Dec 02

Dickey Remains Mets’ Priority As Winter Meetings Open

They’ll start showing up today for the Winter Meetings, and when they do, the Mets will have a lot on their plate, but little hope of cleaning it.

Their first priority, now that David Wright is done, will be to extend R.A. Dickey’s contract. Dickey prefers three years, but would take two if the dollars are higher. You can bet Dickey’s agents will point to the $12-million, one-year deal the Yankees offered Andy Pettitte.

DICKEY: Do you trade a Cy Young winner?

Although Dickey is the Cy Young Award winner, he’s still only done it for one season at a high level, while Pettitte has over 200 victories and is regarded as one of the game’s best postseason pitchers.

While they are trying to re-sign Dickey, the Mets will also be exploring the trade market for him. However, considering Dickey’s age, career productivity and that many still regard the knuckleball as a gimmick pitch, the Mets might not get in return what they’d like.

Any team trading for him would likely want the chance to negotiate an extension, but their apprehensions would be the same as the Mets. Dickey’s best option might be to take the most money he can in a one-year deal – which would still set him for life – and enter the market next year.

The Mets’ next priorities are to build their outfield and bullpen, and bolster their catching.

There are four name outfielders, of which the Mets have no shot at any of them. Josh Hamilton has the greatest upside, but also the most baggage. The Rangers won’t give him a five-year plus contract, but could offer substantially less and see if he’ll turn his life around.

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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 20

Should Mets Emulate Yankees’ Deal And Sell Parts Of SNY?

The Yankees, as usual, are on the cutting edge of things and recent news of them selling off parts of the YES Network to News Corporation (owner of FOX Sports) has me wondering if the Mets should do the same with SNY.

Under the terms of the deal, the Yankees would still own the majority percentage and therefore have control over the programming, which includes the Brooklyn Nets. When the Yankees launched YES in 2001, it was valued at $800 million. Today it is reportedly worth $3 billion and the Yankees would receive $270 million.

Say hello to Josh Hamilton?

The Yankees would also have buy-back options and opportunities to make more money later. As long as they maintain the greater shares – with the provision the minority owners can’t merge to form the majority – they will be in great shape. Hell, even if they aren’t the majority owners, who will want to tinker with the Yankees’ programming? It would be beyond dumb.

The Yankees weren’t the first team to have a regional network (the Braves, Red Sox and Cubs did at the time, but their brand was more valuable). Interestingly, the Dodgers attempted such a deal with FOX, but Bud Selig wouldn’t allow it and forced the sale by owner Frank McCourt. The Dodgers were eventually sold to the Magic Johnson group for $2 billion.

Obviously, the Mets can’t cut a similar deal with News Corp., but there is CBS, NBC and COMCAST. There are several dance partners available for a major deal. Another option would be to sell minority shares of SNY to several investors.

A Mets’ deal wouldn’t make as much as the Yankees, but they should net enough to take care of their debts, including the settlement from the Madoff ruling.

It makes me wonder why the Mets would do this. They would still maintain control of SNY’s programming and their team. They just wouldn’t have the whole pie.

Everything the Mets do screams of financial distress. They did receive a favorable ruling in the Madoff case, but don’t have to pay anything for two more years. That ruling could keep the handcuffs on for several more years and possibly preclude them from being aggressive in the free-agent market for another five years, which could have them at the end of an extension with David Wright, assuming they get that done.

I don’t know many Mets fans who are happy these days, and probably none who would accept five or more years of austerity until they are ready to compete.

What the Mets are planning with SNY only they know, but they might do themselves some good if they look at the Bronx.

Nov 13

Will Trading Dickey Really Help The Mets?

The latest speculation has the Mets shopping R.A. Dickey for a power hitter, but I wonder if it would really improve them, both in 2013 and/or the future.

I don’t know what the Mets could actually get for Dickey, because there are some red flags for a team interested. Let’s face it, he’s a knuckleballer and there’s still a stigma that it’s a gimmick pitch hard to control. And, last year was his best at age 38, and want to bet some teams believe that to be a fluke?

DICKEY: Would the Mets really benefit by trading him? (AP)

It’s not fair, but such thinking does exist.

Another factor is that Dickey is not signed beyond 2013. Any team that deals for him would have to be given an opportunity to negotiate with him, and if he’s determined to be a free agent that won’t be a breeze. I also don’t see many teams trading a young slugger for a 38-year-old pitcher, who, before last season was a journeyman.

If Dickey is dealt – and last year wasn’t a fluke – then the Mets’ rotation would be considerably weaker. Johan Santana broke down at the end of last year and I’m not counting on him pitching to the worth of $25 million. Jon Niese is a No. 3 starter until he proves otherwise and if Santana falters he would move to No. 1. Dillion Gee is coming off surgery and Matt Harvey has a limited resume.

The rotation, save a healthy Santana, is far more potential than proof.

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Nov 13

Manager of the Year: Davey Johnson and Buck Showalter

The Manager of the Year award will be announced this afternoon by the Baseball Writers Association of America. You don’t usually see managers of perennially good teams win the award because they are expected to win. The writers prefer rags-to-riches stories, but sometimes it is harder to win with a bullseye on your back.

I agree with the consensus, which has Washington’s Davey Johnson and Baltimore’s Buck Showalter the heavy favorites.

JOHNSON: As we remember him.

No Mets manager has won the award, which was instituted in 1983, for those wondering about Gil Hodges. San Francisco’s Dusty Baker – who is a candidate – beat out Bobby Valentine in 2000. As far as Johnson in 1986, he probably wasn’t considered after his declaration the Mets “would dominate,’’ that year.

He made no such statement this spring.

NATIONAL LEAGUE: Baker and San Francisco’s Bruce Bochy are also under consideration, but both their teams were recently in the playoffs, with the Giants winning the World Series in 2010.

As for the Nationals, they have been traditionally bad since moving to Washington from Montreal.

The expectations for the Nationals heightened this year with the influx of free-agent Gio Gonzalez, return of pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg and rookie Bryce Harper. The Nationals were considered in some circles to compete for a wild-card, but won 98 games.

Johnson had more to deal with this season than many realized. He’s been more comfortable with veteran teams, but was patient with the young Nationals. And, despite what he thought privately, he handled shutting down Strasburg, which was a controversial decision in the sport.

The Nationals were ousted in five games by St. Louis – Mike Matheny, who replaced Tony La Russa and didn’t have Albert Pujols, should also be considered – but that experience should be something to build on, much like the disappointment of his Mets losing in 1985 to the Cardinals.

AMERICAN LEAGUE: Showalter, who won the award in the 1994 strike season, and Joe Torre in 1996 and 1998 won the award for the Yankees.

American League finalists include Oakland’s Bob Melvin and newcomer Robin Ventura of the White Sox, both with Mets’ ties. Melvin worked in the Mets’ minor league system and interviewed for the job won by Terry Collins, and Ventura played for the team, 1999-2001.

The Orioles hadn’t had a winning season since 1997, coincidentally, the last year Johnson managed the team.

Behind the Yankees, Boston and Tampa Bay, the Orioles were given no chance to win and .500 was the goal. Instead, they won 93 games and took the Yankees to five games in the ALDS.

The Orioles were 29-9 in one-run games and went 16-2 in extra innings, including their last 16. In addition, Baltimore had just a plus-seven runs differential.

Did Showalter do it with mirrors? It seems that way as the Orioles made 178 roster moves involving 52 players; had only one starter make as many as 20; and didn’t have a .300 hitter.

They also prevailed down the stretch without their best hitter, Nick Markakis.

As much as Ventura and Melvin did, Showalter is the clear choice.