Chuck 'n' Duck

"I'm a very optimistic person. When you're optimistic, the good opportunities, good fortune, good everything will come with it." - Jae Seo Chuck 'n' Duck: the New York Mets from an Eternal Optimist's P.O.V.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Fearless Predictions

Not much in the way of Mets news, so I figure I'll go ahead and make some fearless predicitions for the upcoming season.


Victor Zambrano will win 15+ games.
As I've said in the past, I like Victor Zambrano. As a fan of pitching even more than baseball, I've spent endless hours watching pitchers, mechanisms, speeds and movement. What most Mets fans don't realize is that Zambrano has some of the nastiest stuff in the game. Not in the NL East, not in the National League, but in the entire Major Leagues. There's a reason that everybody who uses baseball to make a living say "If he could control his pitches, he'd be dominant" and it's because it's true. If Zambrano is healthy, and I do believe he will be, he will make his 30 starts and he will be one of the better pitchers in the National League next season. Peterson will be praised for teaching Zambrano to use his natual movement to his benefit, and this will be the move that solidifies Peterson as the Mets pitching coach for the next ten years.

Cliff Floyd will get, at least, 450 at-bats.
Floyd'll be healthy this year for the simple fact that he has to be. After an offseason of trade rumors and a new workout routine, Floyd showed up at camp determined and jacked. There is no way he makes it through an entire season without even a small injury, a tweaking of a muscle or a jamming of a finger, but Floyd will start the majority of the games and collect, at least, 450 ABs. His numbers will be closer to his 2002 campaign (.288, 28, 79) then his 2001 (.317, 31, 103), but he'll be a consistent lefty presence in the lineup.

Mike Cameron will be traded in May.
For bullpen help. Three people will be happy with the value we recieve back. I'll be happy, because Victor Diaz will get his at-bats.

Kris Benson still won't be all that special.
I just don't see this happening. There are guys who have it, and there are guys who don't. And the MLB is littered with guys who can go stretches looking dominant, and then have stretches where they look pedestrian (Ted Lilly immediately leaps to mind. Brett Tomko, as well. I'm sure you can think of others), and I fear that's what Benson is. Not to say that this is a bad thing, baseball teams need guys like this as well. I can see Benson winning 12 or 13 games, a 4.00 ERA, and dropping down to the number five starter by half season. Omar will take a bit of a hit for overpaying for him, but it'll be his only real mistake of the offseason.

David Wright will hit third, Carlos Beltran will hit second.
Not right off the bat, mind you, but eventually this will happen. There's a reason Beltran hit in the two-hole for the Royals for the majority of his career, and it's because Carlos isn't a 40 HR guy. He's a solid hitter, an extra-base machine, and terror on the bases. Which is pretty much the definition of a two-hitter for me. Wright will work his way up from the sixth or seventh spot by midseason, and Willie will have the good sense to hit him where he should be. I'm expecting big things from a pressure-free Wright -- something in the area of .290, 35, 100, and with a lot more plate discipline than he exhibited in the bigs last year.

Lastings Milledge will have a huge year.
Milledge, who up to this point has played well, is going to bust out this year. The excitement Reyes, Wright and Kazmir garnered will pale in comparison. Milledge will hit around .340, he'll exhibit more power, more extra-base ability, and even work on taking that ever elusive walk. And he'll steal a ton of bases, which will catch the eye of Omar Minaya. Milledge will be the biggest thing since Strawberry, and everyone in baseball will know his name by July. Gaby Hernandez will become the next top Mets pitching prospect, over Humber, Petit and Soler. He'll be lights out wherever he goes this year.

There will be an "Oh My God" trade at the deadline.
I don't know if it'll be good or bad, but if Omar Minaya exhibited anything in his time with Montreal, it's this: if he's close he's going for it. Whether it be Bartolo Colon or Cliff Floyd, Minaya went after players he thought were going to help him reach the postseason. With the Mets close at the All-Star break, Minaya will make a trade for a rightfield bat (somebody like Carlos Lee) or another arm for the rotation (Javier Vazquez). Somebody like Petit or Concepcion will be gone in the trade, and Mets fan will be outraged.

The Mets will finish third.
The Marlins will take the division, the Braves will be right behind them. Marlins will finish at 91-71, the Braves at 89-73, the Mets at 88-74. It will be disappointing for everyone, as it came down to the wire, but the Mets will have the most promising future of the teams that finished ahead of them, and, for the first time in recent memory, will be labeled a "one or two players away from contending" team. And it will be glorious.

Mike Piazza retires.
While he puts up decent numbers (.280, 25, 80), he decides at the end that he'd rather go out as a catcher than a DH in the American League. He'll announce it in July, and the Mets will send him off like the O's did Ripken. Realizing how much he meant to the organization, the Mets will retire his number. He'll go into the Hall of Fame as a Met. Omar will promptly replace him with Ramon Hernandez.

**

Edit: When you have time, read this article. It's an extremely well-written and in-depth look into the Mets offseason, and shows a lot of different aspects of the organization and the players in it. It's a great piece, pretty long, but well worth the time.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

The Power of Pena

Little known fact: When I was young, my favorite non-Met player was Rob Deer. This was before I was aware of things like on base percentage or batting average or even hits. I knew what players on the baseball cards looked cool, and I knew who hit a lot of homeruns, and Deer covered both. Like any other young, red-blooded American boy, I dug the longball. And when I would wake up, and watch This Week in Baseball, and saw Rob Deer hitting 450 feet bombs, I instantly found my guy.

There's few players who hit with straight-up power. There are guys like Paul Konerko and Moises Alou, guys who hit homeruns and that's it. And then there are guys like Deer, or Adam Dunn, or Jim Thome, who go up to the plate looking to hit a ball 850 feet and make your jaw drop with the contact they make. Those kind of guys always impressed me.

Wily Mo Pena is one of those guys.

Given the nickname "the next Sammy Sosa" back when he was 16 and Sosa was still good, Pena has somewhat lived up to that moniker. While he hasn't hit for the average, or the on base percentage, or hasn't really hit for much of anything -- his power has shone through. Every 12.9 at-bats last season Wily Mo hit a homerun. At age 22. Pena's former manager, Bob Boone, had this to say about the slugger: "His tools are almost off the chart... at the Hall of Fame, great, great player level. But he's got a lot of learning about baseball to do."

And therein lies the dilemma. In the deal that Pena signed with the Yankees in 1999, he had a timetable of but four years in the minors before being exposed to waivers. This means that any team that takes on Pena is forced to keep him on their active roster. While another season, or even two, at AAA might make Pena a better player, there's no chance of him getting that seasoning. If the Mets were to take on Pena in a trade, as Peter Gammons stated yesterday that they are interested in, he would automatically make the 25-man roster at the start of the season. Whether he played rightfield or not would be another story. The fact remains that Pena has got the tools. He's pretty fast for a guy his size (6'3", 220) , and has a Richard Hidalgo like gun for an arm. His defense is questionable, and his hitting skills are not quite MLB-ready, but both of those things he can work on. And the power is there. Oh my, is the power ever there.

Quite frankly, I want Wily Mo Pena on the Mets. I know I've said in the past that Mike Cameron -- and his defense -- in rightfield is the way to go for now. But I'm taking that back, at risk of getting ripped by guys like Jeremy and Matt. There was once a time when Sammy Sosa was 22, in the bigs before he was ready, and hit ten homeruns in 316 at-bats. At the same age, Pena has hit 26 in twenty more at-bats. I just know Pena is going to be a superstar slugger. His work ethic, and determination to better himself as a ballplayer, is similar to that of David Wright's. He's been praised as a guy dedicated to be the best he can possibly be, and with his abilities, that's something the Mets can't pass up grabbing.

I'm all for a trade for Pena, and I'm all for slotting him in rightfield next year. It may be a controversial move, and it will have it's detractors. But in three years, when Wily Mo is coming off a .280, 45, 120 season for the New York Mets, nobody will be owning up to turning this deal down.

**

Has anybody seen Matt Morris recently? Guy looks like Tom Hanks in Cast Away. It's nice to see those Beards of the 80's returning.

Wily Whoa Pena

I'm pretty busy today, so I'll have something up by tonight.

But for now:

title or description

Wily Mo Pena is brolic, and I want him on this team.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Zambrano Express

Edit: I slipped on ice and find myself, as Johnny Knoxville once said, "concussed". So, I probably won't have anything up today. Feel free to re-read this post, however!


There once was this pitcher on the Mets, a long while ago, with a powerful right arm and a lot of movement on his pitches. He was young and he was wild and he wasn't likely to ever crack the rotation, and so he was traded off with a package of other no-big-deal players. His name was Nolan Ryan.

After being dealt away to the Angels, he met his coach Tom Morgan, who deemed Ryan his "special project". Morgan taught him how to work against his wildness, got him regular work, worked out mechanical flaws and not get so excited when things go bad. 5,714 strikeouts, 324 wins and seven no-hitters later, Nolan Ryan is one of the greatest pitches the game has ever seen.

What does this have to do with the Mets, besides the fact that it is one of the most dumbfounding trades they've ever made? Victor Zambrano is pretty similar.

Not that I'm saying that Zambrano is going to win 324 games or throw seven no-hitters, but the Mets have something special in the power and wildness of that right arm. For those of you who have forgotten all three of Zambrano's starts with the Mets, he has a 92-94 sinking fastball, as well as a changeup and a slider, all of which are excellent pitches. What Victor doesn't have is any idea where the plate is.

If you check out his player page at ESPN.com, his scouting report lists some flaws: He has trouble with his command and tends to finesse hitters by working the corners instead of challenging them with his nasty arsenal. His pitch counts can be outrageous because he falls behind in the count, which leads to an excessive number of walks. If he would trust his stuff and go after hitters on a consistent basis, Zambrano could be dominant. His problem comes from allowing his emotions to carry over and affect his concentration. Essientially, these are the same problems that Ryan had fixed that turned him into the pitcher he became. And Tom Morgan was no Rick Peterson.

There's a lot of things going for Zambrano this season.

One, he doesn't have any expectations on him. If the Mets didn't go out and get Pedro this year, then there may be a mob of Kazmir fans breathing down Zambrano's back this season, expecting Randy Johnson numbers out of the guy. But Pedro's here, and Zambrano's a third, or even a fourth, starter. This gives him the ability to go out and pitch in some smaller deal games. There's still going to be those people that will be ready to pounce the second he gives up six runs in two innings because of the trade, but that number has lessened drastically over the offseason.
Two, Pedro Martinez. If there's any pitcher in baseball that Victor could learn something from, it's Pedro. Pedro speaks his native language, battled control problems when he was younger, and is one of the most dominant pitchers in MLB history. Pedro's already said he wants to help out Victor, and that can do nothing but help the guy.

Three, Rick Peterson. For as much joking has been done at Rick Peterson's "I can fix the guy in ten minutes" quote (which he claims was never said), the early returns looked pretty good. Zambrano's record as a Met is still 2-0, with a 3.86 ERA and a K an inning. Certainly not bad numbers, and projected over a full season the guy's a thirty game winner! Peterson does have a track record of success, as well. His work with the A's is quite noted, but Braden Looper credits him for his turnaround last season, and Mike DeJean was lights out after a few Peterson adjustments. Zambrano will be his first big test, and I have faith in both.

For all the complaining Mets fans have done about the loss of Scott Kazmir, there has been very little but negativity over Zambrano. There is no one in baseball that doubts the guy's potential, his pitches have been called anything from "nasty" to "filthy", and Lou Pinella, his former manager and the guy that runs the team Kazmir's now on said on Mike and the Mad Dog a couple weeks ago: "You know, Zambrano's a good pitcher. I know the Mets fans think they got the worst of the deal. Kazmir's got the ability to be a starter at the big league level for quite a few years, maybe he's not quite ready to be pitching at the big league level this year, we might have to rush him. But if we had the luxury to pitch him in AAA for a season, we would. Zambrano is a good pitcher, he was my best pitcher in Tampa Bay for two years, he beat the Yankees three times last year." And on walking too many guys, "I was talking about that to Willie Randolph, and he's gonna throw more strikes. The pitch count, it gets deep into the hundreds by the sixth inning, but I'll tell you, the guy's got good stuff. He's got a live fastball with movement, he's got a great slider, and you can pitch this guy out of the bullpen, you can start him, and he'll do a great job for you."

There are a few kinks in his delivery and his makeup, but they are all fixable according to those who know better than I. If he is able to finally live up to the potential that he has, it will be a great season for Mets fans. With a starter like Pedro, a number two like Glavine, and two potentiall good to great arms in Benson and Zambrano, the Mets have a deeper rotation than most in baseball. But
whether we like it or not, Victor Zambrano is a member of the Mets rotation for, at the very least, the next two seasons.

Just keep in mind, there were some angry people in Anaheim when Jim Fregosi was traded away.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The Countdown

Why is today special? Because it's only five days until March 1st. Why is March 1st so special?

Because that's Tim Hudson's deadline for a deal. After March 1st, it's over for the Braves, and they have just as good a chance to land Hudson as any other team in baseball when he hits free agency.

If you look at the Braves closely, this team is relying on two things: Tim Hudson and John Smoltz. Their two top offensive players are those freakin' Jones boys, Andruw (29 HRs, 149 hits in 570 at-bats) and Chipper (30 HRs, 117 hits in 472 at-bats). Marcus Giles and Rafael Furcal are more than likely going to get on base, but thus far neither have been RBI threats during their time on the Braves. So it is up Hudson and Smoltz, and a group of lesser pitchers in Hampton, Thomson and Ramirez.

Hudson is being relied on to be the ace of this staff, the lock of the rotation. In his time with the A's, he was a reliable and efficient starter, and was considered the "ace" of the three aces. Just like Pedro, Hudson will be coming to the NL, where he won't have to face the DH, and, right now, looks like Pedro's major competition for the NL Cy Young. The best thing to happen for the Mets right now is for Schuerholz to realize that he doesn't have the money to keep Tim Hudson, and to let him know that within the next week. Then, Hudson can pitch his games, and hit free agency, and come to the Mets to replace Tom Glavine next year. Or something along those lines, I don't know, just thinkin' off the top of my head here.

John Smoltz is far more of a question mark. I don't buy the belief that simply because this guy was a dominant closer that will make him a dominant starter. For one, Smoltz will be turning thirty-eight years old in July. Secondly, Smoltz was a closer the past three seasons for a reason, and it isn't because he liked it. In 1999, John Smoltz underwent Tommy John surgery, missing the entire 2000 season. After returning, Smoltz got knocked around, and bumped to the bullpen to regain his arm strength. Four years later, he's returned to the rotation. While Smoltz used to be a workhorse, he has not thrown over 200 innings in six seasons. No one knows what to expect from Smoltz, but a lot of people are expecting good things to come of him. I just don't see why a 38 year old pitcher who hasn't started in four years, with a history of elbow problems, is seen as a reliable number two.

The Braves need Hudson and Smoltz to come up big, or this just may be the year they miss out. The bullpen doesn't look to be nearly as tough as it has been in the past, especially with Danny Kolb now closing games (21 K's in 57.3 innings pitched? Really?), and the offense has a lot of question marks past the top two guys.

But I'm not going to be the guy to bet against the Braves. Maybe that's what needs to happen for them to finally lose.


***

From the NY Post: Fred Wilpon said there's "no exact timetable" on a new stadium, but noted the Mets are back planning with the New York. Wilpon also apparently has a high regard for OF Victor Diaz. In talking about the Mets' young players now versus a year ago, he said, "Who would have ever thought a year ago at this time that David [Wright] would be the third baseman? And I don't think anyone thought a year ago at this time that Victor Diaz is going to be a force."

*raises hand*

I did!

If you haven't gathered, I like Victor Diaz a lot. And with all signs pointing to Mike Cameron not being ready for Opening Day, I fully expect to see Diaz manning rightfield for the first fifteen or twenty games or so. That should net him another 65-70 big league at-bats, and that should be good for 17 or 18 homers and 40+ RBIs. Because the kid is a force!

***

Full-squad workouts start tomorrow, people. This is it, the day we've all been waiting for. Not just pitchers, not just catchers, the whole shebang. Beltran and Piazza, Reyes and Wright, Matsui and Floyd, and my boy Douggie Mientkiewicz. This is the first official day of New York Mets Baseball 2005: It's All Uphill From Here!

Monday, February 21, 2005

The Big Red Rightfielder

Every year, without fail, someone comes back from the proverbial dead, to regain their status as a top player in Major League Baseball. Sometimes it's a guy like Orlando Hernandez, missing an entire season only to return to the Yankees and be their best starter down the stretch last year. Sometimes a guy like Tim Salmon in 2002 when he was considered finished, only to put up big numbers and help the Angels win the World Series. And sometimes it's a guy like JD Drew, one of those players that just needed a full, healthy season to put up the numbers they were supposed to all along.

Perhaps, it's finally Cliff Floyd's turn.

Cliff Floyd could have a major chip on his shoulder right now if he wanted to. Traded from the Florida Marlins in 2002 to the Montreal Expos, and then to the Red Sox, Floyd went into that offseason and signed what was, at the time, a pretty fair deal. Four years and 32 million for a corner outfielder that averaged 538 at-bats, 30 homers and 90 RBIs the previous two years. The Mets filled a need, and Floyd found a home, -- only to injure himself, go 66-95, and watch his former miserable team, the Marlins, win a World Series. The next year brought more of the same, 91 losses and an injury shortened season, only to watch a team he passed up during his free agency, the Red Sox win the World Series. Meanwhile, all this offseason his name has been brought up in trade rumors for irritable declining rightfielders or bullpen help.

Floyd could have a chip on his shoulder, but he doesn't. He could be upset, angered or not even care. But he's none of those things. If anything, he's determined: "If you have any heart or character, you want to prove to the team and the city that you can produce and be part of team and help it win games. You don't want to be guy who comes in, gets his money and escapes. I still have something to prove to the fans that backed me and everyone else who backed me through tough times. I was willing and ready to come back. It didn't feel right if got traded. I'd be mad. Not mad at the fact that I got traded. Mad that I didn't get the chance to show what I was capable of doing. And after the additions we made, you would be crazy to think about trade."

If the Mets need anything this season, it's for Floyd to finally be the big lefthanded bat they thought they were getting two years ago. Cliff's always been a determined, team-first sort of guy (as evidenced by playing injured in the 2003 season, even though the team was way out of contention), and to trade him off now would be foolish, as whatever the Mets would get in return would not be worth what the Mets could get production-wise out of a healthy Floyd. With all the injuries, some assume Floyd to be finished, but many forget the guy is still only 32 years old, what most players/scouts assume to be the last of the "prime years". Floyd's still young, still a threat with the bat, and still lefthanded. If he could make it through the season healthy for the first time in his two year Met career, it could mean big things for this ballclub. Carlos Beltran isn't going to go out and hit a ton of homeruns, and Mike Piazza may not either. But three guys with the ability to hit thirty homers in the three, four and five spots (with a possible 25-30 out of David Wright in the sixth) makes for a pretty imposing middle of the lineup. And although I don't expect Cameron to hit thirty again, he too is now a thirty homer threat.

So, even with the acquisition of Carlos Beltran, Cliff Floyd remains a very key part of this lineup. And a healthy Floyd could by all means rope the NL Comeback Player of the Year award (as long as Griffey doesn't bump his trends as well next season), but more importantly he could help rope something even bigger.

First place in the NL East.

Sidenote: Thanks to all those who commented the past couple days. Great feedback. I still find myself unable to agree with the rules, but that's just my opinion. Don't get me wrong, I still have no doubt Willie will be a good manager for this team, regardless. I would just liked to have seen him develop his own kind of team without taking a familair foe's one.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Meet the... Yanks?

New rules: One of the rules Randolph brought with him from the Yankees was the one about how no one was allowed to have facial hair other than a mustache. As a result, there were several players taking out the clippers to cut off a variety of beards and goatees. The most interesting chop belonged to Matt Ginter, who had to shave the lengthy, bushy goatee that gave him a bit of an intimidating look.

I was just starting to like Willie Randolph, too.

Being born in New York, you have a choice of two teams. One is the Yankees, and one is the Mets. The Yankees, through their history, have been the clean-cut and the professionals. They have a storied history of success and being the well-oiled machine, picking smaller teams apart and always coming up big when it counts. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Derek Jeter, all professionals who've won big and often. Why would anyone in their right mind from New York possibly pick any other team but this one?

Maybe because the Mets aren't the Yankees. The Mets aren't clean-cut, and never have been. They are the underdogs and wild men. They're gritty, they're tough and they're grinders. Lenny Dykstra covered in dirt. Wally Backman taking a guy out at the knees to break up a double play. Ty Wigginton plowing a catcher over to score a run. These are not the mental images that come to mind when you think Yankees. These are the things you think of when you hear Mets. At least, that's how I've always felt.

When Willie Randolph wanted to be the Mets manager, I was okay with that. People on the FAN would call up and tear him to shreds for his years and years as a Yankee, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Because Willie Randolph wanted to be the Mets manager. Did I expect some Yankee to carry over? Absolutely, it's practically all the guy knows. But to try and change what the Mets are, to give them the identity of the Yankees is ridiculous.

The Mets spent $196.9 million dollars this offseason to break out of the Yankees shadow and to win on their own terms. Not to have a Yankee come in and steer the ship in that direction. How is this going to help Mets fans face Yankees fans during the year? While we watch our team, emulating their team? Is that supposed to make us feel superior? I don't care what name it's given, if it's for "team unity" or "professionalism", this is a dumb move. Were the Red Sox not unified when they won the World Series last year? Were they not professionals, defeating the Yankees in a seven game series? Were the Houston Astros, who came within one win of the World Series not either?

Maybe, to me, a guy who spent two years at a boarding school where everyone had to shave daily, it's a bigger deal than most. I'm aware that in the grand scheme of things, this doesn't matter. I realize that it's just facial hair, and it's not that big of a deal.

But the Mets haven't had an consistent identity ever. While the Yankees have a look, an aura, the Mets have faces -- faces of Seaver and Hernandez, of Piazza and Strawberry. It takes time to develop an attitude, a charisma, and an overall seperate identity. And, to me, having the Mets just take on the identity of the Yankees makes no sense.

Inferiority and immitation is not an identity that I look for in my baseball team.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Passing of Piazza

EDIT: I swear I wrote this before every newspaper in New York decided to do this exact same article. You can check the timestamp!

A weird thing has been happening the past couple days. I've been realizing it as articles have been coming out listing questions the Mets need to answer, or while people write in their blogs about things that need to be done. Today, while speaking to a couple of my friends, I brought up that the Mets had a decent shot at the NL Wild Card, to which my buddy Roger responded, "Yeah, if Pedro's arm doesn't fall off." And it hit me.

This team no longer lives and dies by Mike Piazza.

It's strange, isn't it? I've been watching Mets baseball for a long time now, but my hardcore years started with the acquisition of our favorite catcher in '98, and since that day (May 22nd, to be exact), this team has had Mike Piazza at the forefront. Even though Piazza has always been the reluctant face of the organization, he's inarguably the one that this team has revolved around for years. If Piazza went down with an injury, you could see a collective slumping of shoulders from Montauk to Buffalo. Mike wasn't just part of the Mets, he was the Mets. Funny what a little aging can do to you.

Now, but a year removed from being the glue holding together the Mets lineup, Piazza is an afterthought. Will Pedro Martinez's transition to the National League go well? Can Jose Reyes stay healthy? How will David Wright's sophmore season go? Will Carlos Beltran remain a good hitter with a move to Shea? Was Victor Zambrano worth the deal? Piazza barely cracks the top five Spring Training concerns this year, something that is shocking seeing that he is our number four hitter coming off back to back injury shortened seasons, and even more shocking because he's Mike freakin' Piazza.

But for the first time in a long time, Piazza is no longer the face of the Mets. He will no longer be that one key spot in the lineup. He will be just your average player, a blip on the radar. It's something he's wanted to be for a long time. Perhaps finally giving him that wish will unlock a Piazza we saw once, long ago. With this all in mind, how will Piazza respond? Does he have one more .300, 30 HR, 100 RBI season in him? More than likely not. But can he put up .280, 25 homers and 80+ RBI? It's a distinct possibility. And if David Wright can put up similar numbers to what he put up last year over a full season, we have a pretty good 1-5. And if Cliff "Glass" Floyd can just one time stay healthy, we have an even better lineup.

Regardless of whether or not Piazza responds with a grand finale, this is more than likely his last season with the Mets. Omar Minaya has shown that he has no problem cutting ties with Mets simply because they're "associated" with the Mets. And while Mike Piazza is different than Leiter and Franco, it makes good business sense to let Mike go and try and land Ramon Hernandez next offseason.

So, regardless of what he does this season, enjoy this future Hall of Famer while you can. It may be the last chance you get.

How Many Pitchers In That Rotation?

Awhile back, in 1999, Steve Phillips acquired Kenny Rogers around the end of July, giving the Mets a bunch of starting pitching options. Meanwhile Bobby Valentine, the original "Out-of-the-Box" Mets thinker, decided that with the aging arm of Orel Hershiser leading a rotation on charge to the playoffs, it might make sense to throw in an occasional sixth starter, to keep everybody fresh. This set up a rotation of Hershiser, Al Leiter, Kenny Rogers Masato Yoshii, Rick Reed, and then, usually Octavio Dotel (before he was really, really good, and now only kinda good) or Bobby J. Jones. The rotation was a pretty novel concept at the time, and there was a lot of discussion about its merits. Some felt that it worked, as it perserved Hershiser and Leiter, and others felt it was a dumb idea, because instead of having those aformentioned games pitching in games you had average pitchers going in their place. However, you may feel on the subject, I thought it was a good idea, and they made it to the playoffs utilizing it, so you can't really argue with the results.

I bring this up now, because the Mets have arrived in Spring Training, and over the next couple weeks we will hear a lot about young pitchers who are pitching really well, as we do every year. But this spring training may be different, as the Mets front two starters are a guy who does all right on four days rest and very, very well on five, and a thirty-nine year old crafty lefty. Kind of similar to the two front starters of the '99 staff, only pitching hands reversed.

I'm not going to say to go into the season with a sixth starter, because that just doesn't make sense. In the division the Mets find themselves in, and with the teams they're facing at the start of the season (Cincinnati, Atlanta, Houston, Florida, Philadelphia, Florida), it's the right move to have their top five going, and going strong. But what if Aaron Heilman comes to Spring Training and pitches like he was supposed to? What if Jae Seo suddenly decides that he'll try what Rick Peterson wants him too, and is the second coming of Chan Ho Park (circa '97 - '01)? That might not mean much for the rotation in the beginning, but I would imagine when it gets to be July or August, and Pedro and Tommy are starting to run a little low, that having even a Bobby Jones-like pitcher would be a nice commodity to have to take every sixth start.

Imagine that, giving Pedro five, six, even seven days of rest to take his starts leading up to a potential playoff berth. Tommy Glavine, too. Then hand the ball over to Benson, Zambrano and Trachsel -- who usually pitches far better on five days or longer rest.

It's now up to the "youth" of the Mets to step forward this Spring Training. Heilman and Seo leap to the forefront of the mind, but there are others: Bob Keppel, Matt Ginter, even Grant Roberts and Alay Soler, two guys tabbed for the bullpen, have both been starters in the past. All of these guys have been considered solid pitching prospects at one point, as well. They have the ability, they have the stuff, and heck, Matt Ginter's got a banjo! If just one of them can step forward this spring trainig, with the pressure now off to make the big league club, you just may see them in the rotation when summer is wrapping up.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Aarom's Arrival

I was going to post something about Aarom Baldiris, but OFF beat me to it. But then I looked at the news on the Mets today, and unless you're interested in Pedro being happy or Andres Galarraga being old, there isn't much in the way of news out there. So I've decided I'm going to go ahead and write about Baldiris anyway.

First off, for those of you who were unaware, Aarom Baldiris is a pretty decent prospect in the Mets system, who happens to play a position that has plenty of other decent prospects (David Wright, Shawn Bowman) playing it. Aarom's been a nice little hitter wherever he's gone, and although he does not hit for power, his average and his on-base percentage have been pretty good wherever he's gone. The other thing about Aarom that some of you might now know is that the kid idolizes Edgardo Alfonso. Growing up in Venezuela, the home of Fonzie, Baldiris copied Edgardo's game down to a tee, and his swing is next to identical with the former Mets' 2B/3B-man. In fact, for a short time, you can check it out here.

So, why is a twenty-two year old third basemen important right now? Simply because he's about to become a second-basemen. Second is a position the Mets have no future Major League starters at in the minors right now. In fact, at the big league level the depth order for second base reads a little something like this: Kaz Matsui, Miguel Cairo, Joe McEwing. And while the pairing of Matsui and Cairo should do fine for the next year or two, the future of the position seems to be pretty empty, unless you consider Danny Garcia or Jeff Keppinger a top prospect.

So, if Baldiris is stuck behind the future of the franchise in David Wright over at third, moving him to second base is the logical next step. This also sets up a potential future infield of Baldiris, Reyes and Wright, three guys capable of hitting .300 at the big league level. And while Baldiris will more than likely never put up the power numbers of Fonzie, he should be able to do everything that else that Fonzie did for the team back in '99.

I for one will be watching Baldiris closely in Spring Training this year, and the fact that he's already arrived is a good sign. The Mets have a promising lower-minor league system, so enjoy watching some of those guys while you have the chance.

And if that's not your thing, I hear these Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran characters are pretty good too.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Bounty of Bullpen Arms

Since Kris Benson has donned a Mets uniform, we've heard him called numerous things. Some call him overpaid, some call him Mr. Anna Benson, and some call him "The Most Overrated Pitcher Since Todd Van Poppel".

Well, hey, now we got him, too!

In case you were unaware, Omar Minaya is stockpiling every pitcher not currently under contract with a big league club. In fact, if any of you have any pitching experience whatsoever (high school, college, etc.) go grab your glove and head on down to Port St. Lucie, as there may be a job for you!

In all honesty, I like this. Forever teams have discovered hidden gems for their bullpen either inside the organization or out in the free agent market. Joe Nathan was horrendous, and then one season all of a sudden turned it around, and now is a lights-out closer. Brendan Donnely was on various minor league teams for ten years until signing on with the Angels and is now one of the best middle relievers in baseball. Even Jose Mesa, who was run out of Philadelphia, caught on with the Pirates and got 43 saves, and one of the best seasons of his career, out of it. Quite frankly, there is tons of relief help out there, it's just up to those shrewd GMs to find it. Or the oblivious ones to stumble upon it.

The Mets have tried to do this in the past. I won't fool you into thinking I've forgotten Scott Erickson, James Baldwin, David Cone or Garth Brooks. But let us also not forget Graeme Lloyd or Ricky Bottalico. The Mets have had a modicum of success finding arms amongst the lost souls of bullpen past, and Omar seems to be intent on pulling two or three more from the wreckage.

Check out the relief arms arriving at Port St. Lucie in the next couple days: Manny Aybar, Heath Bell, Mike DeJean, Bartolome Fortunato, Matt Ginter, Tim Hamulack, Aaron Heilman, Felix Heredia, Roberto Hernandez, Dae Sung Koo, Braden Looper, Mike Matthews, Blake McGinley, Orber Moreno, Joe Nelson, Juan Padilla, Grant Roberts, Jose Rosado, Jae Seo, Scott Stewart, Scott Strickland and Todd Van Poppel. Also, there lies the possibility of Alay Soler and Royce Ring showing up. In case you didn't feel like couting, that's twenty-two guys guaranteed coming in and looking for what will end up to be six or seven spots. Some of those are already guaranteed a spot (Braden Looper, Mike DeJean) and some have no chance (sorry, Tim Hamulack)

And really, it's up to these guys to seperate themselves from the pack. Being an optimist, I believe the Mets will cut Heredia if his Yankees stats follow him to Florida, and his spot will go to someone more deserving. Personally, I'm pulling for some young guys like Heath Bell (who's apparently dropped thirty pounds this offseason) and Blake McGinley to step on up and make the Mets give them a role. But if they show up at St. Lucie without their best stuff, there's still the makings of some serviceable arms in that bunch. Manny Aybar was lights out in the Dominican League this winter, Scott Strickland is always a top middle reliever when healthy, Roberto Hernandez was once a top closer (with two top 10 Cy Young finishes under his belt), and Todd Van Poppel was once "the next Nolan Ryan". Everybody on that list all have had or displayed flashes of brilliance at one point in their respective careers.

Now, in two days, they get their shot to display it again. Let's play ball.

Ramblings and Quotables

There's only two days until Pitchers and Catchers Report (yes, I'm capitalizing it), and there's not much news out there for the Mets. So, I'll just throw a bunch of stuff onto here.

*

MLB interviewed many promising rookies (as well as Marlon Anderson?) and any list of promising rookies should include our old friend, Scott Kazmir. However, Scott needs to find Crash Davis and get down some of those boring, interview clich├ęs fast, as his skills in that department really, really suck. Conversations I've had with my three-year old cousin have flowed better than his speaking. Here's a taste: (on his debut) "Um, I thought it was a real good experience for me, uh, um, a good start, um, for the career, uh, for my career, and everything, cause it was, uh, when I got up there, um, it kinda made me, you know, feel a lot more comfortable whenever I'm about to make my first start and then they just tell me, hey, doesn't even matter what goes on, you know, just, you know, try and get your feet wet and everything like that, and, you know, it, it feels like, you know, actually, you know, you could actually just stop, not have to worry about, you know, everything, that, you know, is around you, you know, your surroundings and everything, and just, you know, get out there and have fun. You know, play the game you love."

Spellbinding stuff, you know.

*

Victor Diaz, quickly becoming my favorite position player on the Mets, also was interviewed for the site. Asked what his biggest weaknesses are that he feels he needs to work on, "I'd say for myself, I don't have a lot of weaknesses, but, um, I just want to be more consistent at that level."

I love this guy.

*

The Pirates are apparently interested in Cameron, and would be willing to take on salary and deal pitching prospects. I still have to say no on this one, unless Oliver Perez can still be considered a pitching prospect. The Mets can deal Mike Cameron for closer to equal value once he proves he's healthy in Spring Training (or beyond). Quite frankly, Cameron is a Top 10 Centerfielder, and if he's dealt to a team that's going to play him there, he should be considered as such. There's still no reason to trade him off if we're not getting anything of note in return, especially with the pitching depth the Mets have on all levels right now.

*

I missed the return of Darryl Strawberry. I was never really a fan of Strawberry, as I started following baseball in 1992, and by that time Straw was a Dodger in drug-induced decline. Regardless, Strawberry and the Mets have been synonymous with each other for some time, as his best years were at Shea Stadium. It's nice to have him back from the Yankees, although I don't know exactly what purpose he'll be serving (Outfield instructor? Honestly?) Regardless, it's nice to see the Mets no longer shunning their '86 team. What's the point of disconnecting yourself from the best team you've ever fielded, as well as one of the primary reasons the fanbase is as large as it is today? Yet another thing to add to Minaya's list of things done right.

*

And finally, from ESPN.com's Fantasy Baseball Offseason Recap, they rundown the five worst moves of the offseason. Cause for a little optimism over #3: Carlos Delgado joins Marlins. He'll give the Marlins only their second true left-handed power source in franchise history -- Cliff Floyd is the other -- but there's a good reason the team has shied away from these types. Pro Player Stadium's right field fences are rather deep, measuring 345 feet down the line, 385 to right-center and 404 just right of center. Floyd hit just .276 here in his career, compared to .286 elsewhere, and it stands to reason that Delgado's numbers will drop as well. Remember, the Marlins scored the eighth-fewest runs in baseball last season, and he was their only real winter offensive addition.

Hey, I'll take anything I can get at this point.

Friday, February 11, 2005

I'll be out for the majority of the weekend, so I'm not sure how much I'll be able to update. I've spoken to the Mets Blogosphere and they told me they'll take care of you while I'm gone.

Have a fun weekend, everybody. Come back Monday!

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Willie's Way

Anybody else still having trouble grasping the concept of Willie Randolph as the Mets manager? It's been so many years of seeing "Joe Torre, Mel Stottlemyre and Willie Randolph" that whenever I see his name I automatically want to not read the article about him. Then I remember it's more than likely about the Mets, and forge on.

Personally, I don't have a problem with Willie Randolph as a manager, because I have no idea what he brings to the table. He might be the next Bobby Cox, or he might be the next Jeff Torborg, who knows? The fact of the matter is that Randolph has been the Mets manager for a little over three months now, and all we know of the guy is that he likes what Omar Minaya has done with this ballclub and he's ready to start the season. Not a lot there.

Until today, when the Star-Ledger let us know what's what with Willie and his lineup: "If my leadoff guys are not getting on like I think they should, then I might make adjustments," Randolph said. "I might. So it's not just putting the lineup together and saying 'This is what it is.' I'm a guy who likes to mix and match a little bit, piece things together.

Now, this is something. Jose Reyes, as fast and electric as he may be, has thus far shown that he's getting on base by a hit or getting hit, and that's about it. While his on-base percentage may, and more than likely will, climb with more plate appearances and staying healthy, Reyes' career OBP right now is .307. This is a guy the Mets are depending to lead off the game.

As much as I like Jose Reyes, it's refreshing to see that if Reyes is unable to do the job Randolph won't be afraid to drop him in the order for someone who can. Art Howe seemed to feel the need to always pencil in Reyes first or second in the batting order, regardless of how he was hitting. I wouldn't mind seeing Kaz Matsui leadoff occasionally (I know he hit better in the two-spot last year) and have Mientkiewicz see some time hitting second. Reyes could be dropped to sixth or seventh, somewhat like Roger Cedeno did for the '99 Mets. For those of you who weren't around at that time, that's not an insult, I swear.

The other thing Randolph went over is the defensive aspect of the game, something that was rarely addressed during the Steve Phillips era. Randolph states: "The guys that I have I feel real good about. If you look around our infield, even though we have some youth at third (in second-year player David Wright) and some inexperience at second (with Kaz Matsui), we still need to embrace defense as a team."

Every paper is saying that Randolph is going to help in Matsui's transition from short to second, and citing his work with switching Alfonso Soriano years before. Yes, Alfonso Soriano of the .971 fielding percentage. I don't know if that's Willie's finest example of helping somebody's infield work. Regardless I think Matsui will do well at second base defensively next year, and with Mientkiewicz over at first to pick the patented Kaz Matsui dirt-ball, the bases should be covered for him.

Just like in 1984 when Davey Johnson grabbed the manager's spot, only to find Doc Gooden's rookie season and Daryl Strawberry hitting his stide, Randolph is taking this team over at the right time. With the additions the team has made, as well as finally building a team around pitching and defense, the Mets are built for future success. And if the Mets win, it is very likely that Willie Randolph will be looked upon as Mets fans look upon Davey Johnson, somebody who came in and changed the direction of the team.

Not bad for a guy nobody knows anything about.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

What About Aaron?

The year was 2001. With the 18th pick overall, the Mets decided to play it safe and take a 6'5" ace from Notre Dame, passing over younger players with higher ceilings by the names of Bobby Crosby, Jeremy Bonderman and David Wright.

At the time it was even considered a wise move. Heilman was polished and coming off a really nice collegiate career (in which he won 43 games and lost a total of seven in four years), which meant he'd be ready to help out a team in need of some rotation arms. Heilman was given a Mets jersey and the hopes that his right arm would one day equal Tom Seaver's, or at the very least Craig Swan.

Sadly, things have not gone well for Aaron since that day. While he's always put up decent numbers in the minor leagues, he's had a lot of trouble transferring that success to the big league level. Now, with the Mets rotation set for the foreseeable future, and Yusmeiro Pettit and Phillip Humber claiming the "Top Mets Pitching Prospect" title, Aaron is a man without a definable future. He has become that "throw-in" player in any Mets fan trade idea, "Mike Cameron isn't enough to land Lance Berkman? What if we throw in Heilman?"

Thinking about Aaron Heilman's past, I decided to see what the general consensus thought of Heilman when he was orginally drafted, when I came across an interesting article from The Sporting News. In it, Jared Hoffman gives a brief rundown of Heilman: Aaron Heilman, RHP, Notre Dame: Heilman is 28-7 in three seasons for the Irish, and his low-90s sinking fastball has dominated opposing hitters. This season, he averaged 10.4 strikeouts and 9.7 groundouts per nine innings. As a freshman, he led the NCAA with a 1.61 ERA and set a school record with 118 strikeouts his sophomore year. Heilman's future could be as a closer.

Aaron Heilman: Closer?

The fact of the matter is this, Heilman's future with the Mets does not lie in starting. He simply has been replaced on the depth chart, and although he has showed up this offseason just as early as Pedro it's a case of too little, too late. But if Heilman does bring anything to the table at this point it's that his stuff is still very solid. His fastball still touches 92 MPH and his changeup and split-finger are decent pitches. Aaron's starts have always followed the same trend, he pitches his first inning or two anywhere on a scale of Average to Dominant, and then something happens around the fourth or fifth inning. It may start with a bloop single, or a rocket shot over the rightfield wall, but Heilman always finds a way to collapse and give up something like four or five runs in an inning, which obliterates his ERA.

But what if Heilman was relied on to just throw that first or second inning? If he was slotted in the sixth or seventh inning, could he do the job? With a team that's as solid one through five in the rotation as the Mets are this season, there's no better time than Spring Training to find out. It's better than packaging him for a Reggie Sanders-esque player at the All-Star Break.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Just Say No to Super Joe

Seeing as though the news about the Mets is too much for me to handle, I've decided to continue on with discussing the bench, or at least a part of it. For years now I have held the same ideals that my Dad taught me about utility players: there's no reason to complain about them because they're not everyday players. You only see them every once and awhile, it's almost never in a clutch situation (unless you were watching Art Howe's Mets and he double-switched so much that Jay Bell was now up where Mike Piazza was supposed to be, and there's two on and two out, and it's the bottom of the eighth, and it's against a guy like Trey Hodges, and I need to stop thinking about this right now), and they serve a purpose by being able to play many positions for little cost.

It's because of this that I've always been able to appreciate guys like Randy Velarde and Mark McLemore, guys who filled a role and did it well. And it's also why I could watch Joe McEwing, and never be irate for hitting .190 or botching a grounder at short -- because he was simply serving his purpose. Besides, he was a good guy, friendly, everyone liked him, and his routine before every at-bat was funny. In fact, this was a general feeling held by most Mets fans. Joey Mac wasn't hurting anybody, so what the heck?

And then, very quickly, things changed. The starting point seems to be when the Mets signed him to a 2-year, one million dollar contract. This may have alerted everyone that McEwing was, in fact, not being paid to play for free. It could just be that people just got fed up with McEwing like they did Pauly Shore -- he was harmless fun for awhile, but eventually he was contributing nothing and the schtick got old. One can only take so many .240/.300/.310 seasons (the baseball equivalent of "In the Army Now") before everyone collectively realizes that 2001 Super Joe was not coming back.

And now here we are. As I mentioned yesterday, the Mets have the ability to field a far better bench than they have in the past, and the talent level of the players they have brought in is far better than that of Joe McEwing. While Chris Woodward, who will more than likely be McEwing's replacement, has a career very reminescent of McEwing's, he will playing for minor league money. Something that McEwing should be being paid as well.

Quite frankly, baseball is a business. The New York Mets, for as much as you love the players and you love the team, the bottom line is wins. The names of minor leaguers that are more talented than McEwing, but blocked by him at the big league level, grows larger everyday. Do you think anyone in baseball would tell you that getting rid of Marco Scutaro to keep Joe McEwing on the bench was a good move?

And don't get me wrong, I really do like Joe McEwing. I think he will be a great coach or manager some day, and I would love to have him as the manager of the 2019 New York Mets. When he is gone, I will remember him for great attitude, his hard work and his uncanny ability to kill Randy Johnson, as I'm sure most will. But for right now, all I can remember is his inability to lay off any slider anywhere near the plate and the fact that he hasn't had a clutch hit in over three years.


I leave you with an exchange between Fran Healy and Ralph Kiner:


Fran Healy: Super Joe McEwing can do it all! He can play shortstop! He can play third base! He can play catcher! He can play the outfield! He can --

Ralph Kiner: But there's one thing he can't do!

Fran Healy: What's that?

Ralph Kiner: Drive in runs.

Monday, February 07, 2005

That Balanced Bench

The only piece of news that really has stuck out over the past couple days was in yesterday's Newsday, courtesy of Ken Davidoff: Don't be surprised if the Mets sign Miguel Cairo to a two-year extension beyond 2005. Both GM Omar Minaya and manager Willie Randolph admire Cairo, who found himself victimized by Yankees office politics in December when scout Bill Emslie made a last-minute pitch for Tony Womack. Because of that development, Cairo unfairly blamed his agent, Alan Nero, and unfortunately replaced him with brothers Sam and Seth Levinson.

While Omar has been getting a lot of credit for the signings of Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez, he has been getting very little credit for rebuilding what has been a real weak spot on the Mets for years now: the bench. The Mets bench, for some time now, has been a collection of once good players (Todd Zeile, Jay Bell, John Valetin) or players that are Major League Minor Leaguers (Joe McEwing, Raul Gonzalez). And it seems that whenever a solid role player somehow makes it to the majors, the Mets have been determined to give him away for nothing -- such as Marco Scutaro, or more recently Danny Garcia (Omar's mastery of leaving solid ballplayers open to everyone and getting away with keeping them on the team is mind-boggling).

But, take a look at the possible bench for this up-coming year:

*The aforementioned Miguel Cairo, the starting second-basemen for the Yankees for the majority of last year. Can play every position but catcher, and unlike Super Joe, can hit.

*Eric Valent, one of the better reserve outfielders in the league, and who projected to around thirty homeruns over the course of a full season's worth of at bats. Plays all outfield positions, and pretty solidly, as well as first base. Another plus, he's a lefty.

*Jason Phillips is the backup catcher, and is but a season removed from a .298 batting average and a .373 OBP. While I imagine he's somewhere in the middle between his 2003 and 2004 season, that's still a backup catcher that can .265 - .270 off the bench with solid power and defensive skills. Can also play first.

*Andres Galarraga, best known for being one of the best clubhouse guys in the game, as well as being one of the best hitters against right-handed pitchers off the bench in baseball right now. He's not getting any younger, but as long as he produces he should be a nice addition to the ballclub in more ways than just on the field.

*My boy, Victor Diaz. When Cliff "Glass" Floyd goes down around June, we'll finally be able to see some extended ABs from the guy. Plus power off the bench, which is about all he brings, although he should make some interesting plays in rightfield. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if he started the season in AAA, but if I was running the team, he'd be there.

It's a pretty solid bench. There's a chance that the Mets make it a six-man bench, but I feel that the more arms in the bullpen the better, especially now that Yates and Moreno will be out for an extended amount of time. Regardless, the fact remains that this is a lot better than what the Mets have had for replacing the starters late in games. I mean, last year Todd Zeile has 348 at-bats. That should sum up what a step in the right direction this is.

Meanwhile, this lack of anything baseball news is getting real old. Would it kill Joel Sherman or Jon Heyman to float a rumor out there about acquiring Alfonso Soriano or even somebody like Ryan Klesko? I'm not asking for them to become Mets (especially Klesko) but they would at least provide something to talk about for the next couple days going into Spring Training. With football done, it's going to be a slow upcoming week. I can only watch the Knicks lose so many times.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Hey everybody,

Sorry for the lack of updates, it's been a very busy weekend. I'll be back on track starting tomorrow morning, but for now Eric from SaberMets, Mike from the Metropolitans and I participated in a Blog Squad conference call over at MetsDaily.com, so check it out. Good stuff.

And enjoy your Super Bowl Sunday. Once that's over, Spring Training is mere days away.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

In Wright We Trust

While there is no Mets news of note once again, I have to admit that I'm surprised it took this long to get to the lull. For the past three years during the offseason I have been away from New York, and was forced to live solely on newspapers and websites to get me through the offseason. But while the Mets No-News lull usually stretches from mid-December or early January until Spring Training, we are but thirteen days away from the greatest words one can hear in February: "Pitchers and Catchers Report".

While Magglio is more than likely not going to be a New York Met, but there is someone who will be a Met next year, and that is David Wright. And seeing as though there is no news for us today, I will very much so gush about David for the next couple minutes.

This was all brought on today when I recieved an IM from my friend yesterday morning, which read like this: "Dude, I don't know if you saw this yet, but go watch the "Next Stop: Shea" on Mets.com if you haven't. I am having very strong same-sex feelings for David Wright right now." While I personally thought the line was hysterical, it certainly is true. How can you not watch that video and not be a fan of David Wright? It's as though God placed David Wright into the Mets organization to right all the wrongs Mets management has ever made. We traded Nolan Ryan? Who cares, we have David Wright. They dealt Tom Seaver to who? Doesn't matter, we've got David Wright. Lenny Dykstra, Jeff Kent, Scott Kaz... too soon? Yeah, me too. Regardless, Wright comes across as affable, humorous, entertaining and above all else, talented.

Every offseason Mets fan read articles about Cliff Floyd doing some new exercise, or training some different way, in order to get healthy for the upcoming season. We read about how Piazza is declining, and how we can't expect to rely on his bat forever. But we also read about Wright, and how he's working out, how he's itching to get back on the field, how he's constantly striving to get better. And while we read about that, we read quotes from everyone who's come into contact with him, saying they're amazed by his talent, his determination, his desire to win. It's clear to see: David Wright is to Mets fans what Derek Jeter has been for Yankees fans all these years.

Look, is he going to hit third or fourth right off the bat this upcoming season? No. But that is for the best. Greater players than he have faltered in their first full seasons: Barry Bonds hit .233 with 16 homeruns in 413 at-bats under the scrutinizing spotlight of Pittsburgh. The Mets did one of the best things they could have done for the development of David Wright -- they went out and signed Carlos Beltran. Now, Wright is able to go out there and just play his game, without having to worry about carrying this ballclub at the age of 22. Let him hit sixth or even seventh, and let him work his way up the lineup. If last season is any indication, he'll be hitting behind Carlos Beltran by the All-Star Break.

One in which he just may participating in.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Is He Gone?

It's very late at night, and I'm getting the feeling something's going down.

As I've said before, the Mets have a problem with standing pat and giving what they have a whirl. It's an organization that is always constantly trying to better itself, and anytime someone is trying to reach a better position in life it will include risk. Now after an evening that included Mike Cameron's not too subtle "I Don't Want to Move to Rightfield" interviews at the Thurman Munson Dinner last night, and news out of Arizona that the D-Backs are close to acquiring "a centerfielder", my guess is that the Mets are making one of those risky, standing-elevating moves.

The problem with this thought process is that the Mets more than likely have no rightfielder to take over for Cameron. Personally, I love Victor Diaz. I'll buy the jersey, I sponsor the site, and I will throw my support behind him 100%. But the fact of the matter is, the guy still can't take a walk and his defense isn't pretty. Mike Cameron is the smarter choice at the moment, especially with Magglio Ordonez being a 50/50 shot of landing in a Mets uniform by Spring Training.

If Omar is really dealing Cameron, I'm hoping there's some talent coming back making this trade worthwhile. I'm not asking for Brandon Webb, but Conor Jackson wouldn't be out of line, and having him off the bench for a year before taking over first would be nice. Although, if the D-Backs future centerfielder is Mike Cameron, I'm getting the feeling that Jose Valverde and some salary dump player is coming back in his stead.

Mike Cameron is a talented player, especially for a team that needs a centerfielder. Hopefully Omar realizes that before he's dealt away.

So, I propose the question to you all: what do you think Cameron is worth? And what is the lowest you would be willing to deal him for?

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Mookie's Kid

For years and years I've loved Preston Wilson. It could be because he flipped me a ball at a Pittsfield Mets game when I was 11, it could be because I was still young and impressionable when the Mets Hype Machine started up full-blast for the former first-round pick, or it could just be because he was Mookie's stepson. When he got traded for Mike Piazza, I wasn't too upset (it was Piazza), but a little part of me was sad that Preston wasn't going to be gliding across the centerfield grass of Shea like his old man did before him. When he made the bigs I bought his cards, and when he won Rookie of the Year I was ecstatic.

So, with heavy heart, I must say: Preston, buddy, you need to stay in Colorado.

According to Bob Herzog, the Rockies have offered Wilson to the Mets for Mike Cameron, straight up. And, if you look at Preston's numbers, they haven't been bad. The last time he played a full season he led the National League in RBIs with 141. But Coors Field can do dangerous things to a fan's perspective when it comes to trading for a player. While Preston was putting up .302, .370 and 21 homers in but 308 at-bats at home, he was also going .261, .316, and 15 home runs in 292 at-bats on the road. Preston and Mookie apparently have another thing in common, they don't like to take a walk.

Besides his road stats, Preston's also coming off a season in which he appeared in 58 games and had only 202 at-bats due to two knee surgeries that some feel still isn't quite resolved. Meanwhile, the knee injury has all but sapped him of his base-stealing ability. While Wilson used to be able to steal around twenty bases, those days are more than likely gone. A move to rightfield would also come along with his switching of teams, a position he's played 17 times in his career, with a .923 fielding percentage.

And then comes what this is all about: the salary. In what could possibly be a foreshadowing of Carlos Delgado's career, the Marlins signed Preston to a heavily backloaded 5-year, 32 million dollar deal. The Marlins kept him around for the first couple seasons, where he made 1 million, 3.5 million and then 6 million respectively. Then they traded him off to the Rockies to pick up the tab for his 9 million and 12.5 million seasons. Which means, if the Mets were to acquire the injury-risk player, in the fifth year of his deal, they would be taking a 12.5 million dollar gamble on him. And we all know how the last Mets gamble worked out.

Quite frankly, what this comes down to though is Mike Cameron is just the better player. We're talking about a guy who hit 30 homeruns, played solid defense, and was a base-stealing threat, all while playing 81 games at Shea Stadium. Also, I would venture to guess that Cameron's (a two time gold glover) transition to right would go a little bit better than the possibly injured Wilson's. And while Cameron's wrist is injured, he is not an injury risk, and will return to full strength when the rehab is over. The same can not be said for Preston, who is already two surgeries into fixing this knee problem. Cameron is just the wiser investment at this point.

**

Meanwhile, in Baseball News, Rob Neyer did an article yesterday about the least improved teams, the number one being the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Just who have they added this offseason?

Gained: Hideo Nomo, Roberto Alomar, Chris Singleton, Danny Bautista.

I couldn't help but to think back to ten years ago, or even three or four years ago, where picking up a pitcher like Hideo Nomo and an infielder of Roberto Alomar's caliber in the same offseason would make you a near lock for postseason play. Crazy how quickly this game can change.

But Pedro and Beltran are still way better, so don't you guys worry.