Jan 16

Soriano Has Nationals Thinking Title In NL East

Not that the bullpen-needy Mets would have made a play for Rafael Soriano anyway, but the Washington Nationals’ acquisition of the Yankees’ 2012 insurance policy has them as the sexy pick to win the NL East.

It isn’t as if they needed much make-up after winning 98 games last season, but Soriano strengthens an already strong bullpen stronger. For his $28-million, two-year deal, Soriano will close, but the Nationals also have Drew Storen – their once closer-in-waiting – and Tyler Clippard, who saved 32 games last year, for late in the game.

The Mets, the only team not to sign a free-agent this winter, kicked the tires on Brian Wilson, who after Tommy John surgery, would be a gamble. Their closer is Frank Francisco, who ended last season with arm problems.

The Nationals’ manager, Davey Johnson, is adept at juggling a bullpen, although he was helpless as his pen blew a six-run lead to the Cardinals in Game 5 of the NL Division Series. That might have been the gnawing feeling that prompted them to sign Soriano.

The Nationals already upgraded with the acquisitions of starter Dan Haren and outfielder Denard Span. Washington also expects Stephen Strasburg to work at least 200 innings. Perhaps they learned from last summer’s mistake and will pace him out better.

Washington alienated a lot of people last year when they shut-down Strasburg, giving the impression they’ll make the playoffs every season. It’s not that easy, and the Nationals are showing that with what they’ve done this winter. One thing for sure, they won’t be a surprise this year.

The Braves won’t have Chipper Jones, but added outfielder B.J. Upton to their offense. They won 94 games last summer.

Philadelphia added outfielder Ben Revere and expect to have Ryan Howard and Chase Utley for the entire season. They should better last year’s 81 wins.

It appears the Mets will be competing with Miami to stay out of the cellar, but you already knew that, didn’t you?

That Nationals are building the right way, with a mix of drafting, trades and free-agent signings. With today’s economics, a team must be strong at all three phases, which the top three teams in the NL East have shown.

The Mets are putting their eggs in the farm-system basket, which is traditionally the way to go, and still is the foundation. However, they don’t have all the farm pieces to go the whole route, as they can’t fill out their roster with them or use them to trade.

The Mets also don’t have major league pieces they can trade without opening up additional holes.

As far as free-agency is concerned, they are balking on giving Scott Hairston – who hit 20 homers for them last year – a two-year deal.

The last time they had a good mix was 2007, the summer they blew a seven-game lead with 17 to play. They also blew a late lead in 2008, the last time they had a winning season.

That seemed like such a long time ago.

Nov 30

Report: David Wright Agrees To Mets’ Offer

It appears all over but the autograph.

David Wright reportedly agreed to a contract that makes him the highest paid Met ever and keep him with the franchise through at least 2020.

WRIGHT: Agrees to deal. (AP)

Wright said he wants to retire a Met and this will do it. The Mets already picked up a $16 million option for next season and will add seven more years at $122 million. He’ll be 38 when the contract ends. After that, depending on how he feels, he could play until he’s 40 then ride off into the sunset as a club ambassador like Tom Seaver.

Will the Mets overpay for Wright? Definitely, if based on his production the past four years, but he’s valuable to the Mets on levels that transcend what he does on the field.

The Mets’ credibility with their dwindling fan base is at a low following a NLCS Game 7 loss in 2006 and subsequent late-season collapses the next two years; that they are on their third manager and second GM since 2008; the Madoff scandal that lead to $50 million slashed from the payroll; that no contract offer was made to Jose Reyes last winter; and they made no effort to improve themselves despite a 46-40 record at the break.

With four straight losing seasons, what’s the incentive to buy a ticket or watch on TV?

It would have been next to nothing had Wright been traded or left as a free agent next season.

Wright is the current face of the franchise and might arguably be the Mets’ best position player in their 50-year history. Last season he became their all-time leader in hits, runs, walks and RBI and made his sixth All-Star Game.

When he’s done Wright will be in the position he always wanted, which was to spend his career with the same organization like Cal Ripken and Chipper Jones.

Of the top five players named on the Hall of Fame ballot – Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza and Craig Biggio – only one, Biggio, played his entire career with the same team. (Biggio’s teammate also played his major league career with the Astros, but was drafted by Boston.)

I wrote yesterday that signing Wright means nothing if the Mets don’t add around him and I stand by that sentiment. Keeping Wright lends an appearance of stability, that if the Mets are willing to spend, it should attract future free agents.

Getting Wright done now enables the Mets to concentrate on R.A. Dickey, whose $5 million option for 2013 was picked up. Dickey said signing Wright would play a big part in his desire to return. Dickey also said he will not negotiate during the season.

Perhaps more importantly, it should signal to the younger players – Jon Niese, Matt Harvey and Ike Davis – that they intend not to have a revolving door every winter and being a career Met has value.

We shall see.

Oct 24

Mets That Should Come Back In 2013

When you scan the roster of the 2012 Mets, there are only a handful you can justify returning, and only fewer they should bring back. The following are the Mets you know will be back next year:

JOHAN SANTANA: I’d love for them to find a taker of his $25.5 million contract, but you know that’s not going to happen. Santana will go down as one of the Mets’ worst trades for what they got from him after signing him to a long-term deal. Never mind the prospects for they didn’t amount to much, but the salary became an anchor that dragged down the franchise, especially considering how often he was injured. The Twins’ asking price forced the Yankees and Red Sox to pull out, essentially leaving the Mets to bid against themselves, both in prospects and salary. He’s back because he can’t be unloaded. That’s the only reason.

R.A. DICKEY: I don’t know what it will take to bring Dickey back, but the Mets can always pick up his 2013 option and continue to muddle through negotiations. My confidence level of GM Sandy Alderson reaching a contract extension is low. Whether the Mets bring Dickey back to continue negotiations or to trade him is uncertain, but he’ll be on the Opening Day roster.

JON NIESE: He’s signed long-term, which is a smart signing by the Alderson administration. Young, left-handed arms are at a premium. The Mets could get a lot for him, but his real value is in building around him.

MATT HARVEY: He made such a good first impression that he’s already penciled into the Mets’ 2013 rotation, and hopefully will stay there for years to come. When teams call the Mets to talk trade they invariably ask about Harvey and are properly turned down.

NIESE: A building block.

DILLON GEE: The returns on Gee’s surgery are good and he’s expected to be ready for spring training. The Mets could find a veteran capable of giving them Gee’s production, but not at his salary. Gee has been a find, and if healthy, he’ll be a reliable No. 5 starter.

BOBBY PARNELL: Parnell did not grasp the opportunity to be the Mets’ closer and struggled as the set-up option. However, when Frank Francisco went down and Jon Rauch struggled, Parnell showed improvement in the second half. Parnell’s fastball is overpowering and he’s continued to develop his secondary pitches. That he’s healthy and can throw a ball through a wall would make him attractive in the trade market. Considering his age, that’s also why the Mets should continue in developing him.

ROBERT CARSON/JOSH EDGIN: Opportunities are found in the strangest places, and Edgin and Carson found theirs with Tim Byrdak’s injury. The Mets blew out Byrdak’s arm, and desperate for lefty help in the bullpen, dipped into their minor league system for these two. Both struggled at times, but also showed glimpses of what they could bring to the table. Unless the Mets get lucky this winter, they’ll go into spring training with these two lefties in the bullpen.

 FRANK FRANCISCO: He has another year on his contract – a foolish deal, agreed – which is why he’ll be in Port St. Lucie. But, if the Mets can make a deal for him they should as he really doesn’t add much to their porous bullpen.

JOSH THOLE: Both Thole’s defense and offense have regressed. Alderson seems pleased with the way he handles the staff, but he does get healthy. In a perfect world, the Mets would trade for, or develop, another catcher, but won’t as they have little to trade and little in the minor leagues. Thole comes back because the Mets have too many other priorities to address instead of their catching.

IKE DAVIS: Don’t listen to the trade rumors. He’s not going any where. A team void of power and is pinching pennies isn’t about to deal their 32-homer hitting first baseman. Not at his salary. Unless the Mets can get a boatload in return, what’s the incentive in dealing him? And, with Lucas Duda a question, why would they take that risk?

DANIEL MURPHY:  It’s too bad Murphy doesn’t hit for power otherwise he’d be a keeper. Murphy played better at second to the point where the Mets don’t have a red flag waving at the position anymore. As with Thole, he’s good enough to stay at his position while the Mets address other issues.

RUBEN TEJADA: Tejada more than adequately replaced Jose Reyes and should be here for years. If he has another year like he had in 2012, the Mets should think of an extension to keep him away from arbitration and free-agency. Will he ever be as good as Reyes? Probably not, but he’s more than good enough.

DAVID WRIGHT: I don’t see him going anywhere. As with Dickey, if the Mets don’t get anything done they’ll pick up his option and see what they can get in the trade market. It’s harder to trade a player these days during the winter because teams have the free-agent option to improve. I believe the Mets will eventually work out a deal with Wright, who said he wants to be like Chipper Jones and play his entire career with the same team.

JASON BAY: Like Santana, Bay is back because they can’t deal that contract. His value to the Mets is staying healthy and having a strong first half so the team might be able to deal him. But, after doing nothing the previous three years, that’s not likely.

SCOTT HAIRSTON:  It is hard to say good-bye to 20 homers, but that’s what I can see happening with Hairston, who’ll likely get a better offer in the free-agent market while the Mets wait things out. Hairston, despite being a role player, what the Mets’ most productive outfielder. Whether as a starter or coming off the bench, there should be a place for him with the Mets.

LUCAS DUDA: He’s back not based on 2012 production but potential. Duda had a rough season, but he’s strong as a bull and the Mets need the power. Yes, he’s a butcher in right field, but I’d consider flipping him with Bay and playing him in left field.

 

Oct 12

I Hope The Nationals Go Down In Flames For Shutting Down Strasburg

We never got a chance to discuss the pros and cons of the Washington Nationals shutting down their ace Stephen Strasburg who they opted not to include on their post season roster. It was a bold move to say the least by Nats GM Mike Rizzo, but was it the right call?

Bob Nightengale of USA Today asked some rival GM’s what their thoughts were, and not only did all of them call it a bad move, but there was a lot of resentment and anger in what they had to say.

After yesterday’s embarrassing 8-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, the Nats find themselves on the brink of elimination and trail 2-1 in the National League Division Series. But there was no pity for them from rival GM’s who all say the Nationals got what they deserve.

“If we don’t win the World Series, I don’t care who does,” one general manager told USA TODAY Sports, “as long as it’s not those guys.

“They don’t deserve to win it. Not after what they did.”

Said a National League GM: “I hope they go down in flames. I hope it takes another 79 years before they get back to the playoffs. That’s how strongly I feel about it.”

Wow, I guess people are willing to say anything as long as it’s done anonymously, I’d love to know who these GM’s were?

Better yet, I wonder how sandy Alderson would play this if he were in the same situation…

Lets assume “Hell Freezes Over”, “Pigs Fly”, and “Bears Didn’t Shit In The Woods”. Lets assume the Mets clinched a wild card spot next season. Lets further assume Alderson shut’s down an utterly dominating Zack Wheeler who was 17-2 with a 1.76 ERA  because he reached his innings limit. Would you be okay with that?

What really pissed other GM’s off was when Rizzo said no matter what happens, “We’ll be back, we’ll be doing this a couple more times.”

Nightengale said it was the quote “heard round the baseball world”, with general managers and executives making sure everyone saw it.

Who do they think they are, the Yankees? Are the Philadelphia Phillies going to defect from the NL East? Are the Atlanta Braves retiring with Chipper Jones?

What if the Nationals don’t get back during Strasburg’s stay in Washington? What if this is their best chance to ever get to the Series? How do you live with that?

We haven’t heard the last of this as Nightengale also warns that Nationals players, particularly veterans, have grumbled and might sound off more once they depart.

As for my thoughts on all of this?

I’m with that general manager who hopes they go down in flames. I hope they don’t see the post season for the rest of this century and that their drought will forever be known as “The Strasburg Curse”. I have very little tolerance for any general manager who takes competing, winning,  and especially the post season for granted. That’s why I’m always keeping both eyes on Alderson. Until he starts using words like “wild card”, “world series”, and “championships” as part of his regular vocabulary. Those are the only words that will grab my attention.

Oct 01

Mets’ Collapse In 2007 More Than Lost Season

Little did anybody know it at the time, but the Mets’ historic and stunning collapse at the end of the 2007 season, blowing a seven-game lead with 17 to play was more than just a horrific finish.

After all, they went on to blow a late-season lead in 2008, also.

The collapses began a spiral effect of costly decisions that brought to light the Mets’ financial crisis. The Ponzi scandal, no doubt, had a huge impact regardless of the club’s comments that the baseball operations weren’t also severely influenced.

One bad decision lead to another costly mistake and we find ourselves with another losing season, another lost summer, and the very real prospect of them losing both David Wright and R.A. Dickey.

Wright told ESPN’s Adam Rubin over the weekend he could see it ending with him and the Mets. When Rubin asked Wright following the Chipper Jones’ ceremony if he could see himself playing his entire career with the same team.

Wright knew it was possible when the Mets didn’t retain Jose Reyes. For years we heard the All-Star left side of their infield, and although there’s a plausible explanation for the shortstop’s departure, it was a thanks-I-needed-that slap in the face for Wright.

“I always thought Jose would be back, that it was just a lot to do about nothing,” Wright said. “We’ve known each other since 2001. You’re talking about playing around or with each other for 11 years. Yeah, of course it opens your eyes. It makes you realize in a lot of ways there is an ugly business side to this — whether it’s from the player’s perspective or the team’s perspective.”

Wright is arguably the premier position player in club history, but there are no assurances, especially considering the past.

The following are some of the most critical decisions that put the Mets in position where they had to cut $50 million in payroll this season to make them a mid-level franchise in the country’s biggest market.

1) JOHAN SANTANA: Yes, he threw the franchise’s first no-hitter this year and has had other special moments, but the fact remains they were bidding against themselves in dealing with the Twins. Minnesota’s asking price was steep, which forced Boston and the Yankees to pull out. I don’t care about the handful of prospects as they’ve amounted to little, but the trade was contingent on signing Santana to an extension and the Mets drastically overpaid to the point where they’ve received precious little the last few years and are put in a weak position for this offseason. Santana has been frequently injured during his tenure with the Mets and there’s no guarantee about next year.

In addition, the for the amount of money Santana is getting, the Mets could have filled numerous holes, including the rotation and bullpen.

2) FRANCISCO RODRIGUEZ: When Rodriguez’s own team, the Angels, want him back that should have been a red flag. Rodriguez saved his fair share of games, but paid him an extraordinary amount considering there were no other bidders. They should have taken a harder line approach in their negotiations.

3) JASON BAY: Next year is it for Bay, whose contract, injury history and lack of production make him non-tradable. What’s worse, is the Mets were moving into a new ballpark at the time and stated they were building their team around pitching and defense.  At the time, pitching was the overriding need. Again, a red flag should have been when the Red Sox were so willing to let him go. The Mets have received virtually nothing for the $66 million they’ll pay Bay.

4) OLIVER PEREZ: Speaking of red flags, shouldn’t it have been a tip off when nobody else seriously flirted with him in his free agent season? Instead, the Mets signed him long term and by the end he had lost his fastball and became a clubhouse pariah when he refused a demotion to work on his mechanics.

5) LUIS CASTILLO: I could see bringing him back, but for four years? Seriously, what was Omar Minaya thinking? Castillo was already on a downhill slide, which was only accelerated by injuries. His contract, along with Perez’s, symbolized the Minaya regime.

There were more, of course, multi-year deals to Moises Alou, Orlando Hernandez, Julio Franco and Guillermo Mota, but those five, for the magnitude of dollars and not properly evaluating the market did serious damage to this franchise which might not be over.

After 2006 and 2007, the Mets didn’t properly evaluate their team. They thought they were better than they really were.