Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Shredded Season Preview

I just read the 2011 Sports Illustrated Baseball Preview issue. After I soaked up their predictions (that had the Mets in last place at 74-88), and read their idiotic words regarding the Mets, I decided to rip it to shreds - literally (see picture above). I was going to immediately light it on fire, but decided it would be more fun - and more symbolic - if I brought it with me to Opening Day at Citi Field next Friday and set it aflame in the parking lot. Their piece on the Mets didn't offer any insight and didn't incite my anger, it was the quote from the "rival scout" that they attached to it that set me off. Observe this gem:

Their motto should be Trade Anybody - no one on the roster should be off limits. The system is thin at the minor league level. I don't see an impact player there, and they have to do something to change the climate. If they're smart, they would blow up the club and start over.

I'm at the point where I'm about to swear off all print journalism entirely. It's gotten that bad. There was an Editor at Sports Illustrated that signed off on this appearing in his or her magazine. And if this type of illogical, thoughtless nonsense is going to be printed, I refuse to read it. This "rival scout" obviously has zero knowledge of the farm system since Jenrry Mejia, Wilmer Flores, Cesar Puello, Reese Havens, and Matt Harvey are all potential "impact" players, of whom he claims the Mets have none. He calls the farm system "thin," without noting that Jonathon Niese, Ike Davis, Lucas Duda, Bobby Parnell, and Josh Thole were recently produced by that system. He says they'd be "smart" to "blow up the club and start over" by immediately dealing anyone on the roster.

If the Mets are out of contention at the All Star break, dealing Beltran makes sense (if he's healthy). Still, how much can be gotten for a perennial injury risk in the last year of his contract? Beyond that, who would it make sense to hastily trade? Johan Santana is not tradeable, neither is Francisco Rodriguez or Jason Bay. Aside from them, the majority of the "older" players are on 1 year deals - Scott Hairston, Chris Young, Chris Capuano, Tim Byrdak, etc. Should they trade RA Dickey? What would he bring back anyway? The rest of the players are in their 20's with varying degrees of upside, and other than the face of the franchise, cost next to nothing.

Should they trade Josh Thole? Ike Davis? Brad Emaus? David Wright? Angel Pagan? Mike Pelfrey? Jon Niese? Bobby Parnell? Pedro Beato? Daniel Murphy? Blaine Boyer? Jenrry Mejia? Matt Harvey? Wilmer Flores? I don't get it - and this scout isn't the only person who thinks the Mets should blindly "blow up" the roster, apparently not taking into account that the majority of the players who are signed beyond next year are both in their 20's and inexpensive. The only long term/high priced players are Jason Bay and Johan Santana. No one is taking those contracts. The other older players are either 1 year deals, moderately priced, or both. The rest are the names listed above. I simply can't fathom how it would make sense to deal productive Major Leaguers in their 20's for unprovens to "change the climate." The change that was needed (releasing Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez)has been taken care of.

The Mets won 70 games in 2009, and 79 in 2010. The offense projects to be much better in 2011, as does the bullpen. The rotation as a whole is deeper than it was entering 2010. There's new Management in the dugout and in the front office. Why would this team (barring catastrophic injuries) regress to the point of winning 74 games? It makes no sense whatsoever.

If the "experts" want to say that the Mets will win somewhere around 80 or 82 games, that's more than fair. They, like every other team in Baseball, have question marks. However, the constant doom and gloom articles that are getting churned out are so alike and so ridiculous that it seems as if the baseball writers of America have colluded for the sole purpose of hitting a franchise while it's down. I know that's an absurd thought, but that's what it feels like.

The other notion present in these doom and gloom pieces is the belief that the cloud of the silver haired swindler, Bernard Madoff, will haunt the Mets and make it impossible for them to lift their bats or close their gloves. The horror! Going hand in hand with the severe underrating of the Mets' on field personnel is this moronic belief that the players on the field give a damn about the Bernard Madoff issue. Yes, some of the players who are close with the Wilpon's will care (such as David Wright), but why would it have any impact on their on-field performance?

Let's put this out there for all to decide: If the Owners of your company were in some type of financial distress, but your job wasn't in danger, your title wasn't about to be changed, your salary wasn't being impacted, what you do on a daily basis was staying exactly the same, the location of your workplace wasn't changing, and the long-term prospects of your company were the same as when you were hired (regardless of if new Owners came in), would you care? Of course you wouldn't care. This is something the writers aren't able to grasp for some reason. The Madoff situation is a Public Relations nightmare, but the players don't care. The on field personnel is vastly improved, but the writers don't seem like they want to give the team any credit for putting a solid roster together. A positive or even fair story affects the hits their articles will receive, and the amount of attention they'll get on twitter.

If the Mets do what many fans think they can do, the writers will have no choice but to churn out positive and/or fair pieces. In the meantime, feel free to join me at Citi Field on Opening Day as I set the Sports Illustrated preview issue on fire, and watch it and the "experts'" opinions disappear as the 2011 Season gets underway.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The 2010 Mets and the 2011 Mets: Not the Same

Before I get into the meat of this post, I'd like everyone to take 10 seconds and try to remember who was in the Mets' Opening Day lineup last year. Now, please see below for the answer:

  1. Alex Cora SS

  2. Luis Castillo 2B

  3. David Wright 3B

  4. Mike Jacobs 1B

  5. Jason Bay LF

  6. Gary Matthews Jr CF

  7. Jeff Francoeur RF

  8. Rod Barajas C

Take a few moments to wipe the vomit from your mouth. Now realize this: The Las Vegas over/under win total for the 2010 Mets - the one that trotted out that deformity of an Opening Day lineup, was 81. EIGHTY ONE. The Las Vegas over/under win total for the 2011 Mets - the one that will trot out an Opening Day lineup that includes Jose Reyes, Brad Emaus, David Wright, Carlos Beltran, Ike Davis, Angel Pagan, Josh Thole, and potentially Jason Bay - who should be back sooner than later if he does miss any time? That over/under is 74.5...In the words of Lloyd Christmas when he thought that Mary Swanson's last name was actually Samsonite, something seems "way off."

There are those out there (fans, bloggers, media) who do believe the 2011 Mets will be improved and may surprise. But the majority is of the belief that they won't even compete. That they'll finish dead last. Below the Nationals. The Nationals, whose Opening Day starter is Livan Hernandez. While everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, it seems to me that the Mets are being treated quite unfairly. That the media has found what they believe to be a punching bag, a team that has shots taken at it nearly every day. Frank Robinson came out of nowhere today to say that the 2011 Mets are in worse shape than the 2002 Montreal Expos - The team that was about to be contracted, and was eventually moved to Washington, DC. I'm not even going to get into a debate regarding that, because Robinson's idiotic assertion doesn't merit one. Sports Illustrated has picked the Mets to finish last, with 74 wins. Adam Rubin, by far the most respected beat writer out there, has lowered his expected 2011 Mets win total to 76.

What have the Mets done between 2010 and 2011 to result in the expectations being this low, to cause my UPS delivery man to ask me quizically "really bro, the Mets" when he delivered my ticket package? Their expected 2010 win total was 81, and they won 79 games. Not far off. Then, this happened: They fired their incompetent Manager and replaced him with someone who has a reputation for being way above average tactically, and who has a reputation for having so called "fire." They did not go the Bob Melvin milquetoast route. They fired their maligned General Manager, and replaced him with one of the most well respected men in Major League Baseball. They released the two players who were dreadful on the field, and hurt the team from a PR standpoint off the field. They didn't make any bad trades or bad signings. The Bernard Madoff situation is out there, but I simply don't think the players give a damn. And I certainly don't think it will negatively impact performance. It almost seems as though the columnists and prognosticators want it to, just so they can smile at the end of the year in the event that their predictions come true.

The Mets enter the 2011 season with a lineup that should be vastly superior than the 2010 edition, a bullpen that has been rebuilt with mainly high upside arms, and a rotation that is stronger top to bottom than the one that opened the 2010 campaign. Yes, Johan Santana not being available until June at the earliest is a blow. However, the rotation for 2011 projects to be Mike Pelfrey, RA Dickey, Jon Niese, Chris Young, and Chris Capuano. There are concerns, no doubt. But that rotation from top to bottom is better than the one that opened the 2010 season - Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, John Maine, Oliver Perez, and Jon Niese (then an unproven rookie). In addition, the Mets have much better insurance at AAA in the form of Dillon Gee, Boof Bonser, and Jenrry Mejia.

No one knows what 2011 will bring, but it's clear to me (and most Mets fans who aren't blinded by negativity), that the team is headed in the right direction - not backwards, as so many are predicting. For those of you who want to question why I'm a Mets fan, save it. The better question is why aren't you? I've lived in New York City since I was born, and from what I've seen and the people I've encountered, Mets fans are a whole different breed. We don't give up, we don't waver, we don't lower our passion level because someone asks us to. Root for your team, and I'll do the same. We'll see how everything shakes out come October.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Forget the Negativity

With the spike in popularity of blogs over the last few years, it should be easy for most serious Mets fans to ignore the uninformed spittle that drips from the mouth's (or fingertips) of a majority of the so called "experts" in our midst. Whether the negativity is planted in our daily papers, voiced on SNY, or tweeted (two of the most obnoxious offenders are Dave Lennon and Steve Popper), the presence of it makes something clear: The majority of the level-headed (and most informed) commentary comes from our own - fellow fans. However, when blind negativity is voiced by one of our own - and is given play on Metsblog, it's especially grating.

Today, 8 days from Opening Day, the following quote appeared in a piece by David Daniels from

Let’s see… Johan Santana may be out for the year, Carlos Beltran is one slide away form blowing out both knees, Jose Reyes is one hard run from blowing out a
hammy, and Krod is one fight away from prison. We have a rookie catcher, two pitchers coming back from Tommy John surgery, Mike Pelfrey’s Psychiatrist passed
away so the yips may be back, the franchise 3rd baseman has yet to step up and be a leader, an ongoing hole at 2nd base and the team can’t/won’t be spending any money anytime soon. Did I miss something?

As seen above, anyone can find negative spin if they're searching for it. However, the foolishness displayed above is absurd. The writer argues that Jose Reyes is "one hard run from blowing out a hammy." Who isn't? He intimates that Francisco Rodriguez may go to jail if he assaults someone. Who wouldn't? He makes a baseless accusation about David Wright, somehow turns Luis Castillo being released (and second base being taken over by someone with actual upside) into a negative, and asserts what the financial situation will be as if he's Sandy Alderson. In the rest of the piece, the writer attempts to speak of the Madoff situation as if he's an authority on the subject - and can tell the future. He isn't, and he can't.

Anyway, the point here isn't that David Daniels from is ridiculously negative about the 2011 campaign. The point is that his claim - that the Mets have no shot at making the Playoffs - seems to be the belief of far too many (both media and fans). Why is that? It certainly can't be the projected 25 man roster. Even those who rarely allow an optimistic thought to cross their mind have to allow for the possibility that a team that won 79 games last year could scrape some more wins together and have a win total in the mid or high 80's. And if that happened, they'd be contenders.

While I'm confident that my evaluation of the team is level-headed, and most die-hard fans have the ability to ignore the sky-is-falling mentality, it's clear that the coverage of the team is negatively affecting a large portion of the fanbase. Negativity sells. It's what draws listeners to Mike Francesa's show. It's shocking to me that a team that averaged 90 wins per year from 2005-2008 (before succumbing to injuries in 2009 and having a sub-par year in 2010), is now being treated as if it's the Pittsburgh Pirates or Kansas City Royals. And it's worrisome that one of the main things that can help bring financial stability to the franchise - the potential of fans in the seats - is being sabotaged before the season begins.

Allow me to re-write the paragraph from David Daniels from the point of view of a realist. Not an optimist, but a realist:

Let’s see… Johan Santana is out until late June at the earliest. His rehab is moving along, though. If Santana comes back this season, it'd be great. If not, one could argue that the added offense, more stable bullpen, and a Manager who actually knows how to Manage may offset the absence of Santana. Carlos Beltran's knees are still giving him trouble, and he's unlikely to ever be the MVP caliber player he was in 2006. Fortunately,Sandy Alderson has prepared for the likelihood that Beltran will miss time in 2011 by filling in the roster appropriately. Jose Reyes, like every other human being on Earth, is one hard run from blowing a hammy. Let's hope he doesn't. K-Rod is one fight away from prison, as are most people who are forced to obey laws. We have a rookie catcher with tons of promise who has focused on improving his defense, two pitchers coming back from Tommy John surgery who aren't being counted on to anchor the rotation and who have adequate replacements waiting in the minors should they re-injure themselves. Mike Pelfrey’s Psychiatrist passed away, which is terrible. Prayers go out to the man's family. The franchise's 3rd baseman has been a leader by example, an ongoing hole at 2nd base was filled when the team cut Luis Castillo and replaced him with someone who actually has upside,and Sandy Alderson noted today that the money to add a piece at the deadline would be there should the Mets be in contention. Did I miss something?

How easy was that? And that's just being realistic.

I'm not asking the Media and the fans who take them at face value to make everything sound optimistic. And I'm not asking them to stop printing pieces that are designed to catch eyeballs. What I'm asking is for them to once in a while, simply cover the team. Report the facts. One of the Mets' beat guys does this, the rest not so much. It's turned into a vicious cycle. The media spews negativity, often reporting things incorrectly. The fans react to it by venting on SNY and WFAN and Twitter. And by blogging about it. The writers then cite the venting they themselves caused as one of the reasons the team is in so called "disarray."

The team isn't in disarray. The season hasn't even started.

Until the media considers fair coverage, the Mets will simply have to be the Jake Taylor to their Rachel Phelps.

Get at it, boys.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Legs of The Franchise

He first flashed before our eyes as a Met in Texas in June of 2003, at just 19 years old. His arrival was the result of an injury that was sustained by Rey "the barber" Sanchez. In that first game, Reyes had two hits and displayed the promise that would soon mold him into one of the better all around players in baseball.

In the years that followed, Reyes overcame a rash of lower body injuries, and eventually became the main attraction at Shea Stadium. "Come on out to Shea and see Jose Reyes run," was bellowed on a nightly basis by the eternally over-exuberant but harmless Fran Healy. And the fans listened. They came on out to Shea. Jose Reyes stole bases at will. He turned routine groundouts into singles. Singles into doubles. Doubles into triples. He struck fear into the opposing pitcher every time he reached base. He displayed a cannon for an arm at shortstop, eventually harnessing his boundless energy and turning into one of the better defensive shortstops in baseball.

Jose Reyes rose with the Mets (or was it the other way around) from the wreckage that was 2002-2004, and was a key member of the team that averaged 90 wins a season from 2005 to 2008. We all know what has happened since then. The injury riddled campaign (for Reyes and everyone else) in 2009, and last year's 79-83 finish.

2011 is viewed by some as a transition year, and others as a year where the Mets may contend. However, it's being overshadowed by the Bernard Madoff situation and the uncertainty about Jose Reyes' future. Entering the last year of his contract, the debate rages over Reyes. Will he price himself out of the Mets' range? Is he worth what he'll be asking? Is he Sandy Alderson's "type of player?" Should the Mets trade him mid-season? Will he stay healthy?

To me, the only question that matters is the last one - Will Jose Reyes stay healthy. If he does, this is what he averages over a 162 game season:

.286 Average
33 Doubles
15 Triples
13 Home Runs
196 Hits
111 Runs
58 Stolen Bases

...That's Jose Reyes' average season. If he isn't Alderson's "type of player," then Alderson isn't my type of General Manager. Players who put up numbers like that are extraordinarily rare. When you add those numbers to the fact that Jose Reyes plays a premium position at a Gold Glove level, he becomes that much more indispensable. And when you attach all of his on field value to the fact that he's a homegrown Met - a fan favorite whose destiny is to team up with David Wright to shatter every one of the Mets' offensive records and lead this team to a Championship - letting Reyes go (via trade or free agency) becomes reckless. It borders on idiotic. Letting a healthy Jose Reyes go would be an enormous detriment to the Mets on the field, and it would slice through a fan base that is currently hanging by a thread.

A majority of fans are swayed by how the media covers this team. While that's unfortunate, it's reality. And the media has been skewering the Mets for the better part of three years. Their coverage, coupled with the Bernard Madoff situation, has left many Mets fans more pessimistic than they've been in over a decade. Considering the product the Mets are putting on the field - a product I feel can easily contend for the Wild Card - the pessimism seems misguided. However, as was stated above, it's still there. The only thing that will change that perception is winning. And if the Mets intend to win, it's in their best interest to have Jose Reyes at the top of the lineup (both this season and beyond).

This Winter, the front office sold the fanbase on the fact that because of previous contractual obligations, the team wouldn't have much money to spend on new contracts for the 2011 season. That was understood, and they've done a solid job adding pieces to a team that has the potential to surprise. After 2011, the Mets have at least 40 million dollars coming off the books - a number that would reach nearly 60 million if Francisco Rodriguez's option doesn't vest. There is no possible way Sandy Alderson and the Mets will be able to sell the fanbase on trading a healthy Jose Reyes during the season, or letting him walk away after it.

At the moment, the Mets are viewed as a team in disarray (even though I would strongly argue that perception). Ticket sales have dropped considerably. Tickets that were once coveted (Opening Day), leading to raffles for the right to purchase them, will now be available when the rest of the ticket inventory goes on sale on March 14th. On top of that, is the debate over Reyes.

David Wright is widely regarded as the face of the franchise. He grew up a Mets fan in Virginia, runs his own charity, is accessible to the media. Reyes' voice has been quieter than Wright's, mostly because he only recently became comfortable enough with the English language to begin giving full interviews in English. And that's a credit to Reyes' desire to learn the language.

While Wright may be the public face of the franchise, Reyes is its legs. He's the one who makes the lineup go. He's the second piece of the Mets' homegrown All-Star left side of the infield. Like Wright, he lives for the game. The joy drips off him nearly every time we see him on the diamond. Every time he smacks a ball into the gap or down the line, the crowd rises in unison as they wait for Reyes to kick it into high gear before sliding head first into third base. Reyes is the dancer, the hand shake connoisseur, the straw that stirs the drink. And like David Wright, Jose Reyes IS the Mets. He belongs in Orange and Blue. I can't imagine the Mets without Jose Reyes. It's not something I want to fathom, and it's not something I ever want to deal with.

What Sandy Alderson and the rest of the Front Office need to realize (if they haven't already), is that this fanbase has been knocked down repeatedly over the last few years and still gotten up. Losing a healthy Jose Reyes for any reason would not only imperil the team's chances on the field, it would cause a large portion of the fanbase to take that hit and stay down. A healthy Jose Reyes would likely mean a contending Mets team in 2011. And a contending Mets team has no business dealing Jose Reyes or letting him walk away after a successful campaign.

Jose: Stay healthy and do what you always do.

Hopefully, the rest will take care of itself.