Dec 31

Saying Good-bye To 2012; Saluting The Giants And Dickey And Farewell To Carter

With 2012 in the ninth inning, let’s take a look at some of the more interesting and important baseball stories of the year.

There were many to choose from, ranging from the feel-good, to the sad, to the historic, to the inane. There are dozens that will fall into the category of being a trivia question answer, but let’s settle on ten:

1) GIANTS WIN THE SERIES:  This might be my favorite because I like the way they play the game. Their blueprint is pitching and defense, which is always the best way to build a winner. The Giants simply play the game the right way. And, when they lost their best hitter, Melky Cabrera, to a suspension for using performance enhancing drugs, they declined to bring him back for the playoffs when it would be tempting to do so. And, when ace Tim Lincecum struggled and was taken out of the rotation, instead of crying he shut his mouth and went to the bullpen.

2) SELIG STRONGARMS DODGER SALE: There’s no denying Frank McCourt wasn’t a terrible owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, but it was still his team and he was on the verge of negotiating a contract with FOX that would ease the team of its financial problems. For some reason, this wasn’t good enough for Commissioner Bud Selig, and certainly not an exercise in fair play when other ownership groups have been as miserable, or worse. The sale was to a group headed by Magic Johnson, and one of their first moves was the horrible acquisition of Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford. Meanwhile, the baseball team in Flushing …

3) THE YEAR OF THE PITCHER: There were three perfect games thrown in 2012, by former Mets prospect Phil Humber, Matt Cain and Felix Hernandez. There were four other no-hitters last summer, including the first by a Met in Johan Santana. It took a blown call to change a hit into a foul ball. Perhaps the best performance by a pitcher was the yearlong mastery of Mets knuckleballer R. A. Dickey who won 20 games and the Cy Young Award and for his efforts was traded to Toronto.

4) THE BIRDS FLY AGAIN: After 14 straight losing seasons, including the previous four in last place in the AL East, the Orioles flipped their record from 69-93 to 93-69, with 29 of those victories coming by one run. The Orioles also won 16 straight extra-inning games, and took the Yankees to the limit in the AL Division Series. They did all this with a patchwork rotation and losing their best player, Nick Markakis, for most of the last month of the season.

5) COMEBACKS IN ALL FORMS:  The Oakland Athletics came from 13 games behind to overtake Texas to win the AL West. They closed the season with a six-game winning streak, including a three-game sweep of the Rangers to win the division. St. Louis also rallied to beat Washington in the playoffs, and San Francisco came from behind to beat Cincinnati and the Cardinals.

6) MIGUEL CABRERA WINS THE TRIPLE CROWN: For the first time since 1967 when Carl Yastrzemski did it for Boston, there was a Triple Crown winner in Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera, who hit .330 with 44 homers and 139 RBI.

7) WASHINGTON SPITS ON BASEBALL:  For the first time in over six decades, there was a playoff team in Washington. The Nationals played inspired, team baseball for much of the season and were led by young ace Stephen Strasburg. The Nationals,  trying to protect their investment, opted to shut him down after 159.1 innings, which gave the arrogant impression they believed they’d be back again. More than a few baseball executives were pleased when the Nationals’ pitching collapsed in the playoffs against the Cardinals.

8) THE MARLINS BLOW IT UP: Speaking of bad ownership groups, the Dodgers had nothing on the Marlins, another example that pennants aren’t won in the winter. The Marlins moved into a monstrosity of a new stadium with Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Heath Bell and new manager Ozzie Guillen. It all fell apart in June and the Marlins finished in last place. Guillen was fired and Reyes, Buehrle and Josh Johnson were traded to Toronto. The Blue Jays also added Dickey and Melky Cabrera to raise the question: Are they the 2013 version of the Marlins.

9) THE LOCALS FALL:  The Mets collapsed in the second half to finish with their fourth straight losing season. The Mets have done nothing this offseason – save signing David Wright – to indicate things will change. Meanwhile, the Yankees got a brilliant season from Derek Jeter, who broke his ankle in the playoffs. Also, while their season was sliding away, Alex Rodriguez was trying to pick up women from the dugout.

10) SAD LOSSES:  I Googled the list of baseball deaths in 2012 and was staggered by the names I recognized from my youth. The most important name was Marvin Miller, the former head of the Players Association who, more than anybody, was largely responsible for today’s economic structure in the game. Then, there was Gary Carter, whom Mets fans will always remember.

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.

 

Apr 21

Mets On Slippery Slope Following Another Loss

The bloom is off the Mets’ early season rose. After a quick start that included winning the first two games in last weekend’s series in Philadelphia, the Mets have lost three straight and four of their last five.

They are still over .500, but the sense this could be a different year is fading. Thirteen games is two small a picture to frame it a season, but the crispness that opened the year is gone.

Frank Francisco, who opened with three straight saves, has given up four runs in his last three appearances. Last night he walked Melky Cabrera on four pitches to lead off the tenth. Cabrera stole on a pitchout, which is almost impossible to do, and scored on a two-out single.

That’s three red flags in one inning: the leadoff walk; stealing on a pitchout shows an inability to hold runners and a lack of concentration; and the two-out hit is indicative of not putting away an inning. A successful closer doesn’t do any of those things on a consistent basis.

Francisco has good stuff, but has always been erratic in the little things, such as those mentioned above. Explains in large part why he was was available.

There’s more to be concerned with:

By definition, Jon Niese had a quality start giving up three runs in six innings, but needed 109 pitches to do so. That’s clearly working too hard. That many pitches should take him through the eighth, at least. Maybe complete-game worthy.

However, it was an upgrade from what the Mets received their two previous games from R. A. Dickey and Johan Santana. This afternoon it is Mike Pelfrey, who has been anything but calming and comforting.

The starting pitching is key to whatever success the Mets have this year and it must improve.

Offensively, Jason Bay homered and got another hit, but neither he nor Lucas Duda are hitting in the clutch. Bay struck out with runners on second and third and one out in the tenth. Both hitters are 1-for-13 with RSIP. That’s 2-for-26, which translates into a lot of runners left on base and empty innings. A lot of losses, too.

Also offensively are the continuing struggles of Ike Davis who struck out twice while going hitless five times last night. His swing gets longer and loopier by the game.

All teams are going to have night like that occasionally, but the Mets’ last four losses have exposed their flaws greatly.

I wrote several times this week how the Mets had to snap out of it to avoid a downhill slide. They are in one now.

ON DECK: Starting lineup.

Nov 09

Fish met with Reyes today.

The Miami Marlins met with Jose Reyes this afternoon but not surprisingly did not make an offer. Rarely do teams make a contract proposal during the initial meeting as nobody wants to set the market.

REYES: Talked with Marlins today.

Reportedly, Boston, the Yankees and Atlanta will pass on Reyes. Those believed to have interest are the Marlins, Washington, Detroit and Milwaukee.

Philadelphia could be a player if they don’t re-sign Jimmy Rollins. San Francisco was believed to be interested, but that might change in the wake of acquiring Melky Cabrera to be their leadoff hitter. The Giants still need a shortstop and will talk with Rollins. Both Cabrera and Rollins would cost them less than Reyes.

I’m believing four years at $80 million should be the limit for Reyes, but other media outlets are saying five years at $100 million, and it has been reported Reyes wants six years at upwards of $120 million.

Would I like to see Reyes with the Mets next season and beyond? Yes, I would, but I wouldn’t be interested in breaking the bank with him because of his injury history and the high probability of him not finishing his contract healthy.

Nothing has happened to convince me he’s not a goner.

Nov 07

The dealing has begun shaping market for Reyes; Mets miss out on pitching.

Jose Reyes has his first suitor and it isn’t the Mets. As suggested, the Miami Marlins spoke to Reyes, something we knew would happen once friend Hanley Ramirez said he’d be willing to move to third base from shortstop.

CABRERA: Does his trade lessens Giants' interest in Reyes?

Thoughts Ramirez would be wasted at third are nonsense, as his value to the Marlins is as an offensive force. The Mets made no overtures to Reyes during their exclusive negotiating window following the World Series, and aren’t expected to until they see how Reyes’ bidders set the market.

Reportedly, Reyes wants at least $100 million and six years. Sources with the Mets are saying they don’t want to go more than four years at around $18 million.

The Marlins want to move into their new stadium with an impact signing. They have some good, young pitching, but lack a proven leadoff hitter to set the table for Ramirez.

As I suggested, the Mets should view the Marlins and Washington as more a threat to snagging Reyes from them than the Phillies. However, even with the Marlins’ interest, it is premature to think he’s already looking for a home on the beach.

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