Paul is a freelance writer, blogger, and broadcast technology professional residing in Denver. A New Jersey native, he is a long-suffering Mets fan, a recently-happy Giants fan, and bewildered Islanders fan. He's also a fair-weather Avalanche and Rockies supporter. In his spare time, he enjoys the three Gs: Golf, Guitars, and Games.
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RIP Ralph Kiner


The picture tweeted by the official Mets Twitter account.

Long time Mets broadcaster and Hall of Fame outfielder Ralph Kiner has passed away at the age of 91 due to natural causes.

Mets chairman Fred Wilpon reased a statement:

“Ralph Kiner was one of the most beloved people in Mets history — an original Met and extraordinary gentleman. After a Hall of Fame playing career, Ralph became a treasured broadcasting icon for more than half a century. His knowledge of the game, wit and charm entertained generations of Mets fans.

“Like his stories, he was one of a kind. We send our deepest condolences to Ralph’s five children and 12 grandchildren. Our sport and society today lost one of the all-time greats.”

There are no words I can put together to pay proper tribute to the man. He was the voice of my summers growing up, along with Bob Murphy. When I heard their voices in March, I knew baseball was back.

He taught me the basics of how to play the game, and opened my eyes to the techniques of hitting that I’d never considered before. He also taught me about the history of the game. I learned of the likes of 3 Finger Mordecai Brown, Heinie Manush, and other colorful characters from the past (or at least the ones with colorful names), and got an idea of what baseball was like long before there was such a thing as Shea Stadium or the Mets.

When I worked for WWOR, the Mets production staff always had good things to say about Ralph. They saw him as a genuine, warm, and kind individual. They weren’t just saying that – believe me, they didn’t always have the same things to say about other broadcasters who passed through the booth.

He was one of the premier power hitters of his time when he played with the Pirates. Like most players from his generation, he served in WWII as a pilot, and oh yeah, he also dated Elizabeth Taylor.

The Mets community and major league baseball lost a great one today. Thanks for everything you did, Ralph.

Feel free to post your thoughts in the comment section (as always).


Projections vs. Reality

I love stats. I’ve been a baseball stathead since I was a kid. I kept track of my own batting average in Little League as well as walks, extra base hits (those were easy – there weren’t many of them), and RBIs. I used to check the box scores in The Record every morning to see what the Mets’ updated stats looked like after the previous night’s game (Unless the game was on the west coast – ahhh, the dark ages), and I’ve continued that habit into the present day.

Over the past 10 years or so, I’ve been familiarizing myself with sabermetrics. I like them. I find them useful. Especially the ones I can understand. Advanced metrics have given me a whole new perspective on the careers of baseball players today, and a renewed appreciation of players from the past.

The one relatively new development I haven’t gotten on board with is the concept of statistical projections.


Wilpons on Verge of Important Re-Fi

According to the New York Post, Mets ownership is close to refinancing a $250 million dollar loan. The re-fi is expected to give the team more financial flexibility:

Until recently, it wasn’t certain investors weren’t going to insist the team owners pay down some of the loan to get the refinancing done.

Wilpon and Katz will not be asked for any cash paydown, sources said.

Plus, interest payments are expected to stay about the same, a source with direct knowledge of the situation said.

The Mets spent about $87 million on free agents this offseason – a marked jump in spending from the past few years, in particular last offseason, when they spent only $5 million. Perhaps optimism about this re-fi was part of the reason the Wilpons felt comfortable loosening their wallets this winter.

They’re still not spending with the big boys – and no one is going to outspend the Yankees, whether you play in New York or not – but the point is to have the financial flexibility to make the moves you have to make, rather than settling on a team full of minor league contracts with invites to Spring Training.

I doubt this news will inspire any more huge transactions this offseason – Stephen Drew is still in play, but the Mets seem to be treating him as a nice-to-have, not a must-have.

As much as I’ve been critical of the Wilpons, they are at least making an active effort to get out from under the debt left to them by Bernie Madoff.

I hope the next time Fred Wilpon says his financial troubles are over, like he did last year, that it’s really the truth.


Mets were in on Grant Balfour

After the Tampa Bay Rays reportedly inked relief ace Grant Balfour, baseball insider Ken Rosenthal tweeted this:

So, Sandy Alderson was interested in bolstering his bullpen with a veteran arm – we knew that. We just thought it would be someone like a David Aardsma or Joel Hanrahan, not an established closer like Balfour.

Speaking of closing, would Balfour have closed for the Mets or set up Bobby Parnell? Seems like the team would have wanted him as insurance in case Parnell wasn’t ready for Opening Day. And if Parnell was, Balfour would have handled the eighth inning.

I wonder if Balfour also took that into account when making his decision – I’m sure he wants to remain a closer.

It’s also interesting that the Mets were willing to spend more than $6 million AAV on a two-year deal. That suggests that they still have money to spend, despite the fact that they appear to be at or nearing their rumored payroll limit.

Perhaps they’ll spend that money on another reliever or two, or maybe (dare I say) Stephen Drew. The free agent shortstop seems to be less and less in demand, which should drive down his price. If he and his agent, Scott Boras, get desperate enough, they may even settle for a one-year deal.

Regardless, it sounds like the Mets are not done spending just yet.


Mets Will Have to Make the Most of Ike Davis

Ike Davis must prove himself.

Ike Davis must prove himself.

The Milwaukee Brewers reached a minor league agreement with Mark Reynolds this morning. Milwaukee has been searching for a first baseman all winter long, and it appears they’re looking towards Reynolds as their solution.

The Brewers have flirted with the Mets this offseason regarding a trade for Ike Davis. The Mets wanted RHP Tyler Thornburg, a top pitching prospect whom the Brewers have penciled into their fifth starting slot going into Spring Training. Milwaukee deemed that price too high.


Bobby Parnell Cleared to Pitch

According to Adam Rubin, Mets closer Bobby Parnell has been cleared to pitch:

New York Mets closer Bobby Parnell, who underwent Sept. 10 surgery in California for a herniated disk in his neck, has been fully cleared for baseball activities.

After attending David Wright‘s wedding, Parnell stayed on the West Coast to be examined by Dr. Robert Watkins, who had performed the procedure.

Watkins cleared Parnell for full baseball activities. Parnell is expected to resume closing games for the Mets this season. He converted 22 of 26 chances last season.

“He looked terrific — toned, strong, limber,” said one person who recently saw Parnell.

Parnell had lost roughly 30 pounds while dealing with the herniated disk.

This is a key development for the Mets bullpen. The back end of the bullpen would be a huge question mark if Parnell were not ready for Opening Day. They’d have to figure out who would close, and who would handle the eighth inning. If Parnell is ready, the concern then shifts to who sets him up, which is less of a problem – but still an important one.

Right now, Vic Black, who has 18 major league appearances under his belt, looks like the front runner for the eighth inning role. The team is also looking to acquire a veteran to possibly fill that role (someone like LaTroy Hawkins – but he’s in Denver now).

LHP Josh Edgin, LHP Scott Rice, RHP Carlos Torres, RHP Jeurys Familia, and RHP Gonzalez Germen are leading candidates to round out the bullpen in 2014. Newly acquired RHP Ryan Reid may also be in the conversation along with minor league lefty Jack Leathersitch and RHP Jeff Walters.