Some offseason, eh? So far, the Mets have overpaid (David Wright) and overplayed (R.A. Dickey). What happened to that roster overhaul that GM Sandy Alderson promised us at the end of last season? I’ll tell you what.
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Dear Sandy Alderson:
Hello from Pennsylvania. How is the weather down in Nashville? You are there right? If you are, how about y’know, maybe getting the Mets some new players?
You need at least two outfielders, another catcher and a guy or two who can come off the bench in a pinch. I think that you might need some bullpen arms as well. If you need any help with who to trade for, spend a little time on this blog, there are lots of good ideas here.
Please Mr. Alderson, don’t start with the usual line about it being only December. This is your third December and each year your team has gotten worse. We were told that that bad old Mr. Minaya was the problem and that you and and your two smart friends would have us moving in the right direction by now.
The only thing moving is that ticket order form you sent me. It’s going through my shredder right now.
Tell Jeff I said “Hi.”
Author’s Disclaimer: Perhaps by the time you are reading this, the Met player in question has already signed a new contract. If so, skip the first eight paragraphs
During the winter meetings after the 1983 season, the Mets where attempting to wrap up a deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers for utility infielder extraordinaire Bob Bailor. Coming off their seventh-straight losing season, Bailor was an unnecessary luxury for the Mets. But the deal was stalled on the compensation. Finally, Tommy Lasorda broke the deadlock by suggesting, “Let’s trade our pineapple for your pineapple.”
Lasorda was referring to Carlos Diaz, a Met farmhand who hailed from Hawaii. Lasorda wanted him included in the deal. In return, the Mets received left handed pitcher Sid Fernandez, another Aloha State native. That deal worked out very well for the Mets. Sid won 90 games for them between 1984 and 1993 and his relief appearance in Game 7 of the 1986 World Series is hands down, the greatest clutch pitching performance in team history. (You can look it up). Both Diaz and Bailor had already played their last game in the majors by that night.
Perhaps Sandy Alderson will sidle up alongside Alex Anthopoulos during the winter meetings and offer to trade his initials for Toronto’s initials. In other words, he’s talking about trading them R.A. Dickey for J.P. Arencibia.
Now, before you gnash your teeth (or hit the back button) hear me out: Yes, R.A. Dickey is the reigning NL Cy Young award winner and best thing to happen to the Mets in years. Don’t tell any potential trade partners this, but he is also 38 years old. He is coming off a series of small injuries, including plantar fasciitis and a torn abdominal muscle, both injuries kinda synonymous with aging athletes. Do keep touting him as the next Phil Niekro. When doing that, don’t let on that Niekro is a baseball anomaly. We don’t want any GM looking up stats showing the next most successful knuckler over the age of 38 was Tim Wakefield, who won three more games (72) than he lost between 2005 and 2011 (including a full season with the 2007 World Champion Red Sox). And hope to God that they don’t look at the stats for what Charlie Hough or Tom Candiotti, the other modern-day knucklers, did past their 38th birthdays.
Thanks to their fleecing of the Miami Marlins and the two-year deal they signed with Melky Cabrera, the Blue Jays are in win now mode. They might be willing to take even one year of Dickey (who makes their rotation fierce) for the opportunity to grab a world title.
By making this deal, the Mets get Arencibia, who fills a few holes for them. For openers, he is a better catcher than anyone the Mets have right now. Yeah he lead the majors in passed balls in 2011, but his career caught stealing and fielding percentages are both above the American League average. He is also a lot cheaper and will be that way for much longer than anyone they can get on the free agent market. He is due $490 K in 2013, meaning the Mets will save about nearly $4.5M on this deal. Unlike Hank Conger who I theorized about trading for for here, Arencibia has an extended big league track record: he has played parts of three seasons, over which he has slugged 43 homers. His batting average has climbed steadily: he hit .143 his rookie season, .219 the next and .233 last season. The savings on the Dickey contract and from the Jason Bay rework should give the Mets enough money to resign Scott Hairston or a similar righty bat. Together, Arencibia and Hairston form a decent righty power combo in the lower half of the Mets batting order. Inserting those two in the lineup creates a nice 4-4 lefty/righty split in the batting order.
Don’t discount the J.P. Ricciardi factor. (Lots of initials on this post, no?) Arencibia was a first round draft pick by Ricciardi back when he was the Jays GM. In case you’ve forgotten, Ricciardi is now part of the three-headed troika of geniuses currently steering the Mets front office. Probably not coincidentally, there has been a parade of ex-Blue Jays through the Met roster since 2010. Arencibia is also highly available—the Jays have three other catchers, including the highly touted Travis D’Araund, whom they got from the Phillies in the Roy Halladay trade.
Because Toronto isn’t taking on an onerous contract, Alderson should be able to pry someone else like speedy centerfielder Anthony Gose and at least one of Toronto’s pitching prospects like Noah Snydergard or Aaron Sanchez in the deal as well.
My guess is that instead of trading him, the Mets will extend Dickey. He certainly is “Box Office,” as most of his home starts in 2012 will attest. Winning the Cy Young only increases his profile. In many ways, I can understand the desire to keep him, not the least being the class act that he is, both on and off the field. And who knows, maybe he is the next Phil Niekro.
Otherwise, it is 1973 all over again. The Mets won 82 games that season, which somehow was actually enough to win the division. Furthering the illusion, they were on the right side of a lightening strike in the NLCS against the Big Red Machine and then just missed beating the mighty Oakland A’s in the World Series due mainly to a Yogi Berra screw-up with the rotation. (It’s been 40 years, maybe I should get over that). Instead of looking at their regular season record, the near absolute lack of power, a total lack of speed and a barren farm system, upper management clung to the notion that this group of players had yet another run in them. The team essentially treaded water for the next few years until everything fell apart in 1977. You know the rest, they languished in or near last place for the next seven years. If the Mets do sign Dickey to an extension and he is unable to replicate his 2012 success and/or the nagging injuries and his age catch up with him fast, the Mets will have misread the situation and let sentiment and the hope (need?) for a box office payoff trump good baseball sense.
So what do you think? Do you like or hate the Toronto deal? Have a better one? Think the Mets should keep Dickey? Have a favorite 1973 memory (calling Dave Schneck)?
Happy Thanksgiving everyone.
The confetti hasn’t been entirely swept up in San Francisco and already, stories about potential Met moves this off-season have stretched into the realm of the absurd. Don’t take my word for it; check out yesterday’s Post story about Cody Ross. Mike Puma writes about “sources” and uses phrases like “could target, ” while not supplying a single attributed quote to a Met official. Mike might just as well write that his dog told him this rumor. Right on cue however, the story gets posted on Metsblog!
The Mets aren’t getting
Whew…got this in just under the wire. October 16 is arguably the seminal date in Met history. It also has some personal significance as it is my late father’s birthday. More on him in a moment.
Some of the biggest moments in Met history have occurred on this date. For example:
1969: The Miracle culminates with a 5-3 win over the Orioles. Take your pick from this game: Swoboda’s catch, Jones kneeling in the outfield, the wild celebration on the field, in the clubhouse and in the streets. If you look closely at the footage of Koosman jumping into Grote’s arms at the end of the game, one of the fans with his arms up in the air is holding a copy of that month’s Mad Magazine! I was only nine years old at the time and my baseball awakening was still a year or two away.
1973: The Mets lose 3-2 to Oakland on a dropped third strike in the 10th. This was, I believe, one of the first ever World Series games to occur at night. As I was still in grade school and this was a school night, I was only allowed to watch the first few innings. It was Willie Mays’ last appearance in a World Series game. In my mind, Yogi Berra will forever be the goat for losing this series, bypassing the 12-3 George Stone entirely and pitching Tom Seaver on three days rest in Game 6, then forcing Jon Matlack to pitch on short rest in Game 7.
1986: Technically no game today, but a time to stop shaking after what is possibly The Greatest Game Ever, the 16-inning marathon with the Astros that resulted in the Mets clinching the National League pennant. I still have the back page of the 10/16/86 Daily News with “WE WIN” in large block letters.
1999: John Olerud leads the Mets to a 3-2 win over Atlanta at Shea, helping the Mets avoid a sweep and setting the stage for an incredible game the next day. I was at this game with my brother and nephew, but I don’t remember much about it other than yelling at Larry “Chipper” Jones and John Rocker. My dad had died two months before and I was still grieving his loss, which was made more poignant by the date. That 1999 Mets team was perhaps my favorite Met team of all time. Check the box score for this game, that was an awesome team.
2000: In what is probably the most-overlooked pitching feat in Met history, Mike Hampton twirls a three-hitter as the Mets blank the Cardinals 7-0 to clinch their fourth NL pennant. I was at this game as well. Remember the fight at the end of the game after Jay Payton was hit? Every once in a while a radio station within earshot or a restaurant I am in will cue up the Venga Boys “We Like To Party” and I always think about the celebration that erupted after Todd Ziele’s big hit to put the Mets comfortably ahead in that game.
If you haven’t noticed, there are some wide gaps in the years between the games. Oh well, Happy Birthday Dad and Lets Go Mets!
In 1992, the Mets made a very unpopular trade, sending fan favorite and proven performer David Cone to Toronto in a deal that included second baseman Jeff Kent. It was the start of a miserable relationship that lasted parts of five seasons. “Jeff Can’t” was one of his nicer nicknames and he was booed unmercifully by the Shea faithful (including me). Many of us where giddy when Kent was unloaded on Cleveland for the seemingly -ebullient Carlos Baerga in mid-1996. Boy where we wrong. Traded by the Tribe to San Francisco the following year, Kent would blossom into one of the best hitting second basemen ever. He would belt 245 more homeruns, win four silver slugger awards as the top offensive second baseman, garner several All-Star nods and win the NL MVP in 2000. He later moved on to the Dodgers and in 2005 had the best season of any Dodger second baseman since Jackie Robinson. A noted “bad guy” during his Met tenure, the San Francisco press gave him the prestigious Willie Mac award one season for hustle and leadership. He currently holds the all-time record for home runs as a second baseman and will likely be elected to the Hall of Fame.
Exactly what did Kent in during his Met tenure is no mystery.
A disclaimer: I also authored this post, which cited the potential availability of several players and suggested a move or two. Some of those same players will be portrayed in a different light here. Also for this to make more sense you should start with yesterday’s post.
You might remember the mid-1990’s and those awful Mets teams. If you do, you probably also remember Dallas Green, the Mets old-school martinet of a manager, running both Jeromy Burnitz and Fernando Vina out of town. They got four pitchers in return for these two, none of whom ever did much here. Combined, Burnitz and Vina amassed over 200 home runs (180 by Burnitz) nearly 2,000 hits, 3 All Star berths and two gold gloves (both by Vina). Each played 10 years after being dealt, although Burnitz’ return to New York in 2002-03 was a disappointment. Despite that, the 1997-2001 Mets sure could have used both players. The point is that no one complained at the time these moves were made and the return was some desperately-needed relief pitching help (sound familiar?). The Mets might have modern day versions of these two in
Deceptively, baseball looks like an easy game to play. Most of the players seem to be of average height and weight; the rules and strategies are fairly straightforward and as George Carlin has pointed out, it’s a game played in a park where the objective is to be safe at home. Partially as a result, it can be easy to get down quickly on players who don’t meet expectations. In a market like New York “quickly” is an understatement as calls for a player’s head can be heard after a single 0-fer game. After a whole season of this, the fanbase’s desire to banish said player to the remotest outpost in baseball can border on the irrational.
Recently, I was reminded of just how hard this game is. I coach my son’s Fall League baseball team and a sudden downpour ruined the field for game conditions. With a collection of players in uniform and ready to go, we decided on an impromptu intrasquad scrimmage. To round out the teams, a few parents participated. My sole at bat was against my 11 year old son. He’s a big (5’ 5”) kid to begin with and he can put some heat on his pitches. He obviously relished the chance to face dear old dad on a level playing field. He buzzed me inside twice, much to the bemusement of the onlookers. He came in again on a third pitch which jammed me, but I was able to get around on it and hit a roller out past an admittedly disinterested second baseman into right field. Later, I took a seat in the dugout next to my wife, whom our son had fanned on three pitches. “Not as easy as it looks,” she remarked.
Now what does this tender family moment have to do with the Mets? A reminder of just how true those five words are. Under the best of conditions, the game is extremely difficult to play and even the top players fail two out of three times. There is an adjustment level from the Triple- or Double-A to the Major League level and for some young men, coming from a small close-knit community to the world’s loudest metropolis can be overwhelming. To top it off, some of these players are also forced to change positions or be the replacement for a popular incumbent. For every David Wright, Edgardo Alfonzo or (hopefully) Matt Harvey who arrived here and had immediate and lasting success, there are other players who needed the time and mentoring to adjust to the talent, sights, sound and sometimes even the language of their big league surroundings. Fernando Vina, Jeromy Burnitz, Jason Isringhausen, Jeff Kent and **sigh** Nolan Ryan are a few examples of players the Mets gave up on too soon, traded away for next to nothing and watched as they blossomed into good and in two cases, great players elsewhere. While I don’t think the Mets have a future Nolan Ryan in their organization, they may well indeed have another Vina, a Burnitz, an Izzy and maybe even a Kent in the fold already.
Who are they? You’ll have check back here tomorrow to find out!