Section 518

Where we endeavor to stay positive about the 2011 Mets…

Archive for May, 2009

Too Much Ebbets

Posted by JD on May 31, 2009

During today’s game, 52% of the fans participating identified Ebbets Field as the original home of the Mets (41% correctly chose the Polo Grounds). Outrageous!

I’d love to kill the fans on this one but I just can’t bring myself to do it. Those responding to text polls probably skew younger and though you’d like them to know their franchise’s history it’s not unreasonable for them not to. No, the blame for this rests squarely on the Wilpons.

This is what happens when you build your stadium as an homage to a place that the Mets never played in. This is what happens when you completely ignore half of your historical heritage and downplay your own franchise’s history. This is absolutely unacceptable and should be addressed as soon as possible, but as we’ve seen with the “Sweet Caroline” sing-along, the ownership group will probably pooh-pooh it as long as they can before doing the right thing.

For months we’ve been hearing about adding a Mets Hall of Fame and no visible progress has been made. Now, Mets management has to deal with the egg on their faces unavoidably displayed on the Jumbotron in center field.

Sadly, it’s the fans that will have to deal with this. A younger generation is already being deprived of the full history of the franchise they love. And that’s the biggest shame of all.

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Re-evaluating the Catcher Situation

Posted by JD on May 30, 2009

I made a rookie mistake today in my haste to evaluate the Mets’ catcher situation. As Ken Davidoff of Newsday pointed out, the Mets do have a viable third option at Buffalo. His name? Javier Valentin.

You may disagree, but this changes my take on the Ramon Castro trade completely. While I love the production and energy (in that order) that Omir Santos has brought to the lineup, I’m worried that he might hit the wall. Heck, with such a small sample size it’s practically inevitable that he will hit the wall. Castro has far better career numbers than Santos over a much larger sample size. He’s a proven commodity.

As a result, I worried that the Mets would be left short-handed by the lack of depth in the minors. I spoke to soon. Valentin is hitting the cover off the ball at Buffalo. Playing exclusively at first base, he’s compiled a .320/.433/.560 BA/OBP/SLG line. Even if he reverts to mean, he’s a proven major league hitter (.251/.310/.402). By comparison, Castro’s career line is .237/.311/.417. Yes, Castro has a career OPS+ of 90 (compared to Valentin’s 82), but Valentin is solid defensively. Castro is a capable but limited receiver. Valentin is certainly solid enough to fill in for a prolonged period of time.

And if that wasn’t enough, Davidoff implied that Castro may be a negative presence in the clubhouse. I’m surprised if only because I’ve seen so many SNY clips of him placing bubble-gum on other players’ hats. I always had an image of him as the clubhouse comedian. If that’s not actually the case there’s even less reason to keep him around.

I have to tip my cap to Omar on this one. He signed Valentin about a month ago, well before Omir started tearing the cover off the ball. If the Mets need another catcher, Omar may have covered that base already.

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Robinson Cancel: You’re On Deck!

Posted by JD on May 30, 2009

Over at MetsBlog, Matthew Cerrone had an interesting take on Mike Nichols’ recap of the Ramon Castro trade:

“That said, they are making a big gamble in that, as Howard Megdal and Ted Berg pointed out to me, if Santos stops hitting, or either he or Brian Schneider get hurt again, then the Mets have very little to choose from in terms of minor-league catching and options to fill in on the bench.”

Can’t disagree with that. The number one option would appear to be Robinson Cancel. While he had his moments last year, he doesn’t have a great track record.  His career line in the majors: .215/.263/.290 BA/OBP/SLG.  That’s a small sample size, but his line in the minors is only slightly less discouraging: .263/.322/.377 (there’s a reason why he spent 16 seasons in the minors). We don’t even get the Crash Davis effect: only 72 home runs (career high: 12).

Other options include Rene Rivera (.227/.252/.333 in 159 major league PA’s, .248/.303/.336 in the minors), Mike Nickeas (.231/.319/.341 in the minors), and 22 year-old Josh Thole (currently .366/.435/.490 at Binghamton).

I seriously hope they don’t rush Thole. He’s putting up good numbers at AA and I’d like to see him exposed to AAA a little bit before he gets to Flushing. And I seriously doubt the pitching staff wants to deal with breaking in a 22 year-old in a pennant race.

If the Mets need a short-term replacement, I’d prefer to see them go with Cancel. It comes down to diversification. While Rivera has played 48 games at first, Cancel has logged 38 games at first, 12 at third, 37 in left, 1 in right, and 34 in the more nebulous category of “OF”. He’s more of a jack-of-all trades type who should be able to plug in at various positions on short notice.

That being said, it would be pretty bleak if Schneider or Omir Santos are injured for a prolonged period. Which, given the Mets’ current luck with injuries, might be only a matter of time…

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Cash Considerations

Posted by JD on May 28, 2009

As has been widely reported, the Mets made two transactions today. Jose Reyes and Ryan Church were placed on the 15-day DL, Fernando Martinez was called up from Buffalo,  and Wilson Valdez was acquired from the Indians for cash considerations. Martinez is unquestionably the bigger transaction as the much-hyped prospect will be given steady time in the outfield for the next few weeks at least. Hopefully he’ll flourish and become a cornerstone player to build around.

The Valdez transaction piqued my interest, mostly Cleveland didn’t even feel the need to receive a player in return. Granted, the Indians operate on a much tighter budget than the Mets so that cash can be put to good use developing other, more important assets. This will also presumably free up playing time for other players that they value more highly.

And let’s face it, this isn’t a top-flight major league talent we’re talking about here. Valdez hasn’t played in the majors since 2007. His career line? .211/.254/.277 with 13 extra-base hits (1 home run) in 274 plate appearances. And it’s even worse this season (in AAA Columbus): .198/.263/.207 with only 1 extra-base hit (a double) in 137 plate appearances. Think about that: 1 extra-base hit! And we thought the Mets had depth issues in the minors…

Regardless, seeing the words “cash considerations” made me curious: how many players have the Mets bought from other teams over the years, and how did it work out? I’m not including free agents, Rule 5 picks or waiver claims. I picked 1986 as an arbitrary starting point and headed over to Baseball Reference to do some digging. Here’s what I came up with:

November 28, 2007 Purchased Brian Stokes from the Tampa Bay Rays.
November 28, 2005 Purchased Tike Redman from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
March 24, 2005 Purchased Fernando Lunar from the Cleveland Indians.
March 28, 2005 Purchased Benji Gil from the Seattle Mariners.
December 28, 2001 Purchased Gary Matthews from the Pittsburgh Pirates. (Matthews was traded to the Baltimore Orioles on April 3, 2002 for John Bale).
March 28, 1997 Purchased Barry Manuel from the Montreal Expos.
March 26, 1996 Purchased Joe Crawford from the Boston Red Sox.
April 29, 1994 Purchased Roger Mason from the Philadelphia Phillies.

Couple of thoughts:

1). I didn’t realize Brian Stokes was acquired this way.  Say what you want about him (I happen to like him), but this clearly goes into the plus column for Omar. Unless it was a ridiculously large cash payment, he’s already exceeded the value of the investment.

 2). Slim pickings otherwise. Roger Mason was a decent major league pitcher, though not really for the Mets. I actually remember seeing Tike Redman, Benji Gil, and Gary Matthews, Jr. on the Mets’ roster, unlike Barry Manuel, Fernando Lunar, and Joe Crawford. On a side note, I can’t say that Gary Matthews, Jr. is another example of “one that got away”. He absolutely stank at the time and for several seasons after and John Bale was a decent enough prospect to justify the trade at the time. Although, Steve Phillips was still GM so screw it! I’m putting on my “hindsight goggles” and calling it a disaster of a move. Guess Gary Matthews, Jr. wasn’t “clutch” either…

 3). This list changes a bit if you include players purchased from foreign and independent leagues.  Takashi Kashiwada, Scott Stewart, Timo Perez, and Tsuyoshi Shinjo all join the list. Perez (unfortunately) went on to play a big role in the 2000 world series and Shinjo was one of the more unique personalities on the team during the early 00’s.  Edgardo Alfonzo would also be included as his contract was purchased from Bridgeport of the Atlantic League in 2006, though Fonzie unfortunately never made it back to Flushing.

Overall, it’s not a bad list of players. Nothing earth-shattering, but some solid players nonetheless. But during my research I came across two rather interesting transactions from 2005:

March 30, 2005 Selected Wilson Valdez off waivers from the Chicago White Sox.
April 1, 2005 Wilson Valdez selected by the Seattle Mariners off waivers.

One day? I’d say that says a lot about Mr. Valdez.  And boy are we in trouble if he winds up getting much more than mop-up duty.

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Don’t Eff-Around With Jose

Posted by JD on May 26, 2009

Ok, I get it. One of your best players tells you he can go even though he’s clearly injured. As a manager, you need to show faith in the player. You have to keep that roster spot open because your superstar at 80% is better than your backup or AAA replacement at 100%. I get it.

But Jose Reyes has been injured for more than a week! Clearly, he’s not getting any better. But Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel are clearly not seeing it. Adam Rubin of the NY Daily News got some good quotes after tonight’s game, including this one from Jerry Manuel:

“If he can play at that 80 or 90% without in the back of his mind that if he does something it’s going to blow or something like that, I think then we’re okay.”

Jerry is speaking for Omar Minaya on this one. I understand that it’s part of his job and I can’t hold it against him. But I can hold it against Omar:

Damn it Omar, I’m a blogger, not a doctor! But even I know you can’t rely on the player in this situation. What if Jose does have it in the back of his mind? What if he realizes he’s hurting halfway between home and first? You know he’s going to be going full-bore. How can you realistically expect Jose to nurse a leg injury?

I know. There’s nobody in the farm system to take Jose’s place. I get it. But dammit, don’t Eff around with this one! Put Jose on the DL today, call up Argenis Reyes or Johnathan Malo, and make due. Because the one game you gain today might cost you an entire season from one of the best shortstops/lead-off men in the game. And that is truly inexcusable.

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