Oct 08

Forecasting What Mets Have To Spend Next Year

The Mets might have received a favorable ruling in the Madoff case, but that doesn’t the economic climate around Citi Field is that much better.

Hardly, in fact, with a sub-par showing at the gate, caused largely in part by the club’s failure to improve their bullpen and outfield at mid-season, which led to a second-half collapse.

With a team going 15 straight home games without scoring more than three runs, who is going to come out?

The burgers aren’t that good.

The Mets’ payroll was $100 million this year and is forecast to be much the same in 2013. It is possible to reach the playoffs with a sub-$100 million payroll as Cincinnati, Washington, Baltimore and Oakland are still standing. The Athletics’ payroll is nearly half that of the Mets, and they also play in a two-team market, so it can be done. The Nationals, of course, finished 24 games ahead of the Mets in the NL East.

It takes superior scouting and farm system, prudent trades and free-agent signings, and a patience to let your young talent develop. The Mets have done precious little in those areas and since 2005 have relied on veteran free agents that were either too old on the down side of their careers, or became injured and non-productive.

Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine gave the Mets some good moments. Both had physical issues and the team couldn’t build around them.

Frankie Rodriguez, Jason Bay, Johan Santana, Billy Wagner, Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo were all too pricey and failed in their expectations. The Mets are saying they really won’t be able to do anything in the free-agent market until after the 2013 season when Santana and Bay are off the books.

Other signings, such as Guillermo Mota, Julio Franco, JJ Putz and Scott Schoeneweis – that’s a name I almost forgot about – were simply bad as the Mets overpaid in dollars and years.

Outside of Jon Niese and possibly Matt Harvey, what has come out of the farm system? David Wright, Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada are the only homegrown position players who had substantial seasons. Lucas Duda and Josh Thole are to be determined, Mike Pelfrey has been hit or miss, is now injured and likely won’t be tendered a contract.

Do you remember that star-studded outfield of prospects Lastings Milledge, Carlos Gomez and Fernando Martinez? Gomez was in the Santana trade, but other than that, the Mets got noting from the trio that was supposed to patrol their outfield for a decade.

While four teams in the playoffs have payrolls less than the Mets, none are as expensive market as New York. The Mets face the problem of working extensions for Wright and R.A. Dickey within that $100-million parameter, but not much higher.

Since Wright is already on the books for $15 million for next year and Dickey for $5 million, that’s $20 million of their extensions already accounted for in 2013. The Mets could backload their contracts to ease some of the strain, but they still have $79.5 million of the $100 million already earmarked for six players.

In addition to Wright and Dickey, the Mets are committed next year to Santana ($25.5 million plus a $5.5 million buyout); Bay ($16 million plus a $3 million buyout); Frank Francisco ($6.5 million) and Jon Niese ($3 million).

That means they must spread $20.5 million among 19 players to complete their 25-man roster. Of that, figure in a raise to maybe $3.5 million for Davis, who is arbitration eligible.

There’s not a lot of wiggle room, and definitely not enough to sign a big-ticket free-agent. They will have to rely on minor league promotions and free agents signing for no more than $1 million.

Good luck with that.

Oct 07

Interesting Start To MLB Playoffs; Intriguing World Series Possibilities

It has been an interesting start to the baseball playoffs. The play-in games put a different spin on things, but I’m hearing a lot of criticism of the single game format and it would be fairer to have best two-or-three. It probably would, but MLB doesn’t want to take the chance of playing in November.

A possible solution would be to incorporate at least one day-night doubleheader during the season among division opponents only. You would still have the same number of games, but a doubleheader a month would eliminate six days from the calendar, which would give MLB a week to tinker with the format.

There are a lot of interesting story lines. The one that stands out for me would be the fallout should the Cardinals run the table again like last season. In 2011, it was a special story because of how they came from behind during the season to make the playoffs and how they rallied in the World Series. This year would be an asterisk because of the “Infield Fly Game,” which will forever be a part of baseball lore.

It was predictable the MLB hid behind the “umpire’s judgment” clause and didn’t comment on whether it was a good call or not. With all this technology that showed it was a blown call, it is a shame a team is home possibly because an umpire made a bad call.

The Cardinals face the Nationals, with the first two games in St. Louis. I don’t like this format. The Nationals had the best record and shouldn’t open on the road. Who can’t see the Cardinals winning at home and stealing one on the road? There should be a reward for having the best record.

At the start of the season I predicted the Yankees and Giants in the Series and it could still happen. The Reds stole one in San Francisco despite losing their ace Johnny Cueto. He’s questionable for the rest of the series, but the Reds accomplished what they needed in getting at least a split.

In the American League, the Tigers and Orioles need to protect their home field and win the first two. Should they sweep the first two, I can see them taking one on the road. However, it is far harder to think they’ll win two on the road.

Just playing out some possible World Series scenarios that would be interesting.

ORIOLES vs, NATIONALS: Two teams horrid for so long are poised for prime time. About 50 miles apart, this has the potential to develop into a real interleague rivalry over time. Washington’s manager, Davey Johnson, used to play for the Orioles. Nobody could have forecast them meeting in the Series. The Nationals have a better rotation, but the Orioles have the better pen. Both hit for power.

ATHLETICS vs. GIANTS: Another potential geographical rivalry. They met before in the Earthquake World Series with the Athletics sweeping. The Giants might have the best rotation in the playoffs, but are already down a game.

YANKEES vs. GIANTS/CARDINALS: The Yankees’ power against the Giants’ pitching would be intriguing. Power vs. power. The New York angle for the Giants is long gone. … A Yankees-Cardinals match-up would feature the two winningest World Series teams in history.

Regardless of the World Series pairings, I’ll watch. I always do. Even when it is the Yankees or Phillies.

Oct 06

Ump Holbrook Blows Call To Cost Braves; MLB Needs Replay

Chipper Jones was right, the Braves didn’t lose to the Cardinals in the wild-card play-in game because of umpire Sam Holbrook’s horrendous infield fly call. Then again, it didn’t help and this game will forever be known as the “Infield Fly Rule Game.”

Jones made a critical error and the Braves committed three overall, but they had a chance to overcome them when they loaded the bases with one out in the eighth inning. Or so, everybody but Holbrook thought.

Another historic bad call.

Andrelton Simmons lofted a pop-up to left field – measured later at 225 feet from home plate — which landed perhaps ten feet behind retreating shortstop Pete Kozma and incoming left fielder Matt Holliday. Neither could have reached the ball with an all-out dive.

Kozma veered off at the last second, as if Holliday had called him off.

The rule states an infield fly would be called if the defensive player could have made the play with “an ordinary effort,” and must be made in a timely manner to inform the runners of the out and to allow them to advance at their own risk after tagging up.

Kozma’s feet never stopped moving, and when he veered off he actually ran away from the ball. This action alone is enough to show he had no intention of deceiving the runners, who never retreated to their bases.

That Holbrook, the additional umpire down the left field line, made the call directly in front of him should tell you Kozma was so far out that it wasn’t an ordinary play. It should have been the third base umpire’s call, but these guys rarely change a call. They don’t want to show up their partners.

In addition, Holbrook made the call late, with the ball on its downward flight.

All this can be seen on replay.

Later, Holbrook saw the replay and lamely defended the call, saying: “Once that fielder established himself, he got ordinary effort. That’s when the call was made.”

Trouble is, Kozma never established himself. He never stopped moving and his last movement was away from the play.

Don’t know what Holbrook was looking at either time. Other umpires have blown calls and at least had the class to admit they missed the call. Not Holbrook.

The Braves’ appeal to MLB was denied by executive Joe Torre, as was expected. With the expanded playoffs, there’s no time to wait another day to resume play if the appeal was granted. Never mind getting it right.

Torre’s decision was based on that it was a judgment call, but this was bad judgment by Holbrook. Plain and simple, he blew the call and not one analyst said otherwise. In fact, an ESPN poll had 69 percent respond this was an even worse call than the interception at the end of the Seattle-Green Bay game.

That’s hard to believe.

I understand the concept of an umpire’s judgment, but this was bad all around. Holbrook had no sense of what was going on. The rule is designed to not deceive the runners, but both Holliday and Kozma were so far away from the ball they never had the chance. Kozma’s actions alone would dictate this not being a normal call.

The technology is so good today that instant replay should be expanded to allow blown calls not decide playoff games. I’m tired of seeing games decided by incompetence. Not when there’s a vehicle for getting it right.

Play was stopped for 19 minutes as the grounds crew cleared the field of litter thrown from the stands. There’s no excuse for such behavior. There’s also no excuse for such a bad call.

 

Oct 05

Mets and Digital Domain Cancel Naming Rights Deal

Digital Domain is canceling it’s $100,000 per year agreement for naming rights on the Mets’ stadium in Port St. Lucie as part of it’s corporate restructuring in bankruptcy court, according to Ballpark Digest.

As you’ll read below, I originally sourced the problems at Digital Domain almost a month ago and even speculated that the naming rights deal was in serious danger of being defaulted on. Nobody picked up my piece save for a link to it on MetsBlog at the time. (Thanks!)

Anyway…

New naming rights have not been announced for the ballpark.

Original Post September 8

Digital Domain is closing operations in Port St. Lucie, the company announced Friday morning.

According to a company press release, Digital Domain Media Group will be “reducing virtually its entire Port St. Lucie workforce, retaining approximately 20 employees who will remain as part of the wind-down.”

About 280 workers are losing their jobs. Employees are packing boxes at the company offices this morning.

According to Port St. Lucie Police, a Digital Domain executive flew in from California to inform employees their doors were closing.

Port St. Lucie police were called in as a precaution.

Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Directors of DDMG, John C. Textor has resigned, effective immediately, from his positions.

The company said Digital Domain executive Ed Ulbrich has been promoted to Chief Executive Officer of Digital Domain Productions.

Earlier this week Digital Domain Media Group defaulted on a $35 million dollar loan, according to a public filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

This can’t be good for the Mets who have already reported they never received their July $95,000 payment for their Digital Domain Park naming rights deal. After pursuing legal action, the Mets and Digital Domain settled for $50,000. It now appears the naming rights deal is in real jeopardy.

Tradition Field became Digital Domain Park in 2010 after Digital Domain Holdings, the New York Mets and St. Lucie County finalized an agreement to grant the animation and visual effects company naming rights to the Mets’ 7,000-seat spring training home.

Digital Domain Group stock has fallen from a high of $14.65 per share to a close of .60 cents on Friday.

Oct 05

How Mets Answered Preseason Questions

Like all teams, the Mets had questions entering spring training. The Mets, of course, had more than most. At that time I listed the top ten questions facing the 2012 Mets. Let’s take a look back at how the season answered those questions. Some were in the positive, others not.

1) QUESTION: To what degree will the Wilpon’s financial problems impact the Mets?  

ANSWER: Did you see any new faces of consequence added at the trade deadline? Nope, I didn’t think so. Despite a strong first half, the Mets had issues – notably the bullpen – which they did not address at the end of July. Failing to improve the team, the Mets spiraled down in the second half. While the Mets received a favorable verdict in the Madoff case – they have two more years before they have to pay off – it will not induce GM Sandy Alderson to significantly enter the free agent market. The Mets spent $100 million this year on player salaries and don’t expect them to pay much more than that in 2013.

2) QUESTION: What will we get from Johan Santana?

ANSWER: Actually more than anticipated, including the first no-hitter in franchise history. There remains speculation throwing 134 pitches in that game might have derailed him. Even though there were no arm issues, Santana did lose his command and struggled in the second half before being shut down with an injury. The Mets are on the hook for $31 million more to Santana next year, including a buyout.

3) QUESTION: How long will David Wright remain a Met?

ANSWER: Well, he’s still here and Alderson said retaining him will be an offseason priority. Because of a good first half Wright’s name didn’t come up at the trade deadline as Jose Reyes’ did the year before. Wright proved to the Mets his durability this season and had a good season, hitting .306 with 21 homers and 93 RBI. How much better could it have been had he not slumped trying to carry the team in the second half?

4) QUESTION: Which Mike Pelfrey will we see?

ANSWER: He was good while he lasted, but was shutdown early with an injury and underwent surgery to his elbow. Pelfrey might not be ready until May or June, making it highly unlikely for the Mets to tender him a contract despite Terry Collins’ urging. After a seemingly breakthrough 2010 season, Pelfrey regressed dramatically last year. Overall, Pelfrey has not lived up to expectations. The only way I see him staying with the Mets if he were to re-sign with them at a discount, but with Scott Boras his agent, don’t count on it.

5) QUESTION: What is the configuration of the bullpen?

ANSWER: That was supposed to be Alderson’s priority last winter, but it wasn’t to be as the pen factored greatly in the second-half swoon. Frank Francisco was the primary closer, but finished the season with tendinitis. Bobby Parnell pitched considerably better later in the season and will likely enter spring training in a set-up role if Francisco is healthy. The Mets received promising production from lefties Josh Edgin and Robert Carson. Look for Jon Rauch to be a part of the housecleaning.

6) QUESTION: Is Ruben Tejada the answer as Jose Reyes’ replacement?

ANSWER: That’s still up in the air over the long haul, but for now Tejada is the right fit. Tejada has a great glove, and his .289 average was better than one could have expected. With other pressing needs, Tejada showed enough to where the Mets don’t have to shop for a shortstop this winter.

7) QUESTION: Can Daniel Murphy make it at second base?

I don’t think we’ll see the second coming of Wally Backman, let alone Ryne Sandberg or Roberto Alomar. Murphy’s range could be better, but he showed promise this summer that the position isn’t a lost cause for him. He was less awkward around the bag and made most of the plays. His footwork on the double-play needs to get better. Overall, he showed enough to where the Mets don’t need to sign a second baseman in the offseason.

8) QUESTION: How healthy is Ike Davis?

ANSWER: There was speculation the virus was a contributor to a poor first half, but he refutes that notion. Not wanting to shatter his confidence, and probably moreso that there weren’t other alternatives, the Mets didn’t send him down when he hovered under .200. Davis responded with a strong second half and finished with over 30 homers.

9) QUESTION: What’s the make up of the rotation?

ANSWER: It changed considerably, beginning with Pelfrey’s injury. Dillon Gee and Santana also went down. Chris Young was brought in and gave them over 100 innings. The positive developments were Jon Niese taking another step and the emergence of Matt Harvey. Most positive of all was R.A. Dickey, who won 20 games to become a Cy Young Award candidate. Dickey has gone from journeyman to an offseason priority to be re-signed. 

10) QUESTION: Will it ever happen for Jason Bay with the Mets?

ANSWER: The newest theory is Bsy’s concussion last year caused him to be sluggish at the plate. It’s only speculation. A greater speculation is it won’t happen for Bay, who has given the Mets nothing for the $66 million they’ll pay him. Not even moving in the fences helped Bay. The Mets are just counting the days until he’s off the books.