL East is certainly warranted -- the run of 14 straight division titles has as much to do with the incompetence of the front offices in Queens and Philadelphia as Schuerholz' undeniable genius. But if there are any fans in sports that are due a comedown, it is certainly the Braves fans. In their own way, they are as bad as Yankee fans. What do they say in the Bible Belt? Pride goeth before a fall...

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Nice to see that he's still working...

Former Mets broadcaster Ted Robinson writes an occasional baseball column for NBC Sports on Major League Baseball. Robinson works for NBC and USA Network covering tennis and other sports, which cost him the Mets play-by-play job when they wanted a full-time guy.

In his latest column, posted today, Robinson opines that Sammy Sosa could wind up patrolling right field for the Mets in 2006:

Sammy Sosa's situation probably rivals that of Jose Canseco in terms of a dramatic slide off the baseball map. I haven't heard of a single team interested in Sosa.

Would there be a team that would take Sosa on its complete terms? I would say yes, and I wouldn't be surprised if that team is the Mets.

If the Mets don't get Manny Ramirez in a trade with the Red Sox, which I feel will be the case, and they can get Sosa to play for $1 million next season, I think Mets general manager Omar Minaya would do that.

I could envision the Mets giving Sosa a couple of months in right field to see if he has anything left offensively. If not, they pull the plug on him, and go with Victor Diaz.

For the Mets it's a low-cost, low-risk proposition, and given how much Minaya likes Sosa, I can see it happening.

I'd like to be able to jump in here and assure you that this couldn't happen, but I have to grudgingly admit it could. There is so little interest in Sosa, I could see him signing a one-year deal with a low base salary and a boatload of incentives just to get a chance to play. Shea stadium isn't the ideal place for an aging right-handed power hitter to resurrect his career -- especially after failing miserably in the bandbox that is Camden Yards -- but it really isn't looking like he will have many options.

Of course, Sammy could always sit tight, let the rest of the free agent market work itself out, and find someone that is desperate enough for a little offense to take a flyer on him. I hope that happens. To me, I'd rather see the two young guys -- Diaz and Nady -- fight it out for the job. Shea stadium is in danger of becoming a rest home for aging ballplayers whose best days are long behind them.