Jan 24

Missing Ernie Banks

This one hurts. Ernie Banks, “Mr. Cub,’’ passed away last night at 83.

Unquestionably, one of the highlights about covering baseball was meeting the game’s greats from when I first started following the sport. Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron, Pete Rose, Al Kaline, Tom Seaver and, of course, Banks.

Mets’ fans, of course, should remember Banks from the 1969 season when he was one of the few likable members of the Cubs. Some might actually have felt sympathy for Banks as he missed the playoffs for yet, another year.

Banks was the longtime face and persona of the Cubs. He was a Wrigley Field fixture who was a pleasant and kind visitor to opposing dugouts. Players loved to shake his hand and listen to his stories.

And, Banks loved to hold court, whether for a group or an individual. If you had a question, or just wanted to say hello, he would greet you and make one feel welcomed.

We’re in an age where too many of today’s athletes prefer to distance themselves from the public that adores them. That was never Banks. People liked him because he genuinely liked people.

The baseball world is a little poorer today without him.

Jan 23

Gee Emblematic Of Difference Between Mets And Giants

It is more than talented players that separate the San Francisco Giants from the Mets. There is also an organizational philosophy. The Giants’ is about winning; the Mets is about pinching pennies.

It was simply a single line item in the transactions, that the Giants opted to re-sign pitcher Ryan Vogelsong. Here is a team with three World Series titles in the past five years that is loaded with pitching. Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Tim Hudson and Jake Peavey. That’s five starters. Vogelsong makes six, and don’t forget Yusmeiro Petit.

They all have substantial major league track records.

Meanwhile, the Mets are optimistic about their young rotation, and despite legitimate questions about every pitcher, they are determined to deal Dillon Gee, who’ll make just $5.3 million in 2015.

What the Giants realize, that although they have a glut of pitching, you can never have enough pitching. And, this is a perennial winner.

Meanwhile, the Mets, who haven’t had a winning season since 2008, are gambling they will have no pitching issues this summer and are willing to deal Gee to prove their point.

It’s not a gamble they should make.

Jan 19

Gap Between Mets, Nats Wider Than You Think

The Mets finished in a second-place tie last season in the NL East 17 games behind the pennant winning Washington Nationals.

GEE: Trying to move him. (Getty)The two current storylines of these teams suggest a wider gap – much wider.

The Nationals, who won 96 games last season with the NL’s deepest rotation, will add free-agent prize Max Scherzer. Meanwhile, the Mets are taking flak for charging their players to participate in an off-season conditioning program. The Mets are also still attempting to trade Dillon Gee, and word is they don’t have to get a major leaguer in return. Shows what they think of their most reliable starter the past few seasons.

The Nationals are trying to sell the prospect of the World Series to their fan base. The Mets are still trying to sell a .500 season.

To make room for Scherzer’s contract, the Nationals are willing to trade shortstop Ian Desmond, who will become a free-agent after this year. Yes, the Mets could use Desmond to address their shortstop question, but the Nationals’ asking price would be exorbitant for a one-year rental.

Trading for Desmond could be a giant step back if he leaves, and put on the financial shackles if they signed him to an extension.

While adding Scherzer doesn’t guarantee anything, it definitely puts them in good position to be thinking deep into October.

Reportedly, San Francisco, San Diego and Colorado are interested in Gee.

The Mets would like to unload Gee before spring training, but I believe they would get a greater return if they waited until the trade deadline.

 

 

Jan 18

Selig Rewards Wilpon For Not Spending

This blog gets many comments imploring Major League Baseball to force the Wilpons to sell the Mets. I said it will never happen, and the recent move by MLB to name Fred Wilpon to chair the Finance Committee underscores that position.

We should remember while Bud Selig is commissioner, he is first and foremost a former owner. His roots are in ownership and that’s where his sentiment lies.

Selig is tight with Wilpon, always has been and probably always will be. Selig isn’t interested in the Mets increasing their payroll. His position as commissioner has always been to reduce payroll and that’s exactly what Wilpon has done with the Mets.

Basically, Selig rewarded Wilpon for not spending.

Wilpon has run the Mets the way Selig would if he were owner. Wilpon has been a good soldier for Selig, and for that, has been rewarded.

Surprised?

Jan 17

Murphy A Goner After This Year

Barring something out of the blue, Daniel Murphy is entering his last contract with the Mets in agreeing to a one-year, $8 million deal. In doing so, they avoided arbitration. Murphy’s figure was $8.6 million while the Mets’ countered at $7.4 million.

If the Mets really wanted to keep Murphy, they would have done so by now. He’s a free agent after this year, so barring something unforeseen he’s gone. Then again, if they find a taker, he could be out of here by the trade deadline.

Murphy will end his major league career, probably in the American League where there’s a designated hitter, as a reliable and serviceable player who always hustles, and who’s shortcoming is he doesn’t have a lot of power.

He’s playing his fourth position with the Mets, an indication of the organization’s lack of position-player depth, and his willingness to be a team player.

In an era of self-centered players, Murphy is something of a throwback, and the Mets won’t necessarily be better off when he leaves. In fact, they could, and have, done a lot worse.

Normally, the Mets avoid arbitration and this winter is no different as they’ve already come to terms with Dillon Gee ($5.3 million), whom they want to trade, shortstop Ruben Tejada ($1.88) and Bobby Parnell ($3.7 million).

Who’s left are Lucas Duda (wants $4.7 million; offered $3.75 million) and Jenrry Mejia (wants $3 million; offered $2.1 million).

When you look at the numbers exchanged, there’s usually a million-plus difference, which says a lot about the organization. It wouldn’t be a bad guess that when these players enter their free-agent year, they’ll also soon be ex-Mets.