Jul 15

Three Mets’ Storylines: Walker The Difference

On a day the Pittsburgh Pirates demoted Jon Niese to the bullpen and their general manager Neal Huntington lamented the trade that brought him from the Mets, the player they surrendered, Neil Walker, hit a three-run homer for the difference Friday night in Philadelphia.

“In hindsight, maybe the two fringe prospects and trying to figure out where to re-allocate the money might have been a better return [for Walker],” Huntington told a Pittsburgh radio station.

WALKER: Powers Mets over Phils. (Getty)

WALKER: Powers Mets over Phils. (Getty)

I applaud honesty – the trade has not worked out for the Pirates – but it’s pretty stupid to trash Niese, whom he admitted he’s trying to deal. As a GM you can’t devalue the product you’re trying to unload. That’s GM 101.

Sandy Alderson did the same thing with Ike Davis, and also wasn’t shy about ripping Wilmer Flores and Daniel Murphy.

Walker’s opposite-field homer to left in the sixth powered the Mets to a 5-3 victory over the Phillies and kept them six games behind Washington. It was Walker’s 16th homer – he had 16 last year – to give him 40 RBI. He made an immediate strong impression with nine homers in April.

Walker has played well but hasn’t made Mets’ fans forget Murphy. And they certainly won’t if Walker leaves after this season while Murphy plays two more years with Washington.

Then again, and here’s a wild thought, what if the Pirates DFA’d Niese? With Matt Harvey gone for the year, and health questions with Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard, would the Mets bring back Niese? They did with Jose Reyes, so why not?

However, on this night Walker was the Mets’ main storyline.

The other two are:

BULLPEN BAILS OUT COLON: Bartolo Colon (W, 8-4) started strong, but gave up three unearned runs on four hits in the sixth.

Hansel Robles, Jerry Blevins, Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia combined to strike out five and give up one hit in 3.1 scoreless innings. Reed worked 1.1 innings, which I like. He’s strong and if the bullpen is a concern, manager Terry Collins shouldn’t be afraid to give him the extra out.

For Familia, he is 32-for-32 in save opportunities. Earlier this year Familia got his saves, but not without angst. He’s slider has a lot more bite and the confidence level is a lot higher with him now.

The Mets entered the second half with their bullpen a priority and one game won’t alter that thinking, but until those moves are made, this is what they need.

LAGARES SHINES: Juan Lagares homered, stole a base and manufactured a run with a strong slide, and made an outstanding catch in right-center.

Collins told reporters “that’s the kind of player he can be.’’

A Gold Glover two years ago, he was out of shape and a bust last season, but is playing with an aggressiveness the Mets should continue to expect.

May 18

Will We See D’Arnaud Again?

ESPN’s Adam Rubin reports Travis d’Arnaud is in California rehabbing his right shoulder with a private trainer, which makes me wonder if we’ll ever see him in a Mets’ uniform again, much less develop into an All-Star player anywhere.

His inability to stay on the field is rapidly derailing a career that has never gotten off the ground.

D'ARNAUD: Gone, but how soon forgotten? (AP)

D’ARNAUD: Gone, but how soon forgotten? (AP)

D’Arnaud working with a private physical therapist makes me wonder why he isn’t in Port St. Lucie or in New York where he can be around team doctors and officials. When I recall the controversy of where Matt Harvey would rehab his elbow, I wonder why the double standard.

It’s a given the Mets value Harvey more than d’Arnaud, but this detachment makes me think he’ll never make it as the player they hoped he’d be and are beginning the process of cutting ties.

D’Arnaud went on the disabled list April 26 with a right rotator cuff strain, which was aggravated when he tried throwing May 7 in Port St. Lucie. GM Sandy Alderson said the pain in his shoulder subsided, but couldn’t provide a possible return date. He couldn’t even pinpoint a month.

As for the California question, Alderson said: “He’s more or less as well off out there with somebody who knows him as well as our guys would know him. Right now I can’t give you chapter and verse on exactly what his return [date] is. We have to keep in mind that sometimes when we cite chapter and verse on when he will return, we’re kidding ourselves.”

That was a fairly evasive answer, which we’ve come to expect from Alderson.

The season began with d’Arnaud the starter and Kevin Plawecki the backup. Depending on how the year progressed, one ocould be traded as a catcher with major league experience is a valuable commodity.

Plawecki has proven good defensively, in fact, Mets’ pitchers have a better ERA with him behind the plate. He offense picked up on the last road trip, but he still needs a way to go. Gone are the days when a catcher was supposed to be an offensive force – Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, Carlton Fisk, Thurman Munson and Mike Piazza – as defense is now paramount.

Buster Posey and Yadier Molina are today’s premier catchers, but Plawecki has potential. Should d’Arnaud play again this season and the debate resurface between him or Plawecki, the Mets must consider his injury history.

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Jan 05

Losing DePodesta Will Impact Browns More Than Mets

It was interesting to see the Cleveland Browns hire Mets assistant GM Paul DePodesta from the Mets to be their Chief Strategy Officer, a position by its very title denotes incredible power. DePodesta, by all accounts, is a bright guy, so for a professional sports franchise to be interested shouldn’t be a shock.

DE PODESTA: Goes to Brown. (NBC)

DE PODESTA: Goes to Brown. (NBC)

But remember, DePodesta, who oversaw the Mets’ draft and player development departments, is also an “analytics” guy, which devalues the baseball manager. Football, however, is a different beast and coaches are supreme. Hell, the NFL even devotes an entire day – the Monday after the regular season is “Black Monday,” – for the mass firing of coaches.

The Browns, once a proud franchise relegated to an NFL doormat, took the early lead by firing head coach Mike Pettine and general manager Ray Farmer after their loss to Pittsburgh Sunday. The Browns then promoted Sashi Brown to executive vice president of football operations.

Considering the power yielded by coaches and general managers in the NFL, it is odd the Browns would go to such unconventional means without those two key positions. Does this mean DePodesta has more power than the coach or GM? If so, aren’t the Browns limiting their pool of potential coaches and executives? That would seem the case. They appear to be limiting that pool for candidates who’ll take anything to be hired.

In that case, I am interested.

By hiring an analytics guy first, aren’t the Browns devaluing the coaching position? That could be the case. It will be very interesting to be in the Browns’ draft room to see the interaction between DePodesta, the coach and GM as they decide where to spend their first pick, and by extension, what to do with head case quarterback Johnny Manziel, who, listed OUT because of a concussion, was partying in Las Vegas on the eve of the season finale.

One thing also to consider, that in baseball there are three levels of minor leagues – and the ability to have multiple teams on the lower levels to develop players. Not so in the NFL, which for the most part has a “use him or lose him,” attitude with its players.

For example, the Mets bounced around Kirk Nieuwenhuis before losing him to waivers recently, and before him did the same with Dillon Gee. The pressure to use a player at the highest level can be averted for years.

How long ago did the Browns draft Manziel?

Yes. DePodesta has some fascinating decisions coming up.

Losing DePodesta, whose biggest contribution so far is Michael Conforto – that we know of – puts pressure on Sandy Alderson, who is battling cancer.

The Mets can give more power to assistants John Ricco and J.P. Ricciardi, and could also juggle within. Reportedly, Kevin Morgan will take over as minor league field coordinator.

There might be bumps, but I can see the Mets moving on without too  much difficulty. Meanwhile, 500 miles to the West, there could be a fascinating train wreck in the making in Cleveland.


Jan 02

Did Mets Make Right Call On Cespedes?

New York Mets v Atlanta Braves

When last we checked, free agent outfielder Yoenis Cespedes not only had appeared on the radar of the Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles according to Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com, but both teams had emerged as the frontrunners to sign the former New York Met juggernaut. That was three days ago.

However, we have a little more clarity on the Cespedes front as the calendar flips to 2016, and none of it is particularly good news for the free agent who bellowed his demands for a six-year deal three months ago.

To begin, it turns out that the Orioles – while interested – never had any intentions of coming close to the $150 million Cespedes and his representatives at Roc Nation had set their sights on. The two sides are reportedly not even in the same zip code.

And as for the other frontrunner on the south side of Chicago, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported today that their interest in Cespedes is limited to a deal for no more than three years.

Sound familiar? It should. Three years was the most Sandy Alderson and the Mets were willing to offer Cespedes according to what team sources told Jon Heyman, and that firm stance ultimately led to the end of any negotiations with Roc Nation. In fact, the conversation between the two sides never even advanced to the point of discussing dollars.

Now, I’m never one to defend the Mets’ frugal ways, however last week I raised the possibility that perhaps this was not a case of the Mets being cheap, but simply a smart baseball decision by a general manager who has never taken kindly to handing out second generation contracts to players on the wrong side of thirty. It’s possible isn’t it?

Those of you who have followed this site since its inception 12 years ago, know all too well that I am not the least bit squeamish about hammering the Wilpons every chance I get. But this feels different to me.

Oh. I’m sure there’s no doubt Fred and Jeff were doing Ralph Kramden’s version of the Watusi when they heard about Sandy’s stance on Cespedes. I’m just saying that this wasn’t a case of them pressuring their GM to back off, or applying those well-polished fiscal handcuffs. Maybe giving Cespedes a six year deal is just a terrible baseball decision for the Mets or any other MLB team.

Still, our poor Mets took a lot of flak upon the news of their three-year or nothing posture, with most of the incoming fire coming from their own fan base itself. Perhaps the Mets front office was being judged a little too harshly based on today’s rumblings on the Cespedes front. Perhaps the Mets may have even been a little ahead of the curve?

In an offseason fraught with spending madness and vast ungodly sums of dollars being thrown about with such reckless abandon, maybe on this one occasion Sandy Alderson and John Ricco were being the adults in the room? It’s possible, isn’t it?

Anyway, there it is… My first article of 2016 is in the books and whether you agree or not, I hope I gave you something to think about. Happy New Year, my friends.

Nov 10

Cashman Playing The Game; Murphy To Yanks Makes Sense

Despite a $15.8-million security blanked in the form of a qualifying offer, second baseman Daniel Murphy is not expected to re-sign with the Mets. He has until Friday to make his decision.

Speaking to reporters at the GM meetings in Florida, Mets assistant John Ricco said.: “In making the qualifying offer, you always have to anticipate he’s going to accept. Otherwise, I don’t think we would have done it. It’s very early in the signing season. I’m sure what he and his representatives are trying to do right now is trying to get a gauge.

MURPHY: More bad luck

MURPHY: Pinstripes make sense. (AP)

“It’s hard for me to speculate whether the market is going to be there. We made the offer with the idea that we’d like to have him back. We’ll see how it plays out.”

The reported current market for Murphy includes both Los Angeles teams, Houston, and of course the Yankees.

As Ricco said it is early in the process and nobody wants to tip their hand. That explains why Yankees GM Brian Cashman downplays interest in Murphy.

“We have to offensive-profile players already at that position,” Cashman said. “So, I think if we did any changing there it would be seeing more balance on both sides of the ball.”

The Yankees’ current second base candidates are Rob refsnyder and Dustin Ackley. They are projected to be offensive-oriented players, although neither is in Murphy’s class.

Murphy-to-the-Yankees makes sense, because in that bandbox of a stadium he could hit at least 25 homers. He could also get some designated-hitter at-bats, but most of them would go to Alex Rodriguez. And, as he would with the Mets, Murphy could also back up at first and third base.

Cashman has to feign interest because he knows every agent will parade his client through the Bronx to prime the bidding pump.