The Anonymous Met and the Fallen Prospect

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An “anonymous Mets player” published this piece in New York Magazine that slams the franchise for pretty much everything. From being willingly oblivious to the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme to the firing of Mookie Wilson, there’s a “woe is me” retaliatory tone sprinkled in with the righteous indignation that tells me it’s probably not a current player who said these things. You can speculate on your own and leave your suspicions as to who it is in the comments section.

I don’t see what firing Mookie has to do with anything. Everyone likes Mookie, but one of the things that has consistently gotten the Mets into trouble has been being too nice and doling out severance jobs and contracts to people who might not deserve them. Perhaps Terry Collins and the front office wants a better first base/baserunning coach than Mookie. They don’t have to give a reason when they fire someone and a player from the 1980s shouldn’t have a job just because he’s a player from the 1980s.

It’s a combination of maudlin reminiscing for years gone by with pleas of loyalty and comparisons to the positive aspects of the Yankees without the negatives.

What’s most galling isn’t what’s said—he’s entitled to his opinion—but that it’s hidden behind the veil of anonymity and not, I suspect, because it’s a current Mets player or employee, but because the person wants to maintain the possibility of having a job with the organization in the future.

And that’s weak.

On another note, the Mets waived former top outfield prospect Fernando Martinez to make room on the 40-man roster. Because Martinez is only 23 and has a minor league option remaining, someone will claim him.

Given the Mets current circumstances in being unlikely contenders and that they’re looking for cheap talent, they wouldn’t have dumped F-Mart if they expected anything out of him.

This isn’t an indictment of the Mets insomuch as it’s indicative of the fleeting nature of “top” prospects. Some make it, some don’t and every team has situations like this where a youngster is overhyped and falters.

Looking at F-Mart’s minor league numbers, injuries and Angel Pagan-style displays of rockheadedness, the performance and substance weren’t there to warrant taking up a roster spot; those who are criticizing this move as a Mets-style bit of short-sightedness are basing that on nothing. Common sense says the Mets tried to trade him before waiving him and if no other team wanted him, it’s more telling on the player than anything the Mets have done. This front office watched him and determined that he was no longer worth it; that they wouldn’t be able to pump his value to get something for him, so they cut the ties.

If he somehow gets through waivers unclaimed, he’ll go back to the minors and keep trying. Just don’t expect him to suddenly stay healthy and fulfill that potential that may have been limited in the first place.

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And Jose Reyes As Babe Ruth

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

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

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Tougher Than Diamonds And Stronger Than Steel

Books, Management, Media

No. I’m not referring to myself.

I’m naturally referring to the power of love!!!

(In case you’re unaware, the above is from the Huey Lewis and the News song from Back to the Future.)

Contrary to popular perception, I do not have a heart of stone. I can turn ice cold when the situation calls for it and I can do it fast when sufficiently provoked, but I’m not a monster.

That’s why true and hopelessly romantic tales still touch me deeply and why I admire the way New York Magazine’s Wil Leitch is so unashamed to repeatedly—though somewhat passive aggressively—express his love for Oakland Athletics GM Billy Beane.

Whether or not the love is of the “secret admirer/will you please notice me?” variety is undetermined, but all the signs are there.

In every baseball column he posts, Beane finds his way into the text under some shaky auspices; it’s as if Leitch doesn’t want to take the chance of Beane forgetting him and moving on if Beane was thinking about him in the first place.

He’s enamored.

The latest is this week’s piece about Yankees GM Brian Cashman—link.

In and of itself, it’s a well-thought-out and reasonable expression of wonderment as to what’s going through Cashman’s head as he tries to streamline the Yankees operation while simultaneously accruing credit for himself that has been thus far limited to Theo Epstein and Beane for being the clear architects of their clubs. In fact, Leitch says essentially the same things I’ve been saying about Cashman for years.

But I don’t understand this love of Billy Beane; this idol worship; this still simmering concept that he’s the savior to any and all organizations.

Where does it come from?

Are there still people who think Moneyball was a factual and evenhanded account? Now, when it’s mentioned, we receive the caveats: it wasn’t meant to be taken literally; it’s a business plan based on undervalued talent.

Blah, blah, blah.

Then it starts up again.

You can click here to find all the NY Magazine articles (almost all penned by Leitch) that go to great lengths to deify Beane. One in particular led to a back-and-forth of friendly emails between myself and Leitch.

In August of 2009, Leitch wrote this suggesting that the Mets hire Beane to replace Omar Minaya. I responded by trying to educate him—via email—of the true nature of the Force; the truth about Moneyball.

In said email, I detailed the “plan” Beane the Genius had for when he took over the Red Sox (as he agreed to do before backing out on the deal). Said “plan” included trading Jason Varitek and making Manny Ramirez a permanent DH among other things; things that would’ve been retrospectively disastrous. He replied with a somewhat sheepish, “those would’ve been bad deals” and that “Beane’s better than Minaya”.

Is Beane really better than Minaya and why is this considered to be such an ironclad, unassailable assertion?

Beane’s reputation is such based on Moneyball and the Howard Roark-style perfect being he’s become rather than true results. Because he’s got the combination of charisma, language skills and propaganda behind him, there’s a belief that his tenure as A’s GM has been one of endless brilliance that can be transferred anywhere and he’ll be a success through sheer cult of personality.

Minaya is a scout first and foremost; he’s got an eye for talent and his main flaws are his trouble with spin-doctoring and crisis control—he lacks the nuance with the English language to talk in circles to protect himself and his organization.

Beane says things without saying anything; he has the lusty and rabid defenders in the media who are still attached to the Moneyball fallacy whereas Minaya was considered a joke. Beane has treated his managers far shabbier, without good reason than Minaya treated Willie Randolph despite the wishy-washy handling of Randolph’s dismissal.

In fact, Beane’s clubs haven’t gotten any further in quest of a championship than Minaya’s teams did. You can point to payroll and limitations and caveats as to why Beane’s still a genius amid repeated failures, but the objective analysis of his tenure is one of more style than substance; of blind faith rather than the vaunted “truth” that Moneyball and the still-prevalent Beane advocates seek to express.

Love is blind.

Apparently it’s also unable to read, comprehend and separate reality from fantasy.

People still love Billy Beane and I keep asking why.

No one has an answer. Because there isn’t one.

That’s the power of love!!!

If you’re interested in more utter ruthlessness and absolute truth as I see it, Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide is available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe and it should be available on Amazon and other fine retailers shortly.

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