The David Wright Contract Non-Story

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By now, most “experts” and observers predicted that the Mets: A) would have lost 100+ games; B) in bankruptcy court and ready to be auctioned off or sold; C) traded off any and all players who had value for the “future”.

Now because none of that happened, the goalposts are being moved again from how bad is this team was going to be and who was going to be the new owner, to repeated questions as to what they’re going to do after 2013 with David Wright and R.A. Dickey. Here’s the simple answer: we don’t know and nor do the “insiders”. Their collective agendas have gone from blatant to embarrassing.

The Mets have surpassed expectations, shown to have a better farm system than initially thought, and they won around 15-20 more games than the most dire projections said. Consequentially, something else has to be tossed into the ring to attack them. Rather than admit that this is a rebuild that is relatively on or close to schedule and that they’re better than anticipated, it’s evolved into cryptic suggestions straight out of a formulatic horror movie implying, “Yeah, they’re not that bad this year, but they still have money problems and won’t be able to sign Wright or Dickey.”

The Mets are the designated punching bag. Editors know this and take steps to have their reporters treat the team as such with an alarming and obvious redundancy that few admit exists. So it’s changed from the lack of money and poor attendance issues to Wright, Dickey, and how the Mets are going to improve for 2013 given their reportedly limited resources.

First, with Dickey, no one is saying he owes the Mets a heavy discount, but he does owe them a discount. The Mets were the one team that gave him a legitimate chance to use his knuckleball, develop it at the big league level, and they paid him relatively lucratively when they didn’t have to. If Dickey is going to practice what he preaches about spirituality and existentialism, then he can’t try to hold hostage the one team that gave him his opportunity.

With Wright, the question is asked again, and again, and again, and again as to whether he’s going to stay after 2013. As polite as he is, he answers as best he can while maintaining a necessary negotiating ambiguity, and doesn’t say he wants to stay or leave. How is he supposed to answer the question? He can’t win no matter what he says. If he says he wants to test free agency, that’s tantamount to demanding a trade because the Mets aren’t going to sit and wait to see if they can sign Wright knowing that someone is probably going to go crazy with a big money offer. If he says he wants to stay, period, he’d be under pressure to meet the front office at a reasonable number that would be agreeable to them and to him.

Wright’s reply in this piece by Adam Rubin on ESPN, “No idea,” is robotic and designed to make the question and questioner go away; that he’s tired of it and he’d like it to stop.

Wright’s not stupid and he’s been very careful during his time with the Mets in not criticizing anyone openly. He’s not controversial and the media isn’t going to get anything of use from him of the “pay me or trade me” variety. Therefore what he doesn’t say gets magnified and extrapolated into reading between nonexistent lines. Rather than taking Wright at face value when he says he’d like to stay and factoring in that he has a contract for 2013 and that with Jason Bay and Johan Santana coming off the books after next season the Mets will have the money available to sign him, it turns into a bout of uninformed, twisted speculation similar to the pre-settlement Madoff guarantees of bankruptcy and messy ownership change; the preseason projections of 100+ losses—both of which were completely wrong.

Here are the facts: Wright has a contract option with the Mets for 2013 at $16 million that is going to be exercised. He mentioned Jose Reyes in the linked piece as missing his friend and surprised that he left, but Wright, as smart as he is, can look at Reyes and what he’s now dealing with and understand that getting paid his $100+ million may not be all it was cracked up to be as Reyes is trapped in a far more dysfunctional circumstance with the Marlins than he ever saw with the Mets and is facing the reality of being traded next year to a location he may not like because he didn’t get a no-trade clause as part of that contract.

Teams that have spent recklessly and have the large payrolls as a result of it are, by and large, disappointing in 2012 with limited flexibility for the future. The Yankees are fighting for their division and with their own newly stated financial limits, may not have the money available to sign Wright. The Red Sox have a third baseman in Will Middlebrooks. The Phillies are old and on the downslide. The Angels are on the verge of missing the playoffs and badly miscalculated how important cohesion on and off the field had been. The Rangers have a third baseman, Adrian Beltre.

Barring teams making financial maneuvers to free up money through trades or getting Wright to agree to move to first base, the one place he could possibly go right now is the Dodgers.

Unless a team offers 2-3 top, big league-ready prospects, the Mets aren’t trading him this winter, so these ridiculous notions of saying “goodbye” are crafted fiction to—guess what?—bash the Mets!! If he’s traded, the only way it happens is if the Mets are far out of contention in July of 2013, and they haven’t signed him to an extension, and if he quietly asks out. With the way surprising teams like the A’s and Orioles have improved, it can’t be said that the Mets aren’t going to contend in 2013.

Here are the real questions to ask and the actual answers:

Is Wright going to be traded this winter? No.

Could the Mets offer a viable extension and will Wright sign it? Yes.

Will it happen? Maybe.

Does he want to stay? Presumably.

Is it a story now? Not unless members of the media and their editors are trying to make it one in an effort to feed the monster and tear apart the Mets. It’s a plot with no substance to achieve desired results. If it’s not Wright, it will be something else in the ever-expanding circle without end.

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Meet The Mess Or A Mess To An End?

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There’s no spinning an eight run first inning, a 16-1 loss, and rampant humiliation the type the Phillies have inflicted on the Mets over the last three games. Only the Mets could let a Phillies team that’s dealing with an embarrassing season of their own do this. The Phillies, with a too little-too late comeback, have made their disappointing season a bit more bearable. But it’s still disappointing. That aside, they walked into Citi Field and backhanded the Mets and the Mets took it. Again. No doubt the Phillies were laughing on the bus back to Philly and they had reason to. It can be glossed over through the prism of payroll and preseason expectations or lack thereof, but the Mets participating in the Phillies downfall earlier this season by beating up on them is rendered meaningless by the past three games.

Suggestions that the Mets have quit are inarguable. It’s not about talent anymore, it’s about incompetence. A big league team cannot allow another big league team—regardless of disparity in talent and money—to treat them like a punching bag and leave them lying in the dirt shrugging as if it’s accepted that this is the way things are and will remain. The Mets could’ve hit the Phillies back for once and ended their playoff hopes. Instead, they gave them a lifeline. Behind the Cardinals by 4 with 12 to play and having to leapfrog both the Dodgers and Brewers make a Phillies playoff appearance all but impossible, but it could’ve ended this week and the Mets could’ve been the ones to do the deed. Instead, they chose to lay down.

Are the Mets this bad? No. Were they as good as they looked in the first half of the season when they were one of baseball’s most pleasant surprises and talked of buying at the deadline rather than selling (and did neither)? No. But there’s no escaping the 9 straight home losses and 14 of 16 since August 19th. Comparisons to the 1962 version of the Mets are based on nothing other than attempts at ridicule and pure numbers—there’s no comparison between the situations, but that it’s mentioned in this context is bad enough.

No one wants to hear the likes of Michael Kay saying, “I told you so,” when he had the team winning 50 games before the season. He didn’t tell anyone anything. The end result doesn’t prove the prediction accurate. Nor does anyone want to hear Mike Francesa, who earlier in the season repeatedly stated that Mets’ manager Terry Collins deserved a contract extension and is now speculating on the same manager’s job security. The beat writers have taken to Twitter and other outlets with their passive aggression and self-indulgent agendas.

It’s all meaningless.

But this has to be examined logically. Does it make a difference whether the Mets won 81 games? 77 games? Or 70 games? No. The front office is presumably angry about the perception of disinterest on the roster; that the stands are completely and deservedly empty; but in the big picture, they’ll take the higher draft pick and get a better player.

What can they do to fix this to avoid the same fate a year from now and have the Mets a more welcoming and inviting destination for prospective free agents as they have money to spend with the expiring contracts of Johan Santana and Jason Bay at the conclusion of 2013?

Collins isn’t going to be fired. There are increasing pushes for Wally Backman to take over as manager because he’s a feisty and aggressive, in-your-face type that won’t tolerate the mistakes that are being tolerated now. Backman will be on the coaching staff in 2013 as the bench coach in part to be feisty; in part to provide a link to the 1980s; in part to prepare as a possible heir apparent to Collins. The only coaches on this current staff that will return are Tim Teufel (he’s popular with the Wilpons); and Dave Hudgens (GM Sandy Alderson likes the way he teaches hitting). Apart from that, they’re all gone.

As for the players, the Mets have to get some fighter types who aren’t going to meekly accept the bullying of other clubs. This current group is too cerebral and passive. No one hits back. How about some mindless tough guys who don’t take garbage from other teams?

Jonny Gomes and Kyle Farnsworth are two of the types of players the Mets should consider adding. It’s not because they’re supremely talented or are drastic improvements over what they currently have. We don’t know what Farnsworth will do on the field one year to the next—he’s no worse than what they currently have—but he’s known throughout baseball as someone not to mess with. Gomes has pop off the bench and walks, but more importantly is always ready to drop the gloves and it was him who sent the message to the Yankees and the rest of baseball in 2008 with a spring training brawl that they weren’t going to shove the Rays’ collective heads into the toilet anymore.

Even if it’s a lateral move talent-wise, the Mets have to get some of the faces that have epitomized their fall over the past 5 years. By that I mean trading Bay for something, anything and eating money if they have to. Chone Figgins and Franklin Gutierrez for Bay and $5 million would match up financially and the change-of-scenery might benefit the players, the Mariners, and the Mets. Shin-Soo Choo is going to be available and so will Chris Perez from the Indians. Maybe two bad teams could come to an agreement for a Bobby Parnell, Lucas Duda deal.

The notion of trading Ike Davis was floated recently. The source was in question and the Mets, as usual, were blamed for spreading the rumor that Davis doesn’t listen and parties too much. The truth is that the source in Adam Rubin’s piece was referred to as a “baseball source.” No one from the Mets was said to be that source other than via uninformed speculation. That doesn’t diminish the logic behind the idea. If the Mets can bring in an impact bat at a key position like Justin Upton as part of that deal or in a three-way trade, they have to explore it. I’d try to get Upton or see if the Rangers would want to be creative with Ian Kinsler. That would free the Mets to revisit the proposed trade by the Padres in which Daniel Murphy would’ve gone to San Diego for Luke Gregerson and perhaps ask for the speedy and versatile Everth Cabrera.

Many good things have happened to the Mets in 2012 in spite of the ludicrous conclusion to the season, but they can’t move forward with the roster and coaching staff in its current state. It comes back to the original question of whether this is a mess with an end or a simple mess.

Right now, it’s a combination of both. Behind the scenes and without fanfare, the farm system is being rebuilt well with plenty of young talent infusing the organization. Some, like Matt Harvey, are beginning their big league careers, and Zack Wheeler is on the way; but changes—cosmetic and practical—have to be made if only to put forth the perception of doing something. Anyone would’ve accepted the Mets being outgunned. It was expected. But players who should be happy to have a job can’t been seen as giving up. And that’s what’s happened. Keeping those players who’ve either quit or can’t play—Andres Torres, Josh Thole, Bay—won’t help, but dumping them certainly will if only for the sake of appearance.

Appearance is currently all they have left and, right now, it’s not particularly attractive. In fact, it’s downright ugly.

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The Ike Davis Trade Rumor Mania

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I would trade Ike Davis if I could get what I want for him. What I’d want for him would be a legitimate outfield bat like Justin Upton of the Diamondbacks; a package centered around Dustin Ackley and one of the Mariners’ young pitchers; or in a deal for the Rockies’ Dexter Fowler and Drew Pomeranz.

Lucas Duda is a better overall hitter than Davis, will hit 25-30 homers if he plays every day, hits lefties better, has a more discerning eye at the plate, can play first base well enough defensively, and hasn’t accrued—in a ridiculously short period of time—the reputation as a whiner and umpire-baiter as Davis has. Davis is streaky; Duda has a compact swing that would be resistant to long slumps.

This is not a controversy nor is it a new concept that the Mets would be willing to part with Davis. His name was bandied about as long ago as last winter when he was recovering from his ankle injury and before he was reported to have contracted Valley Fever. Back then, they wouldn’t have gotten much of anything for him other than a similarly talented player whose future was in doubt. Now, with a big power year, he’s a trade chip. Davis is a limited player who is not, under any circumstances, untouchable.

The frenzy over the Mets willingness to listen on Davis stems from where it came from and why. ESPNNewYork.com Mets beat writer Adam Rubin cited an unnamed source that implied the organization is unhappy with Davis’s unwillingness to listen to coaching suggestions and that he stays out too late after games. Rubin doesn’t say the source is anyone involved with the Mets, but the reaction on Twitter seemed to automatically think it did come from the Mets. Rubin’s piece says nothing of the sort. It says a “baseball source,” which could be anyone from anywhere.

There were even suggestions that the source doesn’t exist; that Rubin made it up to write the story. While there are so-called writers who would have no qualms about creating a phony source; talking to a team mascot outside the stadium and quoting him or her as an “employee” and “insider”; or making one up entirely (see Sherman, Joel of the Post, New York), I don’t believe Rubin would do that.

The conspiracy theories had grown to such loony proportions that it was only a matter of time before Rubin took refuge at the Ecuadorean Embassy seeking asylum from his pursuers a la Julian Assange.

There’s an irrational hatred of the Mets that is difficult to understand and much of it stems from their own beat writers (not Rubin) and those who classify themselves as “lifelong Mets fans” such as Howard Megdal, yet take joy in attacking the organization no matter what they do. Did someone from the Mets drop this nugget to Rubin to send a message to Davis? If so, it’s highly doubtful that they haven’t said it to Davis privately. Putting it out there publicly could be a message for Davis to tone it down. Or it could’ve come from someone who’s not involved with the Mets at all and is relating what he’s been told as the club lays the foundation for a possible trade. It might be speculation based on whispers floating in the air.

We don’t know.

There’s a freedom inherent with using an unnamed source and the reaction tends to be mindless and agenda-laden. If you read what Rubin wrote, there’s no case to finding a guilty party with the Mets, but like the game of telephone, it grew in intensity as if something was said by someone, somewhere and no one knows who, what, or why.

The ancillaries are meaningless. The facts are highly relevant. And the facts are that while the story has veered off into a direction of blame and accusation centered around the Mets and Rubin, trading Davis is a viable idea that the Mets should pursue if they can get what they need to make themselves better.

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They’re Running From The Moneyball Plague

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Generally when someone says the words “kernel of truth” and they’ve been caught in a lie, that “kernel of truth” means “100% accurate”.

Keith Law did a neat two-step in wriggling his way out of the war of words he undertook with Michael Lewis following his negative review of the film, Moneyball.

In this piece on DrunkJays.com, Law acquits himself quite well following his clear backtrack regarding Lewis. I’ll function under the assumption that Law knew he was trapped when he accused Lewis of fabricating the bit about him in the book and did his best to extricate himself from the situation; there’s really nowhere for Lewis to go if he chooses to pursue it and embarrass Law and not look vindictive and petty.

I suppose Lewis can do that if he wants to. I’d let it go; his point has been proven that he had interviewed Law and Law had been pompous, obnoxious, arrogant and smug.

I said yesterday that I had my suspicions as to whom was telling the truth about the episode and it appears as if I was right—the facts were on Lewis’s side and were provable; Law had no other option but to explain himself.

What I find laughable and somewhat offensive is that people like Law and Paul DePodesta were more than happy to take advantage of the borderline drunken days of overt narcissism in Moneyball’s aftermath to advance themselves and be seen as all-knowing “geniuses” who were going to take over baseball and, as the story came apart and they were isolated and reviled for their part in the farce, they bailed.

DePodesta also “explains” himself in this piece by Adam Rubin on ESPN.

It’s going to get worse as the movie comes and goes from theaters, people take a closer look at the book and try to reconcile the overriding theme that Billy Beane is a genius and everyone else is an idiot with a current Athletics team that is a train crash.

They’re running. And they’re going to keep running because they have no other choice.

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