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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American League West—2012 Present and 2013 Future

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I examined the AL East here and the AL Central here.

Now let’s look at the AL West

Texas Rangers

The Rangers are heading for the playoffs again and are a legitimate threat to win the World Series. The one question they have is in the same area that cost them the World Series last year, the closer. Historically, Joe Nathan is good during the regular season and struggles during the playoffs, especially against the Yankees.

The roster has playoff experience; the hitters can mash; Josh Hamilton will want to have a big post-season to increase his paycheck as a free agent; their starting pitchers aren’t expecting to be pulled because of an arbitrary pitch count and have the strikeout capability to get out of trouble and pitch confidently with a great defense behind them.

Whether they win the World Series or not, the upcoming off-season could be one of transition for the Rangers. In addition to Hamilton being a free agent, so are Mike Napoli, Mike Adams, and Ryan Dempster. This can be seen as a negative, but it’s also a positive. They have flexibility to do a great many things, the nerve to follow through on them, and the farm system to make it possible.

There’s been talk that they might be willing to trade Elvis Andrus to make room for Jurickson Profar, but I think it’s more likely that they’ll entertain trade offers for Ian Kinsler, play Profar at second base, and try to get Michael Young’s contract off the books in the deal. They’ve had interest in Ike Davis in the past and the Mets are going to be willing to make drastic moves.

They won’t break the bank for Adams and they have starting pitching to let Dempster go. They’ll set a price for Napoli and if another team surpasses it, will let him leave. I think he ultimately stays.

That leaves Hamilton.

The Rangers are not going to give him $200 million. I wouldn’t expect them to want to give him $140 million, nor would they like to commit to him for 6-8 years. The question becomes: Will there be a team that’s willing to pay Hamilton anything close to his asking price?

I don’t know. I certainly wouldn’t. The teams with the money—the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Phillies, Cubs—either don’t need Hamilton at that price or wouldn’t risk putting him in their towns with his history of substance abuse problems.

The Tigers have been mentioned, but I don’t see that either.

What then?

He won’t get 8 years, but I can see the Rangers going to 5 with an easily reachable set of options if he’s clean off the field and healthy on it to make it a 7-8 year deal. The Rangers have other choices such as B.J. Upton or Shane Victorino or by making a trade. Hamilton doesn’t.

Oakland Athletics

The A’s accumulated a lot of young talent last off-season as they cleared out Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, and Andrew Bailey—that was known. But no one could’ve predicted that their young pitching would come so far so fast; that Yoenis Cespedes would be the impact bat he’s been; that Josh Reddick would become a 30 homer man; or that they’d be on the cusp of making the playoffs.

The financial and ballpark problems that made it necessary for the A’s to restart their rebuild and make those trades are still present. They need a new ballpark and don’t have a lot of money to spend to bring in players; in spite of their good play, they’re still only 12th in the American League in attendance. With that young pitching and the concession when they hired Bob Melvin to replace the overmatched Bob Geren that not just anyone can manage a big league team and be successful, they have the talent to be at least respectable and possibly very good for years to come.

Stephen Drew and Brandon McCarthy are free agents at the end of the season, but both have a good chance to stay with the A’s.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

They have a chance to salvage 2012 and make it to the Wild Card play in game. With a veteran team loaded with starting pitching and power bats, once they’re in the playoffs they’re a threat.

That doesn’t gloss over the management issues that aren’t going to go away.

Mike Scioscia is not the right manager for a team loaded with power hitting stars. He wants to hit and run, play defense, and rely on his pitching. The front office has a new, stat-based, “my manager will take orders” GM Jerry Dipoto, and an owner Arte Moreno who may be tired of making the playoffs just about every year and losing in large part because of his manager’s stubbornness in doing things his way in spite of talent and reality.

Scioscia is signed through 2018 with an opt-out after 2015, but if he wants to leave or they want to fire him, that’s what will happen. It’s not easy to function when one’s power is essentially taken away and that’s what happened with Scioscia. There’s been talk that he’d be a possible candidate to take over for Bobby Valentine with the Red Sox, but since the Red Sox are going back to their own stat-based roots and have publicly said that Bill James will take a larger role in putting their team together, Scioscia would be in the same situation in Boston that he’s in with the Angels. Forget it.

I have a hard time seeing Scioscia managing the Angels next season no matter what happens this season.

On the field, they owe Vernon Wells $42 million through 2014; Torii Hunter’s contract is expiring; they have a team option on Dan Haren; and Zack Greinke is a free agent.

The Angels will look markedly different in 2013, probably with a new manager who’s more in tune with strategies that fit the roster and what the front office wants.

Seattle Mariners

Getting rid of Ichiro Suzuki was a major step in a positive direction. But years and years of losing is finally taking a toll on their attendance figures. The Mariners fanbase is loyal and ten years ago, they had the highest attendance in the Major Leagues. Now they’re tenth. Until they start winning, that’s not going to improve.

They’re loaded with young pitching and led by a true megastar Felix Hernandez. They have some talented bats like Dustin Ackley and Kyle Seager, but are plain woeful offensively. Once they have some hitters to go along with that pitching, they’ll be a viable threat, but this ineptitude at the plate is going back a decade just like their attendance decline.

Chone Figgins and Franklin Gutierrez are owed a combined $15.5 million in 2013, but if they take a bad contract and some money (Jason Bay?) maybe they can clear those players and try something different. Apart from that, they have money to spend and prospects to trade to pursue bats such as Justin Upton and B.J. Upton; Mike Morse; Justin Morneau; or possibly try to trade for Jacoby Ellsbury.

Unless they find some people who can produce offensively, the results are not going to change.

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Laughable Or Not

Hot Stove
  • Inspirations for wit:

It’s easy to take potshots at teams that have bad off-seasons especially when one of those teams is the Yankees. Certain signings have looked odd and created the cleverly snide comments designed to denigrate; but the fact is that they’re decisions for which there’s nothing to lose.

There’s a significant difference between asking, “what are they expecting from him?” and openly ridiculing without basis.

We’re seeing it now with the picking amongst the scraps that has led to the Orioles signing Justin Duchscherer; the Yankees Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia; the Mets holding an introductory press conference for Chin-lung Hu; the Indians looking hard at Jeremy Bonderman; the Brewers signing Mark Kotsay; and the Braves signing Rodrigo Lopez.

Because these players are still out on the market and relegated to taking a “why not?” minor league contract or signing with teams for whom they’re not going to play much, they’re open targets. But the truth is that it’s sometimes these small, seemingly insignificant signings that end up being big successes.

Just this past week we saw one with the Mets and journeyman knuckleballer R.A. Dickey agreeing to a 2-year, $7.8 million contract with an option for a third year. Dickey’s career is the stuff people write books about; and Dickey—an English major in college—is bright enough and well-spoken enough to write the thing himself.

A first round draft pick of the Rangers in the 1996 draft, it was a photograph of the U.S. National Team that raised the eyebrows of the Rangers front office when they saw the bizarre crookedness of his right arm. Dickey had yet to sign his contract and when he was examined closely by a concerned Rangers staff. They were stunned to find that he didn’t have an ulnar collateral ligament in his arm.

For all intents and purposes, he shouldn’t have been able to pitch at all. The Rangers lowballed him in the negotiations not expecting him to be able to last very long, let alone make it to the big leagues.

He did make it to the big leagues, but didn’t have much success even after making the switch from conventional pitcher to being a knuckleballer…until last season.

Was it opportunity? Luck? Or did it simply take him a few years of learning how to throw a pitch that few understand, teach or explain?

Regardless, people laughed at the thought of Dickey as anything but minor league filler; his rise is not complete because the Cinderella story can end at any moment, but at the very least, he has two things going for him: he throws an unconventional pitch that has, historically, allowed pitchers to last well into their 40s; and he’s got a guaranteed contract and spot in the rotation for the first time ever.

Objectively, Colon and Garcia are highly worthwhile shots in the dark for the Yankees. Colon was serviceable with the White Sox in the first half of 2009 before he got hurt; Garcia, despite having no fastball left, pitched well last season. They’re on minor league deals, what’s there to lose?

The Mets inexplicably—much of what they do is in this same vein—held a press conference to introduce Hu. Why? I don’t know. It had a similar feel to last year when the news was coming down that the Mets were about to announce a deal as if it were a cataclysmic event and it turned out that they’d acquired Gary Matthews, Jr.

The Mets bring this stuff on themselves sometimes.

Duchscherer’s not going to stay healthy, but why not?

Bonderman? Why not?

Kotsay? Why not?

You’d be foolish to expect a Dickey-like rise, but they happen; they’re inexpensive; if it doesn’t work, they can be dispatched with no remorse or financial hit.

People either need to gain some more baseball knowledge or find better joke writers because it’s decisions like these that end up paying off big once in a while. And nobody’s laughing then.

  • Viewer Mail 2.2.2011:

The Other Mike in The Bleacher Seats writes RE Ichiro Suzuki and Franklin Gutierrez:

Whether you like him or not, it seems to me that Ichiro has got to finish his career in Seattle. Even though Hernandez and Gutierrez may be more valuable, Ichiro is the franchise player at the moment. I can’t say for sure, but I’d bet that the fans would be none-too-happy if he doesn’t retire in their uniform.

Plus, he’s 37 or 38 now. Might as well let him see out the rest of his career at Safeco. It’s not like the M’s could trade him for that one solid piece that will make them a World Series contender.

On the subject of Gutierrez, I really wish the Rangers could make a deal for him. He’s a more sure thing [than Borbon] to keep Hamilton out of CF, which is exactly what needs to happen from now until the end of time.

I understand the fan considerations especially for a team that has few players aside from Felix Hernandez that will draw specifically to watch them; and I do believe that the Ichiro factor has negatively affected club operations. His demanding nature; clashes with former manager Mike Hargrove; quirkiness; and “star” status has given him far too much power for such a selfish and unproductive player in the team sense. In context, I suppose he does have to finish his career in Seattle if for no other reason than to get fans to come and watch the Mariners.

I doubt they’ll trade Gutierrez and probably not within the division.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE the Mets:

Uh oh… don’t get the Prince started on another Ichiro battle! Haha!

From what I understand the Wilpons got duped like everybody else, and I can’t help but feel sorry for them… for that reason alone, though, the Mets’ recent identity problems haven’t been to kind to the owners either. Double empathy!

I won that battle. Anyone wants to scrap, they know where to find me…

As I said earlier, sometimes the Mets invite this stuff; with the new regime, they’re getting away from what they did before and are trying to craft an organization not in the Moneyball mold, but in the Red Sox mold; Sandy Alderson and his staff weren’t going to walk in and clean everything up in two weeks; the whole operation has to be changed after the mess that was left behind. I like what they’ve done so far. And I’m a tough grader!

John Seal writes RE Mike Francesa and the A’s old-school uniforms:

If you could describe Mike Francesa with only one word, that word would, of course, be ‘fungible’.

As for those new A’s unis, all I can say is “tweet!”…er, I mean “sweet!”

My West Coast Spiritual Adviser returns!! Just in time too. I may be salvageable. Or incorrigible. One of those.

I find Francesa’s actions to be strange as if he must somehow save face by casting a glow of omnipotence; whether that includes alterations of past statements or out-and-out ignoring when the inconsistencies are pointed out are irrelevant to his ends; he doesn’t grasp that it makes him look like an egomaniacal fool.

I try to learn from the things I got wrong and hearken back to my thinking at the time to possibly get it right the next time. Sometimes it even works.

I burst out laughing when I read the “tweet” comment. I’m waiting for the Astros to bring back the “tequila sunrise” uniform tops. I’m all for reminiscing and sentimentality when it doesn’t harm team operations and the new uniforms are a talking point, but those 1970s uniforms were ghastly.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE the Mets and Bernie Madoff:

I think you’re right and the lack of spending probably was unrelated to the Madoff thing. I sure hope the Wilpons didn’t encourage their good friend Koufax to invest with Bernie.

Sandy Koufax doesn’t even like answering his phone; I doubt he was involved in any big time investing.

The thing that needs mentioning when talking about the Madoff/Mets/25% sale is that anyone who buys the Mets in whole or part is going to have CASH!!!! The league isn’t going to approve someone who doesn’t have the money to spend and keep them competitive because it’s bad for business to have a weak Mets team. It’s not going to be the Padres/Athletics situations that Alderson went through before because baseball won’t let it happen for a large market team.