Section 518

Where we endeavor to stay positive about the 2011 Mets…

Posts Tagged ‘Omar Minaya’

The Fish(es) That Got Away

Posted by JD on June 8, 2011

With the Major League Draft in full swing these past few days, Baseball-Reference.com has been running a special draft section on it’s front page. Today’s section included a link to the 1982 Mets’ draft. That was the Dwight Gooden draft, but I have no idea why they linked to it today. The Mets picked up several useful players in that draft: Roger McDowell, Floyd Youmans (later included in the trade that brought Gary Carter to the Mets), Gerald Young (included in the trade for Ray Knight), Barry Lyons, and Rafael Palmeiro. Well, that caught me by surprise.

It turns out that the Mets drafted Palmeiro in the eighth round (189th overall) out of Jackson High School in Miami, Florida. For reasons unknown to me (maybe the money wasn’t right?), Palmeiro opted to enroll in Mississippi State University. Three years later the Cubs selected him with the 22nd pick in the first round and a long and ultimately controversial career was launched. A career that could have included the Mets had it worked out differently.

While Palmeiro’s story is not an uncommon occurrence (draft picks fail to sign each year only to grow as players and re-enter the draft at a later date), it got me wondering how often it happened to the Mets over the years. Furthermore, how good would a team of these “fish that got away” turn out to be? So I went through each Mets draft from 1965 (the first year of the amateur draft) to 2010 and picked out a team of the best players who never signed. These were my criteria:

1). The player had to be drafted by the Mets but be signed and start their professional career with another franchise. Obvious enough, but I wanted to point this out because there is one key player who actually played for the Mets later in his career.

2). I used Baseball Reference’s version of WAR and ranked the players by position. I took some liberties here: while there were plenty of pitchers to chose from (though not many were lefthanded) it was a little sparse in the middle infield. I had to make some judgment calls and some guys are not in the positions you may remember them for, but they did have major league playing time in the positions I assigned them.

3). I went with the “standard” lineup configuration used by most clubs today: 25 players, 13 position players (eight starters and a five-player bench) and 12 pitchers (five starters, six relievers, and a closer).

The following is a lark, an exercise in “what if” and “what might have been”. Without further ado, here’s what I came up with:

Starting Pitchers

(Name, Draft Year, career rWAR)

Roger Clemens, 1981, 128.8
Burt Hooton, 1968, 34.6
John Tudor, 1975, 31.8
Scott Erickson, 1986, 21.9
Rick Helling, 1990 18.6

I figured I’d start with a bang. The Mets drafted the Rocket out of high school in the 12th round. After he turned them down he went on to star at the University of Texas before being drafted by the Red Sox. He ultimately went on to become one of my least favorite players of all time but man, I think I 128.8 wins above replacement could help me get over it. While the Boston years of his career would have left him second behind Tom Seaver on the franchise’s rWAR leaderboard, what really struck me is that each of the other segments of his career would have qualified for the top ten as well. Still, he’s a dick.

John Tudor was a personal menace to me. 1985 was the first year I really paid attention to baseball and Tudor went on an absolute rampage that season. I didn’t remember this, but he actually started that season 1-7. From that point on he sandwiched one loss between nine and eleven-game winning streaks, picking up ten complete game shutouts along the way. He had a 21-8 record, and the Cardinals went 24-11 in games he started on their way to a World Series loss to the Kansas City Royals. This was Dwight Gooden’s career year and he was amazing, but he was on our side: Tudor was his “evil” counter part in my mind. My mind’s eye surely exaggerated Tudor’s performance that season (even though he posted a ridiculous 0.938 WHIP), but it was fun seeing his name pop up here. For the record, the 1985/86 rotation would have had Gooden, Clemens, and Tudor on it if these hypothetical signings occurred. I can’t even process that.

Since we’re dealing with hypotheticals, why not throw in a pitcher who had a no-hitter in his fourth career start? That would be Burt Hooten, who might have ended the no no-hitter nonsense before it got a chance to really get going. Or not. We’ll never know.

Scott Erickson had a mop of mahogany hair and was one of People Magazine’s “Sexiest People” List. So there’s that.

Rick Helling makes a decent fifth starter, and swingman Jeremy Guthrie (who’s in the bullpen for now) can pick up the slack if needed.

Bullpen

Jeremy Guthrie, 1997, 15.7 (long man/sixth starter)
Darren Dreifort, 1990, 6.2
Mark Davis, 1978, 6.5 (lefty specialist)
Randy Wells, 2001, 6.7
Charlie Lea, 1975, 7.1
Todd Jones, 1986, 11.1
John Wetteland, 1984, 20.6 (closer)

That’s not a bad bullpen at all. Wetteland was one of the premier closers of his time, Jones has extensive closing experience, and Davis famously (infamously?) won a Cy Young as a closer. Billy Koch, another former closer, just missed the cut (6.0 rWAR) and could be “called up” if need be. Our team is in decent shape pitching-wise. How does it stack up on offense?

Catcher

Dan Wilson, 1987, 13.7

Wilson was part of the same draft class as Todd Hundley, who obviously signed and went on to set the franchise single season record for home runs. If I had to pick between the two I’d still take Hundley, but Wilson was an important piece of the Mariners’ division winners in the late 90’s.

First Base

John Olerud, 1986, 56.8

The Mets drafted Olerud in the 27th round (682nd overall) out of high school, but he opted to enroll in Washington State University. Had he signed with the Mets he would have been the perfect replacement for the aging Keith Hernandez.

Second Base

Mark Grudzielanek, 1989, 24.3

According to the Baseball Almanac, Grudzielanek’s nickname is “Grudzie”. I find this unacceptable and continue to refer to him as “Grudz”, which I find to be infinitely more gritty.

Third Base

Ron Cey, 1966, 52.0

Our earliest non-signer, Cey was selected in the 19th round of the second-ever MLB draft. He went on to be a six-time All Star for the Dodgers in the 70’s, a time when the Mets’ hot corner was a revolving door. Hindsight drives this list for obvious reasons, but none more painful than this one: had Cey been in the Mets system, the Mets might have kept Nolan Ryan. Sure, they might have traded him anyway, but for a couple thousand dollars more in 1966 they might have had an All Star third baseman and future Hall of Fame pitcher on their roster. It’s all “could-have-been” nonsense, but ouch.

Shortstop

Matt Williams, 1983, 43.9

This is admittedly the biggest position stretch on the roster, but Williams did have experience there: he played in 119 games for the Giants over five seasons and even appeared in two games for the Diamondbacks in 2001 when his career was almost over. Could he have played his whole career there? Maybe. But it sure would be nice to have a shortstop who hit 316 career home runs.

Left Field

Rafael Palmeiro, 1982, 66.0

I’m putting Palmeiro in left because he played 209 games there over his career. I think it’s fair to say that Palmeiro was a “compiler”, a player who built his gaudy career numbers by having many “good-but-not-great” seasons. That being said, his career numbers would absolutely dominate the Mets’ offensive leaderboards had he played for the club that originally drafted him.

Center Field

Darrin Erstad, 1992, 27.8

I have a feeling that Erstad would have been a fan favorite  in Flushing: a tough, gritty, tobacco-chewing, ex-football playing, wall-crashing center-fielder who would have arrived just in time to fill the void left by Lenny Dykstra. I’d bet he make a better financial advisor, though.

Right Field

David DeJesus, 1997, 21.3

A Brooklyn kid who played his college ball for Rutgers, I slotted DeJesus in right to accommodate Palmeiro in left. Could you imagine if the Mets had DeJesus from 2006-08? He would have been the perfect replacement for Cliff Floyd and the Moises Alou experiment might have been unnecessary. This one stings a little bit more because of how recently it happened, but I can easily see how having DeJesus would have resulted in playoff appearances in 2007 and 2008.

Bench

Aaron Rowand, 1995, 19.5 (outfield)
Garrett Atkins, 1997, 9.6 (corner infield, corner outfield)
Scott Servais, 1985, 3.3 (catcher)
Tracy Jones, 1982, 2.3 (outfield, pinch hitter)
Adam Piatt, 1994, 0.5 (backup infielder)

As you can see, the talent level drops off consistently. It was really difficult to find a middle infielder with a positive career rWAR (I almost had to go with Kurt Bevacqua, he of the -4.4 rWAR). That’s how Piatt “earned” his spot on the squad. Jones was part of the class of ’82 that started this exercise. He bounced around for a few years and was somewhat of a journeyman. In other words, Omar Minaya might have signed him if he was available last season. Scott Servais, not to be confused with Scott Service, was a prototypical back-up catcher and fills that roll here. Atkins’ career started strong (he even received MVP votes in 2006) but has been ending with a whimper: he hasn’t played in the majors yet this season. But we’ll find him a spot on our bench. Rowand was originally drafted by the Mets as a shortstop. I was sorely tempted to put him there but Matt Williams’ presence combined with Rowand’s lack of playing time at the position conspired against me.

So there you have it, the Mets’ ultimate team of “fish that got away”. It definitely has a bit of a patchwork feel to it, but it seems like it would be a pretty decent team. All told, the players listed above accumulated 650.6 rWAR over the course of their careers (with Roger Clemens accounting for a staggering 20% of that all by himself). Would they have replecated that as members of this fictional team, or even as members of the Mets? Probably not, but it’s fun to think about it.

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

Whirlwind

Posted by JD on November 6, 2010

This post is more a recap than anything. I was reflecting on what’s happened since Sandy Alderson was hired as General Manager when I realized just what a whirlwind it’s been over the last ten days or so. Just look at what’s happened:

  • Several scouts departed or were not renewed.
  • Razor Shines was let go.
  • J.P. Ricciardi was hired as special assistant to the GM.
  • Ticket prices were lowered and season ticket holders were given the option to qualify for some (in my opinion, anyway) pretty awesome perks (Caryn Rose of Metsgrrl has a great summary here).
  • Manny Alvarez was added to the 40-man roster.
  • The Mets picked up Jose Reyes’ 2011 option.
  • The Royals claimed Joaquin Arias on waivers.
  • Jesus Feliciano, Mike Hessman, Raul Valdes, Omir Santos, and Eddie Kunz were outrighted to Buffalo, bringing the 40-man roster to 34 (in anticipation of the Rule 5 draft).
  • In a sad and shocking turn, long-time clubhouse manager Charlie Samuels has been suspended indefinitely while the FBI and Queens District Attorney probe his gambling activity.
  • The Mets could not reach an agreement with Hisanori Takahashi, who will not return in 2011.

It figures to continue, too. Alderson is trying to add Paul DePodesta to his staff, the free agent market just opened up, and the search for the next manager continues.

With the obvious exception of the Samuels investigation these changes are largely beneficial. It’s never a nice thing to see people fired but in this case it’s important: it’s definitive proof that Alderson is putting his stamp on the organization. Similarly, letting Takahashi walk shows that Alderson won’t over-react (or overspend) to keep useful players. This in turn bodes well for the free agent market: for the first time in years, I’m confident that any additions will be rational, affordable players who will shore up weaknesses and compliment the players already on the roster. I may be getting ahead of myself, but it feels like the days of grabbing a big name just for the sake of signing him (long-term consequences be damned) are gone.

I’m still skeptical of the Wilpons’ ability to refrain from interfering, but Alderson’s early moves have gone a long way toward quieting my fears (I’m sure that was his number one goal). I can’t wait to see who he selects as manager. I’d be fine with most of the candidates I’ve seen mentioned so far, with one exception: Wally Backman. Maybe I’m just being contrarian, but I just don’t understand the fascination some fans have with him. I get that he’s energetic, fiery, and scrappy, but he’s also had a checkered past and he’s largely unproven. I’m sorry, winning one division championship with a roster that’s largely old for it’s level is just not that impressive to me. Not to paint with a broad brush or anything, but I imagine that the portion of the fanbase that’s overly enamored with Backman has a lot of overlap with the group that can’t stand Carlos Beltran, and it drives me crazy.

But I digress. Sandy Alderson has his hand firmly on the wheel, steering the Mets in a bold, new direction. I like what I’ve seen so far and can’t wait to see how the 2011 roster takes shape.

Posted in Carlos Beltran, Mets, Offseason Moves, Sandy Alderson | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Fine Print

Posted by JD on October 21, 2010

Eno Sarris offered a three-part analysis on how the Mets could learn from the mid-decade Phillies, which you can find here, here and here (give it a read: even if you don’t agree with the comparison, it’s an interesting look at how a franchise can change course in a relatively short time). Without stealing his thunder, he mentions in passing trading Carlos Beltran during the season if he re-establishes his value. I agree with the strategy (as I said here) for the reasons that Sarris mentions, and for one additional factor: the Mets cannot offer Beltran arbitration.

Under the current CBA, a player who files for free agency may chose to accept arbitration if his team offers it to him. If it is offered and the player declines, the team may be entitled to compensation in the form of draft picks (if the player qualifies as a Type A or Type B free agent). Thus, teams who elect to simply let their players’ contracts expire can receive some compensation which, given the cost-effective nature of young players these days, can potentially exceed the value of the departing player.

This option is not available to the Mets because Scott Boras negotiated a clause into Beltran’s contract (scroll down) in which the Mets agreed not to offer Beltran arbitration at the end of his contract. So, Sarris’ comment about trading Beltran in mid-season isn’t just a good strategy for the Mets, it’s the only practical strategy available to them given his current, decreased trade value. Just another gift from Omar Minaya, king of the contractual clauses.

Posted in Carlos Beltran, Mets, Omar Minaya | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Call Me Skeptical, But…

Posted by JD on October 18, 2010

There are half a dozen or so good candidates involved in the Mets’ search for a new general manager (Patrick Flood analyzes each of them here), but I can’t shake the suspicion that it doesn’t really matter who ultimately gets the job: Fred and Jeff Wilpon will still be signing the new GM’s paycheck, and no matter how many good intentions they have (or how much “autonomy” they concede) the root causes of the current malaise will still be lurking in the background.

That’s not to say that the new GM, whoever it may be, can’t breathe new life into the team. Omar Minaya had a nice run in 2005-06, before the collapses and injuries combined with his lack of a clear vision to derail the team, and Jeff Wilpon steadily assumed a higher profile in the baseball operations.  

I know I’m being unfairly negative. This is a time of change for the organization: the right hire might satisfy the Wilpons to the point that they feel comfortable distancing themselves from the day-to-day operations. The right general manager might be able to change the organizational structure in such way that it can function after he’s gone, and the team might even win a championship while it’s happening. I should at least give the Wilpons a chance to go through their process before writing it off.

But I can’t. I can’t bring myself to buy in to what they’re selling. After all, it was only five years ago that we went through this very process, and look how that turned out. Yes, all good things come to an end, and general managers (and managers) are “hired to be fired,” but the fact that the Omar Minaya era ended in almost the exact same way it began (in a state of organizational confusion) is most disheartening. Yes, ’05 and ’06 and even most of ’07 were good times for the Mets. I won’t discount that. But ’08 and ’09 and now ’10 are so analogous to ’02 and ’03 and ’04 that I cannot ignore the feeling of déjà vu.

I hope very much that I am wrong. I hope that Fred and Jeff have learned their lesson. I hope that they hire someone they trust enough to grant true autonomy, and that they then honor that throughout that person’s tenure. I hope that if it doesn’t work out, they can fire that person cleanly rather than killing them slowly with a thousand cuts of ownership interference. I hope all of these things, and there’s a chance that they could all happen. I just don’t think it’s a very good chance.

Your move, Fred and Jeff. Prove me wrong. Nothing would make me happier.

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

Bay Done For Season

Posted by JD on August 20, 2010

The beat writers provided the news today via Twitter (here’s a representative sample from Newsday’s David Lennon): Jerry Manuel expects Jason Bay to miss the rest of the year as he recovers from a concussion suffered back in July.

Great. As if the team’s play of late hasn’t been depressing enough, now one of the more expensive pieces of the lineup has been placed on the sidelines indefinitely. His production hasn’t matched his paycheck yet, but he gave an honest effort throughout the season (and was far more productive than his counterpart in right field). It’s a shame to see his season end this way.

Looking for a silver lining, it’s may actually be a good sign if Bay doesn’t return (I’m not bashing Bay here…stick with me for a minute). If he’s struggling with concussion-related symptoms, sitting him indicates that management is implementing their Prevention and Recovery policy. Medical science is still struggling to understand the full impact of head injuries, but one thing that we’ve learned is that they are no joke. Unlike broken bones, concussions have no timetable for recovery. Benching Bay for the rest of the season ensures that he’ll be given every chance to return to health. Even if we can’t reliably predict that he’ll return to his previous levels of performance, this will at least give him the best chance to do so. Short-term sacrifice is in his (and the team’s) best interests, and I’m glad Mets management isn’t rushing him back* needlessly.

*However, I’m not ruling out his return this season yet: after all, they did let Beltran play last September. I hope he takes all the time he needs. Pardon me for waiting to see it before I believe it.

What makes this situation entirely unappealing is Manuel’s (and, to a slightly lesser extent, Omar Minaya’s) roster management of late. I have no doubt that if the medical staff gave Bay a green light, Omar would throw him out there (and bat him clean-up, to boot). It was just a few weeks ago when we were told Fernando Martinez and Ruben Tejada would be receiving increased playing time. That turned out to be a pipe dream: not only has Tejada been replaced by Luis Castillo at second, but Mike Hessman has seen an increase in playing time at the expense of Ike Davis and Rod Barajas has returned, sending Josh Thole to the bench and Martinez back to Buffalo.

Why? Because Manuel is desperately trying to save his job and, in doing so, he’s advanced the near-ludicrous notion that the Mets are still in contention for a post-season berth. 11 games behind the Braves, 8.5 games behind the Giants, only 41 games left to play, and our lame-duck manager is harboring dreams of reaching the playoffs. And management (and ownership) is allowing it or, even worse, encouraging it. Absolutely ridiculous, yet that’s what we’re left to deal with for the short-term future.

Losing Jason Bay for the rest of the season is disappointing. What’s absolutely crushing is watching near-useless veterans receive the bulk of the playing time in a vain attempt finish in the playoffs. While I applaud this implementation of the Prevention and Recovery mantra, it makes me wonder: how did the Mets get this one instance right while in the midst of making so many other fundamentally bad decisions?

Cliches are worthless, but I keep circling back to an old standard: “It is what it is”. The Mets will continue to spin their wheels, I’ll continue to watch (as will you), and the organizational inertia will continue to mire the Mets in mediocrity. I hope Jason Bay gets well and has a monster season next year, yet I seriously doubt it will change much.

———-

Update: I really should edit my posts better before publishing them. Upon re-reading this post, I realized I failed to make one key point: Jason Bay has done nothing wrong here. His effort on the field lead directly to his concussion: he ran face first into a fence to make a catch. Sure, I think we would all like to see more production than “6 home runs, 47 RBI”. Heck, Jason Bay probably wouldn’t argue that point. But he gave a consistent, honest effort in each game he played and you can’t ask for anything more than that. Maybe the numbers weren’t there, but it wasn’t from lack of effort.

My issue is with how the Mets have approached the past 20 or so games since he’s been injured, and how they appear to be approaching the rest of the season. The announcement that Bay is likely done for the season triggered my frustration with the Mets’ (read: Jerry Manuel’s) insistence that they are still fighting for a playoff-berth. At this point that’s utter nonsense, and it set me off. Allow me to summarize:

1. Bay’s injury is unfortunate
2. The Mets appear to be handling it correctly, however;
3. They are handling just about every other roster/lineup decision incorrectly.

Apologies for any confusion, and let’s all hope Bay returns to full health as soon as possible.

Posted in Ike Davis, Jason Bay, Jerry Manuel, Luis Castillo, Mets, Omar Minaya | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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