Archive: July 26th, 2007

No Deal with Pirates

Not that there was any offer on the table, or any talks between Omar Minaya and Pittsburgh GM Dave Littlefield, but I’m going to make a preemptive statement regarding any trade with the Pirates: no thanks.

While last year’s deadline deal seems to have been a boon for both teams (no, we didn’t fleece the Bucs out of Ollie, as their cleanup hitter Xavier Nady is one of their few offensive forces), there appears to be no possibility of a similarly win-win trade this time around.

The Pirates have no chance of accomplishing anything this year, and are holding three middle relievers hostage (Damaso Marte, Salomon Torres, Shawn Chacon), and are dangling a few position players (Jose Castillo, Jack Wilson) on the market, it would not behoove Omar Minaya to try to obtain anyone currently in a Bucco uniform.

Why? The answer is simple: Dave Littlefield is currently playing the game of an annoying fantasy baseball owner. You know, that one guy in the league who’s always trying to pry Alex Rodriguez off your roster in return for Steve Trachsel and Julio Lugo? Yeah, that’s Littlefield this year.

Two cases in point:

1. The Pirates, woefully in need of a power hitter, and desperate to get one who is both young and relatively cheap, are offered Wily Mo Pena (ideal!). In return, Littlefield is asked to give up the 35-year-old, meltdown-waiting-to-happen Salomon Torres. A no brainer, right? After all, Torres has been in the doghouse since losing his closer job, and in addition has been a whiny be-otch about it. His current role with the Bucs is mopup man. Now, there’s no guarantee Pena will ever be the slugger everyone thinks, but he’s only 25 years old and has a 26-HR season behind him. What’s Littlefield’s response to the offer? “No thank you. Maybe if you could present a juicier package … ”

2. Littlefield offers good-field, no-hit Jack Wilson to the Blue Jays for Troy Glaus. And he was serious — he went so far as to pick up Cesar Izturis to play short with the idea such a deal would go down. There was no report on whether J.P. Ricciardi gave him an answer — if he was ever able to stop laughing. There’s a rumor that Ricciardi, in fact, laughed so hard at the proposal that he fell backward off his chair and was knocked unconscious — as a result, Littlefield thought that negotiations were still open, since J.P. never actually said “no”.

Would YOU want to deal with this joker?

Not a major loss, since the Pirates don’t really have much to offer the Mets. There was a time I thought maybe Torres would help, but certainly not at the price Littlefield has in his head. If he won’t take Wily Mo, what would he want? Milledge AND Gomez? David Wright? I’d hate to think what’s holding out for in regard to Marte, who’d be a better choice for the Mets’ bullpen.

With Ruben Gotay and Marlon Anderson playing well, and Damion Easley back, there’s no reason to gamble on Jose Castillo. Thank goodness, because it would likely cost Mike Pelfrey. Even the rumbles about the injured Zach Duke — or Ian Snell — being “available” don’t interest me anymore, knowing that the price is astronomical. Let the Pirates peddle with someone else, we’ll deal with more realistic GMs.

Teixeira to the Braves?

This one has me worried. The Braves have the pieces — in Jarrod Saltalamacchia and young arms — to nab Teixeira. Don’t believe that Atlanta is hesitant to trade away “Salty” — that’s veteran GM John Schuerholz playing his typically shrewd negotiations. With Brian McCann locked up for the next decade, the “other” young catcher is very available, in the right deal. And any deal that can land Teixeira is the right deal. Rangers GM Jon Daniel, however, is under pressure to make a very good deal — particularly with the Chris Young / Adrian Gonzalez for Adam Eaton / Akinori Otsuka trade looking so badly. Daniel will want Saltalamacchia plus a young MLB arm (Kyle Davies? Chuck James), plus another arm on the farm (Jo-Jo Reyes? Matt Harrison?). They might also want Scott Thorman in the deal — and if they’re smart, they’ll hold out for all that. The scary think is, the Braves probably can deal all that talent away, and still be fine for this year and 2008 — especially with Teixeira in the lineup. And the Mets have no way to prevent it.

Linebrink Deal Sets the Bar

So finally there has been a significant trade: Scott Linebrink from the Padres to the Brewers in exchange for three minor league pitchers. Seems a little odd that the Pods would give up an Aaron Heilman-type setup man for anything other than offensive help. However, Linebrink has had an up-and-down year (like Heilman), and as a result his stock has dropped. Since he’s likely to test the free-agent market come November, San Diego felt it a better plan to dump him now and get some bodies in return.

The pitchers they received are actually pretty good. One of them, lefthander Joe Thatcher, will join the team immediately, as their only southpaw in the bullpen is Royce Ring. Thatcher had a 0.55 ERA in AA, then a 2.08 in 24 games in the PCL, and could be a difference-maker down the stretch. The other two pitchers obtained — Will Inman and Steve Garrison — are 20-year-olds with good upside. Inman, in fact, was the #3 prospect in Milwaukee’s organization, according to Baseball America. To put things in perspective, Inman is kind of like a righthanded, younger version of Jason Vargas — he’s a control pitcher with an aggressive demeanor and good makeup but only tops out in the low 90s. Garrison is a lefty drafted in 2005 out of The Hun School in Princeton, NJ. He’s heated up recently, and was part of Baseball America’s “hot sheet” last week:

A mid-season surge has propelled the 20-year-old Garrison toward the top of the Florida State League leaderboard. A 10th-round pick in 2005, Garrison has won his last four starts–including a seven-inning, three-hit shutout on Sunday against Daytona–and is 4-0, 1.38 with 24 strikeouts in 33 innings in July. Garrison had yielded 28 runs over 10 starts in June and July but has given up only five earned in five July starts.

Sounds to me like a pretty good deal for the Padres, particularly if Thatcher can help them this year. Now that we know an underachieving setup reliever rental can fetch three promising youngsters, it makes the trade market seem all the more difficult for Omar Minaya. You know the Nationals are looking at this deal, and licking their chops with Chad Cordero offered around. Same think with Kansas City, who have Octavio Dotel. It would appear that if the Mets were interested in obtaining either of these pitchers, or a similar late-inning hurler (Eric Gagne?), the cost would be AT LEAST Mike Pelfrey PLUS two more prospects, at minimum.

My guess is after seeing this deal go down, Omar is sniffing the waiver wire, on the lookout for this year’s Guillermo Mota. Let’s hope he can find one, as it appears we’ll need someone to take over Joe Smith’s spot.


Mets Game 101: Loss to Pirates

Pirates 8 Mets 4

The Pirates mixed in one longball with several dozen cheap hits and used the Mets’ hangover against them to avoid being swept at Shea.

The Mets — or shall we say Jose Reyes — jumped out to another first-inning lead to begin the game 1-0. Reyes led off with a single, stole second, advanced to third on a groundout, and scored on a shallow fly ball. Anyone who doesn’t believe that “speed kills” hasn’t watched Jose.

Oliver Perez was nasty — for five innings. Through those first five he was nearly untouchable, striking out eight, with great command of his fastball and a downright filthy slider. Think he was amped?

With the dominating stuff Ollie had, there was only one way the Pirates were going to score against him: with a lot of luck and mistakes by the Mets. In the sixth inning, they got both. First, eighth-place hitter Nate McClouth got sawed off and bounced the ball just over the head of Ollie and it squeaked into the outfield for a cheap single. Then, with an 0-2 count, pitcher Paul Maholm drew back the bunt and stuck it back out butcher-boy style and dribbled the ball over a drawn-in David Wright for an infield single. With men on first and second, Cesar Izturis dropped a perfect bunt that was thrown away by Perez, scoring McClouth and putting runners on second and third. Ollie settled down to induce two consecutive popups, and seemed to be out of the inning when he went 2-2 to Xavier Nady. The next pitch was another nasty slider, but Nady blistered it off of Wright’s knee, and both runners scored (the play was scored a hit, but it was questionable). Perez went 2-2 to the next batter, Josh Phelps, but allowed a two-run homer into the bleachers. Ollie completely lost his focus and his fight after that blast, and walked Jose Castillo after going to a full count. Finally, Perez struck out Ronny Paulino to end the inning. By that time, the score was Pirates, and Perez had expended over 100 pitches.

The Mets started fighting back immediately in the bottom of the sixth, as Lastings Milledge went deep to make the score 5-2, but the Pirates scored three more in top of the seventh off relievers Scott Schoeneweis and Joe Smith.

Ruben Gotay drove in a run with a sac fly in the seventh, and Jose Reyes blasted a solo shot in the eighth, but it was too little, too late.


It’s really hard to say that Oliver Perez was entirely at fault in letting the game get away, though it may have looked that way. The key, I think, was Perez going to a 3-1 count to McClouth with the pitcher on deck. McClouth, as the 8th-place hitter, should never have seen three balls in his at-bat. But he fought to a full count, broke his bat, one thing led to another, and next thing you know the Pirates are winning. If Perez disposes of McClouth quickly, he very well might pitch into the eighth inning.

A similar snowball effect occurred in the seventh — bad luck, bad bounces, compounded by some poor pitches that followed. It’s too annoying to re-live the play by play.

Joe Smith’s velocity is down, and slider has lost some bite. It’s fairly clear that he’s fatigued, which is to be expected considering he’s never handled this kind of a workload before. It may be time to demote him to AAA, have him pitch just once or twice a week to continue building his endurance (for next year), and add another arm to the bullpen. Have Smith disappear for the month of August, get him some rest, and bring him back up just before rosters expand, so he can be a situational righty in the postseason.

Ruben Gotay looks more tense and aggressive, with less strike zone discipline, from the right side. He doesn’t seem as cognizant of strikes and balls, probably because he’s right-eye dominant. One wonders why switch-hitters who can be so Jekyll and Hyde don’t simply give up the weaker side of their ballgame, and concentrate on one.

Next Game

The Mets host the Nationals for a three-game set beginning on Friday night at 7:10 PM. Jorge Sosa takes the mound against former Met Mike Bacsik.


Perez vs. the Pirates

Oliver Perez as a PirateSo Oliver Perez will make his first career start against his old team, the Pittsburgh Pirates. Knowing he’s an emotional guy, one wonders if he’ll be seriously amped up for the start — possibly too keyed up to be effective.

Interestingly, Ollie was beyond gracious when questioned about his rediscovered success in a Mets uniform. In the Pittburgh Post-Gazette:

Asked yesterday in the New York clubhouse if he would be pitching as well for the Pirates as he is for the first-place Mets this season — 9-6 record, 3.00 ERA, 99 strikeouts in 108 innings — he replied quickly and emphatically, “Yes, for sure. I’m sure of that. You see a lot of players in the majors who have a bad year, then a good one.”

He then pointed back to his career year with the Pirates: “I pitched well in 2004, and I was in Pittsburgh. I could do it again.

“I was just thinking too much those last two years in Pittsburgh,” Perez replied. “I was putting too much pressure on myself. Then, they sent me down … and traded me. It was not easy.”

“But I came here, and there were a lot of guys with experience, guys who have been in my situation. They just told me to believe in myself. Just play baseball. Enjoy it. And that’s what I did. I feel now how I did in 2004.”

When he was asked, how did his pitching improve? Some have credited New York’s highly reputed pitching coach, Rick Peterson, for harnessing Perez’s mechanics and creating a fresh level of consistency.

Perez shrugged that off, too.

“It’s not something he told me about mechanics. He just told me to believe in myself, to believe in every pitch, and everything would be OK.”

And the velocity that has made a lively comeback?

“I just feel more comfortable, so I’m throwing harder. But it’s still not about that. It’s about the pitches that I’m making. I’m locating the fastball and changing speeds. I feel like a pitcher right now. I’m not just throwing.”

This much is clear as can be: Perez is eager for tomorrow.

“It’s great to see my old teammates, and it will be fun to pitch against them.”

Good quotes by Ollie. It would be very difficult for him to agree that Rick Peterson had a profound effect on his pitching, without offending the coaches in the Pittsburgh organization who worked so hard to get him on the right track. And if you followed the Pirates, or Ollie’s career pre-Mets, you’d know that Pittsburgh pitching coach Jim Colborn and others in the organization did in fact try everything under the sun to bring Perez back to his 2004 form.

But sometimes a player simply needs to get out of an environment, and / or hear the same things from someone else before it clicks. Personally, I don’t think there’s any way that Perez has the same stats and form this year as a Pirate — in fact, I’m not certain he wouldn’t be still toiling in AAA right now. However, that’s less because of the perceived ineptitude of the Pirates and more because Ollie was due for a change.

In any case, Ollie’s comments show he’s a class act, and a guy who takes responsibility for his actions.