New York Style Injuries And “Knowledge” Of The Masses

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After the news broke that Mike Pelfrey is going on the disabled list—and possibly under the surgeon’s knife—with an elbow issue, the most glaring aspect is that nobody backtracked or expressed regret for ripping Mets’ manager Terry Collins for pulling Pelfrey after eight innings on Saturday.

What you’ll hear is the excuse: “We didn’t know.”

Exactly. You didn’t know. Because you’re not in the dugout and are not a baseball person, the manager is left to take a beating by outsiders stemming from the ignorance that comes from a little bit of self-anointed knowledge of statistics and “experience” accrued by watching games and studying numbers without actually being involved in the activity of playing, coaching and managing a baseball game and baseball players.

It’s remarkably easy to react to something that appears to be wrong in the realm of a layman and go on a tangent on Twitter.

What would’ve happened had Collins done what the masses wanted him to do—after the fact and knowing that closer Frank Francisco blew the game—and left Pelfrey in the game? Would that have been referenced as the time when he got hurt?

We don’t know when he got hurt, but that would’ve been the “when”, true or not.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing and a forum to vent with others actually listening to the venting and giving it credibility with mass agreement makes it worse.

The Mets are being hammered by injuries.

Their frontline roster is competent and they’ve played relatively well to start the season, all things considered; but the main reasons I had the Mets finishing at 69-93 and in last place in the NL East were the notoriously rough division and the profound lack of depth in the organization. Up to now, the young players Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Ruben Tejada, Josh Thole and Dillon Gee have held their own, but when you lose the 200 innings of Pelfrey and a veteran like Jason Bay—regardless of fan perception of the two—it’s going to hurt badly by highlighting the absence of viable replacements for those players.

Those who were celebrating Pelfrey’s and Bay’s injuries have their own issues to deal with. In a baseball sense, the same prevailing lack of logic applies as when there were calls to release Pelfrey and Bay. Who’s going to play left field? (One suggestion last year was for the Mets to get Endy Chavez back; Chavez is currently batting .156 for the Orioles.) And who precisely are they supposed to get to replace the 200 innings that Pelfrey would provide?

Who?

On the other side of town, Michael Pineda’s saga as a Yankee continues. The majority of it is out of uniform and in MRI tubes. He’s getting a second opinion on the diagnosis for his ailing shoulder which, obviously, is not a good thing. If the initial diagnosis was good, why would he need a second opinion?

There’s little to say about the Yankees and their treatment, development and assessment of pitchers other than it’s awful.

One would think that the litany of failures—Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, Andrew Brackman, Pineda—would tell them that perhaps it’s time to do something entirely different as the Texas Rangers have consciously decided to do in pushing their pitchers harder in the minors and letting them work their way through the middle innings in lieu of planting in their heads a predetermined pitch/innings count so they know that they’re coming out of the game.

The most laughable part of the Yankees’ pitching merry-go-round is that there are still Yankees’ apologists in the media trying to put forth a defense of the treatment of Pineda.

Mike Francesa is constantly discussing the prospect the Yankees acquired—Jose Campos—as if he’s the Holy Grail of the trade.

Given their absurd pitching failures, what makes anyone think the Yankees are going to do a better a job developing and using Campos than they have with the other pitchers they’ve ruined with their idiotic rules.

Joel Sherman of the NY Post clumsily altered reality on Sunday by implying that GM Brian Cashman’s statements about Pineda were designed to remove pressure from him as he became acclimated to life with the Yankees.

So saying that he’ll have made a mistake if Pineda doesn’t develop into a number 1 starter and refine his changeup is taking pressure off him? A number 1 starter is generally a Tim Lincecum, Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, Clayton Kershaw, Roy Halladay-type. Being placed into that category wouldn’t put pressure on a 23-year-old to overdo it?

The Yankees and the media openly questioned Pineda’s fastball when he pitched in spring training possibly leading him to try to throw too hard and light up the radar gun; perhaps ignoring pain in his shoulder while doing it to validate the trade and rhetoric.

Compounding all of this by comparing Montero to Miguel Cabrera only exacerbated the problem.

This idea that they didn’t “need” Jesus Montero is ludicrous. If they were going to trade him away due to an overabundance of hitting and need for pitching, they could’ve done it for someone established. Or they could’ve kept Montero as the DH and allowed Hector Noesi to have a legitimate shot in the rotation.

Regardless of the reasons and actions, this is where they are. They have Pineda and Campos and the trade is already looking like a long-term disaster.

The Yankees currently have the overall pitching and hitting to live without Pineda, but in the future when Andy Pettitte decides to retire once and for all; when CC Sabathia is aging and can’t be counted on for 240 innings every year; and are concerned enough about the luxury tax guidelines that they can’t fling money at their holes, what are they supposed to do then?

Wait for Campos?

They’ll be waiting until 2016 and he’ll be on a series of brilliantly devised limits.

To protect him of course.

The Yankees protection is an implanted time-bomb and I’d rather go without it in every conceivable sense.

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Wherever I Wind Up by R.A. Dickey—Book Review

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The vast majority of athletes’ “biographies” are tranparent attempts to cast themselves in the best possible light with terminonlogy they don’t understand; “facts” that aren’t quite facts; and text with their names attached to them that most didn’t even bother to read.

Athletes and celebrities use the pretense of candor to generate a media splash and increase sales when the only passages worth reading are those in which heretofore unknown revelations are made, then then degenerate into a run of the mill biography with interchangeable names and titles.

R.A. Dickey does none of that in his new book, Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest For Truth, Authenticity And The Perfect Knuckleball, written with Wayne Coffey.

Dickey is a still-active player whose new career phase has just begun at age 37 and will possibly last for another decade. He could have written a book about his struggles from conventional journeyman pitcher to successful knuckleballer; about how he went from 1st round draft choice of the Texas Rangers whose contract offer was pulled off the table because of a medical anomaly in which he doesn’t have an ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow; to a 4-A pitcher who was constantly on the verge of being unemployed; to a man with a novelty pitch trying to hang on.

He could’ve written about the diverse personalities and the stuff that goes on inside baseball, gotten it published, made a few extra bucks and moved on.

But that’s already been done ad nauseam.

Like the mechanics of the knuckleball, the key is to let it go and allow it to do its work. Shifting that blueprint from pitching to writing, Dickey throws himself out there completely without concern for perception or negative aftermath.

In a rare effort of honesty from a ballplayer, Dickey reveals his status as a child from a broken home as the son of an alcoholic mother; his own adult infidelity and that he considered suicide; how he endured years of financial hardship, separation from loved ones and maintained the determination to keep trying when all signs told him it was time to hang it up and move onto something else that would be more stable and provide for his family.

Most courageously, Dickey tells of being sexually abused as a child.

First was a 13-year-old female babysitter who forced herself on him when he was 8. The abuse occurred several times over that summer and Dickey relates the story with sickening descriptiveness indicative of a memory that’s been scorched into Dickey’s whole being and will never be fully exorcised.

Then on a family visit to the Nashville countryside, Dickey is forcibly raped by a neighboring teen.

He kept these incidents to himself until he was in his early-30s.

In the insular, macho world of professional baseball, how many other people have encountered similar instances of abuse, yet have kept silent out of fear, shame or embarrassment for something that’s not their fault?

After reading about the abuse, you’ll find yourself wondering why Dickey never confronted those who abused him. In the case of the babysitter, a decade later and through accident of circumstance, he did.

There was no admission of guilt nor great epiphany on either side.

There are many laughs and “I knew it” sections in the book.

Dickey and Mets’ teammate Mike Pelfrey climbed over the fence of a Port St. Lucie football field so Pelfrey could practice field goal kicks to try and win a bet with David Wright; Dickey scoffs at and explains the absurdity of the pre-draft psychological tests that are given to players and how meaningless they are because most players who have the werewithal to do so will give the answers they think the team wants to hear, rendering them worthless as anything other than a validation of what the club thinks of the player in the first place; and, he tells the world what we already knew: Ichiro Suzuki not only understands English, but he speaks it well.

As in every baseball diary or biography, there are coaches, managers and front office people saying one thing to a player’s face, then doing the exact opposite.

And naturally, there are the obligatory Alex Rodriguez tales of (seemingly unintentional) A-Rod egomania, but they’re not done in a tone of “look what a diva A-Rod is”, but with a shrugging, matter of fact sense of “that’s A-Rod”. When Dickey pitched his first complete game shutout in the big leagues, A-Rod said, “You have me to thank for that” because A-Rod claimed to have called every pitch from shortstop.

In his next start, Dickey got shelled and asked A-Rod if he should thank him for that too. A-Rod said that he didn’t call the pitches in that game.

Faith plays a large part in Dickey’s life. He’s a born again Christian and he believed—with no evidence to support him—in his own ability to relearn how to succeed on a baseball field in a completely opposite way to what got him drafted by using a pitch that requires timing and is somewhat magical rather than a fastball that lights up the radar gun.

The theme isn’t a holier-than-thou tome of, “I live this way and so should you.”

Dickey’s self-destructive acts came years after he became a devout follower of Christ.

Dickey’s baseball career is used as a symbol that can be transferred to anyone no matter what they’re doing or trying to do. All players, top draft picks or not, encounter roadblocks. They come in different forms, but are inevitable. The value of perseverance in the face of on and off-field adversities the likes we didn’t know—or didn’t want to know—existed are the overriding points in the book.

It goes unsaid, but if you ask Dickey why he was so open about instances in his life that were painful and might cause others to look at and treat him differently, he’d respond with a perplexed look and ask, “Why wouldn’t I tell the truth about my life? It’s the stigma of humiliation and self-loathing created by sexual abuse that are exacerbated by the lifelong silence of victims.”

If there’s anything to take from the book, it’s that faith—religious or not—gives freedom to be true to oneself.

Dickey tells the truth. And sometimes that’s the hardest thing to do.

//

The Mets Can’t Win

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I don’t mean on the field.

Obviously it’s going to be hard for them to compete in the National League East with the Phillies, Braves, Marlins and Nationals; but as I said when the Jose Reyes signing by the Marlins was leaked to the media, this is where the Mets are. They didn’t have the money and/or the desire to pay Reyes and let him leave.

What’s being ignored is that the Mets weaknesses in 2011 were not at the plate. In fact, they were more than capable of surviving without Reyes, David Wright and Ike Davis in the lineup and enduring poor years from Jason Bay and Angel Pagan.

How did they do it?

They had the second highest on base percentage in the National League which led to them finishing sixth in the league in runs scored. They had no power as Carlos Beltran led the team with 15 homers despite being traded in July. With the outfield fences being moved in, Citi Field will be more hitter-friendly to Wright and Bay which should lead to more production. One thing about the Mets front office led by Sandy Alderson: they did the math of how the new park dimensions will affect the hitters and the pitchers. Whether the projections are accurate or not is unknown. If anything, the mental block that has affected Wright since he set foot in the new, cavernous park will be removed.

There are two ways to go about building a team in the off-season: you can bolster strengths or address weaknesses. As difficult as it is to believe, the Mets strength was actually offense. That’s only in part due to the career season of Reyes— a career season that included two stints on the disabled list; a controversial bunt to win the batting title; a .337 average and a weak .384 OBP in conjunction with that lofty average. He also stopped stealing bases after his hamstring woes in what looked to be a concession to staying healthy as he headed towards free agency.

Their weaknesses were the bullpen, a lack of depth—both personnel wise and in innings pitched—in the starting rotation; and black holes in the lineup.

One of those black holes was Pagan.

Pagan has long been an impressive talent. Something like a baseball Frankenstein, Pagan’s creation seems to have been through mined bodyparts from a baseball graveyard. Somewhere in that body, he can run like Tim Raines; hit like Bernie Williams; and field like Garry Maddox.

He was also deprived of a functioning baseball brain.

For a management group that either wants players who listen to instruction or know what to do and when to do it, Pagan was a clear target for dispatching. It could’ve been any number of things that hastened his departure—his rising salary; his frequent injuries; his consistent on-field mistakes—but it was probably his attempt to double off a Cardinals baserunner—by throwing the ball towards Cardinals first base coach Dave McKay—that was the catalyst for the team to say enough’s enough.

Pagan was traded to the Giants for outfielder Andres Torres and right handed reliever Ramon Ramirez.

It’s partially addition by subtraction and partially getting functional bodies who will be better than what they had.

Both Torres and Ramirez are better and cheaper than what the prior bullpen inhabitants.

The Mets also signed two former Blue Jays relievers Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco.

Rauch receives a 1-year deal for $3.5 million; Francisco 2-years at $12 million.

All the relievers they acquired are relatively cheap and competent. Relief pitchers fluctuate from year-to-year and overpaying for them—especially with limited finances—is absurd.

Will these decisions spur a load of season ticket purchases? Inspire the media to suddenly cease the bashing of the team for doing the things that Alderson and Co. did with the Padres and Athletics they were faced with not having the money for big ticket items and instead went the affordable and sane route?

Probably neither, but the Mets filled needs in the bullpen and by getting rid of Pagan. The entire 2012 season is hinging on the improvement of young pitchers Jonathon Niese and getting something useful from Mike Pelfrey; the offense might be improved by the aforementioned factors of ballpark and Davis coming back; also Lucas Duda showed an impressive spurt of power late in the season.

Considering the way they were constructed in recent years and the doom accompanying the overreacting devastation at Reyes’s departure, they made some smart decisions that were what the media and fans were clamoring for in opposition to just buying things that were overpriced as they did under the prior regime.

Overall, things could be much worse.

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Time For The Blue Jays To Move Up

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The Blue Jays are looking for a closer. They also could use another bat and definitely need a starting pitcher to function as an anchor for the young starting rotation.

Let’s take a look at what they could and should do.

Closer.

With the top tier closer off the market as Jonathan Papelbon signed with the Phillies and the Blue Jays reluctant to spend that amount of money on a short-reliever anyway, they have to look at the other options; these options might not be as splashy as the Papelbon signing, but they would fit into the Blue Jays budget and serve their purpose in the regular season.

The names of a lower tier/cheaper variety include the affordable, warted veterans Brad Lidge, Jonathan Broxton, Matt Capps and Joe Nathan.

Then there’s Heath Bell, who’s not young (34) and won’t demand as much as a Papelbon, Ryan Madson or Francisco Rodriguez.

The Blue Jays could wait and see if the market crashes on Madson or K-Rod; or they could try and make a trade for Joakim Soria, Huston Street or Carlos Marmol.

The prices for Soria and Marmol are likely to be exorbitant; I’d steer clear of Bell, Madson, Broxton, Capps and Street—they don’t fit for the Blue Jays.

That leaves Nathan and Lidge.

Lidge has had his highs and lows in the post-season; his confidence is hair-trigger and his injury history concerning; he’d be cheap and might be very, very good or very, very bad.

Nathan pitched well once he regained the job as stopper from Capps and in his second year back from Tommy John surgery, he’s a good gamble to regain his form at a highly affordable price.

What I would do: Sign Joe Nathan for 2-years, $11 million guaranteed with incentives to push it to $15 million and a mutual option for a 3rd year.

Starting pitcher.

In the summer when it looked like the Cardinals were going to clear salary to keep Albert Pujols, I suggested that the Blue Jays bring back the pitcher they drafted but non-tendered when he got hurt—Chris Carpenter.

Carpenter was signed by the Cardinals, allowed to recover, had his motion torn apart and rebuilt by Dave Duncan and developed into one of the best pitchers in baseball over the past decade.

But Carpenter signed a contract extension with the Cardinals.

What the Blue Jays need is a horse. Someone to eat innings and set an example for the talented youngsters Brandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek, Henderson Alvarez and current ace Ricky Romero.

There are pitchers like this available.

Mark Buehrle is team-oriented; can show the youngsters how to get by when they don’t have their good stuff; and when he’s on, he pitches no-hitters. He’d probably prefer to stay in Chicago (with the White Sox or Cubs); go to the Cardinals (who don’t have room for him barring a trade or three); or stay relatively close to the Mid-West. That shouldn’t dissuade the Blue Jays from pursuing him.

Hiroki Kuroda has wicked stuff and is mean, but it’s hard to see him leaving the West Coast.

Edwin Jackson is represented by Scott Boras and the Blue Jays won’t want to pay him—nor should they.

Roy Oswalt isn’t looking for a long term contract and won’t be interested in the pressure-packed, big city atmospheres of Boston or New York—he’d like to go to Texas or the Mid-West, but maybe he’d also listen to the Blue Jays.

Like Jackson, C.J. Wilson will cost more than they’d like to spend on a starting pitcher.

Javier Vazquez had major success in Canada with the Expos and was one of baseball’s best pitchers over the second half of last season for the Marlins; he has yet to decide whether he’ll pitch in 2012 (I suspect he will) and he’s had bad experiences in the American League overall and the American League East in particular with two hellish stints with the Yankees.

Trade candidates include Bronson Arroyo; Francisco Liriano; Trevor Cahill; Gio Gonzalez; Mike Pelfrey; Brett Myers; Wandy Rodriguez; and Joe Saunders.

All have positives and negatives. Of the group, the ones I’d serious pursue are Arroyo—he’s an innings-eater, is signed for $13 million through 2013, and has guts and experience in the AL East; Cahill—a sinkerballer who pounds the strike zone and has succeeded with a bad Athletics team; or Rodriguez—terrific stuff and an underrated competitor.

What I would do: Explore a trade for Arroyo and go after both Oswalt and Buehrle—see what the asking prices are, who wants to come to Toronto and will be the most reasonable.

A bat.

I would stay away from the massive financial commitment to Prince Fielder; I wouldn’t touch David Ortiz.

If Joey Votto is put on the market, any team would have to try getting him, but he’s going to cost a chunk of the farm system.

Here’s the best strategy: let Kelly Johnson leave; sign Carlos Beltran to play right field; shift Jose Bautista to third base; and move Brett Lawrie to second. When Beltran is the DH, they can play Edwin Encarnacion at third and have Bautista in right.

Beltran’s contract demands are no longer going to be Borased because he and Boras parted ways in the summer; he won’t cost any draft picks because it was inserted into his contract he can’t be offered arbitration by his prior club; and he could DH when his knees aren’t feeling up to playing the outfield—it might be more often than it would normally be due to the artificial turf at the Rogers Center.

He’d be a more athletic, versatile and cheaper alternative to Fielder; and is a quiet leader who has performed in the big city and during pressure-packed moments. The big concern I’d have with Ortiz is that there’s a chance he’s a “Red Sox player” who won’t perform when removed from the venue where he made his name and became the Big Papi character. That “character” is also an issue—while the Red Sox are used to him, his outspokenness might be seen as an intrusion for a new, young club.

What I would do: Sign Beltran for 3-years, $40 million and make the position switches listed above.

The above maneuvers would fill the Blue Jays needs; leave them financial room to add as they need to at mid-season; and put them in a legitimate position to contend for a playoff spot rather than hope that if everything goes right, then maybe they’ll hang around the outskirts while knowing that they had little-to-no chance.

They have the talent now; the Red Sox are vulnerable; the Yankees are aging.

It’s time to move up.

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Your 2012 Rangers Seeking A Different—Winning—Result

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Those trying to blame Rangers manager Ron Washington for the World Series loss are looking for scapegoats. Talent aside, there have been many teams who didn’t fulfill their promise for one reason or another; to suggest that another manager would simply have plugged in the correct players at the “right” time are taking second-guessing to its logical conclusion.

The players play hard for Washington and always have; the Rangers knew he wasn’t the strongest game manager going back to his first year and he hasn’t gotten much better; but to blame him?

It’s silly. Another manager might not have even made the playoffs at all.

We don’t know.

He had his closer on the mound with a 2 run lead in the bottom of the ninth inning of game 6 in the World Series; there were 2 strikes and 2 outs and his closer blew it. What more was he supposed to do?

The Rangers have more pressing questions to answer once they get past this devastating loss.

Let’s take a look.

Washington’s contract is up after 2012.

While Washington shouldn’t be dismissed because of this loss, there’s going to be the hovering question—valid or not—as to whether he’s the prototypical “manager to take them to the next level”.

That’s usually an excuse for a club wanting to make a managerial change, but it’s just as random as any other reason—they don’t have to give a reason to make a change.

Washington’s job is safe and he’ll probably get an extension through 2013 so he’s not working in the final year of his deal in 2012.

Mr. Intangibles is expensive.

The player with the most ancillary importance in baseball this side of Derek Jeter—rife with leadership skills and loyalty—Michael Young still might be trade bait.

He’s set to make $32 million through 2013 and is a 10-and-5 player (10 years in the league; 5 years with the same team) so he’d have to approve any trade; there’s something of a redundancy with the club’s position players and Young’s value is never going to be higher than it is now by those who either need someone who’s as versatile and well-liked as he is or are hypnotized by his “aura”.

The Mets for example could use him as a second baseman; the Phillies could use him as a roving utility player who plays every day.

The Rangers will listen to offers—again—for Young.

Contracts and free agents.

Josh Hamilton is a free agent after 2012 and the Rangers have to consider very carefully his injury history and substance abuse history before making a $120 million investment.

Perhaps God will whisper to Hamilton that he should stay in Texas at a reduced rate.

C.J. Wilson is a free agent now and while the Rangers want to keep him, they’re not getting into a bidding war to do it. Those that were suggesting that his price was reducing with every poor post-season outing don’t know anything about baseball, pure and simple. 200 innings are 200 innings and his post-season struggles had more to do with location than any diminishing of stuff. He’s going to get his big contract from someone and it’s probably not going to be the Rangers.

Strategies.

If the Rangers are going to move Neftali Feliz into the starting rotation, they have to make the decision once and for all—in the winter—and stick to it. The “let’s try it in spring training and move him back if it doesn’t work” isn’t a decision, it’s hedging.

Feliz is 23 and after the way the World Series ended for him, the choice has to be made with finality.

Pursuits.

The Rangers have been said to be preparing a pursuit of CC Sabathia if and when he opts out of his Yankees contract. It’s unlikely that the Yankees will let him leave, but worst case scenario, they’ll raise the price the Yankees have to pay and possibly negate them from going after other players the Rangers might want.

Yu Darvish is going to be worth every penny he costs in posting fees and contracts and will be better than Wilson.

The Rangers could use a bat if they decide to trade Young; David Ortiz and Jim Thome would fit nicely in at DH; if they allocate their money to a bat rather than on the mound, Prince Fielder is a target. Mark Buehrle wouldn’t ask for the world in terms of dollars and is a good fit in the Rangers clubhouse.

If they need a closer, Jonathan Papelbon has the post-season history that few closers in baseball do; Francisco Rodriguez and Heath Bell are big names; Brad Lidge, Joe Nathan and Ryan Madson are free agents on the lower tier.

On the trade front, the Rays are always ready to deal and James Shields is durable, good and signed long term. Both the Rangers and Rays think outside the box, so I’d ask about David Price and see what they say.

Would they—Nolan Ryan and Mike Maddux—think they could straighten out Mike Pelfrey? Would Pelfrey and Bobby Parnell and the hope of clearing Young’s salary make a deal possible with the Mets?

The Rangers and White Sox have dealt with one another before and John Danks, Gavin Floyd and Carlos Quentin are up for auction.

Rangers GM Jon Daniels and team president Ryan think differently and are aggressive to address needs. The Rangers are going to make the changes they deem necessary so they’re back in this same position a year from now, but finally achieve a different result—a winning result.

//

Einhorn Or No Einhorn

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Amid their egocentric beliefs that they’re influential in the big business that is baseball ownership, you can read the clumsily presented and agenda-driven Mets stories from those who have neither the skill nor the nuance to even try to hide their contempt for the Wilpons.

They’re everywhere.

Or you can read what Bill Madden wrote yesterday in the NY Daily News.

It says something that there are very few in-depth, verifiable narratives regarding the deal collapsing apart from broad-based assumptions and outsider statements of what’s “obvious”.

We don’t know what happened; Einhorn said his piece, rife with corporate cliches; the Wilpons have said nothing.

Don’t automatically think that the supposed “white knight in a bad hairpiece”—Einhorn—is being entirely forthright as to the chain of events and that the Wilpons’ silence is an admission of “guilt”.

The main issue that’s being debated now is how much money are the Mets going to have to spend this winter to improve the club and who’s in their price range.

You’ll find your answers if you care to look for them.

Here are the facts: the Mets have prohibitive contracts coming off the books; there’s not much available via free agency; the Mets improvement—if any—in 2012 will come from rebounds, returns from injury and young players stepping forward.

The contracts of Luis Castillo ($6 million) and Oliver Perez ($12 million) are expiring; and they’ve already dumped Francisco Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran.

The one free agent the Mets are absolutely going to pursue and will pay is their own free agent, Jose Reyes.

Apart from that, here are the big name free agents this winter: Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Lance Berkman, Beltran, Mark Buehrle, Edwin Jackson, Hiroki Kuroda, Heath Bell, Jonathan Papelbon, K-Rod.

The Mets don’t need a first baseman; they could use Buehrle and Kuroda, but neither is coming to the Mets; Jackson is big and durable and I’d go after him, but the Mets aren’t giving him the $70-90 million (at least) he’ll get on the open market and he’s represented by Scott Boras. Given what the front office believes about relief pitchers, they’re not paying for Bell or Papelbon; if they go after a closer as a backup to Bobby Parnell, it’ll be a Brad Lidgetype on an incentive-laden contract.

What free agents are they missing out on sans Einhorn?

On the trade front, they could go after B.J. Upton or Marlon Byrd; check in on Brandon Phillips. There are useful though not earth-shattering free agents like Jason Kubel and Josh Willingham.

These are ancillary acquisitions who would help, but not throw a scare in the NL East that the Mets are coming.

The Mets improvement in 2012 will stem from finding out what’s wrong with Jason Bay and getting him into some semblance of what he was with the Red Sox and Pirates, or trading him for another heavily-paid underachiever like Chone Figgins.

The rotation will be solid if Johan Santana comes back and gives them 180 innings at 75% of what he was; if Mike Pelfrey is serviceable; if Jon Niese steps forward; and if R.A. Dickey continues to pitch as well as he has.

They’re not spending big on the bullpen. Teams build superior bullpens with castoffs and retreads and, money or not, that’s what the Mets were and are going to do.

Offensively—with or without Reyes—they’ll have enough to score a fair amount of runs with David Wright, Ike Davis, Bay, Lucas Duda and an improved Angel Pagan.

The size of the offer they present to Reyes will be a greater window into the financial circumstances of the club; not a pieced together extrapolation that pops up—without disclosed sources—in the blogosphere or on Twitter.

When the Reyes negotiations start, then we’ll know.

And not before then.

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Mike Pelfrey Utters A Truth No One Wanted To Hear

Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, Players, Playoffs, Prospects, Trade Rumors

Oh, and he’s not getting non-tendered either.

Mets pitcher Mike Pelfrey made some statements that are creating controversy inside and outside the clubhouse.

From the NY Post:

“It’s unrealistic for anybody at the end of last year to come in and say, ‘The Mets, this is a one-year thing, next year we’re going to win it all,’ ” Pelfrey said before the Mets’ 4-3 loss to the Diamondbacks last night. “It’s unrealistic.”

One unidentified Met replied with the following:

“He’s cutting his own throat,” the player said. “What’s his record, six and nine? He’s supposed to be the ace of the [bleeping] staff. Why don’t you go and win 12 or 13 games?”

Pelfrey is 100% right and if you examine the decisions made by GM Sandy Alderson and the new front office, they know it too. If there was any concept of truly being contenders, Carlos Beltran nor Francisco Rodriguez would not have been traded; K-Rod’s appearances would not have been managed as cautiously as they were due to his contract kicker for games finished; and they would’ve been more aggressive in trying to acquire help for a “pennant race” had they actually been in one.

That they’ve stayed at or near .500 with the injuries to key players and struggles from Jason Bay and Angel Pagan among others is a testament to manager Terry Collins and a result of rampant parity around the National League.

If this unidentified player has a problem with Pelfrey, he should confront him directly or put his name to the quote. I put zero stock in that.

As for the idea that Pelfrey is going to be non-tendered, he’s not.

Forget it.

This same front office ignored the media/fan entreaties (demands) to immediately release Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez—who were useless. They’re not dumping Pelfrey for nothing.

He’s a 200-inning man regardless of his performance. His record is not an indicator of how he’s pitched—he’s been okay—and as the club gets better, his record will get better and he’ll look better. Pelfrey is not an ace, but he can be a valuable cog in the machine. They might look to trade him, but they won’t just let him go.

He’s immature; he gets flustered easily; he needs to keep his opinions to himself. Independent of the messenger, look at the message, which is absolutely accurate.

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Trade Targets For American League Contenders

Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, Management, Media, Players, Trade Rumors

Yesterday I discussed players contending National League teams should pursue at the trading deadline. Now let’s look at the American League.

Boston Red Sox

What they need: Starting pitching.

With Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz on the disabled list and John Lackey an enigma (although he looked good in his last start), the Red Sox are on the lookout for a decent starter.

And the starter only has to be decent; with their offense, competence is all that’s required.

Ryan Dempster is competent and wouldn’t cost much in terms of players; the Red Sox say they don’t have much money to spend, but if they need something they’ll go and get it. The $14 million player option held by Dempster would have to be dealt with; the Red Sox want no part of that.

Cheaper names would include Aaron Cook, Erik Bedard, Brett Myers (I doubt they’ll bring him to the scene of the crime and he hasn’t pitched particularly well this year).

Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez of the Marlins could be in play and the Red Sox have the prospects to get it done.

There was talk that they’d be after Jose Reyes or Carlos Beltran, but I don’t see why. If they want a shortstop bat, they’d go after Hanley Ramirez first.

New York Yankees

What they need: A solid utility player; an OF/DH bat; bullpen help; a backup catcher; a starting pitcher(?).

I actually think the Yankees starting pitching is serviceable enough contingent on Phil Hughes‘s performance and whether Bartolo Colon continues to pitch well. Dempster is a good option for them and they’ve always liked Ted Lilly.

There was talk of Francisco Rodriguez and the Mets would give him away—he wouldn’t be closing for the Yankees and K-Rod’s new agent Scott Boras is posturing about where he’d let his client go via trade.

It’s pure posturing because they have little leverage. K-Rod’s contract has 10 teams he can reject trades to—their identities are unknown.

Heath Bell is getting traded eventually.

For set-up help Rafael Betancourt of the Rockies and Grant Balfour of the Athletics are targets.

They could use a lefty reliever like Tim Byrdak or take a chance on Brian Fuentes.

Naturally with Alex Rodriguez out for a month after knee surgery, there will be Yankees fans who want them to go and trade for a star third baseman like Aramis Ramirez—you can’t go through a series of games without a star player at every position I suppose, even in the short-term.

If Casey Blake is healthy, he can play third, first and the outfield.

I have a feeling Hideki Matsui is going to end up back with the Yankees. He proved during the A’s tour of the National League that he can still play the outfield and I’m not quite sure what it is that Andruw Jones does that keeps him on the roster.

Any backup catcher would be better than Francisco Cervelli. I’d probably be better than Francisco Cervelli. If the White Sox fade, Ramon Castro is a good backup with pop.

Tampa Bay Rays

What they need: A bat. Any bat.

Beltran would be a very nice addition. Presumably he’d okay a trade to the contending Rays.

Jim Thome would bash as the DH.

Here’s a thought: Hanley Ramirez. The Rays have the prospects and while his attitude is somewhere along the lines of B.J. Upton, there’s no denying his talent. Whether Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria would allow his favorite son to: A) be traded; and B) be sent across the state, is a question.

Detroit Tigers

What they need: A bat; a back-end starter; bullpen help.

If Blake is healthy, he’s better than Brandon Inge. Beltran and K-Rod are dangling from the Mets. I’ve always liked Josh Willingham of the Athletics.

If the Marlins discuss Hanley Ramirez, the Tigers probably don’t have the prospects to get him; Aramis Ramirez would fit in nicely.

The Tigers have the money to take Lilly’s contract. Then there are the usual suspects mentioned earlier like Dempster or Cook.

Cleveland Indians

What they need: A bat; a competent veteran starting pitcher.

With Shin-Soo Choo out until September with a broken thumb, Beltran is a great idea for the Indians. Then there are Matsui, Willingham and David DeJesus from the Athletics. The Cubs could move Aramis Ramirez and Kosuke Fukudome.

Cook of the Rockies and Bedard are short-term, inexpensive and worthwhile gambles.

The White Sox and Twins have to decide what they are and where they’re headed. In the past, both have shown a hesitancy to sell and they’re close enough to contention in a rotten division to justify going either way.

Texas Rangers

What they need: Starting pitching.

The Rangers have been aggressive in recent years, so they’ll be in on the expensive names and pending free agents. They were looking at Scott Kazmir, but that’s a dead-end.

Lilly has an attitude that Nolan Ryan likes. Dempster would fit with the Rangers; Wandy Rodriguez is signed and highly underrated. Jeremy Guthrie of the Orioles has pitched better than his 3-12 record.

How about making a bid for Mike Pelfrey of the Mets? They’ll move him in the right deal and the Rangers have prospects to trade.

Los Angeles Angels

What they need: A bat; bullpen help.

Surprisingly, the Angels don’t need much of anything if their current players perform. They could use a bat at shortstop like Hanley Ramirez and have some young players to exchange, but that’s farfetched.

There was talk recently that Angels owner Arte Moreno had told GM Tony Reagins that they couldn’t add money, but that was before their hot streak put them near first place. That division is wide open for them. If they make the playoffs, they have the pitching to do damage.

Would the Angels like to rent K-Rod for the rest of the season as a set-up man? He performed brilliantly in that role when they won the World Series in 2002, manager Mike Scioscia knows how to handle him and he’s familiar with the Angels clubhouse.

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Precision Strikes 7.1.2011

Books, Draft, Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, Players

Reality.

Unless something major happens, I’ll tone down my Billy Beane/Moneyball rhetoric and save it all up for my book.

But I’ll say this as Beane undertakes yet another teardown of what he built (Mark Ellis is the first to go): without Moneyball, Beane would’ve been fired by now; without Moneyball, he’d be treated in a similar fashion as GMs present and past like Omar Minaya, Dayton Moore and Jim Bowden; without Moneyball propping him up as a demagogue, he’d be judged for what he is.

And what that is has yet to be determined in full—although I have a pretty good idea—but he’s certainly no genius.

Scott Kazmir works out for the Rangers.

I don’t get the impression that Kazmir is all that bothered about how badly his career and stuff has degenerated; that he’s okay with what he is; if he doesn’t find a new team, whatever.

A lack of competitiveness concerns me as much as the injuries and decline.

The Rangers worked him out and sounded non-commital.

Maybe Brandon Webb needs a rehab friend and they thought of Kazmir.

Designated targets of the Mets.

Every poor outing from Mike Pelfrey and Bobby Parnell inspires a new round of “get rid of ’em” from Mets fans.

Okay. But don’t say you weren’t warned.

Pelfrey’s not great but such idiocies from the likes of the clueless Evan Roberts and Joe Beningo on WFAN are indicative of non-existent and self-proclaimed expertise. Roberts said something to the tune of Pelfrey, with his 94-mph fastball, has to strike out more batters, blah blah blah.

Yeah. That’s a good idea. Try to throw the ball by big league hitters. Know what’ll happen? He’ll strike out fewer hitters and give up more homers.

He’s not a strikeout pitcher so it makes no sense for him to try and be one.

Pelfrey’s big and durable and on a good team he’ll win 12-16 games and provide 210-220 innings. He’s no ace, but that’s solid, inexpensive production.

As for Parnell, his numbers and Mets performances are eerily similar to another pitcher who Mets fans wanted out of their sight while he was a Met and now complain ad nauseam because the Mets traded him—Heath Bell.

So you’d like to trade Pelfrey and Parnell? Fine. Just don’t scream and whine about it after they’re gone and become contributors elsewhere.

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MLB Realignment—The Common Sense Version

Fantasy/Roto, Games, Hall Of Fame, Management, Media, Players, Uncategorized

Buster Olney has been talking about a proposed realignment in Major League Baseball that would eliminate the divisions and create two 15 team leagues with one National League team moving to the American League.

Who came up with this proposal is anyone’s guess.

But it’s stupid.

It’s short-sighted.

It shouldn’t be done.

Not in this way.

Here’s my common-sense, radical realignment that will fix the issues that currently exist with the MLB setup and hopefully preclude this notoriously idiotic idea that’s floating around and being sold as if it’s logical.

Before anything else, here’s my caveat: MLB will never do it because it’s too much of a drastic change from the antiquated “traditions” that are clung to for the sake of history; and it makes far too much sense for any sports league—especially MLB (practical advocate of the circular firing squad)—to implement.

Let’s take a look anyway.

Eliminate the American and National Leagues.

There is no purpose to having the separation of leagues anymore.

Inter-league play and the advent of web access and worldwide ability to view each and every team and player has shaved away the novelty that once existed from seeing players from the “other” league or different parts of the country.

The umpires are no longer separated by leagues; there are no more league presidents; it’s a split based on absolutely nothing aside from mindless tradition that went out of style when they started inter-league play in the first place.

Split the teams into divisions based on geography.

Don’t you want to see the Yankees and Mets playing in games that have a bearing on the division? The White Sox and Cubs? The Dodgers and Angels?

Wouldn’t it boost rivalries if the teams and fans a legitimate stake in the outcome rather than as a quirk to get crosstown rivals on the same field?

The only way we can hope for a post-season matchup of local rivals is in the World Series. The chance of it happening is so farfetched that it’s only happened once in my lifetime between the Yankees and Mets; I’d be shocked to see it again. It’s far more exciting and annually consistent to let these turf wars occur naturally rather than as a created entity such as interleague play.

Keep the DH.

It’s going to sound like a newfangled approach that will enrage the “purist”, but the designated hitter has been around since 1973 and isn’t going anywhere. Ever.

In part because fans want the extra offense; in part because the union won’t allow a high-paying job to be eliminated, the DH is here to stay.

And it’s a good thing.

I would much prefer to be able to watch a few extra years of the pure DHs like Jim Thome, Edgar Martinez and David Ortiz instead of watching Mike Pelfrey of the Mets try and bunt.

As for the strategic aspects, I believe it was Bill James who said that the pitcher batting reduces the strategy a manager has to employ because his decision to remove a pitcher is often dictated by an offensive strategy like the pitcher coming to bat in a situation where he needs a hit instead of coming to a conclusion based on the pitcher’s performance doing what he does—pitching.

There has to be a DH.

The new divisions.

Northeast: Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Phillies, Blue Jays

Atlantic: Nationals, Orioles, Braves, Marlins, Rays

Central: Indians, Reds, Pirates, Twins, Tigers

Mid-West: White Sox, Cubs, Cardinals, Royals, Brewers

West: Dodgers, Angels, Padres, Giants, Athletics

Southwest: Rangers, Astros, Diamondbacks, Mariners, Rockies

The season.

The number of games must be cut to 154 with an unbalanced schedule.

15-18 games will be against division rivals and the games against the rest of the league will number somewhere between 8-10 and be determined randomly by computer.

Playoff format.

Every division winner makes the playoffs and there are 4 Wild Card teams. The 4 Wild Card teams will play one another in a best 2 of 3 format so the division champions aren’t sitting around for a week waiting for an opponent.

Once two teams are eliminated, the eight remaining clubs are seeded from 1 through 8 with a 1 vs 8; 2 vs 7; 3 vs 6; 4 vs 5 matchup scheme in a 3 of 5 format.

After that, the teams are reseeded again for the championship series with a best 4 of 7. The two remaining teams will play in the World Series.

It’s perfectly reasonable and fair.

And of course you can forget about ever seeing it happen unless I somehow wrest control of the baseball world from the powers that be and take over as the Emperor of Baseball.

Don’t underestimate me, but it’s not going to happen within the next year or two.

I don’t think…

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