Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Incredible Expanding Ike Davis

Kevin Kernan, who seems to be leading the league in "optimistic spring training articles" (or OSTA's, as we like to call them) published a nice fluff piece on Ike Davis yesterday afternoon. He profiles the youngster, talks about his dad, Ron Davis, a former Yankees reliever, and talks about his rapid ascent through the minor league system. All is well, until this:

But Davis is taking it all in, when you are wearing No. 78 in your first big league camp, you don't expect too much.

"I try to limit my expectations," said Davis, who added 30 pounds of bulk over the offseason. "I want to just be ready. I'm going to go wherever they put me. Wherever I fall, I think I will be prepared. I've seen these guys on TV and now I get to hit BP with them, it's pretty cool. You get to learn a lot."
THIRTY POUNDS? What, did he grow an extra leg?

It is anybody's guess as to whether the added "bulk" is muscle or otherwise, or whether it will help or hinder him in the game of baseball - but wow. I love how it's dropped in there so casually.


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*Also, happy belated birthday to Fonzie Forever writer Roger Cormier, the man responsible for bringing you such classics as "I'm In Love With That Song" and "The Curse of Kevin Burkhardt." Both are great reads.

2010 Top Prospects pt. 9: Left-Handed Starters

Left-handed starting pitchers tend to be more coveted than their right-handed counterparts, and generally can succeed in the majors with less stuff. As a whole they do not throw quite as hard or have breaking pitches quite as nasty, but that does not mean they are lesser prospects. As always this year features many players with lights-out stuff as well. At the top of the list you will find some close to finished products, but there are also a bunch of very high ceiling players emerging in the low minors.

Pt. 1: Catchers
Pt. 2: First Baseman
Pt. 3: Second Baseman
Pt. 4: Shortstops
Pt. 5: Third Baseman
Pt. 6: Corner Outfielders
Pt. 7: Center Fielders
Pt. 8: Relievers


1. Brian Matusz - Orioles (7)

Matusz was about as close to major-league ready as you will find in a draft pick when he was taken 4th overall in 2008. He dominated college hitters with four pitches that all had potential to be effective major-league offerings and commanded them all. He needed less than a full season in the minors before making his big league debut and was solid over eight starts to close out the season for Baltimore. He should break camp with the team this year and be a fixture in their rotation for the season.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Everyone Should Learn to Throw a Cutter, Part 2


A few months back, Jimmy wrote a great article on the cutter and how it is a highly-effective and under-utilized pitch:
In the last two years among qualified starters, 17 pitchers can be said to use a cutter often enough that it can be considered a legitimate part of their repertoire . . . These are the only starting pitchers who throw cutters routinely in baseball right now and the striking thing is that all of their cutters are effective.
* * *
Out of the 17 pitchers listed, for nine of them, the cutter is their most effective pitch . . . All of this data seems to suggest that the cutter, in general, is an incredibly useful pitch to learn and use. It seems that more pitchers are learning it every year and it has helped their careers immensely.
The article got picked up by a couple other outlets, and was pretty widely read.

Today, a Texas Rangers blog highlighted the cutter and drew many of the same conclusions that Jimmy did:
[T]he cutter is becoming even more popular under the Maddux regime, with McCarthy joining the ranks of Feldman, Tommy Hunter and Colby Lewis v. 2.0 as cutter-brandishing Rangers.

This latter point, in particular, fascinates me to no end. It seems ineluctably clear that Texas values pitchers capable of throwing the cutter (as evidenced by this latest overhaul and the Lewis signing), but why? Well, beyond the lefty-neutralizing powers of the cutter, it turns out that it also wields power-neutralizing capabilities (per Sky Kalkman's research), and it can be thrown for strikes at a similar rate to conventional fastballs while still producing a greater rate of swinging strikes. Yet, cutters are still remarkably scarce in the modern game; Baseball Info Solutions-supplied pitch data indicates that fewer than one out of every 20 major league pitches thrown in 2009 was classified as a cutter.
Maybe Mike Maddux reads Fonzie Forever! Or, far more likely, Jimmy did a great job identifying a burgeoning trend. It will be interesting to see, as the author of the blog later points out, if the cutter is a "market inefficiency" and whether it will last.

Beer Us

According to MetsBlog:

Yesterday, the Mets officially announced that McFadden’s will open a 13,000–square foot bar and restaurant at Citi Field, which will include a 200-foot island bar, outdoor patios and batting cages.

The website for the bar, Mcfaddenscitifield.com, doesn't provide much information. Their internet jukebox however seems to have fifty or so songs, sixty-five percent of which are from the eighties, for what it's worth. (Yes, "Your Love" is one of the songs.)

This seems about a year too late, no?

Here are some ideas I have for specials McFadden's can run for the upcoming season:

If Jeff Francoeur walks, free beer for the remainder of the game.

If Luis Castillo catches a routine pop-up and you do not make a snide remark, half-off on your next drink.

If Mike Pelfrey balks, free ski-ball for the next inning. (What do you mean they probably won't have a ski-ball machine?!)

If Keith Hernandez says something on the air that leads us to believe he had been at McFadden's earlier, Budweisers must be lined up from one end of the bar to the other immediately. With The Moody Blues on the jukebox.

If a Met throws a no-hitter...just kidding, that will never happen.

If Oliver Perez is the starting pitcher, free shots for everyone in the ballpark. For the entire game.

If a Met is injured, free drinks for the next 10 minutes. If you're wearing a cast on the body part the Met just hurt, 20 minutes.

The fourth inning is the beer inning.

I realize that most of these promotions would immediately run McFadden's out of business, but I never said I was a business person. And clearly, I never will be.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The "Decline" of Johan Santana


We here at Fonzie Forever are beginning to gear up for yet another epic battle in our fantasy baseball league, and in our search came across an article about Johan Santana. The article, by Tristan Cockroft at ESPN, was entitled "Johan Santana's Decline Has Begun."

I wouldn't usually call a fantasy baseball article to everyone's attention, but Cockroft's conclusions in the article are obviously founded in reality - he believes that Santana's decline in real life will affect his fantasy value. Cockcroft, who usually does great work, concludes:
It's at this point I get on my soapbox: Johan Santana's downside is a finish outside the top 100 players of 2010 and easily out of the top 10 starting pitchers. Not only that, but I'd even argue that it's almost twice as probable an outcome as a season that puts his name into serious Cy Young discussion.

That's not based entirely upon concerns with his ongoing rehabilitation from surgery, though that's absolutely a factor. It's more than that: Santana's declining strikeout rate, diminished velocity and the New York Mets' weakened offense are all warning signs that a collapse might be coming.
I agree with much of his premise - it is of course possible that ANY player's downside is a finish outside the Top 100 fantasy players - but his main idea, that Santana is in linear decline, is incorrect.

It is a common mistake by people to look at a series of values and draw a conclusion from them. It pleases people to draw conclusions, even faulty ones, from information we have at hand. If you are a given a series of numbers "2-4-6-8..." you are going to guess the next number is 10. Similarly, if you are given "2-4-8-16..." you will probably end up with 32.

For any kind of rational, mathematical system, this makes sense. However in baseball, it is faulty to look at a set of numbers trending in one direction in a linear fashion and simply to conclude that the trend will continue in that direction. Here is an example from Cockcroft:
Santana's swing-and-miss percentage -- usually a good indicator of a pitcher's strikeout potential -- has been in precipitous decline since joining the Mets, especially last season. Here are his numbers and rankings among qualified major league pitchers in the category since 2004:

2004: 66.3 percent contact rate on swings (1st)
2005: 74.2 percent (2nd)
2006: 74.8 percent (1st)
2007: 73.2 percent (2nd)
2008: 77.0 percent (10th)
2009: 78.4 percent (21st)
In a vacuum, you could easily say that his contact rate on swings will increase yet again this season. However with real life, and baseball is a great example, there are an infinite number of variables which go into numbers such as "contact rate." Could Santana have been pitching to contact? Could the NL East be loaded disproportionately with contact hitters? Could Citi Field have an excellent batter's eye?

The point is, you cannot look at a simple numerical series and assume that it will continue. Doing this is how people get KILLED in the stock market. Sets of numbers -- like a contact rate, or a stock value -- are simply recordings of things that have happened in history. They carry little or no predictive value for the future.

If Santana's fastball was 90.5 MPH on average last season, what do we know about the future? Nothing. All we know is that it was 90.5 last year. Even if his fastball declined 1 MPH per season for three seasons in a row, the most reliable information that we have tells us that his fastball was 90.5 MPH last year. And since we are dealing with a human being - a flesh and bone creature which isn't beholden to any mathematical trend - my money is on his fastball being 90.5 MPH again.

Indeed, real life evidence indicates that Santana has a chance to be better this year than last. Santana himself has claimed that he feels fantastic this year, and that at times last season he couldn't even bend his elbow. He is healthier now than before - and smart money would be on him succeeding greatly this year.

As far as fantasy goes, I actually agree with Cockcroft that there are enough reasons in fantasy to not draft Santana within the first 50 picks. But rumors of Santana's decline have been greatly exaggerated[1].

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[1] As for his claim that he's the best pitcher in the NL East... well... I like Santana and all, but I hear there is a new guy in Philly that might have something to say about that, not to mention a guy in Miami. It'll be very interesting to see how that shakes out.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

2010 Top Prospects pt. 8: Relievers

Relief Pitchers are by far the hardest group of prospects to rank. First of all, many of the relievers in the majors today are failed starting pitchers and they may have only made a handful of appearances out of the pen in the minors. But even more significant, is just how volatile the position is. So many relievers blow out their arms or come out of nowhere to post excellent numbers. Because of that, take this list with a grain of salt. I am sure that a lot of players listed here will never see the majors, and it is equally possible that some players I did not list are going to have very good careers. Several players that are currently starters who appear destined to move to the pen for one reason or another are here as well.

Pt. 1: Catchers
Pt. 2: First Baseman
Pt. 3: Second Baseman
Pt. 4: Shortstops
Pt. 5: Third Baseman
Pt. 6: Corner Outfielders
Pt. 7: Center Fielders


1. Drew Storen - Nationals (71)

Storen is the other player Washington drafted in 2009's first round. He was the first pure reliever selected after anchoring Stanford's pen. Storen is a little atypical for an upper tier closer prospect. He does not have huge velocity and generally sits in the low-90s. What makes him the top reliever prospect is his pair of breaking balls, both of which are plus pitches. Most relievers only use one secondary pitch, but Storen throws a big breaking curve and a power slider, both of which generate lots of strikeouts.

Ryota Igarashi - Swallows Man?!


Now, before you all go and begin with your juvenile jokes... well, okay, I'll wait a second and let you make them.

Finished? Okay.

I first heard about Ryota Igarishi's alter-ego of Swallows Man on Monday when reading a excellent piece on him by Adam Rubin of the Daily News. If you haven't, I would recommend you click through to read it. Anyway, this is the part that really caught my attention:
During his 11-year career with the Yakult Swallows, Igarashi would wear a WWE-style mask and take on the persona of "Swallows Man." A photo of him in character is on his Japanese-language Web site (http://ryo-ta.way-nifty.com/swallowsman/).

"When it was cold, I would practice with the mask on," he says through the interpreter.
Seriously?! Where do we find these guys?! From Tsuyoshi Shinjo, underwear model, to Mr. Koo, we seem to bring Japanse players over to the states based solely on personality (not a strategy that I am against).

In any event, the website is amazing. And that's just judging from the pictures. Take a look.

Luckily, we were able to ask our resident Japanese-speaker and Fonzie contributor, Brian Jackson, to translate the most recent diary entry. Here is what he got back to us with:

The guy that writes it is Swallows Man. It's actually a farewell letter.

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November 16, 2009

Yesterday, Ryota declared free agency and his intent to take on the challenge of the Major Leagues.

As Swallows Man, I love the Swallows so I am a little sad, but I cheer Ryota for following his dreams!!

And so...

I, Swallows Man, inspired by Ryota's ambition, have decided to go to the Major Leagues of Pro Wrestling: Mexico.

To everyone who has supported me to date, thank you very much.

I was so happy that, as fellow supporters of Ryota, that you supported Swallows Man as well.

With a grateful heart, I would like to make a gift to my beloved fans: the Swallows Man mask.

The webmaster will provide the details.

Even though I will be in Mexico, my support for the Swallows and Ryota will not change!!!!

Thank you very much <3

Signed,

Swallows Man, who loves the Swallows
---------------------

The rest is instructions from the webmaster on how to enter the contest to win the Swallows Man mask.
I mean, how can you not just be compeletely in love with this guy already? That is hysterical. Although he mentions in the Rubin article that he does not plan on bringing his alter ego to the states ("Igarashi then deadpans in his limited English: "New York Mets Man. New face."), it appears that, should the season take a turn for the worst, we'll at least have someone interesting to keep tabs on.

Monday, February 22, 2010

2010 Top Prospects pt. 7: Center Fielders

The major leagues are already teeming with talented, young center fielders, but that does not mean the minors have run dry. Two of the top prospects in all of baseball roam center and while they do stand out from the crowd, center field also boasts some of the highest upside prospects in the low minors. Here is where you will generally find the best all-around athletes in baseball. Center requires the speed of a middle infielder, but also more impact with the bat and at least an average arm. The top center field prospect list is also very diverse in terms of skills. There are several players with big time home run potential, slap hitters and everything in between.

Pt. 1: Catchers
Pt. 2: First Baseman
Pt. 3: Second Baseman
Pt. 4: Shortstops
Pt. 5: Third Baseman
Pt. 6: Corner Outfielders



1. Desmond Jennings - Rays (5)

The Rays do not spend a lot of money but have really done a good job lately of figuring out the players who are worth an investment. Jennings was an over-slot 10th round pick in 2006 and immediately everybody could see his potential. Often described as a right-handed Carl Crawford who also takes his fair share of walks, the Rays did not get a real sense of how special he was until 2009. Jennings missed time in 2007 and then almost all of 2008 with knee, back and shoulder injuries, two of which required surgery. Last year he finally managed to stay on the field and delivered a big year.

The Baseball Injury Tool

Not sure if this website is already common knowledge or not, but I just discovered a great resource called the Baseball Injury Tool.

Plug in the first and last name of any active player, and you will be delivered a list of all of their injuries - regardless of whether or not they were in the regular season, and whether or not it landed them on the Disabled List. It'll give you the number of days injured, the body part, and the cause. It's truly amazing.

For instance, if you were to plug in David Wright, you would immediately know the following:

-He has only been on the disabled list once. He was on it for 16 days.
-He has been considered day-to-day nine times, but has only missed four games because of it.
-In his career, he has suffered concussions, a general stomach illness, a foot laceration (in spring training last year), groin soreness, etc.

Not familiar with the travails of Kelvim Escobar? Well Kelvim has been on the 15-Day DL four times, and the 60-Day DL four times. He has has surgery twice, on July 29th, 2008 and on June 29th, 2005. He has been considered injured because of his elbow or shoulder 12 times, but has never injured his back, head, neck, or upper leg.

What an amazing resource, particularly for us Mets fans, whose game recaps sometimes read like police blotters. Bookmark it, people.

Follow Us On Twitter!

Not many people I think are aware of this (yes, I blame it almost entirely on blogger;s layout as well as my lack of internet-savvy) but Fonzie Forever can be found on twitter.

Follow us at @fonzieforever! Roger is our twitter guy here at FF, and he updates with links to all of our new articles. If you follow us, you will also get gems like this:

-- When Johan was asked to name best guitar player in Central America, he replied, "Santana." 9:26 AM Feb 18th from TweetDeck

-- At this rate, Kelvim Escobar will be downgraded to "deceased" by tomorrow. 8:49 AM Feb 18th from TweetDeck

-- I can sure go for 8 mil tacos right about now...RT @SI_JonHeyman: lincecum gets 8 mil in 2010, 13mil in 2011 plus 2 mil signing bonus

On Jose Reyes Batting Third

I wasn't sure whether I was going to even respond to this silliness, but then Faith and Fear in Flushing took the words right out of my mouth:
Oh, rats. I swore I wasn’t going to get sucked into the Great Batting Order Kerfuffle of February 2010. These are the most pointless kerfuffles of any season, kerfuffling as they do six weeks before any manager has to submit any batting order that counts for anything. Didn’t Jerry Manuel make some noise about batting Jose Reyes third last year? Did Jose Reyes ever bat third? The answers are yes and no, respectively. In our first spring of blogging, a spitstorm erupted over Willie Randolph suggesting David Wright might bat eighth once the season started. Care to guess how often Wright batted eighth? Hint: His next time will be his first time.

Who Is This Guy?: Rod Barajas

One day after Jerry Manuel told reporters that he was content with Omir Santos as his starting catcher, the Mets signed catcher Rod Barajas to a one-year, one million dollar contract. Whoops. Here's some background on the newest Metropolitan:

- Rod Barajas was born as Rodrigo Richard Barajas on September 5, 1975 in Ontario. California. No Canuck here.

- He is NOT nicknamed "Hot Rod", "Rowdy Rod" or "Inanimate carbon rod". Stupid rod.

- He is the father of six children. None of them have cool nicknames either.

- Barajas made his debut for the Arizona Diamondbacks on September 25, 1999. He didn't get sufficient playing time until 2001 when he appeared in 51 games, managing a .160 average. However, he only committed one error behind the plate and hit a home run in Game 5 of the World Series.

- He has a championship ring from that aforementioned World Series.

- Barajas, backing up Damian Miller for three seasons in Arizona, signed and went on to play for the Texas Rangers from 2004-2006. Rod played for the Phillies in 2007 before catching for the Blue Jays the past two years.

- The good: In seasons where Rod has played in 97 games or more, Barajas has hit at least 11 home runs. Rod in 125 games hit 19 home runs in 2009. Daniel Murphy led the Mets last season in home runs with 12. (In 155 games.)

- Barajas has consistently been known as a terrific defensive player, throwing out 27 out of 80 baserunners last season.

- He caught current Phillie ace Roy Halladay the last two years. That should come in handy.

- The not so good (until it gets better): His lifetime batting average is .238. Rod hit .226 last year and Bill James only predicts a six point increase. His OPS however was .661, which wasn't that much worse than Omir Santos's .688 number, and both Bill James and CHONE predict he would hit better in this category than Omir would.

- Optimism!

This Is Why Hope Springs Eternal

For those of you who have followed Fonzie Forever, you know we were less than thrilled with the Mets this offseason. We didn't like the moves they made, didn't make, or tried to make (but failed)[1]. We didn't like the lack of commitment to a plan - to either compete or to rebuild. We didn't like the way they handled the Beltran injury situation.

It is fairly common knowledge, we think, that the general tone of most Mets-related blogging could fairly be described as snide, snarky, or negative much of the time. We've tried not to pile on unecessarily. But no matter where you come from, I don't think that anyone has been a fan of what the Mets have done over the last few months.

With all of that said, hope still springs eternal. The Star-Ledger had a little article on Sunday morning which is a great example of spring training optimism:

Friday, February 19, 2010

Mets Must Look Into Acquiring Jonny Gomes

Metsblog reported on Jerry Manuel's press conference earlier today, and one of their bullet points really caught my attention:
He wants a power bat for the bench, like Phillies had with Matt Stairs, even if the player is unable to play a variety of positions, like Mike Jacobs.

We at Fonzie have been saying that all offseason. But instead of crying over spilled milk - what is there left out there?

Jonny Gomes.

The Mets absolutely NEED to be in on Jonny Gomes right now, as he is still a free agent. Gomes hit a great .267/.338/.541 for the Reds last season - and although that was far above his career line of .241/.330/.471 - even his career marks are good for a 109 OPS+.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bobby Parnell is Good-Not


Let me just try and pre-empt all this Bobby Parnell as eighth inning guy talk.

He is not good.

Now, I like Bobby Parnell. As a human being, he's actually amazingly awesome at baseball. He is definitely one of the thousand most talented baseball players on the planet -- so what does that make him, in the 99.99th percentile?

That said, he is NOT a good candidate to pitch any high leverage innings for the Mets. He was never good last season, he was never particularly good in the minors, and there is no reason to believe that he will be much better this year.

I realize his ERA looked nice in the early going last year. I realize he throws 98 miles per hour. But the hysteria around Parnell was off the charts. I remember Metsblog calling it "laughable" that the Nationals wanted Parnell in exchange for Nick Johnson. Nick Johnson!! A great first baseman with a career OPS+ of 125. That was when the delusion was at its height.

But back in the real world, we know that Parnell hasn't shown us any real concrete reason to believe he won't just be a poor man's Brian Stokes. Here are some minor league stats Parnell posted as a starter:

2007 - St Lucie (A+) - 3.25 ERA, 1.41 WHIP
2007 - Binghamton (AA) - 4.77 ERA, 1.53 WHIP
2008 - Binghamton (AA) - 4.30 ERA, 1.43 WHIP
2008 - New Orleans (AAA) - 6.64 ERA, 1.67 WHIP

He was mediocre in the minors and he was mediocre in the majors. He struck out a lot of guys and walked a lot of guys. He posted a tolerable ERA despite a high WHIP because a higher percentage of his WHIP came from walks -- who would then be stranded on subsequent strikeouts.

As a reliever last season (and omitting his terrible performance as a starter) he posted a great 3.46 ERA. But again, it was accompanied by a 1.50 WHIP, over a hit per inning, and almost 4.5 walks per 9 innings. He was basically a bullpen version of bad Oliver Perez.

I like Parnell's chances of improving in the future. I think he'll be an asset for the Mets. I hope he'll stick with us and I'll be rooting for him. But any projection for him which has him posting an ERA better than 4.00, or walking less than 4 guys per 9 innings, or which has him anywhere near an 8th inning lead, is WAY premature.

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Edit, Friday 12:39pm: A lot of people are pointing out that Parnell was a starter in the minors and will be used in relief in the majors. That is true. I agree that one could project his future a little more optimistically than the minor league statistics would indicate - especially given his fastball. However, ugly is ugly no matter where you are. Being that he was age-appropriate for all of those levels, you've got to do better than a 6.64 ERA in Triple-A.

Ollie Looking Good Today at Port St. Lucie

Courtesy of Adam Rubin of the Daily News, we have some video of Oliver Perez throwing today at Mets camp.



Obviously, first day of camp, but he looks good. Metsblog opined that he looks "more balanced," which I agree with.

Part of my optimism for Ollie's recovery has to do with the way I feel about last year's injury. Injuries to pitchers do not faze me at all unless they are to the arm or if they somehow linger. Knee, leg, back, foot -- so long as it can be 100% fixed, I don't mind them at all. Why?

Let's face it -- the human body was never intended to throw a baseball. It's awful for the elbow, it's hell on the shoulder. Even if you do it perfectly, it wears you down and frays your tendons and makes a mess of you. When a pitcher is injured, however, he can't do any of that harmful stuff.

I feel that when a pitcher is injured with something not arm-related, they can spend more time honing the other parts of their craft which need honing. They can do yoga, study tape, lift weights, do endurance running -- whatever aspect of their game needs work aside from ACTUALLY throwing the baseball.

So to me, I see an injury like Ollie's as an opportunity for a guy with a great arm but with awful mechanics (plant foot terrible, falling off toward third) to be able to work on his strength, conditioning, flexibility, and technique.

Hopefully, he was able to do that over the last eight months or so and come back better equipped to perform this season. Of course -- the throwing the baseball is the most important part. But I'm glad that he was able to avoid doing that for half a year, and maybe he will come back stronger than ever.

Another Example Why Baseball Think Factory Rules

Baseball Think Factory, a site which I link to all the time and from where I get a very large portion of my baseball news, really made me laugh today.

Earlier today, they linked to an article from the SB Nation Blog "True Blue LA," the title of which was "Is Felix Hernandez Heading for Surgery?" The first line of the article, however, reads "....or greatness?" It was obviously a cheap trick to get people flustered and to read the article. I got a little chuckle out of it, but I was mostly annoyed at the gimmick.

Instead of being annoyed, the community over at BBTF decided to have a little fun with it. After two comments chastising True Blue LA for the trick headline, the following exchange ensued:

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

You Crazy For This One David

Sometimes making predictions makes you look like a God.

We will win tonight. - Mark Messier, May 25, 1994

And sometimes it makes you look like a damn fool.

We are the team to beat. - Carlos Beltran, February 16, 2008

It's the latter quote and subsequent performance that keeps kicking around in my head on this afternoon, the afternoon that David Wright said what was on his mind. What did he say?

We're expecting to go out there and win the National League East and go deep in the playoffs and win the World Series


Listen: I certainly didn't expect or want David Wright to announce to the beat reporters that the goal for the team was 1)end the season above .500 and 2)not have serious ouchies. But making grand pronouncements can sometimes have the reek of desperation to them. Remember what Carlos Beltran said?

To Jimmy Rollins: We are the team to beat. Without Santana, we felt, as a team, that we had a chance to win in our division. With him now, I have no doubt that we're going to win in our division. I have no doubt in that. We've got what it takes.

He said this on one of the first days of spring training in 2008. In other words, when everybody was still thinking about the epic failof 2007. Do you remember Carlos Beltran EVER saying ANYTHING remotely boastful before that moment? Nope. Because that isn't the kind of guy he is. The guy, the team, was still in shock over what had happened five months ago. Even then it seemed obvious to me that Beltran didn't really believe what he was saying. He certainly WANTED to. But his mind was stuck in 2007.

I've dared to dream about how a championship Mets season would go, and in those dreams the Mets would come out of spring training with an unspoken swagger to them. It wouldn't need to be said that they had the talent and the make-up to win it all; you would sense it. And after actions spoke louder than words and the Mets win the World Series, a post-game champagne soaked interview would take place. Ken Rosenthal would climb on top of his highchair and ask Jerry Manuel if he ever expected something like this, and Jerry would say something like, "You know, we had a feeling going into the season that we had something special. Nobody believed in us, but we kept our heads down and focused and we kept being gangstas and we kept pounding and pounding until we broke through."

Did John Wayne announce eight months beforehand that he was going to kick your ass? Nope. Why? He didn't have to. It was over before it started. John Wayne knew two things: Rip-off the persona of Ted Williams and have self-reverence.

Well now I'm babbling on and on about the virtues of keeping your mouth shut so I'll wrap it up.

David, I love you, but we're kind of a big enough punchline as it is. No need to provide a big set-up.

(I've got to say this is the greatest blog entry ever written. I guarantee this will be linked on Metsblog.com.)

Spring Training Parking Lot Pecking Order

The Mets are so ridiculous. According to the Star-Ledger, the following Mets were given assigned spots in the player's parking lot:
Johan Santana, Jose Reyes, David Wright, Jeff Francoeur, Jason Bay, Mike Pelfrey, Kelvim Escobar, Carlos Beltran, Francisco Rodriguez, Luis Castillo, Oliver Perez, Alex Cora and Henry Blanco

This is silly. Take a look at the pitchers:

Santana, Pelfrey, Escobar, K-Rod, and Ollie. Oliver Perez and Pelfrey get spots - but John Maine does not?

2010 Top Prospects pt. 6: Corner Outfielders

A significant portion of the best power hitting prospects in baseball are corner outfielders. It is a position where you need to bring some thunder with bat if you expect to be an asset for your team. That is not to say the position is completely devoid of athletes. While there are a few hulking mashers destined to be a defensive liability, there are also a ton of well rounded players, particularly at the top of the list. I am grouping left and right-fielders together because the only thing that generally separates them is arm strength, however where they end up playing in the majors is often a product of the team that they play for, as much as it is the individual.

Pt. 1: Catchers
Pt. 2: First Baseman
Pt. 3: Second Baseman
Pt. 4: Shortstops
Pt. 5: Third Baseman


1. Jason Heyward - Braves (2)

The consensus top hitting prospect in baseball, Heyward is the total package. He slipped to the 14th overall pick in the 2007 draft partially because so few scouts had a chance to see him at his best. Everybody could see the incredible natural strength but few realized just how advanced and polished he was as a player. The Braves have a history of drafting kids from Georgia and happily continued the trend when Heyward was available. As soon as he took the field as a professional Heyward's talent was apparent.

In his first full season, 2008, Heyward was solid but in retrospect we were only seeing a glimpse of what he was capable of. He began 2009 in high-A as one of the younger players in the league, and played like an all-star from day one. He earned a promotion to AA where he posted an insane slash line of .352/.446/.611 while walking significantly more than striking out. Although his slugging percentages were high, most scouts believe he has only begun to tap into his raw power, and could easily post over 30 home runs a season in the majors. He has the speed to occasionally steal bases and is an asset in right field. The one downside to last season was that he missed time, including some in the Arizona Fall League with nagging injuries.

Heyward is very close to the majors already and should be there before his 21st birthday in August. The Braves corner outfield spots are currently manned by average at best players and Heyward could be their best right-field option as soon as opening day. Because he has such an advanced approach at the plate, and great eye, he should be able to survive a rushed promotion, unlike former Atlanta top prospect Jeff Francoeur. There is no hitting prospect in the minors that boasts Heyward's all around potential, combined with the refinement that makes everyone believe he can reach exceedingly high expectations.

Thole Starting? Not So Fast...

Via Metsblog:
According to Brian Costa of the Star Ledger, Mets GM Omar Minaya has said Henry Blanco will be the team’s back-up catcher, “We don’t see him as a full-time guy.”

So, in terms of the starting catcher, Minaya said, “It’s going to be between Omir Santos and Josh Thole.”

The 23–year-old Thole hit .321 with three extra base hits in 17 games for the Mets last season.

My how things change. It was only a few weeks ago that the Mets were dead-set on bringing in a veteran catcher and pushing Thole to AAA for at least the early part of 2010. Now, all of a sudden, he is being considered an option to start?

We have been on the Thole Bandwagon here for a while. In fact, we may be DRIVING the Thole bandwagon:
I just want to put it out there right now. Josh Thole could be a stud. He could be up with the Mets THIS SEASON. He's hitting .352/.447/.451 with AA Binghamton as a 22 year old. He's had more walks than strikeouts the last three seasons... I know this is a long shot, but... keep your eye on Thole. - May 7, 2009
However, he should not be considered for the starting role at this time. In November, we wrote an article here saying that the Mets should avoid free agent catchers and give Thole a chance to take the starting job.

I don't think that Thole is ready to dominate the National League. In fact, I think Thole might end up being a better baseball player over his career if he had more time in AAA to learn and maybe hit for a little power. However - if there ever was a time to throw a rookie into the fire, it is now.


My justification for letting Thole start was two-fold. First, there didn't appear to be any backup plan behind Santos. Second, I thought the Mets were going to be fielding a better team and having a legitimate chance to win in 2010.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What Johan Santana's Pick-Up Line Might Sound Like

Since he is so boringly reliable and awesome, Johan Santana hasn't gotten much press this off-season. That said, I imagine that if Johan Santana were to go out and try to pick up women, his pick up line would go something like this:



I wouldn't bet against him being able to turn tickets into diamonds either, because the guy is just about good at everything. He even had a .255 OBP last season (watch your back, Omir Santos).

Keep An Eye On: Jordany Valdespin

Jordany Valdespin is a 22 year old second base prospect who batted a robust .322/.366/.480 over 152 at-bats in Low-A Savannah last season. Rated as the "best athlete" in the Mets minor league system by Baseball America, Jordany Valdespin is a prospect worth keeping an eye on. What else is there to know about Jordany?

Mike Newman over at Scouting the Sally did a write up of Valdespin and came away less than impressed. In his evaluation of our young second base prospect, he said:

Don't be fooled by the .438 slugging percentage. While he has some pop for his size, his game is still more or less slap the ball and run. With 20 free passes in almost 300 at bats, he doesn't have the plate discipline of a lead off hitter...

* * *

Valdespin has fluid movements and an average arm, but is a little rough around the edges. I'd describe his hands as "choppy" as he has a tendency to stab at the ball.

* * *

Mention of his being a burner is vastly overblown. His instincts on the base paths are just so-so and have seen him thrown out badly attempting to advance on a handful of occasions. I would not project him to post anything close to gaudy stolen base totals in the future.
A pretty underwhelming evaluation from an honest blog.

Perhaps more importantly, it appears that Valdespin was somehow in trouble with the Mets organization this year. After starting 2009 with Savannah, he was then demoted to the short-season Gulf Coast League Mets and Brooklyn Cyclones. Whether this move was disciplinary or otherwise, I am not sure. According to an Adam Rubin report from April, "Fleet-footed second baseman Jordany Valdespin, who had been off to a torrid start at Savannah (.385, 3 HR, 15 RBI), has been suspended by the organization, Mets VP Tony Bernazard said without elaborating."

All that aside, there are a lot of reasons to like Valdespin. Obviously, his Savannah performance was good. More importantly, being rated the "best athlete" in the system is a huge endorsement. Being ranked ahead of the likes of Wilmer Flores, Jefry Marte, Kirk Nieuwenheis and others says a lot about his tools.[1]

In addition, he had a very strong Winter League performance. He batted .300, stole three bases, hit a home run, and did not walk or strikeout in 20 at-bats. According to Toby Hyde of Mets Minor League Blog:

2B Jordany Valdespin has become the designated pinch-runner for the Tigres del Licey. He’s entered as a pinch-runner, pinch-hitter, or defensive replacement in each of his last 13 appearances since his last start on October 25.
I am very impressed with this. The Dominican Winter League, I am told, plays a notch below AA in terms of difficulty, but Valdespin seems to have held his own. In addition, I love that he was getting playing time, particularly as a defensive replacement, on a team on which he was the second youngest player (after Carlos Triunfel). And over whom was he being selected to play defense? How about Ronnie Belliard, Anderson Hernandez and Blake DeWitt, all of whom were on the active roster for Licey.

All of these things point to a bright future for Jordany. Although it could be seen as an indictment of his talent that he has not yet reached High-A ball entering his age 22 season, his physical abilities and variety of talents (speed and defense) make him an intriguing prospect.[2]


------------

[1] Former "Best Athlete" winners according to Baseball America: Jordany Valdespin, 2009; Carlos Gomez, 2008; Carlos Gomez, 2007; Lastings Milledge, 2006

[2] Certainly as good or better of a prospect than Greg Veloz or Jose Coronado, similar players with more name recognition for whatever reason.

Oliver Perez Will Be Our #2 Starter In 2010


You heard it here first, folks: Oliver Perez is going to be our #2 this season.

I know that Ollie is not popular around Met circles. I know that he is overpaid and that he was awful last year. I know that everyone is constantly getting indigestion because of Ollie's inconsistent performances. But forget all of that for a moment.

An impartial look at the facts points at one inevitable conclusion: between Perez, Pelfrey, and Maine, Oliver Perez is the best bet to deliver a great pitching performance in 2010.

Nobody was as surprised about this conclusion as I was when I came to it. However, there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about Perez:

Why Be Optimistic?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Forget the Platoon, Go With Daniel Murphy

Much has been made in this offseason about Daniel Murphy and the fact that he has traditionally struggled a little bit against lefties. We went on and on at this blog about how great it would be to get a platoon partner like Ryan Garko to pair up with Murphy and inexpensively upgrade the position[1].

However, that ship has sailed - the Mets did not acquire that great platoon partner. As with any good opportunity which is missed, it is time to re-evaluate and move on. At this point, there is almost no benefit to platooning Daniel Murphy, and the Mets would be better off playing him every day.

Friday, February 12, 2010

2010 Top Prospects pt. 5: Third Basemen

Third base has traditionally boasted some of the best hitting prospects in baseball and this year is no exception. While there is, in my opinion, one player in particular that stands out, there is also substantial depth at the position, both in terms of high-probability prospects and pure upside players. I also have several players listed as third baseman even though they do not currently play there. This is because many players outgrow the middle of the infield but have too much athleticism to waste at first base. In the end though, third base is an offensive position. You have to be able to hit in order to play third base in the majors, and all of these prospects have a chance to do that.

Pt. 1: Catchers
Pt. 2: First Baseman
Pt. 3: Second Baseman
Pt. 4: Shortstops


1. Pedro Alvarez - Pirates (8)

Alvarez was a candidate to go first overall in the 2008 draft after putting up some big seasons at Vanderbilt. However, in the year leading up to the draft he injured his wrist, missed some time and was clearly not 100% when he did play. Even though his production was solid, some doubts lingered leading into the draft. Pittsburgh did not care and was happy to take Alvarez second overall and he instantly became by far the best prospect in their system. Contract talks between Alvarez' agent, Scott Boras, and the Pirates did not go that smoothly but were resolved before spring training in 2009.

Spanish to English Baseball Dictionary?!

A retired professor of spanish at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota is publishing a Spanish-English dictionary with over NINE THOUSAND entries consisting solely of "baseball speech."

Via Baseball Think Factory:
A batter striking out in Mexico is "served chocolates, or chocolatized.'' Far less tasty is another Mexican idiom for going down on strikes - "being served a bowl of pigeon soup.''

Americans talk about "a can of corn'' for an easy catch. That's far too bland for Venezuela's taste, where one expression for a routine play, or a 1-2-3 inning, is a three-course offering of "french fries, peanuts and fried bananas.''

In Cuba's biting slang, a weak hitter is "an out dressed up like a player.''

* * *

The baseball dictionary contains four pages of Spanish words or phrases for home run. Strikeout merits about three. There are about a half-dozen Spanish words for outfielder - gardener, patrolman, hunter, guardian of the woods, or fence guard.
I love baseball. To me, there is nothing that mirrors the culture of the people and time and place in which it exists as much as baseball does. Anything which celebrates that fact is fine by me:
"As you go from country to country you hear that particular culture reflected in the language, in the language of baseball,'' O'Neill said. "It's close to the culture. I have no idea where some of these come from, but I love them.''
Now I just need a Spanish Profanity-English dictionary for the baseball terms that my friends use at our games. Like there are four pages for "home run" in the O'Neill dictionary, I think there will probably have to be at least a page or two for the different ways of saying "****" in mine.

Original source, Sports Illustrated

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Tom Glavine Is Now A Jerk That Is Retired

There's this slight chance that Tom Glavine is a nice person.

I couldn't care less.

Tom Glavine's first start with the Mets was on Opening Day, March 31, 2003. It was a cold day, particularly if you happened to be sitting in the last row of the upper deck of Shea Stadium. Like me, for example. But it didn't matter: Glavine went 18-11 with a 2.96 ERA the year before. He's going to be great as a Met for the totality of his four-year contract! Finally a clutch pitcher we can call our own!

The Cubs won 15-2. And I was sick for a week with pneumonia.

Glavine, the guy who cried to Braves GM John Schuerholtz after he signed with the Mets that it was a terrible mistake, was awful for two years before pitching coach Rick Peterson had the courage to talk to him about changing his technique. What a hero. Glavine turned it around and almost was worth what he was being paid.

Then came September 30, 2007. Tom Glavine's last start as a Met. Seven runs. One third of an inning. Collapse. Hate. Him.

At least he finished what he started. Old friends bookends.

Glavine returned to the Braves in 2008, but spent most of his time in the minors rehabbing. Last season Glavine was under the impression that after he finished his obligatory minor league starts and was pronounced healthy, he'd be able to return to the major league team. Instead the Braves released his sorry ass. Drag.

Tom Glavine retired today.

And I'm not going to cry about it.

Sox Claim Seattle Righty Hernandez

Catchy headline right? Well, the guys over at ESPN thought of it. It certainly caught my eye. Turns out, the Hernandez in question is former Mets farmhand Gaby Hernandez:

The Red Sox on Wednesday claimed right-handed pitcher Gaby Hernandez off waivers from the Seattle Mariners . . . Hernandez, 23, spent all of last year with Seattle’s Triple-A Tacoma affiliate, posting a 10-9 record with a 5.23 ERA, 98 strikeouts and 48 walks in 26 starts . . . He was originally selected by the New York Mets in the third round of the 2004 first-year player draft


The Mets originally traded Gaby to Florida in the Paul LoDuca deal. I hated that trade at the time, but I guess in retrospect it hasn't been such a disaster. How has he been since he left us?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Mookie Wilson Could Fly

Coming to us from the freakishly-underrated blog, Mets Walkoffs:

According to some recent reading I've done,

The average runner scores from first base on a double around 40-45 percent of the time.

Mookie's career percentage: 65 percent (45 of 69)

Next Year's Free Agent Class Will Not Be Great

One of the things you hear people say when they are grasping at straws to justify the Mets' terrible offseason is, "It is okay they didn't spend much, because next year's free agent class is going to be so much better!"

The Sporting News had an entire article devoted to wondering why the buzz wasn't GREATER, saying that "the class of major leaguers eligible to become free agents next year is every bit as star-studded as that in the NBA [with LeBron James]."

ESPN Radio's Rick Coutinho mentions some of the players who make the 2010-2011 class stronger:

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Mets Sign Jacobs to Minor League Deal ... Why?

Not understanding this at all:

The New York Mets are closing in on a one-year, minor league contract with free-agent first baseman Mike Jacobs, a baseball source told ESPN.com.

* * *

Jacobs will receive an invitation to big league camp on a non-guaranteed contract, the source said, and compete for at-bats at first base or off the bench. Daniel Murphy, New York's incumbent first baseman, hit .266 with 12 homers in 508 at-bats last season.
For what purpose? The Mets have made it clear that they are going with Murphy at first. Why would they sign another player who a) only plays first base and b) is left-handed and gets KILLED by lefties?

I always liked Mike Jacobs, and I thought he was going to be pretty good last season[1]. Obviously, he stunk instead. Many of the same reasons for optimism remain, but it may be that he was simply over-exposed last year.

But why would Jacobs choose to come to the Mets rather than a team he has a legitimate chance of starting, or at least platooning, on?

In another conundrum, where are the Mets getting the money for this? They apparently didn't have the money to even entertain the idea of negotiating with Yorvit Torrealba because of financial constraints[2].

I really hope that things turn out well for Jacobs, but I don't see him fitting on the Mets in any way, shape, or form.

------------

[1] He also resembles a young Val Kilmer - hence his nickname of "Iceman."

[2] On a side note, do you think the hypothetical child of Joe Torre and Jessica Alba would be attractive or ugly? Whose genetics would win? And is that how Torrealba got his name (similar to Garciaparra)?

Messing With America's Youth

Not that bad timing is really newsworthy for the Mets or anything, but I found today's news to be pretty interesting.

News item #1: Keith Hernandez hands down the first base knowledge to Daniel Murphy down in Pt. St. Lucie.

Fair enough; Mex was a great defensive first baseman and knows what he's talking about. The question is how much wine did the boys have afterwards? I bet Keith made a joke like, "You sure you old enough Mr. Murphy?" before they were served their first glass.

Anyway...

News item #2: Mets sign Mike Jacobs

Yay Mike Jacobs! I always liked him and was a little sad to see him go. Of course, Carlos Delgado came back the other way. That helped with the depression.

Since it's a minor league deal, it's minimal risk and a good signing. But he's a first baseman who actually had an everyday gig on a major league team last season (even if it was the Kansas City Royals). Fortunately for Murphy, Jacobs hit .228 last season and is only going to be a non-roster invitee. But the timing of this signing is awfully curious.

By the way, Jacobs' jersey number has been 17 throughout his career. You know, Keith Hernandez's number.

Oliver Perez Loss In Fastball Velocity


I am working up a big post on Oliver, but since his drop in velocity was in the news today, I figured I would excerpt the relevant portion today.

Metsblog relayed an article by Matthew Carruth over at fangraphs today pointing out that Oliver Perez was among the "leaders" in velocity lost off their fastball between 2008 in 2009. Oliver's fastball was 1.2 mph slower in 2009, which was the 15th biggest loss in baseball.

Matt Cerrone had this to say about that finding:
…i have to think that is mostly because of his knee, and not being able to get the right pivot off his front leg…
I could not agree more with this.

2010 Top Prospects pt 4: Shortstops


It is a bit of a down year for shortstop prospects, meaning both middle infield positions are not exactly overflowing with high potential guys. Shortstop is, in my opinion, the most demanding position for a prospect, even more so than catcher. So many players sign as shortstops and then have to move to a less important defensive position. Shortstops need a strong arm and also have to be quick, agile and consistent. It also helps if they can hit a little. Of all the 2010 top shortstop prospects, I only see one player who has a good chance to make an impact with both the bat and the glove, not surprisingly, he ranks first.

Pt. 1: Catchers
Pt. 2: First Baseman
Pt. 3: Second Baseman


1. Starlin Castro - Cubs (18)

The Cubs have done a terrible job developing hitting prospects for a long time now but recently there have been signs of progress. Both of their middle infielders and catcher are home grown and while they are all basically average players, that is an improvement. Castro has a chance to be that special player that they have previously had to look outside the organization for. He is an excellent defender and while the bat is not there yet he has shown constant improvement the last couple of years. He also has surprising strength, leading most scouts to believe that some of his stinging line drives will go over the fence down the road.

Monday, February 08, 2010

This Should Be the Mets Motto

I heard this song on the radio today for the first time and I am a big fan. I can definitely see it becoming annoying soon, but for now... man, just listening to it got me amped up for baseball.[1]



I want every Met to listen to this on loop until Spring Training starts. It is time to cut the crap and get back to business. Stop the infighting, the drama, the Bernazard-ing, the injury-hiding, and just get out there and W-I-N.


All I do is win win win no matter what
got money on mind i can never get enough
and everytime I step up in the building
everybody hands go up
and they stay there
and they say yeah
and they stay there
Up down, up down
cause all I do is win win win
and if you goin’ in put your hands in the air


I am pretty confident that a Met will use this as his at-bat or warm up music this year. It would be pretty cool if it were a starter, but I think the likeliest Met to rock a song like this would be Wright. He's all about winning.

The last line in the song might be best, thank you Snoop for the wisdom once again:

"Al Davis said it best, just win baby win"

-------------
[1] Some of the lyrical content in the verses is not appropriate for work, etc., but the chorus is clean so it could work at the ballpark.

Atlanta Braves ZiPS Projections 2010: More Trouble

It really just has not been a good off-season for us Mets fans. From the fact that we had very little money to spend, to the fact that the money we DID spend we spent stupidly, things have been difficult. Just when you think matters cannot get worse, the Atlanta Braves ZiPS projections were released on Friday and, well, they look dangerous.

Once again, a huge thanks to Dan Szymborski for putting all the work into this. If you follow the link above to Baseball Think Factory, there is a link you can click to donate via Paypal and help support all of those great projects.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrapped up my three part review of the Mets ZiPS projections and concluded:
As currently constituted, the Mets would need a LOT of luck to compete this season. At a minimum, we need Reyes to remain healthy, Beltran to come back soon and healthy, for one of Pelfrey/Maine/Perez to really take a leap forward, and for Francisco Rodriguez to halt his slide.
This was based on a number of factors - but the primary reason was the apparent weakness of our starting rotation. Here is a look again at how our current top five project by ERA+:

Off Topic/Not Baseball - Public Service Announcement


[I apologize in advance if this is not the proper venue for something like this. I hope that none of our loyal readers (both of you, and hi mom!) will be bothered by the off-topic post.

A friend of mine is raising money for a charity organization called Schools for Salone whose goal is to build schools for needy children in Sierra Leone, Africa. You can visit their website here. Below is part of the email I received from him asking us to help donate.

Once again, I am sorry for the intrusion but Fonzie Forever reaches a good number of people and it is for a very worthy cause. And it's sports related!

If you would like to make a contribution, or if you have questions or would like to know more information about Schools for Salone or my friend who is participating in the tournament, please email me at fonzieblog@gmail.com

Sincerely,
Brian Mangan]

Can John Maine's Struggles Be Explained By Calling Him a "Thrower" Instead of a Pitcher?

Metsblog forwarded an article on to us from Metsmerized Online where they say that that John Maine's struggles can be blamed on his inability to mature as a pitcher. I'll let the article speak for itself:

It takes time to learn the game and learn the hitters. One has to become a ‘pitcher’ and not a ‘thrower.’ However, John Maine has shown none of this. And he needs to!
* * *
...over time, John has not really improved. He is still a thrower, not a pitcher. He has not grown at all in 4 seasons and is no more of a force now then he was as a rookie, maybe even less. Not only have his numbers not improved but they have actually gotten worse.

His ERA has risen each year from 3.60 to 3.91 to 4.18 to 4.43. His K/9 has decreased from 7.1 in 06 to 6.1 in 09. He is walking more batters now then he used to, going from 3.3 in his rookie season to 4.2 last year. He also needs to learn how to conserve pitches. One of his big shortcomings has been his inability to pitch deep into games.
* * *
But if Maine continues to flounder yet again, to not reach back for something extra, I see us spending a long summer counting down between Johan’s starts.
Is that really a fair assessment?

In a word? No.

Torrealba Signs With Padres

Per ESPN:

Yorvit Torrealba, one of the few remaining free agent catchers, has agreed to a one-year, $1.25 million deal with the San Diego Padres.

Torrealba will play for a $750,000 salary this season, and will receive a $500,000 buyout if the Padres and the catcher don't exercise a mutual option on him for 2011, for $3.5 million.
But here is the REAL kicker:
Torrealba recently tried to engage the New York Mets in negotiations on a one-year deal for less than $2 million, but the Mets indicated that they had no interest, given financial restrictions.
Financial restrictions.

I didn't want Torrealba to begin with, but to say that we couldn't sign or even negotiate with a player interested in a $1.25 million dollar contract because of financial restrictions is damning.

The Mets have spent a lot of money this winter and have nearly nothing to show for it. Two million on Cora, a million on Gary Matthews Jr., almost a million on Henry Blanco, over half a million on R.A. Dickey, the same for Chris Coste, and over a million each for Kelvim Escobar and Ryota Igarashi. In a vacuum, some of these signings even seem wise (Escobar).

But what was the plan?

Did we enter the 2010 offseason with $10 million to spend? That's over $6 million spent on those players up there, plus the big ticket item - Bay. That's $12 million this year with seemingly not even an outside chance at playoff contention, PLUS a contract with Jason Bay which is backloaded to a ridiculous degree[1]. Why? What was the plan? And what do we do now?


---------------------
[1] The Mets contract commitments in 2011 are horrific:

Santana: $22.5
Beltran: $20.071
Bay: $18.125
Wright: $14.25
Perez: $12.0
K-Rod: $12.167
Reyes: $11.0 club option

I'll save you some calculator time. That is $110 MILLION committed to just seven players. Our payroll this year, altogether, appears to be somewhere around $120-$125 million. That means that we'd need to spread the remaining money over the other 18 players on the active roster in order to maintain payroll, simply because of the stupidity of the backloaded Bay contract. It is ugly.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

United Countries of Baseball

Slow day today so I figured I'd post something interesting instead. A few years ago Nike and Major League Baseball partnered to create a map of the United States (and Canada) according to their baseball allegiances. Pretty clever, right? It's worth a look if you haven't seen it yet.

click to enlarge

This was in 2007 -- do you think the map has shifted at all since then? I am guessing that the Rays area has expanded and the Mets area has shrunk. In fact, I was skeptical that the Mets owned New York City even when the map was first created. Long Island and North Jersey sure, maybe, could be Mets - but definitely not Brooklyn and the Bronx.

There are a couple other interesting things on the map already (the Nationals, really?) but I'd be curious to know what stood out to you.

Friday, February 05, 2010

I'm In Love With That Song: Frank Catalanotto

"I'm In Love With That Song" is a celebration and examination of the at-bat music of the New York Mets.

Upon researching facts on Frank Catalanotto - a free agent utility man signed by the Mets last week - two pieces of information stood out.

1. Frank Catalanotto's nickname is "Little Cat". Me-yow.

2. Last year, every time Frank Catalanotto would stride from the on-deck circle to the batter's box, "Your Love" by The Outfield would blare over the PA system.

Which is weird.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Bedard On Verge of Returning to Mariners?

From MLB.com, via Metsblog:

Yep, there are rumblings going around that Bedard could soon re-up with the Mariners, who are still paying his medical bills. Bedard is expected to miss the first three or four months of the regular season but conceievably could come back in early June or July and provide significant pitching help.

* * *

I have now heard that the deal is a one-year $1.5 million base salary contract that includes a shipload of incentives. Bedard, you might recall, made $7.5 million last season. At his age -- he will be 29 on March 5 -- most of his career is in front of him and he could use this season as a springboard to a multi-year contract next year.
First of all, I love his use of the word "shipload"

More importantly, however, the Mets miss out on yet another bargain. Sure, Bedard might not be ready until June, but when healthy he has been fantastic.

Sure, he's been injured, but he's a young guy - we often see young players bounce back from an injury riddled season or two to be healthy for the majority of their careers. Some injuries are freak, some injuries are properly addressed and rehabbed - either way, it is silly to project a guy as injured forever.

Between Garko at $.5 million and Bedard at a reported $1.5 million base, the Mets have struck out BIG time in the last week. Interestingly enough, both will be Mariners.

In Case You Missed It

Here is a rundown of some of the series articles that we've published here at Fonzie Forever since its inception. Might make for some interesting reading on a slow Thursday:

Outside the Box: Brian encourages the Mets to make creative moves:

Magglio Ordonez
Edgardo Alfonzo
Roy Halladay
Aaron Harang
Dan Uggla

This Dumb Decade: Roger takes a year-by-year look at the decade that was:

2000: In the Year 2000
2001: Some Sort of Odyssey
2002: Bonds vs. the Rally Monkey
2003: Diaper Dandies
2004: Schadenfraude and Pedro
2005: Ozzie Ozzie Ozzie, Oy Oy Oy
2006: The Year That Was Cool For Six Months
2007: The First Year Of Two That Didn't Happen
2008: The Second Year That Didn't Happen
2009: That Was a Terrible Call Blue

Mets ZiPS Projections: Brian looks at the Mets according to their projections and outlines their strengths and weaknesses.

Part 1, Hitting
Part 2, Pitching
Part 3, Conclusions

And finally, there is the "Who Is This Guy" series, where Brian and Roger take looks at new or anonymous Mets:

Jason Bay
Jolbert Cabrera
Kelvim Escobar
Gary Matthews Jr.
Josh Fogg
Fernando Nieve

We will update this post when Jimmy completes his look at prospects around the majors. We may also add a category or two for things which are not technically a series - like my obsession with Fernando Martinez and week-long rants on Luis Castillo, Jason Bay, and Ryan Garko.

Who Is This Guy?: Fernando Nieve Edition

If you are to believe what you read, Fernando Nieve is currently the leading candidate for the Mets fifth starter spot. Last week, Omar Minaya said "I think Nieve is pretty much ahead of Niese right now because Nieve has pitched already this winter."



Around the same time, manager Jerry Manuel said "Nieve is the guy we're looking at right now as we speak to be that (No. 5) guy." So there you go.

So who is this guy? (I would also like to ask 'How did it come to this?!' but that is a question for another day) And more importantly, what can we expect from him?

Despite my initial impression, Nieve might actually be a valid candidate for the spot.[1]

Where Did He Come From?

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

2010 Top Prospects pt 3: Second Baseman

Second base is rarely a hotbed for prospects. Many of the players that end up playing second base in the majors have moved from another position, usually shortstop, and as a result there are generally slim pickings for true second base prospects. This year is even more of a down year with none rating in my top 30 overall prospects. In fact only six made the top 100 and I would not be surprised if half of them actually ended up at different positions in the majors anyway. Still, there are some interesting names on this list, including several that will see the majors this year.

Pt. 1: Catchers
Pt. 2: First Baseman


1. Brett Lawrie - Brewers (33)

The Midwest League is a tough first year assignment for a fairly raw high-schooler from Canada, but Milwaukee felt Lawrie's bat could handle it. Despite his background, Lawrie was considered to be one of the best pure hitters among prep players and his play thus far has lived up to that reputation. Originally drafted as a catcher, Lawrie has a powerful build and a quick, short swing that should result in plenty of contact and power.

Lawrie gave up on catching before he made his pro debut in favor of second base, but he has a long way to go there as well. Even though 2009 was a success offensively, he also exacerbated doubts about his ability to stick in the middle of the diamond. There have been reports that Lawrie cares a lot more about hitting that defense and that if he dedicated himself, he would be fine with the glove. He was pushed up to AA for a couple of weeks and was overwhelmed, but given his age that is not really a concern.

Easily the most gifted hitter among second base prospects, Lawrie should move quickly because of his bat. Milwaukee's corner positions are already crowded and they really need Lawrie to become at least average with the glove, something that Ryan Braun and Mat Gamel could not do at third base. With Alcides Escobar already set to start at shortstop, the Brewers could have a completely home grown double play combination in a couple of years when Lawrie makes it to the majors.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The Castillo Situation, Part 2: Orlando Hudson's Price

According to MLB.com, Orlando Hudson is REALLY having a hard time finding someone who will pay him what he believes he is worth:

Since becoming a free agent, Hudson has asked for $9 million, but the Nationals are not willing to give him that kind of money.

This past season, Hudson, 32, made a base salary of $3.38 million, but with incentives, he received close to $7 million as a member of the Dodgers.

According to a published report, the Nationals have offered Hudson $3 million, with incentives that could bring the value of the contract to $4 million.
Wow. Sorry about that O-Dog.

The Mets Had No Plan

This to me is the biggest news of the offseason so far when it comes to the Mets. According to Buster Olney (coming to us by way of Metsblog.com) the Mets are finished making moves this offseason:

The expectation within the Mets' organization is that the team has finished its winter spending, and this would seem to be confirmed by the Mets' reluctance to entertain an offer from catcher Yorvit Torrealba to play for the Mets on a one-year deal. Torrealba has a one-year offer from the Padres, but would rather play for the Mets -- but the Mets apparently have turned off the faucet.
I've had it. I'm fed up.

If the Mets are finished spending -- then why did they sign Jason Bay? And if they are not making a meaningful effort to contend this year, why are they backloading the Bay contract and crippling us from signing any impactful free agents in future years?

Bay by himself is not going to push us into contention. That is true regardless of whether you think Bay is a star or not.

Was the budget just really small and they blew it all on Bay? Or is it that they don't see any players worth spending for right now?

This indicates to me that the Mets are a rudderless organization. I have tried my best to avoid speculation on what the Mets are thinking, but to me, spending all that money on a player who might only help us win 84 games AND backloading that contract to almost $20 million dollars a year from 2011-2013 is organizational malfeasance to the highest degree.

You should either A) go for it or B) make as many well-reasoned and intelligent moves as possible which set you up for future success. The Mets have done neither this offseason thus far.[1]

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[1] Alex Cora, Frank Catalanotto, Fernando Tatis, Jason Bay, Chris Coste, Henry Blanco, Kelvim Escobar, Ryota Igarashi, Andy Green -- do any of these players figure to help out the Mets in 2011? Or 2012? Absolutely not. (And do not say Bay - because at $20 million per year, he will not be helping)

Are any of those players enough to help the Mets WIN NOW? Absolutely not.

A Cool Million

I've long since retired from playing video game baseball. When you dominated as much as I did in Triple Play 2001, there's no need to bore yourself any further. How much did I dominate? Not only did I win numerous World Championships, I personally threw five perfect games. Not only did I have talent, I had moxy. I charmed everyone with my post-game press conferences - I would always apologize to Padre fans for now supporting the only team to never throw a no-hitter, deep down beling relieved the Mets weren't relegated to the infamy. But like I said, I'm retired. Now I spend my days working on my Tiger Woods PGA Tour '10 game, and going home to The Sims: Urban Numbness.

But last week I got the itch again when 2K Sports announced that the first person who throws a perfect game in Major League Baseball 2K10 before May 2nd picks up a cool million dollars. But you need to videotape it. And you can't cheat. That last part I'm only assuming; technically nowhere in the rules does it say "do not cheat".

Ryan Garko Signs With Mariners for $550,000



I may be making a mountain out of a molehill here, but this particular transaction just drives me crazy. Garko is not going to make a huge difference in the standings. He's not an elite - or even very good - player. He was, however, a perfect fit for the Mets at this moment in time and instead signed for another team for absolutely dirt cheap.*

*Which reminds me, I need to get around to that "Biggest Man Crush Ever: Jack Zduriencik Edition" blog I have been meaning to write. I know it's been pointed out before what a great job he has been doing, but this is just getting ridiculous. But that is for another time.

Many people like to criticize Minaya in general: "Oh he fights the last war" or "He doesn't complement our stars properly" or what-have-you. I try not to do that. I try to be as specific as possible. This (apparent) lack of initiative regarding Garko is one of those things.

Monday, February 01, 2010

The Castillo Situation


I feel like this issue has already been discussed to death, but since it seems to be making the rounds again, I figure I might as well put the Fonzie Forever treatment on it. Here is a sampling of what has been said recently on the topic:

…like Matt has said over and over again, it would have just made baseball sense for the Mets to sign Hudson and bench Castillo… - Metsblog.com

If we cannot afford to release Luis Castillo and pay his salary without handcuffing the team on the field than we probably have bigger issues as an organization
* * *
Can't the Mets just go out and upgrade 2B, bring in Hudson, and put Castillo on the bench. $6 million on the bench may not be worth it, but isn't it about putting the best product on the field?
* * *
I hate to say this, but let's be a little more like the Yankees, call Castillo a bust, move him, eat the money and do what we have to do to WIN. - Caught Lookin'

The Mets would love to have Hudson, but they're still hamstrung by the absurd 4-year, $25 million contract GM Omar Minaya gave to Luis Castillo in Nov. '07, rendering him completely untradeable. - Sports Illustrated

Guys, come on. The Luis Castillo Situation ISN'T A PROBLEM. Allow me to explain.