Dec 04

Heading To DC For Winter Meetings

There’s no football for me today, as I’m heading down to Washington for the Winter Meetings, which don’t figure to be active for the Mets.

After signing Yoenis Cespedes to a four-year, $110-million deal, the Mets accomplished their primary goal, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have issues:

TRADE CHIPS: GM Sandy Alderson’s two biggest trade chips are outfielder’s Curtis Granderson ($15 million) and Jay Bruce ($13 million), both of whom will be free agents after this year. Reportedly, Toronto is a trade partner for either, as it is poised to lose Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista.

The way the market often works this time of year has most teams looking free agents first before looking to trade.

Working in the Mets’ favor is they have manageable contracts (money and years) which make them easier to deal. Working against them is teams might wait until the trade deadline.

CLOSER: Alderson said he has to consider the possibility of losing closer Jeurys Familia, even though his wife doesn’t plan action and charges could be dropped at his Dec. 15 hearing.

That action won’t preclude MLB of a handing down a suspension, and based on recent history, 30 games appears the starting point.

The Mets won’t get into the bidding for Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jenson or Mark Melancon.

The logical move would be to promote Addison Reed, but then there is the question of finding a set-up reliever. They need to bring back Jerry Blevins. But, after Reed and Blevins, there’s little reliability in the bullpen.

CATCHER: Rene Rivera was brought back and again the Mets figure to go with a Rivera-Travis d’Arnaud platoon, with Kevin Plawecki to open the season in the minors.

There’s nothing eye-popping in the free-agent market and the Mets aren’t poised to make a deal.

Nov 10

Familia Pleads Not Guilty; MLB Treading Water On Punishment

Mets closer Jeurys Familia pleaded not guilty this morning on the charge of simple assault in Fort Lee, New Jersey, this morning, but by no means is this case over and the team would be foolish if it proceeded with that belief.

FAMILIA: Pleads not guilty. (AP)

FAMILIA: Pleads not guilty. (AP)

The judge agreed to the couple’s request to have a “no contact” ruling, which means they’ll stay together and the odds of the victim cooperating with police will be small. Although the case can proceed without cooperation from the victim, it makes it all the more difficult to prove.

The next hearing is Dec. 15, which is after the Winter Meetings in Washington, DC.

By that time the Mets could and should have, contacted other relievers in the market.

One of them is their own Fernando Salas and another is Washington’s Mark Melancon, formerly of the Pirates. High-profile Aroldis Chapman (Cubs) and Kenley Jansen (Dodgers) are also on the market, but expected to be out of the Mets’ price range.

There is also the option of making set-up reliever Addison Reed the closer.

The Winter Meetings are a month away, so there’s a sense of urgency for the Mets to develop a plan in the expectations Familia is suspended. However, MLB isn’t expected to make a ruling until the justice system has its say.

“I think it is usually difficult for us to complete our investigation before the criminal process has run its course,” Commissioner Rob Manfred said. “We have the luxury of not being on the field right now, and we’re going to take advantage of that.”

Even so, the Mets must proceed in anticipation of the worst, meaning a lengthy suspension. That means planning without Familia.

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Nov 09

Nationals Have Interest In Cespedes

The posturing has begun in the pursuit of Yoenis Cespedes, and in what should come as no surprise, it involves the Washington Nationals, otherwise known as the Mets’ arch-enemy.

The 95-win Nationals in 2016 made a run at Cespedes prior to last season, but he backed out because he didn’t like the deferred money. (This should tell you something about Cespedes. He’s not looking to set himself up for the future, which a deferred contract provide, but wants the big nut right away.)

CESPEDES: Favors big payment. (AP)

CESPEDES: Favors big payment. (AP)

It suggests there’s little wiggle room between Cespedes and the Mets. If Cespedes retired right now he should be able to live more than comfortably on the $27.5 million the Mets gave him last year. Did he squander it on all those cars he drove to spring training last season? I might be wrong, but this does suggest Cespedes could be careless with his money.

Even so, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo could make another run at Cespedes, who would play left, with Jayson Werth moving to right and Bryce Harper playing center field.

The Nationals are currently in the midst of negotiating their local television deal with MASN. Rizzo said talks with the network are sluggish, but added if he really wants a player ownership isn’t likely to block him, say, the way the Wilpons would put the brakes on GM Sandy Alderson.

“We’ve always been given the resources here by ownership to field the best team we can put on the field,” Rizzo told The Washington Post. “We’re looking to improve the club any way we can. If it makes sense for use, he improves any team he plays on.”

Not only that, but signing Cespedes also weakens the Mets.

A middle part of the order featuring Werth, Harper, Cespedes and Daniel Murphy would be frightening, arguably putting Washington’s offense on a par with the Cubs.

The Nationals could make room for Cespedes financially (their 2016 payroll was $145 million) if they don’t bring back catcher Wilson Ramos and closer Mark Melancon, both of whom could fill two holes for the Mets.

The keys for Cespedes landing in Washington would be a quick resolution to the MASN negotiations and for the 31-year-old outfielder to bend a little when it comes to a deferred contract. It worked out for Bobby Bonilla, whose deferred deal with the Mets pays him $1.19 million annually until 2035 when he will be 72 years old.

That’s a damn good IRA, and this is even before Bonilla touches his MLB pension or starts drawing Social Security.

It’s a wonder more players don’t opt to do this. For the Mets, this is something they might entice David Wright to do if they ever want to buy him out.

However, Cespedes’ refusal to take deferred money could raise red flags for the Mets. GM Sandy Alderson can interpret that as a negotiating tool he no longer has and force him to offer more than he’d like for the life of the contract. That weakens the Mets’ bargaining position.

It’s too soon to project where Cespedes lands, but Washington isn’t a bad place to start.

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Oct 14

Collins Said 2017 Could Be Last Season

It was interesting to hear Terry Collins say this could be his final season managing the Mets. Most managers – especially those with a career .500 record (925-925) – don’t usually dictate their departure terms.

COLLINS: Says 2017 might be his last. (AP)

COLLINS: Says 2017 might be his last. (AP)

I don’t like it because it screams lame-duck status and if things sour as they did this year, you’ll hear loud rumblings about making a chance.

There are things I didn’t like about Collins, but many decisions were forced on him by GM Sandy Alderson. Considering the injuries and lengthy slumps by key players, the Mets were fortunate to reach the postseason. What the Mets should do is give him an extension to avoid lame-duck status.

“I just need to re-evaluate at the end of this coming year what’s going on, where I am, how I’m feeling,” Collins told ESPN. “I’ve always said a lot of it will be dictated by how I’m feeling. This was a tough year.”

Collins, baseball’s oldest manager at 67, said this was a grueling season, so draining he was hospitalized in Milwaukee. The issues bothering Collins most are travel and MLB’s often inane scheduling. (The Mets playing a day game on Labor Day in Cincinnati after a night game the previous day at Citi Field was demanding.)

“It takes a toll on everybody,” Collins said. “You talk to the players. If you noticed, that [Labor Day game] was the day we gave everybody off because they were stinking beat.

“This travel is hard, especially with the late-night scheduling that is prevalent throughout baseball. There are so many night games where you’re traveling after the game and getting into towns at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning.”

Next year might not be much different than this season. The Mets enter the season with questions at catcher, first base, second base and on the mound with Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz coming off surgery.

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Oct 10

Revamping The Playoff System

The Mets are gone, but I’m still watching the playoffs. I can’t help it as I am a baseball team first and foremost. The Division Round hasn’t been pretty with one series over and possibly another two ending today.

Only Dodgers-Nationals is assured of lasting beyond today. I have no animosity towards the Nationals and Daniel Murphy. The Nationals are a rival now, but what about in two years? The Mets’ rival changes from year to year. Next season it could be the Braves again … they are a lot better than people think and almost knocked the Mets in the end.

I’m sure MLB is already thinking of ways to liven up the wild-card game and Division Series. It’s only natural to assume something is wrong, but in what ways? Can you really say the wild-card drains the teams? The Blue Jays swept the Rangers, and if Madison Bumgarner does it again tonight, the Giants could tie the Cubs tomorrow.

Here’s what I would change:

Wild-Card Game: I’m not crazy about the wild-card game, but since it is a money-maker, it will continue. My objective would be to shorten the playoff format to avoid playing in November. We don’t need one with a month that has baseball in the beginning and Thanksgiving at the end.

Some want the wild-card to be a best two-out-of-three, but that practically guarantees November. If you go there, with possible rainouts you are assured of playing baseball in November.

One thing I would change about the wild-card game is the way it is telecast. With the networks having sub-networks, have a national feed and one using the announcers of each team. I would have liked to have heard Gary-Keith-Ron do a playoff game. I would have also liked to have listened to the San Francisco feed of Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper.

When NBC had the broadcast rights years ago it sometimes used the team’s announcers for an inning each.

Division Series:  I loved the first Friday of the Division Series when there was baseball from noon to midnight. It reminded me of the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament. I understand the networks want a game every day and don’t want the games to conflict, but MLB needs to do away with the present format.

Let all the games of the Division Series be played the same day. Play both wild-card games on the Tuesday after the end of the season (Monday left open for tie-breaker games). Wednesday would be a travel day for the NLDS, with all four series starting Friday. Games 1 and 2 would be Friday and Saturday, with Sunday off as not to conflict with football. (MLB shudders at the idea of competing with the NFL). Sunday is a travel day, with Games 3 and 4 on Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday would be travel with Game 5 on Thursday.

Championship Series and World Series formats: Both go with a 2-3-2 format, which I don’t like. It gives the lower seed a distinct advantage and neutralizes the benefits of having a better regular season record. If there’s going to be a home field advantage, then make it a real one.This year’s World Series gives the American League the added advantage of not only having the extra game at home but getting the three middle games.

This year’s World Series gives the American League the added advantage of not only having the extra game at home, but the three straight middle games on the road. One more time: Get rid of the All-Star Game gimmick of the winner having the home field advantage in the World Series.

MLB tried to emphasize the element of fairness when it had all of Sunday’s games start at the same time. So, why not carry the premise the whole way?

Go 2-2-1-1-1. This year there are two California teams that could make for up to four cross-country flights in both series. It would mean extra travel days for both series, but do it in the interest of putting the best product on the field. Players always play tired and injured, but doesn’t the public deserve to have rested players whenever possible?

This year, if the World Series goes seven games, it could end – barring rainouts through – November 2. Either do away with the wild-card round or shorten the season, but playing into November is ridiculous. I understood it in 2001 as the playoffs started later because of the September 11 terrorist attacks. I knew then that when the World Series touched Novermber that was no turning back.

Here’s how MLB can shorten the season by one week and move up the playoffs: The system is out of whack because of interleague and the unbalanced schedule. Since that won’t change, I would schedule one doubleheader a month for each team.

But, John, the owners don’t want to give up the extra gate, so what then?

Glad you asked. Schedule one day-night doubleheader a month with a division opponent. Since you’re playing your division 19 games each year – also backwards because of the uneven number of home games against that opponent – there’s plenty of wiggle room.

With six months in a season, that’s six extra days. If done correctly, that would mean for extra off days during the season. The players I spoke to don’t like day-night doubleheaders,  but would go with this plan because of the extra off days during the season.

That’ not the only tweaking I would do.

Umpiring: There are six umpires during the playoffs but only four in the regular season. Playing under different conditions than in the playoffs make no sense. MLB has plenty of money to afford six-man crews during the regular season. MLB wants to do it, as they say, to get it right? But, isn’t getting it right important during the season, also?

Can you imagine there being two additional refs for the NFL or NBA playoffs? I’m against inconsistency.

Instant replay: There are still flaws that need to be worked out. I’d rather have an umpire in the press box who can signal down he is reviewing a call. In could save some time. Along those lines, the reviewing umpire has 90 seconds to either confirm or overrule a play. If he can’t decide after 90 seconds, the original call stands. It’s not all that hard.

Rules: Tell me, does it make sense for the leagues to play by different rules? Of course, that brings us to the designated hitter. Play with it, play without it, I don’t care. Just make it the same for both. Again, it’s not all that hard, especially with the DH being used in high school. Does anybody know it they have the DH in Tee Ball?

I spoke with an American League general manager who hates interleague. He said the fastest and surest way for change is to have an American League manager in a National League park say he’ll use the designated hitter, and if the umpires don’t like it he’ll forfeit the game.

Sure, it is drastic, but pushing the issue is the only way it will be solved. When it comes to talking about it, we’ll have the same conversation in ten years. We’ve had the DH since the 1970s – take a bow, Ron Blomberg – but it was supposed to be a three-year experiment. I think interleague was supposed to be an experiment, too.

One edict Commissioner Rob Manfred could issue is to tell both teams in an interleague game that the American League team play by whatever rules it is comfortable with.

Of course, the AL team would opt for the DH, but can you imagine the NL team – that doesn’t have a Noah Syndergaard or Bumgarner – letting their pitchers hit just for the sake of the rule? I surely wouldn’t put a weaker team on the field if I didn’t have to.

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