Dec 20

Casting My 2013 Hall Of Fame Ballot

piazza gfx

I am at my desk holding the official BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot. It is my reward turned responsibility for covering Major League Baseball for over 20 years.

That’s close to 2,500 games, many spent watching Mike Piazza dominate his position like no other catcher with 396 homers (427 overall). That dwarfs Hall of Famers Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey and Mickey Cochrane, all who played before steroids became part baseball’s lexicon.

I vowed not to vote for a player officially linked to steroids, whether by admission, a failed drug test, accused on the record by another player or baseball official, or mentioned in the Mitchell Report.

That meant Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro or Roger Clemens – all on this year’s ballot – won’t get in by me.

Then there is Piazza.

Piazza hasn’t been linked to performance enhancing drugs in any capacity with the exception of innuendo from writers who deemed that an acne-spotted back was as reliable as a blood test. If acne were the sole criteria, then most every teenager in this country would be suspected of being on the juice.

Like the gay rumors, it is unfair, unjust and irresponsible reporting. Yes, Piazza starred in baseball’s checkered steroid era, but I see him as a victim of circumstance, of guilt by association, of being painted with a broad brush.

Supposedly, Piazza confessed to an unnamed reporter. Unnamed reporters, like unnamed sources, raise suspicion and should be questioned with skepticism. It is why I put my name on everything I write.

If a reporter had that story, it would be a goldmine. If so, where is it written? Piazza has denied on the record any usage, and based by his name being absent on any official list, I believe him.

Despite his no-show before Congress, McGwire came clean; Palmeiro failed a test and was suspended; BALCO star Bonds admitted to using the clear and the cream but claimed he didn’t know what it was; Sosa has been blamed on the record and used corked bats twice; and Clemens’ former trainer produced physical evidence with his DNA.

I’m not buying the court decision on Clemens, as the government couldn’t get a conviction with a signed admission. Andy Pettitte’s most significant change-up of his career is what probably allowed Clemens to get off.

Then, there is Piazza who might be denied based on one newspaper account citing back acne. That reasoning is as pockmarked as Piazza’s back at the time.

Voting against Piazza is a writer’s right, but it can’t be based on his .308 career average, .377 on-base percentage, .545 slugging percentage, .922 OPS, 427 homers and 1,113 RBI, numbers that are off the charts in comparison to other catchers.

In case that’s not impressive enough, there are 12 All-Star appearances, 10 Silver Slugger Awards emblematic as the dominant offensive player at his position (and most ever by a catcher), and seven times finished in the top ten on the MVP ballot.

Piazza will get my vote, as will Craig Biggio, Edgar Martinez, Jeff Bagwell, Fred McGriff, Jack Morris, Don Mattingly and Tim Raines.

Piazza’s numbers are what the writers should be counting, not back pimples or whispers from those too gutless to put their names on the record.

Voting against Piazza is a writer’s right, but not the responsible choice. A journalist’s obligation is to be objective, fair and honest. Voting against Piazza on the strength of a rumor is none of those things.

It’s irresponsible and disgraceful.

John Delcos is a lifetime member of the Baseball Writers Association of America and has covered the sport for over 20 years. He has voted for the Hall of Fame for over a decade. You can read more of his insights at NewYorkMetsReport.com or reach him at JDelcos@yahoo.com.

 

Dec 19

Mets’ Pitching Is Precarious

Sandy Alderson did it again, speaking on WFAN he said he thought the Mets could compete in 2013. What he didn’t say was how he thought they’d be able to, much less define compete the term.

He asked for patience and hoped some of the Mets’ young pitching talent would surface this coming season. Again, hope is not a strong building plan. Without saying so, he indicated this summer will be another long one.

There were no definitive answers as to the make-up of the back end of the Mets’ rotation. Assuming Dickey’s 2012 wasn’t a fluke, the Mets’ top three priorities were building a bullpen, coming up with an outfield, and to acquire catching help.

Now, the top priority must be finding another starter. It always begins with pitching and the Mets have some holes in addition to those elsewhere in the field.

“First of all, you think about how to replace the 240 innings. That’s where it’s got to start,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “Somebody’s got to step up, certainly.’’

Continue reading

Dec 18

I’m Satisfied With The Mets This Winter, Aren’t You?

Presumably, Sandy Alderson knows more about baseball scouting than we do, so what’s not to like about the trade of R.A. Dickey for prospects?

Based on surface viewing, the Mets’ desire to trade Dickey was to maximize what they could get for a 38-year-old with a trick pitch and only one outstanding year on his resume.

ALDERSON: Why is he smiling?

That’s all understandable and a move to be cheered, perhaps in three or four years when Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard rock our world and become stars.

No, make that future All-Stars, you know, like Mets’ prospects before them: Mike Pelfrey, Lastings Milledge, Francisco Martinez, Jenrry Mejia and Carlos Gomez.

And, add them to stellar free-agent signings and trades for Jason Bay, Kaz Matsui, Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, Francisco Rodriguez, Guillermo Mota, Moises Alou, Julio Franco, Orlando Hernandez and Johan Santana. In fairness, Santana had his great Mets’ moments, but he’s also had a consistent run of injuries. Injuries are hard to project, but the Mets knew he logged a lot of innings before giving him all that money. I mention injuries, because that’s the red flag on d’Arnaud.

The sum total of those parts is a track record of skepticism and non-believability of Mets’ management, and it isn’t just Alderson. Fool me once shame on you; fool me a dozen times then shame on both of us. Alderson, the supposed baseball genius, is still a front man for ownership.

Quite simply, the Mets guessed and projected wrong so many times before so why should we believe them now when they say d’Arnaud and Syndergaard will be different?

Continue reading

Dec 17

All That’s Left For Dickey Deal Is Mets’ Fans Crying

All R.A. Dickey must do is turn his head and cough and he’ll be a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. That’s appropriate to Mets fans because they are the ones with the hernia from bearing the heavy weight of the promises the organization made them in recent years.

DICKEY: Going, going ... gone.

It is done and Dickey is gone after agreeing to a two-year, $25-million extension with the Blue Jays, which ironically is less than he sought from the Mets. If the Mets don’t feel a twinge of embarrassment in that they should.

Some of the money, along with his $5 million salary – when the Mets picked up the option they said they hoped to extend his contract – will be paid immediately of offset the tax difference between the United States and Canada. The exact dollar figure to be front-loaded is still being negotiated.

The Mets will receive catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud, whose 2012 season was cut short by a knee injury, and Class A pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard. The teams are also swapping catchers, Josh Thole and John Buck, to give Dickey his old batterymate.

Toronto is including an undisclosed amount of cash to help pay Buck’s $6 million salary, further indication the Mets’ financial problems are far from over.

So, the Mets are giving their Cy Young Award winner and one of their few 2012 positives for two prospects – one injured – which are nothing more than wishes in the wind. The Mets are gambling the prospects will make it, but don’t know for sure. Nobody does.

Continue reading

Dec 17

Dickey Deal Near Done; Pelfrey Officially Gone, Too

It’s almost done, a mere hours now before R.A. Dickey gets his “Get Out of Jail Free Card,’’ otherwise known as his contract extension with the Toronto Blue Jays.

DICKEY: Toronto bound.

The trade will be complete and Dickey will have nothing more to do with the penny-pinching Mets, the team he saved from total embarrassment this summer by winning the Cy Young Award.

Those words from Jeff Wilpon and Sandy Alderson, that re-signing Dickey was a priority have rung hollow as we expected they might. Dickey, the best thing the Mets had last season, will take his talents and dancing knuckleball to Toronto, hopefully a franchise that will realize what he brings to the table.

While this will be written off by the Mets that Alderson maximized what he could get for Dickey, much like he did when he acquired Zack Wheeler for Carlos Beltran, that’s not totally true.

In Travis d’Arnaud, a 24-year catcher with a bad knee, the Mets don’t know what they are getting.  In Dickey, maybe the Mets had a one-year wonder, which might have been the driving force behind the trade: Get what they can now because they don’t know if Dickey could do it again.

What the Mets did know what they had in Dickey was a genuine personality in a sport where there seems to be so few. Dickey pitched with pain, grit and determination and related to the public like few had before him.

Continue reading