A Mets fan since 1971, Dan spent many summer nights of his childhood watching the Mets on WOR Channel Nine, which his Allentown, PA cable company carried. Dan was present at Game 7 of the 1986 World Series and the Todd Pratt Walkoff Game in 1999. He is also the proud owner of two Shea Stadium seats. Professionally, Dan is a Marketing Communications Coordinator. He lives in Bethlehem PA with his wife and son, neither of whom fully get his obsession with the Mets.
Browsing All Posts By Dan Capwell

You Read it Here First: Mets Will Win NL East (This Year)

First off, I promise this will not end with the phrase “April Fool.”

I realize that all March baseball stats need to be taken with several grains of salt, or as put best by the late great Ralph Kiner, hope always springs eternal in the Spring. That said, I am (cautiously) optimistic enough from what I have read and observed about our Mets this past month to make this prediction.

Part of my new sunny outlook is due to

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Mets’ Murphy’s Hope: Health and Hits

It is that time of year again: the usual Spring Training fluff pieces are in full flower. One of the more interesting quotes so far in this newborn season came from new Mets hitting coach Kevin Long, who predicts that Daniel Murphy could win the NL batting crown.

Murphy is certainly one of the more controversial characters to emerge in this post-Madoff era of Met history. Reminiscent of the types of debates mid-1990’s Mets fans had over Jeff Kent, there are few folks that are merely lukewarm on Murph. One side wants this home-grown, gritty, blue-collar All Star signed to a long-term extension. The other side would have traded him two off-seasons ago and wants him moved at least by the July 31 trade deadline, if not sooner.

If the last few seasons have shown us nothing else, they are stark reminders that baseball is a business and the players are merely depreciating assets. With an ownership as financially hamstrung as the Wilpons apparently are, proper control over these depreciating assets is a vital necessity for them in their quest to hang on to this franchise.

Let’s face it: that the Mets have held on to Murphy this long is entirely due to the fact that his salary is relatively low, vis-a-vis his production. That will change after this year, when Daniel is a first-time free agent and looking at a big payday.

So, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that the Mets are hoping that Daniel has one of those last-year-of- my-contract career seasons. This may seem counterintuitive on the surface, but if you peel the layers back a bit, it makes perfect sense.

The Mets don’t want Murphy beyond 2015. They have what they perceive to be a perfectly suitable replacement in Dilson Herrera, who should be major league ready by the end of the season. What the Mets want is a huge season from Murph (think Jose Reyes 2011 huge). If he hits say .330 and bangs out 200 hits, there is no way he doesn’t become one of the top free agents in the next class. This works to the Mets advantage, as they can make him a Qualifying Offer, which he will likely turn down in search of a much larger payday. The Mets in turn get an extra first round draft pick, which right now looks like a better and cheaper alternative to any player(s)from other teams that have been linked to the Mets in a trade for Murphy.

There is precedence for this with Reyes. The Mets let him walk, much to the dismay of their fans, garnering two draft picks in return. Those picks have turned into Kevin Plawecki and Matt Reynolds. Both players are on the verge of breaking into the majors this year and are both (more so in Plawecki’s case) regarded as bona-fide prospects. It will make GM Sandy Alderson look pretty smart if he traded a depreciating asset like Reyes (who since moved on to another team) for two serviceable players on his 25-man roster during what he hopes is the year they return to postseason.

Speaking of trades, if Murphy does indeed have a career year this year, there is very little chance he is dealt at the trade deadline, unless the entire Mets season has otherwise gone down the dumper. If the team is even within hailing distance of a postseason berth, you can bank on another quiet deadline for Alderson.

Yep, just like they drew it up: Murph just has to stay healthy and hit the way Long thinks he can. (BTW-Peter Gammons called Long one of the best free agent signings of the offseason) The Mets will reap the benefits of an additional first-round pick, refreshing their farm system while some poor team pays Daniel for what he did for while with the Mets.

Or am I giving the Mets too much credit?

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Wilmer Flores, Meet Keith Miller

wilmer-flores-keith-miller

If you had Wilmer Flores in the pool as the Mets Opening Day shortstop, get ready to collect. As incredible as it sounds, the Mets, a team hoping to vault into contention via their cache of young pitchers,  are actually planning on starting the season with a previously-failed shortstop prospect manning this vital position; pointing to a small sample size (occurring in September no less) as the rationale for this move. It would be far better for them to just admit that they can’t afford a roster full of  the caliber of players that a contender needs, a but honesty was an early casualty in the post-Madoff era.

I am rooting for Flores and I really want the Mets to go back to the playoffs. I don’t need to be right about this one. I will gladly suffer self-congratulatory remarks from a champagne-soaked Jeff Wilpon in the Mets clubhouse after an NLCS win rather than dealing with another losing season. But, after 40-plus years (gulp!) of Met fandom, I have been conditioned into expecting the worst. And I think we’re going to get it. The Mets have a long history of trying to shoehorn bad fits into their lineup, often with disastrous results. The Howard Johnson in centerfield experiment still gives me (and I suppose Hojo as well) nightmares. I have racked my brain trying to come up with a scenario for Flores that might have if not a happy ending, at least a less bad one. Then I remembered Keith Miller and the great 1990 Centerfield Experiment.

If anyone epitomized the term “nice little ballplayer,” it was Miller. He played all over the field and could run a little. On a team loaded with superstars, the blue collar Miller was a welcomed throw back. In 1990, the season after they traded both incumbent centerfielders, the Mets handed the center field job to Miller. The results where less than stellar. Miller didn’t field well enough to overcome his 250/350/404 slash line for the first month of  the season. The Mets, picked by many to win the division where struggling (manager Davey Johnson would be fired 42 games into the season) and looked for upgrades. They found one in Daryl Boston, whom they picked up off waivers on April 30. Boston was soon inserted into centerfield and slashed 273/328/440 the rest of the way. One of my favorite Shea Stadium scoreboard witticisms was BOSTON POPS! on the marquee after an extra base hit from Daryl. Not a gold glover by any stretch, he was nevertheless defensively  an improvement over Miller and overall, represented an upgrade for the Mets in center.

With a new manager and a new centerfielder, the Mets somewhat righted the ship. They won 91 games, four behind the division winning Pirates. There where only two NL divisions and no wildcard then, so they went home. This was the end of the great 1980’s Mets run and they wouldn’t have another winning season for seven years and not break the 90-win plateau until 1999. As for Miller, he was dealt after the 1991 season in the ill-fated Bret Saberhagen trade.

Flores reminds me somewhat of Miller: a decent bat and no real defensive position. Miller had “potential” written all over him until prolonged exposure to major league pitching revealed his limitations. I suspect the same will happen with Wilmer. BTW–Miller hit .373 for the 1987 Mets, higher than any average Flores has put up anywhere.

The Miller-to-Boston switch might be the best we can hope for at short this year. The Mets themselves have great expectations for this season and the noise will likely increase as Opening Day draws near. If the team and Flores stumble early, like Miller and the 90 Mets did, will GM Sandy Alderson finally bite the bullet and bring in a real shortstop? Perhaps he can finally convince Seattle to part with either Brad Miller or Chris Taylor. Or will he  (dare I dream it?) trade for one of the Cub shortstops? These types of upgrades would make the contender talk much more realistic. Or was Terry Collins really serious the other day about an open competition between Wilmer and Ruben Tejada?

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Can Prospects Save the Mets?

Ok, in less than ten days we can finally begin to change the conversation in this terrible, boring, frustrating, no-good Mets offseason. The official date for pitchers and catchers is February 19th, although many Mets players have already matriculated down to Port St. Lucie.

I think much of the angst evident among the faithful during the past three winters has turned into apathy as they’ve done it to us again: a brief burst of activity followed by…nothing. That is unless you count the drivel oozing from the  mouth of GM Sandy Alderson. As was posted here, I think Alderson is the fulcrum on which the Mets pantheon of awfulness (The Wilpons, Terry Collins, Citi Field, a Triple-A team in Las Vegas, losing WFAN, etc.) balances on.

This offseason, it has been all about the prospects. The Mets just can’t/won’t/don’t make any moves because they have this bumper crop of prospects that are soon to deliver the good times again. Or is this yet another set-up? Maybe there is a way to find out before you spend any of your hard-earned money on them.

Take a look at Baseball America’s top-10 Mets prospects coming into the new season:

  1. Noah Syndergaard
  2. Steven Matz
  3. Brandon Nimmo
  4. Dilson Herrera
  5. Kevin Plawecki
  6. Ahmed Rosario
  7. Michael Conforto
  8. Rafael Montero
  9. Marcus Molina
  10. Gavin Cecchini

That certainly is a great list and at several of those names  have Mets fans dreaming of the day a pennant (or two) flies over Citi Field. Along with those supposedly robust ticket sales,  these farm system rankings are being touted by the Mets as third party verification that better days are just ahead.

Like barnacles on a ship, negativity is attached to everything “Mets” these days, so there is no shortage of folks to remind us of Generation K and The Teenaged Hitting Machine. I have not been shy about my distain for most of the non-playing members (and a few that do play) in the Met organization, but I really do want the team to win. It is always difficult to project future performance of prospects, but some empirical evidence exists to at least help us take an educated guess.

Let’s start with BA’s top ten Met farmhands list from 2012 and 2013:

2012

  1. Zack Wheeler
  2. Matt Harvey
  3. Nimmo
  4. Jeurys Familia
  5. Cesar Puello
  6. Jennry Mejia
  7. Kirk Nieuwenhuis
  8. Michael Fulmer
  9. Reese Havens
  10. Wilmer Flores

And 2013:

  1. Wheeler
  2. Cecchini
  3. Nimmo
  4. Luis Mateo
  5. Montero
  6. Flores
  7. Fulmer
  8. Familia
  9. Domingo Tapia
  10. Cory Mazzoni

 

15 names dot those two lists. Of them, Havens has retired, while Fulmer, Mateo and Mazzoni have been slowed by injuries.  Tapia may have flamed out in the face of improved competition. Puello’s stock soared until his PED revelation.  While I wouldn’t give up on these guys totally, their big league futures seem cloudy.  Nimmo and Cecchini’s high rankings are mainly due to BA’s institutional high regard for first round draft picks. Sans those two, six of 13 (46%) have made it to the majors. Mejia already having made his debut in 2010 with the rest called up by the end of 2013. For argument’s sake let’s give both Nimmo and Cecchini (or one  of them and Mazzoni) at least a cup of big league coffee. That’s eight out of 15 or a 53% yield. Not great.

Stick with me however and let’s take a look at BA’s two top farm systems from 2012 and 2013, which would be the Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals, respectively  (BTW, the Mets system ranked 25th and then 16th in those two years). Seven of the top ten from each organization became major leaguers–although one of them was Yu Darvish. Because conventional wisdom indicates the Mets system is at or near the top of the organizational rankings (there is no 2015 info for BA yet) and that better systems produce more major leaguers, let’s risk the small sample size and assume that seven of the names on the 2015 Mets list will be in the majors by 2016.

Remember that Herrera and Montero have already debuted, so who are the other five?  It might be easiest to project the four most advanced names: Syndergaard, Plawecki, Matz and Nimmo. That’s going to leave a lot of Mets fans, not to mention the Front Office disappointed with a wasted top pick (either Conforto or Cecchini).  And it might mean that we shouldn’t buy into the Rosario hype. Or does Conforto join Nimmo in Queens while one (or both) of the AAA arms comes up lame? There’s a scary thought.

OK, you may be thinking, there will still be some disappointments, but overall the guys that do break through will make the Mets a lot better.  Don’t count on it. How good have the 2012/2013 list graduates been? Harvey made the All-Star team and then had TJS; while Mejia, Familia and Wheeler appear poised to stick as better than serviceable performers. Kirk will likely peak in his 4th-outfielder/pinch hitter role. I am rooting for Flores, but I think that for a variety of reasons, he is being set up to fail.  That’s one franchise-type player, three contending team-caliber players, a utility guy and a Mystery Box (Flores).

Prospect-wise, the Mets are close to where the Cardinals were two seasons ago. From that Cardinal list, the Oscar Taveras tragedy is unimaginable, but their #2 prospect went to Atlanta and the #6 prospect had TJS. The best of the remainder are in the same band as Mejia/Familia/Wheeler.

For arguments’s sake, call Syndergaard  the next Harvey, while Matz, Nimmo and Herrera become regulars and Plawecki sticks as a backup. Added to the mix currently here, how much better does it make the Mets?  I think it still leaves them as a flawed team, with a major Achilles Heel.

A deeper comparison between the Mets and the Cardinals shows that a strong prospect base is about where the similarities between the two franchises end. The Cardinals have made trades, signed free agents, aggressively promoted players, play better defense, have more speed and are well-run, from the owner’s box to the manager’s office.  About the same thing could be said of the other perennial NL playoff teams, Washington and San Francisco.

While those teams have maintained a high standard year over year and the Cubs, Padres and Marlins have improved, the Mets have been characteristically moribund,  appearing sclerotic while their more nimble competitors gleefully restock their rosters and their fan’s expectations for the coming season.

It’s all spilled milk now, but I were Alderson and the Diamondbacks asked for Syndergaard in return for Didi Gregorious, I would have pivoted off of Didi and onto Chris Owings. Largely overlooked in this plethora of pitching prospects is that the Mets also have three centerfielders: Kirk, Juan Lagares and Matt den Dekker. I would be hounding San Diego’s AJ Preller almost daily about pieces of my centerfield and pitching surplus for Wil Myers. Yes,  I would trade Lagares. I think den Dekker can be almost as good defensively and he is a better leadoff candidate. How much different might we feel with Owings and Myers on board and Michael Cuddyer in the supersub utility role?

Maybe this changes when Alderson finally packages a bunch of prospects for that major offensive piece, or the Wilpons loosen the purse strings to allow a free agent signing.  Or if Snydergaard is so good in Spring Training that they start him in the rotation with Harvey, Wheeler and Jacob deGrom, while trading Bartolo Colon. But what in recent history leads one to believe that any of this is really going to ever happen? Because Alderson says they might?  Because the commissioner believes they would? And yes, I understand that there are non-prospect list sleepers like deGrom, but they are the exception rather than the rule. Counting on surprises isn’t a sustainable plan, plus baseball has a way of winnowing the flash-in-the-pan types from the  here-to-stay ones. I like having a good farm system, but treating my top prospects as if each of them is a 2036 HOF inductee is preposterous and is ultimately far more risky than moving a few of them for some proven and controllable help.

Yes, the 2015/16 Mets should have plenty of pitching. They probably won’t have much else. On and off the field, the Mets are just so flimsy, a product of broke owners and an out-of-touch GM. While it is nice to think that we are on the verge of another 1984-1990 run, with the wild card meaning more post season play, what I see is a repeat of the 1975-76 Mets, teams that bubbled up over 500, but never seriously contended. If you’ll recall, by 1977 the players had had enough of a parsimonious ownership and front office (sound familiar?) and rebelled, leading to a major talent purge and a long period of sub.500 baseball.

Let’s talk each other off the ledge.

 

 

 

 

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Liars!

In today’s Newsday, Steven Marcus reports that tickets sales for the Mets are up by nearly 20% over last year and that season ticket sales are up nearly 13%. (Take that Leigh Castergine). We were told by Sandy Alderson that as soon as the fans started coming to the games, the Mets would start to add to their payroll. Well, the fans have done their part…

Meanwhile, as reported here and elsewhere, Anthony DiComo notified all of us that while the Mets have checked in on Cuban shortstop Yoan Moncada, they have decided that he is an “unrealistic option, given their budget.”

Like most of the rest of you, I have no idea if Moncada can play shortstop at the major league level. Some team may be about to make a multi-million dollar mistake. If that is so, then I will be glad it wasn’t the Mets. But with less than one month before pitchers and catchers, it seems obvious that there are no new additions coming to the 2015 Mets, despite the renewed support of their fans and the need for at least a veteran presence or two to supplement the hope and prayer options at shortstop, the bullpen and the bench.

Instead, like just about everything else that has ever come out of this organization in the past several years, pledges to improve the product if they get support at the gate have turned out to be another load of crap. I am not talking about trading a stud pitching prospect for a questionable middle infielder, but  several good fits for the Mets have been traded to or signed with other teams in just the past few weeks,  while our moribund front office still appears to be on Christmas vacation. They can’t even trade Dillon Gee , just like I called it here.

While I will never root for the Mets to lose, I almost relish the thought of a slow start. It might be fun to watch Alderson and the Wilpons run for cover.

Have you bought tickets yet?

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