Mike's Mets

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Outta Here!

I was going to keep updating this blog for a couple more days, but since most of the traffic is already coming into the new site, this would probably just be confusing.

We're not going away.

Visit us in our new home at www.MikesMets.com.

I repeat some information one final time:

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If you have any questions, use the email link to contact me.

Eight Days to Pitchers and Catchers

A great look at a beloved former Met leads off the morning news wrapup:

New York Sports Day: Tough as nails
Former Mets assistant trainer Bob Sikes has another excerpt from his upcoming book up at New York Sports Day. In this one, he offers some insights into Lenny Dykstra. My favorite one was from the 1986 NLCS against the Astros. After dropping the first game against scuffballer Mike Scott, the Mets were facing future Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan in game 2, badly in need of a win:

In our 5th, Santana singled to right. Ojeda tried to bunt him over, but Raffy was forced at second. So, with two outs, Dykstra came to the plate.

In the first inning, Lenny tried to bunt his way on against Ryan. The book on Ryan says that this pisses him off. This time Dykstra hit a ball way foul into the seats in right. Lenny swaggered outside the batter’s box. The Old Schooler Ryan, probably remembering the first inning bunt, too, then buzzed Dykstra’s forehead with his next pitch. Lenny was sent sprawling but quickly got up and stroked Ryan’s next offering through the left side. Backman, Dykstra’s good friend, singled to center. Billy Hatcher tried to throw out Ojeda at the plate, but his throw was wild and it allowed Lenny and Wally to advance to third and second, respectively. Hernandez put the game away then with a huge two-out triple to center. It was now 5-0.

Ojeda gave up a run in the 7th, but allowed only one other baseburner after that in route to a complete game victory. The series was now tied at a game apiece. The series now moved to New York for the middle three games.

I’m not sure whether Dykstra intended to rattle Ryan with that first inning bunt, as I don’t recall Lenny leading off many games with a bunt. Only Dykstra really knew, but you can be assured that he knew the scouting report. Ryan’s knockdown of Dykstra in the 5th clearly lifted the team’s emotions as the Mets responded with three straight two out hits. In a subtle way, Lenny’s style of play sparked the rally that led to the game two win.

That kind of play was typical Dykstra. When Frank Cashen traded Dykstra and Roger McDowell for Juan Samuel, that was when I realized that Cashen, who had built the Mets' championship team from nothing, had lost it. He really didn't seem to understand the mentality of the new generation of ball players.

As a side note, I realized as I was writing about the 1986 NLCS that Mike Scott and Nolan Ryan were both pitchers the Mets traded away in less-than-wonderful moves. Almost everyone knows about the Ryan for Fregosi fiasco, but Mike Scott was traded for fourth outfielder Danny Heep. In fairness, Scott looked fairly mediocre until he was taught the split-fingered fastball after being traded -- and then learned how to make it more effective by some creative ball-doctoring.

ESPN: Not Liking the Phightins
Sean McAdam looks at Five clubs that could fail this season:

The Angels were the Anti-Mets -- unwilling to deal from a large pool of prospects for a big bat for their anemic lineup.

The Cardinals are trying to do it on the cheap again. GM Walt Jockety does a good job for them, if he had a reasonable budget maybe La Russa would get that second World Series title. What makes it harder is that the Cardinals have traded away a lot of prospects, and aren't getting good, cheap players off the farm. Sound familiar?

The Orioles and the Padres -- well, what more do you have to say?

And finally, McAdam looks at the Phitin Phils, of whom he says:

The Phils remained in contention for the NL wild card until the final weekend before finishing out of the playoffs, then did little to move forward in the offseason.

They replaced Billy Wagner (who'll close for the division rival Mets) with Tom Gordon, a step backward, and they traded Jim Thome to get out from under most of his contract and injury history.

Aaron Rowand makes them better in center field, but there's much more work to be done here. They continue to lack a bona fide front-line starter and there are too many aging veterans (third base, catcher) occupying important positions.

Look for the Phils to continue to lag behind the Braves, with the Mets overtaking them in the standings, too.

I think Mets fans can understand the Phillies fans' frustrations with the way the off-season went, but I really can't gloat about it. I think replacing GM Ed Wade with Pat Gillick was a great move. Gillick looked around at what he had, and realized he lacked the pitching to really compete. What sense did it make for him to overpay Wagner, especially in length of contract? He took a step back, and the Phils will be better for it down the road. I just don't understand Tom Gordon -- besides his age, he has a somewhat fragile mentality that won't play well in Philly.

SI: The DC Shuffle
Ah, those whacky Washingtonians... After rejecting a stadium lease -- which could have forced MLB to pack up the Nationals and move them elsewhere, the District of Columbia Council approved a revised lease a few hours later.

MLB isn't happy with what's going on here, but they have only themselves to blame for the silly way this team has been handled for several years. Find an owner and get out of the way, Mr. Selig.

A reminder: This blog has moved to its new home at www.MikesMets.com. I will stop updating it very shortly. I'm going to repeat some info I posted yesterday:

If you have this site bookmarked, please update to www.MikesMets.com.

If you read this site through an RSS reader, you will need to update the feed source. The new one is: http://www.mikesmets.com/index.xml.

If you read this site through the Bloglines (or similar) service, you will need to subscribe to the new one. I have buttons on the new site in the lower part of the right navigation bar for common ones like My Yahoo, My AOL, My MSN.

If you read some of my stuff through the SportsBlogs.org's daily New York Mets entries, I am working with them to update my info. You won't need to do anything.

If you have any questions, use the email link to contact me.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Getting Back into the Swing of Things

After a couple of days spent moving the web site, I will now slide back into doing what I really enjoy -- talking about the Mets:

Daily News: Pedro's Shoe
Roger Rubin reports that the special shoe that Pedro Martinez has been waiting for from Nike may arrive today. Or it may not. Hey, Mets news is slow this time of year. Anyway, when it does come, it will keep his toe from suffering any more damage. Rubin quotes Mets bullpen coach Guy Conti, who has recently visited Martinez in the Dominican Republic:

He's right on schedule and looking as strong as I've seen him... When Pedro left at the end of the season, his weight was down 10-12 pounds. He has put that weight back on and is in great condition. He wants to do the same things he did last year in preparation for the season, the same program.

Rubin also reports that Conti visited new setup man Jorge Julio, and that Conti and Rick Peterson have some ideas for fixing some mechanical problem's with Julio's delivery which, if successful, can fix his annoying habit of giving up lots of home runs.

New York Times: Poor Art
Murray Chass reports on former Mets' skipper Art Howe -- unable to get a new job, and dissed in the book Moneyball.

Also on New York Times: Brother, can you spare an Amphetamine?
Michael Sokolove helps us to understand how the crackdown on "greenies" will affect baseball. (Drink lots of coffee boys, it works for the rest of us...)

Mets.com: Season-long tribute to 1986 Champs
Marty Noble reports that the twentieth anniversary of the last championship Mets team will spark a year long celebration at Shea. With Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling in the television booth you already have an '86 flavor to things -- if this current team could make the playoffs, that would be a fitting tribute, too.

Also on Mets.com: Noble's Mailbag
Marty Noble has a new Mailbag up on the Mets' site. I found this exchange on Mets' pitching prospect Brian Bannister interesting:

Has Brian Bannister flown under the radar this winter because other clubs don't feel he is a good prospect, or is he a guy the Mets wanted to keep around if their rotation ever opened up? I remember hearing he had a good year in Triple-A and that he didn't fare poorly before that. How much can he help the Mets this year either in the roation, bullpen or in a trade?
-- Darien M., Astoria, N.Y.

Bannister has value. Among the Mets' Minor League pitchers, he is the most advanced and the closest to pitching in the big leagues. He is not an overpowering pitcher, so he doesn't have a particularly high ceiling, as the scouts say. But he knows how to pitch and how to win, as the scouts also say. He had a 9-4 record and 2.56 ERA in 18 starts at Double-A last season, and won four of five decisions and produced a 3.18 ERA in eight Triple-A starts.

But he hasn't yet "put Triple-A behind him," as Bobby Valentine used to say. So he remains something of a question.

People with long Mets memories liken Bannister to Bobby Jones, who won 58 games from 1994-98 and pitched a one-hit shutout against the Giants in the clinching victory of the 2000 National League Division Series. He didn't have a particularly high ceiling, either.

Sometimes what frustrates me the most about the Mets' farm system is that they seldom develop complementary type players. We've had stars like Wright and Reyes emerge, but little else. It's a large part of the reason we always have to overpay for bench players and relievers -- and why we had to suffer through months of Kaz Ishii last season.

New York Sports Day: Xavier Nady
Joe McDonald speaks with new Met Xavier Nady, whom he quotes as being excited at the thought of playing in New York:

I am excited, I never spent much time back east. It’s a fun city and a great place to play baseball, so I look forward to it. ... Things happen for a reason and this is a great group of guys.

About this Blog
This blog officially has a new home. If you're reading this on MikesMets.com, you're there. If you're reading this on MikesMets.BlogSpot.com, you're not.

If you have this site bookmarked, please update to www.MikesMets.com.

If you read this site through an RSS reader, you will need to update the feed source. The new one is: http://www.mikesmets.com/index.xml.

If you read this site through the Bloglines (or similar) service, you will need to subscribe to the new one. I have buttons on the new site in the lower part of the right navigation bar for common ones like My Yahoo, My AOL, My MSN.

If you read some of my stuff through the SportsBlogs.org's daily New York Mets entries, I am working with them to update my info. You won't need to do anything.

If you have any questions, use the email link to contact me.

I'll continue to update both sites for another week or so, then just the new. Thank you to everyone that gives a little piece of their time to read my stuff. I value that time, and will continue to try to earn it.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Pardon the Interruption

Sorry I didn't have time to post any news this morning. I'm in the process of moving this blog to its own domain name and web hosting. I made the decision to do this last week. Blogger started experiencing a lot of downtime again, and I realized that what I hoped to do had outgrown what was an excellent (and free) introduction to Blogging.

With pitchers and catchers reporting in a few days, I decided that I wanted to get this done and out of the way. Since the blog would be running on a different software, I knew there would be some learning curve on my part.

I've actually gotten the blog 90% of the way to how I want it to look. I'll tweak it the rest of the way when I have the content transferred. As of 4 PM this afternoon, I am up to the beginning of January. I anticipate being done by tomorrow.

At that point, I will try to get any incoming links updated, and update my info with BaseballBlogs.org and Technorati. What will probably happen is that I will update both the old and new blogs for a week or two, then stop updating the BlogSpot blog. I'll leave that old one up with a link to the new. All of the old content -- except for reader comments -- will be on the new site. Sorry about the comments -- I couldn't pull off the export/import needed to bring them over.

If you have this blog bookmarked, please update the link to the new address:


By Tuesday, it will be completely up to date. Thanks for your patience.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Have a Super Day

Today is justifiably all about the Super Bowl. There was so little New York Mets news around today it just wasn't worth writing about. (You could check out this article about the Caribbean Series. Mets 2B prospect Anderson Hernandez is really lighting things up -- and possibly working himself to a serious shot at the starting job in Spring Training.)

I just wanted to let those of you who frequent this space regularly know that I am in the process of upgrading from Blogspot.com to more robust hosting. I'll keep you apprised of things here, and there will be a link from this old blog to the new. I'm not planning to change much -- the URL will be new, and the blog will look somewhat different, as the underlying blog software will be different. I will, unfortunately, be the same.

11 days until pitchers and catchers report...

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Twelve days until pitchers and catchers report

The Mets news on this Super Bowl weekend features new Mets reliever Duaner Sanchez, a positive review of the Carlos Delgado trade, and the signing of another Cuban defector.

Mets.com: Duaner Sanchez
Bryan Hoch reports on new Mets setup man Duaner Sanchez. After closing games in LA at the end of last season, Sanchez has no problem returning to a setup role:

That's fine with me. I'm here to do what the manager tells me to do. It doesn't matter if I pitch in the first inning, the fourth, fifth or seventh. I'm here and I'll be in the bullpen when they need me.

Sanchez has enjoyed a pair of solid major league seasons with LA, and Hoch cites Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson that Sanchez is right on the threshold of elevating his game further:

I think Sanchez is ready to take off. I think [when] you look at the experience and career paths of guys and all the factors involved, there's a maturity level.

Very few pitchers break into the big leagues and mature when they're real young. It takes a few years to understand how to gain control and manage games.

NY Sports Day: More Sanchez
Joe McDonald also speaks with Duaner Sanchez, and quotes the new Mets setup man that closing games at the end of last season (he went 8-8 in save opportunities) was valuable experience:

It definitely made me a better reliever. Because I learned how to deal with pressure and that is one place you get it by closing games.

ESPN Insider: The Delgado trade
Jerry Crasnick has a column about significant off-season trades, and he picked the Carlos Delgado acquisition as the most significant. After giving Omar credit for landing one of the few significant 1B bats out there, Crasnick points out the upside:

Delgado, a career .952 OPS guy, radically changes the dynamic in Flushing. He hit 33 homers and ranked third in the NL in slugging percentage last season, despite logging roughly half his at-bats with Juan Encarnacion, Paul Lo Duca and an ineffectual Mike Lowell batting behind him. True, Shea Stadium isn't much fun for hitters. But Delgado's 2005 home-road splits (.283-16-55 at Dolphins Stadium and .318-17-60 on the road) show he's impervious to ballpark dimensions.

The Mets still need Jose Reyes to start thinking more like a leadoff hitter, but the combination of Lo Duca, a healthy Carlos Beltran, Delgado, David Wright and Cliff Floyd in the 2-6 spots gives the Mets reason to hope they'll surpass their total of 722 runs scored.

Crasnick feels the Cubs may have given up more in talent in getting Juan Pierre than the Mets did for Delgado. Much depends on what pitching prospect Yusmeiro Petit turns out to be.

New York Post: Another Cuban Defector joins the Mets
Mark Hale reports that the Mets have signed 6'3", 230 pound Cuban first basesman Michel Abreu to a minor league deal. The 31-year-old Abreu was Cuba's home run leader for four straight years before defecting in February 2004. He was under contract with the Red Sox briefly last September, but the contract was voided. Abreu most likely will provide the Mets with insurance in AAA-Norfolk, but could compete for a bench job.

While Jim Duquette was the Mets' GM, he signed another Cuban defector, pitcher Alay Soler. Soler's entry into the U.S. was delayed for a year with visa problems. That was straightened out over the winter, and Soler is expected to compete for a job in spring training.

ESPN Insider: Scouting
Rob Neyer has an interesting article on the art of scouting talent, and how it might evolve in the future.

New York Mets Hot Stove Moves Overview

This week I took a look at all of the significant moves that Mets GM Omar Minaya made during this off-season. For your convenience, here is a list of all 5 parts and the transactions they covered.

New York Mets Hot Stove Moves, Part 1
11/9/2005 - Signed LHP Matt Perisho to a minor-league contract
11/15/2005 - Declined options on Felix Heredia and Kaz Ishii
11/18/2005 - Traded Mike Cameron to the San Diego Padres for Xavier Nady
11/15/2005 - Traded 1B Mike Jacobs, RHP prospect Yusmeiro Petit and INF prospect Grant Psomas to the Florida Marlins for 1b Carlos Delgado and cash.

New York Mets Hot Stove Moves, Part 2
11/28/2005 - Acquired OF Tike Redman from the Pirates for cash
11/29/2005 - Signed free agent closer Billy Wagner to a 4-year deal
12/5/2005 - Traded prospects OF Dante Brinkley and RHP Gaby Hernandez to the Marlins for C Paul Lo Duca.

New York Mets Hot Stove Moves, Part 3
12/8/2005 - Selected RHP Mitch Wylie from the San Francisco Giants Triple-A Fresno roster in the Rule 5 Draft.
12/8/2005 - Signed free agent INF Jose Valentin to a 1-year, $900,000 contract
12/9/2005 - Signed free agent 1B Julio Franco to a 2-year, $2 million contract
12/14/2005 - Signed LHP Matt Perisho, INF Juan Tejada, C Sandy Martinez and OF Julio Ramirez to Minor League contracts with invitations to Spring Training.
12/14/2005 - Signed LHP Darren Oliver, RHP Jose Parra and LHP Pedro Feliciano to Minor League contracts with invitations to Spring Training; Released LHP Kazuhisa Ishii.
12/23/2005 - Signed OF Endy Chavez (Non-tendered by the Phillies) to a one-year contract.
12/23/2005 - Signed RHP Chad Bradford (Non-tendered by the Red Sox) to a one-year $1.4 million contract.
1/4/2006 - Signed INF Bret Boone to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training.

New York Mets Hot Stove Moves, Part 4
1/4/2006 - Traded RHP Jae Seo and LHP Tim Hamulack to the Dodgers for RHP Duaner Sanchez and RHP Steve Schmoll.
1/10/2006 - Signed Mike Pelfrey, their first round pick in the 2005 amateur draft, to a 4-year deal.
1/18/2006 - Signed free agent Japanese RHP Yusaku Iriki to a 1-year, $1 million contract.

New York Mets Hot Stove Moves, Part 5
1/21/2006 - Traded RHP Kris Benson to the Orioles for RHP Jorge Julio and RHP John Maine.
********** Summing up the off-season

Friday, February 03, 2006

New York Mets Hot Stove Moves, Part 5

We finish our look at some of the moves Omar made this off-season, from significant signings to controversial trades.

1/21/2006 - Traded RHP Kris Benson to the Orioles for RHP Jorge Julio and RHP John Maine.
If the Jae Seo for Duaner Sanchez trade from earlier in the month stirred up some controversy, this one took it up to a whole new level. Benson, for all of his underachieving and lack of stamina, was an established major-league middle of the rotation starter with a solid track record. Jorge Julio is a relief pitcher whose star has faded rapidly over the last 3 years. He features a fastball that is as straight as a Midwestern Republican and has a questionable emotional makeup. John Maine is a prospect that has lost luster over the previous 12 months -- most experts now see him as a fifth starter or middle reliever at best.

With Seo, Omar went against the old baseball adage that you don't trade a starting pitcher for a setup guy -- but at least Seo represented somewhat of an unknown, and Duaner Sanchez has looked good over the past 2 years. This one was a lot harder to figure, not only in a perceived lack of quality that Benson brought back, but also in the fact that Benson and Seo were both traded. Starting pitching, which once seemed like an area of strength for the Mets, now seemed like a big question mark.

The Julio deal also led to the small (but vocal) minority of Mets fans that believe Omar is most concerned with Latinizing the Mets to start calling in to equally ignorant radio hosts. Since, despite the "holier than thou" pronouncements of some of the media, I understand most real Mets fans could care less about a player's ethnic background as long as he contributes, we'll leave this manufactured controversy alone.

For as much of a sh--storm that this trade has stirred up, I don't believe that it is as cut and dried as some have tried to make it. I was one that hoped the Mets would hold onto Benson, and believed that he had something to contribute to this year's team. Furthermore, I don't believe his $7.5 million salary is out of line with what similar pitchers are making. Having said that, though, I was always realistic about Benson -- he is what he appeared to be in 2005. The list of those that still believe that Benson can be a top of the rotation starter has shrunken into insignificance.

Meanwhile, there is a real hope that Rick Peterson can work some magic on the talented but enigmatic Julio. Peterson has a track record of success with guys like him -- think Roberto Hernandez from last season. Even John Maine, who was one of Baltimore's top rated prospects heading into last season, has a chance to give them something. Many of the difficulties he experienced in 2005 that caused his stock to drop are supposedly related to inconsistent mechanics. None of us are believers in the Rick Peterson 10 minute fix anymore, but it isn't outside the realm of possibility that Professor Mullet might help Maine find some of that missing consistency.

So what can we expect from Jorge Julio and RHP John Maine? Boy, if I was sure of the answer to that one I'd be making a living in Vegas right now. We know Julio throws hard, and he mostly throws strikes. The rest is up to whatever magic Peterson can come up with. Julio could continue to be the inconsistent and emotionally unstable setup man he was in 2005, or he could blossom into one the league's finest setup men. He certainly has the talent -- we'll have to see if Peterson could help him deliver the goods. The most likely outcome, like so much in life, probably lays somewhere in the middle of the two extremes.

As for John Maine, barring an injury to the Mets suddenly thin starting rotation, look for him to begin the year at AAA-Norfolk.

Who got the better of the trade? Again, this is impossible to answer until we see how everything plays out. The Orioles seem to feel they have a top-of-the rotation starter in Benson. Based on what he did in Shea in 2005, and then translated into the bandbox that is Camden Yards, I wouldn't bet on that. I think if Julio can get turned around this trade will most likely end up as a wash. If not, it will be a clear win for Baltimore.

Summing up the Off-season
None of the trades the Mets made this off-season are clear slam-dunk type winners. The Cameron trade seemed to get the winter off on the wrong foot, as Omar seemed more interested in dumping Cameron's salary than securing top value in return for the former Gold Glove winner. In retrospect, it's hard to argue that Cameron's worth to the Mets as a RF was considerably less than as a CF. If we consider shedding Cameron's salary a component of signing Delgado and Wagner, it certainly puts it into a better light.

Delgado and Wagner were huge additions. Omar gave up 2 good prospects for Carlos Delgado, and undoubtedly both will be contributing long after Delgado has retired. But Delgado was the big bat Omar had to have, and I believe Wagner signing so quickly after the trade was no coincidence.

Lo Duca is going to have to grow on us, as most are skeptical of what he brings to the table and how much he has left. Jose Valentin and Julio Franco seem like odd signings, but all that's being risked is relative chump change. The Seo and Benson trades have been more than adequately covered, and the jury is still out.

I don't agree with everything Omar has done this off-season, but I do understand it all. You have to look at what Omar has done like a chess game -- rather than a series of unconnected moves, they were part of a greater strategy. Omar looked at his starting pitching and didn't love what he saw. When he couldn't swing a deal for a Barry Zito or other top of the rotation starter, he went the other way and put all the effort into trying to build a deep bullpen. Despite my misgivings, it could well work out. I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt while it all unfolds this summer in Flushing.

Why is the Mets' own network ashamed of the Mets?

The above title is the $64,000 question for today:

Sports Illustrated: What will SNY be?
I really was just going to ignore this article. Alex Belth, who is a Yankee Blogger, is a fairly promising young baseball writer, but not when it comes to putting aside the typical obnoxious Yankee fan's superiority complex and writing objectively about the Mets. I found this article full of childish little shots at the Mets. This paragraph tells you all you need to know about Belth's "objectivity":

But for all the endearing moments the Mets have enjoyed in their relatively brief history, can you imagine a "Metography" on Jerry Grote or Skip Lockwood, Marv Throneberry or Pat Zachry? The team's history is littered with players who went on to greater success elsewhere -- Nolan Ryan, Amos Otis, Ken Singleton and Jeff Kent, to name a few. Heck, even their golden child, Doc Gooden, went on to pitch a no-hitter for the crosstown rivals, winning two championships in the Bronx (along with Darryl Strawberry) to boot. After Tom Seaver, Ed Kranepool and a handful of others, there isn't much to lionize over the course of a full hour. What are they going to feature? The Art Shamsky Report, Late Night with Ron Swoboda, Fly Fishing with Kevin McReynolds, and Hot Dog Highlights starring Willie Montanez and Lenny Dykstra?

Funny how Yankee fans always feel the need to point out that Gooden and Strawberry spent their twilight years in the Bronx, as if somehow this robs Met fans of what these two once represented. Judging by his picture, Mr. Belth was in diapers when Doc and Darryl were truly great (and truly Mets), not the shadows (especially Doc) that he witnessed in the Bronx. Actually, if the maturity level shown in this article is any indication, that time in diapers probably dragged on a couple of extra years.

If you get past Alex' immature need to put down the Mets and my equally immature need to retaliate, you are left with some interesting questions.

What's wrong with a biography of Marv Throneberry or Jerry Grote? In their own ways, they contributed a lot to what the Mets are, and fans a few years younger than I am don't know who they are. I could think of many candidates whose stories should be told: Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Tug McGraw, Lee Mazzilli, Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter, Wally Backman, Doc, Darryl, Ron Darling... I could go on and on. None of these men spent their entire career with the Mets, but they were all important to Mets history. Some were great players, some not so much. Yankee fans are obsessed with greatness; Mets fans have a different, more human take.

If you ever see YES network's programming when a game isn't on, you see a lot of garbage. For every Yankeeography narrated in John Sterling's pseudo-dramatic style, there are 100 infomercials, a dozen reruns of the Ultimate Road Trip, a couple of Boston vs. NY Poker Challenges and a Michael Kay CenterStage with Donny Most.

If YES network is guilty of bad programming and a somewhat haughty infatuation with Yankee greatness, that's their deal. The bigger question for Mets fans is why SNY -- owned in good part by Fred Wilpon and the Mets -- seems to be bending over so far backwards to not be the Mets network, almost to the point of being ashamed of the team whose games will be the centerpiece of the new network.

They're so concerned with having a network that appeals to non-Met fans, it's starting to offend actual Met fans. We wonder what is going to be in this for us, especially since we will form the backbone of viewership for SNY. Hell, my local Connecticut cable system wasn't even aware of SNY when I called to find out if they will carry the new network. I'll probably have to go through the hassle of switching to satellite -- and other than Mets games, what will my reward be?

Only Mr. Wilpon and the Mets could start a new network and shortchange their own fans in the process. Maybe if we speak up enough, Mets fans can effectively take back our own network.

[Since I like to be fair, I consider this article by Alex Belth on the 30th anniversary of free agency one of the best baseball articles I've read all year, and I'd be interested in reading his Curt Flood biography when it comes out.]

MLB.com: Anderson Hernandez shines in Caribbean series opener
Jesse Sanchez reports that Mets 2B prospect Anderson Hernandez drove in the winning run with a single in the top of the 11th inning as his Dominican Republic team defeated Puerto Rico's 5-4. Hernandez wound up 4-6 in the game with an RBI and 2 runs scored. Hernandez was understandably happy after the game:

To get four hits and get the game-winning hit is unbelievable. This is a short series and we can do it. Like they say, 'Those who win have the most fun.' I'm happy we won, and I think we can win this tournament.

... I feel really great. I never thought I would be here representing my country. I was able to get the hit that gave us the win, and I'm very happy about that. It is a great feeling.

Those that win have the most fun. Maybe Anderson can teach that one to his teammates in camp this spring.

Mets Geek: Let's see what they got
Michael Oliver makes a good case for pushing the top prospects harder during spring training.

Just a heads-up
I will have the fifth and final installment of my New York Mets Hot Stove Moves posted later tonight, featuring the Benson trade and an overall assessment of the winter's action.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

New York Mets Hot Stove Moves, Part 4

We continue our look at some of the moves Omar made this off-season, from significant signings to controversial trades.

1/4/2006 - Traded RHP Jae Seo and LHP Tim Hamulack to the Dodgers for RHP Duaner Sanchez and RHP Steve Schmoll.
Many of us spent most of the season clamoring for Jae Seo to return from exile at AAA-Norfolk and replace the dreadful Kaz Ishii in the rotation. We questioned the need to even send him down on the heels of a 7 inning, 1-hit, 0-runs performance -- exactly what had Ishii done to deserve that rotation spot?

Then, when Seo finally does return in August, he pitches to a 1.78 ERA with 4 wins and a no-decision in 5 starts. He had added a cutter and a breaking pitch to his repertoire to keep the hitters from sitting on his changeup. Although he showed a few cracks in the armor in September, we felt pretty good about Seo as a solid bottom of the rotation contributor -- a nice success story from a homegrown player.

Then Omar breaks one of those cardinal rules of baseball -- he trades away a solid starting pitcher that the fans like for a middle reliever (let's consider the other two guys in the deal a wash). What was going on here? Just who was this Duaner Sanchez -- this kid with the funny glasses and a live arm? The quick answer is that he is a fairly promising 26-year-old pitcher with a live mid-90s fastball, complemented by a slider, curve and changeup.

Omar really needed to upgrade the bullpen, and he felt starting pitching was an area of -- well, if not strength, at least abundance. I've heard the Mets actually liked Schmoll -- a right-handed sidearm pitcher that actually has 90+ velocity on his pitches -- a lot, also. If Seo settles back into the decent bottom of the rotation guy most see him as, this shouldn't be too bad of a deal, but if he grows into a solid #3 guy, Omar is going to be living this one down for a while.

So what can we expect from Duaner Sanchez and Steve Schmoll? Sanchez should provide the Mets with a solid set-up man. He's one of those rubber-armed guys that can bounce back and pitch almost every day. He pitched in 79 games for the Dodgers last year. Since the Mets are going to need a lot of innings from the bullpen, a guy like this will prove very valuable. Moreover, Sanchez did a nice job closing games for the Dodgers at the end of last year. He's said to possess a closer's mentality, and with Billy Wagner somewhat fragile and turning 35 this season, it's important to have someone else on the roster that can close games.

As for Schmoll, the 25-year-old hasn't experienced much success, getting beaten up pretty badly last year in 45 major-league appearances. The Mets see something in him, though -- insisting he wasn't just some throw-in on the deal. Most sidearm pitchers are soft tossers, but Schmoll brings it in the low 90s. Peterson has had good luck with guys like him, and he will also have veteran sidearm pitcher Chad Bradford to learn from. He might very well blossom into a solid setup guy.

Who got the better of the trade? I feel like a broken record here, but I think advantage Dodgers on this one. I like Sanchez, and I believe the Mets needed him, but Seo was a stiff price to pay. I think he becomes a solid fourth or fifth starter -- a consistent double-figure winner with an ERA just under 4. Given that, be careful of all of the pundits that want to make Seo more than he really is -- in his last 7 starts, he pitched fairly badly in 3 of them. He has a lot of trouble making it past the sixth inning. The league will make adjustments to him, and he'll likely settle into a solid, unspectacular career.

If Sanchez fulfills his promise, and Schmoll gives the Mets something, this isn't going to be one of those trades you're going to look back on and really hate. Yes, it is a lot easier to develop a reliever than a starter, but the simple truth is that the Mets have been absolutely deficient in developing relievers. Omar wanted a decent one with a power arm, and he had to give up value to get one. That's important to keep in mind here.

1/10/2006 - Signed Mike Pelfrey, their first round pick in the 2005 amateur draft, to a 4-year deal.
With prospects flying out of the system in those November and December deals, this was a nice change of pace. Pelfrey is seen as a guy with the potential to be pitching in Shea at some point in 2007. He'll likely start off in High-A ball in St. Lucie, and then get promoted to AA-Binghamton when the weather warms up. This is one to most definitely keep an eye on. For Baseball America's scouting report on Pelfrey, read this post (scroll down).

1/18/2006 - Signed free agent Japanese RHP Yusaku Iriki to a 1-year, $1 million contract
Iriki is a 32-year-old pitcher that has had a relatively mediocre career in Japan. Omar sees him a swingman that can start or provide long relief.

I'm like most of you in that I know absolutely nothing about this guy. The best thing I've read on him came from Mike McGann at Gotham Baseball. If you are interested in learning more about Iriki, I recommend you check out the excellent feature.

Coming Next: In part 5, we'll look at the most controversial deal of the winter -- Kris Benson for Jorge Julio.

Remaking the Farm

Today's news roundup features an interesting look at the future of the Mets farm system:

Gotham Baseball: Starting from scratch
Mike McGann is back with another strong column, this one on the gutting and what we all hope will be the eventual rebuilding of the Mets farm system. As McGann points out, a lot of Mets fans are upset that the farm system is now ranked at the bottom of major league systems.

Omar Minaya was obviously unhappy with the Mets' system of scouting and development, making wholesale changes on both sides. After speaking with Minaya, McGann offers this on what Minaya saw as the problem:

Two issues are immediate: Minaya wasn't happy with the scouting criteria being used to draft and sign players. He also wasn't happy about the lack of a central way of doing things, a Mets way to teach and play, much as the Braves have done for many years. He disagreed with my observation that there was too much chaos in the system, but said changes such the new scouting department, new farm director Adam Wogan and all the new managers were to put a new philosophy in place.

Despite the fact that the system has actually managed to produce some major league talent the last couple of years, I couldn't agree more with Minaya that drastic changes were needed. Moreover, what I really hope to see is some consistency in the long term. The organization changes its developmental philosophy with the same squirrel running in the road frenzied changes of direction that have been more obvious on the major league level.

I remember back a few years when the organization specialized in speedy OF prospects that couldn't hit. None of them made it. McGann pokes fun of another organizational fad with this statement:

The rebuilding continues with the June draft. It will be interesting to see how many 6'-2", 220-pound righthanded pitchers with a 92 MPH fastball, the former speciality of the Mets draft house, get taken this year. My guess is fewer.

Funny, but somewhat sad, too. If Minaya can attack the two issues of scouting criteria and a lack of a standardized developmental philosophy, maybe we can look forward to a day when the Mets have a really productive farm system, that produces not only a Wright and Reyes, but solid guys for the bench and the bullpen, too. Maybe there will come a time when trading 4 or 5 prospects in a winter doesn't completely gut the system.

Mets.com: Delgado looking forward to playing against the Cubans
Marty Noble reports that Carlos Delgado is pumped up by the prospect of his Puerto Rican team facing the Cubans in the World Baseball Classic, quoting Delgado on the novelty of the experience:

It's a unique thing. We never played against each other. I know in Puerto Rico, everyone is looking forward to it.

Non-professionally, they're one of the best teams in the world. Due to the proximity, a lot of people want to see Cuba. They'd like to see how they match up against a professional team.

Noble points out that, with the Puerto Rican team training in Port St. Lucie, at least Delgado and Carlos Beltran will be in close proximity to their Mets teammates.

Also on Mets.com: The middle infielders
In the latest weekly installment of Around the Horn, Marty Noble looks at middle infielders Jose Reyes and... Matsui, Keppinger, Hernandez, or Brett Boone -- whoever winds up at second base.

As for Reyes, Noble offers the following:

He beats them with his glove, he beats them with his arm and he beats them -- and the clock -- with his sprinter's speed. Jose Reyes is a triple threat without swinging a bat. And the term applies just as well when he does swing. He can drop three bases on 'em at any time. He's a triple threat in two ways. Even the NBA doesn't have a double-triple.

If he could learn to take a few more walks, he might score 125 runs in this more powerful offense.

..getting paid to watch: Urban Legends and Practicalities
Bob Sikes, who was once an assistant trainer with the 1986 Mets, has a new blog that is written from a perspective few can provide. This particular fascinating story about Dwight Gooden focuses on how the young pitcher's changing body affected his pitching.

NY Sports Day: Adam Rubin's Book
John J. Buro reports on Adam Rubin's forthcoming book on the New York Mets, Pedro, Carlos, and Omar: The Story of a Season in the Big Apple and the Pursuit of Baseball's Top Latino Stars. As most of you know, Rubin is the Mets beat writer for the Daily News. Rubin's book concentrates on the moves Omar Minaya made to restore credibility to a floundering franchise -- something conveniently forgotten by a few fans this winter.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

New York Mets Hot Stove Moves, Part 3

We continue our look at some of the moves Omar made this off-season, from significant signings to controversial trades.

12/8/2005 - Selected RHP Mitch Wylie from the San Francisco Giants Triple-A Fresno roster in the Rule 5 Draft.
Once a decent prospect who suffered through multiple injuries, as a rule 5 draftee Wylie must stay on the Mets 25 man roster all season, or be offered back to the Giants for half of the $50,000 they paid to get him.

12/8/2005 - Signed free agent INF Jose Valentin to a 1-year, $900,000 contract
This was at first reported to be a minor-league deal, with an invitation to spring training, but Valentin is on the 40-man roster and it seems like he has a job with the Mets. Personally, I've never cared for Valentin as a ballplayer. He'll hit some home runs if he's healthy, but strikes out a ton and is a bad defensive player. He's coming off a horrible, injury-plagued season in L.A., and he's 36 years old.

This is one guy that tends to get brought up when some people want to accuse Omar of favoring Latin ballplayers, but I don't buy that. Basically, he's a left-handed hitting reserve infielder with a ton of experience, and Omar isn't betting much money on him. If this one bothers you, lighten up. At $900k I doubt that Omar would be afraid to dump him if he bombs out.

12/9/2005 - Signed free agent 1B Julio Franco to a 2-year, $2 million contract
Giving a 47-year-old Hispanic ballplayer a 2-year contract added more fuel to the fire to those that questioned Minaya's Latin bias. It certainly was a head-scratcher, but it really isn't hard to understand when you look at it. By signing Franco, Minaya accomplished several things: he took a great team leader away from the Braves' kiddy corps and put him in the Mets clubhouse. He has a solid right-handed bat off the bench, he is a good defensive first baseman who can be a late game defensive replacement, and he can give Delgado enough days off to keep him fresh.

Thanks to a healthy dose of "Jesus Juice", Franco has done a good job staying one jump ahead of Father Time, and the hope is that he can manage it for another couple of years. If he loses the battle, keep in mind that $1 million per year is hardly a huge investment in today's game.

12/14/2005 - Signed LHP Matt Perisho, INF Juan Tejada, C Sandy Martinez and OF Julio Ramirez to Minor League contracts with invitations to Spring Training.
You can file all of these moves under the heading of "throw a lot of bodies at the problem and see if any stick." Perisho is one of many candidates for the left-handed specialist job in the bullpen. He has decent stuff, but an inability to throw strikes consistently has always been his undoing. Tejada (23) was a prospect in the Tigers system, but not enough of a prospect, I guess, since they released him. He did make the AA Eastern League All-Star team in 2004. Martinez is a 35-year-old catcher with 564 lifetime major-league ABs. He spent last season in AAA. Ramirez is hardly a prospect at 28. In 96 career major-league ABs he has managed a sparkling .167 lifetime AVG.

If you can get Perisho to throw enough strikes he could do the job as the situational leftie. He has shown enough promise to pitch in at least part of 8 major-league seasons, but has failed to deliver anything special. In 276 career IP, he has 202 Ks and 162 BBs with a 6.39 ERA. Of the rest, only Juan Tejada is given much chance to ever contribute anything to the Mets.

12/14/2005 - Signed LHP Darren Oliver, RHP Jose Parra and LHP Pedro Feliciano to Minor League contracts with invitations to Spring Training; Released LHP Kazuhisa Ishii.
Oliver, another candidate for the situational leftie job, actually retired from baseball on May 21 of last season. The 35-year-old is a 12 year major-league veteran. He pitched primarily as a starter in his decidedly mediocre career, and is living proof that any LHP with a pulse has a chance to pitch in today's MLB. Parra and Feliciano have both pitched for the Mets previously. Parra was actually fairly effective in 2004 in a limited sampling. Both spent last season in Japan, where thankfully Kaz Ishii will be pitching in 2006.

12/23/2005 - Signed OF Endy Chavez (Non-tendered by the Phillies) to a one-year contract.
Chavez has always hit well against the Mets. Unfortunately, he has struggled against everyone else. He'll try to make the team as a left-handed batting reserve OF. Tike Redman will be his primary competition for that role. Chavez is a much better defensive OF than Redman. He has great speed and is a good base stealer. Unfortunately he rarely walks, has a lifetime OBP under .300, and almost no power. I'd go with Chavez over Redman on the strength of his speed and defense, apparently the Mets agree. They removed Redman from the 40-man roster during one of their many off-season shuffles, exposing him to waivers.

12/23/2005 - Signed RHP Chad Bradford (Non-tendered by the Red Sox) to a one-year $1.4 million contract.
Not a bad move here. Bradford has been an effective right-handed specialist with his sidearm delivery, especially while under the tutelage of pitching coach Rick Peterson in Oakland. He hasn't been as good since Peterson left, compounded by some back problems he experienced last season that limited him to 23 innings and diminished his dominance over right-handed batters.

It's reasonable to hope that being reunited with Peterson should help him regain effectiveness, giving Willie Randolph some funk out of the 'pen that may actually get people out.

1/4/2006 - Signed INF Bret Boone to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training.
After a steep decline in the 2004 season, Boone looked really washed up last year in both Seattle and Minnesota. In 326 ABs combined, he managed a .221 AVG with 7 HR and 34 RBI. There have been whispers about steroid use since his power numbers jumped dramatically in his seventh MLB season, and they have continued to follow him on the downside of his career.

If Boone is the starting 2B coming out of spring training, we're in trouble...

Coming Next: In part 4, we'll look at the unpopular Tim Hamulack for Duaner Sanchez and Steve Schmoll trade -- with that Korean kid the Mets threw into the deal...

Let's trade Jose Reyes before it's too late

Before I get to the small amount of Mets news this morning, I'd like to once again offer my helpful assistance to GM Omar Minaya. Watching shortstop Jose Reyes finally make it in one piece through a full season last year, I began to feel pretty good about the chances of the 22-year-old fulfilling some of his potential.

How silly that was. I've read enough this winter by those that use statistics to predict player performance about Reyes to convince me that he's a terrible player both at the plate and in the field. Now I implore Omar to get some value back in return for Jose before all of the other GMs read this stuff and refuse to offer more than spare parts or faded prospects in return.

It's really too bad. In 3-1/2 decades of watching the Mets I've seen no other player come through that provided the level of excitement that Reyes brings to the ballpark. I've enjoyed watching the pressure that he puts on the other team's defense and pitcher whenever he gets on base. I love the way he finds that extra gear between first and second base while legging out one of his triples.

And I'm impressed by the effect Willie Randolph and his coaching staff have had on Reyes, helping him to slowly develop at least a semblance of patience at the plate, work a pitcher a little better and sometimes even take a walk. For a kid who isn't going to be 23 until June, and was rushed to the major leagues at least a year early (he had 335 ABs combined in AA and AAA) I thought that was decent progress.

But no, sadly I've been informed that Reyes is nothing more than an "out machine". We'd be better off with a kind of slow guy that takes a lot of pitches. Worst of all, statistics that predict how many plays he should have made and compare them to how many he actually did make have now convinced me that Jose is a terrible defensive shortstop, too.

Omar, are you listening to this stuff? Get rid of this kid before the market for him completely disappears!

Okay, maybe what I've written here isn't completely fair. I've actually come around to a real interest in analyzing past and predicting future performance through the use of statistical analysis. I agree that Reyes is a very rough work in progress, and may be better served down the road by hitting lower in the order. I watched almost all the games last season, and was frustrated at times by the way he lost concentration in the field and failed to make some plays that he should have.

But the kid is still so damned young, and has the kind of breathtaking talent that you can't teach. There has never been anyone like him in all of my years of watching this team -- not even close. Lighten up on him a little, and at least let him make it past 25 before you toss him on the scrap heap.

RealGM Baseball: And today's featured jerk is...
Walter A. Nesbeth III -- who makes the following statement:

I may be off base here (no pun intended), but am I the only one that doesn’t get the whining and crying that is being heard emanating from the Met faithful and some talk show hosts who obviously are short on material?

Yes, Walter, we get it. All Mets fans are whiny racists, and you're the voice of reason. I'm glad that I've already seized the moral high ground for myself, because quite obviously the vast majority of Mets fans who don't believe Omar is engaged in a Latin conspiracy -- but have no public forum -- don't count to such heroes of reason and justice like Mr. Nesbeth. Jerk...

NY Sports Day: Billy Wagner
Joe McDonald has another great feature, this one on the new Mets closer.

Sports Illustrated: 1968
Tom Verducci has a great look at what he calls the "Class of '68" -- a group of great players, including Mike Piazza, who are at the very tail end of their careers.

Daily News: Clemente
Christian Red reports on Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado's support for retiring Roberto Clemente's number 21 in all of baseball.