The NY Mets Search For The Diamond In The Rough

I had quite a busy Mets day yesterday as I resurrected my podcast with the help of Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal and then calling in as guest to the Rising Apple podcast.  In between podcasts, I was fortunate enough to have been invited to a Mets Bloggers conference call with Mets GM Sandy Alderson.

Alderson has been gracious with his time to members of the Mets blogging community and has shown us great respect in regards to our questions and views pertaining to the New York Mets. Alderson has stated to us a couple of occasions how he enjoys the passion we have for the team and time and effort we put in to write and talk about the Mets.  When the Mets and Alderson first started to have these blogger calls the session lasted about 25-40 minutes, last night Alderson stayed on the line with us for about an hour. Name me another team or GM who does that? There aren’t any. As you can see from the transcript, (a great big tip of the Mets cap to Eric Simon and Chris McShane of Amazin Avenue for putting together a transcript of the conference call and while you’re at AA check out Chris’ column on Paul DePodesta and how the team has turned around the player development side of the organization, it’s a great read)

When my turn to speak to Alderson came up, I asked him about the turnover in the roster this past off season and the similarities in the position players he has added.   The players I looked at, Collin Cowgill, Andrew Brown, Brandon Hicks and Jamie Hoffman all poses good walk rates and isolated power percentages. They also have in common the distinction of coming from solid organizations (Cowgill came up through the Oakland A’s system, Brown the Cardinals, Hicks the Braves, Hoffman the Dodgers) when it comes to teaching proper fundamentals in the lower levels of their farm systems. This group also plays the game aggressively as well, on the base paths and on defense.   Here is the Mets GM’s reply to my question:

Well you listed off a lot of positive qualities. And to the extent that the players you mentioned are aggressive defensively, aggressive on the bases, command the strike zone, have some power, can run the bases a little bit. Yes, I would say that these are the kinds of players that we would like to have. Offense plays. You can be a great defender, if you can’t hit you probably can’t play anywhere. I’m not talking about the Mets exclusively. And also, it is possible that there are players that just don’t get an opportunity in certain organizations because they may be deeper at certain positions than they are at others. The minor league free agent market, or the fringe 25 man roster guy, playing for a club with a strong roster, given the opportunity may turn into something valuable. Mike Baxter is another example of this from previous years. Not that Mike has great power, but he’s a very valuable piece and part of the team. There’s no question that we value on base percentage, walk rates, isolated power is important, but as we’ve emphasized with a number of guys here in camp on base percentage, command of the strike zone is important. And look, it’s important on offense, it’s important on the pitching side. If you don’t walk anybody and keep the ball in the ballpark you can win games. Today was a good example of what can happen when you walk seven and give up a number of home runs. The same thing happened yesterday- we out hit the Marlins yesterday 9-5. They beat us because they had 14 total bases on 5 hits and we had, I think, 9 on 9 hits. So right, I think that these are the kinds of players were looking for, that we think can make a contribution at the major league level, and we’re going to find out given some opportunity here in the spring what we have. And, of course, we should have most of them going into the season and so we’ll get a chance to look at them again. You have to look for players wherever you can find them, particularly when you’re weak in that area in your own system.

The players I mentioned are very good complimentary pieces that you need to have on a winning team and as Alderson stated and as we’ve seen firsthand, the skill sets that the players I mention have, are lacking in the organization and as we see Alderson and his baseball ops guys went out looking for this prototype player from different organizations. I think it is also very telling the organization they signed these players from, teams who have rock solid foundation in teaching the right way to play in their minor league systems.

 

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THE NEW YORK METS ARE UNDER MY SKIN

Now that we have the holidays out of the way, we can now look forward to spring training for what should be quite the interesting Mets season.

Eric Simon of Amazin’ Avenue had an interesting post today on how bad will the Mets be in 2012? Of course the number one item on his list of things that will impact the season is the Skill Sets financial situation, something that will most likely overshadow what goes on, on the field but Simon also touches on the health and availability of Johan Santana, the hitting of Jason Bay and David Wright and where the offensive production lost from Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes will come from.

So my question to you my loyal readers, what is your expectation for the Mets this coming season? What is a realistic expectation of this team and what will be their standing in the NL East, a division that could be up for grabs if the reports of Prince Fielder signing with Washington are true. Can you see anything short of a last place finish in the division? Right now, I can’t.

Where do you see Johan Santana this season? For me, I’d be surprised if we see Santana pitch for the Mets before June.

What to do with David Wright? Wright is not a player, right now that could realistically bring back a treasure trove of young talent but what if he is invigorated by good health and more friendly dimensions of Citi Field and puts up a .300/.380/.500 line with 15-17 HR’s and 75-80 + RBI by the All-Star break, do you keep him and hope a new owner comes in with cash to re-sign him or is the lure of young robust baseball players to tempting to turn down in a trade?  I’m still undecided on this one but I am leaning towards a deal if the Mets get back a blue ribbon prospect or a young Major Leaguer under club control.

When I go to opening day at Citi Field, who else will be there? If you are a true blue Mets fan and having been going to Mets games your whole life I can’t see how now you decide to sit this season out. No one has a right to tell you how to spend your time or money but as Boggy said, “a hot dog at a ballgame beats roast beef at the Ritz”. So true, I mean today when I left for work I had on a sweater, coat, scarf and wool hat. You know what? That sucks. I want to wear shorts and t-shirt and have a scorecard in my hand. I have made peace with myself that the Mets will not be very good this season to the point that 100 losses would not shock me. However, there is still a part of me that small sliver of Mets fan naivete` that still has me holding out hope that this season could be full of surprises and I want to be there to enjoy them.  I know all the die-hards will be out at Citi Field on Thursday April 5th at 1:10PM, will you be there? If not tell me why not?

It’s funny the other teams I root for in other sports are playing at a level where they are contenders for championships in their respective leagues but it’s the Mets that are on my mind the most  and my biggest concern. Crazy shit eh?

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SANDY ALDERSON TALKS WITH NY METS BLOGGERS

Last night I had the privilege to be invited to be part of the Mets bloggers Q & A conference call with Mets GM Sandy Alderson. Eric Simon and the staff at Amazin’ Avenue have done another outstanding job of putting together a transcript of the conference call (click the link and read the whole transcript it will be the most informative information you’ll get about the Mets anywhere) and I thank them very much for undertaking the chore of transcribing and crediting each blogger with a link to our sites along with our questions, Thanks again Eric.

A few observations I took from the call:

Alderson is playing his hand in the Jose Reyes sweepstakes like a top poker player. In years past, the Mets were always duped into not just setting the market price on free agents but bidding against themselves. His answer to the question on whether he thought of Reyes as a franchise player was 100 % spot on:

Do I consider him a franchise player? Yes. But a franchise player is only valuable as such if he is contributing to a winning franchise as opposed to simply acting as eye wash for a team that is not very good.

Again, everybody loves Reyes and wants him to be a Met For Life, yet less than 5,000 fans showed up on the final day of the season and what may have been Reyes last game as a Met. That’s why Alderson doesn’t play to the lunatic fringe of Metsfandom and for that I am so grateful.

Alderson got into the business end of running the Mets as Howard Megdal, who should be your go to read with the anything Mets related but most certainly on learning the financial end of what the Skill Sets and the organization are up against in these trying money times with the Mets. It may a bit simplistic on my part but it seems Alderson is saying that he has x-amount of dollars in his budget given to him by ownership and he has to do the best he and his staff can to fill the roster with players good enough to compete and not hurt the bedrock of foundation of the organization, the farm system. There are some (I’d say a minority) of Mets fans who don’t get the fact that finances of this franchise are in a total state of flux but no matter the outcome, it would take either a discovery of oil or gold during the renovation of the Citi Field outfield for the Skill Sets to own this team for the long term.  

I really believe Alderson enjoys doing these Q & A’s with the Mets bloggers more than dealing with the MSM. The first one we did last year lasted about half an hour, then when we met with Alderson face to face at the Mets Holiday Party he joined us in our own little group for more questions and didn‘t seem to be in a hurry to get away from us. Last night he spoke to us for an hour and seemed to enjoy the questions and giving us insight into what he and his staff are doing to making the Mets into a top flight franchise.

His answer to my question was about that, he is hell-bent in turning around the perception of the NY Mets franchise, as much as Alderson feels there has been progress in that direction he knows the only way to advance it is for him to put together a winning team:

{Steve Keane (The Eddie Kranepool Society): Your first year as a Mets general manager, how would you assess your progress that you and your staff have made in the first year with the Mets? What has been the most challenging situation or thing that’s happened with you as the GM of the Mets, and what’s been the biggest surprise on the positive side and on the negative side?

 

Alderson: I look at things in three areas. The organization as a whole, the infrastructure, what’s happening in player development and scouting, and what’s happening at the major league level.

 

Organizationally, I’m very pleased with where we are. We’re not fully where we want to be. In the areas of structure and process and personnel, we’re making a lot of progress. We made some personnel changes last year, we’ve made a few this year. The more important changes organizationally have come in the area of process as we blend the pre-existing staff with newly added staff. From an organizational standpoint, we’ve made some progress.

 

Player-development-wise, we’ve made significant progress, I think our approach to the draft last year was a departure from previous years, and I think at least early returns are that it was a positive change. If you look at our top prospects, we were able to add to that list not only from not only the further development of existing players, but also from the draft as well as the trade, most prominently the trade for Zack Wheeler. I think player-development-wise, the continued development of Matt Harvey and some others, and remember at this time last year, Matt Harvey had never thrown a professional pitch. I think some very positive things are happening at the player development and scouting level.

 

At the major league level, I’m very pleased with Terry Collins last year and I think our major league staff will be even stronger this year than it was. Dave Hudgens did a great job in refocusing our offensive philosophy. I think we’ve made a lot of progress philosophically at least in how we are approaching the game, not just in respect to hitting, but a more aggressive approach, a more accountable approach that Terry has demanded.

 

If you tie those three things together, what I’d hoped to achieve in the first year primarily was to change the perception of the organization. Despite the fact that we didn’t finish over .500, I think overall, the way the team played, some of the other things that happened over the course of the year, did help to change the perception of the organization and its direction and its chances of success in the future.

 

My biggest disappointment going back to last year was just the way we finished the season. We finished poorly, we started poorly. Part of that was attributable to injury, but some of it was a result of weakening the team later for long-term benefit. I think for example, if we’d kept Frankie Rodriguez, we would have finished well over .500. I think that the lack of a closer cost us a number of games.

 

But, the overall perception did change. I think that there is some greater confidence in the future for the Mets and that was an important thing to accomplish. I think the way we finished detracted from that somewhat, I think we were able to move people’s thinking in that direction.}

I’d like to thank Danielle Parillo and Shannon Forde for putting this and all the Mets bloggers event together and of course a big thank you to Sandy Alderson for his time and insight    

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ERIC SIMON OF AMAZIN’ AVENUE JOINS ME TOMORROW NIGHT ON THIS CALL TO THE BULPEN PODCAST

Tomorrow night at 11PM ET Eric Simon of Amazin’ Avenue will join me on THIS CALL TO THE BULLPEN PODCAST on Blog Talk Radio.

Eric and I will be discussing the Mets early spring results and we will look at the 2011 Amazin ‘Avenue Annual, (ACTA publishing) which you can purchase at Amazon, Barnes & Noble (online and at the brick and mortar) and from ACTA Publishing directly.

The Annual has great articles ranging from Sam Page’ Conversation with R.A. Dickey to Joe Posnanski (Yes THE Joe Posnanski) writing about Carlos Beltran. There are also sections on the new look Mets front office as well as stats and player projections for players on the big league roster as well as on the farm.

The 2011 Amazin’ Avenue Annual is a must read for all Mets fans.

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BETTER LATE THAN NEVER

Hot Child in the city, Hot child in the city, running wild and looking pretty

Not much from me today between running around doing errands and it being so damn hot, lots of perspiration not much inspiration today.

Loved what I saw from Johan Santana last night. I guess he got tired of of all the “what’s wrong with Santana” from the fans and media. It’s not just that he told Jerry Manuel to go sit down but he pitched a complete game shutout against a Reds team that is the best hitting team in the league.

Great post by Eric Simon on Amazin Avenue today on the educating fans on how to read saber stats and understand what the numbers tell us.  Gary Cohen got the ball rolling on this with his take on BAPIP during this past weekends telecast. Simon picked up on this and by explaining what the number tell us will hopefully convert the non-sabermetic believers .  I have to admit the one class I cut out of regularly during high school years  was math. I hate math and sometimes when I read the sabermetric sites, the charts and graphs lose me, just tell me what time it is I couldn’t give a shit how the clock was made and it seems Eric Simon is going to help me out and tell me the time of day.

Speaking of saber vs. non saber check out this video

If the Pirates take Eddie Kunz for Octavio Dotel then we have a deal

Check out my THIS CALL TO THE BULLPEN Radio show from last night as myself and Dan Epstein author of Big Hair and Plastic Grass, A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swinging 70′s

Don’t forget the polls are open at MetsGrrl and Mets Minor League Blog to vote in the primary for Howard Megdal for Mets GM

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Tickets

The Mets are looking great this year and The Eddie Kranepool Society keeps you up to date on the good bad and the ugly. If you are looking for Mets Tickets, you must visit Coast To Coast Tickets for all your ticket needs. CTC carries MLB Tickets as well as some of the best priced Concert Tickets on the web and don't forget they also carry Yankees Tickets.

Visit BangTheBook.Com for daily free MLB Mets Picks and gameday previews, also join the baseball handicapping discussion in the forum or track your plays in our sports monitor.