Remembering the Good Times With Sandy Alderson

remember-when2The long weekend continues, and while Jimmy and I continue to get a little R&R, the Mets big quest for 90 wins dissipated. Sandy Alderson has tried to backtrack and spin away from the 90 win thing all weekend.

I had a nice hearty laugh when Michael Powell of the Times, who wrote an excellent recap of the current state of affairs with the Mets on Friday, had this to say to Adam Rubin on the “90 wins” topic

Well, Sandy probably does figure we need a reminder, because it has sure been awhile since this team won 90 games. But you know who is really out of touch with what 90 wins feels like? Sandy Alderson.

The last time Alderson was involved with a team that won 90 games was 1992. Since then he was GM of the Oakland A’s for five years (combined record 329-415), President of the Padres five more (combined record 397-414) and now GM of the Mets for almost four tortuous seasons (combined record 288-334.)

That is right, since 1992, Sandy has went to the gate 14 times and had a 90 win team zero times. As horse racing fans know, if you can’t break your maiden in 14 tries you no longer get to race in New York. Well, maybe Finger Lakes.

Sandy the horse

Anyway, now we know that when Sandy mentions 90 wins the context is not about actually accomplishing the feat. It is about reminding people about what he once did, you know, back in the good old days! So, for all of you younger people, let’s look back at that glorious year 1992. Let’s do what Sandy does in staff meetings, and travel down memory lane. What else happened in 1992?

- Bill Clinton was elected to his first term as United States President, beating George (the old one) Bush and Ross Perot

- A gallon of gas cost $1.05

- Prince Charles and Princess Diana seperated

- Wayne’s World (the first one) ruled the box office

- Nirvana ruled the airwaves with “Nevermind”

- Barry Bonds signed baseballs richest contract in history ($4.7 million)

- Jose Canseco rammed his Porsche into wife Esther’s BMW (possibly beginning the phrase, “first world problems”)

- “I’m Too Sexy” by Right Said Fred peaked at #1 on Billboard

- Charges of rape were filed and dropped in Florida against NY Mets Darryl Boston, Vince Coleman, and Dwight Gooden

- President Bush apologized for raising taxes after pledging not to do so

- Oriole Park at Camden Yards opened

- Johnny Carson retired as host of the “Tonight Show”

- John Gotti began a life sentence in jail

- Tom Seaver entered the Hall of Fame

- Canada, Mexico, and the United States announced the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

- Bud Selig became interim commissioner of baseball

- Roseanne Barr Arnold received a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame

- Deion Sanders played for the Atlanta Falcons (NFL) and Braves (Baseball)

- Rene Lachemann was hired as Florida Marlins first manager

- Bobby Fisher beat Boris Spassky to win the Chess title in Belgrade

- Riddick Bowe defeated Evander Holyfield for the heavyweight title

- Amy Fisher was sentenced to 5-15 years for shooting Mary Jo Buttafuoco

- Reds owner Marge Schott apologized for racist remarks

And many more.

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2 Guys Talking: How Best to Build a Team in Baseball’s Next Era? Will the Mets Be Ahead of the Curve?

Mike:

When you watch a team every day it’s easy to lose some perspective. One thing we all have a tendency to do as Mets fans is lament the team’s lack of serious power hitting. But chasing power might be an example of being the coyote chasing the roadrunner. When you look around the game, its way down everywhere.

coyote

Jimmy:

I know that offense is down in general. And obviously we aren’t in the steroid era anymore. But what are the HR numbers across baseball?

Mike:

In the last three years, 2011 – 2013, the average full season Home Run totals per team were as follows:

  • 2011, 152
  • 2012, 164
  • 2013, 155

With the 2014 season very much behind us the current pace is for roughly 142 per team this year (Note: 2014 numbers are as of 8/27.) That 142 number would be the lowest in MLB since 1992, 22 years ago. How much is the drop? Well if you go back a decade the same numbers are as follows:

  • 2001, 182
  • 2002, 169
  • 2003, 174
  • 2004, 182

The difference in the numbers is tantamount to removing a couple of power hitters from every team and replacing them with Ruben Tejada.

Jimmy:

I’m currently reading Matt Tiabbi’s brilliant book, The Divide. But on the side, I’ve been working through Bill James’s latest collection of essays, Fools Rush In. In the first essay, “Dividing Baseball History Into Eras,” he details a long process, or methodology, of attempting to locate clear divisions in baseball history. He does this with great rigor and thought, it’s no arbitrary walk in the park. He found, for example, a total of 366 “dividing events” in baseball history, ranging from, say, the banning of the spitball, to the DH, to the arrival of Ted Williams. He considers such things as artificial turf, the amateur draft, the establishment of a commissioner, the lowering of the mound, and so on. It’s all complex and, yes, this being Bill James, there’s also an elaborate point system.

I say the above only to credit him for thinking about this deeply.

billjames2

James concludes with 6 Eras:

  • Era 1 (The Pioneer Era), 1871-1892
  • Era 2 (The Spitball Era), 1893-1919
  • Era 3 (The Landis Era), 1920-1946
  • Era 4 (The Baby Boomers Era), 1947-1968
  • Era 5 (The Artificial Turf Era), 1969-1992
  • Era 6 (The Camden Yards Era), 1993-2012

James mentions, in passing, that the names could be changed. He doesn’t particularly care what you or I call them: The Cap Anson Era, The Bud Selig Era, the Jackie Robinson Era, The Steroid Era. Whatever.

The interesting thing is, of course, what Era are we in now? Writes James:

Using the six pillars approach, we can assume that we will transition into a new era sometime between now and 2030, but when? We really don’t know where we are with respect to the era that we are in at the present time.

The three markers of sufficient change approach tells us that we are nearing the end of the Bud Selig era, nearing the end of the Camden Yards era, but that we are probably at least five years away from the next line. We are more than ten years into the era — mark one — and the accumulated changes in the game since 1993 total up to 74 points as I have scored them. 

< snip>

There are several things that have happened since this article was first published in June, 2012, that have something of the feel of dividing lines. The re-emegence of the Pittsburgh Pirate franchise and the less dramatic but still notable success of the Kansas City Royals, the Pittsburgh Pirates of the American League, provide some evidence that the era in which small-market teams had little chance to compete may have hit, if not an end, at least an interruption. The re-emergence of the Pirates seems to me like a marker.

The new wild-card system, two wild cards in each league, is certainly a structural divide. The emergence of Mike Trout seems very likely to be a point making 2012 meaningfully different from 2011. Adding all of these together, I don’t think we can conclude that we have entered a new era, but the changes separating us from 1993 are continuing to stack up.

My bet is that James would also look at the change in these power numbers and use them in his point system. Perhaps even as a tipping point.

The next question is obvious: So what? Power is down. What’s the best way to react to that information as it applies to team-building? Do you go after power harder than ever? citi field outfieldOr do you make a shift in how you prioritize baseball’s famed 5 tools? I guess we are talking about market scarcity and valuations. And again, we have to fit any of this into a ballpark that is not kind to power hitters. The global conclusions might not apply to the specific case of the New York Mets in Citi Field.

Mike:

First off, I think real power plays anywhere. The Nationals have no problem hitting home runs in Citi Field. Neither does Lucas Duda. I also think that power retains its value. I haven’t read James book, but I have lived though the last three of those eras.  Home runs have varied over those years, but they have always been very valuable. As you suggest, they actually become more so when scarcer. So, one thought is when doing drafting and developing, targeting power becomes important. On this score, Theo Epstein seems to be ahead of the pack.

We have also discussed the effect that modern shifting is having on the ability to get hits shiftson balls in play. And that only reinforces the value of any power you can find, you can’t shift against the home run. But what else might that suggest? It gets me thinking about the other side of the ball.  If no one can find power, defense goes up in value. That old line, “there is no defense against the three-run home run” gets turned around if there aren’t any three-run home runs. We see, daily, how many runs Juan Lagares is saving with his glove. With relative power decreasing, his value in the field increases, and his relative ability at-bat changes. Juan does not have to hit like Carlos Beltran, because more and more you can’t find anyone who can.

Pitching also needs to be looked at. The dominant pitcher is always valuable, it’s not like Sandy Koufax or Tom Seaver are now scoffed at as products of their times. But when you look at your next tier of talent, perhaps teams need to put more value on pure strike throwers and throw away the gun. More and more balls that are struck are staying in play, and with shifts prevalent those balls are getting caught. You get some defenders on the field, and this advantage magnifies. The trick to success might be to go cheap on pitching, find guys who don’t throw hard but can throw strikes. These pitchers could also go deeper into games due to lower pitch counts (you can’t strike a guy out on one pitch) and save overworked bullpens that burn out by September, making them even more valuable.

Fans need to adjust their brains too. If a number three hitter hits 15 to 20 home runs now, that isn’t necessarily a bad year. The same for a number four guy hitting 25, etc. We also can’t get all worked up about every pitcher with a sub 4.00 ERA.  In 1969 Jim McAndrew had a 3.47 ERA. He was nothing special. Donn Clendenon had 16 HR’s. He was special. It’s all relative.

Don Clendenon

As your quotation of James alludes to baseball is an ever-changing game. The key to success is to adapt to whatever the overall environment becomes. We know the Mets front office values data and analyzes it intensely. Hopefully, as we continue in this new era, the New York Mets will be one of the teams that best understand not just where baseball was, or where it is, but where it is going.

 

 

 

 

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Solving Shortstop: Would Mets Trade for Ruben Tejada Today If He Wasn’t Already on the Team?

peter-gammons-a638e79714dc9fee

Jimmy:

I had a scary thought the other day, Mike. I guess I’d been reading about some potential deals that were in talks last winter, rumors that finally got reported. For example, one that was reported by Peter Gammons involved a trade of Jonathan Niese to Seattle for SS Brad Miller.

Anyway, my thought was this: If Ruben Tejada was on a different team, I wondered if Sandy Alderson would trade for him. Because I think he’s exactly the caliber of guy the Mets are looking for, and I suspect that’s the type of guy they will finally land.

Mike:

No wonder he never trades! You have now made me grateful for that.

Jimmy:

Seriously, though. Given the Mets team budget — I know, I know, it’s so defeatist to start from that point — I think any thoughts of a “big bat” are mostly fantasy, unless the Mets unload Colon and, perhaps, Murphy too. It’s just hard to see how there’s room to spend serious money.

Last winter, I believe that Sandy had his initial sights on Jhonny Peralta until the price tag scared the bejeezus out of him. I honestly think that the market caught Alderson off guard. After that, it was a mad scramble, which is not exactly a Sandy Alderson strength. He’s a slow-and-steady kind of guy, specializing in the long slog.

tumblr_lpp61oh3jk1qe6axfWhile I expect the Mets to be publicly “interested” in the high-profile free agent shortstops this winter, J.J. Hardy and Jed Lowrie, I don’t think they have the money. And also, I don’t think that Sandy Alderson believes in spending his resources that way. Too much money, for too many years, for an uncertain return.

I think he wants young and controllable. A guy they can afford. Because, you know, that’s the deal with the Mets these days. It’s more of a priority than ever before.

Mike:

When he gets a nickel or two to spend he doesn’t hoard it. Granderson, Colon, Chris Young, etc. But you can’t spend what you don’t have. So, given that I don’t think they can afford anyone, that leaves young guys, or the bargain bin.

Jimmy:

Let’s focus on Miller for a moment. Though, I guess, we could easily throw in Nick Franklin, who was also linked to Mets’ “interest.”

Brad Miller.

Brad Miller.

 

Brad Miller is 23 years old, a 2nd round pick out of HS in the 2011 draft. He is arbitration eligible in 2017, a free agent in 2020. Perfect. Here are his ML stats:

  • 2013: 306 AB * .265/.318/.418 * 109 OPS+
  • 2014: 310 AB * .200/.277/.329 * 73 OPS+

Obviously, Miller has had a disappointing season. He raked throughout his minor league career, however, showing a high walk-rate and low K-numbers. His defense, as far as I can tell, appears to be around average. Erratic, but a true shortstop. By most any measure, Miller is a promising prospect who has either hit a bump in the road . . . or been somewhat exposed.

Mike:

Only time will tell. Travis d’Arnaud looked like he might be exposed earlier this year. Now, not so much. But absolutely, many of these guys flame out.

Jimmy:

Nick Franklin is also 23 years old, a 1st round pick from the 2009 draft. His career path is quite similar to Miller’s, though a notch below.

  • 2013: 369 AB * .225/.303/.382 * 95 OPS+
  • 2014:  47 AB * .128/.192/.170 * 5 OPS+
Nick Franklin.

Nick Franklin.

Franklin hit pretty well in the minors, though the glove comes into question. He’s probably not a shortstop. It’s hard not to think about Wilmer Flores as a comp.

My point is, though there’s talk of matching up with the Cubs, these are the kinds of guys Sandy seems to be targeting.

Mike:

I don’t see the match, unless the Mets are posturing. I just don’t get the feel that the team is willing to part with enough pitching to get anything done. Those Cubs prospects are some of the highest-rated prospects in the game. It will take a lot of young talent going back to pry any of those guys away. I’m also not so sure they are looking to trade. I know I wouldn’t be very quick to trade a hitting prospect right now. Strong young pitching is important, but you see it everywhere. Not so with hitters these days.

Mostly, I think the Mets are hoarding their young pitching because it is young and cheap and they don’t want to spend at all.

Jimmy:

Well, yes. If they trade Bartolo, I have a hard time seeing them trading one of the young guys, too. I keep thinking that Noah Syndergaard is the guy to move, but that’s a topic for another day. A lot of this speaks to your theory that this is the land where the Mets are now living. Sandy will put together a fair team, build around affordable pitching, and then throw a few darts in the air — AKA, Chris Young — hoping he gets lucky.

Mike:

Yes, I really believe that is the closest thing to a “Plan” and 2014 was the first attempt. So far, Sandy is 0-1 as an archer. I don’t think the owners are willing to spend enough to put the team in the market for safer moves. You have to pay a premium for that.

Jimmy:

And “safer” is not always better, as we learn anew each season. There are no sure things in baseball. This brings me back to Ruben Tejada. Forget, for a moment, that he’s ever been a Met. He’s 24 years old, eligible for free agency in 2018. In his ML career, he’s slashed .253/.328/.313. Career OPS+ of 81. It’s been so long since he’s spent time in the minors, that Tejada’s minor league stats don’t mean anything. Obviously, Ruben does not have the upside of Miller or Franklin, but he’s not that far from what those guys might actually provide.

I guess my question to you, Mike, is this: What do you think Sandy is looking for in a shortstop?

Mike:

I don’t know, in fact, I’m less sure than ever that he is looking at all. I would not be shocked to see Tejada at short on Opening Day 2015. In fact I can almost hear Sandy singing it:

“And the eagle flies with the dove
Sometimes you can’t be with the one you love, honey
Love the one you’re with
You gotta love the one you’re with!”

Jimmy:

Well, in some ways, that’s great news. We won’t have to trade for him! And by the way, the more he sits, and the more Wilmer plays, the better Ruben looks. Wait, hold on a minute. Look at this guy’s numbers (below). That’s ML experience and he won’t be a free agent for another 7 years! Terrific BB/K ratio and, at only 21, he’s bound to get better, surely! Sandy is certain to trade for this one:

  • 2011:  328 AB * .284/.360/.335 * 97 OPS+

Oh, wait. My bad. That 21-year-old is Ruben Tejada, and we’d need to travel back in time in order to get him. If, you know, we wanted to use a time machine in that way.

mlb_u_reyes_gb1_576

Or maybe, like with 1B this year, we’ll open Spring Training with a Battle Royale for shortstop, involving Ruben Tejada, Wilmer Flores, and Matt Reynolds. May the least-worst man win! We can try the classic triple-headed approach, with Wilmer and Matt battling it out for the Josh Satin role. The best thing about it: the focus turns to LF and maybe . . . just maybe . . . that’s where the club can make a deal.

 

 

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The Lucas Duda Story: Don’t Give Credit Where it is Not Due

New York Mets at Milwaukee Brewers

I want to start today’s post pointing out that I did not think Lucas Duda had this level of play in him. If you go through our archives I liked Duda, and liked his bat, but I didn’t love it. It turns out it is love worthy, and I am thrilled to see Lucas Duda hitting the way he is.

What I am not thrilled with is when I am subjected to a beat reporter, or Gary Cohen, or hell, anyone, attempting to use Lucas’ ascension as some positive referendum on Sandy Alderson. Lucas Duda is a daily reminder of the problem we have with Alderson, who throws away seasons with indecision. Going with Lucas Duda over Ike Davis at first base was not a hard call, it was an easy one, and it needed to be made much earlier than it was. Here is what I wrote, word for word, on June 13, 2013, the day after we moved Murphy to first base and left Duda to continue to rot in the outfield. Me, a guy who wasn’t real sure about Lucas Duda.

See, Ike Davis needs to be done here. It’s so clear I should not have to explain it but I will anyway. This is not the first time; it’s the second time Ike has phoned in the first half of the year. Two years in a row. The saying is fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. There is no third time in the saying for a reason. Who in their right mind would allow themselves to be fooled three times? This idea that Ike can go to Vegas, come back, and become a sellable commodity to Mets fans is insanity. It’s over, it didn’t work out, turn the page already. Davis is arbitration eligible. They are going to tender this guy and risk losing the case? Really? Then spend the entire offseason convincing the few fans left that Ike is going to hit in April and May in 2014? Does anyone involved with this team understand they are selling a product?

In the meantime we also have Lucas Duda. Maybe Duda can hit enough to play a decent first base while we wait, and wait, and wait for some of Sandy’s protégé to “climb” through the system. We know there isn’t anything in Vegas or Binghamton that will help. We also know poor Lucas is not an outfielder. So the only position he can possibly play opens up and we move our second baseman? I’m just not following.

It’s all right there, almost a year before Sandy finally did something. My strong language should be noted, that is my point today. This was a no brainer decision. It was obvious that:

1. Ike Davis was done around here

2. Lucas Duda can not play the outfield

lucas-duda (1)

Yet Davis was brought back and stole more valuable playing time from Lucas Duda, who ended up sent to Triple A! Next an entire winter was wasted when Davis, who was arbitration eligible, was tendered a contract. Wait, there is more. A crazy spring training contest was announced to find a first baseman, because nothing is more important in judging talent than meaningless games. But both guys got hurt in Spring Training and we hydraentered 2014 with the two guys still around, plus Josh Satin, and a hydra-headed platoon was installed. All of which was finally, mercifully ended only when Davis was dumped to Pittsburgh for a pitcher who will not be old enough to drink until August 2016.

The emergence of Lucas Duda might be the most important positive development associated with the 2014 New York Mets. What it is not is a positive referendum on this management team. Every Duda home run is the opposite, it is a reminder of how much time this group wasted on Ike Davis when it was as clear as the nose on your face he had to go.

Sandy Alderson has done some good things, the Dickey trade standing out right now. We pointed out positives associated with the Mets years under Alderson two weeks ago. But the process of picking a first baseman has been shameful, there is no honor in taking this long to make an easy decision.

Precious time was wasted, and time frames matter.

 

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Weekend Roundup: Another Long Weekend With the 2014 Mets

Jake

I don’t want to be totally negative, so I will lead off today with a few positive thoughts that entered my mind this weekend about the Mets. I couldn’t get my glass all the way to half full, so if you are not in the mood to be bummed out you can stop reading about two bullet points in.

- Cool to see Jacob deGrom back on the mound, and throwing 96 MPH fastballs. A healthy deGrom will add a small measure of fun to the remaining proceedings. Two more hits from Jake too. It’s not quite “Harvey Day,” but deGrom starts have a little more fun attached to them.

- Wow, Lucas Duda just keeps hitting home runs. Thirty has quickly gone from possible to likely. When you consider how little power is being exhibited all over the game, Duda has become a very valuable member of the team. It will be interesting to see what he gets in arbitration.

- Word is Bartolo Colon has been put on waivers to test possible trade waters. Considering that anything we get in return will most likely not be helpful in the current or intermediate term, I can’t get excited about that. As for the money, the payroll is already a joke. Saving money on existing players should not be a priority around this team anymore. That goes double for Murphy. The team cannot hit, how can we withstand the loss of any hitting? That these are the names most rumored to move on is sad and pathetic. Also, most likely, they are accurate assessments. Yuck.

- A Cuban player named Rusney Castillo signed with the Red Sox. I have no idea whether he would have been a good idea or a bad idea for the Mets. It has gotten to the point now where I have reached the last step, acceptance. New York is now a small market, and we cannot be expected to pursue any high-priced players.

- Acceptance for me does not include support. The constant middle finger from everyone associated with this team has really had an effect on me. I watch on TV, but I have hardly gone to any games this season. I have never in my life attended fewer games than I will attend in 2014. It’s so hard. A lot of fans, and believe me I have a tremendous amount of respect for these fans, tell me fans should support the team no matter what. This has always been my stance; it’s not like the Mets have been a winner every year since 1962. Far from it. But now there is the additional problem of the owners, who are just disgusting folks. And I’m not a kid, I’m a grown man with a financial background who fully understands that every dollar I spend in support of the Mets accrues to these cretins. Damn it all.

- Now for “how bad is it?” A lot of my older friends have used the late ’70s as a barometer, telling me, “at least it isn’t as bad as then.” I don’t see it that way at all. I feel the current situation is worse, way worse than it was then. The deRoulet girls were out of their league, and M. Donald Grant was a very cheap and grouchy old guy. But that lasted for just a few years and they went off on their way; they all figured out they couldn’t handle being in charge of the New York Mets. Joan Payson passed away in 1975 and by 1980 it was all over and a new owner was in place. This slog has gone on longer, and seems to have no end in sight.

M. Donald Grantterry-collins-and-sandy-alderson-watch-bp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have a good day.

 

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Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off

89369815-hospital-patient-in-body-cast-gettyimages

A lot of fans have been calling for the Mets to shut down Jenrry Mejia before he injures himself farther. The calf, the hernia, the back. Enough already.

And others look at David Wright — baseball’s saddest player, and the face of the Mets franchise — and say, hey, let’s give that shoulder a break. The poor guy looks so lost.

Jake deGrom dodged a bullet with the tendonitis, but he’s near his innings limit anyway. Why push our luck? Why continue, you know? What’s the point?

St. Louis Cardinals v New York MetsDo we really need the sad, pathetic spectacle of a Bobby Abreu call-up in September? Has an organization ever been this tone deaf to the fans?

And to all this I say, let’s call the whole thing off.

Football season is heating up. There’s some new television shows premiering. I have to clean my oven, or my gutters, or clean something. And maybe we need to get the focus on our own damn kids are a month or two.

What’s the point of playing these games anyway? Why bother?

Can’t we just cancel?

You know, “with regrets.”

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2 Guys Talking: Can Winning Baseball and Terry Collins Co-Exist?

terry-collins1-400x268

Mike:

A few weeks back, for no good reason that I can think of, various sources around the Mets indicated that Terry Collins will return again in 2015. What am I missing here? What has transpired to-date in 2014, or hell, 2011, 2012, or 2013, to justify this decision?

Jimmy:

Absolutely nothing. The generous reading is that he never had a chance to win anyway, and that winning was never a “priority,” so he can’t be measured by that yardstick.

Mike:

I could buy off on that the first three years. But it’s August and this team is eight games under .500. And in general, things have broken pretty well for this team. No major injuries, in general the full roster has been available.

When it comes to managers, hell, not just managers, but life overall, I believe in looking at the big picture. I’m a lazy guy. The big picture is Terry Collins has been the manager four years and every one of those years has been miserable. I know you analyze Collins more actively on a move-by-move basis. I haven’t been seeing a lot of days where you give him a passing grade.

Jimmy:

You know, like a lot of fans, I think along with the game and wonder about player moves. terry-collins-and-sandy-alderson-watch-bpTerry hasn’t impressed me on that score, but that’s never been my real focus with him. I don’t love the way he handles players in general. But actually, on this issue, I’m with you in terms of the big picture. He’s not getting anything done — he’s never succeeded as a manager — and he’s the oldest manager in baseball. Let’s move on.

Mike:

If he has redeeming qualities that are not evident to folks that are in front of the curtain, why don’t any of his teams overachieve? Is that the message from management, that this team would be worse without Collins? I find that scary, the idea that Terry Collins is the only thing stopping the Mets from falling into the total abyss.

Jimmy:

He’s lost four seasons in a row. At this moment, his record stands:

  • 2011: 77-85
  • 2012: 74-88
  • 2013: 74-88
  • 2014: 59-67
  • Total: 284-328

He is stained, bloodied by a legacy of loses. He stinks of sad news conferences and poor excuses. Fair, unfair, who cares. It’s time to open the windows. It’s time to demand better.

Mike:

That’s what bothers me. I’ve mentioned this before, in this team’s long history no manger Dallas Greenhas endured more losing seasons and survived. During that history, there have been plenty of eras where the major league talent was terry-625bad. Gil Hodges and Bobby Valentine led the Mets to major turnarounds shortly after being hired. It’s hard for me to believe that either would have occurred if Wes Westrum or Dallas Green had remained in place.

Jimmy:

As you noted before, Sandy is the Honey Badger of GMs. He doesn’t give a shit what the fans think. Honestly, I am seriously waiting on Jeff Wilpon to step in and say, “Enough already.” Yes, that’s how bad it has gotten.

Mike:

Bringing back Terry Collins is the first signal to a fan base begging for change. The signal is that nothing is going to change. It’s signal that nobody, from the Wilpon family on down, has any commitment to success on the field.

It’s not a new message, it has been loud and clear that this was the case since the day Collins was hired. He has done his job, stood out front and taken the daily heat associated with fronting a losing organization. Nothing on his resume suggests he is equipped to handle anything more than that. It leaves me wondering when winning will return as a goal for the Mets.

This first indicator is that it isn’t yet part of “the Plan.”

Jimmy:

It’s boring to say this, and I don’t mean to hijack the post, but once again it all comes down to ownership. Without adding financial resources — even if it’s just the ability to take on salary in a trade — I don’t see how the Mets can retain Murphy and upgrade LF and SS. Even a good, conservative plan will only carry this franchise so far. Attendance is down, again. Revenues are way down, deservedly. These guys don’t deserve our money; they have not earned it. The experiment has failed. The fans will not come until ownership puts some money behind the team. Likewise, we’re sick to death of Terry Collins and the culture of excuses. This is Chris Young all over again. Waiting out the inevitable, wasting time, flushing another year, when so much more is possible and necessary in the Here & Now.

Mike:

I like that phrase, the culture of excuses. A year ago, when Matt Harvey went down, we discussed the fear we associated with that injury. That it would be one more excuse embraced by a group that is more interested in justifying failure than in winning. Every obstacle is used as an explanation, and never a motivation. This is why there is so much conflict between the team and Harvey. Harvey is all about removing obstacles and beating expectations. This Mets front office is all about accepting them, hell, embracing them.

Terry Collins is Exhibit A.

New York Mets v Miami Marlins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Let’s Rename Citi Field (But “Factory of Sadness” Is Already Taken)

Citi-Field-Ground-Breaking

Scott Rabb wrote a lengthy article in the recent issue of Esquire outlining the long, painful history of the Cleveland Browns franchise, “God Still Hates Cleveland.” In it, he credits comedian Mike Polk for renaming FirstEnergy Stadium, “The Factory of Sadness.” I did a little digging and found this origin video, only 70 seconds long, in which Polk rages outside the stadium. It’s funny, heartfelt, well-filmed, and oh so familiar.

As Mets fans, we could just take Polk’s text, change a few proper nouns (underlined below), and it fits like a glove. -

“Hey, Mets. [Fill in your name here], season ticket holder. . . Well, thank God, we built you! What a blessing for the community. You are wasting valuable space on our majestic shoreline and what do we get out of it from you? Ten miserable games a year, including two preseason games that I have to pay for, and one shitty Boyz to Men concert. You understand that it is actually statistically harder for a team to be this consistently bad than it is for them to occasionally, accidentally be good. The probability is staggering! Did sad-mr-metyou happen to see that Detroit/Tampa Bay game today? It’s like they are playing a different sport than you are. And here’s what you have to understand: We don’t even expect you to be good, we just want you to be watchable. Do you have any idea how low our expectations are? We don’t expect you to win the World Series, we just want you to look better than a Division III High School team. And listen, I know that there are way more important things in life than baseball, but you are supposed to be our pleasant distraction from those things. But all we do is pay you money to put us in a bad mood every day. You are a Factory of Sadness!”

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Do you remember the excitement about this still-not-yet-beloved stadium. Finally, we thought, an upgrade over battered, broken-down Shea Stadium, vessel of the near-sum of our Mets memories. We had hopes and aspirations for this new home. But look what’s its been so far.

 

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Citi-Field

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Across six seasons, the Mets have lost more games at home than they have won, a woeful 224-244 record. During the slog of the Sandy Alderson Era, Citi Field has seen the Mets play uninspiring baseball to the tune of a 136-170 record. (Before Alderson, the Mets’ Citi Field record was 88-74.) So I ask you, what should we be calling Citi Field? How about, Hall of Tormented Souls?

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Please submit your suggestions in the comments section below. And if any of you folks would like to remake Mike Polk’s video — come on Mettle, you can do this! — or just create a new Mets-specific rant, I’d love to see it and share it here. Wouldn’t it be great if dozens of fans, hundreds of fans, did it? Thousands of fans! All of us wearing our expensive jerseys?

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The New Mets Tradition: Doggedly Bad Dog Days in August

travel-suitcaseStarting on Friday, I got out of town for a long weekend, returning Monday afternoon. My basic plan included checking out on the Mets. After three dreadful games against the Nationals I figured I would feel better about the team after some time apart from them. With distance would come some perspective. I thought it would make me more cheery about the future. When I returned I found the opposite had occurred. The time away from daily games allowed for a little more reflection about the overall condition of the franchise. The more I thought about the team, the worse I felt about them. Without those “little moments” that Mettle discussed so well I was left with nothing but the overall mess. Oh boy.

It’s pretty clear by now that 2014 is another big waste. In a baseball world where any team with a pulse gets to play meaningful September baseball the Mets are done in August. This is now an annual event. It really is incredible, in a negative way. Considering how many teams make the playoffs it really takes a certain kind of genius to not be able to figure out a way to sniff them six years and running. But I’ve flogged all responsible plenty of other times around these parts; I see no reason to do so again today. We all know the culprits, and the issues, it’s all very easy to figure out.

What is harder to figure out is why I should muster any optimism that things will ever improve. The owners stay on, and give no indication that they have any intention to MLB: New York Mets at San Diego Padrescommit any real financial resources to the cause. The GM and manager are decked up to stay on too. The team loses every year because the offense is putrid, but there isn’t an exciting hitter anywhere in the system. All we need, the current optimistic mantra goes, are a couple of players. Sure, but they need to be great players, better than any in the current lineup. I look and look, but don’t see anything like that in our system.

When I returned home Monday, the team was in the process of losing to the Cubs. Like the Mets, the Cubs are a bad team right now. But unlike the Mets there was a real purpose to their rebuilding efforts. Everywhere you look Chicago has prospects we can only dream about:

  • Arismendy Alcantara, age 22, who hit 10 HR’s in 335 ABs in Iowa before his call up.
  • Javier Baez, age 21, who hit 24 HR’s in Iowa before his call up.
  • Kris Bryant, age 22 already at 18 HR’s in Iowa in 196 ABs.
  • Jorge Soler, age 22, with “only” 12 HR’s in 177 ABs.
  • Addison Russell, age 20, with 9 HR’s in 148 Double A ABs since being acquired by Chicago.

Who can the Mets match this with? The Mets, having written off another season, take a good hard look at Matt den Dekker and Wilmer Flores hoping that maybe they can be a fourth outfielder and utility infielder someday. And that’s . . . it. And yes, I didn’t forget, pitchers, we do have pitching prospects, at both the major and minor league level. Well, I’m happy we have them, I’m happy we have something, but baseball has entered a new era. Quality pitchers are everywhere you look. The key to winning is to find offense.

It’s not just the Cubs either. The Marlins, who started their current rebuilding effort in 2011, boast a major league outfield of Giancarlo Stanton, age 24, Marcell Ozuna, age 22, and Christian Yelich, age 22. You can find that Marlins team up above us in the standings, as they have effectively reloaded and passed us right by. The Marlins payroll, by the way, is $45.8 million dollars in 2014.

Giancarlo-Stanton

Now, time will tell if the Cubs prospects flame out, and Jeffry Loria has pulled the wool out from under his own efforts before. But right now at least their fans can dream a little. We have the present, and the hope that our front office, which has mostly dithered for four full years, will leap into action to address crater like holes. All with the full support and commitment of a Wilpon ownership group.

Forgive me if I’m not excited.

sleepy03

 

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19 Quick Observations on the NY Mets: Wheeler, d’Arnaud, deGrom, den Dekker, Conforto, Montero, etc.

The Chairman of MLB's Playing Rules Committee goes over the unnecessarily confusing new plate-blocking rules with the staff.

The Chairman of MLB’s Playing Rules Committee goes over the unnecessarily confusing new plate-blocking rules with the staff.

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* The plate-blocking rules are a disaster. How can they have screwed this up so bad? Who is the Chairman of the Playing Rules Committee anyway? (Oops, sorry Sandy!) For baseball’s sake, I really hope it doesn’t become “the topic” during a playoff game. Everyone is confused by the lack of clarity.

* Over the last four home baseball games, the Mets have totaled 15 hits, never exceeding 4 hits in any game. It’s impressive — in a way — that they managed to win two of those contests. Not a lot to cheer for, however.

* I am glad to finally see Terry Collins stretch out Josh Edgin a bit more; I hated to see him reduced to a nearly-useless Scott Rice role just because he’s left-handed. Josh’s L/R splits are not bad at all.

* Eric Campbell is the new Mike Baxter, except that he’s more versatile, and therefore has some value. I guess.

* I wonder if it’s time to extend Murphy’s contract . . . or if the Mets must come to terms with the payroll situation. After all, the Blue Jays traded David Price. Wilmer Flores just turned 23, and Dilson Herrera should be ready in a year. Murphy’s status will be an acid test for the entire organization.

080413mets-dngnk-1* For Zack Wheeler, the hitters are rarely, if ever, the problem.

* Terry Collins is not equipped to bring a team to the finish line. Nothing in his history indicates that he would be. He was a good transitional guy, but not the jockey you want to ride on Secretariat. Extending his contract at this time is a bad move. Unless, well, you begin to consider the devil we don’t know. Because there’s no way on earth that Sandy picks Wally as his guy.

* Travis d’Arnaud is not a great defensive catcher. It’s a struggle back there, he flounders at times, but I think the defense is acceptable enough. The bat plays.

* Dave Hudgens was really, exceptionally bad at PR. Do I think anything has changed? Not much. The biggest thing is that we’re not hearing about it as much, not as much crowing about “the approach.” And, yes, possibly, there’s been a wee bit more aggressiveness. The worst thing was when Hudgens discovered a stat that indicated when a team faces 150 pitches, they usually win. He got confused about that one, and put the cart before the horse. I am so glad he’s gone. So glad.

* I wanted the Mets to convert deGrom to reliever when he was down in Vegas, since that was obviously his eventual role. Somebody in the system, somewhere, believed in this kid and advocated for him. That guy deserves a raise.

* Speaking of raises, how about the coach who helped Matt den Dekker remake his swing?

* It’s got to be hard, emotionally, and PR-wise, to trade away a competent starting pitcher like  Bartolo Colon to a team that is contending for a Wild Card — when, you know, supposedly you are “in the mix” too.

* I hate the phrase, “in the mix.” Somebody please get Terry to stop using it.

53cd8eb3c8db1.preview-300* The White Sox’ first-round pick, 21-year-old Carlos Rodon, #3 overall, is currently up at AAA and Robin Ventura is talking about possibly bringing him up in September. The Mets first-round pick, 21-year-old Michael Conforto, #10 overall, is playing low-A ball in Brooklyn. He was called by many to be the most advanced hitter in the draft. Urgency has never been big with this management team. Said Keith Law: “Conforto was the most advanced college bat in the draft class this year. He’s very close to major league ready and should be at least an above-average regular with a higher ceiling if the power exceeds expectations. The Mets should fast-track him if his performance warrants it.”

* Meanwhile, Matt Harvey is aching to play ball. Against all reason and prudence, he desperately wants to take the hill and compete. Boy is Matt ever on the wrong team. A lot of things have been said about Matt, and Jeff’s buddy, Mike Lupica, went after him pretty hard on Sunday. While we might not agree with Matt’s (misguided) intentions, I think they come from the right place. Truly great players want to compete, like wolves want to hunt. Make no mistake. Harvey has the heart of a champion.

* Don’t tell anyone, but I am seriously worried about Juan Lagares’ bat. On another team, maybe it’s not an issue. The glove plays. But unless the Mets get a real SS and a real LF, I’m beginning to have some doubts. On an offense without superstars, there’s a limit to how many weak links a lineup can sustain.

* After watching the Nationals beat up on the Mets yet again, I’ve determined two things: 1) Home runs are good; 2) The way to beat the Mets is simple, just don’t walk anybody.

Maybe they should try bigger bats?

Maybe they should try bigger bats?

* That said, there’s been a lot of talk lately about the Mets’ lack of power. Gary Cohen goes on about it all the time (and yes, these days he’s my least Mets favorite announcer). To me, I don’t believe that’s the real issue. The Mets need hitters, period; not home runs necessarily. If they hit 10 more HRs this season, the Mets would be 6th in the NL. Consider the ball park they call home. The Mets now stand 13th in the NL in HR; 14th in BA; 14th in SLG; 2nd in BB; and, oddly, have the lowest G/F ratio in the NL. That’s a strange one, I think. Experts widely consider that Citi Field to be a “good” field for a fly ball pitcher. Yet offensively, the Mets are the #1 fly ball team in the NL. That doesn’t make a lot of sense.

* I think Montero threw well, showed promise. The announcers were unduly harsh on him during the Nats game, especially Gary. Overall, I’m encouraged.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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