Dec 14

Mets’ Alderson: Expectations Higher Than Realized

Sandy Alderson said there’s not much in the FA market, but the truth is the Mets vastly underestimated the value of that market.

Ryan Ludwick, who would look good in the Citi Field outfield void of any substantial talent, signed a two-year, $15-million extension with Cincinnati, the going rate for an outfielder with a limited resume.

ALDERSON: No more twiddling thumbs.

The Mets thought two years at half was too much.

Now, there’s the case of the mediocre Manny Acosta, who logged innings out of the Mets’ bullpen last year, but not productive ones. He’ll make $1.65 million next year in Japan with the potential of another $500,000 in bonuses.

I’m not bemoaning the loss of Acosta, but if he can get that, imagine what a decent reliever will bring. Undoubtedly, a lot more.

Fact is, Alderson’s expertise is buying cheap and building from the ground up. He was brought here to get things under financial control and for the most part has done his job.

Alderson previously won, but never in a city with the expectations and payroll in New York. Alderson was hired by Oakland in 1981 as the team’s general counsel and named GM in 1983, a position he held until 1997.

Those Athletics teams, under a difference economic system, produced three consecutive Rookies of the Year in Jose Canseco (1986), Mark McGwire (1987) and Walt Weiss (1988). Alderson’s tenure also included Dave Stewart, Hall of Fame reliever Dennis Eckersley and manager Tony La Russa, he of the juggling bullpen.

Under his helm, Oakland won four division titles, three AL titles and the 1989 World Series.

Clearly, Alderson’s Oakland teams had talent, a sound scouting system and different economic system. Things were also different than in New York when Alderson’s Padres won division titles in 2005 and 2006.

However, Alderson never encountered the financial distress and expectations he inherited in New York. Those expectations included wrestling the Yankees for the city’s back pages.

By all accounts, Alderson is a sharp guy, so I don’t buy he was naïve to the pressures and expectations of New York. I even believe, working in the commissioner’s office, he had a handle on the Mets’ financial problems, but perhaps not to the degree after the Madoff scandal.

I expected a gradual turnaround under Alderson, but he’s had two years so now I’m expecting more aggressiveness in putting a competitive team on the field. Then again, it must be realized Alderson doesn’t have complete control as he must answer to the Wilpons.

He grossly underestimated things at the trade deadline last year. The Mets were over eight games at one point prior to the break, but he gambled and lost they’d continue to play well.

After Johan Santana and Dillon Gee went down, there was further stress on the bullpen. By the time Ike Davis started to hit, David Wright stopped. And, of course, Jason Bay – not acquired on Alderson’s watch – never started.

I’m expecting more of Alderson in his third year. I’m expecting comes the realization losing is not an option in New York. If traditional low-spending revenue teams such as Washington and Cincinnati can be more aggressive, and a team with little offense in San Francisco can win two World Series in three years, then more is expected from the Mets.

Maybe we don’t know how bad things are behind the scenes, but we do know how bad things are on the field.

And, it has to stop.

Dec 06

The Questions David Wright Should Have Asked The Mets

David Wright spoke of a new day at his press conference yesterday, saying: “There’s a hundred different factors that went into this decision. But before any of them could be taken into consideration, number one had to be that commitment to winning. And, I got the answers that I wanted to hear.”

WRIGHT: What is he thinking?

Oh, to be a fly on that wall. I wonder what questions Wright asked and what the Wilpon’s answers were. Wright didn’t say, but if I were him these are the questions I would ask:

1) “I am staying, which saves you from taking a PR hit. I am deferring money, so how are you going to spend it?”

2) O.K., you got a break in the Madoff case. How long will that continue to be a factor in not getting players to help me?”

3) “What is going on with R.A. Dickey? You do realize our pitching isn’t all that great to begin with and will be worse if he leaves, so are you going to sign him?”

4) “We all know Johan (Santana) is gone after this year, so how are you going to spend that $25 million in 2014?”

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Dec 01

Teams Silent On Hall Candidates Piazza, Bonds, Sosa And Clemens

The calls started to come the other night from other Hall of Fame writers asking if I intended to vote for Mike Piazza, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa. As a Hall of Fame voter the past decade I take the responsibility seriously.

Because of their connection to performance enhancing drugs, I did not vote for Mark McGwire or Rafael Palmeiro, the latter whom I covered when he was with the Orioles. Palmeiro certainly didn’t look bulked up at the time. I had been on the Yankees’ beat for several years when he waved his finger at Congress and said he never used steroids. I believed him.

PIAZZA: Will he make it to the Hall?

My guess, and it’s only a guess, is he thought after that display he wouldn’t be tested. I liked Palmeiro and it pains me to leave him off, At 3,000 hits and 500 homers, achieved mostly before his testimony, he was a given. He’s fallen off the radar since his retirement which leaves me wanting more.

Of the candidates, the only one I am sure of is Craig Biggio. Bonds, Sosa and Clemens are a definite no now because they have been implicated or tested positive. There is evidence as to their use. Piazza is different and I don’t know about him yet. He hasn’t failed a drug test and wasn’t accused in the Mitchell Report.

I don’t care about the newspaper articles of his back acne. What gives me pause is his autobiography is coming out in February, deliberately held back by the publisher until after the Hall of Fame announcement. I am wondering why. If Piazza didn’t use steroids, then why not come out and scream it? He has friends in the press in New York. Why doesn’t he say something?

I’ll probably wait on Piazza until next year depending on what he says in the book.

What is also interesting is the silence from the teams. Not a word. In previous years, teams would bombard the voters with emails, similar to what the colleges do when they have a Heisman candidate. Nothing, not a peep from these teams. Makes you think they know something, and it isn’t good.

Not only their silence speaks volumes, but the Giants and Cubs seem to be distancing themselves from Bonds and Sosa, respectively. Sosa is a two-time cheater in my book, using steroids and a corked bat. He can pretend not to understand English before Congress and bleach his skin white after retirement, but he can’t hide. We know what he is.

With the Mets, a franchise in desperate need of positive news, there’s been no public support for Piazza, a player who said he wants to go in wearing their cap. (The Hall of Fame decides the cap with its basis on where that player made his mark.) The Hall’s thinking with Piazza is he’d wear a Dodger cap. Clemens would wear Boston, Bonds would wear San Francisco and Sosa would wear the Cubs.

I don’t think that will be an issue on the first ballot.

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Nov 24

Making Cases For Pelfrey And Torres To Return

After writing about Jon Niese and untouchable Mets yesterday, I thought I’d take a different approach and consider those Mets believed to be out the door.

Say hello to Mike Pelfrey and Andres Torres. Both long thought to be gone, but upon further review cases can be made for their return.

PELFREY: Making a case for his return. (Daily News)

The 28-year-old Pelfrey made $5.68 million in an injury shortened 2012 and is expected to hit the market with a career 50-54 record. He is arbitration eligible with Scott Boras as his agent, all which should make the Mets deathly afraid.

Quite bluntly: Even at 20 percent off his 2012 salary, the Mets think that is too high, which is why they won’t tender him and say good-bye after a disappointedly short-lived career in Flushing. He had a couple of solid seasons, even All-Star worthy in 2010, but regressed in 2011 and was hurt last year.

He never reached the level expected of a first-round pick while others, such as Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain sprinted past him into elite status. Unquestionably, Pelfrey has the physical tools to excel, but dramatically underachieved. A combination of a lack of poise – who can forget the three-balk game? – poor pitch selection, mechanics, and although he’ll deny it – spotty confidence – lead to mediocrity.

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Nov 18

Which Team Is More Dysfunctional, The Mets Or Jets?

Getting ready to watch football with the NFL Red Zone, so thankfully I am not tied down to the Jets-Rams.

TV football in New York is absolutely terrible without Red Zone because you’re tied into two teams each week, but I digress.

I was thinking which is the most dysfunctional New York franchise, the Mets or Jets?

The Jets are in the news because the Mets have faded into the woodwork until February.

The biggest disparity between the teams is economic, despite each being in a sport with sound financial footing. Each NFL team – as with each MLB team – has a predetermined foundation in the tens of millions before selling a single ticket. Both have loaded ownerships, but the difference is Woody Johnson is willing to spend while the Wilpons make their decisions against the backdrop of the Madoff scandal.

The fundamental difference is the Jets are willing to spend, evidenced by first pursuing Brett Favre, and then giving loaded contracts to Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow and Derrelle Revis.

In fairness, the Mets showed a similar desire with Johan Santana and Jason Bay, not to mention Oliver Perez and Francisco Rodriguez, but the last two years have been on an austerity kick.

The most obvious similarity is both share the city with a more successful and stable older brother against whom they’ll never match.

Another common thread is the lack of direction from the top as to where and how to spend.

The Mets’ bullpen has deteriorated along with their outfield and offense. Meanwhile, the Jets’ offensive line is weak, along with their offensive skill players and pass rush.

The bullpen and offensive line are fundamental building blocks in the respective sports, and neither team can compete if things remain the same.

The direction of both teams is like the Washington D.C., roadmap – it goes in all directions.

The Mets failed to build their bullpen after the 2007 collapse, and then moved into Citi Field with the stated goal of building with pitching and defense only to sign Bay.

It has been downhill since, with the real possibility of losing David Wright and R.A. Dickey. If they do, the Mets will begin another rebuilding program, just as the Jets could be after this season if they continue to implode and Johnson fires GM Mike Tannenbaum and coach Rex Ryan, which could lead to the trading of Sanchez.

After the collapses of 2007 and 2008, preceded by losing in the 2006 NLCS, the Mets severely overestimated their team and attempted to patch their holes with veterans – Santana, Rodriguez, Bay, etc. – but are now going the farm system route.

Trouble is, there’s little underneath that’s major league ready.

Meanwhile, the Jets thought they’d compete with the Favre signing, but after he left began the Sanchez Era.

With a strong defense and sound running game – you do remember “Ground and Pound’’ don’t you? – to complement Sanchez, the Jets played, but lost, consecutive AFC Championship games. They overestimated themselves in defeat.

How the Ryan tenure began is how NFL teams are usually built. They attempted to open up their defense, but did so at the expense of the running game. In addition, the Jets never complemented their strong secondary with a pass rush.

Then, with their quarterback’s confidence fractured, the Jets inexplicably traded for Tebow for a fourth-round pick and then signed him for three years. Adding Tebow meant adding a quarterback who needed a different offensive system.

As the Mets had a disjointed clubhouse, the Jets had a poisonous locker room, marked by snakes Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie. The backbiting continued this week with the verbal torching of Tebow.

Your guess is as good as mine as to determining what the Jets want to do with their inept offense, which has not been helped by their porous defense, which gives up over 150 yards a game on the ground.

Also, both teams play in divisions with rivals they can’t seem to catch in the Phillies and Braves for the Mets and Patriots for the Jets.

That brings us to a final similarity: It could be a long time before the Mets or Jets are relevant again.