Nov 02

Mets Gambled And Lost On Johan Santana; End Era By Buying Out Contract

The New York Mets took care of business and officially parted ways with often-injured Johan Santana when they paid a $5.5-million buyout Friday, and the classy left-hander, who always wanted to do more – sometimes to his detriment – did the same and thanked the franchise and its fans for their support.

In a statement, Santana said: “I want to thank the Mets organization, my teammates, and, of course, a big thank you to Mets fans, who have been behind me from day one and stood by me through all the good and bad.’’

SANTANA: Era ends.

SANTANA: Era ends.

It was a noble gesture from Santana, something he didn’t have to do after completion of the six-year, $137.5-million contract that made him the highest-paid Mets’ pitcher.

The Mets have not ruled out bringing back Santana at a low-cost deal – which would be on top of the buyout – and toward that end, the left-hander lobbied on his behalf.

“I am not sure what the future holds, as this is all new to me,’’ Santana continued, “but I have every intention of pitching in 2014 and beyond and I am certainly keeping all my options open.’’

After losing in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS and kicking away a seven-game lead with 17 games remaining in 2007, and in dire need of pitching, the Mets gambled big on Santana. They sent four prospects to Minnesota – one of them turning out to be All-Star outfielder Carlos Gomez – to acquire the already damaged left-hander. Then they signed him at the time to the richest contract in franchise history.

Santana became available because both the Yankees and Red Sox backed off, so in essence the Mets were bidding against themselves, and arguably could have had him for less. Subsequently, they issued a contract they didn’t have to at that price. Clearly, they mis-read the market. The deal turned out to symbolize then-GM Omar Minaya’s tenure that included a run of lucrative, underachieving contracts.

Outside a 15-7 record with a league-leading 2.53 ERA in 34 starts in 2008, his first season with the Mets, Santana never completed a full year in New York and didn’t pitch at all in 2011 and 2013 because of shoulder injuries. If a full season is considered 34 starts, Santana left 95 starts on the table. That is more glaring than his production of 46-34, a 3.18 ERA and the only no-hitter in franchise history.

That no-hitter came in just his 12th start after rehabbing from shoulder surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule. To this day, manager Terry Collins laments letting him throw 134 pitches.

Ironically, it was a tainted no-hitter because a blown call on what should have been an extra-base hit for Carlos Beltran was ruled a foul ball. If that call is made correctly, then Santana doesn’t throw that many pitches, then, who really knows?

Santana made only 10 more starts for the Mets before he was shut down in August of 2012. In spring training of 2013, in an angered response to GM Sandy Alderson’s comments he didn’t report in shape, Santana went against his prescribed rehab routine and without Collins’ knowledge, threw off the mound and aggravated the injury.

In another dose of irony, the pitcher often fueled by pride was done in by the same. Santana re-tore the capsule and underwent a second surgery.

To this day, Santana never acknowledged his mistake of throwing off the mound, and Anderson never admitted whether his dig at the left-hander’s condition was meant as motivation and backfired.

Either way, at least publicly, both sides are open for a return. But, don’t bet on it.

Oct 31

Potential Free Agents From World Series Teams And Possible Mets’ Interest

The champagne on the carpet Boston Red Sox clubhouse isn’t even dry and there’s wonder which players from both World Series teams will be back, and if not, might the Mets be interested, or more to the point, will they have a chance?

Here are the most intriguing names:

Jon Lester: Don’t even think about it. Lester, who beat the Cardinals twice and arguably, could have been the Series MVP, just competed the final season of a five-year, $30-million contract with an option for 2014. His yearly salary numbers are reasonable by Mets’ standards, but the Red Sox have said they’ll resume negotiations. If they fail to reach an agreement, they can always pick up the $13 million option and try again later.

ELLSBURY: Could be too pricey for Mets.

ELLSBURY: Could be too pricey for Mets.

Jacoby Ellsbury: Reportedly, after the 2011 season the Red Sox offered him a $100-million package, which was rejected by agent Scott Boras, who countered with $130 million. The following season, despite injuries limiting him to 74 games, the Red Sox made another offer of $75.25-million deal over five years, which was again turned down. Ellsbury improved this year, and Boras already planted the seeds saying 11 teams are interested. Although Sandy Alderson said the team has the resources to offer a $100,000-million deal, it won’t be spent on a hitter who isn’t a middle-of-the-order force.

Stephen Drew: The Red Sox said they’ll tender a contract to the shortstop, despite Xander Bogaerts the heir apparent for the job. Shortstop is a necessity for the Mets because they can’t rely on Ruben Tejada, but would they go over $10 million – which Drew made – to fill the position or will they hope for the best with Tejada? Teams are built on defense up the middle, but Tejada regressed in that area.

Mike Napoli: Initially the Red Sox offered Napoli a three-year, $39-million contract, but took it off the table and gave him $5 million when a physical revealed a degenerative hip condition. Napoli proved he was healthy as he played in 139 games and drove in 92 runs. Trouble is, he did it at first base, where the Mets have a glut of unproven and underachieving options.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia: The $4.5 million he made this season fits into the Mets’ budget and there’s a need for a veteran presence to back up Travis d’Arnaud. There are other options, including bringing back John Buck.

Carlos Beltran: Reportedly, Mets’ COO Jeff Wilpon reached out to Beltran at the All-Star Game and the club and veteran outfielder made amends. During his stay with the Mets, Beltran gave them everything he had and was under appreciated. Beltran made $13 million this season and hit .296 with 24 homers and 84 RBI. He’ll be 37 next year.

Chris Carpenter: A shoulder injury prevented Carpenter from pitching this year, in which he made $10.5 million. There have been reports he will retire this winter. If he’d like to pitch another year, it might not be possible with all the Cardinals’ young arms.

Rafael Furcal: The Mets said they will eschew injury reclamation projects, which will probably exclude Furcal, who did not play this season because of torn ligament in his elbow. However, they are faced with their own shortstop, Tejada, recovering from a broken leg. Furcal made $7 million this year, and at 37, won’t get near that, from the Mets or anybody else.

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 25

Time To Let Things Pass For Carlos Beltran

If you thought for a minute Carlos Beltran’s bruised ribs would have kept him out of Game 2, then you haven’t been paying attention.

Beltran bruised his ribs robbing David Ortiz of a grand slam homer in Game 1, and while being treated in a Boston hospital that night began to doubt he’d be back in Fenway Park for Thursday’s game. Constant treatment helped him return, and with nearly two full days of treatment since, he will be in the lineup for Game 3 Saturday in St. Louis.

BELTRAN: A great Met scorned.

BELTRAN: A great Met scorned.

That’s because Beltran, as quiet as he is, is extremely tough. It would take a lot more than bruised ribs to keep him out of the World Series he’s waited 16 years to play in.

“I wanted to be in the lineup,’’ Beltran said. “I worked so hard to get to this point. Somebody would have to kill me in order for me to get out of the lineup.’’

Don’t forget, Beltran refused to sit after suffering facial fractures in an outfield collision with Mark Cameron in 2005, his first season with the Mets. Beltran played with several injuries during his Mets’ tenure, but unfortunately there’s a sizable segment of their fan base that prefers to remember him for taking Adam Wainwright’s nasty curveball that froze him to end Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, their last time they played in October.

The Mets collapsed at the end of the 2007 and 2008 seasons, and this summer was their fifth five straight losing year. Unfairly, Beltran became a symbol of their long fall because of that pitch.

I heard on talk-radio today one caller say he hopes the Cardinals and Beltran will lose based on that pitch. That’s beyond ignorant.

Just get over it, will you?

Nobody could have hit that pitch. Odds are had he swung he would have missed or hit a weak popup because he was greatly overmatched.

Beltran is arguably one of the most talented players in Mets’ history and for him to be castigated years later is blatantly unfair and ignorant.

New York sports fans like to believe they are the most sophisticated in the country. If that is so, then prove it and leave Beltran alone and join us in 2013.

It doesn’t matter who you favor in the World Series. Everybody has their reasons why they root for or against a team. But, to root against the Cardinals because of that pitch Beltran took years ago makes no sense.

To blame one player for the ills of the past seven years is beyond stupid.

 

Oct 23

Minaya Hopes To See Beltran Get That Ring

Carlos = Beltran

Omar Minaya is rooting hard for Carlos Beltran to get that World Series Ring, Reports Bob Klapisch of The Record.

“I feel great for Carlos, because I still think he was the best center fielder of his time,” Minaya said by telephone Tuesday. “I’ve known him since high school in Puerto Rico and he’s always been that same person: not just a great ballplayer, but a great human being. When people like that get to the World Series, it makes you feel proud.”

Minaya has no hard feeling towards the Wilpons, whom he said had little choice but to fire him and Jerry Manuel after the collapse in Flushing was beyond repair.

“We did have a great thing going, but in New York, you have to win. I get that,” Minaya said. “We had a great season in ’06, but to lose the way we did in ’07 and ’08 at the very end … when you go out like that two years in a row, changes have to be made.”

I’m amazed at how many Met fans still define Beltran’s career by that one at-bat, seemingly ignoring the fact he carried the Mets to that Game 7 of the NLCS with a tremendous regular season and post season performance.

As Klapisch points out, Beltran was in the wrong place at the wrong time, expecting a fastball with a 3-2 count in the bottom of the ninth.

So to any Mets fan who still feels Beltran hasn’t fully paid his debts for 2006, consider the journey. He knows about pain, although there’s never been a hint of his suffering. Beltran is baseball’s equivalent of Mr. Spock – neutral and unruffled are in his genetic coding. He told The New York Times recently, “For me, being able to get so close and never being able to get to the World Series, all that has done is give me motivation to come every year, work hard, prepare myself and try to get there.”

Clearly, the commitment has paid a monster dividend: In two seasons with the Cardinals, Beltran has hit .282 with 56 home runs, and, just as importantly, hasn’t spent any time on the disabled list. His trade to the Giants in 2011 also netted the Mets right-hander Zack Wheeler, which means, in all fairness, the account is paid in full.

As for what’s next as Beltran heads into the offseason, it’s becoming painfully clear that future Hall of Famer could be heading to the Bronx according to what baseball people are telling Klapisch.

It would suck to see him come to New York and play for the other team.