PLAYING BALL IN LAS VEGAS: Just Exactly How Big a Disaster Are We Looking At?

Jimmy:

I’m sick over the fact the Mets have an AAA team in Las Vegas. The only question in my mind is, “How big a disaster is this going to be?”

Josh Satin, slugger at 2,000 feet above sea level: Is it real?

Josh Satin, slugger at 2,000 feet above sea level: Is it real?

I see this situation as analogous to the early years for the Colorado Rockies. You get a lot of misinformation in the data — where ordinary hitters suddenly look like studs — and worse, much worse, it might be a place that destroys pitchers.

Right now, the top hitters are Josh Satin, Andrew Brown, Juan Lagares, and Jamie Hoffman. They are all putting up big-time numbers. Lagares slugging .551; Satin slugging .630! As if they were actual hitters. That crappy unit scored 12 runs on Thursday night — and lost. It’s a circus.

The team ERA is 5.51!

This is where we are going to send all our up-and-coming pitchers? And don’t forget, some of these guys will be our best trading chips. That is, until they get to Vegas and their numbers turn to mush.

Mike:

I don’t want to get carried away or anything. It is beyond stupid for a team to put its Triple A team in Las Vegas. Soft enough?

Jimmy:

I keep hearing Ricciardi’s comment about how, when he was GM with Toronto, they tried to keep their top pitchers down at AA rather than send them to Vegas. Just the other day, DePodesta was quoted about possibly jumping Montero from AA directly to Flushing, skipping Vegas altogether — a tacit admission that Vegas may not be the best place for developing a prized pitcher. I know I’ve said this before.

Then the Mets drop Josh Edgin and send him all the way down to AA — because, as Terry Collins admitted, they were worried about his pitching in the disaster that is Las Vegas baseball. It might be bad for his confidence. Read this quote from Collins, it’s amazing:

“The worst place you can send a pitcher who is struggling mentally is to Las Vegas, or to Colorado Springs, or to Albuquerque — one of those places where you make a good pitch and the guy hits a two-run double. So I just said, ‘Go to Binghamton. You know what? You’re close. You’re going to get your confidence back.”

Meanwhile, we send our top pitching prospect there and then made negative remarks about his progress. Terrific. I read articles daily that talk about Wheeler’s “poor start” and recite stats as if they had any meaning whatsoever.

Vegas is no way to treat your most valued prospect.

Vegas is no way to treat your most valued prospect.

-

Mike:

Mets CircusIt’s important to notice how the guys stuck on the baseball side of the team are starting to comment. They can’t be happy. After three years of trying to build a strong farm system, the team decides to hinder development for a few more minor league dollars? I know Buffalo tossed them aside, but its a big country. This move smacks of taking the biggest dollars available no matter what the consequences. You mentioned the circus. Doing this would be like a New York City team renting out its parking lot to a circus during the season. Who would do that, right? Vegas has the stench of the Madoff triplets — Katz, Wilpon, and Wilpon.

Jimmy:

BigBattyIf only this team had real ownership instead of that clown (sticking with the circus theme). People need to start doing the mental calculations we learned to do with the Rockies, especially during the early years. We’d hear a guy is hitting .340 with 40 HRs and 120 RBIs and we’d automatically normalize the numbers in our heads. But even more than that, we’d say, “Yeah, but it’s Colorado.” In some respects, you had to throw it all out the window. Especially for pitchers — no one could succeed there. No one, at least not for long. The Rockies are still desperately trying to figure it out.

Mike:

Of course. But worse is how does any player develop? Isn’t that, you know, the idea of the minor league teams? Let’s focus on the hitting side of the equation. A guy like Wilmer Flores has a nice season in AA, but not so fantastic that Citi Field should be the next step. Normal situation, he goes to Triple A for a little more seasoning. Things get slightly tougher as he sees some major league castoffs and plays with more veterans. Sounds good.

Only in Vegas every fly ball he hits goes out, and the opposing pitcher can’t get a curveball to break. Triple A could end up being less of a challenge than Double A, leaving us with no place to send players like this to further develop their skills.

Jimmy:

How much did the Wilpons save by moving to Las Vegas? How much will that savings cost in the long term?

How much did the Wilpons save by moving to Las Vegas? How much will that savings cost in the long term?

Collins was critical of Wheeler the other day — and I’m guessing the kid is not happy about any of this, btw — noting how the park has probably gotten into his head, he’s trying to avoid contact, overthrowing, and so on. Hello? Hello? Forget the criticism of the kid, notice instead the recognition that the park is a big issue — that the location itself is the biggest challenge Wheeler has to face. Refining his secondary pitches? It’s not going to happen out there, it’s like throwing cue balls in that dry air. What about confidence? Command? Managing a ballgame? How do any of those things improve in Vegas? Okay, yes, I realize that Collin McHugh has had a nice start so far. There will always be exceptions. But there’s no way in the world I see this as a good experience for Zack Wheeler. Wait till the heat sets in. These guys will be wilting under those conditions. Everything this management group has preached for three years has been about draft and development, waiting for the prospects, and now we throw Vegas into the system? Thank goodness Matt Harvey got out when he did.

Mike:

One more thing to remember is this. It’s very far from New York. Real major market teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies keep their Triple A affiliates close by so when a call-up is needed the player can quickly get to the majors. It is only a matter of time until the Mets play a game shorthanded waiting for someone to get to New York from Las Vegas or another PCL outpost.

Jimmy:

The Mets are locked in for a two-year contract. After that, it must end before we see lasting damage to the organization. Get out, get out as soon as possible, and get Wheeler out of there even faster before the arm blows up.

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12 comments

  1. Alan K. says:

    Norfolk and Buffalo both changed affiliations because of the quality of the product on the field and because the Mets weren’t investing for minor league free agents. Las Vegas and the Mets were simply the last city and organization left standing when the teams were changing affiliations. This is yet another example of the a dysfunctional ownership.

  2. eric says:

    I am sure that the Mets didn’t CHOOSE Vegas—spot on Alan!

    As for prospect valuation and development—- forget about “What happens in Vegas……”……… it’s a bad combination, and the commute is horrible to boot. I’m a big believer that the top Level Minor League team should be in the same time zone and provide an easy shuttle—-these are your 26th -28th bench players, your spot starters, your emergency call ups. Keep them close.

    As for Vegas and pitchers—- if I’m a FB/Changeup guy it affects “only” my result, not my pitches. The deep flyout becomes a HR or double. If I’m a Fasball/Breaking ball guy it plays absolute havoc—– I can’t throw a first pitch curve (or any curve) for a strike. My entire mix needs to be altered just to pitch. PLayers are loaded on my FB…and they’re more successful because the ball flies. The FB/BB power pitcher gets his head turned inside-out in this environment. The big difference in AAA is that the hitters make you pitch at a full mix—they are Major league hitters and AAAA hitters and rising stars waiting to “finish” their games.

    The placement of the team is am big downer/

  3. Michael Geus says:

    It’s a big country, there are other locations in it than Buffalo and Las Vegas. This was not an either/or situation.

  4. eric says:

    I believe it was a choice between a Location that nobody wants and a Location that was sick and tired of the Mets.

  5. Ownership blew it. They made a series of poor choices until they were left with no other choice. Now they move to protect Edgin yet continue to expose Wheeler. And on and on it goes.

  6. JOHN says:

    I live in Las Vegas it seems Bryce Harper had no problems developing here.If your a good prospect you play or pitch anywhere!!!!!

  7. Frank Dunne says:

    Although happy that I get to see the prospects several times this season (Sacramento, Reno and Fresno) the move made no sense! As a person that travels from the west coast often, it is a miserable trip- even in first class. Additionally, I have spent time in LV in July. A daytime temp of 125 degrees in the sun is not out of the ordinary. Evenings do cool down to a brisk 100. I love the Mets… and with the rest of you, will continue to. The ownership makes it very difficult to love our team.

  8. eric says:

    You can’t demote Wheeler to a better pitching environ—that crushes his head and value….. you can’t promote your AA studs to Vegas because it crushes their heads and value. THEN, you are log jammed at your primary big prospect development stop (BINGO) because you can’t promote your A+ st lucie guys…you have NO ROOM

    OMG—the Wilpons suck—- They own the 2nd-5th best Market in the country…. they opened a Broadcast Network and a new ballpark in the past 5 years and they’ve figured out how to LOse Money Doing It!!!!!

    We’ve determined that they can’t run a Big League Operation— they have now demonstrated that they can’t run a Minor League Organization!!!!!!!!!!!!

    It doesn’t get any more FAILED than this!!!!!

  9. Brian Joura says:

    Alan is right – the Mets didn’t choose Vegas for financial reasons – it was the only place that was left. Perhaps one day in the distant future when the Mets are on solid financial ground, they can purchase their own Triple-A affiliate and have control over where it plays. Until then, they are at the mercy of MLB wannabe cities like Buffalo.

    I compared Buffalo to a whiny girlfriend who demanded you constantly buy her gifts and tell her how pretty she is. It must have been horrible for Buffalo to have seen young guys like Baxter, Carson, Davis, Duda, Edgin, Familia, Gee, Harvey, McHugh, Mejia, Niese, Nieuwenhuis, Tejada, Thole, Valdespin and Wheeler. Who wants them when you can see Mike Hessman and Val Pascucci? That’s what Buffalo wanted – AAAA players. Take a hike Buffalo.

    The travel issue is overblown — how many times a year do you need to have a guy available in an hour? If it happens twice, I’ll consider that two more times than I expect. It’s not like we’re talking the days of train travel here.

    It’s not like Vegas is helping Flores tremendously — he’s got an .807 OPS with 1 HR in 50 ABs at home.

    Wheeler can try throwing strikes. I’ll feel bad for him when his BB/9 is back under 3 and not a second before.

    As long as the decision makers realize that you have to examine the numbers appropriately, there’s no need to panic. And if there’s one thing this front office should be able to do – it’s make informed decisions.

    In the meantime, everyone should quit bitching, honor the contract and be ready to explore options in a couple of years.

    • Michael Geus says:

      Brian, thanks a lot for dropping in on us. I can’t agree on the travel issue, Collins already mentioned a problem with Lagares and the Redeye. That’s one and it’s April. The end of the world, no? A handicap, yes.

      Two years can go by fast in business, I hope they are already working on a solution. I don’t want the organization operating with any handicaps, large or small.

      We have a hard enough time with a level playing field.

  10. eric says:

    I’ll defend the position that the atmosphere at vegas affects more than HR/9 and era….a power pitcher with a FB/BB core repertoire simply cannot harness his command theer. The AAA hitters are too good for a FB only diet. You can’t throw a good curve for a strike.

    Yeah—Wheeler needs to buck up some, but the situation sucks.

    As for the 2 times per year you need guys— I think you’re underselling the entire notion severely. An under 3 hour, car commutable, in-timezone taxi squad is the state of the art. The Phils do it…the Yanks and Sox do it—– everyone has moved to it—– it makes no sense to be in Vegas PERIOD.

  11. [...] that is the Mets Triple-A farm club in Las Vegas. Really, it should be required reading. Of course, we wrote about this a while back with similar conclusions, but it was nice to be vindicated in The Wall Street Journal. Good job, [...]

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