An Early, Forgotten Casualty In The McCourt Ownership

Games, Management, Media, Players

Now that the Frank McCourt ownership of the Dodgers is (maybe) reaching its conclusion, early mistakes are washed away in the litany of gaffes which have occurred.

One forgotten error was the decision to replace inherited GM Dan Evans.

Evans is the unsung hero in the on-field success the Dodgers had under McCourt’s ownership. It was Evans who built the foundation of the team in 2002 as, in subsequent years, he kept Jim Tracy as manager; made Eric Gagne a closer; acquired Guillermo Mota for nothing; managed to get the Yankees to take Kevin Brown‘s contract off the Dodgers hands; and was at the helm when the team drafted James Loney, Jonathan Broxton, James McDonald, Chad Billingsley and Matt Kemp.

Had Evans and Tracy been left alone, the Dodgers could’ve been an annual contender with homegrown and cheaper talent. The club had been built organically and grown up together, with Tracy at the helm and a cohesion on and off the field.

McCourt, whose 13-year-old son was enamored with Paul DePodesta after reading Moneyball, had an influence on the Dodgers new owner—his dad—as Evans interviewed for the job he already had and didn’t get it.

DePodesta took over and Evans left the organization.

Evans landed on his feet first as a scout for the Mariners and then as, get this, CEO and president of West Coast Sports Management. He’s an agent.

With a little luck and presumably much to the chagrin of MLB, the Dodgers could have won a World Series or two during McCourt’s tumultuous (and ongoing) time with the Dodgers. Had that happened, would Evans have received his share of the credit?

He deserved it. Whether he would’ve gotten it is a different matter entirely.

Evans should never have been forced out as Dodgers GM. But like the McCourt ownership, it’s 20/20 hindsight.

In an odd quirk, Evans wasn’t the Dodgers GM for much longer than DePodesta was with a far greater record of success. But it’s DePodesta who’s constantly defended by people who try to alter his 20-months as Dodgers GM as something for which he’s not responsible and Evans is forgotten.

Acknowledged or not, he still warrants recognition for being a smart baseball man and for the part he played in the successful Dodgers teams of recent years.

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Precision Strikes 6.30.2011

Games, Management, Media, Players

Yankees reacquire Sergio Mitre setting off a storm of hilarity.

Because Sergio Mitre is seen as manager Joe Girardi‘s pet, there’s a neverending wellspring of jokes at the righty’s expense.

But as far as middle-relievers who can pitch multiple innings, spot start and pitch in a blowout, is it that funny? No. Mitre’s not that bad.

Yes he gives up homers and when he gets hit, he gets hit hard; but he was pretty good for the Yankees in 2010; and he’s pitched well enough for the Brewers this season functioning with a horrible defense behind him. That won’t be a problem with the Yankees.

He is what he is and what that is isn’t worthy of the ridicule heaped upon him for being Sergio Mitre.

Managerials.

The Mets-Tigers game from last night will be shown in managerial courses everywhere.

No such thing as “managerial courses” you say? Maybe I’ll start one.

It’ll be shown for glaring examples of what not to do.

The two most bizarre/egregious gaffes came when Mets manager Terry Collins called for lefty reliever Tim Byrdak to pitch to Tigers pinch hitter Andy Dirks.

Sound strategy except for the fact that Byrdak wasn’t aware he was supposed to be warming up. He’d warmed up the prior inning and wasn’t ready.

It looked like a Benny Hill skit as Byrdak grabbed his glove and came running out of the bullpen. Dirks hit a floating curveball—that I think I could’ve hit—out of the park; a livid Byrdak slammed the resin bag onto the mound and was yanked right after that bit of satire.

As far as the blame game for that goes, hey, these things happen. Managers and coaches are human beings and human beings make mistakes. The Mets won. No harm, no foul. Don’t let it happen again.

On the other side, Tigers manager Jim Leyland brought utilityman Don Kelly in to record the final out of the Mets half of the 9th inning.

Why?

I dunno.

Maybe he wanted to loosen up his tight and struggling club; maybe he was telling his relievers they were so terrible that he was bringing in a position player to pitch.

I didn’t understand it even though Kelly retired Scott Hairston on a fly out.

If the Tigers win today maybe Leyland will be credited for being the grizzled, veteran manager who had his fingers on the pulse of his team and sensed they needed a laugh; in reality, if the Tigers win today, it’ll be because Justin Verlander is pitching.

But whatever works!

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Viewer Mail 6.29.2011

Fantasy/Roto, Games, Hall Of Fame, Management, Media, Players

Norm writes RE David Wright and the Mets:

While I agree that Wright should never be traded by the Mets, I think Ricciardi is just dumb enough to do it…if JP has Alderson’s ear, I can see him trumpeting some player he drafted and I can see AA pulling one over JP.

I didn’t say the Mets shouldn’t trade Wright. In fact, they should listen to offers for him since his value as a player is higher than Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran or any of the other players who could be available. Wright’s signed long-term.

I said they’re not going to trade Wright.

Ricciardi’s gotten a bad rap for his perception as a Billy Beane/Moneyball acolyte; to some degree, it’s accurate; but at least—at least—of all the “geniuses” and “forward thinkers” created by the book, Ricciardi adhered to the principles set forth as the “right” way of doing things. They didn’t work, but he deserves some bizarre, backhanded credit for that.

Ricciardi doesn’t have the temperament to be a GM, but he’s not a bad baseball man by any means and he’s not stupid.

Eddie the Basque writes RE Jim Riggleman:

I used to have a ton of respect for Riggleman. He took some pretty sorry excuses for major league clubs and seemed to get the most out of them. And, it always looked like the players liked playing for him.

After last week’s stunt, I have lost that respect. Yes, he had a right to be ticked off about the lack of support from his GM, but to threaten that if he didn’t get his way he was going to take the ball home, is not the sign of a true professional.

The Riggleman I saw before would have manned-up, finished the season on a positive note, and THEN talked to his boss about his future – and resign if talks went south.

Washington won’t miss a thing with DJ at the helm.

There’s not much more to say about what Riggleman did. No matter what his reasons were, you don’t present an ultimatum to your boss when it’s already known that the boss doesn’t want you.

You’re right about Davey Johnson. It’s good to see him back in the dugout where he belongs…as long as his heart’s still in it.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE Logan Morrison, Jack McKeon and the Twitter:

The feeling I get is that baseball folks still want to keep the behind-the-scenes stuff very secret. From Trader Jack’s viewpoint, it makes sense… I wouldn’t like it if people were doing things I didn’t understand too.

I sense it’s more that David Samson and McKeon don’t really get Twitter. What Morrison says on the site—for the most part—is harmless, but he’s still basically a rookie; old-schoolers feel that rookies should be seen and not heard.

Morrison’s making himself heard and it’s not in a Derek Jeter/Evan Longoria/Troy Tulowitzki natural leadership way, it’s that he’s yapping and putting himself out there as a leader without being in a position as such.

Don’t be surprised if he slumps for 2 more weeks and is sent to Triple A as a message more than anything else.

Chris writes (via Twitter) RE Don Mattingly and Rickey Henderson:

Good stuff except Rickey was the best player in the game from 84-90 or so.

It’s all relative as to whom was the “best”. Rickey put up the across-the-board stats, but there were the episodes of Rickey being Rickey (years before Manny being Manny came en vogue), of his laziness in the outfield and deciding he didn’t want to play until he was in a more favorable situation or received a contract extension.

Mattingly always gave 100% effort regardless of team circumstances and he was a one-man wrecking crew from 1984-1987.

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The Kid Who Wouldn’t Share

Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Hot Stove, Management

I don’t pick on Mike Francesa just for the sake of it as many others do. A lot of times, it’s done with a clear and blatant agenda for things he says and does that are either meaningless and blown out of proportion or come from an understandable position.

For those that find nothing redeeming in what Francesa says and does, I have to ask: Why do they listen to and/or watch him?

I critique when applicable, credit when deserved. A short while ago, Francesa was talking about the possibility of the Yankees pursuing Prince Fielder.

Of course in the world of baseball and America, the Yankees have every right to go after Fielder. But do they need him? Would they and should they want to pay him? And is it good for baseball and for the Yankees?

A team with the firepower and guaranteed contracts of the Yankees—who are enduring a $35 million disaster from Rafael Soriano—doesn’t need to sign Fielder in any context.

For reasons I’ve never quite understood, GM Brian Cashman has wanted to reduce the payroll for years. What difference it makes to him how much money the club spends is a mystery and it’s a window into the feeding of the GM’s own ego to receive credit as the likes of Billy Beane and Andrew Friedman have for doing more with less; that Theo Epstein has gotten for drawing lines in the sand and being ruthless in his dealings with Red Sox heroes Nomar Garciaparra and Pedro Martinez.

If Cashman’s still the GM (he too is a free agent at the end of the season), he is not going to want Fielder—a mercurial player and person who’s fat and, if he’s paid and being used strictly as a DH, is bound to get fatter as he ages.

But never mind that. Here are the current guaranteed contracts on the Yankees books:

Alex Rodriguez: $143 million.

Mark Teixeira: $112.5 million.

CC Sabathia: Either $92 million or more if he opts out at the end of this season and they try to re-sign him, and they don’t have much choice.

A.J. Burnett: $33 million.

Derek Jeter: $36 million.

Mariano Rivera: $15 million.

Robinson Cano: signed through 2014 at $29 million with $4 million in buyouts—they have to extend him.

Soriano: $25 million. (He’s not opting out to go anywhere.)

Curtis Granderson: $12 million guaranteed through 2012 with a 2013 option at $13 million.

And that’s before getting to Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain who are both arbitration-eligible.

Francesa wants to add Fielder and his $150-180 million demand to the bill? With Scott Boras as his agent? And surrender the draft picks?

How much is enough? Does he have a concept anymore? Or is he so addled by the Yankees success in the past 16 years that he can no longer understand reality?

Francesa’s the kid who won’t let anyone else play with his toys.

It’s no fun to hang around with a kid like that.

No fun at all.

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LoMo Can Use The Twitter From The Bench

Games, Management, Media, Players

Or he can use the Twitter from Triple A New Orleans.

There’s a hierarchy in baseball that’s existed forever; there’s also a certain illogical reaction to any perceived “reason” for slumps and losses.

Marlins outfielder Logan Morrison was reportedly benched—in part—because he’s using Twitter too much. I’m sure that his lack of hitting was also a factor.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Morrison using Twitter for the most part. He says some funny things. But I’m not 80-year-old Jack McKeon—specifically hired to light a fire under a young clubhouse and get them in line; I’m not notoriously touchy team president David Samson who’s best known for his contentious nature and that he got into an argument with Bobby Valentine during a job interview.

Social media is still relatively new and these older men would prefer it if Morrison was out doing “man stuff”—drinking and carousing—rather than providing insider access and running commentary to the inner workings of the organization. (He might be doing the “man stuff” as well—who knows?)

George Steinbrenner was the poster child for irrational behaviors such as making his team shave their several days growths of beard for a run of poor play and screaming, yelling, stomping his feet and firing, firing, firing, demoting, firing, trading, firing and firing. He would’ve rolled his eyes at the bland action taken against Morrison. Morrison’s ignoring of Samson’s warnings against tweeting was a Steinbrennerean act of treason; the military/football-minded Steinbrenner would’ve demoted him whether he was hitting or not.

Now he’s not hitting.

Morrison doesn’t understand his station. He’s 23 and is pretty much a rookie. Quirks and a loud mouth are tolerated as long as the player is performing; once he stops performing, they’re no longer tolerated.

Dustin Pedroia yapped a lot, but won Rookie of the Year and a World Series; he won the MVP the next year. It’s subjective and random, but it’s the way of the sports world.

Morrison enjoys hearing his own voice and seeing his name in print such as when he “called out” Hanley Ramirez for lackadaisical play, but is in no position to be saying one word to the highest paid player on the team. That he may or may not have been right is irrelevant. He needs to quiet down.

What Morrison will learn is that a reputation is hard to shake. It’s cute, colorful and accepted while he’s hitting home runs, but when he’s not hitting and the team’s struggling, someone’s going to be made an example of if the Marlins poor play continues. Being benched, demoted or losing one’s job because of twitter is arrogant and stupid.

If he doesn’t understand the messages that are being sent, he’ll be forced to.

Soon.

Whether it’s in Florida or New Orleans is entirely up to him.

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Rocky III

Fantasy/Roto, Games, Management, Media, Players

Ubaldo Jimenez is pitching better after an injury-hindered start.

Aaron Cook has been notoriously unlucky on balls in play and hit trajectory.

Jhoulys Chacin has star potential.

The offense is solid; the bullpen deep; Jim Tracy is a top manager; GM Dan O’Dowd is aggressive in improving the club; and their penchant for late season hot streaks has happened too often to discount as a fluke.

Because they’re struggling with inconsistency and injuries and are plodding along at 38-40, it’s easy to forget the Rockies.

The Giants have fantastic pitching and are battle-hardened after their World Series win in 2010 and the Diamondbacks have played so surprisingly well, they’re receiving deserved attention.

But that doesn’t hide their flaws and the overall strengths and expected production of the Rockies.

The Giants need a bat. Desperately. Their bullpen, specifically Brian Wilson, is overworked; the starting rotation is functioning without any run support and they went deeply into the playoffs last season and Wilson and the rotation are running the risk of cumulative exhaustion both mentally and physically.

They’re going to fade.

The Diamondbacks can score and their starting pitching has gone above-and-beyond the call of duty; but their bullpen is a major issue and I do not trust J.J. Putz.

The Rockies have the goods in every area to vault over both teams. Once Troy Tulowitzki goes into one of his unconscious hot streaks and the pitchers are 100% healthy and have better luck, the Rockies are going to take off in another second half blaze.

The Rockies are the team to beat in the NL West.

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Mattingly A Silent Beneficiary

Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Management, Players

You can read about the latest round in the Frank McCourt mess herethere and everywhere. All I’ll say about it is that the piling on aspect in the interests of comedy is blatant; it would be pretty ironic if it was the McCourt ownership that brought a legal end to baseball’s rule of decree—which has always been contrary to the U.S. Constitution—as to which individual can own what franchise.

Like something out of a “trailer park meets a school for idiot savants”, the creditor story in which Manny Ramirez is the Dodgers biggest note-holder is funny because it’s Manny and the McCourts. (You can decide which belongs in the trailer park; which in the school.) Without knowing much in depth about contracts, I’d be stunned if the long-term payouts aren’t standard operating procedure for the $100+ million deals that are signed with every organization.

The court fight will resolve itself eventually. In a bizarre context, it’s good for Dodgers personnel—specifically manager Don Mattingly.

Much like the daily derangement that went on for much of his time as a member of the Steinbrenner Yankees, Mattingly has a reasonable argument to toss his hands up in the air and say, “hey, don’t blame me” if things go horribly wrong for the Dodgers this season.

Mattingly gets secondary benefit from the turmoil surrounding the Dodgers because he can’t be overtly blamed for whatever goes wrong even if it’s his fault.

For years, that was the case with the Yankees—Mattingly as innocent bystander—as the 1980s were a constant influx of players, managers, coaches, GMs and never-ending controversy.

Was Mattingly at fault for the continued failures of those Yankees teams? He was the best player in baseball between 1984 and 1987; considering his production, there was little he could’ve done personally to launch his teams into the playoffs.

It was an accident of circumstance that Mattingly’s greatness was wasted in an Ernie Banks sort of way because his teams either weren’t good enough or couldn’t overcome the meddling of the owner; that he injured his back and was a shadow of his former self when the club turned the corner under Buck Showalter and Gene Michael (while Steinbrenner was suspended) and watched team won 4 World Series in 5 years immediately following his retirement at 34 only punctuated the sadness.

While the “don’t blame me” argument is applicable and has been used with other clubs and other sports (Joe Girardi being fired by Jeffrey Loria; anyone who’s worked for Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis in his walking undead years), it doesn’t assuage blame for what’s gone wrong.

But it sure can get the individual another opportunity he might not have received otherwise.

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Riggleman’s Not Dead, He Just Killed His Career

Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, Players

Doug Glanville writes an interesting piece about Jim Riggleman on ESPN.com entitled, Remembering Riggs.

“Remembering Riggs” is something one would use to headline an obituary or a eulogy.

In a way, it’s accurate.

Glanville’s impassioned and believable defense of Riggleman notwithstanding, as I said right after the resignation was announced, there’s really no way for Riggleman to rebound from this and get another managerial job in the big leagues.

Club will forgive about anything.

Joe Girardi was called insubordinate by the Marlins and somehow got himself fired after winning Manager of the Year; Terry Collins endured two mutinies and was hired by the Mets, in part, because he doesn’t tolerate any nonsense; Jack McKeon‘s 80; Davey Johnson hasn’t managed in 11 years; Ned Yost got the axe with 2 weeks left in the 2008 season and his Brewers in playoff position; and managers who plainly and simply aren’t good at their jobs like Bud Black receive contract extensions.

Going back into history, you see other managers who received chance after undeserved chance because they’d accumulated friends in baseball or because they won.

Political patronage and nepotism keeps on employed in baseball. Winning nullifies personal issues which would exclude people from jobs in the workaday world.

Don Zimmer got the Cubs job because he was close with GM Jim Frey; Jeff Torborg was friends with Jeffrey Loria; and Billy Martin was George Steinbrenner’s quick-fix option despite his unreliability and self-destructive nature.

Riggleman is a better manager than many of the names listed; according to Glanville’s account, he’s also a better human being.

But he quit.

This accountability and loyalty line is great, but no one had a gun to Riggleman’s head when he signed the contract to manage the Nationals; he’s not stupid despite doing one overtly stupid thing in resigning. Had he played it out, waited and even gotten fired, there was the chance that he’d be hired as a manager again. Now he can forget it.

He’s not dead as the Glanville title implies, but his managerial career certainly is and it’s not coming back as a zombie either.

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Acme Baseball Team Building

Books, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, Management, Media, Players, Uncategorized

In the months preceding the opening of the film Moneyball, it’s grown satirical that the entire Billy Beane myth is coming crashing down in a puff of smoke like a failed Wile E. Coyote scheme.

Beane’s flying over the cliff.

Baseball Team Building is another failed product from Acme.

Counting the days (hours, minutes, seconds) until Moneyball—THE MOVIE—comes out, I’ll intermittently point out the factual inconsistencies (objectively and analytically) in comparison to the rest of baseball.

The non-genius breed of human must be wondering why it is Beane gets the lowest grade dropped again and again like some irritating teacher’s pet.

Those with something invested in the Moneyball theory being seen as accurate have an excuse, but where’s the supposed aboveboard, non-partisan media to point out the the inherent falsehoods in relation to reality?

Apart from apologetic and fearful criticisms, few are willing to take a stand against the nonsensical appellation of genius based on absolutely nothing other than that book and that so many have so much invested in Beane being “right”.

The Athletics are terrible.

They’re in a bad division and are mired in last place, 9 games below .500.

They can’t hit.

They can’t field.

The Brian Fuentes nightmare is proving the fallacy of the concept of “anyone” being able to close. No responsibility was doled on manager Bob Geren for his faults. Beane allocated  blame on everyone but himself and his former manager when dismissing him in what appeared to be an attempt to validate the idiotic concept that the manager is irrelevant. He blamed his most ardent benefactor—the media—because of the hovering speculation about Geren’s job distracting the team.

Don’t tell me that they’re only 6 games out of first place; that’s nothing more than a pretentious bit of self-validation from those who picked them as a playoff team.

Did it ever occur to anyone that maybe the team he constructed isn’t very good?

Blame the spacious home ballpark? The offense is worse on the road than it is at home.

Discover the undervalued aspect of defense? They’re leading the American League in errors.

Beef up the bullpen? Fuentes has been a disaster.

Change the manager? Beane’s right in one respect—the manager makes little difference with this team.

Injuries? I didn’t see anyone giving former Mets GM Omar Minaya a pass when the entire team—a team that was picked to win the World Series in 2009—was on the disabled list.

Could it be because there are so many invested in Beane being a genius and the likes of Minaya—who relied on scouting at the expense of sabermetrics—were propped as everything that was “wrong” with baseball?

Now we’re getting, “Billy has outgrown the constraints of functioning in Oakland”.

Really? What makes you think he’s going to be any better than mediocre if he goes to another venue with a more active fan base and a bigger payroll?

It’s enough.

The number of excuses applicable for Beane are running out. Eventually the “he’s a genius in a bad situation” doesn’t fit into the parameters of brilliance. Factional twisting and preposterous defenses of the man himself does not qualify as analysis—it’s selfish agenda-driven pablum.

When does he receive his share of the blame without a litany of alibis?

I’m waiting.

When?

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Precision Strikes 6.26.2011

Books, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, Players

Sedition.

While I’m aware my resistance will be frowned up on by the self-proclaimed “gatekeeper” Jason Zillo—Yankees media director with his eye on being Emperor—I’m safe under the protection of my supporters, friends and associates.

Others may not be so lucky.

Rebel against the would-be dictator at your own risk and earn my unending admiration for speaking out against a little nobody who thinks he’s somebody.

Read my posting from yesterday to understand what I’m talking about as respected writer Michael Sokolove authored a piece involving (but not entirely about) Derek Jeter for the NY Times Magazine and was denied access to the Yankees clubhouse by “Zillo the All-Powerful”.

You don’t need to worry; nor do you need to look over both shoulders for such acts of Yankeeland illegality because Zillo is a nobody who can’t do nothin’.

Don’t tell him because he evidently doesn’t know. Shhhhh.

Hack recognition software.

Joel Sherman’s new profile picture in the NY Post is leading me to wonder if he’s pulling a Whitey Bulger and resorting to facial surgery in trying to avoid detection for safety’s sake if he ever decides to plagiarize me again. (Scroll down to the “Hmmmm…..” bulletpoint on the link.)

Even if he somehow transforms his face into looking like Brad Pitt (or Billy Beane; or Brad Pitt as Billy Beane), I’ll recognize him from his awful, cheap-shot laden baseball “analysis”.

I see you….

Outsources.

Is it possible for “sources” to be accurate once-in-a-while?

The reports of Davey Johnson taking over as manager of the Nationals appear to be true, but there numerous details of his contract status, whether he’ll be there for longer than this season, whether John McLaren will stay on as a coach or follow Jim Riggleman out the door of career-suicide—and we don’t know what’s real since it changes with the wind.

Are there sources? Are writers making this up as they go along? Are they “whispers” of the Mike Francesa adolescent embellishment (non-existent) variety? Are they nuggets dropped into the public sphere to gauge the reaction? Or all of the above?

Defense.

Ryan Ludwick might be the worst outfielder I’ve ever seen—and that’s saying something because I watched Todd Hundley briefly play left field when the Mets wanted to get him and Mike Piazza into the same lineup.

Ludwick runs to where the ball appears to be landing and throws his glove up—facing the wrong way—at least once every time I watch a Padres game.

Needless to say, he doesn’t catch the ball.

The haplessness isn’t nullified even though he doesn’t get an error.

It happened again in the Padres 10-1 loss to the Braves last night and helped open the floodgates to turn a 3-1 deficit into 6-1 in the eighth inning. The Braves scored 4 times in the ninth to make it a blowout.

He doesn’t hit enough to justify being in the lineup every day, let alone batting 4th the majority of the time…except for the Padres, whose offense is atrocious.

Mail.

Norm writes:

As a Jays and occasional Mets fan, I was wondering what you think of the chances of a trade involving David Wright…say wright and pagan for lawrie, thames and aminor league pitcher or 2, or wright straight up for lawrie plus 2 minor league pitchers?

I would trade Wright for Brandon Morrow, Brett Lawrie and Eric Thames.

I dunno what the Blue Jays would want with Angel Pagan.

But the Mets aren’t trading Wright and the Blue Jays aren’t making that trade.

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