Jan 25

Mets Signed Daisuke Matsuzaka To Compete For Fifth Starter

After several months of speculation, the New York Mets finally did the obvious and re-sign free-agent pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka to compete for the fifth spot.

He’ll go against Jenrry Mejia, recently signed left-hander John Lannan and prospects Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom.

MATSUZAKA: Competing for 5th starter role.

MATSUZAKA: Competing for 5th starter role.

Matsuzaka was signed to a minor league contract, which is what GM Sandy Alderson wanted from the outset with a veteran presence.

Once Matsuzaka, 33, straightened out his mechanics by speeding up his delivery, he closed on an upswing and finished at 3-3 with a 4.42 ERA in seven starts with the Mets.

Matsuzaka had a 10.95 ERA over 12.1 innings over his first three starts with the Mets, but after working with pitching coach Dan Warthen, he had a 1.37 ERA over his final four starts.

Speculation has Matsuzaka and Lannan moving to the lead because of their experience, and to give Mejia more time in his recovery from elbow surgery and Montero and deGrom in their development.

An advantage of going with Matsuzaka out of the gate is if gets off to a strong start – and the same applies to Lannan – it enhances their ability to make a trade at the July 31 deadline.

Did the Mets improve their rotation with a substantial name such as David Price, or solid starters such as Matt Garza or Bronson Arroyo?

No, but they improved more than their cynics thought they might. They signed three starters to fill the back end of their rotation in Bartolo Colon as their fourth starter, and Lannan and Matsuzaka to compete for the fifth starter role.

Do they have a playoff rotation? Not likely, but they have a rotation that could be solid enough to make .500 possible.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Nov 16

Sandy Alderson Said Mets Will Spend; No Promises Made

How much the New York Mets will spend on free agents this winter is undetermined, but what we can ascertain is it will not be enough to satisfy everybody. This much we know is general manager Sandy Alderson will not just throw money at a player to placate the grumbling fan base.

There’s an old saying if a baseball manager or general manager acted solely to please the fans in the stands he’ll soon be sitting with them, and Alderson will not act out of emotion.

“No fan is probably ever going to be satisfied with what his or her team is spending on players. It’s kind of too bad that the measure of commitment, the measure of loyalty to the fan base, is measured in dollar signs,’’ Alderson told ESPN today.

“That be as it may, we’re going to spend more money this year than we’ve spent in recent years, just in terms of what we have to spend. You know, last year we only spent about $5 million on free agents. So this is going to be a new day. We have it to spend. We have to spend it wisely. That’s what we’re trying to do.’’

We’ve heard that before from Alderson, which puts us in an “I’ll believe it when I see it,’’ position.

Alderson promised nothing this afternoon in his ESPN interview. Essentially, the said they’ll do more than last winter, which was basically Shaun Marcum.

We all want the Mets to not only compete, but win. Barring a miracle it won’t happen. You might point to the “Miracle Mets’’ of 1969, but remember that team had a core of a solid pitching staff highlighted by Hall of Famer Tom Seaver. Plus, it was a different game back then.

Even if the Mets were to start writing checks there’s no guarantee they’ll win. Look how much the Yankees have spent recently and look where it got them.

What has it gotten the Dodgers the past two years? The Nationals? The Tigers? The Phillies? The Angels?

The bottom line is there’s not one free agent out there – not Jacoby Ellsbury, not Shin-Soo Choo – or trading for David Price – that will guarantee the Mets the World Series.

Hell, even if the Mets do it traditionally right through their farm system there are no assurances. Hell, Matt Harvey’s elbow injury should have taught us that lesson.

However, gradual building, which the Mets tell us they are doing, does provide the Mets odds.

I believe the Mets will make some moves this winter, and the recent inactivity doesn’t mean they won’t do anything.

The Mets won 74 games last year, and if they get two innings eaters in the back end of their rotation, improve at shortstop, build depth in their bullpen and add an outfield bat – in that order – they should have a better team.

Those additions, while low key, along with a full season from David Wright, and improvement from Jon Niese and Zack Wheeler, the Mets should improve enough to win at least one more game a month, which would put them at .500.

And, this is regardless of whether they trade Ike Davis, Lucas Duda or both.

If that happens and Harvey comes back healthy in 2015, plus a few more holes are patched, then they can make a run at the postseason.

Hell, even if that does occur, there’s no givens. There never is in baseball.

May 02

MLB Chooses Non-Confrontational Route In Discipline Of Umpire Tom Hallion

Not surprisingly, Major League Baseball took the path of least resistance in its decision to fine all the parties involved in the Tom Hallion-David Price incident last Sunday.

Long story short, according to Price on Twitter, Hallion told him: “Throw the [expletive] ball over the plate.’’ Later, Hallion called Price “a liar.’’

MLB fined Price, and Rays pitchers Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore – caught in the cross fire – $1,000 apiece, claiming Price violated baseball’s social media policy. Fair enough, as MLB has a policy in place on social media.

Hallion was fined an undisclosed amount, and one could only hope it was more because MLB feels the umpire provoked and escalated the issue. MLB isn’t saying, and of course, neither is the umpire’s union.

Joe Torre, who oversees MLB disciplinary cases, was dealing with an untenable situation. For years MLB placated the umpires to the point where they’ve become overcome with self-importance and arrogance. He knows there are fine limitations set by collective bargaining with the players, but the umpire’s union plays hardball on every issue, big or small. The Players Association won’t go to war with a fine or limited suspension; the umpires will cross swords if Torre raised his eyebrows to them.

Umpiring is a tough job and these guys, for all the static they receive, do it better than anybody. That’s not to say they can’t do better and improvement can’t be made.

I still say the only way to avoid these “he said, he said’’ confrontations is to have the umpires wired to microphones they can’t control.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

 

Apr 29

David Price-Tom Hallion Solution: Put A Mike On The Umpires

Call it a hunch, but I believe David Price on this one with his beef with umpire Tom Hallion, which again leads us to the issue of the “umpire problem,’’ in Major League Baseball.

As he walked off the mound to end the seventh inning yesterday, Price and Hallion exchanged words, and the pitcher said the umpire told him “to throw the ball over the f—– plate.’’

HALLION: Has to walk away.

HALLION: Has to walk away.

Hallion denied it and called Price a liar.

Later, as all athletes do these days, Price took to Twitter: “1. I am not a liar 2. I would not make that stuff up 3. My own dad doesn’t speak to me that way 4. Again I am not a liar. #accountability.’’

The quality of umpiring has long been an issue, and along with it the umpire’s sensitivity to criticism. The rub is they are too confrontational and have rabbit years, meaning they don’t let things slide and seek out an argument. It is as if they are looking for a fight.

The umpire is supposed to be the one who is objective and calm, so why was it necessary for Hallion to yell at Price from a distance? Walk up to him calmly and say your piece. Or, better yet, ignore it and realize that with players there’s going to be emotional displays of frustration, with not all of it directed at the umpires.

Major League Baseball is enjoying unmatched financial revenues so it can afford to make improvements in his area that should reduce the tensions between the players and umpires, and more importantly, get it right. There’s ways to make this a less adversarial relationship, at least on the surface.

Let’s start with instant replay. I concede they’ll never have replay on balls-and-strikes, but there’s no reason not to use it for more than just home run calls. Unlike football, the baseball action is primarily focused on fixed locations like the foul lines, outfield wall and bases.

It is absurd not to take advantage of the high-definition technology. Have a representative from MLB in the pressbox, or have the video examined in a central location like the NHL does for its replays or the networks have for their “instant replay’’ expert on the NFL telecasts.

Finally, all umpires should be have microphones they can’t control so exchanges like the one Price and Hallion had can be properly evaluated and eliminate the “he said, he said,’’ issue.

A miked-up Hallion would tell us instantly who is telling the truth, and perhaps more importantly, prove a deterrent to umpires compelled to interject themselves into the emotions of the game.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

ON DECK: Harvey goes for Mets in Miami.

 

Nov 14

Dickey Leads Cy Young Race; Verlander In AL

CAN DICKEY’S INCREDIBLE SEASON CONTINUE?

Baseball’s annual postseason awards continue this evening with the announcement of the Cy Young winners, a moment that could thrust the Mets into proud, yet potentially embarrassing moment.

Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey could be in position of winning the award and then being traded if a contract extension isn’t reached.

Only the Mets.

NATIONAL LEAGUE: The Mets’ feel good story this summer that was Dickey has a chance to get better in a few hours if he’s able to join Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden as franchise winners of the Cy Young Award.

The man who scaled a mountain last winter climbed another this season when he literally carried the team on his shoulders to go 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA, and he did it with an abdominal tear that required surgery.

Dickey’s competition for the award, Washington’s Gio Gonzalez and Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw, pitching for winning teams. Dickey’s Mets were 14 games under .500 with a winning percentage of .457. Dickey’s winning percentage was an amazing .769.

There aren’t enough ways to say how incredible that is.

The Mets didn’t hit for the second half and their bullpen kicked away leads all year. There were nights when he did it all by himself.

“To win 20 on a club with struggles is pretty big,’’ Mets manager Terry Collins said.  “Especially during the times we weren’t hitting, he was still winning games.’’

Dickey’s ERA was second to Kershaw’s 2.53; his 20 wins were second to Gonzalez’s 21; but, he was first in strikeouts (230), innings (233.2), complete games (five), shutouts (three) and quality starts (27).

Other than a knuckleball bias, I can’t see Dickey not winning.

AMERICAN LEAGUE: Things might be more up in the air in the American League between Detroit’s Justin Verlander, Tampa Bay’s David Price and the Angels’ Jered Weaver.

Both Price and Weaver had the type of seasons worth of a Cy Young, with perhaps loftier numbers, but Verlander is the best pitcher in the sport and could become the first repeater since Pedro Martinez  (1999-2000).

Price and Weaver were 20-game winners, but Verlander dominated again and took his team into the playoffs.

My thinking is Verlander is the incumbent who pitched well enough to win again. Until somebody blows away the field, he should get it, because repeating excellence might be the single most difficult thing in sports.