Section 518

Where we endeavor to stay positive about the 2011 Mets…

Archive for January, 2011

The All-Powerful

Posted by JD on January 31, 2011

Like many of my best-intentioned plans, my countdown to Spring Training quickly fizzled. Not only is Amazin’ Avenue doing it better (and with pictures!), it turns out that I couldn’t even get the actual number of days right! That was particularly humbling. It turns out that pitchers and catchers are due to report two whole days earlier than I thought. So, there goes that idea.

That being said, I’d written up a couple of entries in advance, so I’m going to trot them out over the next few days. Here is what would have been my day twenty entry: Kurt Abbott.

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Drafted by the Oakland A’s on my twelfth birthday, the former 15th round pick joined the Mets as a free agent on January 26, 2000. Abbott would appear in 79 games for the Mets that year, hitting .217/.283/.389 in 173 plate appearances. His -0.5 rWAR (B-R.com) tied him with Matt Franco and Rickey Henderson for worst on the team, non-Rey Ordonez division (to be fair, Ordonez was lost for the season after only 29 games). So, he’s got that going for him.

It was in that year’s World Series that I (drunkenly) gave him the nickname of the All-Powerful Kurt Abbott. I was watching game one at my Yankee-fan friend’s house, surrounded by his Yankee-fan family and Yankee-fan friends, the lone Mets fan in the room. The Yankees had taken a 2-0 lead on a David Justice double in the bottom of the sixth, but the Mets rallied to take a 3-2 lead in the seventh (shockingly, Bubba Trammell was prominently involved). The Yankees sent Mariano Rivera to the mound in the top of the ninth to hold the fort. He promptly retired Jay Payton, but plunked Todd Pratt.

With a man on first, one out, and Mike Bordick due to hit, Bobby Valentine tapped Kurt Abbott to pinch hit. I was not overwhelmed by optimism. In an effort to get ahead of (what I thought) was an inevitable double-play grounder, I said something like “the All-Powerful Kurt Abbott will save the day”. Abbott promptly lined a double to right field to advance Pratt to third. Neither Timo Perez nor Edgardo Alfonzo could capitalize on the opportunity and the Mets failed to score.  The Yankees went on to win the game (and ultimately the World Series), but a nickname was born.

Fun Fact: Kurt Abbott is a cop in Florida. That’s him on the left, giving the hand to a perp he had just apprehended.

Photo courtesy of Alex Boerner, TC Palm

Posted in Flushing Frivolities, Mets | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Money Troubles

Posted by JD on January 28, 2011

The Mets sent out a message to season ticket holders today, informing us that they a). are in discussions to settle the lawsuit filed by Irving Picard, US trustee for Madoff’s victims and b). they are in the process of “looking at a number of potential options”, which might include selling a piece of the team. This was followed up by a conference call during which Fred and Jeff announced that they are looking to sell 20-25% of the team.

Any way you slice it, this is not good news. I’m as critical of the Wilpons as anybody, but ownership changes are most often messy. Recent examples include the McCourt’s messy divorce and the Texas Rangers’ bankruptcy/bidding war. It’s possible that the process could go smoothly for the Wilpons, but it’s more realistic that the search and ownership transfer drag out. The potential for negative press and sensational tabloid headlines exists, to say nothing of the potential implications on the day-to-day operations of the team.

But wait, there’s more. As HardballTalk’s Craig Calcaterra astutely points out, there’s no guarantee that the Wilpons will be able to keep control. This opens the door for James Dolan, one of my least favorite sports figures, to take control of the Mets. I wrote about this back in March, but I think it bears repeating. An excerpt from that post:

I can tell you this: the Dolans haven’t had viable summer content for their MSG network since SNY debuted. They would jump on the chance to purchase the Mets and have more than enough money to do so. SNY would disappear or become MSG2 and 1050 AM would become the flagship radio station. Every negative surrounding the Rangers’ and Knicks’ front offices would be replicated in Flushing before you could blink an eye. Cronyism may or may not be present in the front office today, but you can bet your bottom dollar that it would become institutionalized as soon as the purchase was completed.

Anything can happen: the process of selling part of the team has barely begun. But I’m inclined to focus on the negative, and it doesn’t get much worse than James Dolan (although I suppose Islanders fans may beg to differ). Hopefully I’m making a mountain out of a molehill (it’s been known to happen), because I’d hate to look back on this day in ten years as a negative turning point; the day the Mets’ ownership situation went from bad to worse.

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From the Mets:

As Sterling Equities announced in December, we are engaged in discussions to settle a lawsuit brought against us and other Sterling partners and members of our families by the Trustee in the Madoff bankruptcy. We are not permitted to comment on these confidential negotiations while they are ongoing.

However, to address the air of uncertainty created by this lawsuit, and to provide additional assurance that the New York Mets will continue to have the necessary resources to fully compete and win, we are looking at a number of potential options including the addition of one or more strategic partners. To explore this, we have retained Steve Greenberg, a Managing Director at Allen & Company, as our advisor.

Regardless of the outcome of this exploration, Sterling will remain the principal ownership group of the Mets and continue to control and manage the team’s operations. The Mets have been a major part of our families for more than 30 years and that is not going to change.

As we have said before, we are totally committed to having the Mets again become a World Series winner. You deserve nothing less.

We wanted to share this information with you concurrent with sharing it with all Mets employees and the media. Thank you for your ongoing support.

Sincerely,

Fred Wilpon, Chairman & CEO

Jeff Wilpon, COO

Posted in Mets, The Wilpons | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Biding Time Till Spring

Posted by JD on January 27, 2011

It’s been quiet in Mets-land lately, and that’s ok. A productive offseason is just about finished and there’s not much more to do but wait for spring training to begin. In that spirit (and to get back to writing: I’ve been seriously slacking this month), I’m going to count down the days till pitchers and catchers report by looking at a player whose uniform number matches the number of days left.

This is not to be confused with Patrick Flood’s statistics-driven Top Fifty Mets of All-Time or the Real Dirty Mets’ blog’s fan-submitted Top 50 list, both of which are thoughtful projects that required serious thought and effort on the part of their authors and editors. Nor is it an exercise to determine the best player to ever wear a particular number for the Mets. No, this is a lark, inspired by Lohud.com columnist Rick Carpineillo, who went through a similar exercise prior to the start of NY Rangers training camp on his excellent Rangers Report blog. If a particular number brings a different player to mind for you, please: use the comments section to tell us why. Let’s have fun with this.

One last note: this project would be impossible without the Numerical Roster put together by Jon Springer of Mets By The Numbers, a truly indispensable asset when researching Mets uniform numbers.

#21 – Herm Winnigham

Drafted by the Mets in January 1981, Winningham debuted with the Mets in 1984 with a .407/.429/.519 slash line and a robust 167 OPS+. The Montreal Expos suffered the brunt of his offensive onslaught (he slashed .500/.500/.700 against them) and immediately traded future Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter to the Mets to secure his services.

Or something like that. Hubie Brooks was probably the Expos’ main target. Or Mike Fitzgerald. Or Floyd Youmans. But Winningham was definitely included in the deal. He went on to slash a less-impressive during his time with the Expos. He earned a ring with the World Champion Cincinnati Reds in 1990, and finished his career with the Red Sox. For his career, he slashed .239/.296.334, was worth -2.0 rWAR (B-R.com), won a World Series (not by himself: that would be amazing) and was part of the trade that brought one of the most important 1986 Mets to Flushing. Not bad.

Fun fact: His middle name is Son. Herman Son Willingham. That’s awesome all by itself.


Posted in Mets, Offseason Moves | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Willie Harris, Full Disclosure

Posted by JD on January 14, 2011

Adam Rubin of ESPN NY is reporting that Willie Harris will sign a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training. Harris has earned a reputation as a “Mets killer” over the past few seasons, not without justification. It started with this game in 2007, in which he caught a Moises Alou drive at the wall and robbed Carlos Delgado of a game tying home run. He would go on to make several high profile catches over the years, cementing his place as one of the Mets’ most hated opponents.

The thing is, he did his damage almost exclusively with his glove. His career slash line against the Mets (in 143 plate appearances) is .159/.319/.212. That .532 OPS translates into a 58 tOPS+, 32% lower than the average player who faced the Mets in those seasons. Here are his full splits against the Mets:

Year G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS tOPS+
2006 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2007 10 6 26 19 3 4 0 0 0 4 1 1 5 6 0.211 0.385 0.211 0.595 64
2008 15 9 45 35 6 7 2 0 0 0 0 0 9 5 0.200 0.364 0.257 0.621 67
2009 15 9 42 36 2 3 1 0 0 0 1 0 5 2 0.083 0.195 0.111 0.306 -18
2010 16 5 30 23 4 4 0 0 1 4 0 0 6 5 0.174 0.367 0.304 0.671 110
Total 57 29 143 113 15 18 3 0 1 8 2 1 25 18 0.159 0.319 0.212 0.532 58

His career numbers aren’t much better: .239/.327/.352, 79 OPS+. According to Baseball Reference, he’s compiled 3.8 WAR over parts of 10 seasons. As a fourth outfielder who can play all three spots and pinch hit (well, kind of: .226/.325/.336 95 tOPS+ in 171 plate appearances), Harris could be a good fit, especially when you consider the fact that he’s only signed on a non-guaranteed minor league deal. There are worse options out there.

Harris is a complimentary piece that adds to the organization’s depth. Realistic expectations are the key here: just because he “killed” the Mets over the past few seasons, don’t expect him to be a game changer for them, especially at the plate. Providing steady glovework as a backup in the outfield is about what we should be looking for from Harris. Anything else is gravy.

Posted in Mets, Offseason Moves | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Quality Moves, Done Stealthily

Posted by JD on January 4, 2011

As you know, the Mets added Chris Capuano and Taylor Buchholz (for details on the signings, see here, here and here). These are nice, solid moves. Neither pitcher will change the competitive balance in the NL East, but they represent smart gambles. Their injury histories are not insignificant (two Tommy John surgeries for Capuano, one for Buchholz), but as a result, neither are their salaries (roughly $2.1 million combined). They’re not sure things, but there’s a reasonable chance that they can contribute positively and only a minimal financial commitment if they don’t. These are exactly the types of moves a team with budget constraints should be making.

Come to think of it, all of the Mets’ acquisitions have fit this mold. Whether it be solid complimentary pieces (D.J. Carrasco and Ronny Paulino), cheap young talent (Brad Emaus and Pedro Beato), or other reasonable gambles (Chin-lung Hu, Boof Bonser, Dusty Ryan), Sandy Alderson and Co. have maximized their available resources to bolster the existing roster. You can complain about the lack of big names or the long periods of inactivity, but the fact is that the Mets are acting with severe restrictions. They will no longer wantonly toss around their money in pursuit of the next quick fix.

Considering that framework, I think the Mets are doing an excellent job of maximizing their available resources. We don’t know for sure if this group of players will be better than the supporting cast from last season, but we do know that they’re track records indicate they will be (and their price tags limit their downsides if they aren’t). That’s good enough for me.

On a related note, I can’t help but be impressed by Alderson & Co.’s stealthiness. There was minimal warning time before the Carrasco and Paulino signings and no indication that Emaus and Beato were targets in the Rule 5 draft, but the Capuano and Buchholz signings came out of nowhere. I’ll grant that the pursuit of Chris Young has been somewhat more public, but even that has been largely without fanfare. What a breath of fresh air when compared to the near-constant flow of leaks from the previous organization. If nothing else, I think we can all agree that Alderson & Co. have done their best to maintain their bargaining position by controlling the flow of information coming from their own staff. For that, they deserve kudos.

Posted in Mets, Offseason Moves, Sandy Alderson | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

 
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