Feb 03

Weighing In On Collusion Issue

Baseball’s owners were found guilty of collusion once, so is it unreasonable to think they won’t try it again? After all, they’ve slowly implemented a salary cap with a luxury tax and restricted free agency with compensatory draft picks.

Also, not beneficial to the integrity of the game – at least in my opinion – are such things as scheduling, interleague play, screwing around with the All-Star Game, playing in ridiculously cold and wet weather, not having any day games during the World Series, not resolving the designated hitter issue, and an almost neurotic obsession about the length of games [see pitch clock].

These things are made possible because the agenda of the owners and commissioner’s office is almost rubber-stamped by the Players Association because its interests lay with salaries and not the issues surrounding the game. This is, in part, because in exchange for not giving the owners a hard time on drug testing the salaries keep spiraling upwards.

So, it’s reasonable to assume something could be going on behind the scenes. Agent Brodie Van Wagenen of Creative Artists Agency said the behavior of the owners “feels coordinated, rightly or wrongly,’’ but didn’t use the word collusion.

Let’s give the owners some benefit of doubt and think there are other reasons why players such as Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, J.D. Martinez, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Alex Cobb, Todd Frazier, Eduardo Nunez, Carlos Gomez, Logan Morrison, Neil Walker, Lance Lynn, Jonathan Lucroy, Greg Holland and Jon Jay remain unsigned.

What could those reasons be?

• Next year’s market: It’s loaded with Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Charlie Blackmon, Clayton Kershaw, Carlos Carrasco, Cole Hamels, Dallas Keuchel, David Price, Daniel Murphy, Joe Mauer, Adrian Beltre, Nelson Cruz and Andrew Miller. It’s far deeper than this year’s market and we’ll be talking about landmark salaries next winter. There’s also Matt Harvey, but I digress.

• Owners getting smarter: Seriously, some of them are learning most long-term contracts don’t pay off because they get little return at the end as the Mets have with David Wright, Jason Bay, Johan Santana and are on their way again with Yoenis Cespedes, and the Yankees have with Alex Rodriguez.

• Trading expensive contracts: To get out of paying long-term contracts, Marlins part-owner Derek Jeter helped sabotage the market when he traded Dee Gordon to Seattle; Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees; Marcell Ozuna to St. Louis; Christian Yelich to Milwaukee; and Pittsburgh dealt Andrew McCutchen to San Francisco.

• Salary arbitration: Although arbitration has been in play for a long time, it’s origin stems from the owners’ refusal to grant unrestricted free-agency. As a compromise, the owners adopted arbitration where the two sides each submit a salary figure that an arbitrator must pick without establishing something in the middle ground. This process caused salaries to spike more than if there was conventional free-agency. To bypass the arbitration and free-agent players, the owners outsmarted themselves by offering longer and longer contracts. That obviously hasn’t worked so the owners are trying to again manipulate the system. The economic system the owners don’t like is netting them billions, but it’s not enough.

Not all of these reasons explain the slowness in the market, just as collusion isn’t the sole explanation. But, combined they explain why the market has changed and won’t be normal for a long time.

Feb 28

Does Sandy Alderson Really Believe 90 Wins Is Possible For Mets?

Does Sandy Alderson really believe the New York Mets are capable of winning 90 games this season?

Reportedly, that’s what Alderson told his staff in an internal meeting this week. He has not made such a decree to the media.

ALDERSON: What's he thinking?

ALDERSON: What’s he thinking?

Ninety wins last year would have tied the Mets with Cincinnati for the last wild-card spot. It would have put them in the playoffs in 2012; tied them with St. Louis for a wild card in 2011; tied them with Milwaukee for a wild card in 2008; and tied them for the NL East lead with Philadelphia in 2007.

That last season, you’ll recall the Mets coughed up a seven-game lead with 17 remaining, losing in the season finale to Miami at Shea Stadium.

David Wright doesn’t mind the projection.

“I love the fact that Sandy is confident in us,’’ Wright said. “I think 90 is challenging, it’s attainable and it’s a good starting point for us.

“You know, number goals, it’s tough to come out and say, ‘I’m going to do this. I’m going to do that. We’re going to do that.’ But I think 90 is a good starting point for giving us something to shoot for and getting guys to understand that mediocrity is not going to be acceptable.’’

A lot of things must break right for the Mets to win 16 more games than last year, which is roughly a 20-percent improvement, despite the loss of Matt Harvey:

* They must remain injury free with their key players.

* Jonathon Niese, who already has a shoulder issue, must win a lot more games than the eight he did last year.

* Zack Wheeler must continue to develop.

* Dillon Gee can’t afford a drop for last season’s 199 innings.

* Bartolo Colon needs another solid year.

* There must be consistency from the fifth starter.

* There must be stability in the bullpen, beginning with Bobby Parnell’s recovery.

* It would be nice to see something from Travis d’Arnaud.

* Ike Davis needs to show he can play this game.

* There must be dramatic improvement at shortstop, whether from Ruben Tejada, or whomever they might bring in.

* Wright needs to re-establish himself as a dominant run producer, so .300, 30 and 100 has to happen.

* Curtis Granderson can’t afford to morph into another Jason Bay.

* All those homers Chris Young used to hit, well, he has to hit them again.

* There should be a breakout years from either Eric Young or Juan Lagares.

* They must have a winning record at home, in one-run games and within the division, all areas in which they struggled the past few years.

Ninety victories is a bold prediction. Meanwhile, I was thinking .500 – which is one more win a month –would be substantial improvement.

With all the variables listed above, I wonder what gives Alderson confidence to think 90 wins are possible. I also wonder what Terry Collins must think.

ON DECK: Mets Wrap.

 

Jan 04

Mets Should Have Short Leash With Chris Young

One of the more interesting questions leading into spring training is how long a leash should the New York Mets give outfielder Chris Young. Of course, even more perplexing is why they signed him in the first place.

YOUNG: Strikeout machine.

YOUNG: Strikeout machine.

I’m not on board with manager Terry Collins’ proclamation he believes Young is the Met most poised for a surprise season. Considering his recent numbers, hitting .225 would be a surprise, but that’s not what Collins had in mind.

The problem is the Mets will pay this guy $7 million, which means he’ll play. However, him in the lineup is an obstacle for Juan Lagares, Matt den Dekker, Eric Young and any other outfield prospect.

After wishing – remember, wishing is not a plan – for big years from Oliver Perez, Jason Bay, Ike Davis, Lucas Duda and dozens of others, the Mets have been burned many times. Young’s track record includes 32 homers seven years ago, but also averages 148 strikeouts per 162 games throughout his career.

He also has a career .235 average with a.315 on-base percentage, which certainly gets me amped. Young clearly is a high-priced gamble, but not one I’d give a lot of patience to.

My hope is he gets off to a fast start which would enable the Mets a chance to deal him. Other than that, if he gets off to a miserable start, in a rebuilding year I wouldn’t waste a lot of time. I’d cut my losses and see what others can do.

I still don’t know what Sandy Alderson had in mind when he signed Young.

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

Jan 03

Just Cutting Ike Davis Might Be Mets’ Best Option

As the New York Mets seek trade partners for Ike Davis, perhaps it is time they seriously consider cutting the cord and move on. Take their losses and start over.

The Mets appear to be playing a game of chicken, expecting the Brewers or Orioles, or anybody else, to blink and give them a pitcher for their former first base power-hitting prospect.

DAVIS: Just say good-bye.

DAVIS: Just say good-bye.

There is no Zack Wheeler for Sandy Alderson to swoop in and get this time. Those opportunities don’t come along often, and another thing, Carlos Beltran was a more appealing trade chip than Davis.

I’ve written several times teams are waiting out the Mets in hope they’ll jettison Davis during spring training and sign him off the scrap heap as to not have to give up anything. That is becoming increasingly evident.

The Mets are thinking they should get something for a player who hit 32 homers in 2012. Other teams wonder why they should they give up a lot for a player who strikes out well over 100 times a year and barely hit over .200 the past few seasons. I wonder that, too.

The most Davis would cost the Mets this year would be roughly $4 million. That’s not a lot by today’s standards, but if the Mets kept him for another season and Davis doesn’t produce, one can only envision how the year unfolds.

If Davis falters and his strikeouts spike and average plummets, calls to cut him or send him to the minors will serve as a life-sucking distraction to this team. If you’re trying to change a team’s culture and rebuild, and if a goal is to see what Lucas Duda can provide, hoping for Davis to catch lightning is a strategy not worth pursuing.

The Mets severed ties with Oliver Perez and Jason Bay. In both cases they got rid of high-priced, low-performance players. This time there’s not a lot of money at stake, but only a considerable amount of disappointment.

Perhaps the best option in the interest of making the next step is to simply release Davis and not worry about what he might do elsewhere. It’s clear he’s not doing anything in New York.

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

Jan 01

Understated Mets’ Positives Of 2013

Good afternoon folks. I was thinking about the best and worst with the New York Mets during the summer of 2013. As far as the best and worst, Matt Harvey is both. His development captivated the organization until the black cloud of Tommy John surgery.

Outside of Harvey’s injury, the other major negative was the continuing negative saga of Ike Davis. Ruben Tejada entered the season a question and was a disappointment, but not nearly as paralyzing as Davis’ self-destructive year at the plate.

What then, after Harvey’s early emergence, could we look at as positives?

I’m looking at two events, both in the offseason, which could be regarded as positives, although they might be considered symbolic.

The first was the extension of manager Terry Collins’ contract. A new manager would have meant the beginning of another rebuilding program. A new manager means new coaches and a new system, and with Harvey gone and other looming issues, we’re looking at an indefinite delay in the Mets’ rebuilding program.

Keeping Collins represented an endorsement by management its blueprint. It displayed a sense of confidence the team was heading in a positive direction.

Secondly, were the signings of Curtis Granderson and Bartolo Colon. Are these guys high-profile, high-impact additions? Probably not in the traditional sense, but during the Sandy Alderson era the Mets pointed to this winter as to when the organization would begin spending.

After letting Jose Reyes walk, trading R.A. Dickey and Carlos Beltran, and shedding the contracts of Johan Santana, Jason Bay and Oliver Perez, the Mets believed they were finally in position to financially compete.

Trouble is, too many Mets fans didn’t share the beliefs of Alderson and ownership. Too many times they had been disappointed, and again the Mets were asking their fans to believe.

Who knows how Granderson and Colon will work out? But, the Mets promised additions and lived up to their word. As with bringing back Collins, the additions the Mets made are indicative in a confidence they are moving forward.

And, considering how things had been since Beltran took that called third strike to end the 2006 NLCS, Mets fans need to take their positives when they can.

ON DECK: Tomorrow I’ll look at what I am looking forward to during the 2014 season.

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