Dec 06

Winter Meetings open with stunning Werth deal

Nobody saw this one coming. Jayson Werth was going to stay in Philly or go to Boston. He would make his money, but $126 million over seven years from the Washington Nationals was completely off the radar.

WERTH: Mets shouldn't be swayed by deal.

Losing Werth weakens the Phillies, but they are resilient, willing to spend and will find a way to replace him. No tears shed there. As for the Nationals, he can’t help but make them better, but this is a team that just lost Adam Dunn so are they upgrading the offense that much?

Werth is good player, but how much of that production comes from hitting in Philadelphia’s bandbox and the protection afforded him in that lineup? Not sure he’ll do the same for the Nationals.

Word is the Nationals aren’t done and are willing to throw money after pitching, notably Carl Pavano.

We know the Mets aren’t as good as Philly, Atlanta and probably the Marlins. Now the Nationals are making noises like they want to escape the NL East cellar. Sad to say, but they just might be the yardstick the Mets will measure themselves by in the near future.

Washington’s aggressiveness is being noted by the Mets, but hopefully they will stay the course and give Sandy Alderson’s blueprint time to develop. Trying to keep up with the Joneses with foolish spending is what got the Mets into trouble in the first place.

Mets fans have been clamoring for change since the end of the 2007 season when the team blew a seven game lead with 17 to play. There has been no structured plan for development the past three years as the Mets approached each offseason with a piecemeal approach.

This time, the Mets are trying patience and trying to build from the bottom up. That’s been the party line and Alderson has not wavered and suggested this team will be competitive by throwing large sums of money at players.

There is a lot of work to do, and most of it will come next winter after Carlos Beltran, Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo and probably Francisco Rodriguez are off the books. That’s when the spending will come. For now, it’s evaluating, minor moves and hoping players stay healthy as the way to go for 2011.

It’s tempting to watch the Nationals and give in to the spending impulse, but in the long term that’s not the way to go.

We’ve wanted a front office with vision, organization and planning for three years now. We now have one, so let’s give them the time to get it done, no matter how much spending goes on this week.

Sep 24

Expect more of the same ….

Unless the Mets discover a sense of pride and their offense this weekend, it is conceivable the Philadelphia Phillies will celebrate winning the NL East in front of their eyes. In 2007 and 2008 the Mets collapsed and were eliminated on the final day of the season. Last year was lost from June on.

This year, from their dugout, the Mets can watch their rivals celebrate success, something they haven’t been able to do since 2006.

And, even if the Phillies don’t bring back slugging outfielder Jayson Werth, the Phillies should remain far superior to the Mets.

They are better at starting pitching and in their bullpen, dwarf the Mets in power, and when it is all on the line, they aren’t afraid to make the big deal. Last year they brought in Cliff Lee; this year it was Roy Oswalt. And, of course, let’s not forget Roy Halladay while the Mets let the pitching market dwindle.

Both teams have had their share of injuries, but the Phillies acted through trade and a deeper minor league system to tread water when Ryan Howard and Chase Utley went down. The Mets forced the issue with Carlos Beltran last year which could conceivably cost them his services for the first half of this season. They also pushed the envelope with Jose Reyes when they should have disabled him around the All-Star break.

The Phillies have more pitching, more power, a front office willing and capable of making the big deal, and an overflowing ballpark that has them printing money to patch whatever holes.

This could be the third straight season the Phillies reach the World Series; the Mets have done it four times in their history.

The Phillies seem to do whatever it takes to improve. The Braves got better this year. The Marlins can’t be dismissed. The Mets? Well, they have $130 million earmarked to bring back the same group of dysfunctional players next year.

The Mets players might not think of that this weekend when then watch the Phillies celebrate. Maybe the Wilpons and management will.

Oct 28

TALKIN’ BASEBALL: World Series, Game #1, CC vs. Lee.

Match-up of aces.

Match-up of aces.

Following tradition, the Yankees and Phillies will play their aces in Game 1 of the World Series tonight at Yankee Stadium with Cliff Lee going against CC Sabathia in a match-up of former Cleveland teammates and the last two AL Cy Young Award winners.

Game 1 sets the tone for the World Series, which is why both managers are going with their best tonight. You always throw your ace first because holding him back for Game 2 is a tacit admission their ace is better. You also throw your ace first because that gives you a chance to use him three times, with the last time on three days rest.

LEE: Phillies' Game 1 starter.

LEE: Phillies' Game 1 starter.


For example, should Charlie Manuel have held Lee back in anticipation of Sabathia winning Game 1, and then have him get lit up in Game 2, then the Phillies would have been in a huge hole even with the Series heading back to Philadelphia.

“This matchup couldn’t have been better,” said Manuel. “This is a big, premier game. I’m looking forward to it.”

This could be a special World Series featuring the two aces – a combined 5-0 this postseason by Lee and Sabathia – and two potent offenses.

“We’re going to see a lot of runs,” said Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte.

In Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez, the Phillies have four players with at least 30 homers. Meanwhile, the Yankees had seven players with at least 20.

There are so many players from either team who could find themselves on fate’s doorstep as possible heroes. Derek Jeter, for example, owns this time of year. With the game on the line, I’d want him at the plate as much as anybody when all I need is a single or sacrifice fly.

Would anybody be surprised if this went seven?

Oct 28

World Series Keys ….

I suppose it was going to come down to this all along, the Phillies against the Yankees in the World Series.

The Yankees, with the home field advantage because of the ridiculous All-Star Game gimmick, are considered the favorites. Would they be if the Phillies had the home field? I’m not so sure.

Looking at the match-ups, both teams are riding a hot ace and scorching bat, with the Phillies’ Cliff Lee and Ryan Howard against the Yankees’ CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez.

KEYS TO THE WORLD SERIES

KEYS TO THE WORLD SERIES


In looking at the match-ups, I’ll give the edge to the Yankees at catcher (only when Jorge Posada plays), shortstop (Derek Jeter lives for these moments and third base (Rodriguez seems to have shaken the October blues).

I’ll give the edge to the Phillies at first (I recognize the year Mark Teixeira had, but Howard is a monster), second (Chase Utley, for my money is one of the best players in the game), and all three outfield positions.

The starting rotations and bullpens are relatively even. Mariano Rivera is better than Brad Lidge, but Rivera can be negated because the bridge to him is tenuous. The Phillies’ offense is superior to that of Minnesota and the Angels, and once in the Yankees’ bullpen there’s no guarantee we’ll see Rivera.

Here are some of the more notable keys to this World Series:

1. KEY: Is Brad Lidge back from the dark side?
BREAKDOWN: Lidge blew 11 save opportunities this summer, but has been perfect in the postseason. If he’s regained his touch this is a huge factor to the Phillies.

2. KEY: Which superstar will have the bigger series?
BREAKDOWN: Both Ryan Howard and Alex Rodriguez tied Lou Gehrig’s record with RBI in eight straight postseason games. Rodriguez appears to have shaken his October blues, but there is one more round. Both have the ability to carry a team.

3. KEY: Will the Phillies be able to run on the Yankees’ catching?
BREAKDOWN: Philadelphia led the majors with an 81 percent success rate in stole bases. Once Chase Utley gets on, if he wants second it is his (23-for-23). The Phillies also like to run with Shane Victorino and Jimmy Rollins. Surprisingly, the Yankees were second. The Phillies can run on anybody, but they haven’t seen a move as good as Andy Pettitte’s.

4. KEY: Will the Phillies limit Mariano Rivera’s appearances?
BREAKDOWN: If Rivera gets four save opportunities, it’s a good bet the Yankees will win their 27th World Series title. However, Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes, the bridge to Rivera, has been rickety. Therefore, it is essential the Yankees will get innings from their starters to limit the bullpen exposure.

5. KEY: Will Cole Hamels return to prominence?
BREAKDOWN: Hamels, last year’s World Series MVP, had a miserable season. He’s pitched well in spots, but too often is vulnerable to the big inning.

6. KEY: Does Pedro Martinez have an encore in him?
BREAKDOWN: Assume for a moment CC Sabathia continues his roll in Game 1 and beats Cliff Lee. The Phillies would then need Martinez big time in Game 2 as falling down by two games would make defending their title difficult.

7. KEY: Will CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee continue to roll?
BREAKDOWN: Both have been virtually untouchable in the postseason and rightfully assume their roles as a No. 1. The Series could turn on who stumbles first.

8. KEY: Is there a rebound series for Mark Teixeira?
BREAKDOWN: Teixeira carried the Yankees for much of the season and had a hot ALDS against Minnesota. The Angels handcuffed him, but gave away that edge with their faulty defense. A hot Teixeira gives the Yankees another superstar bat.

9. KEY: Whose second level stars perform best?
BREAKDOWN: Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez vs. Johnny Damon, Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher. Both teams are loaded and both have the marquee names, but those on the undercard are also vitally important.

10. KEY: What happens in the AJ Burnett and Joe Blanton games?
BREAKDOWN: Both starters have the capacity to pitch big and small. To win a series, a team needs a solid start from its No. 3 and No. 4 starters.

Oct 26

Mets’ nightmare comes true ….

The worst case scenario for Mets’ fans of a World Series between their two greatest rivals – the Yankees and Phillies – has reached fruition.

The Mets were left eating the dust of both, and they don’t appear to be in position to challenge either any time soon.

New York City, which some have argued is a National League town, belongs totally to the Yankees, who are in their 40th World Series seeking their 27th championship. Four World Series; two titles for the Mets.

YANKEES: Always the Mets' yardstick.

YANKEES: Always the Mets' yardstick.


The National League, for the second straight season, is owned by Philadelphia, seeking to become the first repeat champion since the Yankees, 1998-2000.

Many fans I speak to say they won’t watch, saying they don’t know whom to hate more. Selfishly, that’s not good news for me and the blog. Hopefully, the “baseball fan” in them will tune in.

However, the Mets and their fans, instead of lamenting their closed window, which slammed shut after a second straight September collapse in 2008, should step back and learn from their two tormentors.

The Mets, and probably nobody else, will match the October success the Yankees built over the last century. So what? What’s important is now.

Both teams opened new stadiums this summer, but the Yankees brought with them a revamped and retooled team. The Yankees took care of multiple needs last winter and added power in Mark Teixeira and pitching in CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett. The Mets, also having multiple needs, but addressed only the bullpen with the belief things will get better with a veteran closer.

Rarely does it work that way, as building one area of a team doesn’t address the other voids. Watch, win or lose over the next week, the Yankees will address their team aggressively in the offseason. They know they don’t have enough starting pitching; they know there are bullpen questions; the outfield is an issue with the possible departures of Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon.

The difference between the Yankees and Mets is that the team in the Bronx has a mission statement every season of WINNING the World Series. Getting there is not enough. And, please, let’s not hear about the Yankees’ unlimited resources. The Mets’ payroll is also formidable, but their approach is not nearly as aggressive.

PHILLIES: The team to beat.

PHILLIES: The team to beat.


As for the Phillies, they’ve also been more aggressive in filling holes than the Mets. The Phillies have a home grown core (Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins) as do the Mets (David Wright and Jose Reyes), but Philadelphia has been superior in filling its holes (Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth, Raul Ibanez and Cliff Lee).

The Phillies will not stand still, even should they repeat. Unlike the Mets, the Phillies have the minor league resources to package should they decide to pursue Roy Halladay. The Yankees, of course, have always been known to be willing to part with minor league talent to win immediately.

Compounding the Mets’ dilemma with the Phillies, is that they aren’t their only competition in the National League East. Both Florida and Atlanta improved this season to overtake the Mets.

Both the Phillies and Mets, from the front office to the dugout, have a mindset beyond that of the Mets’ thinking, which gives the appearance of settling to become competitive.

The Mets had a good year at the gate, drawing 3.1 million (averaging 38,000), which was seventh in the majors (the Yankees and Phillies finished 2-3). However, rave reviews for Citi Field aren’t what’s important in the big picture. To keep drawing, and even increasing attendance is dependent on the quality of the product on the field.

Eventually, Citi Field will stop becoming a fan magnet, which is what happened in Baltimore and Cleveland when the Orioles and Indians hit the skids. Citi Field is too expensive, and New York City offers so many other diversions, for fans to keep coming out of curiosity.

Right now, Mets’ fans should only be curious about one thing: What is their team going to do to close the gap on the Phillies and Yankees?