Beane Goes Back to Basics and the Worshippers Rejoice

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In trading Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill for packages of prospects, Billy Beane returns to his roots in accumulating pitchers who rack up strikeouts and hitters who have power and get on base.

History has shown that it works…sometimes.

And it doesn’t work….sometimes.

So the lustful Beane demagoguery starts again as he is somehow shielded from blame for anything that’s gone wrong with the team he put together.

Moneyball is over and it’s been shown to be a farce in theory and practice, yet still survives the eager anticipation (it’s almost Christmas morning—an appropriate time of year) for such indulgences as Beane executes another housecleaning.

The up-and-down results of the prior flurries of deals he made can be glossed over; the reasons as to why he’s doing what he’s currently doing can be formulated and chanted like a mantra—there’s an inability to compete in a loaded division; the A’s have limited attendance due to an antiquated and uninviting stadium; they have to tear it down due the uncertainty of a planned new stadium in San Jose—all make some semblance of sense.

Or they’re convenient excuses for him to be absolved for whatever goes wrong while maintaining the credit for being, as J.P. Ricciardi said in Moneyball, “smarter than the average bear”.

Is he smarter than the average bear?

No.

He’s an average bear.

No more, no less.

The Gonzalez trade might have been made even if the A’s were a good team with realistic aspirations of contention. He has trouble throwing strikes and, as I said in an earlier post, is walking the fine line between being a star and turning into Oliver Perez; he’s about to get a big raise in arbitration; his mechanics are clunky; and his style isn’t conducive to consistency.

The trade of Cahill also yielded an impressive cast of young, cheap players; but what’s the point of even trying anymore when you have a consistent, innings-eating winner who’s signed to a reasonably long-term contract and he’s traded away just “because”?

Beane’s list of floating excuses is vast and overused.

Excuses.

For someone who was portrayed as the master of the bottom-line and cutting through the clutter and nonsense, excuses have become the hallmark of Billy Beane and his tenure as the A’s GM.

While he was on top of the world winning with a minimalist payroll, the annual loss in the playoffs was chalked up to the post-season being a “crapshoot”.

His drafts—said to be the dawn of a new era in which card-counting based on verifiable statistics was going to reinvent the game—were as pedestrian as everyone else’s regardless of the methods they were using to find players.

His treatment of his managers has been capricious and occasionally cruel.

And his reputation among the casual fans or curious onlookers who read the creative non-fiction of the book Moneyball and saw the dramatic license (and utter lies) in the movie has been rejuvenated to again give rise to the concept that he’s a transformative figure in baseball.

All he did was have the nerve to implement the statistical analysis that had been around for years yet hadn’t been utilized to the degree that Beane used them; he did it out of sheer necessity and it worked.

But once the rest of baseball caught up to him, he slithered like a snake into his new role: that of the shrugging and hapless everyman wearing a resigned grin; the poor individual who can’t hope to compete due to the untenable circumstances in every conceivable sense.

It’s a vicious circle.

The same things that are being said now were said when he traded Dan Haren, Nick Swisher, Joe Blanton, Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder. Some of those trades worked well for the A’s and some didn’t; but to take this latest array of veteran disposal as a return to the days of yore and glory—when Beane had the Midas touch and his mere gaze caused mountains to crumble at his sheer will—is partaking in a fantasy that his worshippers refuse to let go even if reality casts its ugly shadow again and again.

You can find analysis of the prospects he received from the Nationals and Diamondbacks anywhere, but know the truth before buying into it because it’s been said before.

Repeatedly and inaccurately.

And will be so again.

I guarantee it.

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Alderson And The Experts

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You can watch the Sandy Alderson interview with Kevin Burkhardt on Mets Hot Stove above and make your own determination as to what he’s actually saying.

The body language/tone/behavior/baseball experts on Twitter and in the media took the “look” of Alderson as ranging from profoundly negative to depressed to near suicidal.

If you read the transcript of the juicy bits of what he said here on MetsBlog, you can make an entirely different judgment.

Those who are ripping the Mets as a matter of course for the relentless need to complain; because there’s an editorial mandate to do so or because it’s designed to drum up webhits in a trolling sort of manner; to push a book; or just because, here’s the truth: they either don’t want to understand reality or are utterly incapable of doing so, and they’re not accepting facts.

If you dissect the Mets 2012 situation financially and in talent, they’re not going to be anything more than a fringe contender for a Wild Card spot if they bring Jose Reyes back and have everything go exactly right.

Some are actively trying to tilt at windmills, aggrandize themselves as influential voices and catalyze a new ownership.

The Wilpons are not selling the team. This is the position they’re in at least until their part in the Madoff lawsuit is completed and they have a firmer grip on what the circumstances are. Anyone hoping for a Mark Cuban to walk in, buy the team and start spending, spending, spending the team back into relevance hasn’t the faintest idea of how an organization—sports or otherwise—is run; Cuban did all of those things the Mets are entreated to do; but what the ignorant outsiders are failing to grasp is that the Dallas Mavericks went through multiple incarnations of players, coaches and a lack of success before hitting the jackpot with an unexpected championship last season.

The Red Sox, Yankees and Phillies proved this very year that spending capriciously for star players doesn’t automatically guarantee a championship.

The Mets have gone down that road. They signed the big names—Johan Santana, Jason Bay, Billy Wagner, Carlos Beltran, Pedro Martinez; they filled all the holes; they did everything the fans wanted them to do including building a new ballpark.

They haven’t won.

In fact, they degenerated into a disaster.

It’s not because of the Madoff Ponzi scheme and the Wilpon’s entanglement in that nightmare, it’s because they were top-heavy and shoddily constructed—built to win immediately for a short window.

The window closed and they hadn’t won.

It’s not Omar Minaya’s fault; it’s the Jeff Wilpon’s fault; it’s not Bernie Madoff’s fault.

It happened. And it happens to the teams that are perceived as doing everything the “right” way.

Sandy Alderson was hired to fix the Mets and that’s what he’s doing whether you like it or not.

Do you believe that John Henry intended to spend $160 million on payroll when he bought the Red Sox? If he did, then what was the purpose of hiring Theo Epstein and his young, stat savvy crew of Ivy League educated, sabermetric wizards? Why did he hire Bill James? Why did he hire Billy Beane only to be spurned at the altar?

Henry wanted to create the Moneyball Red Sox patterned after the cheap and efficient method in which Beane (and, in part, Alderson) transformed the A’s into a dominant franchise without spending a ton of money.

Things morphed into the Red Sox competing with the Yankees for the same players and a championship or bust attitude. It’s part of the reason for the 2012 Red Sox catastrophe and departure of both Terry Francona and Theo Epstein.

People wanted the “Red Sox way” and that’s what they’re getting.

Alderson has the people—Paul DePodesta, J.P. Ricciardi—from that school of thought; a similar school of thought that has made the Rays into a team that wins with a non-existent payroll and an atrocious ballpark. When the Stuart Sternberg regime took over the Rays, they knew they could’ve won a few more games if they’d spent some money on mediocre big leaguers to look better than they were. But is there really that big of a difference between 68 wins? 76 wins? 82 wins?

No.

So why bother wasting cash to lure a negligible number of extra fans?

Reyes will either stay or he won’t;  barring a sudden leap from the pitching staff, some luck with bullpen signings/trades and the new Citi Field dimensions helping David Wright and Bay become what they were before entering baseball’s version of the Grand Canyon, Reyes’s presence isn’t going to help the team escape the morass in which they’re currently trapped. The club will save some face and make people who already have Reyes out the door look foolish, but that’s all.

It takes a brutal assessment and sheer courage to say to the fans that the team isn’t going to be able to contend with Reyes, so why overpay to keep him? The National League East is a nightmare. If the Mets had the cash of the Yankees and Red Sox, they’d be able to cobble a contender from the current market by signing Jonathan Papelbon; C.J. Wilson; Josh Willingham.

They don’t.

This is why Alderson was brought onboard. I saw no negativity in what he said concerning the rebuild—and that’s what it is; his body language indicated what those who are looking for “clues” wanted to see; his tone was matter-of-fact, realistic and intelligent; his content was comprehensive and honest.

Alderson asked Reyes’s representatives what it would cost to sign him; they received silence; the Mets told him to shop around and come back. What else are they supposed to do? What else can they do?

Nothing.

Reyes will be presented with offers from other clubs; the Mets might be able to match them; if they can, he’ll stay; if they can’t, he’ll go elsewhere (watch the Angels) and the Mets will move on in a rational, coherent and coldblooded manner to turn the team into a profitable and successful franchise that can spend money to fill holes, but also has players who were developed internally or are unappreciated foundlings that come through.

This is where they are. Stop complaining about it. If you don’t like the product, don’t go to the games and come back when the team is deemed worthwhile for you to spend your money to watch.

Perhaps the Mets would be better off is Alderson was that straightforward about the team. Maybe then the armchair analysts would shut up.

//

The Albert Pujols Mock Draft

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If Keith Law were to travel back in time to 1999—before he became the unwitting victim caught in the crossfire in that rare moment of Michael Lewis being completely honest; was subject to the formative mind-poisoning of the diabolical J.P. Ricciardi; prior to turning into Mr. Smartypants who played semantical handball with the truth—where would he place Albert Pujols in his indispensable mock MLB draft?

Without getting into another rant about the negligibility of the MLB draft—that it’s not like the NFL or NBA; there are so many variables in a player making in and succeeding in the big leagues that the moneymaking aspect of the MLB draft has sabotaged all comprehension to its randomness—you can’t give the Cardinals credit for taking Pujols any more than you can blame other clubs for passing on him.

Most recently, the revisionist history of why teams missed out on Pujols and the Cardinals were able to snag him (if you consider drafting someone in the 13th round “snagging”) extended to Jonah Keri’s otherwise engaging book about the Tampa Bay Rays, The Extra 2%.

Keri spent an entire chapter using as a basis for the perceived ineptitude of the original Rays regime that they had a workout for Pujols and subsequently snubbed him even after he rocked line drives all over Tropicana Field.

It’s a shaky premise at best.

Every other team missed on Pujols; it was the Cardinals who selected him.

No one thinks that a 13th round pick is going to make it to the big leagues; will be productive; turn into an All Star; or evolve into this—the monster who hit 3 home runs last night and is the best pure right-handed hitter in baseball since Joe DiMaggio.

The excuses are far-ranging and, in a sense, viable.

He had no position. The competition he played against in junior college was mediocre. His grasp of the language was limited. He was skinny. They don’t know how old he was.

Some of them are still in question.

The PED aspect has and will forever hover around Pujols. Unless his name pops up somewhere in a quack doctor’s notes or some drug middleman’s plea deal, he’ll be innocent; but we can never be sure he’s entirely clean. That’s just the way it is today.

As for Pujols’s age, I still don’t believe he’s only about to turn 32.

Be that as it may, such a tremendous player sitting undrafted until the 13th round is a testament to Pujols’s determination to succeed; his latent talent that may have taken a few years to completely manifest itself; the opportunity to play…and the ridiculousness of the draft.

If Pujols had struggled at any point in the minors, he’d have been released or traded—such is the nature of a later round draft pick in whom little money is invested.

That too, is the way it is.

We can let slide some of the star-level names that were taken in the 1st round of that 1999 draft—Josh Hamilton, Josh Beckett, Barry Zito or Ben Sheets; and we can discount the “tools” players like Mike MacDougal and Alexis Rios.

But Eric Munson? Corey Myers? Dave Walling?

And before anyone comes up with the egocentric idiocy of the Yankees “doing most of their damage” in the 20th round and above, they too let Pujols go sailing by; said myth of the Yankees being so astute that they selected star-level players like Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada past the 20th round of the 1990 draft is retrospective nonsense—they got lucky; maybe if Pujols had lasted until round 22, they’d have grabbed him rather than Chris Klosterman.

Would Pujols have been noticed had his name been Josh Pujols?

These factors are indicative of the capriciousness of the draft and no amount of woulda/shoulda/coulda is going to alter that reality.

Would-be MLB draftiks seeking to mimic the admirable Mel Kiper Jr., endeavoring to create a career where there wasn’t one before are ignorant that I could thumb through a copy of Baseball America a week before the draft and find a series of names that would shield me from criticism (and that’s the most important thing, isn’t it?) for taking a certain player over another without having the faintest clue as to whom he is or whether or not he can actually play.

Albert Pujols hit 3 homers in a World Series game last night; this is while he was enduring a savage media onslaught for daring not to speak to them after game 2.

Pujols has a tendency to shut people up the right way—on the field.

Complain all you want for his absence from the microphones, but do so while bowing to him as one of the greatest baseball players in the history of the sport.

Such an appellation gives an automatic break for “unprofessional” behaviors.

He gets away with it because he can.

And he deserves to.

Because he’s the best.

Period.

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Has J.P. Ricciardi Misplaced His Loose Cannon?

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As mediocre a general manager as he was, I’ve always had a soft spot for J.P. Ricciardi.

Somewhere in my frozen heart there’s a place for people who speak their mind; have a certain audacity; and are willing to mix it up. Ricciardi believed what he believed; never seemed to try to take the Moneyball fame to its logical conclusion of expanded profile as the other characters in the book did; and actually played the game professionally (albeit terribly), so he had a breadth of experience that few in the tome apart from Billy Beane had.

Ricciardi followed the Moneyball blueprint to the last as the Blue Jays GM; he got into public disagreements with the media, opposing players, his own players, and employees; he even had a call in talk show.

What GM in his right mind is going to have a call-in talk show in the city he’s working while he’s working there?!?

He’s an interesting character whose sheer inability to walk away from any type of argument without having the last word is making it even more curious that he’s yet to respond to the Keith Law allegations advanced here on DrunkJaysfans.com that it was Ricciardi who led Law into the belief that all scouts were antiquated morons to be ridiculed and phased out like worthless junk stored in the garage out of sentiment rather than value.

Essentially, Law admitted that Michael Lewis’s retort to the negative film review was accurate; that he was a pompous, obnoxious, hard-headed jerk…but it was Ricciardi’s fault.

Ricciardi never replied publicly.

Is Ricciardi’s boss with the Mets, Sandy Alderson, telling him to keep his mouth shut?

Is he evolving in the hopes of possibly getting another GM job?

Is Law telling the truth so there’s really not much for Ricciardi to say?

Law fiddled with semantics regarding the interview with Lewis and tried to “explain” it away with “context” to cover the fact that Lewis likely has notes and/or recordings that Law presumably wouldn’t want out in the public.

Why would Ricciardi maintain silence now?

I’m quite curious at what he has to say about it.

In part because I can dissect it and play promoter to continued hostilities between the participants; in part because I’m wondering if what Law said is true.

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Showalter For Manager/GM?

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It has been whispered that the Orioles should do something decidedly old-school and name manager Buck Showalter GM as well.

There hasn’t been a manager/GM since Bobby Cox went back on the field to replace Russ Nixon as Braves manager in 1990 and that didn’t last long as John Schuerholz was hired as GM after that season and Cox stayed on the field for…well, forever.

Jack McKeon was the GM/manager for the Padres in the late-1980s; Whitey Herzog did it for the Cardinals in the early 1980s.

It’s all but impossible to do both jobs correctly in today’s game of GM-rock stardom. There’s really no way Showalter could do it and maintain his sanity and/or health.

That said, there’s a way to go about it if the Orioles want to give Showalter final say in the direction of the franchise.

Herzog joined the Cardinals as manager in 1980; late in the season they fired GM John Clairborne and named Herzog GM as well. Completely out of contention, Herzog handed the managerial reins to Red Schoendienst for the rest of 1980. Herzog didn’t do both jobs simultaneously. That’s a good thing given Herzog’s penchant for saying whatever popped into his head without concern as to how it was framed or perceived (think J.P. Ricciardi to the tenth power); it would be a PR disaster in today’s game.

But he was able to find players and he’d do the same thing today.

Showalter can do it in a similar fashion if he steps off the field because he’s more tight-lipped and manipulative of the media than Herzog was. Herzog was a gruff, intimidating type; Showalter is more nuanced and calculating.

Herzog built the Cardinals for the spacious dimensions of Busch Stadium with improved speed by getting Lonnie Smith, and installing Tommy Herr at 2nd base; he shored up the defense and attitude by trading Garry Templeton for Ozzie Smith; traded for a defensive minded catcher, Darrell Porter; brought in pitchers who threw strikes like Joaquin Andujar; and got the game’s best closer in Bruce Sutter.

By 1982, the Cardinals were World Series champions and won two more pennants under Herzog in the next five years.

Could Showalter do that as GM?

The Orioles can hit, but their top-to-bottom pitching is so awful that they’re going to have to consider trading some of their young bats Nick Markakis or Adam Jones to find some arms. Those arms would have to strike people out or coax ground balls to mitigate the bandbox of Camden Yards; he needs to improve the bullpen and the infield defense.

Trading talented bats like Jones, Markakis and Matt Wieters are not easy decisions to make.

If someone is going to make that call, it has to be the man who’s entrusted with the future of the organization and is completely responsible for what happens, good or bad.

Showalter would have to stop managing for a time to do the GM job properly; he’d have to be given an autonomy that owner Peter Angelos might balk at providing, but if the Orioles are going to have Showalter give his approval to whom is hired as the new GM, it’s probably easier to let Showalter do it while the Orioles are rebuilding and then have him go back on the field when he has the players he wants.

That’s the only way it could work.

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MLB Draft Dollars And The Strategy Of Spending

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Why do I get the feeling that with all the talk about clubs spending, spending and spending some more in the MLB Draft, that 2011 will wind up going down as the year that teams overspent and got little return?

We can go up and down, back and forth with the arguments for carting wheelbarrows of cash in the draft and bringing in top-quality talent, but the fact remains that the draft is the ultimate crapshoot.

As opposed to one of the most idiotic assertions in Moneyball that the genius Billy Beane was counting cards in a casino (repeated by Michael Lewis in the afterword/extra chapter of the paperback version as if saying something stupid once wasn’t enough), all you can do with drafted players is hope.

Naturally giving them an opportunity to play in the majors instead of continually bringing in veterans is a key to their development and becoming useful big leaguers, but the truth about the draft is that you don’t know until you know.

Picking a year at random (and I’m actually picking a year at random) with 2004 and the 1st round.

How many “star” players are there? There are two: Justin Verlander and Jered Weaver.

Apart from that, you have useful cogs (Huston Street; Jeff Niemann; Phil Hughes; Neil Walker; J.P. Howell; Gio Gonzalez); the underdeveloped (Bill Bray; Homer Bailey; Blake DeWitt; Philip Humber); and the busts (Matt Bush; Jon Poterson; Greg Golson).

Being a 1st round pick and getting a load of money increases expectations and the amount of time a player is going to get with the organization. The bigger amounts of attention and money they receive, the more a club is going to want to get some kind of return on that investment; that goes a long way in keeping a player employed and moving up the ladder even if he doesn’t deserve it.

The obvious and easy response to any failure or perceived success is to go all in. So if teams are seen to be “winning” with the Moneyball system, that’s what will come en vogue; if teams win by signing veteran players, that will be the new strategy.

It’s the same with the draft and development—others will copy it while it appears to be working; then they’ll move on to something else.

The drafted players have taken advantage of MLB’s complete lack of competence in implementing the bonus slots. The reliance on the draft to find players not to collect and trade, but to use is making them more valuable and the bonuses reflect that. But simply spending isn’t the answer on the big league level nor in the draft; it’s a matter of picking correctly.

This strategy of spending might be a one-and-out, because judging from history, it’s unlikely to succeed as well as the money or public accolades indicate it should.

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Viewer Mail 6.29.2011

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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.

//

And Jose Reyes As Babe Ruth

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Judging from the reaction in fan and media circles, you’d think the Mets are running the risk of losing Babe Ruth rather than Jose Reyes and David Wright.

It’s grown stale.

The latest bit of journalism to catch my eye aren’t from the usual suspects in the New York media who are doing everything they can to paint the Mets as the epitome of the big market team whose ownership issues have forced small market behaviors.

No.

It’s Will Leitch in New York Magazine whose latest piece has inspired me to say the following: Will Leitch should stop writing about baseball.

At least until he learns something about it and can maintain some semblance of belief—backed up by intelligence—regarding the subject.

When a writer has me hearkening to the similar baseball-ignorant related ramblings of Stephen A. Smith, it’s time to step back and contemplate fresh tactics.

Previously, I thought Leitch simply had a Moneyball-fetish and truly didn’t comprehend what he was saying as he continually advocated the nonsensical book as the Holy Grail; that he believed everything in the mythical tome of Michael Lewis (coming to a theater near you in September). Now I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s an opportunist who’s using the issues hovering over the Mets as a hammer to brutalize a club that is trying get its act together.

From the fanboy perspective, I suppose Moneyball is a convenient set of tenets upon which to build oneself up as an “expert”. In the tradition of that atrocious film “Kick-Ass”, it’s the loser makes good, gets the pretty girl and becomes popular.

In other words, it’s a fantasy.

You see it repeatedly when the self-proclaimed baseball experts who haven’t any in-the-trenches, innate knowledge of the game make declarative statements of what they’d do were they running a club or functioning as part of a front office.

This is how you get the caller to Mike Francesa’s show who claimed he would’ve ordered Jorge Posada—a borderline Hall of Fame switch hitter—to bat left-handed against a left-handed pitcher because the numbers dictated that it was a good idea; how you find a Padres numbers cruncher with the abject failure to understand protocol as he suggested to then-manager Bruce Bochy that he bat pitcher Woody Williams second in the batting order.

And how no one is willing to get into a substantive debate about the subject, choosing instead to make comments from afar where they’re safe from retort by the object of their vitriol.

Leitch’s piece combines familiar Mets ridicule with profound negativity and a “they can’t win” sensibility.

It also exhibits a total lack of knowledge and memory of that which he’s advocated previously.

Not long ago, he wanted Billy Beane to come and take over the Mets ignoring what Beane truly is, not in the Moneyball sense, but in objective analysis.

Beane is a competent executive. No more, no less. His teams haven’t been good in recent years; he’s made some overtly stupid decisions; and has taken advantage of his fame without acknowledging the pitfalls of a “genius” and crafted perfection that never existed in the first place.

The Mets hired Sandy Alderson to run the club and he imported many of the characters and strategies from Moneyball—Paul DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi among them.

Now, as the Mets tenuous financial situation is in the process of being untangled, there’s concern that they’re going to go the way of clubs like the Padres and Marlins who’ve repeatedly torn down the entire foundation of their franchises due to financial constraints.

They might trade Reyes or not even make an attempt to re-sign him; they could deal Wright; there are no impact free agents to be available in the coming years; they’re an exercise in dysfunction with no discernible strategy and few prospects both practically and metaphorically.

We’ve heard it all before.

The New York Mets will not crumble to the ground if Reyes and Wright are no longer the cornerstones of the franchise. They’re not the end-all, be-all of club existence. With the way the franchise is currently constituted, the Mets have to have everything on the table in terms of willingness to deal.

But here we are with Reyes playing brilliantly and placing a wrench in the theories of those who claim there’s no “evidence” of a contract-year bump; of course there’s a contract-year bump for certain players and Reyes is one of them. He wants to get paid and is doing everything he can towards that end.

Each sparkling defensive play; every stolen base; all the exciting triples into the Citi Field gap and Predator-style dreadlocks flying through the air complete with the Reyes smile that was so prominent in 2006, the media and fans pound the drums, blogosphere and social networks with entreaties as to how they want the Mets to ante up and prevent any possibility of the player entering his prime years playing in another uniform.

It would be a similar mistake to do anything desperate now as it was when the prior regimes made such ghastly and short-sighted errors such as the trading of Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano and the bidding-against-themselves signings of Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo.

In fact, it would be the exact opposite of why they hired Alderson; of doing what it was the likes of Leitch wanted them to do: find someone like Alderson, unbeholden to fan/media whims and acting in a way commensurate with his Marine-lawyer background to do what needed to be done for the good of the club without reverence to the past nor what would look good in the short-term.

So which is it?

If you examine similar clubs who’ve had financial catastrophes in the past, you come up with some interesting parallels.

The Red Sox were a joke before John Henry took over. Yes, they were good occasionally (like the Mets); yes, they spent money (like the Mets); and yes, they had a loyal and frustrated fan base that took a perverse and masochistic pride in their lot as a punching bag for the Yankees both literally and figuratively (like the Mets).

Spurned by the “genius” Beane—who’d agreed to take over the franchise after the 2002 season and backed out to remain in the comfort-zone of limited media exposure, fan obsession and expectations—they turned to young Theo Epstein who has presided over a model franchise since then.

The Rangers were a train wreck and financial nightmare as recently as last season. They made a decision in 2007 to trade a player the same age as Reyes is now (27)—Mark Teixeira—and laid the foundation for the pennant winning club of 2010 and rebuilt the franchise with the ridiculous haul of prospects they received from the Braves that included Neftali Feliz, Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

You can’t say now what will work and what won’t; if a team comes to the Mets and makes an offer that would yield a substantial return for any player, they would be stupid not to think about it.

Alderson’s not stupid.

Indicative of a lack of baseball knowledge or the barest interest in accuracy is the comparison of the Mets to a small-market locale when Leitch writes the following:

But do the Mets want to be the sort of franchise that trades away its best players in their prime because of financial concerns? What are we, Minnesota?

Minnesota?

Which Minnesota is he referring to?

The Twins with their $113 million payroll? The same club that just lavished a contract worth $184 million on Joe Mauer?

Actually, with the way they flamed out in the playoffs last year—the year they were supposed to finally get past the Yankees—and the injury-ravaged, high-expectations, disaster they’ve been this year, you can compare the Twins to the Mets, not the other way around.

Leitch’s allegiance to the Moneyball model isn’t based on any deep-rooted understanding of the concept, but that it’s a book that he read and hasn’t the faintest clue as to how terribly the story was twisted to suit the ends of the author; in order to comprehend that, there must be a foundational baseball knowledge to start with.

Now I’m starting to see that Leitch’s baseball savvy is clearly more in line with the aforementioned Stephen A. Smith rather than someone with whom you could have a legitimate back-and-forth without having to explain these concepts to them like a college professor.

I don’t see Leitch’s column as slimy in a Joel Sherman sort of way, but it’s ignorant and tilted towards smarminess to attack the Mets.

At the end of the piece, Leitch writes: “And yet whichever path they choose, as any die-hard Mets fan knows, will probably be the wrong one.”

Perhaps taking that statement to heart considering his own goal in writing a hit-piece of this kind would serve him well. Get it right or quit writing about baseball altogether. Or at least present a case that isn’t dripping with sarcasm for its own sake.

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I published a full excerpt of my book here and recently received a 5-star review on Amazon.

It’s available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon or BN. It’s also available via E-book on Borders.com.

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Accountability Or Posing

Books, Fantasy/Roto, Games, Management, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players, Uncategorized

There was talk—specifically from Mets broadcaster Gary Cohen—that the club should consider demoting Mike Pelfrey.

Given the righty’s struggles so far this season; that he has remaining minor league options; and the new era of accountability with the Mets that has taken hold, it’s not a totally ludicrous idea to ship a veteran—albeit a young veteran—to the minor leagues to straighten himself out.

Would this be a positive maneuver for the mets? Would it do more harm than good? And would it be seen as an overreaction to take a relatively proven starting pitcher like Pelfrey and send him down?

Because the Mets supposedly have an “extra” starting pitcher with Dillon Gee and Chris Young healthy (for now), they can conceivably look at the six (Pelfrey, Gee, Young, Chris Capuano, R.A. Dickey and Jonathon Niese) and say that Pelfrey’s been the worst of the group and, based on performance and not a scholarship for the past (or time served—this is the Mets we’re talking about), he should be demoted.

Putting him in the bullpen makes no sense; nor does it make sense to use Gee out there.

So what to do?

I don’t see sending Pelfrey to Triple A as a viable option at this point. The Mets reactionary dumping of winter darling and vaunted Rule 5 pick Brad Emaus was indicative of the short window of opportunity certain players are going to get under the new regime; 42 plate appearances and out was neither fair nor was it an accurate gauge of what Emaus can and can’t do. Mets assistant GM J.P. Ricciardi drafted Emaus while he was GM of the Blue Jays, presumably he knows what he is; if what he is is the hitter we saw in those 42 plate appearances, the Mets: A) should’ve halted the outside rhetoric of what a steal they got; and B) shouldn’t have given him the 2nd base job to start with.

Pelfrey did win 15 games last season and should’ve been an All Star.

Yes, he’s inconsistent; yes, he gets flustered and implodes; but he’s a big, workhorse starter who will be an innings-gobbling and durable entity on a good team.

GM Sandy Alderson has preached that name recognition, contractual status and ancillary factors won’t influence his decisionmaking. He’s acted in accordance with that statement in releasing Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo and by dispatching Emaus so quickly. But to send Pelfrey to the minors would be too much too soon. A bad April isn’t cause to embarrass the opening day starter to that degree. Sending him to Buffalo won’t do him much good with the issues that currently plague him. Plus, what difference should it really make to the Mets now as anything other than florid showmanship to exert the front office’s authority on the veteran players?

He’s not pitching poorly due to a lack of effort. That would be grounds for immediate demotion. He’s off to a bad start and a large part of it is clearly mental—he feels he has to step up and take the place of the injured Johan Santana, something he’s not capable nor equipped to do. His problems appear to be in his head and with his mechanics.

I wouldn’t have gone the route of manager Terry Collins when the built-in excuse from Friday night was that Pelfrey’s bout with the flu  was a large factor in his poor outing; if he wasn’t healthy enough to pitch, he shouldn’t have pitched; and he was fine for the first few innings before the wheels came off.

It was a weak caveat from the manager designed to protect; it wound up looking like an after-the-fact bit of whining because that’s what it was.

There are times to take a strong stand and perhaps even issue the threat of demotion; there’s nothing wrong with putting a little scare in someone who might have gotten a bit too comfortable in his station, but now’s not that time for Pelfrey.

If he pitches poorly throughout May and casts the pretense of one who’d benefit from such a wakeup call, then fine; but to do it now is a bullying tactic that won’t do any good. If sending him down is a consideration, they shouldn’t do it until the warm weather comes and a greater basis upon the move can be reached.

Besides all that, Young’s not going to stay healthy; so the point is moot.

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Mets Dump Brad Emaus

Books, Games, Management, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players, Spring Training

After 42 plate appearances; a .162 batting average with no power; and a .262 on base percentage, the player that some were suggesting could  be the Mets version of hitting the lottery as the Marlins did with Dan Uggla in 2006, is gone.

Or maybe not gone.

It depends.

The Mets designated Brad Emaus for assignment today and recalled Justin Turner. What that means is that Emaus has to pass through waivers and, after ten days if he’s unclaimed, the Rule 5 selection will be offered back to the Blue Jays; if they refuse or decide to work out a trade with the Mets, he can stay with the club where they’ll be free to send him to Triple A Buffalo—technical details culled from MLBTradeRumors.

On the bright side for the Mets, the way Emaus hit, it’s hard to see anyone claiming him and having to keep him on the big league roster; the Blue Jays may not be interested in taking him back either, so he’ll stay a Met.

I was skeptical when all this talk about Emaus began after the Mets claimed him. His minor league numbers are eye-catching, but lightning strikes like what happened with the Marlins and Uggla are exceedingly rare. Emaus did have an on base percentage .100 points higher than his putrid batting average, so he has ability to work the count and get on base; and his defense at second was better than advertised.

But what were the Mets expecting here?

Assistant GM J.P. Ricciardi drafted Emaus when he was the Blue Jays GM, so he knows him. Presumably the Mets front office wasn’t as excited about him as the numbers-crunchers were. It takes more than numbers to evaluate a player and perhaps Emaus can still be a productive big leaguer; he isn’t one now.

I understand the impatience of the Mets in this case; it’s a signal that they’re not beholden to a Rule 5 pick if he’s not performing up to big league standards; on the other hand, would it have hurt to give him another 40-60 at bats? He seemed overmatched, but if they liked him so much to give him the starting job out of spring training, he warranted a longer look that this.

The Mets will say all the right things: “We liked and still like Brad”; “He’s got a lot of ability, but needs more minor league seasoning”; “This is not a reflection on the player, but we need someone to help us now.”

All are reasonable. But they don’t make much sense in the long term scheme. This team is going nowhere in 2011. Brad Emaus or Turner playing second base isn’t going to affect fan attendance one way or the other. If the Mets truly believe in Emaus, they should’ve at least given him 20 more at bats. Who was it going to hurt?

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I’m administrating a discussion group on TheCopia.com. Click on the link to leave a comment or start a new topic.

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Purchase my book, Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide. It’s useful all year long.

I published a full excerpt of my book here.

It’s available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon or BN. It’s also available via E-book on Borders.com.

It’s out on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook.

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