The Mets Acquired Kelly Shoppach Because…

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I hate to shatter the myths and nonsense that are being floated by the Joel Shermans of the world, but here’s the truth without sycophancy or prophecies of doom.

The Mets acquired Kelly Shoppach because:

  • He was available now

You can ignore the ridiculous notion that the Mets “should’ve” either traded for him earlier this year when they were still hovering around contention or signed him before the season started. Had Shoppach been on the market earlier this season, some catcher-hungry contending team at the time—the Nationals, Brewers, Rangers—would’ve gone out and gotten him with a better offer than what the Mets would’ve surrendered.

As for the idea that Shoppach would’ve signed with the Mets last winter? Yes, he would’ve…if they’re offered him substantially more money than the Red Sox did ($1.25 million). The Mets had precious little cash to spend and what they did have, they used on trying to fix the bullpen. It hasn’t worked, but that’s where the available money went. Shoppach was placed on waivers by the Red Sox, the Mets claimed him and the Red Sox agreed to send him to New York for a player to be named later. The planets were aligned so the deal was there for them to make when it wasn’t before.

Thole has some attributes. He can catch R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball and has shown patience at the plate. But he has no power whatsoever and he can’t throw very well from behind the plate. He’s a slap hitter who’s tried to pull the ball and that’s plainly and simply not going to work. Shoppach has power that none of the other catchers on the Mets’ roster do, he takes his walks, and he can throw well.

  • They know what he is and maybe he’ll want to stay

Sherman posted the following on Twitter:

For those asking why #Mets did this: Why not? 6 week look to see if like someone who could give inexpensive platoon mate to Thole in ’13.

Look to see? Look to see what? Is Shoppach going to be somehow different over the next 6 weeks than he’s been over the first 8 years of his career?

The Mets did this because they couldn’t stand to look at Thole almost every day and they’re aware of what Nickeas and Johnson are (journeyman 4-A catchers). Thole is a backup. Shoppach will be with the Mets for the rest of the season and the team is going to have the chance to entice him with legitimate playing time in 2013 and being on an up-and-coming club with, by and large, a good group of guys. If he was a free agent after spending the season with the Red Sox, other more financially stable clubs with a better chance to win would’ve been pursuing him and the same situation as last winter would’ve been in effect this winter: he wouldn’t join the Mets if he had a choice. Now maybe he’ll want to stay.

This Sherman tweet was after Howard Megdal posted tweets detailing how this is a good move for the team with the predictable caveat that they won’t have any money to spend in 2013 either, so Shoppach is one of the few possibly upgrades they can make.

What you have to understand when taking seriously the mainstream media with Megdal, Sherman, Bob Klapisch and the other cottage industry Mets bashers is that not one of them had it right regarding the outcome of the Bernie Madoff trial. No one predicted a settlement and the consensus was that by now the Wilpons would either have been forced to sell the team or had it legally removed from their possession in some sort of a financial downfall the likes we haven’t seen since Bruce McNall of the Los Angeles Kings.

No one knows what the Wilpons’ finances truly look like. If they don’t have much more cash to spend on next year’s team than the $95 or so million they have this year, I’d venture a guess that GM Sandy Alderson told ownership that it makes little sense to do anything too drastic given the contracts of Jason Bay and Johan Santana next year (combined they’re owed $50 million in salary and buyouts), so what they have to do is sit on their hands and wait until those deals expire. Concurrent to that will be the arrival of Zack Wheeler to go along with Matt Harvey, Jonathon Niese and Dickey in the Mets’ rotation of the future. Spending money on bullpens is almost always a mistake and what they’ll do in lieu of that is to try a different hand with pitchers they find on the market. The difference between the Mets bullpen of 2012 and other, cheap bullpens like those the Rays have put together in recent years is that the pitchers the Mets signed haven’t worked out and the ones the Rays signed did. Billy Beane spent a lot of money on relief pitchers Brian Fuentes and Grant Balfour last season and I didn’t see anyone ripping the genius label from around his neck even though they should have half-a-decade ago.

The Mets’ owners get bashed when they interfere and they get bashed when they don’t. This time I think they’re keeping hands off not because of money in and of itself, but because they’re listening to reason from their baseball people that it doesn’t make sense to waste money when the time to spend will be in 2013-2014, like it or not.

This is a good move for the Mets and no amount of twisting and turning on the part of those who have made it their life’s work to tear into the Mets regardless of what they do can change that or turn it into another reason to criticize for things they didn’t do—things that weren’t going to happen if they’d tried.

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Dullifying Dickey

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It was only a matter of time before R.A. Dickey’s hot pitching—comparable to any of the great pitchers and searing hot streaks in baseball history—was placed into a statistical context with fWAR, contracts, financial ramifications, musings on what it means that a knuckleballer is doing this versus a conventional pitcher and other bits of dizzying facts and figures that are designed to mask humanity and an in-the-trenches understanding of the game itself.

Memorizing and spouting statistics doesn’t make one an expert.

But it does it diminish the eye-catching story that is R.A. Dickey.

If you’ve yet to do so, I recommend you read Dickey’s autobiography to get the full gist of what it is he went through from his childhood to his journeyman career that only took off when he got to the Mets at age 35.

I reviewed the book here—link.

The numbers are startling in every context, advanced stats and not. But is it necessary to delve into and dissect now? Do we need to be forcefully zoned out with the one-upmanship and mind-numbing numbers of how Dickey has gotten where he’s gotten statistically? The narrative of his life and that he’s pitching masterfully is enough for now.

Can fans everywhere just enjoy it for once? Can we drown out the unwanted interlopers of baseball who think they know everything based on a stat sheet and in reality know nothing?

If Dickey needs to be explained and historically understood, at least wait until the end of the season.

Or just go away.

Pop in a DVD of Moneyball and imagine it’s real.

Go on. It’ll be fun.

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Leyland’s Rant

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Jim Leyland’s latest rant about “experts” that make baseball predictions wasn’t as much a reaction to something specific as it was an explosion resulting from long-simmering tensions about seismic changes in the way baseball is viewed and analyzed.

You can read what he said here on the Chicago Tribune website.

This was a reply to structural shifts and wasn’t directed at any individual in particular. It was a defense of himself and his work; work that’s been increasingly decried with the rising number of people who make snarky comments after insinuating themselves into his world without the foundation to do so.

His raving mania was a diversionary tactic, factually inaccurate and will only be judged in hindsight. He used the White Sox as a tool to get his point across.

Leyland’s been managing the Tigers since 2006 and the White Sox were good in some years and horribly disappointing in others.

Are there reasons to think the White Sox will struggle this season? With a neophyte manager, poor defense and shaky bullpen?

Of course.

Could they surprise if, as Leyland said, the starting pitching performs and the hitters account for the team’s deficiencies?

Absolutely.

What pretense he used for his soliloquy is neither here nor there.

Leyland and Tony LaRussa, among others, have shown righteous indignation bordering on condescending arrogance to being questioned by those perceived intruders.

They have grounds to feel that way.

How would you like it if an unwanted interloper—probably half your age—barged into your place of business and started telling you how to do it in an overtly obnoxious manner as if you’re a fool whose experience is irrelevant.

In spite of the old-school and over-the-top method of delivering the message, Leyland’s not wrong.

Leyland and LaRussa are coming from a place where they can be condescending to critics who don’t have their resumes; who cram stuff into their heads to put forth the image of expertise.

We see it all the time. There’s a difference between having a genuine background in the game by participating, watching, understanding and assessing and forcing a load of facts into one’s head, regurgitating statistics and terminology, then presenting a case based on bottom-line numbers as if it’s a math problem rather than a game played by human beings.

The line between knowledge and understanding is subtle, but imperative when determining who and who not to listen to. If Leyland has people who are saying foolish things and questioning his strategies without accounting and accepting the context of dealing with baseball players, running a clubhouse and keeping the media at bay, then he has a reason to go on a tangent to express his displeasure at the direction in which modern analysis has gone.

You can memorize names and numbers; quote concepts you scarcely comprehend to fit the profile, but that’s not going to replace having been in the trenches and deciding on a course of action with confidence in one’s position; there’s no validation for this from a formula or reading facts from 50 years ago in a book and attacking a Leyland or LaRussa because they disagree with you and don’t constantly discuss numbers or studies as a defense.

How does one proclaim himself qualified to question Leyland and LaRussa if they don’t know who Jack Buck was? If they don’t know that a knuckleball is thrown with the fingertips and not the knuckles?

The puffed up, self-indulgent, ego-aggrandizing titles you see on what essentially amount to fan websites—senior editor; founder; creator; lead writer—mean absolutely nothing in terms of credibility.

Such credibility has to be accrued through years of legitimate and verifiable work. That work doesn’t always have to have been retrospectively “right” such as “I was right about X team losing 95 games.” Or “I predicted Y would bat .225 this season with 8 homers.”

Predictions have to come from a basis of reason. If it’s just from some random statistic, where’s the analysis?

There’s a significant difference between looking at the numbers, for example, of Tim Lincecum and making broad statements as to why he’s off to a poor start. It’s easy to mention the decline in his velocity and to come to a random conclusion of him “breaking down”. It’s not so easy to study at his motion, determine glitches that would be imperceptible to laymen and to have a practical reason why he’s struggling and formulate ways to fix it.

Leyland’s diatribe came across as a wide-ranging spray of bullets directed at anyone and everyone in its path, but there’s a method to his madness. When someone who’s never picked up a baseball is sitting behind a laptop on Starbucks and makes references to random studies on numbers, innings and pitch counts and decides to criticize Leyland’s choice to leave Justin Verlander in to throw 131 pitches, does he not have a reason to retort?

Leyland’s had enough and was sending a message that will be ignored, misunderstood or scoffed at by the same pompous people who he’s referring to—people who don’t know anything—thereby defeating the purpose.

At least he vented. We don’t want him to spontaneously combust in the dugout.

It’s not the last time we’ll hear him go off on this subject.

And that’s a good thing.

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