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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METS HAVE A SPRING IN THEIR STEP, BUT WILL IT BE THERE IN JULY?

Today pitchers and catchers will report to St. Lonseome and by Wednesday the Mets position players will start arriving as well and training camp 2012 will get under way. So what am I looking for this spring from our beloved Mets? I’m glad you asked:

Ownership

Please Freddy, Uncle Saul and Jeffey I’m begging you guys, please stay away from camp. Can we please take the focus off your upcoming court case and your financial problems and let this camp be about baseball, baseball and more baseball. Can you give your manager, coaches and players a chance to get ready for this season and to prove the naysayers wrong about how non-competitive this club will be? Your team is in good hands with Terry Collins, Sandy Alderson and their staffs, so stay up here in New York and work with your attorneys to get your game plan ready for the March 19th trail. I’m sure Sandy Koufax will understand.

Manager

Got to love the work ethic of Terry Collins and the transformation he has made as a big league manager. Collins has been in camp with Johan Santana, working with the Ace and forming a bond with him like he did with Carlos Beltran.  Just as TC earned the trust and respect of Beltran, he is working towards having the same relationship with Santana. There is more to managing a team than knowing when to double switch and Collins has realized that and has  proven he is the right man to manage the Mets.

Ike Davis asked the question last week, “why does everyone think  we’re going to suck” and this is the rallying cry the manager needs to use to his and the teams advantage. When he addresses the team he should make it known that the majority of media and fans do think the Mets suck and the only ones who believe the team is any good, are the guys right he in this clubhouse. If each and every player on this team doesn’t have the back of their teammates, they’ll fail as no one else will stick up for them.   

With a year on the job, Collins knows who needs motivation and who is self-motivated and that’s a big plus. TC as well, has to push fundamentals this spring to the point that the players get angry. He needs to push the point that it’s not always the most talented team that wins but the most prepared team that is always right there. If the Mets continue with their poor execution on the field, it will be a long season.

Starting Pitching

The only starting pitcher I have any confidence in right now is R.A. Dickey. Everyone else has a ton of questions by their name. So many if’s with this group and the biggest problem is there isn’t much competition in camp for jobs in the rotation.  Sure Chris Schwinden or Miguel Batista could swipe the 5th spot from Dillon Gee or Matt Harvey could just blow everyone away this spring to force his way into the rotation but that’s a long shot.

As far as Santana is concerned try to put his starting the season on the big league roster out of your mind. Even if he pitches well this spring there a couple of things that will hasten his return early in the season, The cold weather is one, especially the dumb move by MLB to pay April games in the East at night, and the other is the limited innings/pitch count that Santana will be under. No way Santana, even if he shows he’s ready to come back, pitches more than 80-85 pitches or 5 innings, those pitching restriction will put a lot of pressure on the Mets bullpen early in the season and with the unknown of the rest of this staff besides Dickey, the Mets and Terry Collins can’t risk burning the bullpen by Memorial Day. Best case scenario is Santana stays in extended spring training and makes a few minor league starts for St. Lucie and makes back to the big leagues by end of May early June and that’s being real optimistic.    

As much as Mets fans are hanging on every Santana bullpen session the guys we really need to watch are Mike Pelfrey and Jon Niese as it will be the performance of these two pitchers that will determine if this a season of surprise or of transition.  For Pelfrey if he can’t be effective it will get very ugly for him this season with the fan base and with the front office. As for Niese, it’s time to put the big boy baseball pants on a prove that he has the makeup, conditioning and ability to be a  solid major league pitcher. Niese doesn’t have to be an Ace but he has to show some stamina and guile to get to the 6th and 7th innings of starts.

Bullpen

It’s been revamped and the back end (Frank Francisco, Ramon Ramirez and Jon Rauch) is a huge improvement over last year’s relievers, but if Manny Acosta, Bobby Parnell or D.J. Carrasco (or someone playing the role of Carrasco) starts making frequent appearances, it will be a long season. The effectiveness of the Mets bullpen will depend on the Mets starting pitchers who again (I know I’m belaboring this point) have to step up.

Defense

Last season the Mets were one of the worst defensive teams in baseball, so for 2012 there is no place else to go but up hopefully. All the talk about David Wright has been about his regaining his offensive punch which missed the real story with Wright and that’s the steady decline of his defense. I know the defensive metrics are not the be all end all but according to Bill James Online and their defensive plus/minus rankings Wright has been an atrocious third baseman the last three seasons :

2009 -11

2010 -10

2011 -5

 

Not only has Wright cost the Mets runs at 3rd base but he has had trouble with balls hit to his right and his throws have been less than accurate to first base, again defensive metrics have their flaws but so does Wright at the hot corner.

The catching situation stinks as well. Josh Thole still has not mastered the art of catching especially blocking balls in the dirt and getting better footwork in attempting to throw out would be base stealers. Word is new bench coach Bob Geren will be working all spring with Thole on these aspects of catching. Mike Nickeas will be the Sunday (and presumably R.A. Dickeys personal backstop) catcher and should bat 9th in the order when he does play. Catching in the Mets organization is a disaster that Sandy Alderson is not only aware of put has tried hard to rectify, that was one of the reasons Jon Niese’ name was mentioned in trade talks this off season as the Mets were hoping a team with a solid young catching prospect (like the Blue Jays and their prize catching prospect Travis D’Arnaud) would take the bait

The middle infield will be securitized a lot this season as Ruben Tejada takes over the everyday shortstop job and Daniel Murphy will try again to master the second sack. Tejada should be stellar at short as he has very good baseball instincts and makes plays he should make. The question will be, as it seems to be every spring for the last three years, will Daniel Murphy play at least a respectable 2nd base. As long as he makes the routine play and is somewhat capable of turning the pivot at 2nd without getting maimed, his season will be a success.

Ike Davis is solid at 1st base, so no worries there.

The outfield should be markedly better with Andres Torres playing center field and a bit underrated Jason Bay in left. The question is will Lucas Duda play a serviceable right field.  I’m trying very hard not to over use the word serviceable when talking about the Mets defenders but that’s how bad this team’s defense is when serviceable play would be an upgrade at 3rd base, 2nd base, right field and catcher.

Breakout star of the spring

I would love to see Kirk Nieuwenhuis have such a fabulous spring that he forces management hand to bring him North.  Many scouting reports have Capt Kirk as a corner outfielder but I’m sure once or twice a week you could play him in centerfield. If Jason Bay continues to be awful against right handed pitching, the lefty swinging Nieuwenhuis would make a great platoon partner for Bay.

Of course the new BIG 3 of Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Jeurys Familia will be watched closely and who knows, if Harvey pitches lights out, he could take the 5th spot in the rotation from Dillion Gee but he’d have to be spectacular in order for the Mets to force the issue early in the season. Wheeler will not be in the big league camp by the way but over at the kids table for minor leaguers but as we’ve seen in years past sometimes the minor leaguers get a invite to join the big boys especially when there are spilt squad games so keep an eye out for that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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METS BLOGGERS Q & A WITH METS VP OF PLAYER DEVELOPMENT/AMATEUR SCOUTING, PAUL DE PODESTA

Last night I had the privilege to be invited to a Mets bloggers conference call with New York Mets V.P. of Player Development and Amateur Scouting, Paul DePodesta. The conference call was to start at 6:30PM and the problem I had was I had a game at that time with my Babe Ruth League team. Thankfully I have a great bench coach to run the dugout and make moves and one of the parents who is a coach as well helped out while I headed to the car to call in on the conference call, by the way, we won 5-4 to keep our first place lead at two games.  

When I do one of these calls I always like to write down about 5 or 6 questions just in case someone asks a similar question. For this call I had 8 questions for DePodesta, but when it came to my turn I decided to go with this:

“Looking at the recent draft, the breakdown of picks was nearly even between pitchers and position players. Was that the plan going into the draft? Looking at the complete draft, it seemed like there were clusters of picks that went especially towards pitching. Was this done because they were the best pick available at that time, or was this something that was planned ahead — targeting pitching especially towards the middle and late rounds of the draft?”

DePo’s response was:

“To answer the first question about the 50/50 split — to be honest I didn’t even know that, so that wasn’t necessarily our plan going in. I think that’s generally how it falls, even with our rosters. Most of our minor league clubs are going to be about 50/50 between pitchers and position players. In terms of clustering some of the picks around a certain position or around pitching, that certainly was planned. We felt there was a particular depth – an unusual depth – of pitching in this year’s draft. There were some moments where we wanted to take position players, where we felt like if we were going to get the position player we wanted we needed to take them now. And after that we felt there was going to be a pool of pitching to choose from. We attacked that pool aggressively and when that pool was exhausted we re-evaluated where we were and went back to some position players. One of the things you’ll probably see is that rounds two through five were all college pitching. Once we got to round ten it was mainly high school pitching. That was certainly a calculated decision made before the draft.”

The one thing you read about this past entry draft was it that it was deep in pitching and the Mets took advantage of that depth.

I was going to ask about how the negotiations were going with Brandon Nimmo and if we will see Michael Fulmer, Cory Mazzoni or Jack Leathersich on the MCU Park mound this summer. I really wanted to ask if the team has thought about hiring Rick Peterson as a system wide pitching czar using Peterson’s expertise in the physics of pitching and his working relationship with Dr. Glenn Fleisig of American Sports Medicine Institute. To me this is a perfect match since Peterson, Sandy Alderson and DePodesta all have a working relationship going back to their Oakland days.

I’m pretty sure I can speak for all the Mets bloggers who have been invited to these conference calls and to the events at Citi Field that we have gotten more insight into how this organization operates and are thank full for the opportunities the Mets have given us. The new front office has a great deal of respect for us and for the Mets fans and they seem to enjoy these conference calls as much as we do.

A big thank you to Shannon Forde and Danielle Parillo of the Mets for arranging the calls and events at Citi Field.

Thanks also to Michael Baron of Mets Blog and James Kannengieser and Alex Nelson of Amazin’ Avenue for putting together transcripts of the conference call.

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BREAKING NEWS: METS IN NEGOTIATION WITH MORRIS BUTTERMAKER TO TAKE OVER MANAGERS JOB

Sure we are all giddy about the Mets 2-1 win but if you sit down and think about it for a moment, yesterday/last night’s game should have your Blue and Orange blood near a boil and not just because we had to endure nearly seven hours of Tim Mc Fullofshit.

While everyone is killing the Stinkin’ Genius for using position players on the mound over men who make their living at the art or for sending those artist to hit in key spots, what those actions screamed out to me was, LaRussa has absolutely no respect for the New York Mets. We all joke on how TLR tries be Belichick like in his approach to baseball but can you tell me if he was playing the Cubs or Phillies he’d have managed the same way? Hell no.

TLR showed you what he thought of the Mets offense by using Felipe Lopez and Jeff Mather to pitch and pitcher Kyle Lohse to play LF. LaRussa was getting killed on Twitter last night and speaking of Twitter I believe I set a Twitter record for most un-follows in a single day as I just about told every Highlander fan who follows me and was rooting for the Cards to tie the score in the bottom of the 19th inning to go fuck themselves.  That’s why Highlander fans are the Ass Hats of Baseball Fans.

Oh yeah where was I, yes TLR getting his ass handed to him on Twitter because he lifted Matt Holiday in the 10th but it seemed that Holiday was weak from the flu and just could not continue. This is crazy, me defending TLR so let me get back to reality and skew his ass for letting Yadier Molina catch 20 innings and not using backup Brain Anderson earlier. However I hope Molina has temporary paralysis today and can’t get out of bed. My sympathy for Yadier Molina has a shelf life of five minutes.

Now to our resident genius J-Man. Nice job having Frankie Rodz warm up for eight innings and have him leave his best stuff in the bullpen. As for the Seth Everett report about Mets players not happy with J-Man, don’t kill the messenger. Every player that Everett mentioned did have a beef with the Warlord. Johan Santana, who was not only outstanding on the mound yesterday but gets bows and salutations for remaining on the bench for the whole game and he even wore a rally cap. Big Pelf had his on to but I think he wears is hat like that all the time. Jerry Manuel skipped over Santana for an extra day to let Ollie Perez pitch, rightfully so, Johan was not happy. You do not skip over your Ace unless said Ace request the extra day. Knowing Santana, he’d like to start every other day. Jose Reyes was named in the report as well. Reyes just back from missing just about all of last season and the later part of spring training and is not 100 % at the plate. It would have been best to let him play a few more extended spring games but these are desperate times in Metsville so Reyes did not get much hitting rehab done. So while he tries to get his stroke back, Manuel floats the idea to hit him third. Reyes won’t come out publicly and say what he feels but with trying to get back into baseball shape that last thing he wants or needs is to be moved to the most important spot in the lineup at this time. The thing that makes you wonder about Manuel’ thinking is when Luis Castillo said he was not comfortable batting 8th J-Man stopped hitting him 8th. I would think Jose Reyes carries more clout than the Tree Stump. John Maine, disgusted with himself over his piss poor pitching performances hears from the scribes that his pitching life is on the line as per the Warlord. Finally showing some piss and vinegar, Maine marched into Manuel’s office for some answers. Good to see a pulse their John Boy. As for Frenchy? He just a yenta he can’t help himself. Frenchy reminds me of the old ladies on my block as a kid who would open their windows all the way and put a pillow over the sill and watch everyone’s comings and goings and report the news of the street to the other house frows . That’s Frenchy. All that’s missing are humongous boobs and a house dress.

Now this not to say that Seth Everett broke a story here like the Yenta said, he was never in the locker room or at the ball park so most likely Everett is reading all the Mets blogs for his info and of course he’ll never give us credit.

How about the heart of the Mets batting order, Wright-Bay-Yenta going a combined 1 for 20. I’m pretty sure if Jason Bay struck out for the fifth time in the game, his contract would have automatically voided. After Alex Cora’s great catch at in foul territory, John Rico and Sandy Johnson had to tie up Omar Minaya as Omar was ready to extend Cora’s deal for five years.

Judging by Ruben Valdes running the bases yesterday I guess the idea of sliding pits never reached Cuba.

Angel Pagan went 3 for 6 yesterday, the best hitting line on the team, look for GMJ to play the next three games.

Lost in all the hubbub of yesterday was that this was the third straight game the Mets got a top starting performance from a starting pitcher. How about Big Pelf and win and a save in the last three days. I’m rooting hard for John Maine tonight, because with all the bullshit aside it comes down to this team getting pitching. The bullpen has been great but overworked if the starters get deeper into games the next week or so to give the pen a little time to rejuvenate this season can get turned around. See this what happens when you watch a 2-1, 20 inning, 6 hr. 53 min baseball game with Tim McFullofshit talking out his ass, you suffer from McFullofshit Fatigue Syndrome.

That’s why it was damn shame yesterday/last night’s game was not on SNY just to hear Keith Hernandez bitch and moan and of course it would have been the best opportunity for him to scream out a profanity.

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I’M SURE RAMON MARTINEZ STAYED CLEAR OF JOHAN SANTANA

I’m sure Johan Santana would love to join Jerry Manuel in a tag team against Omar Minaya and Tony Bernazard to find out why the front office has it’s head up it’s ass over brining in a shortstop either Ruben Tejada, Jose Coronado from the minors or going out and getting a middle infielder and stop the embarrassment that is Ramon Martinez. It’s not Martinez fault he is should not be on a major league roster. If the Mets would have put Jose Reyes on the DL on the 14th when he first felt the pain in his calf, he may have recuperated and would be ready to go this week but the way the Mets have dicked around with Reyes he’ll most likely end up on the DL now and would make a month he’s be out. I can’t understand for the life of me how Omar and his grew have no grasp whatsoever on injuries and how much they bungle call ups from the minors.

Kevin Youkils is lucky he didn‘t get more than hit in the elbow last night. Remember last season before Manny Ramirez was shipped out of Boston he kicked Youks ass as he got tired of him throwing his helmet after making an out in the Red Sox dugout.

Next on the walking wounded list is Ryan Church you claims to have teak a hammy so now the Mets will play two position players down.

Bravo Gary Cohen and I think I speak for the vast majority of Mets fans who HATE hearing Sweet Caroline at $iti Field. Please Gary you are the one with the ear of the nit wits in management. Your our only hope.

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IS CARLOS BELTRAN UNDER APPRECIATED?

Saw this post on Beyond The Box Score where they ranked the ten best center fielders in baseball and Carlos Beltran ranked #2 while Grady Sizemore beat out Beltran for the top spot. Here is the comment on Beltran:

2. Carlos Beltran (53 off, 13 def, 66 tot) – No matter what the Manhattan-based publications tell you, Beltran is one of the ten best position players in the world.  He gets on base, hits for power, steals bases without being thrown out, plays center field, and runs down everything out there.  Given what Manny and Tex are going to sign for this year (and what Andruw Jones signed for last year), his $18MM yearly salary is a steal.

Beltran gets a ton of heat from Mets fans and it seems he is more appreciated outside of Flushing, mostly due to his quiet demeanor but when you look back to when he was signed he has done everything you could ask of him and as far as Fielding goes there is no better center fielder in baseball.  
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