Nov 20

How The Market Is Shaping Up; Things Could Happen This Week

When will the New York Mets do something of consequence this off-season isn’t hard to imagine. If recent history is an indicator it likely won’t be until the market is defined, which comes after the Winter Meetings.

However, the week preceding Thanksgiving can get busy. Not much happens usually happens around Thanksgiving. There’s usually activity after the holiday leading up to the Winter Meetings and after until Christmas.

HUDSON: Returning West.

HUDSON: Returning West.

Then, more stuff gets done after the New Year with what’s left of the market leading up to spring training. That’s usually when the Mets have done their work.

So far, there’s been some interesting news, including LaTroy Hawkins signing with Colorado for $2.5 million. He’s somebody I was hoping the Mets would bring back before at 41 because he could still throw in the low-to-mid 90s and for his clubhouse presence.

Hawkins was an astute pick-up last year, and with Bobby Parnell coming off surgery, he would have filled a spot in the bullpen.

The Yankees brought back shortstop Brendan Ryan, who I touted for his defense. I’d still rather have him than Ruben Tejada. We’ll just have to wait to see what happens with Jhonny Peralta, who, as of now, would represent the Mets’ biggest splash in the market. Philadelphia brought back catcher Carlos Ruiz for two years, out-bidding the champion Red Sox.

Perhaps the most interesting acquisition is San Francisco signing Tim Hudson to a two-year, $23 million contract. The 38-year-old Hudson is coming off ankle surgery.

Hudson is the latest in several costly, and expensive, decisions the Giants have made the past few years. The first was signing Angel Pagan – whom the Mets gladly shipped out – to a four-year deal. Then, they extended Tim Lincecum’s contract two years for $35 million when there were no indications he’d be a hot commodity on the market.

However, the Giants won the World Series in 2010 and 2012 with pitching-based teams, so they are doing something right.

Mets GM Sandy Alderson said he didn’t want an injury reclamation project, which Hudson clearly would be. However, Alderson has a history with Hudson when they were with Oakland and I was wondering if he at least reached out the pitcher.

Currently, agents and general managers are talking and posturing – that includes Alderson – but the market is still forming. Mostly, parameter dollar amounts have been exchanged. With the Mets there hasn’t been much in terms of specifics.

In addition to shortstop, the Mets need two starters, bullpen depth and a power-hitting corner outfielder.

Nov 01

Mets Have Plenty Of Choices In Free Agent Market

 It never takes long for the free-agent season to begin with 147 players now on the market, including seven New York Mets. The Mets’ list includes: David Aardsma, Tim Byrdak, Pedro Feliciano, Frank Francisco, Aaron Harang, LaTroy Hawkins and Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Shortly, Johan Santana will join them as the Mets are expected to decline their option and pay him the $5.5 million buyout.

All are pitchers, which is a primary need. The Mets are seeking two starters for the back end of their rotation and could make a run at bringing back Matsuzaka and/or Harang.

For now, the Mets filled those spots on their 40-man roster by activating the following seven players from the 60-day injured reserve list: Ike Davis, Josh Edgin, Matt Harvey, Jeremy Hefner, Jenrry Mejia, Bobby Parnell and Scott Rice.

Harvey and Hefner are expected to miss the 2014 season, and it isn’t known whether Parnell and Mejia, both recovering from surgery, will be available for the start of the season.

Rice should be ready, while Davis could end up being traded as the Mets have a glut of first basemen.

The Major League Baseball Players Association has released the following list of 147 players who are free agents:

ATLANTA

RHP: Luis Ayala, Freddy Garcia, Tim Hudson, Kameron Loe.

LHP: Scott Downs, Paul Maholm, Eric O’Flaherty.

C: Brian McCann.

ARIZONA

C: Wil Nieves.

INF: Willie Bloomquist, Eric Chavez.

BALTIMORE

RHP: Scot Feldman, Jason Hammel.

C: Chris Snyder.

INF: Brian Roberts.

OF: Nate McLouth, Michael Morse.

BOSTON

RHP: Joel Hanrahan.

C: Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

INF: Stephen Drew, John McDonald, Mike Napoli.

OF: Jacoby Ellsbury.

CHICAGO CUBS

RHP: Scott Baker, Kevin Gregg, Matt Guerrier.

C: Dioner Navarro.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

RHP: Gavin Floyd.

INF: Paul Konerko.

CINCINNATI

RHP: Bronson Arroyo, Nick Masset.

LHP: Zach Duke, Manny Parra.

IF: Cesar Izturis.

OF: Shin-Soo Choo.

CLEVELAND

RHP: Matt Albers, Joe Smith.

LHP: Rich Hill, Scott Kazmir.

C: Kelly Shoppach.

INF: Jason Giambi.

COLORADO

RHP: Rafael Betancourt, Roy Oswalt.

LHP: Jeff Francis.

C: Yorvit Torrealba.

INF: Todd Helton.

DETROIT

RHP: Joaquin Benoit, Jeremy Bonderman, Octavio Dotel.

C: Bravan Pena.

INF: Omar Infante, Jhonny Peralta, Ramon Santiago.

HOUSTON

LHP: Erik Bedard.

KANSAS CITY

RHP: Bruce Chen, Ervin Santana.

INF: Carlos Pena, Miguel Tejada.

LOS ANGELES ANGELS

LHP: Jason Vargas.
OF: Jerry Hairston.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

RHP: J.P. Howell, Carlos Marmol, Ricky Nolasco, Edinson Volquez, Brian Wilson.

INF: Nick Punto, Skip Schumaker, Juan Uribe, Michael Young.

MIAMI

RHP: Chad Qualls.

INF: Placido Polanco.

OF: Matt Diaz, Austin Kearns, Juan Pierre.

MILWAUKEE

LHP: Mike Gonzalez.

INF: Yuniesky Betancourt.

OF: Corey Hart.

MINNESOTA

RHP: Mike Pelfrey.

NEW YORK YANKEES

RHP: Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Hiroki Kuroda, Mariano Rivera,

LHP: Andy Pettitte.

INF: Robinson Cano, Travis Hafner, Lyle Overbay, Mark Reynolds, Brendan Ryan, Kevin Youkilis.

OF: Curtis Granderson.

OAKLAND

RHP: Grant Balfour, Bartolo Colon.

PHILADELPHIA

RHP: Roy Halladay.

C: Carlos Ruiz.

PITTSBURGH

RHP: A.J. Burnett, Kyle Farnsworth, Jeff Karstens.

C: John Buck.

INF: Justin Morneau.

OF: Marlon Byrd,

SAN DIEGO

RHP: Jason Marquis.

INF: Ronny Cedeno.

OF: Mark Kotsay.

SEATTLE

LHP: Oliver Perez.

C: Humberto Quintero.

INF: Kendrys Morales

OF: Endy Chavez, Raul Ibanez.

SAN FRANCISCO

RHP: Chad Gaudin.

LHP: Javier Lopez.

ST. LOUS

RHP: Chris Carpenter, Edward Mujica.

INF: Rafael Furcal.

OF: Carlos Beltran.

TAMPA BAY

RHP: Jesse Crain, Roberto Hernandez, Fernando Rodney, Jamey Wright.

C: Jose Molina.

INF: Kelly Johnson, James Loney, Luke Scott.

OF: Delmon Young.

TEXAS

RHP: Jason Frasor, Matt Garza, Colby Lewis.

C: A.J. Pierzynski, Geovany Soto.

INF: Lance Berkman,

OF: Nelson Cruz.

TORONTO

RHP: Josh Johnson, Ramon Ortiz.

LHP: Darren Oliver.

OF: Rajai Davis.

WASHINGTON

RHP: Dan Haren.

INF: Chad Tracy.

Oct 30

Game Six: What World Series History Will Be Made Tonight?

A classic World Series is usually defined as seven games, but it can’t be without a Game 6. As compelling as this World Series has been, if it ends tonight in Boston, it just won’t sizzle in our memories as it would if they played one more time.

One way or another, it ends after Game 7. Gone is the sense of urgency, of desperation, of finality, of the team behind in the Series entering Game 6. The feeling the game could turn on any play hangs like a cloud over the trailing team.

FISK: Author of a Game Six great moment.

FISK: Author of a Game Six great moment.

“Well, there’s always tomorrow,’’ says the team leading 3-to-2 if something goes wrong in Game 6. The trailing team has no such luxury.

Many of baseball’s most dramatic moments are born in a Game 6.

Red Sox manager John Farrell, when asked about the enduring image of Carlton Fisk waiving his ball fair to end Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, said both clubhouses have players wondering if they’ll be waiving their arms Wednesday night.

A Fisk-like moment isn’t reserved for just marquee names. October is fickle as to whom it shines its light on. David Ortiz has posted historic World Series numbers, but the Red Sox received game winning hits from the non-descript Jonny Gomes and David Ross in Games 4 and 5.

Will either be with the Red Sox next year?

The following are the most compelling Game Sixes in World Series history. Note: For this list, a Series must go seven games, which excludes Toronto’s 1992 championship over Philadelphia, which, despite ending on Joe Carter’s homer lasted just six games.

Also, excluded is the League Championship Series, which would include Curt Schilling’s “Bloody Sock,’’ game in 2004, the year the Red Sox snapped an 86-year drought known as “The Curse.’’ It would also exclude the 2003 NLCS, which featured Steve Bartman.

Finally, I would have had to seen these games.

Here’s my list:

IF IT STAYS FAIR:  One of baseball’s most enduring images, and perhaps its greatest game, came in the 1975 World Series on Fisk’s game-ending homer in the 12th inning as Boston beat Cincinnati, 7-6. Fisk’s homer was made possible by Bernie Carbo’s three-run, two-strike, pinch-hit game-tying homer in the eighth inning.

Fisk’s moment delayed what Red Sox fans would call the inevitable, as Boston lost Game 7 at Fenway Park. This time, it would be the Reds that rallied, when Tony Perez connected off Bill Lee.

Fisk, and another stalwart of that team, Luis Tiant, will throw out the first pitch to tonight.

THE CARDINALS STAY ALIVE: Pitch for pitch, this one compared favorably to the Fisk game as the Cardinals twice were one strike away from elimination, but rallied to tie with a two-run ninth and two-run tenth to stun the Texas Rangers, 10-9, and force a Game 7, which they won.

The title iced a remarkable season in which the Cardinals overcame a 10 ½-game deficit to reach the playoffs.

Local boy, David Freese, who tied it with a two-run triple in the ninth won it with a homer in the 11th inning.

The game turned heavyweight fight featured five ties and six lead changes, and nobody complained that it lasted 4 hours, 33 minutes.

That’s one of the beauties of baseball. When it’s compelling and dramatic like the above Game Sixes, the games can last indefinitely and will leave you wanting more.

The game turned heavyweight fight featured five ties and six lead changes, and nobody complained that it lasted 4 hours, 33 minutes.

That’s one of the beauties of baseball. When it’s compelling and dramatic like the above Game Sixes, the games can last indefinitely and will leave you wanting more.

THE BALL GETS BY BUCKNER:  Another moment etched in time is the ball that squirted through Bill Buckner’s legs in the 1986 World Series. Down to their last out, the Mets rallied for three runs to beat Boston, 6-5, with the game-winner coming on Mookie Wilson’s dribbler through Buckner’s legs.

The Mets went on to win Game 7, and overcame a three-run deficit to do it. I went into more detail of that game in an earlier post today.

That game was made possible because the Mets prevailed against Houston over 16 innings in Game 6 of the NLCS. Keith Hernandez called it a crucial victory as it kept the Mets from facing Mike Scott, who beat them in Games 1 and 4.

MAYBE THE WORST CALL EVER:  One of the game’s most infamous calls came in the eighth inning of Game 6 of the 1985 World Series that might have kept St. Louis from winning. Facing elimination and down 1-0 going into the ninth inning, umpire Don Denkinger ruled Kansas City’s Jorge Orta safe at first on a play in which he was clearly out.

The Royals went on to win that game, 2-1, then rout the Cardinals, 11-0, in Game 7.

WE’LL SEE YOU TOMORROW:  That was Jack Buck’s great call after Minnesota’s Kirby Puckett homered in the 11th inning off Atlanta’s Charlie Leibrandt which kept the Series alive for the Twins with a 4-3 victory in the Metrodome.

Puckett’s drive set up Jack Morris’ ten-inning shutout, 1-0, in arguably, outside of Don Larsen’s perfect game, might have been the greatest Series game pitched.

HAIL THE RALLY MONKEY: I loved the Angels’ rally monkey, which began with a famous movie clip where the monkey was interjected at the critical spot. My favorite was the Animal House screen where John Belushi was on the ladder and instead of the girl undressing you see the monkey.

Often forgotten, perhaps because the game wasn’t decided on a game ending hit, Anaheim rallied from five runs down in the seventh inning to beat San Francisco, 6-5. The Angels scored three in the seventh and three in the eighth to win, then won Game 7.

ORIOLES STAY ALIVE:  The Orioles faced elimination when they returned home for Game 6 of the 1971 World Series. The Pirates started reliever Bob Moose, who took a 2-0 lead into the sixth. The Orioles chipped away to send the game into extra innings.

The Pirates loaded the bases in the tenth inning, but Dave McNally came out of the bullpen to snuff the threat, and Brooks Robinson won it, 3-2, with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the inning.

This was Roberto Clemente’s World Series, which was noted for playing games at night for the first time.

I don’t know what is in store for tonight, but I hope it is compelling and produces a Game 7.

Here’s rooting for history,

Oct 28

Will Fate Choose Adam Wainwright In World Series’ Game 5?

Nobody knows where October’s spotlight will fall. Sunday it shined on journeyman outfielder Jonny Gomes, the unlikely slugger of a game-winning three-run homer for Boston in Game 4. Gomes is proof October doesn’t always belong to the marquee names.

The previous night it shined on the umpires, who correctly ended Game 3 on an obstruction call.

After Gomes’ blast on Sunday, fate chose to bite the Cardinals’ Kolten Wong, who became the first player in history to be picked off to end a playoff game. Fate is often cruel come October.

WAINWRIGHT: What will fate give him?

WAINWRIGHT: What will fate give him?

Earlier in the night Clay Buchholz produced despite a tired arm, giving the Red Sox four innings. The Cardinals had a two-on, one-out threat in the second and two-on, two-out in the fourth, but Buchholz survived both.

The Cardinals later stranded two runners in the seventh. St. Louis, a beneficiary the night before, was the ultimate giver Sunday.

Gomes provided the heart and David Ortiz gave us a made-for-TV moment with a pep talk to his teammates in the dugout in the fifth inning. Ortiz, who is having a marvelous Series and has always had a flair for the dramatics, had to know the nation was watching. It made for good television, but Ortiz couldn’t do anything to help for Gomes or Buchholz, who produced when the Red Sox needed it most.

Emotion can carry a player in football, basketball and hockey, but not so much in baseball.

Everybody contributed for the Red Sox, who, like the Cardinals have been a resilient team this season. Both teams, each of whom won 97 games this season, are on the cusp of giving us a classic World Series.

The definition of classic has to be seven games. For that to happen, Adam Wainwright has to find it for the Cardinals tonight. If the Cardinals fall behind in games 3-to-2, I don’t see them beating the Red Sox twice at Fenway Park. Wainwright, whom fate blessed against Carlos Beltran in 2006, has lost his last two playoff starts. He was routed in Game 1.

It has been a sloppy Series, which only fuels the drama. Outside the Game 1 blowout, the Series has been complete with unlikely heroes, game-turning plays, managerial decisions and tension. There has even been the unfolding saga of what Jon Lester has put on his glove. The composite score of Games 2-3-4 has been 11-10 in favor of St. Louis. It can’t get much closer.

We even saw Red Sox manager John Farrell second-guess his Game 3 decision to not hit Mike Napoli for reliever Brandon Workman. Credit Farrell for being stand-up enough to admit his doubts. You don’t see that often from a manager, especially from one the day after losing a World Series game on the most bizarre of calls.

There is a flurry of statistics to ponder over the first four games, but Ortiz going 8-for-11 is the most glaring. The Cardinals would do well to repeat the Angels’ strategy in the 2002 World Series to pitch around Barry Bonds. Having Ortiz in the field has not hurt the Red Sox, and for that they are fortunate. The Cardinals are also lucky he hasn’t hurt them more.

Despite the interesting numbers and Sabremetrics, this is still a game played by humans, and there was no number to project Gomes’ homer or the obstruction call. No stat could have projected Buchholz’s guile in pitching out of trouble. Things just happen in baseball nobody can predict.

So far, these humans – from both sides – are giving us a World Series that could be for the ages.

We can only hope.

 

Oct 27

Obstruction Play Handled Perfectly By MLB

In the 109 years the World Series has been played, never has a game ended with a runner scoring on an obstruction play until Saturday night. Let’s hear it for Major League Baseball falling for the flawed reasoning that “you don’t make that call to end a World Series game.’’

Well, why not? It that’s the rule, and that’s what happened, then call it as such. There’s a reason why that rule is in place, so make the correct play. Baseball and its fans deserve as much.

Obstruction play handled perfectly. (AP)

Obstruction play handled perfectly. (AP)

Major League Baseball and its umpires handled everything superbly, with third base umpire Jim Joyce immediately making the call that gave the Cardinals a 2-to-1 Series lead.

The rule dictates “intent’’ is not relevant in making the call, nor should it be. Will Middlebrooks did not get out of the way in time, and consequently Allen Craig stumbled over him and was thereby awarded home.

It just happened to come in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 3, giving the Cardinals a “stumble off’’ victory.

Middlebrooks kept saying after the game that “I had nowhere else to go.’’ It’s surprising how many players, in all sports, don’t know the rules of the games they play.

“Just to go over the rule quickly, obstruction is the act of a fielder obstructing a runner when not in the act of fielding a ball. It does not have to be intent,’’ crew chief John Hirschbeck said. “There does not have to be intent, OK? Once he has the opportunity to field the ball, he can no longer in any way obstruct the runner. That’s basically the rule.’’

No, that’s not basically the rule. It is the rule.

Middlebrooks could not come up with catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s errant throw. Fact. He could not get out of Craig’s way. Fact.

Joyce made the correct ruling, and also a fact, Major League Baseball’s umpires did not hide behind a press release or pool reporter, but had all the principles involved accountable to answer any and all questions.

There weren’t too many complaints as to how the play was hoped, and I would hope MLB learns from that and lets its umpires be more open in addressing significant calls.

Major League Baseball did make the decision to review the rule regarding the issue of intent, but here’s hoping they don’t allow Saturday night’s controversial ending put the burden of having its umpires now judge intent.

Previously, the decision was simple in that either the defender was in the way or he wasn’t. Just because one game ended on an obstruction play, don’t make it so the umpires have to read a defender’s mind.