Mets Squeeze Past St. Louis in ST Game 11

The Mets rallied late to outlast the Cardinals 9-8 in Grapefruit League action.

I’m not sure what it means to beat a team in late innings in spring training, because once games get past the 6th inning, it’s more or less AA and AAA players fighting it out. But, it’s always preferable to win, rather than lose.

Jonathon Niese made his first start of the spring and did not do well. We don’t care much about numbers — and Niese’s were ugly in this game — but that’s not the concern. Rather, what was worrisome was Niese’s inability to repeat consistent, safe mechanics, and, in turn, have command of his pitches. Niese missed high, low, inside, and out, and it wasn’t surprising considering that his motion changed a few times and his arm angle and release point were all over the place. Yes, it was his first time on the mound in a game in the spring, but you’d like to have seen him more comfortable; Niese seemed to be uncomfortable, frustrated, and unable to find a rhythm. Being rusty is one thing, but being completely lost is another. Niese insists that his previously ailing shoulder is fine, but his body language wasn’t convincing — at least, not to me. I have to wonder if he’s still feeling discomfort in his shoulder, if not pain.

Rafael Montero threw a fine initial inning, a not-so-fine second frame. He threw plenty of strikes, which is great, but also threw plenty of very hittable pitches, which often is not so great. I think he got away with a few meatballs that wound up being just missed or hit foul. Still, I like that he’s not afraid to attack the strike zone.

Remember when Jeff Wilpon told us there was a “glut” at first base, and that’s why the Mets weren’t going after any free agent first sackers, such as, for example, Jose Abreu and Kendrys Morales? Well, would someone please explain to me who the heck is Matt Clark and why do we keep seeing him manning the right corner for the Mets?

Speaking of that first-base glut, Josh Satin went yard, as did Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Zach Lutz.

Wilmer Flores made his first start of the spring at shortstop, and was fine enough defensively, though we can’t make any determination based on one game.

Jose Valverde was not so pretty in his one inning of work, allowing two runs on three hits. I’m getting the feeling that it doesn’t matter what Valverde does, so long as he doesn’t completely implode — he’s making the team.

Xavier Scruggs is one of the more interesting baseball names to enter the league in the past few years. Sounds like a character from a spaghetti western or a Mel Brooks movie.

Juan Lagares made a spectacular diving catch early in the ballgame. But we already know he can flash the leather; he needs to show that he can hit enough to find a place in the lineup.

Vic Black struck out three in his one inning of work, but allowed two hits and threw 23 pitches in the process. I’m still not sure what to make of him — even when the results are good, it seems like an adventure. But, that’s often the way it goes with late-inning relievers.

Gonzalez Germen gained the victory by allowing the Cardinals to tie the score; funny how that works. Germen has been underwhelming thus far in the spring, and doesn’t seem to realize that he’s fighting for a bullpen spot.

OK, what did you see? Post your notes in the comments.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Quinn March 12, 2014 at 8:35 am
    It may seem ridiculous but i extremely doubt Chris Young will out perfor Den Dekker, ecspecially by 7 mil. Until his injury wasn’t Den Dekker slated for a spot in NY?
    As for Matt Clark, in an earlier game someone mentioned he was a power hitter in th minors hitting 20+ HRs in past seasons so they brought him in for insurance.
    I wonder with injuries already occuring to two 1b and Murphy being held out if the organization regrets letting Turner go yet.
    • Joe Janish March 12, 2014 at 9:56 am
      Quinn, you bring up a REALLY good point: is Chris Young $7M better than Den Dekker? And when you mention that, suddenly the idea that the Mets aren’t signing Stephen Drew because he’s not worth $14M more than Ruben Tejada doesn’t hold weight — does it?

      Maybe Wilmer Flores can play SS and 1B simultaneously.

      • Izzy March 12, 2014 at 12:42 pm
        Meanwhile those Braves, watching their ace go down immediately sign Ervin Santana. Wonder why the Braves usually contend and the Mets usually don’t???
      • Dan B March 12, 2014 at 3:34 pm
        Those type of questions frustrate me. Saving $7 million does not make your team better. Having a better player makes your team better. The Mets two strengths are pitching prospects and salary flexibility. They are reluctant to use either to improve their MLB roster. So what if they overpay for somebody? They are $80 million under where their payroll should be! Please explain to me how saving $7 million adds wins? According to the idiot son and Alderson they are still under budget. There is plenty of room for salary error but instead we get cheap players making fielding errors.
      • DaveSchneck March 12, 2014 at 6:32 pm
        Gentlemen,
        Signing C Young at that price can be debated, but comparing him to Den Dekker is off. I like DD, be he is lefty and hasn’t shown he can hit a lefty, so at best he is half of a platoon with a RH OF. Young was signed by our cheapo team as a hedge against sticker shock and the chance that Grandy would have signed elsewhere. That is all his signing was.

        Izzy, yes, once again as an addicted Met fan I feel like puking when I see the direct competetion actually acting like the expect to win as opposed to two-faced doble speak of the last 45 years.

    • argonbunnies March 12, 2014 at 4:29 pm
      I have greatly enjoyed seeing Matt Clark, Brandon Allen and Eric Cambpell spell our backup 1B Josh Satin this spring. Some teams strive for 8 viable starting pitchers; the Mets are going for 6 first basemen.

      As for Den Dekker vs CY, I think the Mets are playing the odds here — 26-year-olds with K problems rarely break into the bigs and become everyday players, while 30-year-olds who were excellent in MLB at 26 pan out a bit more often. That said, I certainly wouldn’t be shocked if Den Dekker were better than CY in 2014, and yeah, that $7 mil probably could have been better spent elsewhere.

  2. Sanman March 12, 2014 at 11:23 am
    First, the METS would be better off putting Daniel Murphy at firstbase and Eric Young at second, sending Ike Davis and Duda to the minors to heal.

    Second, the Chicago Cubs have three outstanding shortstops and they need pitching. Sending Rafael Montero or Jacob DeGrom to Chicago for a shortstop should work.

    • argonbunnies March 12, 2014 at 4:21 pm
      Terry’s stated that the only way Young ever plays 2B is if Murph gets hurt. Yay for flexibility.

      The Cubs don’t want to sell low on Starlin Castro, and they aren’t trading Javier Baez (iffy defender, but the quickest bat in the minors) for less than Syndergaard+. Who exactly do you think we could get for DeGrom?

  3. argonbunnies March 12, 2014 at 4:18 pm
    Watching the Braves pay $14 mil to address a need, the Mets have two options: do likewise for Drew, or admit that the Braves, as a playoff contender, are in a different position, and all the “90 wins” talk was B.S. Of course, Sandy will never do that — he’ll just try to out-B.S. his original B.S. *sigh*
    • NormE March 12, 2014 at 6:13 pm
      Great point, Argon.
      It proves that Atlanta is trying to win with reasonable expenditures. The Mets are more interested in keeping costs under control and hoping that they can catch lightning in a bottle.
      Alderson is simply playing the game of making nice with Bud Selig who always rewards loyalty. Thus, the Wilpons are loyal to Bud. Thus, Bud protects the Wilpons. Thus, Alderson plays the game and hopes Bud will push him as his successor. Winning baseball is on the back-burner.
  4. Vilos March 12, 2014 at 7:42 pm
    Norm,
    I think you miss the point about keeping costs under control. Its not about being nice to anybody, but about balanceing a budget. From what I’ve read, the Mets have lost money for a while.
    Yes, you can argue that a mayor city such as NY should have owners with a huge wallet or that the quality of the product is not worth the prices. Both aceptable arguments, but balanceing the budget makes perfect business sense.
    Final note is that letting, Reyes walk, was, is and will be their main mistake
    • NormE March 12, 2014 at 7:56 pm
      Vilos,
      You make an interesting point about the budget, but you also point out that they are losing money. It seems to me that given the factors of the cost of going to games and the perception by many fans that the Mets aren’t worth the price, you have a major reason why they are losing money.
      “You’ve got to spend money to make money” is the name of the game. Add to that the increased revenue from MLB’s tv package and it’s hard to understand why the Mets projected opening day payroll will be similar to last year’s. And that puts that payroll at about the seventh or eighth lowest in all of baseball. Just as unacceptable as letting Reyes walk.
      The Braves are using a better business model.
      • Izzy March 13, 2014 at 8:02 am
        Norm is spot on.Le tme ask you Vilos if a car company is making all lemons and says it is doing so because it is cost conscious and is losing money for a while,would you defend the company and buy its lemon? Of course not, so why do people defend the Wilpons for doing same with theirl emon of a ball club? The Wilpons priuce a viable product and they will wish Citi Field had as many seats as Shea because the place would be packed and the fans would be buying food and jersies like crazy. Save a few bucks and have an empty park and rotten ratings on their TV network. Why do people defend these hapless Wilpons. Remember, they own the team due to the Ponzii scheme, not because they are business geniuses.
        • DaveSchneck March 13, 2014 at 8:36 am
          Regardless of anything being said by Alderson or the Wilpons, the Mets continue to operate like pretenders that have no intention on competing seriously in the upcoming season. Yes, they have built depth in the minors and that is commendable, but they are punting on another season not to “protect” or rehabilitate the season, but because they are cheap. Actually, they are cheap cheap cheap. The KC Royals have a bigger payroll this season, for real, that is how cheap they are.
        • Vilos March 13, 2014 at 11:31 am
          Izzy,
          two quick remarks.
          First, I have no intention of defending the Wilpons.
          Second, the reason we keep buying the “lemons” (tickets, suscriptions, merchandizing, etc) is that we are fans, who are hooked and unable to change teams. Its stiupid, but it is what it is. With all the boneheaded mistakes the Mets have made since the Wilpons bought the franchise, any rational baseball fan, should have gone elsewhere.
  5. Vilos March 12, 2014 at 9:39 pm
    I dont remember where I read it, but I recall that this year they should end up even.
    Therefore, I agree with you that its time to spend some extra money. Im probably still too much of a fan, so it explains that I still expect some movement at SS before openning day (although I would love to see then go with Flores).
  6. DanB March 13, 2014 at 10:41 am
    Who predicted the Mets will end up even? The Mets are famous for over projecting revenue. Let’s not pretend that the Mets keeping cost down in order to minimize losses is just part of the business plan. It is a decission about ego. The proper business plan would be to bring in real investors with real capital investment. A properly financed New York baseball team should make good money even in an off season as you give fans a reason for believing. However, if the Mets sold off shares of the team, it would mean the Wilpons would no longer be the majority owners and in the middle of the spotlight. The idiot son would most likely lose his job (as long as he is making baseball decissions, the Mets have no chance for prolong success). So they could have less shares and make money or have more shares and lose money. Not a good business plan.
    • Vilos March 13, 2014 at 11:44 am
      Dan,
      I’m not sure that the proper business is to bring in real investirs with real capital investment.
      Yes, we would all applaud if the Wilpons sold the franchise and new investors came in.
      But how much money needs to be injected to produce a true contender that fills the seats?
      From what I read, Drew isnt the difference and thats going to cost minimum 10 million. Who else do you have to bring?
      Therefore, balancing the budget and working yourself up, might be rough for the fans, but it spunds like a reasonable plan.
      • NormE March 13, 2014 at 3:18 pm
        Vilos,
        The signing of Drew probably won’t make the team vastly better. But, it would be a sign to the fans that expenditures will rise with increased revenue (mlb tv package). Fans need a reason to spend money and it usually has to do with the belief that their team can win. After a bad year in 2013 the Yankees made a great effort to improve. Their payroll may be out of the Mets territory but the idea is the same. Don’t trot out the same ciphers at SS and 1B and expect the fans to believe.
        • Vilos March 13, 2014 at 6:56 pm
          Norm,
          Oe question: would you as a fan, get excited if the Mets signed Drew and start believing again, as in You Gotta Believe?
          Probably not. Age and mostly Wilpon issues took that away a while ago.
          The only thing that will get fans going is winning, not the thought that the Wilpons might consider spending more.
        • NormE March 14, 2014 at 12:19 am
          You’ve got to start somewhere. Why not at SS?
          The failure to fill holes is not lost on the fans. Using the excuse that Drew won’t make the team a winner is another way of saying screw the fans.
          When attendance keeps falling you’ve got to reexamine your business model. Learning from others is no shame.
      • Joe Janish March 13, 2014 at 3:45 pm
        Agreed that right now, as in today, adding Drew likely won’t make that much of a difference in the Mets’ chance toward playoff contention. But if investors came in, say, 9 months ago, they could have done things with money that would have improved the club both for the short-term and long-term.

        After the contracts of Bay and Santana expired, the Mets were around, what was it? $60M in payroll, prior to the arbitration cases? Owners with money could have non-tendered the likes of Davis, Duda, and others, and put as much as $100M toward free agency this winter (including the signing of young international free agents, such as from Japan and Cuba).

        There’s no reason a team can’t spend in free agency and develop the farm system at the same time. And there’s no reason a team needs to lose while they rebuild their farm system. Whether or not a financial investment in a Major League sports team will pay off depends largely on the market in which the team is based. There’s no larger, more potentially profitable market than New York, so what is the excuse? See DanB’s comment above.

        • DaveSchneck March 13, 2014 at 6:32 pm
          Joe,
          I agree 100% with your last paragraph.

          Regardng Drew, or another player that can add one or two wins, I think the excuse not to act “because the player doesn’t change you to a real contender” is total hogwash and the talk of cheap losers. A lot happens during a baseball season, so every competitor needs to be as ready as possible. Last year the the Nats were expected to dominate and were so so. The Braves have already lost 2 key pitchers. Anything can happen injury-wise and performance-wise. How about the old motto :be prepared”?

        • Vilos March 13, 2014 at 6:49 pm
          If I understand correctly, your saying that if the Mets let a lot of players go, spent 100 on FA and ended up with a payroll of 160, they would be ready to compete today.
          Whats the payroll at today? 90 ?
          Therefore, going from 90 to 160 would fill seats.
          That might work, but what if they dont compete? In that case your down again (assuming they are break even today).
          I agree that if you have the money you can go by your play book, and try again next year. But if you dont, which seems to be the case, it seems reasonable to take the road the Mets have taken, Except of course, letting Reyes walk was, is and will be considered a huge mistake in this process.
        • DaveSchneck March 14, 2014 at 1:16 am
          Vilos,
          The Mets are in the entertainment business. Let’s assume that they “don’t have the money”, or the access to “the money”, which likely isn’t true. How do they “get the money”?. Sports is unlike other entertainment businesses in that you have an “established” customer base based on culture, allegiance, addiction, and emotion. This customer base is vast and has proven that they will spend at premium prices for a good product and even for a so so product if they believe their ownership is committed to providing a good product but came short due to the unpredectable nature of competitive professional sports. It doesn’t take a genius to deduct tat this ownership has fractured its relationship with the customer base. The significant majority knows that they can’t spend for the sake of spending, but they also have seen minimal spending to improve relative to the competitors, and that is a bad thing.
        • DanB March 14, 2014 at 4:06 pm
          Everybody agrees it is not how much teams spend, but how they spend it. However, this does refute that a small budget team that spends well will lose to a big budget team that spends well. I want the Mets to be a big budget team that spends well. They currently are not a small budget team that spends well (DJ Carrasco, KRod, Francisco, Rauch, et al) because they consistantly lose about 88 games a year. You don’t have to invest heavily in free agents to act like a big market. You could promote young pitching based on their skill level and not on their potential free agency. You could invest more in foreign free agents who don’t cost draft picks. You could trade for productive but overpaid players. You could cut underperforming players rather have them eat roster space in the hopes they somehow figure it out. This is not about whether the Mets should sign Drew, it is much bigger. It is a philosophical approach to running a business.
        • Joe Janish March 14, 2014 at 4:51 pm
          This is a GREAT point. I’m tired of hearing — most often from the Mets’ official blog — that “it’s not how much you spend, but HOW you spend it” — especially in regard to the Mets, because it’s clear that they don’t spend well with more, nor do they spend well with less. What is the common denominator in both cases? The ownership.

          If the Mets were winning with their paltry payroll, I might have a different perspective. But here’s the thing: the Mets are in a market with tremendous profit potential, yet they are not making an appropriate investment in their product, so they are quite rightly losing both money and games.

          Even if the Mets win 82 games this year — which is a longshot — is that really success? Should barely having a winning season be identified as “spending wisely,” and somehow better than operating with a higher payroll?

          What exactly is the goal these days? If one is to listen to the press, a team is celebrated for its ability to keep down the cost of a win. Call me crazy, but in the 40 years I’ve been competing in sports, the goal has been to win games, period.

        • Vilos March 14, 2014 at 9:09 pm
          Just for the record, Im not saying the Mets are spending wisely. Im saying that its a reasonable plan to balance the budget and work yourself up.
  7. Vilos March 14, 2014 at 8:33 pm
    Dave,
    Totally agree that the Wilpons have fractured their relationship with the costomet base but just the same, if the Mets were winning, who would care?
    You write “This customer base is vast and has proven that they will spend at premium prices for a good product and even for a so so product if they believe their ownership is committed to providing a good product but came short due to the unpredectable nature of competitive professional sports.” Really, the customer base spends if they believe in ownership? Im not sure I agree with that.
    To be honest, I have never read any article about sport franchise income, how much are tickets, how much tv, billboards, food, merchandizing etc. It also would be interesting to know how much individual fans pay. How many paying fans are estimated, etc
    If I had to guess, I would imagine a very large demand base, with no individual buyer of great importance.
    My point, I think the customer base swings with results. The show up if the team is winning, and dont really care about the owners, unless of course, the team is losing.
    • Dan42 March 15, 2014 at 9:36 am
      Winning is an important ingredient, where the ownership comes into play is maintaining hope for the win, which in this teams case is nil. Look at the Cubs, not much winning but a lot of hope.
      • Dan B March 15, 2014 at 11:45 am
        Interesting factoid about the Cubs–in a study of baseball teams it was found that Cub fans care the least about winning. Of all teams, the Cub’s attendance is the least effected by winning percentage. Actually beer prices effect Cub attendance more then winning percentage. For whatever that is worth.
        • DaveSchneck March 15, 2014 at 4:10 pm
          Dan B,
          You are on a roll here. Joe J. ay be starting to worry.

          Winning absolutely matters in NYC, because of countless reasons, not the least of which is the evil empire in the Bronx, and the unmatched competition for the entertainment dollar. And, of course, I totally agree that no one would care who owns the team if they consistently competed for the playoffs.

          That is why 82 wins matters this year. They are not going to cost cut their way to a balanced budget. The Nats may have as much money as the Dodgers, the Phillies have a huge payroll and a new huge TV deal, the Braves have a new stadium on the way and are acting financially aggressive even with a bad TV deal, ok, the Marlins may have worse ownership than the Mets. But, in total, as Dan B.said, the low cost model will not work in NYC, simply because NYC is not Oakland,Tampa,or Pittsburgh.