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.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Doing Things the Brave Way

Reading all the things written about Delgado today, here and elsewhere, as well as hearing the people on ESPN Radio — hey, it's the only New York station that streams over the internet — there are, as always in trades, two factions of people: those who dig it and those who don't.

Personally, I dig it. Granted Mike Jacobs had an impressive September, but so did Benny Agbayani, Shane Spencer and who can forget the playoff run magic that was Timo Perez? Truth is, Jacobs was a kid who wasn’t even penciled in as the everyday first basemen for next season, and more than likely only would have got the position and stayed there if he continued to hit over his head. Yusmeiro Petit was twenty-one years old with no spot in the rotation on the horizon — especially once power pitchers Philip Humber and Mike Pelfrey are (re)introduced into the system.

But really, the fact of the matter is this: Pedro Martinez isn’t getting any younger. And the Delgado trade can be summed up right there in that one sentence. The Mets did not spend fifty-two million dollars for four years so that Pedro Martinez could teach Yusmeiro Petit and Brian Bannister how to throw a changeup in Spring Training — they got him to deliver the Mets to the playoffs. And with Carlos Delgado at first the chances of that happening are a lot better than with Mike Jacobs there. That’s just a fact.

But here’s the biggest point from the Delgadno group: the ever-popular comparisons with our rivals, those Atlanta Braves. The point has been brought up all day that the Braves continually win because they know when to bring their minor leaguers up, and they don’t go off trading them for the first big name guy that hits the block. Understandably there are Mets fans that are upset with trading our top minor league talent to a division rival, all the while having to worry about the aforementioned Braves and their moves that seemingly never fail. But the thing of it is, what these fans are complaining about is also pretty much what they are asking for: this move is an Atlanta Braves move. The Mets are doing what the Braves would have done, or would have done if the Braves had the financial capabilities that Omar does.

What the Braves seem to do every year is split their minor league system into two groups: guys they’re willing to trade and guys they’re not. The Braves were never willing to deal guys like Jeff Francoeur, Ryan Langerhans and Brian McCann. But they were willing to trade Odalis Perez, Dan Meyer, Adam Wainwright and Tim Spooneybarger. All of these guys were considered top Atlanta Braves prospects at one point or another, but it was John Schuerholz who decided which guys he was willing to keep around, and which guys he wasn’t. That doesn’t mean he’s always correct, but he knows who he wants in his system and who he wants eventually donning a Braves uniform.

Yesterday, Omar appeared to have done the same thing. Jose Reyes and David Wright remain on the team. Victor Diaz, Aaron Heilman and Jae Seo as well. And Lastings Milledge gets to move over to a corner spot for the Binghamton Mets next season — a position change most fans never would have believed would happen in a Mets uniform.

The Mets have taken a page out of that highly-touted Braves playbook: trade a guy at the height of his popularity, someone who’s coming off a good year, and get a proven player in return: Gary Sheffield worked out for them. So did JD Drew. And let’s not forget Mike Hampton.

And you know what the common trend is with all those players?

Braves fans were calling for Schuerholz’s head after every one of them.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Kenji NOjima

After reading Jon Heyman's recent article about Minaya's offseason plan, I immediately found something to write about.

Here's the deal: I get very excited about Japanese baseball players, and I really don't know why. The Mets have consistently brought over guys, trumpeting them as one of the best players in the Eastern hemisphere, and they've then gone about consistently burning the Mets. The list of players the Mets have brought over from Japan reads like this:

Timo Perez
Masato Yoshii
Tsuyoshi Shinjo
Kazuo Matsui
Takashi Kashiwada
Satoru Komiyama
Dae Sung Koo

So, in that group we've had a number five starter who didn't embarass himself, a fourth and a fifth outfielder, an expensive bust and three lousy relievers. Not exactly an awe-inspiring group of guys. And that's not even taking into consideration Kazuhisa Ishii.

And it's not like players that come from Japan can't play: Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui have an MVP, a Rookie of the Year, and seven All Star appearences between them. And Tadahito Iguchi came over this year just to prove that Kaz Matsui really was that bad.

But, still, the Mets consistently bring these guys over, and whether it be the Mets international scouting department, the pressure of New York' spotlight, or just a AAA level of talent, these guys don't perform up to expectations. And yet, everytime I hear there's a Japanese player the Mets are interested in, I get all excited, waiting for our Japanese player that's going to break the cycle and play great baseball. And, while I hold out hope for Daisuke Matsuzaka cracking the Mets rotation in 2007, I must declare this:

Kenji Jojima would be a huge, huge mistake.

Having been a pitcher the better part of my scholastic life, I know what it's like to have a relationship with a catcher -- and I can not possibly imagine how I would go about my daily routine with one if I was entirely unable to communicate with him. A lot of people think catcher is a guy who just sticks down one finger for a fastball or two for a curve, but that's just not the way it is. The catcher is essientailly the leader of the team. He's the guy who's calling your pitches, who's repositioning the infield, who's talking to the umpire about where his strikezone is, and is in charge of knowing about a hitter's strengths and weaknesses -- it's just not a position for somebody who speaks no English and has never played with any of the hitters in the division, the league, or in all of baseball.

Ask any casual baseball fan what the most important position is, and I guarantee you more often than not you'll get "Catcher" as your answer. So, the Mets are considering handing that over to Kenji Jojima -- a guy who's insisting on being a starting catcher or he's not signing? I don't think so.

Bengie Molina and Ramon Hernandez have flaws, absolutely. But they're both solid and respected catchers who -- most importantly -- speak English and can call a ball game. And they're also in a free agent market where two, maybe three teams, are looking for starting catchers. Immediately, these guys should have propelled to the top of the Offseason To-Do List.

This has nothing to do with Jojima's offense. Apparently, he's a .300/30/100 hitter in Japan as well as a nice defensive catcher. That's all well and good in Japan. But if he's refusing to accept a backup role -- which is what has been reported -- then the Mets need to let the dream die and wish him the best of luck.

But, in my mind, this has mistake written all over it.