Viewer Mail 1.23.2011

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE the Mets:

As always, I feel like I’m getting an honest reaction to the Mets mess from you… but I wonder, what in the world was the reasoning behind making an official announcement (IN JANUARY) that Mike Pelfrey would be the Opening Day starter?

IN JANUARY!?!?!??!

It’s a new trendy thing and I don’t understand it either.

For certain teams, it’s known who the opening day starter is and it’s generally more of an honorific than any strategic reason. Bobby Valentine was the first manager I remember doing it with Pete Harnisch of the Mets in 1997. Harnisch pitched okay that day, but then missed the next four months of the season with depression related symptoms. It’s hard to know whether the pressure from being named the opening day starter long before the season exacerbated the condition—this is an extreme case—but it’s possible.

To me, the pressure of being anointed as the “number 1″ can do more harm than good. Mike Pelfrey knows he’s the main man on the Mets staff until Johan Santana gets back and I understand the idea that they’re giving him the heads up. If he can’t handle knowing he’s the opening day starter, how’s he going to handle a playoff start?

I get it.

But I’m of the mind that the media and public get information on a need-to-know basis; it was clear to everyone that Pelfrey was going to take the ball on opening day. Was announcing it necessary? No.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Brian Cashman and Rafael Soriano:

According to the beat writers, Cashman owed it to them to explain his reversal on the Soriano signing. It would have been totally disingenuous for him to say he’s adamant against signing Soriano one minute and then turn around and announce the signing – without explaining to the media what happened. Can’t fault him for being honest. I don’t, anyway. Was it awkward? Absolutely.

I don’t think he owed them anything. The first mistake he made was making such a declarative and “final” public statement regarding Soriano. If his bosses were considering Soriano as a fallback plan, Cashman should’ve kept his mouth shut. Perhaps this was an attempt, on Cashman’s part, to pressure Hank and Hal Steinbrenner and Randy Levine to back off on Soriano so as not to appear to be undermining their GM.

Then again, he’s been with the Yankees a long time; I doubt he’s that naive.

I do fault him for being honest. He started a bonfire for no reason other than his own ego. It’s his job to take the hits for his bosses and if he thinks he’s bulletproof, well, all he needs do is look at how Jack Zduriencik’s star fell after being cast as a “genius” in some quarters and whose job is on the line. (I preached caution with Zduriencik, a fact for which I’m remarkably smug.)

I was going to say some things about this today, but will wait. Bill Madden wrote an interesting piece on Cashman in today’s NY Daily News speculating whether he’d like to go elsewhere and build a club the way he wants to without interference and big money from above—link.

Rather than comment on it, I’m planning a similar GM dissection as to the ones I, um—inflicted? perpetrated? completed? Which word is best?—on Sandy Alderson and Josh Byrnes while the Mets were in their decades long interview phase of finding a GM to replace Omar Minaya.

It’ll be an evenhanded look at Cashman from start to finish and may take a couple of days to complete. Of course it’ll be worth it.

Max Stevens writes RE the Angels and Vernon Wells:

Prince – What is your take on the big trade between the Halos and the Jays? I think the Angels FO panicked and that this will prove to be a huge mistake.  Aside from Wells’ huge multi-year contract, there’s now some serious age on the Angels outfield…

I went into this yesterday and didn’t mention the word “panic”, but it’s not something to discount. They were shut out on everything they tried to do and had their hearts as set on Carl Crawford as the Yankees had on Cliff Lee. Then they saw Adrian Beltre go to the Rangers; watched the Athletics drastically improve both their offense and bullpen; and had a team that was essentially the same as the one from last season—aside from the additions of Scott Downs and Hisanori Takahashi—that fell under .500.

It’s not as horrific as is being suggested; the Angels have a lot of money and cash coming off the books after this season—$33 million for Scott Kazmir, Joel Pineiro, Fernando Rodney and Bobby Abreu; and Torii Hunter‘s coming off after 2012—the money’s not an issue with Wells.

Maybe they looked at the free agent class for next year and didn’t feel confident they could lure a Jose Reyes or Prince Fielder to improve the offense; the free agent outfield crop looks weak. I wouldn’t have done this if I were the Angels, but I don’t see it as out-and-out panic.

Norm writes RE the Mets, Blue Jays and Sandy Alderson:

Re. Wells- I think once the Jayson Werth signing raised the bar for 30+ year old decent 5 tool player contracts, the Wells contract starts looking more reasonable.
As a Toronto (and occasionally a Met) fan I see a probable problem: notwithstanding the financially sound move of removing Wells’ contract from the Blue Jays’ books, the move smells of a ‘diminish expectations’ strategy, similar to the one Alderson seems to be employing.

****

Alderson seems like a disingenuous careerist and a master at diminishing expectations.  And his hiring of two Moneyball acolytes fails the smell test too.  And of course begs the question why did the Mets need to pay big bucks to 3 GM types for the purpose of making zero important moves in the off season?  You could have paid any sabermetric geek 100 grand to negotiate a Chris Young contract and to try and get rid of Perez and Castillo?  Are you telling me that the Mets needed to ‘lock down’ Ricciardi and DePodesta before some other organization grabbed them so that when the Mets are ready to spend (2012?2013?) they will be available to them?!!  Who the heck was going to hire JP?!!

I edited it down for space, but you can read the full context of Norm’s comment here.

The difference between Wells and Werth is that the Wells contract was already signed and is of shorter duration now; Wells will be able to a contribute to a better team, faster, than Werth will. Maybe I underestimate ownership/GM stupidity, but I can’t imagine a player the caliber of Wells/Werth getting that kind of contract again.

The Blue Jays expectations are somewhat muted. It seems that they’re getting their ducks in order for a full-fledged run in 2012 and beyond; part of that is getting rid of the Wells contract. Alex Anthopoulos is a very bright GM; he paid short money to bolster the bullpen, cleared Wells, and got players in Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera who will help the team this season.

The Blue Jays are relying on young pitching which is always a risky proposition. Development of Brandon Morrow and Kyle Drabek is paramount to their future and the prospect of the Blue Jays making a run this year is contingent on them. Before this trade, they had a lot riding on younger players coming off bad years (Aaron Hill; Adam Lind); kids (Morrow, Drabek, Travis Snider); question marks as to what they really are (Jose Bautista); and people you want to strangle (Edwin Encarnacion).

Contending in that division is a lot to ask of the Blue Jays.

I had similar concerns about Alderson. But he’s backed away from Moneyball like it was a poisonous cobra and he’s sorting through the wreckage of Mets dysfunction—it’s not an overnight process. I’m not sure what he was supposed to do in terms of bold maneuvers when the market was limited, the chance at contention this year dim and contracts like Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez due to expire after 2011. If he’d gone after Lee, Werth, Zack Greinke or any of the other names, the Mets wouldn’t be any better and they’d be making the same mistakes the prior regimes did in trying to win immediately and damning the future.

My assessments of Paul DePodesta are well known, but people say nothing but nice things about his as an assistant. He happened to be an atrocious, wood-headed GM; that doesn’t mean he’s not a useful assistant; it’s happened before that the lieutenants don’t make it as commanders—we’re seeing it with Dayton Moore and Zduriencik.

Ricciardi has a good baseball mind; he can’t be a GM because his mouth is almost completely uncontrollable; he was working in the Red Sox front office for a day before he took the Mets job—and the Red Sox are pretty clever.

If the Mets didn’t allow Alderson to bring in the people he wanted, they would again look like the same haphazard, backbiting mess they were under Minaya and that’s precisely what they want to get away from.

Gabriel writes RE the Blue Jays and Wells:

Actually, I think the Blue Jays now don’t have to send cash to the Angels, it was a straight two-for-one trade. I’m not very happy because I like Wells as a player. I just hope that money that came off the books is well spent and takes the Blue Jays into contention, since the division is a nightmare.

It’s been reported in a couple of places that the Angels got $5 million from the Blue Jays. The money is somewhat irrelevant considering what they were paying Wells and how the Blue Jays made out in the deal.

The Blue Jays have stacked the organization with pitching and I trust Anthopoulos for the most part. All the pieces are in place for them to contend soon—this year if everything works right, but definitely by next year.

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  1. #1 by Jane Heller on January 23, 2011 - 5:13 pm

    I read Madden’s piece on Cashman today in the Daily News and maybe he does want to leave the Yankees when his contract is up. On the other hand, maybe there’s no other Yankees news to write about and Madden needed a story where there isn’t one.

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