Jan 13

Mets Matters: Team Considering Brian Wilson And Honoring Piazza

ESPN reported former Giants closer Brian Wilson worked out for Mets GM Sandy Alderson in California.

The 30-year-old Wilson underwent Tommy John surgery last season and could be a decent risk on two fronts: 1) he’s young enough to where he could replace Frank Francisco after 2013, and 2) if he rebounds the Mets could get something for him at the July 31 trade deadline.

Wilson is far from ready, so if the Mets bite it would be a gamble. Wilson says he’ll be ready by Opening Day. Wilson made $8.5 million last year from the Giants.

Whether Wilson replaced Francisco this year or next is irrelevant. If he’s healthy he could aid a currently weak bullpen.

METS COULD HONOR PIAZZA: I voted for Mike Piazza for Cooperstown, so I have no problem with him going into the Mets’ Hall of Fame.

Reportedly, the team is also considering retiring Piazza’s No. 31. I don’t have a problem with that, either, but there are other worthy candidates the club should think about first, notably Keith Hernandez, Darryl Strawberry, Gary Carter and Dwight Gooden.

All were significant members of the team’s most dominant era.

Dec 14

Mets Won’t Benefit From Hamilton Signing With Angels

The knee-jerk reaction was obvious in the wake of the blockbuster news of Josh Hamilton signing a five-year, $125-million deal with the Angels.

Surely, the Angels could make slugging outfielders Mark Trumbo or Peter Bourjos available to the Mets in exchange for R.A. Dickey.

Ah, the perils of the World of Twitter.

Although the Angels won’t keep Zack Greinke, they do have pitching so where dealing a hot prospect for Dickey isn’t a necessity.

If anything, the Rangers could be a better trading partner for the Mets because they can see their window shutting fast with Hamilton’s departure and their inability to land Greinke.

With the Rangers clearly regressing – Michael Young is gone – the Angels are the clear frontrunners in AL West with Hamilton, Albert Pujols and Mike Trout forming as good a 1-2-3 punch as there is in the sport.

Hamilton made the rounds at the Winter Meetings and was linked to several suitors, including the Rangers, Seattle,Yankees, Boston, Philadelphia and Baltimore.

It was thought with Hamilton’s dependency issues he might stay with the Rangers, the team most familiar with him. However, Hamilton didn’t have an easy going of it at the end of last season and there was the perception Texas management was blaming their slugger for the team’s collapse.

Considering Hamilton’s condition, the high-pressure markets of New York, Boston and Philadelphia were never good fits. Los Angeles has its share of distractions – with the Rangers he traveled with a chaperone and didn’t carry cash – but is a more relaxed setting.

With the Angels not short in any specific area and Torii Hunter gone, Trumbo can easily slot in as the DH. So, why deal him?

METS WON’T GET HAIRSTON: It won’t get easier in the Mets’ pursuit of an outfielder with Scott Hairston getting attention from the Yankees, Phillies, Giants and Cardinals. All are better teams, with the Yankees and Phillies playing in bandboxes.

Hairston made $1.1 million with the Mets last season and aren’t inclined to go much higher. The Mets eschewed trading Hairston last July. As they did in the Dickey trade market, the Mets got greedy in their asking despite having no chance to win and little hope of retaining him.

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Oct 28

On Cheering For The Giants Or Tigers And If Lincecum Gives The Mets Any Ideas About Mike Pelfrey

When covering an event, I pull for good storylines and fast games. I don’t cheer for the teams I have covered. Never have; never will. Instead, I want good things to happen to good people. When you are around a group for nearly nine months, you get a feel for how hard these guys work and how much they care.

Even so, there are those who feel differently. When covering the Orioles, a nationally known columnist stood up in the pressbox and railed at third base coach Cal Ripken Sr., when a Baltimore runner was thrown out at the plate.

PELFREY: Could new role change his career? (AP)

I can’t tell you how many times when covering the Yankees or Mets when I saw radio reporters and those from the smaller papers wearing team colors or caps.

But, that’s just me. What about you guys with October again without the Mets? I know most relished the Yankees getting swept. Lot’s of people root for the underdogs, hence there was a following for the Orioles and Athletics.

What about this World Series?

I’d like to see the Giants because I respect how they play the game. They hustle, play good defense and pitch. Boy, do they ever pitch. The Giants are proof positive a team can succeed without power if they play the game the right way. Conversely, the Tigers also pitch, but they have mashers in the middle of their line-up, and we all know power is the great eraser. In that respect, the Tigers are much like the Yankees.

Only this time great pitching shut down their offense.

I’ve always been a great fan of pitching and defense. It makes for tighter, more intense games. To me, 2-0 is far more compelling than 9-6. It just is. Every once in awhile and 11-10 game can be interesting, but it isn’t a clean game.

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Oct 23

Carlos Beltran And Angel Pagan Have No Regrets

Angel Pagan is going to the World Series and Carlos Beltran is not. It is the third time in his career Beltran fell short in the NLCS. Of course, you remember 2006, so there’s no reason to rehash that painful memory.

PAGAN: Was he pointing west?

Just let it fade away. You’ll see, in time it will be just a dull ache rather than a sharp twinge.

When you look at the seasons enjoyed by Beltran and Pagan, naturally there’s the thought of what if they had stayed, but the truth is neither were destined to stay in New York. Beltran was always a mercenary and Pagan came here as a plug-in.

That’s also how they left.

To understand why neither have regrets leaving Flushing, despite a stated admiration for their former teammates, it is important to understand how, and why they left. In both cases, it was an unceremonious departure.

For Beltran, the Mets’ financial house of cards was starting to crumble and despite a strong first half in 2011, there was no way they were going to pick up his option. The Mets were thinking younger and cheaper, which is why they were willing to replace him in center with Pagan in the first place.

Beltran had been largely mistreated and not appreciated by Mets after he took that third strike from Adam Wainwright he had no chance of hitting. Although he played hurt and injured, and produced when he was healthy, Met fans always wanted something more from Pagan. An extraordinary switch hitter, it was expected he’d become another Mickey Mantle. Nobody could reach that level, although Beltran is arguable one of the top five position players the franchise had, in a group that includes David Wright, Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter and Mike Piazza.

The key moment in the breakdown of the Mets-Beltran marriage came when in the delay in undergoing surgery in 2009. When it was clear the Mets were out of things late in the second half, rather than having Beltran undergo surgery, then GM Omar Minaya foolishly opted to bring him back in September when it was clear he couldn’t play.

Then Minaya got in a spitting match with Beltran in the offseason about surgery to the point where the outfielder had surgery on his own. Consequently, Beltran missed most of the 2010 season and was a health question going into 2011.

Mets management under Minaya made it impossible for Beltran to the point where he wouldn’t want to come back. It was a relief for everybody when he was traded to the Giants for Zach Wheeler.

Following Beltran out the door was Pagan, also to the Giants, when they dealt him to the Giants for deadweight outfielder Andres Torres and reliever Ramon Ramirez, the latter two who have likely seen their last days as Mets.

Pagan seemingly had a breakout year in 2010, but became moody and despondent – it was later revealed he suffered for depression – and he regressed, returning to lapses of concentration in the field and giving away too many at-bats at the plate.

The same reason why the Mets acquired him – a change of scenery was needed – was the driving force for the trade. The Mets hoped moving on would made a difference for Torres; the Giants thought the same about Pagan.

It happened only for Pagan, now a postseason star for the Giants. Both Pagan and Beltran are happy to be gone. You should be happy for them because there was no way they were staying.

 

 

Oct 12

Thoughts On A-Rod, Washington Nationals And Playoffs

This has been a compelling postseason and it is getting more intriguing with each day. At the start of the season I projected the Giants and Yankees to meet in the World Series, and that’s still in play.

The Yankees’ showing makes them hard to figure out, but one thing is for certain, and that’s things will never be the same for Alex Rodriguez and how he’ll respond to being benched for this afternoon’s game is anybody’s guess what it will do to that clubhouse over the next five years.

Rodriguez played the good soldier when Raul Ibanez pinch-hit for him and ended up homering – twice. He was the same last night when Eric Chavez batted for him. Both had to be blows to his fragile confidence and pride, but being benched is another animal.

Joe Girardi’s actions have stripped Rodriguez of his emotional armor in a far worse way than Joe Torre dropping in the batting order several years ago. Back then, Rodriguez was still a dominating player, but one going through a slump. Torre also had cache in managing four World Series champions.

However, Rodriguez, through the aging process, injuries and it has been suggested the residual effect of his admitted steroid use, is simply not the same player anymore. Whether is year is an aberration remains to be seen, but remember he’s 38 and what player gets better and more productive as he gets older. Other than, of course, one of baseball’s greatest cheaters, Barry Bonds?

And, the beauty of all this is the Yankees have him for five more years, in which they’ll pay him in excess of $100 million. It’s hindsight now, but they should have let him walk when they had the chance. Odds are there were no teams that would have given him Yankee money, but late owner George Steinbrenner ended up bidding against himself. With an increased luxury tax coming, the Yankees will be forced to reduce payroll and they might have a completely different look, and maybe one no so dominant.

If Rodriguez is indeed on the decline as it appears, having him get all that money for not producing will undoubtedly cause a strain among the players. How can it not?

However, Rodriguez was greedy and wanted every last time and the Yankees were smug and arrogant in their free-spending ways. They both got what they deserve.

Another impression about the postseason is the arrogance of the Washington Nationals. I like Davey Johnson, always have, but their GM Mike Rizzo is annoying. I couldn’t agree more with my colleague Joe DeCaro’s post this morning on Rizzo’s decision to shut down Stephen Strasburg. It was beyond arrogance for Rizzo to suggest the Nationals would be back many times to the postseason.

I covered the Orioles for ten years and I remember what Cal Ripken once told me. He appeared the 1983 World Series, and afterward said he thought he’d get back every year. Ripken didn’t play in another postseason game until 1996, a mere 13 years later. There is no guarantees in sports. The Nationals might never get here again during Strasburg’s career, regardless of how good it evolves. Then again, Strasburg has already had an arm injury. What if he has another and his career is cut short?

Above all, I have to wonder about the feelings among Strasburg’s teammates toward management. The pitcher is on record saying he wanted to pitch, so they can’t hold that against him. But, management is sending a bad message to the players. What if they never get here again? How will they feel about Rizzo’s decision?

Meanwhile, the Giants are an interesting story. As they were two years ago, they are pitching reliant. They got by Cincinnati without Tim Lincecum in the rotation, but they won’t be able to get away with that in the NLCS. Lincecum pitched brilliantly in relief, looking like his old self. This is a very good team that is flying under the radar.

Also in that position are the St. Louis Cardinals – they know what to do in October – and Detroit Tigers. The Cardinals could have the chance to defend their title without Tony La Russa and Albert Pujols, something few thought would be possible. The Tigers, meanwhile, have the game’s premier pitcher in Justin Verlander and one-two punch in Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.

Cardinals vs. Tigers in a rematch? That wouldn’t be bad, either.