It’s a Squirrel, Not Mickey Mantle

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In their upcoming 2011 series of cards, Topps will be inserting a limited number of the above “Rally Squirrel” card with Skip Schumaker’s foot in the picture under the guise of it being “Schumaker’s” card.

His name’s on it anyway.

Schumaker called the promotion “ridiculous”.

It’s entirely understandable that Topps has chosen to try and generate buzz and sell their products by using a blatant promotion that will appeal to a wide range of people, baseball fans and not. But with the way the sports card market has crashed from what it once was, those who are expecting a Mickey Mantle rookie card or Action Comics number 1 windfall in a few years from having a baseball card with Schumaker’s foot and a squirrel running across home plate are sadly mistaken.

Everyone wanted to get in on the sports memorabilia market when it was at its height and there are still those who buy and sell what was once considered junk to be placed in a box in the garage as if it has a distinct value, but once people start collecting and trading these treasured items for money rather than sentimentality, there’s going to be a saturation in the market and devaluing of the items.

Any item is only worth what someone will pay for it and keeping it to collect dust as an asset only works if it’s eventually sold. If the squirrel card is seen as an investment, it’ll be hot for awhile but it won’t pay off someone’s house if that’s what starry-eyed lottery players are envisioning when they buy boxes of Topps wax packs hoping to hit on the Schumaker-squirrel card.

It’s a faux value because it’s not going to last—a bubble.

The Mantle, Honus Wagner-type cards are worth a lot of money because of their perception and attention they’ve received, how rare the cards are, who the players were and what they represented.

If an individual isn’t willing to pay big money for a product, it’s not going to garner big money.

No one with any logical foresight is looking for cards as a means of accumulating wealth as they were in the 1980s when the boom began and resulted in the aggregate values declining.

If that trend continues, perhaps the prices of the cards will rise again as the interest dies down. But people hoarding these things in the hopes that they’ll eventually be worth thousands will be disappointed.

The Schumaker card is getting Topps in the headlines and will increase sales, but not enough to make it a “collectors item” or return the industry to the overpriced days of 30 years ago.

In the end, it’s just a squirrel. It’s not Mickey Mantle.

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Ryan Howard’s Contract Doesn’t Look So Bad Now

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Will the contract Joey Votto eventually signs make the Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols deals look obsolete? Will it put an exclamation point on how prescient the Rays and Rockies were when they locked Evan Longoria and Troy Tulowitzki up to long term deals so early in their careers? How will Tim Lincecum’s decision to bet on himself and take short-term payouts rather than long-term security and wait for his free agency look?

Criticism of a contract at the time it’s signed is easy but the power of hindsight puts them into greater perspective and diminishes the impact.

Ryan Howard’s contract extension looked atrocious when he signed it because it was done so far in advance (almost 2 years) of his potential free agency and the market was going to be flush with other, better options—Pujols and Fielder among them.

Howard’s extension begins this season and, if he were a free agent this winter and signed it, the criticism for his representatives would be loud and endless.

5-years and $125 million?

Fielder is 4 1/2 years younger than Howard and is a more productive hitter, but they’re in the same realm and Fielder received 9-years and $214 million.

Of course, in reality, the deals are pretty much the same thing. But agents don’t want to hear about age and other factors when hawking their players to the highest bidders. Fans and analysts with an agenda don’t want to hear about the breakdown of the dollars equating identically. They’ll focus on $214 million vs $125 million as the common denominator even if it’s not so common.

The final number is the way they keep score in spite of it being inaccurate and twisted.

Pujols is another story.

He received the $240 million contract from the Angels—a contract that will pay him $30 million on 2021 at age 41—coming off of his worst season in the big leagues. In fairness, Pujols’s worst season still landed him fifth in the NL MVP voting in a season in which his team won the World Series, but that doesn’t alter the fact that it was his worst season.

As much as Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is lambasted for the way he lavishes long-term contracts on his players, signs free agents and has gutted the farm system to try and win immediately, I’m starting to think he’s savvier than any of us realize.

The market was going to be stacked with first baseman this winter. Had Amaro waited Howard out, Howard might’ve wanted a contract commensurate with Pujols—not close to what Pujols received, but certainly not half the guaranteed money that Pujols received either.

For Howard, he got paid, is staying in one place for essentially his whole career and the Phillies didn’t have to enter into protracted and contentious negotiations to keep Howard or consider alternatives.

It’s idiotic to savage the contract based on Howard’s torn Achilles tendon suffered—adding injury to insult—when he made the last out in the Phillies’ NLDS loss to the Cardinals. This isn’t a degenerative injury to a joint that was known to be a potential issue before he signed; it was a freak occurrence that could happen walking down a flight of stairs or getting out of bed. It happened and it’s no one’s fault.

The simplicity that outsiders place on running a club is astounding. To believe that front office people are “stupid” because they make a decision that some disagree with is the height of arrogance and I’ve done it myself.

Perhaps both sides weighed the pros and cons and made the conscious decision to avert what happened with the Cardinals and Pujols where a negotiation that was fait accompli (“Pujols isn’t going to leave the Cardinals”—something I also said repeatedly) and turned out to be completely wrong.

Putting a financial value on a player in an open market is a fruitless endeavor. Few teams stick to a stated budget if they have a choice and as Fielder and Pujols proved, there will always be that one owner who has a reason to spend a perceived loony amount of cash to get the player he wants. The best a GM can do is to make his recommendations to his bosses, come to conclusions of the best way to move forward and deal with the fallout if it fails or accept the accolades if it works. No matter how many people try to find a way to calculate what a player is “worth”, it has little to do with what he actually winds up getting.

Market dictates salary. Not the other way around.

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Beware the Rejuvenated Rays’ Castoffs

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The Orioles are said to be considering signing Casey Kotchman.

What they’re going to do with him is a mystery since they just signed Wilson Betemit, have Mark Reynolds and Chris Davis for first and third base. None are defensively adept at any of the positions although Reynolds occasionally makes a spectacular play to make it appear as if he’s better than he is. It’s similar to a weekend in which he’ll hit 6 home runs—many of the “ooh” and “ahh” variety in distance and hangtime to make it appear as if he’s better than he is. Then he reverts to hitting .200 and striking out every 2.6 at bats.

Kotchman is a very good defensive first baseman and had his career year at the plate for the Rays in 2011 with a slash line of .306/.378/.422 and .800 OPS.

That’s what should concern any team making a serious investment in Kotchman.

Considering the lateness of the date and that spring training is approaching along with the availability of better hitters on the market like Derrek Lee, it’s doubtful the Orioles or anyone else is going to overpay for Kotchman, but a team considering a former player for the Rays who had his best season with the Rays needs to examine history and look at the decline of Jason BartlettScott KazmirRafael SorianoAkinori Iwamura and just about every scrounged screapheap salvaged detritus from their patched together bullpen who’s been used for a brief time and dispatched only to revert to the performance that led them to winding up on the scrapheap to begin with. Sometimes, as with Lance Cormier and Carlos Pena, they wind up back with the Rays.

Is Kotchman as good as he was in 2011?

History proves he’s not. Even when he was at his best with the Angels and Braves in 2007-2008, he wasn’t a force at the plate. He was useful if surrounded by a few power bats and has always been a good fielder, but teams tend to want better power production from first base than what Kotchman provided. If they can make up for it in other areas, then fine; but setting a limit on the amount of money they’re willing to pay Kotchman is a wise move.

Was the issue with his eyes that Kotchman referenced in this NY Times piece and its repair the genesis of his struggles in 2009-2010?

Clearly.

But that doesn’t make a Rays’ castoff any more of a guarantee to continue the work he did with the Rays as he reestablished his value. They seem to know which way the wind is about to blow and how to judge a player and determine whether he’s “figured it out” or is enjoying his career years in Tampa. That’s a reason for interested teams to look at these players with a jaundiced eye and wonder if they’re getting the pre-Rays or post-Rays player and if they’ll be overpaying to do it.

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Oswalt as the 6th Man

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When the Blue Jays were one of the frontrunners for—and in fact were widely expected to get— Yu Darvish, I wrote that their intention might have been to use Darvish in his familiar 6-man rotation to both make him comfortable and manage his workload while holding down the innings counts of their young pitchers Henderson AlvarezKyle Drabek and Brandon Morrow.

The Blue Jays missed out on the Japanese/Iranian righty and the Rangers eventually got Darvish.

After shifting Neftali Feliz into the starting rotation and signing Joe Nathan to take over as closer, the Rangers’ rotation appears set.

But their interest in Roy Oswalt lends another option into the mix along with questions as to why they need another established starter.

Could it be that the Rangers are also considering going with a 6-man rotation, but for different reasons?

Because the Rangers have gone so far against the new conventional orthodoxy of babying their starting pitchers and are telling them as they make their way up through the minor league system that six innings and 100 pitches (whichever comes first) aren’t going to cut it, they’ve been the subject of resistance from the Rick Petersons of the world who are invested in the “scientific” study of pitchers (along with selling their theories to information-hungry and desperate amateurs).

What would a team that specifically pushes their starters deeper into games have to do with a 6-man rotation?

If they implemented such a plan, the Rangers would be diminishing the workload of their pitchers in a different way than limiting their innings and pitches. The extra day of rest would allow the pitchers to go even deeper into games than the 7-8 innings and 120 pitches that are now seen as extreme. They’d be able to rest their bullpen periodically while not putting forth the perception of abusing their pitchers in some random experiment that has no basis in the hard (and ineffective) data that has led the Yankees to placing the likes of Joba Chamberlain in a plastic bubble and simultaneously destroying any chance he ever had of fulfilling his potential.

The Rangers, staffed by Hall of Fame former pitchers Nolan Ryan and Greg Maddux along with the highly respected pitching coach Mike Maddux, can look at a pitcher and use their own experiences to say, “his back leg is dragging”; “he’s not following through completely”; “his hips aren’t turning with the same force they were earlier in the game”; or “he’s not showing the same ferocity” and determine that the pitcher is tired because of fatigue, not because he’s reached a previously prescribed number that they pulled out of the air and are referencing a series of studies to justify their paranoia.

Thinking one is tired and being tired are two different things. If a pitcher knows beforehand that he’s only expected to put in a certain amount of work, that’s how his mind will focus and he might think he’s got nothing left when he does have something left.

Not everyone is a Roy Halladay and wants to finish what he starts.

As pitchers, Greg Maddux and Ryan weren’t babied and stayed out on the mound in good health and effectiveness to a remarkable degree.

This isn’t to suggest that the pitchers should be told to toughen up and stay out on the mound if they’re not feeling right—Greg Maddux was criticized late in his career for pulling himself out of games after a certain number of pitches—but it’s understanding what they’re looking at and taking into account everything that goes into throwing a baseball in a repeated and stressful manner every 5 (or 6) days.

These men are in a unique position to say what they’re doing and why without adherence to outsiders telling them they’re wrong.

Shunning the armchair experts like Keith Law, who vomit scouting terminology and say things to make it sound as if they’re insiders when they’re only putting forth a pretense of such; or looking at the specious and self-indulgent reasoning behind writer Tom Verducci’s so-called “Verducci Effect” aren’t indicative of resistance to an ever-changing reality, it’s actual analysis without cowering amongst the masses in an effort to avoid criticism if it doesn’t work.

Calculating an individual on a chart, graph or by sputtering randomness because it sounds good and having the hypnotized sheep take every word said as gospel doesn’t make one an expert. For all of his down-home, country simplicity in a pleasant Southern drawl and known old-school Texas conservatism, Ryan was one of the first pitchers to lift weights; he paid close attention to his mechanics and was willing to listen to others like the late Angels coach Jimmy Reese, who showed him the value of vitamins and good nutrition. Ryan trusted his own instincts and understanding of his body and he’s transferred that to his work as an executive.

In certain circles, a 6-man rotation would be seen as a concession to the times. Some would probably twist it to validate themselves. But if the Rangers consider it, it will be because they have a method behind doing it and not because they want to place their pitchers in a sealed sarcophagus and protect them from the war of attrition known as pitching, preferring failure to the risk of injury and a misinformed public’s vitriol.

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Leyland’s “Principled” Charade

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It’s best to take what a manager says in January and pretty much ignore it. Because of that, when Jim Leyland insists that Miguel Cabrera is going to move to third base—his tone signifying no ifs ands or buts—you should nod politely and expect it to be proved as “baseball”.

That’s not a lie.

It’s “baseball”.

Jim Bouton wrote in Ball Four of the episode in which teammate Mike Marshall received two different stories regarding his demotion to the minors from the manager and GM—both of them nonsense. Bouton explained Marshall’s view of this in the following line:

Now, some people would call that a contradiction. Others might call it a lie. Mike Marshall called it baseball.

Is Leyland “lying” or is he giving Cabrera time to get used to the idea of sharing first base and DHing before he has to report to spring training? Will he give the player a chance to lose a few pounds and have a look at him at the position in March before bowing to the inevitable reality and figuring something else out?

Initially, I felt that was the case, but Leyland is insisting that Cabrera’s going to play third.

Anyone questioning him on this decision will be subject to Leyland’s cigarette-ravaged voice in an extended, “I’m a baseball guy and you’re a dumb writer” tirade. With Leyland being so adamant that Cabrera’s going to third base, Tigers fans should be concerned that Leyland’s going to ignore his eyes and the entreaties of his pitchers and put Cabrera at third base for the sake of being contrary.

That’s not managing. That’s being arrogant and difficult for no reason other than ego and it’s going to hurt the team if he follows through on it.

I still don’t think Leyland will do it, but when listening to the rhetoric and considering the involvement of his “principles” of saying something and sticking to it, I’m not so sure.

But principles are floating just like Marshall’s interpretation of lies.

It’s not going back on them to accept that Cabrera can’t play third and to react accordingly.

It’s baseball.

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Baseball is a Frustration Enhancer

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Since he tested positive for five PEDs, does Dustin Richardson’s suspension wind up being 52?

You can read the details here on NYTimes.com.

Those who are ridiculing Richardson aren’t looking at it from the point-of-view of someone whose career has stagnated just below the highest level of employment. He’s a Triple-A pitcher and he took steps to rectify that situation, but they were the wrong steps mostly because they didn’t work.

Say you’re Richardson. You’re 27-years-old and left-handed; you’ve bounced from one organization to another—the Red Sox, Marlins and Braves—and haven’t gotten a long-term shot in the big league while other pitchers who may not have stuff as good as you are in the big leagues functioning as lefty specialists, long men or spot starters. Still trapped in the minors and knowing the consequences, you say, “forget this” and take not one, not two, not three, not four, but five different banned substances to try and find a way to succeed and make it to the big leagues to stay.

Naturally you got caught and naturally you’ve become the butt of jokes for the somewhat ludicrous number of PEDs that were found in your system.

What outsiders are failing to understand is the mindset of an athlete is such that while he may have reached his ceiling and knows the consequences of failing the test, he doesn’t want to do anything other than play baseball, so he’s willing to listen to the whispers of PED “experts” and try skirt the testing by using “foolproof” blockers or some other chicanery to get away with it.

Richardson got busted.

It’s easily explainable.

Is Richardson good enough to be a big league reliever? If he can get the ball over the plate, why not? That’s the issue and that was his mistake. PEDs weren’t going to assist him in getting the ball over the plate. He might’ve been better off working on his control (he doesn’t know where the ball is going) and try to do a better job of getting out lefties (they hammer him) than taking a copious amount of banned substances to find the magic potion to transport him to the majors to stay.

He might have been better served to shun the quick fix of the drugs and hone his repertoire or approach to something that might beget a big league job.

Richardson throws nearly over the top and has a violent motion that doesn’t lend itself to consistent command; he has a four-seam fastball, a two-seam fastball and a slider. If he can’t get the slider over the plate, then big league hitters are going to maul him—and they have.

Maybe he should start throwing sidearm and market himself as a situational lefty. They’re always in demand and if he tried that and it worked, no one would care about a drug suspension.

MLB can act as indignantly as they want and impose heavy suspensions on those that test positive, but it’s easily glossed over that MLB fostered the PED culture by letting it go on for so long; now they’re acting in a holier-than-thou fashion to try and eradicate the drugs and punish the offenders. What makes it worse is that they treat the public like idiots by expressing regret and shouldering blame—but no punishment accompanies that blame, so what good is it?

Those in MLB’s front office and the owners’ boxes were complicit in the whole PED show. Why do they get a pass?

Bud Selig just signed a contract extension to stay on as Commissioner and no one’s ever called him to task for his willful and feigned ignorance of what was going on right in front of his face.

Selig plays the role of the somewhat rumpled and befuddled everyman, but if he’s so oblivious to reality, why does anyone want him in the position of Commissioner of Baseball in the first place?

It’s selective enforcement and low-level people being sanctioned while the real perpetrators walk away scot-free.

Desperate times and the frustration of being a fringe big leaguer/Triple A filler might have led to Richardson taking the desperate measures of using an array of PEDs that are more likely to be on the shopping list of a Mr. Olympia competitor than a baseball player. He probably should’ve taken a different path because this one was a dead end and it didn’t even work. He’s not blameless, but it’s no secret why he did it. He just happened to get caught.

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Miguel Cabrera is Not Going to Play Third Base

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Here’s Jim Leyland’s quote when the Tigers signed Victor Martinez:

“He’s going to catch and not be a total DH. And he can play first base to give Miguel (Cabrera) a night off to DH. And this guy is one of the more professional hitters in baseball.”

Here’s what Dave Dombrowski suggested when they signed Martinez:

Dombrowski envisioned Martinez catching “two or three days a week” with Avila being the No. 1 catcher, but allowed that “circumstances will dictate” that arrangement.

Martinez caught a total of 26 games in 2011.

The above quotes were culled from this piece on MLive.com. (It took me awhile to find it.)

Now the Tigers are saying that Miguel Cabrera is going to play third base to accommodate the signing of Prince Fielder.

They’re insisting that both will be playing the field semi-regularly.

It’s offensive (defensive?) that the Tigers are consciously putting up the pretense of Cabrera moving to third base in favor of Fielder.

Do the Tigers have a born-in DH apart from Cabrera and Fielder to make it so ironclad that both players have to play defense?

Martinez is out for the season. If he manages to come back before 2013, it’ll be very late in the 2012 season, so why come up with this silly and hardheaded nonsense from manager Jim Leyland that they’re not only going to play Cabrera at third, but won’t remove him for defense late in games?

Why?

What are they trying to prove?

Is it such a big problem if Brandon Inge, Don Kelly and “Whoever with a Glove” play third and Fielder and Cabrera alternate as the DH?

If they had Martinez playing in 2012, I’d see this as being at least viable that they’re going to try to play Cabrera at third and see if they can get away with it, but they don’t. In fact, it was the injury to Martinez that spurred the signing of Fielder.

What’s the point other than to be contrary and not step on Cabrera’s toes by making it appear as if he’s being usurped from his position for another player?

I can guarantee you this: if Cabrera shows up as heavy as he was last season and Leyland sees that Cabrera is a statue, he’s not going to play him at third.

He’s probably not going to play him at third anyway.

Here’s what’s going to happen: Cabrera will play a few games at third base, but they’ll be around the same number of games that the “catcher” they acquired before 2011—Martinez—played behind the plate. That number, again, was 26. Other than that, he and Fielder will DH.

Then, after the season, they’ll look to trade Martinez.

Miguel Cabrera is not going to be the Tigers everyday third baseman.

I just can’t decide what’s dumber: believing it or saying it to begin with.

It’s probably a tie.

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The Price for McCutchen

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Pirates GM Neal Huntington is making it clear with his between-the-lines statements that he’s willing to trade Andrew McCutchenThe Sporting News.

Given the Pirates circumstances as a perennial laughingstock and that McCutchen would have to be just as overwhelmed to stay long-term as the Pirates would be to trade him, it makes sense to listen to what other clubs have to say.

McCutchen is not closing in on free agency (it’s not until after the 2015 season) and he’s going to be arbitration-eligible until next year. He’s 25, is not reliant on his speed to make a living and he can play center field.

He’s an MVP-quality talent.

It’s somewhat unprecedented for a young, established position player to be available regardless of the demand.

Most of the huge deals for packages of young players that aren’t closing in on free agency involve pitchers. We saw this with the Athletics’ latest housecleaning in dealing Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez. The Rays are always ready to do business with any player on their roster and the Rockies made a bold move in trading Ubaldo Jimenez last summer.

McCutchen is a franchise cornerstone and exactly the type of player for whom an interested club should be willing to overpay as Huntington implies.

Let’s take a look at some big trades that were made with a lot of young talent exchanged for a young position player to get a gauge on circumstances and boundaries.

1982: Indians trade OF Von Hayes to the Phillies for INF Julio Franco, RHP Jay Baller, 2B Manny Trillo, OF George Vukovich and C Jerry Willard.

Hayes was 24 and saddled with the nickname “5 for 1” after the trade, but turned out to be a very good player for the Phillies. He had power and speed and if he played today, he’d be comparable to McCutchen.

Franco was an excellent hitter and lasted in the big leagues until he was 48.

Hayes’s career was over at age 33 after the Phillies had traded him to the Angels in a trade that brought them…Ruben Amaro Jr.

1990: Padres trade 2B Roberto Alomar and OF Joe Carter to the Blue Jays for 1B Fred McGriff and SS Tony Fernandez.

Alomar was 23 and I don’t think anyone predicted he’d blossom into a Hall of Fame player with power. Two old-school GMs—the Padres’ Joe McIlvaine and the Blue Jays’ Pat Gillick—pulled off this drastic maneuver that worked out better for the Blue Jays, but was productive for the Padres. In retrospect, they would have preferred to keep Alomar, but no one knew what Alomar was.

Veteran general managers got together and cobbled out a major trade that helped both sides.

1992: Brewers trade INF Gary Sheffield and RHP Geoff Kellogg to the Padres for RHP Ricky Bones, OF Matt Mieske and INF Jose Valentin.

Sheffield was miserable in Milwaukee, couldn’t handle the expectations and pressure stemming from being in the big leagues at 19 and the nephew of Dwight Gooden. In later years, Sheffield claimed to have intentionally thrown balls wildly from third base as some form of retribution for perceived slights.

Sound familiar?

The self-destructive petulance was chalked up to youth.

It turned out not to be youth. Gary was just Gary and that’s simply what he did.

From age 19-40, Sheffield imploded and exploded in his subsequent stops (six after Milwaukee and San Diego) and alienated anyone and everyone along the way. He got away with it because he could hit for power and get on base—no other reason.

The Brewers got rid of Sheffield because he was a ticking time bomb.

2007: Rays trade OF Delmon Young, INF Brendan Harris and OF Jason Pridie to the Twins for RHP Matt Garza, SS Jason Bartlett and RHP Eddie Morlan.

Young was a former first pick in the draft, but the new Rays front office wouldn’t have drafted him first had they been in charge and were in the process of clearing out players who didn’t behave appropriately—Young had acted up in the minors and majors resulting in suspensions and confrontations with manager Joe Maddon. It helped the decision to move him that they didn’t value what it was he did because he hit a few homers, didn’t get on base and played poor defense in the outfield.

Garza was a young pitcher with a temper similar to Young’s, but that temper was tolerable to get his power arm.

This was a mutual-interest/need deal and not one to clear salary.

Barring free agency, financial constraints and ancillary factors, players like McCutchen are rarely available.

Is he “available”? Or are the Pirates tossing it out there to see if anyone bites and gives up the house?

Teams should inquire and be serious about getting him.

The Royals have the prospects and the need. With McCutchen in center field flanked by Alex Gordon and Jeff Francoeur, their outfield defense would be superlative and their rebuilding process would be sped up markedly.

The Nationals need a center fielder, have the young talent to deal and are looking to improve quickly; the Braves’ farm system is loaded; and the Mets should accept reality and give the fans something to bank on while getting a marquee youngster.

If teams have to overpay, so be it.

For a player like McCutchen, everyone should contact the Pirates and see whether or not they’re serious about moving him. If they ask for seven players including four who are perceived as “can’t miss”, then they’re not serious; if they ask for four or five, then it’s something for an interested club to pursue because McCutchen is worth it.

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Beltran’s Got It Backward

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“Actually, I’m not thinking about the fans, I’m thinking about myself.”

The first line from this New York Daily News article about Carlos Beltran is telling in its inadvertent accuracy.

He may not realize it, but Beltran was always thinking about himself and the fans knew it.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that…until he twists it to lambaste those same fans for not worshipping him.

Beltran doesn’t seem to understand the fan mindset and it’s causing him to take personally what was the negative part of a purely business relationship between him and the fans.

The more thoughtful Mets fan that doesn’t think with his emotions and understands that Adam Wainwright ended the 2006 NLCS by throwing a great pitch that Beltran, even had he swung, wasn’t going to hit. They’re not the ones who are holding a grudge against Beltran for one moment. The business arrangement between player and fan wound up in the simplest of terms: cheer when he does good; boo when he does bad.

It’s not personal and was never more than that.

Not every player is going to be adored by the fanbase, but when he begins his tenure by having offered his services to the bitter rivals across town for less money and fewer years, it’s not going to be taken well when he puts forth the pretense of having been forced to join a team he didn’t really want to join; a team that was, at best, his third choice.

When Beltran was a free agent, he wanted to stay with the Astros. The Mets offered more money—what he and then-agent Scott Boras wanted—but Boras, in a conciliatory gesture to the desires of his client, went to the Yankees and offered his player to them for a better deal.

Think about this from the perspective of a Mets fan. It was as if he was doing the Mets a favor in an “oh, alright I’ll sign with you” manner.

It works both ways. He didn’t really want to be a Met and it was known. It might have been more palatable if he’d gone to the Yankees and told them, “this is the highest offer and if you match it, I’ll sign with you”. That’s what he did with the Cardinals contract this winter and the Yankees, just as they did in 2005, turned him down.

In 2004, he offered himself to the Yankees for less money. The Mets fans would never ever forgive nor forget.

The Mets didn’t engender the “why me?” lament from Beltran that’s still evident in his latest statements on the matter. He never seemed to understand why he was booed every time the Mets went into Houston to play the Astros.

Did he really not get it?

Did his enabled life of being allowed to essentially do what he wanted because of his prodigious on-field talent lead to such a hardheaded inability to comprehend that the Astros felt jilted by his decision to chase every last penny and leave the place he didn’t want to leave? That the Mets fans felt slighted by his pursuit of the Yankees?

From that point on, there was never going to be a warm and fuzzy relationship between Beltran and the Mets fans.

No amount of fan-player love was going to remove the sullen look on Beltran’s face that bordered on suicidal. He forever appeared as if he’d just lost his luggage. His terrific play would never spur the fans to love him because it circled back to the initial emotion of the reality, “you wanted to go to the Yankees rather than join us”.

One positive from the entire episode is that perhaps a team like the Mets has to take the stand that if a player doesn’t want to be a Met, then they shouldn’t go all out to bring him in. In 2007-2008 the Rays began to turn around their fortunes, in part, because they got rid of players who didn’t want to be there and acted like it.

Beltran wasn’t doing the Mets a favor by taking their money, but that’s the perception that’s floating around and it stems from the actions of Beltran and his then-agent.

He was a good-to-great player for the Mets. They came close and didn’t make it over the final hump. There’s no guarantee he would’ve had a better time playing for the Yankees, Red Sox, Astros or anyone else. He chose to come to the Mets. He chose to offer himself to the Yankees. Now he needs to choose to get past whatever bitterness he feels that the fans didn’t embrace him. It was his own fault and it wasn’t due to the Wainwright curveball that will forever be etched in the memory of fans who see that one pitch as the microcosm of the Omar Minaya-built teams that just…barely….missed.

If anyone needs to get over it, it’s Beltran. The fans have moved on already. That’s what happens when there’s no emotional investment. It’s only partially due to him; it’s mostly the overt failure of that entire group that culminated in the collapse of 2007 and the subsequent firings, housecleanings and financial collapse.

The fans are not upset with Beltran.

They don’t care about him.

And that’s because he didn’t care about them either.

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