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.

 

Oct 11

Former Mets Shining In Playoffs; Beltran, Pagan and O’Day Playing Well

The Mets’ fear in releasing Jason Bay is he would suddenly find it somewhere else. They had the same trepidation with Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo.

Watching these playoffs, it is easy to see their thinking, but that doesn’t mean it is justified.

Outfielders Carlos Beltran and Angel Pagan, and reliever Darren O’Day all distinguished themselves yesterday, and wouldn’t you know it, those are all holes for the Mets.

Angel Pagan had a huge day in the leadoff slot – another Mets’ hole – with two hits, two walks, two runs and two RBI in three at-bats. The homer was to lead off the game to get the Giants rolling so could live another day.

I don’t know what the Giants’ plans are for Pagan, but he certainly played better for them than Andres Torres did for the Mets. Pagan was an inconsistent player here and often let his concentration wander on the bases and on defense. Maybe he wasn’t ready, but he was definitely old enough where he shouldn’t have been making rookie mistakes. Perhaps the Mets weren’t patient with him.

I hoped it would work out when the Mets moved him to center and shifted Beltran to right, but Pagan never took the way he did the preceding year when he played when Beltran was injured.

Beltran, who homered twice in Game 2, had two more hits yesterday as the Cardinals took a 2-1 games lead over Washington. Beltran, who shines in the postseason, is hitting .417 in the series. And this, is after coming off a superb season.

Belran was injured at the end of his stay with the Mets, but when healthy produced. He moved without a hitch to right field and he played hurt. What else could the Mets want from him? Oh yeah, they wanted him to do it for half the price.

The Mets paved the way for Beltran’s exit with the flap over his knee surgery. After that, there was no way he was staying. Especially considering their financial situation.

O’Day appeared in four games for the 2009 Mets, but was released when they couldn’t find a spot for him on the roster. Mike Pelfrey was ailing at the time, but balked at going on the disabled list. He couldn’t make a start and the Mets had to bring somebody up to replace him ¬†for a turn. That meant somebody had to go and it was O’Day.

Rather than exerting his authority and judgment, Omar Minaya gave in to Pelfrey and it cost the Mets. O’Day was quickly signed by Texas and became a bullpen stalwart that season and he was terrific for the Orioles this season with a 7-1 record, 2.28 ERA and 0.94 WHIP. Plus, he only made $1.35 million this year.

O’Day put the Yankees down in order last night.

Wouldn’t you know it? The game was decided by Raul Ibanez’s two homers. Ibanez was a player the Mets wouldn’t consider after he left Philadelphia. An outfield plug and power bat off the bench? Nah, that wouldn’t fit in Citi Field.

There are plenty of others with ties to the Mets this October, including Endy Chavez – did I mention the Mets need outfield help? – and coach Chip Hale and manager Bob Melvin in Oakland, and, of course, Davey Johnson in Washington.

There’s always an explanation for why somebody doesn’t work out for a team, and Beltran, Pagan and O’Day all left for different reasons.

But, were they good reasons?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oct 09

Count Upton, Cabrera Off Mets’ Radar

There’s plenty of intriguing possibilities, only if the Mets were willing to take a financial gamble, which Sandy Alderson said they are not inclined to do.

As I posted yesterday, the Mets have $79.5 million of their earmarked $100 million to spend on six players: Johan Santana, RA Dickey, David Wright, Jason Bay, Jon Niese and Frank Francisco.

B.J. Upton would be terrific in Citi Field, supplying defense to aid the pitching staff and offense. At 28, he’s just the kind of player you could sign to a multi-year deal and build around. Trouble is he comes with some attitude baggage and the Mets would be wary of surrounding their young talent around him. That’s one of the reasons they were willing to eat the contracts of Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo.

Upton would be much better on a veteran laden team – like the Yankees – that has the leadership to keep him in line. When the Mets sputtered in the second half and Terry Collins suggested they were quitting, that’s the scenario where Upton might pack it in.

The guy I am especially intrigued about is Melky Cabrera, who would cost less than Upton because of his own baggage.

On the plus side, Cabrera could cover left field and adds a lot offensively. This year, and last season with Kansas City, he proved he can hit. But, he was making $6 million this year and even with a pay cut that’s too rich for the Mets’ blood.

Cabrera was suspended for 50 games for using a performance enhancing drug. His team, the Giants, wouldn’t let him go on a rehab assignment in the minor leagues as he is allowed and kept him off the postseason roster. What does that tell you about there desire to bring him back?

On top of the suspension, he and his idiot agent cooked up a crazy cover story that included the design of a website. That might have been worse than the drug use itself.

Cabrera, who led the National League in hitting this year and it a damage control move asked that he not be awarded the title, would likely get a short term deal because he’s a risk. Who wants to sink time and money for a player that could get nailed again? You don’t have to pay during a suspension, but you do have to fill the spot if he’s suspended.

Excluding the drug use there’s another question about him and that’s the number of teams he’s played for at a young age. In a seven-year span Cabrera has played for the Giants, Royals, Yankees and Braves, or just under two years a team.

There’s something wrong with that picture.