Section 518

Where we endeavor to stay positive about the 2011 Mets…

Archive for April, 2010

Meaningful Baseball

Posted by JD on April 30, 2010

I should have put quotes around that title, because I believe there’s no such thing as meaningless baseball. Sure, some games have much less meaning than meaning than others: I’m not saying that a game from last September meant the same as Game 6 in ’86. But it’s a sliding scale, and you can always find something important, if you just look hard enough. But I digress…

Tonight’s game, and this weekend’s series, are meaningful games, and the Mets seem to know it. Their coming off an almost serendipitous run: they got hot when three teams got cold, had some big hits, capitalized off some boneheaded plays, and came away with a 9-1 record. They went from last to first in the division and seem to have momentum on their side. The Phillies have scuffled a bit, with a 4-6 record in their last 10 games. But (and do I really have to right this?) they’re the defending NL champs, and they’ll have that until the Mets can knock them off.

It’s an early-season statement series, plain and simple. I hate to put too much into three games in April/May, but I have to think that their collective morale would be greatly boosted by taking the series. I suppose it would also “send a message”. I don’t really buy that, but whatever.

This much is certain: the Mets travel to Cincinnati then host San Francisco and Washington, all winnable series. A nice showing this weekend could set them up for a good week. Here are your starting pitchers:

Friday: LHP Jon Niese (0-1, 3.68) vs. RHP Kyle Kendrick (0-0, 7.71), 7:05 p.m. ET (SNY, WFAN)

Saturday: RHP Mike Pelfrey (4-0, 0.69) vs. RHP Roy Halladay (4-1, 1.80), 3:10 p.m. ET (Fox, WFAN)

Sunday: LHP Johan Santana (3-1, 2.08) vs. LHP Jamie Moyer (2-2, 5.25), 8:07 p.m., ET (ESPN, WFAN)

And a series preview (both courtesy of ESPN New York).

As always, Let’s Go Mets!

UPDATE: Tonight’s game is on WPIX 11.

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Thank You, Philly!

Posted by JD on April 26, 2010

The Phillies signed first baseman Ryan Howard to a five-year, $125 million extension (with a team option for a sixth year, which, if exercised, would make the total value $138 million). Thank you, Ruben Amaro!

There are two reasons for my reaction: the impact on the Phillies’ payroll, and the ripple effect throughout the league. Let’s tackle them in that order.

The Phillies’ Payroll: According to Cot’s Baseball Contract’s, the Phillies payroll for this season is about $138 million. That’s bound to increase next season as they already have commitments to 17 players exceeding $134 million. They can basically kiss Jayson Werth goodbye, and they better hope their farm system produces a few cheap replacements, because they’re not going to be able to spend a lot on the open market.

Now, you can’t blame that on entirely on the extension because 2011 is the final year of Howard’s current deal: the Phillies were already committed to (over)paying him. The extension starts in 2012 and the Phillies payroll for that season is already $86 million (for just eight players). Now, this is where it starts to get fun. Howard will be 32 that year and, mostly likely, he’s going to be an old 32. Adrian Gonzalez and Prince Fielder will both be free agents heading into that season (barring any trades or extensions, obviously) and will be 30 and 28, respectively. The Phillies commitment to Howard, who can’t play anything but first (and not very well at that), takes them out of the market for Gonzalez and Fielder. As much as we all love Ike Davis, the Mets would have to get involved. With the Yankees committed to Mark Teixiera and the Phillies out of the game, they’d probably have only the Red Sox as competition, meaning Davis would be moving out to the outfield in 2012.

The Ripple Effect: This is what makes me positively giddy. Howard is inferior to both Gonzalez and Fielder, yet the Phillies just signed him to an extension that has an average annual value greater than everyone other than A-Rod. Think their agents aren’t sending gift baskets to Citizen’s Bank Park? What’s particularly intriguing about the scenario is that Milwaukee and San Diego are two of the smaller markets in the league. They don’t have the resources to devote $25 million to one player. The Mets do, and they’re aided by an additional factor: Carlos Beltran’s $17 million contract comes off the books after 2011, giving them even more payroll room*. It’s like the Perfect Storm: the Phillies took themselves off the market, but elevated the price tags to the point that only the large market teams can afford to pay them.

*As much as I love Beltran, I’m slowly coming to grips with the fact that he may never be the awesome force that he once was. He’ll turn 35 in 2012 and will likely still be dealing with the fallout from his current injury. I just don’t know how wise it would be to resign him to a big-money deal. Only time will tell, but for purposes of this discussion I’m going to assume that the Mets will look to move on.

And then there’s the elephant in the room: if a 32 year-old Ryan Howard is worth $25 million a year, what is a 32 year-old Albert Pujols worth? $35 million? $40 million? More? The Cardinals have substantially more flexibility in 2012 than the Phillies with only $31 million committed to just four players (but my gosh, how horrible does that $12 Kyle Lohse commitment look now?). But I have to think that if Pujols refused to give the Cardinals a discount, they’ll be hard pressed to meet his demands.

If Pujols does hit the market, the Mets will face competition from both the Yankees and Red Sox (regardless of who they have under contract at the time). Landing Pujols would be a long-shot, but stranger things have happened. And we would have one of our most hated rivals to thank for making it all possible.

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Defending Wayne Hagin

Posted by JD on April 25, 2010

Tonight’s game will be on ESPN, so I’ll be muting it and listening to Howie Rose and Wayne Hagin on WFAN. The quality of the ESPN broadcast is much improved from last season, but only because Steve Phillips was kicked to the curb when he proved (once again) that he can’t keep it in his pants. It’s still tedious to listen to Morgan and Miller, so I’m going to avoid it altogether by tuning into the FAN.

I read tweets from time to time about the radio broadcasting crew and have noticed a bit of a disparity in how the members of the booth are viewed by fans. Howie Rose is a staple: his “Put it in the books!” call is second only to Bob Murphy’s “Happy Recap”. Often asked to MC major events at Shea Stadium or Citi Field, his voice is now synonymous with the Mets. On the other hand, Wayne Hagin, is still working his way into our good graces, to put it nicely. He joined the FAN in 2008 as a replacement for Tom McCarthy (who was unfairly criticized for trying too hard to sound like his predecessor, Gary Cohen). Hagin’s received an awful lot of negative comments though: this post on the Ultimate Mets Database neatly includes a pretty representative sample.

I admit that I didn’t like the hire initially, either, but Hagin’s really grown on me over the past three seasons. He’s not a native New Yorker, but he’s taken to the Big Apple with gusto. From discussions surrounding the origin of egg cremes to the proper usage of the term “schmuck”, Wayne has embraced our local culture with both arms. He brings an outsider’s view to the team we love, a fresh set of eyes that sees old problems in new ways. It’s true that he often refers to the A’s, Giants, Rockies, and Cardinals (the latter can be especially tedious), but he’s a baseball fan first and foremost, and that shines through no matter what team he’s discussing.

Most importantly, he’s established good on-air chemistry with Howie Rose. For all I know, the two of them hate each other off the air. But when the mic is on, they sound like old friends talking about a ball game, which is all I really want. When I turn on the radio, I want to listen to someone who makes me care about the game: someone who’s invested in the action and invested in the Mets, who cares about what they’re describing and who wants me to care about it, too. In his own unique way, Hagin does that. It may have taken me two-plus years to admit it, but Wayne Hagin is a welcome addition to the Mets on-air family.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go mute my television set and tune in the FAN. Howie, Wayne, and I have a ballgame to watch. And if @MetsWFAN (the Immortal Chris Majkowski) wants to chime in, the more the merrier. As always, Let’s Go Mets!

Posted in Mets | Tagged: , , , , , , | 17 Comments »

Hyperbole, Thy Name is Ike Davis

Posted by JD on April 19, 2010

Ike Davis arrived today to much fanfare. Davis was on fire in Spring Training and Buffalo and, given how poorly the current crew of first basemen have played in Daniel Murphy’s absence, it’s no shock that Mets fans are happy to see him.

Twitter, in particular, was alive with Davis chatter which, though it got to be a bit much at times, was a refreshing departure from the doom and gloom that has surrounded he Mets since Opening Day. And there was some great stuff out there: examples include Michael Baron’s photo galleries of Davis and Hot Foot’s Ike Davis facts tumblr (which cracked me up – that kind of thing always gets me). It was a good day to be a fan and and a welcome diversion.

But there was another theme out there that made me shake my head. If you spent any time on line I’m sure you saw it at least once today: the comparison of Daniel Murphy to Wally Pipp, a well-meaning comparison that, in my mind, treads uncomfortably close to the land of unfair expectations.

As the story goes, Pipp took a day off in 1925 because of a headache and Lou Gehrig took his place, launching his famous Iron Man streak. Pipp became an afterthought, known primarily for losing his job and, as a result, getting compared to almost every player that’s lost their job to a younger player.

But the comparison usually doesn’t work. With all due respect to Murphy, Pipp was a far, far better player with an established resume. Just take a look at his stats: he lead (or tied for the lead) the league in home runs twice*, finished in the top-10 and 15 in MVP votes twice as a Yankee (and once as a Red, after he lost his job to Gehrig). Murphy has a future in the league, probably as a utility player, but to compare him to Pipp is stretching it a bit.

*With 12 and 9 home runs, but still…

And that brings me to a bigger point: if you’re explicitly comparing Murphy to Pipp, you’re implicitly comparing Davis to Gehrig. If you’ve read this far, I hope you know I’m exaggerating a bit: I didn’t actually see anyone make that comparison and even the most ill-informed fans I know wouldn’t go there. But the level of hyperbole did get pretty high, pretty fast, and I worry that some folks may have unjustly exaggerated expectations for Davis.

I’m as excited to see Davis play as the next guy, but let’s try to keep it reasonable. It’s hard enough just to play in the major leagues, never mind to play as well as John Olerud. I actually did see this comparison made in a good way, as it was said that he probably won’t be as good as Olerud (and I apologize for not having a link to the tweets in question). There was another reasonable comparison to Adam Laroche, who’s not quite as good as Olerud but still a solid major leaguer. It then becomes a game of degrees: if comparing Davis to Laroche is reasonable while comparing him to Olerud is unfair, the gap between is a substantial gray area, and you can start talking yourself into something that’s not fair to you or the player.

So, I warn you against setting your expectations for Davis too high. We have a litany of examples of the angst this can cause: Generation K, Lastings Milledge, and Carlos Gomez, to name a few (and you could probably throw in Mike Pelfrey, Eddie Kunz, and Fernando Martinez, too).

We’re all fans and we all enjoy the game in different ways. The hype generated by Davis’ promotion presents us with another opportunity to express ourselves, and it’s awesome the way the Mets community came alive in response to it. Let’s all enjoy Davis’ debut: his future begins tonight, and it’s a big day. I have a feeling he’ll be just fine, but let’s try not to burden him with unreasonable expectations all the same.

Posted in Daniel Murphy, Ike Davis, Mets | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

A Flight of Fancy

Posted by JD on April 18, 2010

I came across this blog post from FanGraphs while researching how service time is calculated and I must say, I love it. The gist of the post is that the Royals have grossly underestimated Ka’aihue (they have) and, as such, “it’s time to free Kila Ka’aihue”. I couldn’t agree more.

Look past the awesome name and you’ll see a pretty awesome player. Focus on the AAA numbers for a moment: 737 plate appearances netted 66 extra base hits and 137 walks, but only 119 strike outs. Sure, the batting average isn’t perfect, but who cares? His OBP is .405: he’s a valuable offensive player.

Unfortunately, the post doesn’t get into trade specifics. Although the author mentions the Orioles and Mets as candidates for Ka’aihue’s services, he doesn’t suggest compensation. That’s ok, because while I would love to have him on our team, the Mets are just about the last team that would take a chance on Ka’aihue (obviously, the Royals are one of the others). To clarify: the Royals released Mike Jacobs, and the Mets picked him up. The two organizations clearly have similar views about the worth of players like Ka’aihue. Even though he may be available, it’s a pipe dream to suggest that the Mets would take a chance on him.

This will be a moot point if Ike Davis lives up to his advanced billing. But a guy can dream, and it would be awesome to root for an on-base machine named Kila. Sigh…

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