The Mets Have To Get Better Players

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It’s unfair to compare the rebuilding Mets under a first year front office that’s diametrically opposed to the previous one and the Phillies who are in the midst of a run of excellence they haven’t enjoyed since the late 1970s-early 1980s, but it’s instructive to look at the two teams to understand why the Phillies are where they are and what the Mets need to do to get there.

Let’s take a look.

Draft, scout and develop.

The Phillies have benefited from a strong farm system in a multitude of ways. Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Cole Hamels, Ryan Madson, Vance Worley and Carlos Ruiz all came up through the Phillies organization; Shane Victorino was found in the Rule 5 Draft; Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Hunter Pence were acquired in trades because the Phillies had prospects other clubs coveted; Raul Ibanez, Cliff Lee and Placido Polanco were signed as free agents; and even Wilson Valdez, a journeyman castoff from the Mets, has been a valuable utilityman standing in at various times for the injured Utley, Polanco and Rollins.

The Mets have some players from their system with promise. Jonathon Niese, Lucas Duda, Ruben Tejada and Bobby Parnell all have potential. They also developed Jose Reyes and David Wright. but others have failed for one reason or another. Fernando Martinez can’t stay healthy; Josh Thole isn’t going to hit enough; Ike Davis is hurt. The Mets didn’t have the prospects to trade for veterans as the Phillies did and their rampant dysfunction in recent years made them an unappealing destination for players with choices. Players will want to go where a team appears to have its house in order or will pay them more money than anyone else. That’s essentially how the Mets got Jason Bay, Francisco Rodriguez and Johan Santana. While the Phillies have gotten production from their free agents, the Mets haven’t.

Role players should be role players.

When talking about Phillies utilityman Valdez, it’s instructive to look at the Valdez-type players the Mets have and see that they’re playing more frequently than would be optimal for a good team.

Justin Turner, Scott Hairston, Dillon Gee, Jason Isringhausen, Pedro Beato—all have use on a limited basis—but the Mets are utilizing them as regular, key players. When limited players are playing almost every day, they’re going to be exposed for what they are; and when 4-5 of them are playing every single day, it’s going to catch up; that’s what’s happening to the Mets.

They’re not a good enough team and they don’t have enough good players. The only reason they’ve stayed as close to .500 as they have is because the rest of baseball is so laden with parity that no one can tell which teams should be bad and which should be atrocious.

Play the game correctly.

It was laughable when, in the waning days of the 2010 season, Utley took Tejada out on a play at second base and the Mets reacted like a bunch of Southern women at a church social, indignant that such a thing would occur. There was talk of retaliation and the team taking a different approach to plays on the bases and at the plate.

Different approach? How about playing the game correctly without it being a response?

It was about time the Mets decided to stop being so nice to their opponents and let them have it when the opportunity arose. Following Utley’s take-out of Tejada, Carlos Beltran slid hard toward Utley and, in typical Mets fashion, missed him completely.

Had Utley been knocked into left field, he wouldn’t have said a word about it because he’s old-school, keeps his mouth shut and plays the game the right way.

You want to send a message? When Utley blocks second base with his knee as an opponent is stealing second, drive your spikes so hard into his leg so to break the skin. You don’t like him standing so close to the plate, dawdling and messing with the pitchers’ heads? Hit him in the back.

It’s called doing something about it other than yapping.

This is playing the game the way it should be played and is one of the reasons the Phillies are where they are and the Mets are where they are.

Be aggressive, smart and lucky.

This isn’t to imply that the Phillies do everything correctly because GM Ruben Amaro Jr, has made some horrible gaffes and silly free agent signings in his time as GM; it’s been glossed over by the way the team has played and that he rectified the bigger mistakes by trading for Oswalt a year ago and getting Lee back via free agency last winter; but those two deals stemmed from the fact that both Oswalt and Lee were willing to join the Phillies because the Phillies were contenders and in an atmosphere the players wanted to be a part of. Neither Oswalt nor Lee wanted to join the Mets because the team was in such disarray and the club’s reputation has taken a brutal beating due to the off-field mishaps and lawsuits surrounding team ownership.

But the Phillies weren’t exactly the bastion of cohesion until they started winning. In fact, they were a joke for 14 years from 1994 through most of 2007 before the Mets collapse and Phillies rise.

These things change quickly. The Mets have a new drafting style, a top-down chain of command that won’t be usurped as it was with Tony Bernazard running roughshod over the organization, a plan of attack and a GM able to express himself coherently—all of this gives them every chance to turn things around within the next three years.

All they have to do is adhere to the principles elucidated above.

They have to be a more than a little lucky.

They have to get better players and not use roster-filler on a daily basis in key roles.

It’s that simple. And that difficult.


Pedro Beato Prefers To Remain In The Bullpen—Yeah? So?

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Here’s a loose but accurate translation of the back-and-forth between Mets reliever Pedro Beato and the club as to his future role.

In case you missed it, manager Terry Collins wants Beato to stretch himself out in winter ball in anticipation of possibly being in the starting rotation next season. Beato prefers to remain in the bullpen and said so—diplomatically—with the following from the linked piece:

“I’m more comfortable where I am right now,” Beato said. “Starting wasn’t a highlight of my career. At all. I actually improved a lot more during the times that I’ve been in the bullpen these last two years. That’s where I see myself at, and that’s where I want to be at.”

What this means is that if Beato were a veteran pitcher or was armed with a long-term contract the likes of which the organization might have to listen and consider his desires, he’d say, “I don’t wanna start; I’m not gonna start; and if the team doesn’t like it, they can get me outta here.”

But he’s not a veteran pitcher; nor does he have a long-term contract. As a Rule 5 pick who’s lucky to be in the majors now, he has to deftly express his feelings without making the club angry.

Beato has starter stuff. That doesn’t mean he’ll be good as a starter, but the team should see if he can start; the best place to do that is in the winter and 2012 spring training.

The team response to Beato should be: “While we understand Pedro’s feelings, we need to do what’s best for the organization and deploy our players to the best of their abilities even if that is diametrically opposed to their preferred roles. We want to see if he can start for us.”

Translation? “You’re starting in winter ball, rookie. So shut up.”


Considering Isringhausen

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Should the Mets think about Jason Isringhausen as closer for 2012?

Almost a month ago when they traded Francisco Rodriguez, Isringhausen was considered the veteran stopgap before they decided what they were really going to do. Most of the focus centered around Bobby Parnell, but Pedro Beato, Manny Acosta and Ryota Igarashi have all gotten long looks in innings prior to the ninth. Beato had a chance to close a game but a failed double play necessitated the use of Tim Byrdak to finish.

Would Isringhausen be an inexpensive, veteran option to start the season in 2012?

His arm is duct-taped together and he’s about to turn 39; his numbers are mediocre if you take them at face value; but he’s been a good-humored leader in the clubhouse; has done everything asked of him; has pitched well enough that if age and injury-history weren’t factored in, he’d be an obvious choice to stay and continue in the role. He strikes out a fair amount of hitters and throws strikes; there would be a seamless transition once they move on to someone else.

His stuff isn’t as impressive as K-Rod’s was, but what I call the “aggravation factor” (no, it’s not a stat) is diminished with Isringhausen. You pretty much know what you’re getting—he allows a homer here and there; is going to blow a few games; and doesn’t get in trouble just for the sake of it as K-Rod does—and for the most part, will do his job.

There will be numerous closer-types available next season, but given what the Mets front office believes, they’re not going to overpay for a mediocrity when they could find someone from within who’d do the same job at a lower salary; nor are they going to spend the money and draft picks for a Jonathan Papelbon or Heath Bell; they’re not going to trade the exorbitant player-price demanded for Joakim Soria.

Parnell is too inconsistent to be trusted as a set-up man, so using him as a closer could be disastrous especially to start a season; the others are question marks and the Mets have no young minor league fireballer like the Braves did with Craig Kimbrel.

Would the Mets be better off taking a chance on a Brad Lidge or Fernando Rodney than Isringhausen? By digging through the scrapheap to find another arm the way they did with him and Beato?

If they’re going to do that, they should just keep Izzy.

Such a thought would’ve been seen as ridiculous a few weeks ago, but given what’s out there and the way this Mets team is being rebuilt, it’s not so ridiculous anymore.


MLB Trade Deadline Stories 7.22.2011

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I don’t do rumormongering just for the sake of it; everything here is my own speculation as to what makes sense and/or analysis of what’s being said.

Of course “sense”, “logic” and “reality” often has little to do with what’s presented as a story.

Let’s take a look.

Keeping Izzy.

I don’t buy the “Mets are not trading Jason Isringhausen” stuff. If it’s August and the team has faded, he should be on the table.

But only if it makes sense.

Unless they’re offered something that the Mets really like (and it won’t be a top prospect), they’re not getting a lot for a pitcher who’s likely to retire at the end of the year and has had multiple arm problems. And the concept of Isringhausen mentoring the younger pitchers who are going to get a shot at closing—Bobby Parnell and Pedro Beato among them—is legitimate.

In 2006, it was Isringhausen who guided Adam Wainwright through the unfamiliar terrain of moving from a career starter in the minors and long reliever in the majors as a rookie, to being a post-season closer.

It worked out pretty well for the Cardinals in the long and short term as Wainwright helped them to a championship, then slotted into the rotation as one of the best pitchers in baseball who had a post-season pedigree for getting the big outs.

If Isringhausen can impart similar wisdom for the Mets, he’d be more valuable than any low-level minor leaguer they’d get in a trade.

Mariners awful stretch shouldn’t detract from the positives of 2011.

A year ago, the Mariners were 38-60 after 98 games; this year after a 12-game losing streak, they’re 43-55.

They were considering being buyers at the trading deadline before that losing streak, but now they’ve fallen essentially to where they were expected to be before the season.

That doesn’t mean it’s all negative.

Last season, the team was in absolute disarray on-and-off the field with poor behaviors, a lack of respect for the manager and shady dealings in trades.

They were a disaster.

Now with Eric Wedge bringing order in the clubhouse and young players Dustin Ackley (who reminds me of Chase Utley—a very good thing) and Michael Pineda arriving on the scene, there are positives now where there were few a year ago beyond Felix Hernandez.

They still have one of the worst offenses I’ve ever seen and are saddled with Chone Figgins‘s onerous contract and Ichiro Suzuki—two collapsing singles hitters are owed a combined $34 million.

They still have a lot of work to do and a lot of dead money to subtract.

They’re not close to contending, but even as they spiral towards 95 losses again, it’s not as all-around bad as it was in 2010.

In a way, it’s progress.


Poof!!! Alderson Makes K-Rod Disappear From The Mets

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Baseball GM.


Somehow, some way Mets GM Sandy Alderson got rid of Francisco Rodriguez and his onerous contract without having to eat a significant chunk of it.

He even got two players to be named later back from the Brewers in exchange for K-Rod.

It’s pure genius.

Not genius in the crafted and farcical Moneyball sense of the word, but in a practical application of what needed to be done to make the Mets better in a timely fashion.

In part because of the onerous $17.5 million contract option that was in serious jeopardy of being activated if and when he finished 55 games this season (and was deemed healthy—evidently physically and not mentally); that the club loathed him for his inexplicable assault on his father-in-law in the Citi Field family room last August; and that they have to see what they have in Bobby Parnell as a closer, K-Rod had to go.

Did the pitcher’s decision to fire agent Paul Kinzer and hire Scott Boras have anything to do with Alderson acting so decisively in getting rid of him two weeks before the trading deadline? Possibly. Boras was already saber-rattling with demands as to where K-Rod wanted to go via trade even though his contract only stipulated 10 teams to whom he couldn’t be traded without his consent. The Brewers weren’t on the list. Boras is going to have a say in what happens with Carlos Beltran when (not if) the Mets deal him as well—I doubt Alderson wanted to spend the entire month of July with Boras squawking in the newspapers, websites and in his ear.

According to Jon Heyman, the Mets tossed $5 million into the pot along with K-Rod. This greased the skids to get the deal done and may have yielded better prospects than expected. For a pitcher who was a release candidate when (again, not if) the Mets start to fade, at least they got something and didn’t have to go through the legal nightmare that undoubtedly would’ve ensued had they released K-Rod in August to prevent him from reaching the contract incentive.

Regardless of what they’re getting back, this was a great maneuver on the part of Alderson.

Jason Isringhausen will presumably get a chance to close for the next couple of weeks until he too is traded. He’s a popular player with Mets fans and is 7 saves away from 300—the number seems important to Isringhausen. The same fans reviled K-Rod and wanted him gone. Reaction to the trade has been mostly positive.

After that, we’ll see.

Will they give Parnell a chance at closing? Or will they look at Pedro Beato, Manny Acosta, Ryota Igarashi or some combination of the group?

They’ll be free to do anything. They can even use a modified bullpen-by-committee based on the matchups. None of the above-mentioned pitchers—including Isringhausen—are in a position to demand to “know their roles”, a familiar and viable lament among veteran relievers.

The Mets won’t be beholden to this concept because all of these pitchers are either journeymen or youngsters who are trying to hold onto their jobs—that more than anything is the tipping point of the failure of a bullpen-by-committee.

This trade will be perceived as the Mets giving up on the 2011 season.

But giving up on what exactly?

Did anyone really believe they were contenders?


In a division with the Phillies and Braves and 7 1/2 games out of the Wild Card lead, they weren’t a factor in the playoff race with or without K-Rod. To keep with the magic-related theme, it made no sense to proffer an illusion and placate a delusional segment of the fan base, thereby harming the franchise even more for 2012 and beyond by letting K-Rod reach 55 games finished and activate his option.

It was better to make him disappear.

This was the right move all around and a master stroke from Sandy the Magician—the man who made K-Rod go POOF!! to the joy of Metsville.