May 07

Something must be done with the umpires.

Enough is enough.

Major League Baseball has long had an umpire problem. There’s never going to be perfection, and missed calls are part of the game and always will be, but it seems they are happening with more regularity.

WEST: He needs to be ejected.

Bad calls are one thing, but couple that with arrogance and it is an untenable situation, such as the one last night at Fenway Park, which figured a meltdown by Red Sox manager Terry Francona clearly initiated by two of the worst umpires in the game, Angel Hernandez and Joe West.

When Francona went out to discuss a balk call against Tim Wakefield, Hernandez ran him within seconds. The rules, ridiculous as they are, dictated an automatic ejection. Francona wanted an explanation of what Wakefield did wrong, but Hernandez never let him get a word in.

That’s a quick trigger. Umpires are supposed to be composed and show some patience, but that obviously goes against the grain with Hernandez. You must give the player or manager the opportunity to make his point.

Had Hernandez shown discretion there might not have been the subsequent meltdown.

That’s when Francona lost it and went after Hernandez, only to be intercepted by West, who has the reputation of being a hothead and wanting to interject himself into the game.

West clearly butted into a situation that didn’t involve him as Francona would say later. All he did was escalate the confrontation. There was contact made – six times according to the replay – but it was instigated by West.

Francona will obviously be fined, perhaps suspended by Commissioner Bud Selig, but West will get a pass because MLB doesn’t want to antagonize the umpires union, which, if angry enough, will take it out on the game and be confrontational all summer.

However, something needs to be done about West, who has consistently been ranked one of the worst umpires in player polls. He has the reputation of being a loose cannon and putting himself in the middle of things.

West, you might recall threw ejected two cameramen from Shea Stadium when they allowed the Mets to view a replay of a play at the plate. He’s also the one who criticized the Yankees and Red Sox for their slow play.

MLB must do something to improve the quality of umpiring. It could begin with expanded instant replay, because the objective is to get it right.

But, what I want is for each umpire to be wired so we can hear what goes on in the argument. We will be able to tell who did the instigating. Many of these arguments occur when the umps have rabbit ears and seek out the confrontation.

Having the umpires wired, and held accountable with fines and suspensions similar to the ones given the players, will help calm the waters.

The umpires are supposedly graded every year, but what is done with those who are at the bottom? Evidently not much as they return to show us their incompetence the next summer.

In the case of Joe West, he’s been a example of what is wrong with umpires. It is time the sport ejects him.

 

Dec 09

Mets coming home with scraps

Scott Boras was right, Carlos Beltran will start the season with the Mets. The Red Sox signing Carl Crawford put an official end to that wishful thinking. So, with the exception of second base, two slots in the rotation and the bullpen, the Mets are set for 2011.

Sandy Alderson said he wouldn’t make a splash and he has been true to his word. Alderson said last night it would be highly unlikely the Mets would leave Orlando today with a starting pitcher. There’s still interest in Chris Young, but he’s thinking $5 million a year while the Mets are thinking less than half that. They are talking with Freddy Garcia.

The Mets have added a mediocre arm to the bullpen and a mediocre back-up catcher. The Mets are hoping three key players – Beltran, Jose Reyes and Jason Bay – are healthy and two starters will fall out of the sky.

All along, we’ve been looking forward to 2012, and this week just underscores that sentiment. Alderson did say the Mets would be competitive this season, but that’s vague. Everything has to break right for the Mets to be competitive and how often do things always break right?

Dec 08

Would Mets really gain by dealing Beltran to Sox?

There are a myriad of issues surrounding Carlos Beltran that make him logically impossible to deal, but there reports out of Boston the Mets and Red Sox are talking.

BELTRAN: Would deal to Sox help Mets?

Undoubtedly, it is Boston’s cobra-mongoose struggle with the Yankees that has the Red Sox thinking about adding Beltran.

The Red Sox have a hole in the outfield and the designated hitter to slot in on an occasional basis (don’t forget David Ortiz will get most of those at-bats after the trade for Adrian Gonzalez).

Clearly, the Red Sox would be gambling to catch lightning in a bottle with Beltran in his walk year as worth taking the risk on the outfielder’s balky knees and $18.5 million salary.

Reportedly, the Red Sox are willing to part with Daisuke Matsuzaka, who will make $10 million in each of the next years. So essentially, the Mets would be trading a bad one-year contract for a bad two-year contract.

And, if the Mets have to eat about $8.5 million of Beltran’s contract to make the trade work, then what’s the benefit? They wouldn’t open up any payroll room because they’d still be on the hook for Beltran’s balance and Matsuzaka’s salary plus the latter’s salary for 2012.

The Mets would be trading the hope of Beltran bouncing back to hoping Matsuzaka will rebound. Yes, the Mets need pitching, but would Matsuzaka really help them?

That Boston is so eager to get rid of Matsuzaka should tell you something about what the Red Sox think of his ability to turn it around.

The one thing certain about the Mets and Beltran is this will be their last season together. Clearly, the Mets want to clear the books and think ahead to 2012. Beltran is not enamored with the organization for how it handled his knee problems and is seeking one more payday.

The Mets would like to trade Beltran, but their best hope for a good return will be if he gets off to a good start and stays healthy and they are able to swing something at the deadline.

Hope. That’s the best word to describe the Mets’ immediate prospects for 2011.

Oct 11

Mets should target Alderson

The Mets today met with Red Sox assistant GM Allard Baird, and will interview White Sox assistant Rick Hahn tomorrow, former Diamondbacks GM Josh Byrnes Wednesday and Sandy Alderson Thursday or Friday.

ALDERSON: Like him for the job.

They appear to be the Mets’ final four unless Terry Ryan has a change or heart.

All are well respected within the baseball community, but Alderson has the highest profile and deepest resume. That’s why I would like him to get the job.

Alderson’s track record will likely enable him to make the most immediate and deepest impact. I believe he’s the one most able to hit the ground running and provide the change that would convince the fan base the Mets are serious.

Alderson built winning teams in Oakland and San Diego, has connections in Latin America which would minimize the need to retain Omar Minaya in that capacity. Plus, he’s wired like no other with the  commissioner’s office. I don’t think anything will get by him.

During this process we’re still hearing about Wally Backman’s managerial candidacy. The Wilpons might suggest him to the new general manager, but they also promised the new guy will make the call.

Each one of these GM candidates is well connected and probably has their own ideas that might not necessarily involve Backman.

Sep 12

New Chat Room; time for second guessing.

What was written then is coming to pass, the back end of Johan Santana’s contract appears to be choking the Mets. It was widely written, by me and others, that six years is too long a deal for a pitcher who had already accumulated a lot of innings.

Santana’s velocity has been in decline, and now he faces shoulder surgery that ESPN is reporting could keep him out for up to two years. This is a tough surgery with a long and arduous rehab program. It won’t be easy for Santana and there are no guarantees on the back end.

That said, the Mets will likely come to regret the $77 million balance on the contract, but they knew going in that was a strong possibility for the final two years, OK, now it could be three.

The Mets overpaid because both the Red Sox and Yankees backed out, but the circumstances of the times must be realized. The Mets, having lost in 2006 and collapsed in 2007, were in dire need of starting pitching.

The Mets needed an ace and Santana came back to them, and Santana has pitched like the ace he was portrayed to be.

Where the Mets failed or miscalculated is not in signing Santana, but not giving him the adequate run support. Had Santana pitched for the Yankees instead of the Mets, with their superior run support and Mariano Rivera, he might have won a Cy Young or won 20 games.

Santana has more than carried his share of the load since coming here. Injuries are always a risk, but he has more than lived up to his end of the bargain.

To access the New Chat Room, click on to the Chat Room icon to the left. Enjoy Jon Niese as you channel surf to the NFL games.