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 Manager in the Bulk Materials Handling industry. 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

In the Bleak Mid-Winter: Some Random Thoughts

I think most Mets fans are hoping for a scenario that goes something like this: a combination of losses on the field and in the courtroom that forces the Wilpons into selling. Then as 2013 dawns, the team has rich new ownership, a dream team in the front office and a roster full of dynamic young players.

Not so fast. One of the keys to the Wilpons’ losing control of the team will be a further decline in attendance. Declining attendance is usually connected to a poor on-field performance. A poor on-field performance means one of two things: either a rash of devastating injuries or the reality that the new “core” of Duda, Davis, Tejada, etc. isn’t very good. If the latter is indeed the case, then the team is in for a long stay in the basement.

The last time ownership changed here was after the 1979 season when a perfect storm of poor play, financial woes and front office blunders dragged the franchise to hell. Already down and out for three seasons, the Mets struggled for nearly four more years after the Wilpon-Doubleday group took over, going through three managers in the process. It wasn’t until the end of the 1983 season and the arrival of Ron Darling, Darryl Strawberry and Keith Hernandez that things began to look up.

It’s a conundrum. I think everyone wants the Wilpons gone, but to hasten their demise, the team has to be awful. If they are awful however it means a total rebuilding (just two players from the 1980 team, Mookie Wilson and Wally Backman lasted to 1986) and several more years of 5th place finishes. If they play better and hover around .500, the Wilpons may just decide to try and hold on, which means more teetering on the edge of financial ruin, etc. etc.

One wonders if the Wilpons couldn’t benefit by hiring a spokesman to handle all of their media contacts. I can’t help but think that at 74, Fred may no longer be up to the task of dealing with the press. His New Yorker interview last spring angered and alienated both fans and players. His recent words after the owners meetings reassured us that his family is “holding up well” (well, that’s a relief) and that he hopes the fans will “give the Mets a try” (as if the team is a brand of snack food).Hard to gauge, but I’d be willing to bet that every time Fred opens his mouth, he costs the Mets 10,000 tickets sold. Where is Jay Horowitz while all this is going on? Perhaps it’s time for a younger, hipper, more believable mouthpiece and one with no current ties to the Wilpons to intervene.

Matt Harvey, Jeurys Familia and Zach Wheeler are the Mets next great hope. Just ask Baseball America, hey they’re never wrong—right, Fernando? My hope is that Sandy Alderson is quietly shopping them around, just to see what they could get in return. Let’s face it; probably none of these guys is the next Stephen Strasburg. About the only thing more dangerous than trading away young pitchers is depending on them to develop into franchise-saving stars—right, Pulse?

So Scott Boras found his “stupid owner” in Detroit, eh? On paper that Tiger batting order looks terrific but in the field…well let’s just say that they are going to have to score a lot of runs! Remember the Howard Johnson in center or Daniel Murphy in left experiments? How did they work out? It probably also means that we can cross off Detroit from the list of possible destinations for David Wright this summer.

David Einhorn got a hefty fine from the U.K’s finance regulator for insider trading. First Bernie Madoff and now Einhorn. The Wilpons can sure pick’em.

I may not get to Citi Field at all this season, but I do plan on several trips to Coca-Cola Park, home of the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. The Buffalo Bisons are coming in for three separate stands, so I hope to get a glimpse of some future Mets, right here in Allentown. Coca-Cola Park is a beautiful place to take in a game, not a bad seat in the house, with a friendly staff and reasonably priced tickets and food. Think about this for a moment: a minor league community with a reputation as an industrial wasteland (thanks again, Billy Joel) one that hadn’t hosted a professional baseball game in nearly 40 years, was able to build a great stadium literally from a patch of weeds. The Iron Pigs, despite a poor record, have set minor league attendance records each year since their inaugural season in 2009. Meanwhile, there is another stadium that also opened in 2009 about 100 miles to the northeast that is unloved by the fans, has poor sight lines, charges exorbitant rates for food and celebrates someone else’s heritage. What went wrong?

And finally, if you expect that the Mets will “go big” in this June’s draft and spend lots of money on premiere talent, I have a bridge in New York I’d like to sell you. I do have this rich old guy with a Brooklyn fetish interested but if you make me a strong offer…

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I’ve Got 23…

Like moths to a flame, bloggers, boarders and callers are all stirred up over a tweet from Anthony DiComo who has “heard” that the Mets are done tweaking the 40-man roster. DiComo hears it, Cerrone posts and comments on it and bang, instant “story.” Maybe we should wait for a team source to confirm it? It’s unwelcome news for sure, if it is indeed true. What it does do however, is give a clearer idea of what the Opening Day roster might look like and another excuse for me to pad my article count total on Mets Today.

As of January 12, 2012 (the 44th anniversary of the Jet win in SB III) here is the projected Opening Day roster for the New York Mets:

Eight Starters: Torres-cf, Murphy-2b, Wright-3b, Davis-1b, Bay-lf, Duda-rf, Tejada-ss, Thole-c

Five in the Rotation: Santana, Dickey, Niese, Pelfrey and Gee.

Four on the Bench: Cedeno-ss, Turner-2b, Hairston-OF and Nickeas-c

Six in the Pen: Francisco-cl, Rauch-8th, Ramirez-7th, Byrdak-LOOGY, Parnell-ROOGY and Acosta

That’s 23. First off, I don’t know if we should be happy or sad that a team coming off three consecutive losing seasons while staring at a fourth has nearly its entire opening day roster set more than a month before spring training starts. Is this a new-found stability or just more evidence that the team is so badly hamstrung by their finances that they can’t do anything?

Of the players mentioned, I think that Johan Santana has the best (worst?) chance to start the season on the DL. Looking into my crystal ball, I expect about 20-25 starts from Johan this year, with him maybe joining the team in Miami in May and perhaps being passed over a few times in late July and then a September shut down. I also think Bobby Parnell is being wasted as a ROOGY and would like to see him close in Buffalo. As for that bench, well it’s just awful right now.
But I digress. With 23 Opening Day spots seemingly nailed down, there are two left to be filled. If there are no major moves being made between now and then we have to assume that spots #24 and #25 will go either to someone already connected to the organization or who will take a cheap, non-guaranteed offer. So here are a few possibilities:

A down-sized roster: Hey it’s all the rage elsewhere; maybe the Wilpons figure that fewer workers can handle the load and go with 23 players to do the work of 25. Don’t laugh; we older fans might recall the 1980’s when teams used a 24-man roster.

Future Shock: It would be a developmental disaster, IMHO, to push any of the prospects before their time, but perhaps Kirk Nieuwenhuis goes north as the 5th outfielder and someone like Robert Carson or Josh Edgin get the last bullpen spot. The Mets most likely plan to market the Harveys, Wheelers, etc. heavily in the coming months and it might be tempting to use one or more of these guys as teasers for the steady stream of good young players that they hope will soon follow. I don’t think that either Terry Collins or Sandy Alderson are in danger of losing their jobs, so they don’t have to promote any of these guys early to save their skins, a la Omar and Jerry with Jenrry Mejia. While I am intrigued by some of the Mets prospects, I really don’t want to see any of here until this September at the earliest.

Quad-A Blue Plate Specials: Sadly for us, I think this is the most likely scenario. Look to the bench for precedent. I am sure that Mike Nickeas is a wonderful person and has worked hard to get here, but there is nothing in his body of minor league work to suggest that he belongs on a major league roster. His main asset it appears is that he costs the major league minimum. So brace yourselves for the Home Opener tip of the cap from Chris Schwinden, or Jose Bautista, or Pedro Beato (still holding out hope for him), or Mike Baxter or Val Pascucci or Adam Loewen.

Will Work For Food: OK that isn’t funny, but perhaps a combination of investor money and some too-go-to pass-on players results in the late February minor league contract/spring training invite to some intriguing names. Imagine for example, Ivan Rodriquez coming to the Mets and pursuing his 3,000th hit. That might be the most interesting on-field development for the Mets in 2012. Even at .218 he out-hit Nickeas last year. Instead of Bautista, how about Brad Penny or Joel Pinero for the last pitcher’s spot? Not expecting great shakes, but I think I would rather see either of them start in place of Santana than I would Bautista. For the 5th outfielder, who about Rick Ankiel? I really like Lucas Duda but am concerned about a season-long force feed in right field. Ankiel’s arm makes him the perfect late-inning replacement. Too late now, perhaps, but I really wanted a grinder like Ryan Theriot at second. I just cringe every time I think of Murphy at second (and I am a Murphy fan).

So what do you think might happen between now and Spring Training?

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The Mets: Seven Reasons to Stay Tuned in 2012

Happy New Year everyone! With the holidays now in the rear view mirror and me now settling down into my new job, it’s time to take look ahead to what 2012 might hold in store for the New York Mets.

Like most of us, I have very low expectations for the team this year. Team finances aside, the starting rotation is mediocre at best, there are several defensive liabilities in the projected starting eight, the bench is horrible, there is little speed on the current roster and they play in a tough division. Still, I will watch as many Mets games as I can this year. Now that I have a steady income again, I may even make the pilgrimage from my home in Bethlehem to Citi Field to take in a game or two. I know that there is no postseason in store for the Mets in 2012, but I can think of at least seven reasons to pay attention to the team this year:

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Are We Even Worse Off Than We Thought?

Last summer, while Jose Reyes was running away with the NL batting crown, I envisioned a fierce bidding war for his services developing over the winter. The way I figured it, there had to be at least a dozen teams lining up to throw money and years at him. After all, he is the total package, right? He has the speed, the energy, plays a premium position, has some pop in his bat and is on the right side of age 30. What team wouldn’t want him?

Well, we found out: there were 28 teams not interested enough to make contact with his agent and only one that made an offer. Reyes ended up signing with his only suitor, the Miami Marlins. And they got him for a contract that only two years ago would have seemed like a bargain.

There is an old saying about familiarity breeding contempt. After watching Jose’s entire career with the Mets, I was hesitant about seeing him get a long-term deal. Too many injuries! And for a team like the Mets with a long history of regrettable contracts, I felt that a multi-year deal was another ticking time bomb. FWIW, I think the Marlins will regret three, possibly four years of the deal. I favored dealing Reyes last July, but that’s another topic.

So, I watched and waited in hopeful anticipation during last week’s winter meetings. I was cheered by Sandy Alderson’s comments about listening to offers on everyone on the roster. That’s good. After three consecutive sub-.500 seasons, no one should be untouchable. A nice prospect or two, like what they got from the Giants for Carlos Beltran last July would certainly jump start the rebuilding process. What isn’t so good is the types of offers they reportedly received for what should be their prime trading chips, a.k.a the contract-friendly, major league ready starters currently wearing a Met uniform.

For example:

Daniel Murphy: Hit .320 last year and was 5th in the NL when he sustained a season-ending injury. Alderson praised his leadership ability. So here come the LA Dodgers with an offer of Tony Gywnn Jr. Tony Gwynn Jr.? He of the .660 OPS? On his third team in the past three years? Two years older than Murphy and nearly twice as expensive? WTF?

Ike Davis: Accordingly the Pirates, yes the Pittsburgh Pirates, the team that hasn’t won anything in 20 years, came calling, offering AA outfielder Sterling Marte and AAA pitcher Brad Lincoln. The latter is not a prospect: he projects at best as a 4/5 starter. Marte has some appeal, but he is at least two years away. Isn’t Davis supposed to carry a gold glove and have the potential to hit 30 homers?

• Jon Niese: I thought that left handed starting pitchers under team control for the next several years are just about the most prized commodity in baseball. So we hear the Mets are “listening” to offers on Jon. One would expect a long line of suitors. Nope. In fact one of those interested teams was the San Diego Padres. Then they hire Omar Minaya and they suddenly aren’t interested any more. Coincidence? Didn’t Minaya draft this guy? (Rhetorical question).

Bobby Parnell: Like Niese, Bobby is young and under team control for the next several years. Although not a southpaw, he does have that triple-digit speed fastball. He is also available. There aren’t even any good rumors out there about a deal for him.

So adding it all up leads to an unpleasant conclusion: the Mets are what their record says they are, which is a bad team with a roster full of players that most teams don’t have more than a passing interest in. The slow market for Reyes and the lack of interest in players from last year’s roster certainly indicates that. Perhaps the next coming weeks will reveal better news, but given the circumstances right now we are getting a good indication of what the market thinks about current Mets. Between this and the latest revelation on the Wilponzi’s finances, we may be on the precipice of a long dark age.

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Now You’re Talking Turkey: Mets Transactions During Thanksgiving Week

In my household, the week before Thanksgiving has traditionally been one of preparation. Since we host the annual family gathering, there is food to be bought, a turkey to stuff, rugs to vacuum, bathrooms to be cleaned, toys to put away and extra chairs to be brought up from the cellar.

For the Mets, this week has also signaled the start of their preparation for the next season. With an eye on ticket sales, several Mets GMs have swung deals during this shortened work week. For most of us fans, the news of these transactions is a welcome change from a long stretch of no news at all. In more recent years, a genuine move means temporary relief from the incessant and preposterous speculation in all corners of the media about rumored trades and/or signings.

In retrospect, perhaps we should have had more patience! Here are a passel of Thanksgiving week deals made by the Mets, a few which may lead to some indigestion.

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The Endy Chavez Encore and 10 Other Double-Duty Mets

A recent NYDN article indicated that the Mets have “discussed” a reunion with OF Endy Chavez. FWIW, I am in favor of this deal and hope it gets done. One of my reasons for this is that if Endy dons the orange and blue again, he becomes an interesting part of Mets History—players who have had two tours of duty with the Mets.

Technically, this would be Endy’s third go round with the Mets. First he was in their farm system from 1997-2001. He returned and played for the big club from 2006 through the end of the 2008 season before departing to Seattle in the massive three-team, twelve player deal that December.

So how have other encore performances worked out for the Mets? We’re glad you asked!
1. Rusty Staub (1972-75, 1981-85): This is the best recycled player the franchise has had to date. After a four year stint with the Mets where he hit 62 homers and drove in 307 runs, the Mets shipped Le Grande Orange to Detroit for Mickey Lolich after the 1975 season, easily one of the worst deals in franchise history. Six years later, Frank Cashen undid that move and Staub returned to the Mets as a free agent. In 1983, he tied an NL record with eight straight pinch-hits and in that same season also tied the Major League record of 25 RBIs by a pinch hitter. He lasted until 1985, providing veteran leadership for a team on the rise. One of the more beloved Mets, he was later elected into the Mets Hall of Fame.
2. Lee Mazzilli (1976-82, 1986-89): Boy, I seem to blog about Maz often and for good reason: he has a fascinating history as a Met. His first stint from 1976 through 1981 coincided with one of the worst periods in team history. He was dealt to Texas before the 1982 season for Ron Darling and Walt Terrell, a deal largely credited (by me at least) in sparking the franchise’s resurgence. In 1986 the Mets picked him back up on waivers from the Pirates and he played an important part of their championship team. He hit .306 the next year and his career with the Mets continued until 1989.
3. Dave Kingman (1975-77, 1981-83): Dave clubbed 62 home runs for the Mets, some of them legendary, during his first two and a half seasons with the club. He also struck out 344 times in 1,208 ABs, couldn’t field a lick and was a surly clubhouse presence. He was shipped to San Diego as part of the June 15 1977 “Midnight Massacre.” The Mets re-acquired him before the 1981 season for Steve Henderson, another one of the trade principles from that fateful June evening. It was more of the same: Kong hit 52 homeruns and struck out 334 times in 1,136 at bats. His personality hadn’t changed and the Mets were glad to see him go after the 1983 season.
4. Tom Seaver (1966-76, 1983): The Worst Trade in Mets History (a.k.a the Midnight Massacre) sent their Franchise Player to Cincinnati in 1977. (Kingman went to San Diego in a separate deal that same night). Cashen undid that move by trading back for him in 1983. Tom lasted a season with the Mets, going 9 and 14 before being exposed a free agent compensation draft and getting claimed by the White Sox. I will always wonder why the Mets couldn’t have traded a prospect or two to the Sox instead and kept him. Seaver later moved to Boston and created a “what if” scenario, as an injury kept him off the Bosox active roster during the 1986 World Series.
5. Kevin McReynolds (1987-1991, 1994): Forgot this one? Kevin came to symbolize all that was wrong with the late 1980’s Mets and was run out of town in 1991. His replacement was Vince Coleman, who came to symbolize all that was wrong with the early 1990’s Mets until he was run out of town after the 1993 season—to Kansas City for McReynolds. K-Mac hit .256 during the strike-shortened 1994 season and then called it a career.
6. Jason Isringhausen (1995-99, 2011): Nice story last year, but is probably moving on again. His first go round with the Mets is worth a post in itself.
7. Tim Foli (1970-71, 78-79): Ah, Crazy Horse. Traded for Staub and then had his contract purchased by the Mets from the Giants in 1978. Later traded again, this time to Pittsburgh in early 1979 for Frank Taveras; a move that I loved at the time. He helped Pittsburgh win a World Series the next year.
8. Mike Jorgensen (1970-71, 1980-83): Traded with Foli and Ken Singleton for Staub prior to the 1972 season. Came back to the Mets in 1980 with Ed Lynch in a deal for Willie Montanez (not a bad trade!) The Mets sold his contract to Atlanta in 1983 on the same day they acquired Keith Hernandez from the Cardinals. Nice Upgrade.
9. Bill Pulsipher (1995-98, 2000): Can’t miss prospect that missed. Twice.
10. Bobby Bonilla (1992-95, 1999): Hard to believe, but his second stint with the Mets was worse than his first. The Mets are now paying him a million a year until around 2025.

Honorable Mentions: Kelly Stinnett, Alex Trevino, Ray Sadecki, Al Jackson, Bob L. Miller and David Cone.

Did I miss anyone?

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Spilled Milk Pt 3: The Wright Time for a Facelift

See if you can guess who I am talking about: This is the story of a good player on a bad Mets team. And this team is really, really bad—embarrassingly out-of-touch ownership, ridiculously lopsided trades, a weak farm system, an alienated fan base, second-class citizenship in the hometown (Yankees) and regional (Phillies and Red Sox) markets, and a total aversion to signing a big-ticket free agent — not that one of them would want to come here anyway. In other words, the perfect storm of dreadfulness that buried this once proud team in the second division with little hope, outside of a miracle, for any turnaround soon.

The player, however, is another story: a former first-round draft pick, he lives in the city, is always accessible to the media, plays in a style that is a throwback to an earlier era, has had his share of big hits, including a homerun in an All-Star game. He appeals to everyone: the press likes him, women think he’s cute, and kids wear his jersey. Unlike other former and current teammates, he actually likes playing here. He is coming off of an injury-riddled season that cut his games played and production to all-time lows, but a clean bill of health and some changes to the home stadium promise a return to past glory. The team is expected to be awful again next year, but there is hope: a new front office has been assembled, one with a long track record of success in the American League. Regardless, he’ll be out there, giving it his all, thrilling the fans with both his glove and his bat. After all, he is “The Face of The Franchise.”

That’s too easy, you’re probably thinking right now. He’s talking about David Wright.

Nope. The player in question is

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Spilled Milk Part 2: Missed Trades Since 1986

We’re back after a brief interruption on our look at deals the Mets didn’t make and what those deals could have meant to the franchise if they had actually been consummated. This week, we’ll take a look at some near misses in the modern era, which for our purposes span the last 25 years of Mets History, beginning in 1986. Speaking of that magical year…

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