Section 518

Where we endeavor to stay positive about the 2011 Mets…

Archive for January, 2010

Optimism

Posted by JD on January 31, 2010

Recently, @arivero212 posted the following tweet: An optimist is someone who falls off the Empire State Building and after 50 floors says, “So far, so good.”

It instantly made me think of the Mets’ off-season, which has been tough to stomach at times. The Mets pledged to improve their team and they did land big-name pickup Jason Bay. That’s nice and all, but he’s not the best fit for the team and there’s definitely a vibe around him indicating the Mets might not have been his first choice. We’ll see how it works out but it certainly wasn’t the ticket-selling move the Mets were looking for.

Almost immediately after the Bay signing the Mets had to endure the Carlos Beltran saga. Both sides could have handled it better, but it was the Mets who got egg on their faces by threatening to file a grievance over Beltran’s failure to receive a third opinion prior to undergoing surgery. I understand that they were only “protecting their rights under the contract” and I’m glad someone in the front office is covering all of the bases, but the resulting public relations fallout ruined any good will the Mets might have garnered with the Bay signing. Oh, and they lost their best player for at least the first month of the season. Just a tough week to be a Mets fan.

And it doesn’t get much better from there: they failed to land a front line starting pitcher, shuffled the bullpen a little (we’ll have to see if it’s an improvement), and they’ve signed, re-signed, or traded for a group of largely mediocre bench players (I’m trying to be kind). It might turn out that their best moves were losing out on a group of lackluster starting pitchers (and one fat catcher) who wanted multi-year deals. Sometimes the moves you don’t make work out the best, but they never generate optimism when you’re not making them. Or something.

So here we find ourselves entering February, pinning our hopes on the core’s return to good health and hoping they can carry a largely uninspiring supporting cast past the Phillies and Marlins. How can you stay optimistic in such a situation? I wish I had a good answer for you. I can’t honestly tell you that everything will work out OK because I honestly don’t believe it. Not this year, anyway. But I will advise you to take pleasure in the little positives as much as you can:

Johan Santana should make 35 starts and some of them will be downright awesome. Try to enjoy him while he’s still in his prime, and don’t dwell too much it when his teammates let him down.

David Wright should bounce back from one of the weirdest seasons I can remember. The way he performs will be one of the most interesting sub-plots of the season.

Jose Reyes might (damn, I can’t even type “will” here) be healthy. Watching him hit triples and run the bases is always fun.

Mike Pelfrey still holds a lot of promise and is, I think, on the precipice of a breakthrough season. As it unfolds, encourage him to persevere and cheer if he overcomes.

Jon Niese and Fernando Martinez (and maybe Josh Thole and Ike Davis) are sure to resurface at some point. If all else fails, we can embrace the future and their potential.

When you boil it all down, the best advice I can give you is this: whatever elements you chose to focus on, always remember to try your damnedest to ignore the concrete rushing up to meet you. 2010 is going to be that kind of season.

Posted in Carlos Beltran, David Wright, Johan Santana, Jose Reyes, Mets | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Flushing Frivolity – Game-Winning RBI

Posted by JD on January 29, 2010

It’s been awhile since I had the time to scour the internet for a completely frivolous Mets-related nugget, but this one practically writes itself. On this date in 1989, Major League Baseball dropped Game-Winning Runs Batted In (GWRBI) as an official stat (via Baseball-Reference’s Bullpen Blog). Now, I have no memory of this stat, but Baseball Almanac has a a complete list of GWRBI milestones. Look who’s at the top of the list: the Mets’ own Keith Hernandez! Mex compiled 128 GWRBI during the nine seasons it was an official statistic. Pretty clutch, no?

Actually, not really. RBI is a flawed statistic as it is, and there’s no reason to think that GWRBI wasn’t just as flawed. But I always think it’s neat when a Met tops a leaderboard, and the fact that no one will ever take it away from Mex is just the cherry on top.

Posted in Flushing Frivolities, On This Date | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Cat Got My Tongue

Posted by JD on January 29, 2010

Metsblog had a post today indicating that the Mets are persuing Frank Catalanotto. I like it. Even though he’s 35, Catalanotto would add a quality bat to the depth chart, especially if he wound up in Buffalo. I wouldn’t be opposed to him starting the season in New York if they hadn’t already wasted a roster spot on two inferior players.

That’s what kills me about this move: why didn’t they do it BEFORE resigning Alex Cora or trading for GMJ? Catalanotto doesn’t play center, but he plays both corner outfield spots, first, second, and third base, and would be a quality pinch hitter off the bench. He has a better bat than both, will probably sign for less, and won’t cost them a serviceable middle reliever. Why didn’t they just sign Catalanotto and another fringe outfielder* and infielder** and let them battle it out in spring training for the reserve infielder and fourth outfielder spots? Winners get the job and the loser heads to Buffalo for depth. Doesn’t that make much more sense?

*Like, I don’t know, Cory Sullivan?

**Wilson Valdez, perhaps?

Good organizations don’t tie themselves to bad ballplayers no matter how cheaply they come, and they sure as hell don’t waste budget and roster space on multiple-year commitments. But that’s just what the Mets voluntarily did with Cora and GMJ. Depressing, and repetitive.

Posted in Angel Pagan, Mets, Offseason Moves, Omar Minaya | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

I Can’t Commit (And I’m Glad Omar Didn’t…Yet)

Posted by JD on January 26, 2010

John Lackey, Boston. Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati. Ben Sheets, Oakland. Joel Piniero, Anaheim (or whatever they’re called). Rich Harden, Texas. Jon Garland, San Diego. Randy Wolf, Milwaukee. Jason Marquis, Washington. Doug Davis, Milwaukee. Brad Penny, San Francisco. Yusmeiro Petit, Seattle (claimed off waivers). Shawn Hill, Toronto.

All of the above are free agent pitchers who signed with teams other than the Mets. Each signing elicited some degree of the “I can’t believe Omar missed on this guy” reaction from at least a few Mets fans. I plead guilty for echoing that on occasion*, but in retrospect I’m ok that none of them signed with the Mets.

*I admit that I was the only upset when Shawn Hill signed with Toronto. What can I say? I thought he’d be a nice option for Buffalo…sue me.

I’ve flip-flopped on everyone on this list but Chapman (given his age and the lack of draft compensation, I’m still disappointed they didn’t sign him). But each and every one of the others has at least one flaw that mitigates their positives and in most cases they were asking for more than one year (which would’ve exposed the Mets to unnecessary risk in 2011 and beyond). If those pitchers weren’t going to sign for terms that the Mets deemed reasonable, then the Mets are better off without them.

I can’t say that Mike Pelfrey is a genuine number two starter (yet), or that Oliver Perez, John Maine, Nelson Figueroa, Fernando Nieve, Jonathon Niese, and Kelvim Escobar represent championship caliber 3-4-5 pitchers. That’s not my point. My point is that most of the pitchers listed above didn’t represent an upgrade and those that did would lock the Mets into long-term contracts that would expose them to unnecessary risk and limit their flexibility in the future.

Why commit major money to something less than ideal? Just because they can? That doesn’t register to me. I would like to see the Mets improve their roster, but I don’t think the options listed above represent an upgrade.

Now, if they want to commit to John Smoltz…well, I think I can commit to that. I know Smoltz is a long-time Brave, and I fucking hate the last long-time Brave pitcher they signed (go screw, Glavine). Smoltz may be a product of the Dave Duncan Rejuvenation Machine, but his strike-out to walk ratio was better than every other free agent not name Pedro Martinez*.

*I struggle with Pedro. I think it’s important to cut ties with the past, but it’s Pedro. I’m going on the record here: I won’t advocate his signing, but I’ll defend it as hard as I can (at the expense of my credibility).

I may just be bracing myself for the inevitable, but I think I can talk myself into John Smoltz. I’ll hate myself for it tomorrow, but it feels so right tonight. Or something like that.

Posted in Mets, Omar Minaya | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

Trust Issues (Or, Pagan vs. GMJ)

Posted by JD on January 24, 2010

The most recent Mets transaction saw reliever Brian Stokes traded to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for outfielder (and former Met) Gary Matthews Jr. The Angels are also throwing in a reported $21.5 million towards Matthews’ $24 million salary over the next two years. That being said, I still think it’s a crappy move.

First off, read this. Sam Miller of the Orange County Register did a great job comparing GMJ to other free agent outfielders* back in October.  If you don’t care for statistical analysis, Buster Olney of ESPN (subscription required) compiled comments from some scouts and front-office types, the theme of which seemed to be that GMJ has slowed down on the field and turned into a negative presence off it. Nothing I’ve read so far has been positive.

*Read the post, it’s excellent. But here’s a little spoiler: he wasn’t comparing GMJ to Matt Holiday or Jason Bay. Just wait till you see who he did compare him to.

There’s not much more I can add. GMJ is a 34 year-old outfielder who hasn’t posted an average OPS+ since 2006. I wouldn’t have signed him to anything more than a minor league deal, never mind traded a viable asset for him (and I’m beyond pissed that they just gave up Stokes, but that’s a post for another day). This trade smacks of over-reaction.

What I’m really worried about is that this trade will limit Angel Pagan’s playing time. Yes, I hear you saying that Pagan showed a “low baseball IQ” last season, but I feel like his performance at the plate was obscured by the wreckage of the 2009 season. He posted a 121 OPS+ and had 59 Runs Created (which is 9 more than GMJ had last year, in only 27 additional at-bats). Pagan topped GMJ in batting average (.306 to .250), on-base percentage (.350 to .336) and slugging percentage (.487 to .361). For those of you fixated on Pagan’s baserunning issues, the Bill James Handbook shows that Pagan created 12 more runs with his baserunning than the league average. Matthews is not bad either (11 runs better than average), but is no certainly no upgrade in that department.

It’s a trust issue for me, I guess. I can totally see Jerry Manuel wasting at-bats on GMJ because he’s a “veteran” with a “proven track record” and “we just need to get him started” and any other cliche you can come up with to describe leeway given to veteran players. That would be inexcusable, and it gets to the heart of my anger at this trade: why not give Pagan (and Stokes, for that matter) a chance to fail? You’re telling me that the Angels wouldn’t have done this trade in March or April? I find that highly unlikely, just like I find it unlikely that GMJ will add much to the Mets this season.

Posted in Offseason Moves, Omar Minaya | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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