Jun 15

Johan Santana Makes Appearance; Reminder Of Deal Lost

Johan Santana made an appearance, perhaps for the last time, to the New York Mets’ clubhouse Friday. Maybe it was to say good-bye to teammates or pick up a few things. Perhaps it was to get a Matt Harvey autograph. Maybe the Mets needed him to sign a few papers before he gets the last of the $31 million owed him.

No one can ever doubt Santana’s work ethic or determination on the mound, but when all the numbers are added, one can’t say the Mets got their $137.5-million’s worth. Or, should I say $143-million’s worth when the 2014 buyout is considered?

SANTANA: At one time there was a smile. (AP)

SANTANA: At one time there was a smile. (AP)

Yes, they did get the franchise’s only no-hitter last season, but a tainted one because it was the product of a blown call. But, that night also cost the Mets the rest of Santana’s career because Terry Collins wrongly kept him in to throw 134 pitches.

There were a few more good starts after, but Santana hit a wall and lost his last five decisions before he was shut down because of injury for the third time in his four seasons with the Mets. And, that  DOESN’T include 2011 and this year, in which he didn’t pitch at all because of a shoulder injury.

To be technical, you can also throw in 2014, when the Mets will pay him to go away and rehab on their dime while he attempts a comeback.

For all that money, Santana only had one season in which he made all his starts, and that was his first, in 2008, when he was 16-7 and worked 234.1 innings. It wasn’t a sign of things to come.

That was the year the Mets faded in the stretch to lose the division on the final day to the Philadelphia Phillies. The previous season, the Mets lost a seven-game lead with 17 to play because their pitching collapsed. They also lost on the final day in a loss always known as the Tom Glavine Not Devastated Game.

Santana was supposed to prevent a reoccurrence. He did not, but to be fair, Santana threw a masterpiece in Game 161 on an injured knee to give the Mets a chance in the season finale.

Santana’s effort was never in question as it was with Oliver Perez, nor did he fail to produce when healthy, as was the case with Jason BayStill, his contract falls in the grave disappointment if not bust category. What can be called into question was Santana’s judgment when he forced the issue in spring training out of pride by throwing unauthorized mound session in a snit in response to Sandy Alderson’s comments about him not being in shape.

Even at the time of the deal an argument can be made the Mets overpaid in terms of prospects given up and salary because they misjudged the market and bid against themselves.

At the time, the Yankees and Red Sox were in hot pursuit of Santana, but Minnesota kept jacking up the prospect price to the point where both opted out. The Mets, who weren’t on the Twins’ radar, suddenly were in the game, but as the only players.

The Mets surrendered prospects Deolis Guerra, Carlos Gomez, Philip Humber and Kevin Mulvey. Gomez had moments of production, but not stardom. If nothing else, he would be playing in today’s Mets outfield. As for Humber, he pitched a perfect game not tainted by an umpire’s call.

After the deal was agreed to, there was the matter of working out a contract and the Mets went high, six-years, on a pitcher with a previous shoulder injury and a mountain of innings. Even had they gone less in terms of years and money, Santana had to accept if he wanted out of Minnesota because he had nowhere else to go as the Twins wouldn’t have come close.

The Mets had to know it wouldn’t end well, but gambled Santana might give them an October before breaking down. It was a gamble they would lose.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Mar 29

Did Mets Win Santana Deal And Contract?

With Johan Santana’s season and possibly career over, it might be time to wonder if the Mets won the trade and subsequent contract signing.

Was he worth it, or does he fall into the Jason BayOliver Perez category?

SANTANA: Bargain or bust?

SANTANA: Bargain or bust?

For the cost of $137.5 million, Santana never pitched in a playoff game for the Mets and each winter his health was in issue. However, it is unfair to label him a bust, because unlike Bay, he produced when healthy. And, unlike Perez, there was never an issue of his effort or competitive nature.

Never was that in doubt. Not after pitching Game 161 in 2008 on an injured knee. There can be no question of his dedication in spending nearly two years rehabilitating his shoulder. There can be no question of his grit as he showed the night he threw 134 pitches in the only no-hitter in franchise history.

Getting a pitcher of Santana’s caliber was a no-brainer because with how the 2007 season ended for the Mets, blowing a seven-game lead with 17 remaining, pitching was a necessity.

However, a case can be made they overpaid, perhaps in prospects and definitely in terms of money.

At the time, the Yankees and Red Sox were engaged in a game of chicken with Minnesota for Santana’s services. Both deemed the Twins’ asking price too high and backed off to let the Mets swoop in.

However, the Mets didn’t read the market correctly. Although there was no competition for Santana, they still surrendered prospects Deolis GuerraCarlos Gomez, Philip Humber and Kevin Mulvey.

Humber pitched a perfect game and Gomez – once one of the Mets’ three prized outfield prospects – is still in the major leagues.

Whether the Mets gave up too much in talent is up for debate, but the money was clearly too much. It wasn’t as if they were in a bidding war with anybody, so that makes $137.5 million exorbitant, especially since Santana had a history of arm injuries with the Twins.

On those nights when Santana was at the top of his game, he was a joy to watch. The initial shoulder injury was just the nature of the sport. However, this last spring was a study in frustration. There was the snit over Sandy Alderson’s comments that prompted Santana to throw off the mound when he wasn’t ready.

Did Santana re-tear his shoulder that day? Nobody knows for sure, but it didn’t help.

With hindsight being 20/20, maybe the Mets should have let Santana pitch in the World Baseball Classic. At least, that way his contract would have been insured.

In the end, Santana pitched only one complete season with the Mets, and they only had one winning year with him.

All for the paltry sum of $137.5 million. Not exactly hitting the jackpot.

Jan 07

Mets Should Say NO To Pavano

I keep hearing rumblings the Mets are interested in Carl Pavano, who made $8.5 million last year with Minnesota at age 36.

Why?

While the pressures pitching for the Yankees are different than they are the Mets – the expectations in the Bronx are always greater – this is not a move they should be making.

I wouldn’t want Pavano in the Mets’ rotation if he were willing to pitch for the major league minimum.

Pavano’s New York track record was mostly a long line of injuries – including not reporting being in an auto accident – and coming up small in big moments. At the time, his nickname was “The American Idle,’’ for all the time spent on the disabled list.

As much as I want the Mets to make a move to show they have a pulse, let alone the desire to prove they want to be competitive, Pavano is notoriously thin skinned and not a good fit for New York. It was tough enough for him with the Marlins and Twins, so I wouldn’t expect much in Flushing.

After all, after 14 major league seasons, he is 108-107 with a 4.39 ERA, so why should this year be different? How much of a pay cut he would be willing to take, I don’t know, but can’t they get a win-one, lose-one pitcher for half the price? I would think so.

Covering Pavano in the Yankees clubhouse was frustrating. He was short-fused, testy and without humor, and this was with a winning franchise. I can’t imagine him being a day at the beach in Queens with a losing franchise.

I listed several pitchers still on the market yesterday, with several being a better fit than Pavano.

I also keep hearing the Mets have money to spend, but there aren’t many signs showing that inclination. If it is the same media sources doing the shouting, one has to wonder the motivation. Is it real news or somebody doing a PR favor for ownership? It wouldn’t be a stretch for it to be the latter.

That being said, if the Mets genuinely have dollars, they would be better spent on the mound on a fifth starter than in the outfield. Should the Mets land a legitimate starter, it could help in two categories in that he could take some of the load off the bullpen.

Conversely, unless they acquire a stud bat – and they don’t have the money for that – a middle-tier outfielder won’t improve the Mets significantly.

Oct 01

Mets’ Collapse In 2007 More Than Lost Season

Little did anybody know it at the time, but the Mets’ historic and stunning collapse at the end of the 2007 season, blowing a seven-game lead with 17 to play was more than just a horrific finish.

After all, they went on to blow a late-season lead in 2008, also.

The collapses began a spiral effect of costly decisions that brought to light the Mets’ financial crisis. The Ponzi scandal, no doubt, had a huge impact regardless of the club’s comments that the baseball operations weren’t also severely influenced.

One bad decision lead to another costly mistake and we find ourselves with another losing season, another lost summer, and the very real prospect of them losing both David Wright and R.A. Dickey.

Wright told ESPN’s Adam Rubin over the weekend he could see it ending with him and the Mets. When Rubin asked Wright following the Chipper Jones’ ceremony if he could see himself playing his entire career with the same team.

Wright knew it was possible when the Mets didn’t retain Jose Reyes. For years we heard the All-Star left side of their infield, and although there’s a plausible explanation for the shortstop’s departure, it was a thanks-I-needed-that slap in the face for Wright.

“I always thought Jose would be back, that it was just a lot to do about nothing,” Wright said. “We’ve known each other since 2001. You’re talking about playing around or with each other for 11 years. Yeah, of course it opens your eyes. It makes you realize in a lot of ways there is an ugly business side to this — whether it’s from the player’s perspective or the team’s perspective.”

Wright is arguably the premier position player in club history, but there are no assurances, especially considering the past.

The following are some of the most critical decisions that put the Mets in position where they had to cut $50 million in payroll this season to make them a mid-level franchise in the country’s biggest market.

1) JOHAN SANTANA: Yes, he threw the franchise’s first no-hitter this year and has had other special moments, but the fact remains they were bidding against themselves in dealing with the Twins. Minnesota’s asking price was steep, which forced Boston and the Yankees to pull out. I don’t care about the handful of prospects as they’ve amounted to little, but the trade was contingent on signing Santana to an extension and the Mets drastically overpaid to the point where they’ve received precious little the last few years and are put in a weak position for this offseason. Santana has been frequently injured during his tenure with the Mets and there’s no guarantee about next year.

In addition, the for the amount of money Santana is getting, the Mets could have filled numerous holes, including the rotation and bullpen.

2) FRANCISCO RODRIGUEZ: When Rodriguez’s own team, the Angels, want him back that should have been a red flag. Rodriguez saved his fair share of games, but paid him an extraordinary amount considering there were no other bidders. They should have taken a harder line approach in their negotiations.

3) JASON BAY: Next year is it for Bay, whose contract, injury history and lack of production make him non-tradable. What’s worse, is the Mets were moving into a new ballpark at the time and stated they were building their team around pitching and defense.  At the time, pitching was the overriding need. Again, a red flag should have been when the Red Sox were so willing to let him go. The Mets have received virtually nothing for the $66 million they’ll pay Bay.

4) OLIVER PEREZ: Speaking of red flags, shouldn’t it have been a tip off when nobody else seriously flirted with him in his free agent season? Instead, the Mets signed him long term and by the end he had lost his fastball and became a clubhouse pariah when he refused a demotion to work on his mechanics.

5) LUIS CASTILLO: I could see bringing him back, but for four years? Seriously, what was Omar Minaya thinking? Castillo was already on a downhill slide, which was only accelerated by injuries. His contract, along with Perez’s, symbolized the Minaya regime.

There were more, of course, multi-year deals to Moises Alou, Orlando Hernandez, Julio Franco and Guillermo Mota, but those five, for the magnitude of dollars and not properly evaluating the market did serious damage to this franchise which might not be over.

After 2006 and 2007, the Mets didn’t properly evaluate their team. They thought they were better than they really were.

 

 

 

Sep 17

Mets’ Fade Makes One Yearn For A Pennant Race

Every morning I take a glance at the standings and the pennant races. There’s nothing like the drama and intensity of a pennant race. It is the essence of the sport.

For the record, this morning the Mets are 14 games under .500 and 23 games behind the Nationals with a schedule that could plummet them to 20 below.

So much for a pennant race involving the Mets. Even the collapses of 2007 and 2008 gave those Septembers more meaning than this excruciating month. Of course the remaining schedule is of importance to the Phillies, Pirates and Braves, all in wild card contention. There are six games left with the hated Marlins in the battle to stay out of last place.

Major League Baseball added a second wild card in the hope of creating spice and interest in more cities. So far, it has worked in both leagues.

Sort of.

In the American League there are eight teams – including the three division leaders – that could end up with a wild-card berth. In the AL East there is a dogfight between the Yankees, Orioles and Rays. But, what kind of fight is it really if all three were to qualify for the playoffs? Mathematically it could happen.

In the National League, seven teams are in serious wild-card contention with all three division leaders having comfortable margins.

For all the drama – is it really manufactured drama? – in the wild-card races I think of perhaps the greatest pennant race in history, that being 1967 in the American League when five of the then 10 teams in the league were alive in September, but only one would survive.

For much of that tumultuous summer, the Red Sox, White Sox, Twins, Tigers and Angels were all packed at the top. The Angels were the first to drop out, then with over a week remaining the White Sox’s woeful offense finally wore down their marvelous pitching staff led by Gary Peters and Joel Horlen.

I remember it vividly because I spent that summer in New England and started following the Red Sox on the radio at night. My Indians, of course, were like the present day Mets and well on the outside.

The Red Sox, Twins and Tigers were alive heading into the final weekend. Carl Yastrzemski’s Sox and Harmon Killebrew’s Twins would eliminate one of those teams. All three were alive the final day. Boston eliminated the Twins early, then had to wait until the Tigers lost the second game of a double-header before clinching.

There have been many great pennant races, but for the amount of teams involved, that one had the most.

It’s not the same intensity when so many are involved for a play-in game.

If the old, no-division format were in place today, the Nationals and Reds would be having a great race, with the Braves and Giants on the fade.

The American League would have a spicier race with the Rangers, Athletics, Yankees and Orioles within five games of each other. That combination would give 1967 a run for its money.

Perhaps, because I was a kid and was just developing my passion for baseball

the 1967 race stands out. But nearly four decades later, it is still special reading about it.It is one for the ages.