Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sandy the Consigliere

The trade deadline came and went 5 hours ago, and the Mets stood pat. The Twitter-verse was quite dichotomous on this, with some saying that saving the pieces for the future was the right thing to do, and others suggesting that inactivity was a slap in the fans' faces. Let's not focus on that, as it's over and done. Let me expand my new theory, that what the Mets are doing (or not doing) is the will of the Wilpons, and Sandy is simply their spin-controlling consigliere.

Sandy's comments today were rather interesting. Most of the pressure was to sell, and he expertly "reasoned" through that with, "That we didn't sell shows we were not under financial pressure to do so. And we are not giving up on this season." Wow! Nice spin there, buddy! The real reason is that their pieces are simply not valued by other teams, and the inactivity is not a sign of solvency, especially when many players have very low-value contracts. Also, they have given up on the season, or they would have acted weeks ago, when players like Brett Myers were moved. But it makes a great story, right? How does this tie back to the Wilpons? I'm more convinced than ever that they can't, or won't, spend money on this team. They've told Sandy to manage the public perception, and that's what he does. In a way, I feel sorry for Sandy, a wise baseball man who cannot use his skills. I'm also hoping against hope that MLB will step in and force the Wilpons to sell. Need a reason? Look what happened to the Dodgers when owners with money took over. We deserve a shot at that too.

Next topic (I don't like being this negative, BTW). All of this talk of "future", the prospects, 2013, etc...I have to poke at that. Matt Harvey may be the real deal, and was quite impressive with his 11 Ks. Wheeler should be outstanding as well. But where's this 1983-1984-like flood of prospects? Remember, those years produced Darling, Gooden, Strawberry, Brooks, Mitchell, Terrell, and El Sid was acquired in 1983 and developed in the Mets system. That's more than 2, folks. Mejia? This kid has gone from starter to reliever and back again many times. What does that tell you? It tells me that they're not sure in which role he may be able to succeed. Familia? He's pitching to a 4.88 ERA, with 108 hits allowed in 103 innings. Hot shot? I don't think so. And where are the position players? Duda? I'm laughing. Kirk? Work to do there. Den dekker? He Ks a lot, but he may have some talent. Here's the point. Are you seeing can't-miss prospects, that make you sure that 2013 (or even 2014) are the years we've been waiting for? I'm not. Fill holes from outside the organization? Good idea, but where have you seen any evidence that this will happen, especially when it costs money? All I see is spin control from a skilled consigliere. But he's good at it, isn't he?


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Speechless in Queens

What can I say that has not been said already? 13 of 15 in the "L"column, including 6 in a row, all at home. 1-11 since the all-star break. All of this after being 45-38, seemingly not so long ago. The wheels have come off, and it might not be getting better any time soon. It's almost hard to imagine that it could turn this quickly, even if they are the Mets.

The questions we're asking are "why", and "how". It's pretty simple. This team relied on starting pitching and 2-out runs. Neither has been there since the Phillie series. The bullpen has continued to tank, and the defense has been sub-par (no change there). To the Mets credit, they have tried to make changes. They DFA'ed Miguel Batista. They sent Duda down. They just sent Nickeas down. But the new pieces are no better (anyone see Beato on Monday?). These are what we call "Mary Kay" changes, purely cosmetic. If they wanted to make real, substantive changes, they would have had to go outside the organization. They didn't. That brings me to my next point.

I won't continue to write about Sandy's "snow job", telling us that they're actively looking for help. I will say that Sandy has a little egg on his face. The MSM tried to help him out, saying that it was a "seller's market", and that it was impossible to make deals in early-mid July. But that wasn't the case, was it? The White Sox made a deal. The Marlins made a few (their partners were Detroit and LA). The Braves are about to get Dempster. The Yankees made one (as always). So, deals could have been made. They weren't. Accept it, folks. That was the plan all along.

Now, we see this. The Mets are becoming sellers. They'll listen on Hairston and Byrdak. But no need to fear, Matt Harvey is starting tomorrow. Is that in Matt's best interest, or is it a pacifier being given to the fans? Come see a glimpse of the future, don't worry about the present. Buy tickets, the future is now. Will the fans oblige? Have the Mets misjudged the strength of the collective fan psyche? Maybe they should read Twitter. I think a lot of people have already packed it in for the year. But of more concern is the fan sentiment on the "future". People are saying that the Mets are sacrificing 2012 for the future. But where's the guarantee of that? The organization wants us to believe that better days are coming. How can we be sure? They had a chance to show us something. Make an investment in the team, no matter how small. Prove to us that the Wilpons are solvent. Give us hope, let us continue the fun spring into a promising summer. It didn't happen.

Now our mouths are agape. We're stunned. We're battered. We're disappointed. How much more can we take? Maybe better days are coming. But will there be anyone left to see them?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Why is this man smiling?

Our GM, the man tasked with leading the Mets from the abyss, is smiling here. Why? Is it because the Mets are off to a great second half? No! Is it because the seats are full at Citi Field? No again. Sandy is smiling because he's mastered the craft of public appeasement. He knows how to tame the virtual lions, also known as Mets fans. He knows just what to say, how to divert attention, and buy time so his plan can work. I'm not saying this is bad, I'm just performing a public service by telling people what is going on (said in jest).

Let's look at some examples. Ask yourself what was on the minds of Mets fans last July. The team was shedding players (K Rod and Beltran) to save money. But the team was also playing fairly well. So, we were screaming about signing Reyes. "He's part of the future" said the callers to WFAN. "We can't lose him too!" So what did Sandy do? On the Mets broadcast vs. St. Louis on September 20th, and again the next day on WFAN, Sandy said the first order of off-season business was to sign Reyes. By the way, remember when Sandy went public last June and said he offered to in-season negotiate with Reyes, when he knew that Reyes had stated he would not do that? Anyway, I digress. We were calmed by Sandy's words last September. But what happened? Sandy never made an offer, did he? And when the buzz about that started to swell, Sandy talked about improving the bullpen, and signed two relievers and traded for another.

Fast forward 12 months. The Mets are teetering on contention, and would be doing a lot better if the bullpen was competent. Fans naturally scream about improving the bullpen. Today John Ricco says, "We're monitoring the market for relievers. We're sending our scouts to see all major league teams." Sandy said the same words yesterday. But we have a problem here, don't we? The Mets were 1 game out of a WC when the second half began. They're now 4 behind. The bullpen is largely responsible. Help was needed 3 weeks ago when Frank Frank went down. Last year, K Rod was traded over the break. Trades can be made before 7/31, if you're motivated to do so. You see, Sandy isn't motivated to act. I'm convinced that he knows (properly so) that this team is not one investment away. So, Sandy waits until the team falls out of it, all the while telling us about the team's diligent efforts to "monitor". What the hell is that anyway? He keeps us calm. When 7/31 comes and the Mets are 9 out in the division and 7 in the WC, he could say that they're too far out to make a deal. This way, the spin becomes that he's astutely holding money and prospects, not investing to chase a 2012 dream. He comes out whole, plan in tact. This man is brilliant!

And as I've said, this may be the right course of action. My only gripe is that we're being treated like children. You know, Santa's watching, so you'd better be good. This was a bad 12 days for the Mets. That's too long between wins, all-star break or not. Tuesday's game was a killer. Valdy was the hero with a 3-run ninth-inning shot, only to see Parnell give the lead back in the bottom of the inning. Then another lead was frittered away in the 10th, all of this after 4 straight losses. Yikes! Wednesday was not much better, as a Mets rally fell short in B9. Let's take one minute to discuss the temporary closer. I'm aware that I rag on Parnell, but he's just awful. Or maybe he's frustrating. Such great stuff, and no idea how to use it. WIth the game on the line on Tuesday, he has noted low-ball hitter Espinoza up. What does Bobby do? Throws him a low fastball. UGH! Then Bobby says the pitch would have gotten 95% of hitters out, and that all pitchers are rusty after the break. His words, in my mind, are more indicative of his lack of a clue than the pitch location. This guy is just not big-league closer material. Yes, he has "stuff". But he doesn't know how to use it, and this should not be a surprise. It's been this way since he came up in 2008.

But, we'll have to continue to endure Bobby. You see, all of this "monitoring" is not going to bring us bullpen help.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Devil Went Down to Georgia and Tomahawked The Mets

"The devil went down to Georgia, he was looking for a soul to steal." He stole one alright. He stole many, the hearts of Mets fans as the team was swept by the annoying Braves. Sweeps never feel good. This one was especially disturbing. Let's not focus on missed calls, reversed calls, inconsistent strike zones, and other officiating follies. Let's focus on poor starting pitching, worse relief pitching, and an overall bad effort. This Mets team is flawed, perhaps significantly so. But it has been riding its starting pitching, and with the efforts of Young, Santana, and Dickey down in Dixie, we all fear that the ride might be ending. They were all bad. There are no euphemisms about grounders finding holes and bloops. They were bad. That is all.

If the Mets are to contend in the second half, the pitching needs to be better. They need to find a replacement for Gee, and his name is not Batista. It may be Harvey. We'll see on Saturday. For now, the issue on the table is 3 games in Washington. That's a series against the first-place team. It's a series they really need to win. If they don't, and heaven forbid they get swept, the season will take a turn for the worse. All the talk of acquiring Street, K Rod, Myers, or any other player, will dissipate. The second half will feel eerily similar to second halves of 2009, 2010, and 2011. And that's not good, folks.

I'll say it one more time. If the Mets fall out of it, Sandy's job gets easier. I'm not suggesting that Sandy does not want to win. I'm saying that if the Mets fall out of it, Sandy keeps with his plan of not spending money or prospects in 2012. And if you listen to Sandy, you know he has planned all of this out. He figured 2012 to be the transition year, not the contention year. He'd be in an awkward spot if they kept winning. He'd have to invest in team, if not for any other reason than to show a commitment to the fans.

Final thought for this post. I watched Aroldis Chapman close for the Reds last night. He throws 101 mph. That's funny, so does Bobby Parnell. Chapman is untouchable. Parnell is, at best, inconsistent. Why is this? Commnad of the secondary pitch? Pitch selection (Parnell threw 16 of 17 fastballs during his Saturday meltdown)? It's probably all of these. But isn't it frustrating, that we've been waiting for this guy since 2008, and he's progressed only marginally? And Chapman instantly is a top-notch closer. Where do we look for answers? Bobby himself? Warthen? The "catchers"? These are the things we (or I) ponder on an off day after a sweep. Sandy may be pondering the trade market, and how he may not have to worry about it if things don't turn around quickly.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Road Ahead

The All Star Break. The name conjures up thoughts of...the middle of the season...trades....snubs.... and BOREDOM. How do we get through the off season if these four days are so painful? I don't know about you, but the Cyclones and the Home Run Derby just don't cut it for me. But back to more important matters, our 46-40, third-place New York Mets.

Let's start with Dillon Gee, and the unfortunate news that he's likely lost for the year. First, let's realize that his numb fingers on Sunday may have saved his life, and thank God for that. But the Mets clearly have a hole in the rotation, a hole that will be filled initially by Miguel Batista. Batisita has thrown 40.2 innings and allowed 44 hits, pitching to a 4.20 ERA. Batista is also 41 years old, so there is some doubt about his long-term status. The topic of conversation today is Matt Harvey, and whether or not he'll be called up. Harvey has pitched 98.1 innings in AAA, allowing 87 hits, while striking out 102. He's been a bit inconsistent, and you wonder if he's ready. My guess is that Batista will be fair at best, and Harvey will get the call in August. I'm not sure if this is best for Harvey, especially if the team is in contention.

The next topic is potential roster additions. There's talk of Street, Balfour, K Rod, Broxton, and Myers for relief help. I think none of these options would cost top-level prospects, so they are all interesting. There's also talk about an upgrade at catcher, with Ramon Hernandez being a target. Hernandez is 36, batting .215 with 1 HR. Yes, Nickeas is bad, but how much of an upgrade is this? Then there's the big talk, a multi-player deal with Arizona for Justin Upton. Names being discussed are Duda, Familia, Flores, among others. All of this talk makes for good talk radio, and maybe nothing else. My feelings on the Mets potentially making a deal remain the same. I don't think they will, at least not a deal of significance. I truly believe that management and ownership are not convinced that this team is worth any investment, of players or money. Yes, the team is surprising. But let's be real. Are they serious contenders? Is now the time to increase payroll, or lose prospects? I think making a deal would send a good message to the team and the fans. But read between the lines of what Sandy said during Sunday's broadcast. He said he may not want to disrupt the "chemistry." He said he wants to explore internal options first. Well, you know what? They're 86 games in, and they know what they do and do not have. Also, they have 18 games until the deadline. If they wait until 7/31, they may be out of it by then. You know what else? Maybe not investing in the team is the right thing to do, from an "adult-in-the room" perspective. But it will not land well on the fan base, they need to know that.

The schedule coming out of the break is rough, with 17 of 23 on the road, and 11 of which are in the western time zone. This includes 6 against the Nationals and 3 against the Braves. It's safe to say that when the second-half bell rings, it'll be make-or-break-time. I say they'll have to go at least 12-11 over these 23 to remain in contention.

Final thought. There was a Twitter debate this Sunday on the merits of Ralph Kiner in the booth. I feel Kiner's time passed a long time ago, and I don't see the point of having him in the booth. I blame SNY and Ralph's family for allowing him to go on the air and embarrass himself. Having him in the booth detracts from the telecast, and more importantly, sullies his image as a proud HOFer. As Mets fans, we love Ralph. I do too, as he is a cherished part of my childhood. But what he does now is not what endeared him to Mets Nation. It's not close, and it needs to stop. I say the Mets should erect a statue of Raplh at the mic, and put it in the rotunda. Each year let the fans cheer him on opening day. Have a Ralph Kiner day at Citi. Allow him to retire with dignity. His dignity is not being considered by what they're doing to him now.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Return Engagement?

I'm a bit surprised by the reaction of my fellow fans to the news that the Mets are interested in K Rod. Yes, I know he did a dumb and terrible thing at Citi in August of 2010. But he apologized, and for the time he was here in 2011, served in his role as a solid citizen. In 2012, Frankie has been serviceable, if not stellar. He has thrown 36 innings, allowing 38 hits and pitching to a 4.00 ERA. But you have to ask yourself if he'd be an upgrade over what is currently in the pen. I say, "are you kidding? Of course! "Would you rather have K Rod or Rauch in the 8th or 9th? How about K Rod or Hefner?" Enough said. Personally, I'd take him over Parnell and maybe even over Frank Frank, since K Rod has shown that he can close effectively. But here's the best part. K Rod is making $8 million, so the Mets could offer the Brewers financial relief and NOT top prospects. I say "DO IT."

Brian Fuentes was DFA'd today. STAY AWAY. I don't care how inexpensive he may be. This man looks frightened on the mound. I'll never forget the 2009 ALCS when Fuentes was an Angel, pitching against the Yankees. I'd swear he wanted a security blanket and a pacifier out there. He'll come inexpensively, and this would be a classic case of getting what you pay for.

Brett Myers? 26.2 IP and 30 hits allowed, 17 saves. He'd be my second choice. I like his attitude (hated it when he displayed it against the Mets). The problem is that Houston is accumulating prospects, and and the Mets finally have the system ready to produce. This would not be the right time to trade even mid-level prospects.

Huston Street? 21 IP with 8 hits allowed. Wow! He also has 12 saves. Bigger problem here with the prospects...San Diego would want a lot of them. Street is interesting, and certainly effective in 2012. However, he's been up and down in his career, and with price tag, I say 'pass."

Final thought. Andy Martino (whom I do not care for) tweeted Sunday night that Duda's offense does not compensate for his defense. I agree. I wrote here in March that Duda in RF was a bad idea. We all knew he'd be challenged. It took a while, but as it always will be, he has been exposed. His 11 HRs are  nice, but to compensate for his D, he'd need to be at 20 with a .280 average. He has neither. And PLEASE don't give me the "learning" thing. First, positions should be learned at AAA, not in the majors. Second, he will never "learn" speed, and therefore will always be a sub-par OF. I like BJ Upton a lot. Yes, he's under-achieved. That's exactly why he'll be available via FA this winter. Get the plow horse out and put a speedy athlete in RF. Still think D doesn't matter in baseball?