Oct 16

Mets’ Triple-A Hitting Coach Hired By Cardinals

The St. Louis Cardinals, a regular in the NLCS, has hired Mets’ Triple-A hitting coach George Greer to oversee their hitting program throughout their system, reports ESPN.

Didn’t I hear the Mets needed a new hitting coach?

If he’s qualified to be hired by the Cardinals, shouldn’t he at least gotten a serious look from the Mets?

Oct 22

Would Boston’s Free-Agent Building Approach Benefit Mets?

Yesterday, I suggested what the New York Mets could learn from the St. Louis Cardinals in building their team. Today, let’s examine how the Red Sox were built and what the Mets can take from their approach.

The Cardinals’ philosophy of first building from within followed by judicious trades and free-agent signings has always been the traditional and preferred method.

Throwing millions and millions into the free-agent market is costly and risky. The Mets don’t have the resources of the Yankees or Dodgers to throw good money after bad.

ELLSBURY: Will he be too costly for Mets?

ELLSBURY: Will he be too costly for Mets?

There’s pressure to win in both markets, but there’s a greater intensity in Boston – and New York – while there’s a degree of patience in the Midwest. That explains in part why St. Louis has 17 homegrown players on its roster, while the Red Sox have ten.

There was a venomous culture in Boston last season as the Red Sox, burdened by several cumbersome contracts – similar to what the Mets faced when Sandy Alderson took over – and a few cancerous personalities in the clubhouse.

“Say, could you pass some fried chicken this way?’’

The Red Sox cleared nearly $200 million in salaries when they unloaded Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to the Dodgers midway through last year’s disastrous 69-93 summer under Bobby Valentine. They did so because even in a lost season the Red Sox were thinking about this summer. That’s something the Mets never fully explored when they had Jose Reyes and others to dangle.

The Red Sox were far quicker and more decisive than the Mets have been in ridding themselves of too costly and ineffective players, such as Oliver Perez, Ike Davis, Francisco Rodriguez and Luis Castillo to name a few of close to numerous bad deals since 2006, the last time the Mets saw October.

Rather than sink their savings into different long-term, costly signings, the Red Sox signed a handful of productive, yet cost-effective, players in: Shane Victorino (three years, $39 million); catcher David Ross (two years, $6.2 million); first baseman Mike Napoli (one year, $5 million); shortstop Stephen Drew (one year, $9.5 million); outfielder Jonny Gomes (two years, $10 million); and dynamite closer Koji Uehara (one year, $4.25 million plus option).

None bowl you over; collectively, they helped the Red Sox win 97 games.

Boston also extended by two years and $26 million the contract of its own free agent, designated hitter David Ortiz. They also avoided arbitration by offering Jacoby Ellsbury a one-year, $9-million deal. Some signings, such as pitcher Ryan Dempster’s two-year, $26.5 million deal, didn’t pan out. He’s now in middle relief and would be a starter for the Mets.

The Red Sox also hit it with trades, including pitcher Jake Peavy, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and and former Mets first-base prospect, Mike Carp.

Boston’s success in the free-agent and trade markets was overwhelmingly successful. Although Alderson said he could have the leeway to offer a $100-million contract to one player, he would be better off in taking Boston’s approach and attempt to patch several of the Mets’ many holes.

Alderson knows the success the Red Sox enjoyed is rare and shouldn’t be expected, especially since the Mets won’t offer similar deals. However, the idea of pursuing players with playoff success – Napoli and Victorino – is a sound way to augment their present composition of youth and few proven major leaguers.

The Mets are unsettled at first base, but are kidding themselves if they think they could get Napoli by offering a slight raise. Napoli was to get a three-year, $39-million deal, but that fell through when a degenerative hip condition was discovered. He’ll likely get his three years this winter.

As for Victorino, the Mets had their chance to sign him, but now it is too late. They must consider between Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo and Nelson Cruz, what they might each cost, and their various baggage.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Red Sox attempt to retain Ellsbury, but there are already reports the Tigers are interested in either him or Choo, the latter who is reportedly seeking four years.

The Red Sox took a shotgun approach last winter, and still wound up with a $155-million payroll while hitting most of their targets. It worked because their scouts did their homework; they got lucky; and they already had a core to build around. The Red Sox were also forced to be aggressive last winter because of their restless and demanding fan base. Every year it is the same motivation for them and the Yankees.

The Mets’ fan base is already looking at 2015 when Matt Harvey returns. Few are expecting a contender next summer without him. The Mets also don’t have as good a core as Boston had and won’t come anywhere close to what the Red Sox spent, but could go as high as $100 million, maybe a little more.

Everybody in the division save the Miami Marlins will spend more. If the Mets are to emulate the Red Sox, they’ll have to dig deeper and that’s not something they’ll be inclined to do.

May 14

Mets Wrap: Routed By Cardinals

As the Knicks were getting pasted in Indianapolis, the Mets did their part to put New York sports fans in a gloomy mood in tonight’s 10-4 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. It was the Mets’ fifth straight loss to drop them to eight games under .500. Since Jordany Valdespin’s tenth-inning grand slam, April 24, beat the Dodgers to go to 10-9, the Mets have gone 4-13.

GEE: Ripped by Cards.

GEE: Ripped by Cards.

ON THE MOUND: The Mets needed innings from Dillon Gee, or more to the point, effective innings. Instead, the Cardinals got to him for six runs through three innings. … Robert Carson gave up a three-run homer to Carlos Beltran. He also gave up a homer to John Jay.

AT THE PLATE: So much for the decision to go with Ike Davis and Lucas Duda back-to-back in the batting order. Terry Collins attributed his move to the match-up against John Gast, who was making his first start. Didn’t he know Gast would be pitching tonight? More importantly, this juggling of Davis – because of an unproven pitcher such as Gast – speaks loudly of Collins’ confidence in Davis. … John Buck prevented total embarrassment with a RBI single. … Marlon Byrd hit a two-run homer.

WHEELER INJURED: Zack Wheeler will come to New York to have his right clavicle examined. After three straight strong starts, Wheeler complained of soreness in the area. He’s expected to miss at least one start.

BY THE NUMBERS: 6: Homers given up by Carson in 8.1 innings.

THEY SAID IT: “We’ve gone through a bad streak and it’s two weeks long. … We have to play better. We have to coach better. We have to manage better.’’ – Collins on this miserable stretch.

ON DECK: Shaun Marcum (0-3) will start against Shelby Miller (5-2) on Wednesday.

 

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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.

 

Jun 01

Josh Thole and Elvin Ramirez To Join Mets Today

The Mets announced that catcher Josh Thole and reliever Elvin Ramirez will join the Mets in time for Friday’s series opener against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Who is getting cut or demoted to make room for them has yet to be announced.

Thole, who was hitting .284 with one home run before the concussion, has been on the disabled list since May 8, but started behind the plate for Triple-A Buffalo today and went 1-for-4 at the plate with a single.

The Mets will have to decide between cutting Mike Nickeas or Rob Johnson to make room for Thole. Nickeas is batting .148 compared to .313 for Johnson, but is the better defensive option.

Elvin Ramirez has been lights out this season for Binghamton and most recently Buffalo, and he was just highlighted today by Joe D who wrote:

Okay, I really don’t want to jinx Bisons reliever Elvin Ramirez who is now 3-0 since his promotion to the Herd. But in 14.2 innings pitched so far, Ramirez has yet to allow a run and has limited batters to just five hits, one walk and an amazing 19 strikeouts. Stick your tongues back in your mouths…

I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do for this bullpen. I’m gonna assume that Chris Schwinden will go back down.

The Mets also announced that reliever Manny Acosta, who was designated for assignment last week, cleared waivers and has been outrighted to Buffalo.

Rob Johnson – Mets Merized Online