Dec 31

Zobrist To Mets Not Happening

There are numerous times – too many to mention – when ESPN demonstrates a tabloid mentality, which is to say it throws something on the wall hoping it will stick. Such is the case when it endorsed the position of the Mets trading for Tampa Bay infielder Ben Zobrist.

ZOBRIST: Another stab in the dark. (AP)

ZOBRIST: Another stab in the dark. (AP)

There is undoubtedly a lot to like about an in-his-prime Zobrist, specifically his grind-it-out mentality all teams professing to be contenders must have on their roster. He’s versatile, always hustles, has a career .354 on-base percentage in his nine-year career with a respectable .783 OPS, all statistics ESPN used in making its case.

However, he’s not in his prime. The stats the network failed to mention are the most telling. Zobrist’s best season came in 2012 when he hit .270 with 20 homers, 74 RBI, a .377 on-base percentage and .848 OPS.

Those numbers declined the two following seasons. Also omitted are the prospects the Rays will undoubtedly seek, keeping in mind the Mets have no intention of dealing their young pitching.

Also conveniently forgotten is Zobrist will make $7.5 million in 2015, and will become a free agent after the season. There’s no way the Mets will pick up that salary and if ESPN was paying attention it would know the franchise’s financial mentality. It should be mentioned the author of the piece was not Adam Rubin.

So, the Mets will give up a handful of prospects, pay a lot of money for an infielder who has only played 52 games at shortstop the past two seasons – where the Mets have the most need – and will likely leave after the season?

Considering his gradual decline and he’s 33-years-old, this is not the move the Mets should or will make.

Dec 30

Ten Storylines For Mets In 2014

It was an interesting year for your New York Mets. No playoffs and no .500 record as expected, but for the most part they played aggressive baseball. There was improvement.

The following are ten of the more important Mets’ story lines from the 2014 season:

1. The loss of Matt Harvey: Despite his distracting chirping about wanting to pitch in 2014, and where he wanted to rehab, the Mets held firm and kept him out for the season following elbow surgery. The Mets say his rehab went well and he will be ready for Opening Day. Harvey will work on an innings limit for 2015, and start the home opener.

2. The decline of David Wright: He was named captain and signed to a lucrative contract, but was injured again and only hit eight homers with 63 RBI. Wright last hit 20 homers in 2012 and drove in 100 runs in 2010. He last played in at least 150 games in 2010.

3. The emergence of Jacob deGrom: Nobody saw this coming as most of the preseason attention went to Zack Wheeler, but deGrom went 9-6 and was named NL Rookie of the Year. With Harvey, the three form the nucleus for a potentially solid rotation.

4. Failure to find a leadoff hitter: With Wright struggling, somebody had to be a consistent presence at the plate and it was Daniel Murphy. He was most effective hitting second, but there should have been some consideration to batting him first as for the second straight season the Mets failed to generate a leadoff hitter.

5. The inability to find a shortstop: There was to be a competition between Wilmer Flores and Ruben Tejada, but it never materialized. At the end of the season Flores did most of the playing. There was again the show this winter of searching for a shortstop, but nothing happened. Flores enters spring training as the frontrunner.

6. The emergence of Juan Lagares: Nobody can cover centerfield like Lagares, who even showed signs of becoming a base stealer. Now, if he could only cut his strikeouts and improve his on-base percentage the Mets might finally have a leadoff hitter.

7. They finally got a power hitter: Lucas Duda assumed the first base job full time after Ike Davis was traded to Pittsburgh and responded with 30 homers and 92 RBI. Amazingly, Duda took some heat for being too patient.

8. Jon Niese continued to struggle: A young, hard-throwing lefthander with a manageable contract made him alluring to other teams. Unfortunately, an injury history and string of mediocre seasons – only two double-digit victory years in his seven-year career – took away his appeal.

9. They filled an outfield hole: Michael Cuddyer was signed to a two-year contract to presumably play left field. The projection is he’ll bat fifth behind Duda.

10. They spent some money, but maybe not wisely: Curtis Granderson was signed to a four-year deal last winter, but coming off an injury in 2013, hit only 20 homers with 66 RBI, paltry production for $13 million. He had some success leading off and might get another shot if Lagares spits the bit.

Dec 29

NFL Gets It When It Comes To Scheduling; MLB Missing Boat

As I watched the NFL yesterday on the Red Zone – sports for those with ADHD – it came to me how much Major League Baseball could learn from football when it comes to scheduling.

All of yesterday’s games were played within the division, which illustrates a major flaw in baseball’s scheduling. There were ten games that had some kind of playoff implications, whether it was winning the division or playoff seeding.

Conversely, the Mets ended their season with an interleague game against Houston. Regular readers of this blog know I am vehemently against interleague play, but in particular on Opening Day and in September.

There was an interleague game nearly every day of the season, including two for home openers and eight series in September. How can you legitimately promote pennant races with that many September interleague series?

MLB would be wise if its September schedule, or at least the last three weeks of it, were played within the division. The Mets’ 2015 September interleague series is against the Yankees. If neither team is in the race then there could be a lot of empty seats at Citi Field.

Another thing the NFL does I like with its schedule is the opening week. Clearly, the NFL wrestled the “magic’’ of an Opening Day from baseball with its Thursday night game featuring the Super Bowl champion.

Baseball’s Opening Day used to highlight Washington – the team in the nation’s capital – and Cincinnati, the oldest franchise, the day before everybody else.

This past season, the first regular season game was played in March, while another team was still in its exhibition schedule. There have been other times, notably when the Yankees and Rays went to Japan, when the season openers were played abroad and those teams returned to complete their exhibition schedule.

Opening Day used to be special, now it’s a hodge-podge. The NFL gets it when it comes to scheduling while MLB is falling short.

Dec 28

Mets Need To Lock Up Torres

I don’t know what the Mets are waiting for, but they need to lock up Carlos Torres, who might be the Mets’ most reliable reliever.

TORRES: Valuable asset. (AP)

TORRES: Valuable asset. (AP)

To understand why, you must first look past his 8-6 record and 3.06 ERA. The numbers are rather pedestrian, but 14 decisions out of 162 games indicate a sizeable percentage.

Torres appeared in 73 games last season and finished 20. His 97 innings pitched included working multiple innings in consecutive games. Prior to every game, manager Terry Collins was usually asked which relievers were available. Rarely did he say Torres couldn’t go.

Don’t think he doesn’t have great stuff? Well he struck out 96 in those 97 innings and walked only 38. There’s not a starter in the rotation that wouldn’t take that ratio.

Torres is pre-arbitration which means he doesn’t yet have a contract for 2015. The Mets are all excited about the potential of their young pitching and rightfully so. When they boast of those arms they don’t mention Torres. And, they should.

And, they should lock him up.

Dec 27

My Hall Of Fame Ballot And Reasoning

As I do every time this year, I mail in my Hall of Fame ballot. To grow up loving baseball and to vote for the Hall of Fame is a tremendous thrill. It is also a responsibility I take greatly, which is why I don’t understand the rationale of some of colleagues who use their vote as a political statement. If you don’t want to vote, then surrender your vote.

I can comprehend checking off two or three names if that’s all you believe are worthy and not the ten maximum. If you want to vote in a steroid user that’s your prerogative.

But, what I will never get is them believing, is because of the flux of steroid users that there are more than ten qualified candidates and therefore not submitting any ballot.

Just vote for your top ten and move on. Because candidates stay on the ballot based on the percentage of votes, there’s a chance worthy players will be left off. That’s blatantly unfair and penalizes deserving players.

How can you cover Major League Baseball for at least ten straight years – the requirement to vote – and you’re not able come up with a top ten? Just makes no sense.

I take pride in my vote, do a lot of research and talk to players, managers, coaches and general managers to gain input. And, it’s still hard. Here are my top ten and why:

Craig Biggio: He should have been voted in last year. Over three thousand hits. Aren’t you paying attention?

Mike Piazza: I hear the steroid rumors, but that’s all they are. Innuendo and some back acne aren’t reason enough to bar him.

Jeff Bagwell: Like Piazza, he’s not linked to steroids in any official capacity. Writers should be more responsible than to buy into rumors.

Tim Raines: Arguably one of the three best leadoff hitters in history along with Hall of Famers Rickey Henderson and Lou Brock.

Lee Smith: There’s a bias against him, but he’s third on the career list with over 400 saves.

Edgar Martinez: There’s a bias against him, also, because he’s a designated hitter. But, that’s an official position, and he was as good as anybody at it.

Mike Mussina: He could have pitched another two years and won 300 games, which is automatic entry. Seventeen straight seasons with double-digit victories, and 11 overall with fifteen or more, often pitching with inferior teams against the American League East.

Randy Johnson: A ten-time All-Star and five-time Cy Young Award winner with over 300 victories and 4,875 strikeouts. He’s a slam dunk. He also threw over 200 innings in 14 seasons.

Pedro Martinez: He was an eight-time All-Star and three-time Cy Young Award winner. His average season was 17-8 with a 2.93 ERA and 217 innings pitched.

John Smoltz: He won 213 games, but likely would have won over 300 if he didn’t miss the 2000 season with an injury and returned as a closer where in saved 154 games.

I did not vote for any of the players who were directly linked to steroids, either by direct testimony from other players or were mentioned in the Mitchell Report. Until the Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball put a notation on their plaques they played in the steroid era and their records come with an asterisk, that will be my stand.