Feb 02

Today In Mets History: Traded For Santana

In 2008, the Mets pulled off one of the most stunning trades in franchise history with the acquisition of Johan Santana from the Minnesota Twins in exchange for prospects Deolis GuerraCarlos GomezPhilip Humber and Kevin Mulvey.

SANTANA: Became a Met today (AP)

SANTANA: Became a Met today (AP)

The Yankees and Red Sox were hot at the time after Santana in the free-agent market, but the Twins pitted them against each other until they got fed up and pulled out of the bidding. That opened the door for the Mets, but to seal the deal they were given a negotiating window and signed Santana to a six-year, $137.5 million contract.

It was a pricey deal in terms of salary and prospects, but it was supposed to put them over the top and return them to the playoffs. Santana’s first season was the only one in which the Mets had a winning record.

The fuel behind the trade was a late-season collapse in 2007 in which the Mets blew a seven-game lead with 17 remaining to reveal a lack of pitching. Santana’s best season with the Mets was his first when he went 16-7 with a 2.53 ERA in 34 starts, but underwent knee surgery following the year.

That would be a prelude of things to come, as he never again pitched a full season because of a variety of injuries and missed all of 2011 with a torn shoulder capsule. He returned in 2012 to pitch just 117 innings, but also author the only no-hitter in franchise history.

Santana re-injured his shoulder in spring training of 2013 when he rushed himself and threw against the program laid out for him and needed a second surgery. Santana went 46-34 with a 3.18 ERA during his tenure with the Mets, but his most important statistic was missing a potential 96 starts.

Santana is currently attempting a comeback with Baltimore.

Was it a good trade for the Mets?

In theory, they needed a pitching upgrade, but that wasn’t their only weakness. They especially needed to improve their bullpen. Of the players the Mets gave up, only Gomez became a viable player.

I thought the Mets gave up too much because there was no competition. With the Yankees and Red Sox gone, there was nobody else in the market. Plus, the Twins knew they had to deal him because there was no way they would re-sign him for anything close to what the Mets paid.

Nobody could question Santana’s heart, but I would have spent the money to fill other holes.

Jan 26

Yankees Ready To Spar With Rodriguez

The Yankees fired an interesting salvo in their on-going war with disgraced slugger Alex Rodriguez.

After refusing to hold a “clear-the-air’’ meeting with Rodriguez, the Yankees are reportedly bracing their legal defense to prevent him from collecting on any of the $30 million in bonuses he would get from his 2007 marketing agreement with the team.

RODRIGUEZ: Facing more legal hassles.

RODRIGUEZ: Facing more legal hassles.

Good for them, even though they are sure to lose.

With six more homers he will tie Willie Mays (660) for fourth place on the career list, which would be worth $6 million. He would also get $6 million for tying Babe Ruth (714), Hank Aaron (755), Barry Bonds (762) and passing Bonds.

Naturally, the basis for their argument is Rodriguez’s involvement with steroids. It would be a worthwhile fight except for several flaws, namely the Yankees knew what they were getting into when they signed him, and then re-signed him.

However, their case would carry greater weight if they were to sue him for money already paid and to get out of the contract entirely, which has three years and $61 million remaining.

Proving they had no knowledge about steroids would be difficult because it is largely assumed Major League Baseball was aware of steroid use as far back as 1998, when we were “treated,’’ to the home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.

Going this way would undoubtedly reopen old wounds and possibly create new ones. Personally, I would like to see them go that route regardless of the fallout because maybe all the truth would come out.

 

Jan 09

Pedro Martinez Compares Mets Fans to Yankees Fans

It wasn’t a shot at the Mets as much as it was an assessment as to how things really are between the Mets and Yankees in New York.

Pedro Martinez pitching for the Mets was a big deal, but him starting against the Yankees while with the Red Sox was an event.

“Coming over to the Mets really got me to understand the New York fans and fan base,’’ Martinez said. “I would say Queens is a little bit different than the Yankees fans. In Queens, they’re wild, they’re happy. They settle for what they have. The Yankees fans do not. It’s `Win or nothing. Win or nothing.’ ’’

He’s right. There’s a sense of entitlement from Yankees fans. Mets fans take was ownership gives them.

Martinez won 15 games his first season with the Mets in 2005, but injuries sapped his following years with New York. In 2009 he pitched against the Yankees in the World Series while with Philadelphia.

“I learned a lot while coming over to New York as a visitor with the Red Sox and also coming later on and dressing in the uniform of the Mets,’’ said Martinez. “Yankees fans were really good at trying to intimate you as a Red Sock when you came over.

“As the opposition, they wanted to intimidate you. But deep in their heart, they appreciate baseball. They appreciate everything that you do. They recognize greatness.

“And they’re gonna boo you and they’re gonna call you, ‘Who’s your daddy?’ They’re going to chant until you just go away.’’

The operative word in all that is “settle,’’ and he’s right. For the longest time Mets fans were forced to settle, to accept what ownership and management gave them.

And, it hasn’t always been good.

Jan 04

Citi Field Expensive; Mets Must Groom Future Fans

Eventually, the shine comes off newest houses, which is something the Mets are learning about Citi Field, which has never been the home the franchise had hoped.

Citi Field hasn’t given the Mets a home-field advantage both on the field and in the stands, with attendance gradually declining since it opened in 2009 at 38,941 per game.

Last season, the Mets drew 26,528, as they learned what the Blue Jays, White Sox and Orioles – teams that made up the first wave of the new stadium construction – found out. They’ll come if you build it, but they won’t come again if you don’t win.

They also learned that in Texas, Houston and Cleveland.

Fans are willing to pay for the novelty of a new stadium, but the real attraction is the product on the field, and in that regard the Mets have been a disappointment.

I started thinking of this after reading a report from sports marketing publisher Team Marketing Report, which noted the Fan Cost Index increased 2.3 percent last year to $212.46, with Citi Field the seventh most expensive at $229.68.

The index measures the cost of this odd shopping list: four average-priced tickets, two small draft beers, four small soft drinks, four (regular-sized) hot dogs, parking for one car, two programs and the two least expensive hats.

Baseball used to call itself “a bargain in comparison to other professional sports,’’ and it used to be true. Nothing is inexpensive anymore, including going to the movies.

Of course, a stadium in New York figures to be expensive (the Yankees are second at $337.20 and Fenway Park is an astronomical $350.78), and you can knock that price down by going on bargain nights, skipping the programs and hats.

However, the Mets don’t make it easy for the fan. For example, it would be nice if the Mets allowed you to bring your own food into the ballpark, but I don’t know of any team that allows it.

I understand the economics of it – the same principles explain player contracts – but the costs of the going to a baseball game is something the keepers of the sport should be more aware of in developing its future fan base.

Attendance has been up in recent years, but much of this can be attributed to new stadium construction, built for the large part with taxpayer funding.

However, the gravy train can’t last forever and the Mets must be aware of grooming the next generation of fans – and ticket buyers.

Dec 29

NFL Gets It When It Comes To Scheduling; MLB Missing Boat

As I watched the NFL yesterday on the Red Zone – sports for those with ADHD – it came to me how much Major League Baseball could learn from football when it comes to scheduling.

All of yesterday’s games were played within the division, which illustrates a major flaw in baseball’s scheduling. There were ten games that had some kind of playoff implications, whether it was winning the division or playoff seeding.

Conversely, the Mets ended their season with an interleague game against Houston. Regular readers of this blog know I am vehemently against interleague play, but in particular on Opening Day and in September.

There was an interleague game nearly every day of the season, including two for home openers and eight series in September. How can you legitimately promote pennant races with that many September interleague series?

MLB would be wise if its September schedule, or at least the last three weeks of it, were played within the division. The Mets’ 2015 September interleague series is against the Yankees. If neither team is in the race then there could be a lot of empty seats at Citi Field.

Another thing the NFL does I like with its schedule is the opening week. Clearly, the NFL wrestled the “magic’’ of an Opening Day from baseball with its Thursday night game featuring the Super Bowl champion.

Baseball’s Opening Day used to highlight Washington – the team in the nation’s capital – and Cincinnati, the oldest franchise, the day before everybody else.

This past season, the first regular season game was played in March, while another team was still in its exhibition schedule. There have been other times, notably when the Yankees and Rays went to Japan, when the season openers were played abroad and those teams returned to complete their exhibition schedule.

Opening Day used to be special, now it’s a hodge-podge. The NFL gets it when it comes to scheduling while MLB is falling short.