Browsing Archive November, 2007

Mets Trade Milledge to Nats

OK, everyone who saw this coming, put your hand up.

Um … all right … let’s try this again. ANYONE who saw this coming, please RAISE YOUR HAND!

Huh. No one raised their hand.

So for those who missed it, the Mets traded Lastings Milledge to the Washington Nationals for catcher Brian Schneider and outfielder Ryan Church.

On the one hand, the deal almost obliterates any chance of the Mets making a play for an ace pitcher such as Dan Haren or Johan Santana — we think. Of course, other teams might be higher on Carlos Gomez than we thought — though, I’m not comfortable dealing Gomez after trading Milledge.

On the other hand, the Mets were able to get one of the top defensive backstops in all of MLB, plus a legit starting outfielder, in return for a player who has not yet established himself at the big league level — that’s nothing to sneeze at. Naturally, we all thought that Omar Minaya would be using Milledge as bait in a deal for a big-time pitcher, but the Mets were able to get pretty good value in this exchange with the Nationals.

Brian Schneider

In an interview a few years ago, when Minaya was still in the front office for the Expos, he said that nearly every time an opposing GM called, the first question was “what do you want for Schneider?” Indeed, Schneider was a hot property back in the early part of this century (that’s a crazy thing to say, ain’t it? boy time flies … ) — good enough to push out Michael Barrett and be considered a future All-Star. However, Schneider is no longer an up-and-comer but a veteran, and just turned 31 a few days ago (nice birthday present!). While he continues to garner respect as one of the best defenders of the dish, his bat never quite came around after an inspiring .275 average and 19 doubles in his first half-season of MLB duty. His average has dropped steadily from year to year, plummeting to .235 in 2007. His power is nonexistent, though he probably will collect more extra-base hits than, say, Jason Kendall (which isn’t saying much). He did hit more than ten home runs in consecutive seasons — at age 27-28, a time when most players hit their prime. Who knows, maybe a change in scenery — to a winning team — may spark his offensive production.

However, it doesn’t matter, does it? Schneider is pretty much penciled in to the #8 spot in the order, and won’t be expected to do much. He batted anywhere from 6th to 8th for the lowly Nats, and there is one aspect of his game that has improved — his ability to draw walks. He drew a career-high 56 last year, and struck out an equal amount of times. So that’s something.

Schneider will be in the lineup for his defense, plain and simple. He’s a throwback backstop, and may remind some oldsters of Jerry Grote. Lord knows he’ll hit like Grote.

Ryan Church

Church had his first opportunity to play everyday as a 28-year-old and did well — not great, but far from bad. He was one of those guys who you probably had on your fantasy team if you played in a deep NL-only league, because he gave you a decent OPS. Is he an All-Star? No. Is he the traditional power hitter you expect from a corner outfielder? No. But he is a very strong defender, handles the bat fairly well, and is fundamentally sound. The lefty swinger batted anywhere from cleanup to the #7 spot for the Nats, and though he finished the year as a leftfielder, he started it as their everyday centerfielder — so he should be able to add some range to the Mets outfield. Two big things about Church’s offense — he’s patient, and he has gap power, witnessed by his 43 doubles in 470 ABs last year. Looking at his stats and his defensive ability, he compares favorably to Aaron Rowand at the same age. Here’s the bottom line: if Lastings Milledge won the RF job (as expected), he’d probably hit between 15-20 HRs, with a .275 average, a bunch of doubles, and spend most of the time in the #7 hole. We can expect nearly identical stats from Church in the same position of the order, plus offer a higher OBP and better defense. In the short-term, the players are a wash. Of course, Milledge could be an All-Star in future years, but the Mets are concerned with the present.

Bottom Line

From a PR perspective, it’s not a great deal. The litmus test is, does your wife have any idea who Ryan Church or Brian Schneider are? It doesn’t help that there were two very strong factions of Mets fans — those who loved Milledge and think he’ll be a superstar, and those who didn’t care much for his attitude and are happy to see him leave. In that vein, at least half the fans are ticked off. But when you look at the deal at face value, and consider the short-term — which is what the Mets are concerned with — then this is a pretty strong deal, and a fair one for both teams.

Let’s also consider that the dealing is not over; for all we know, one or both of these new acquisitions could be a piece in a trade to go down next week at the winter meetings. We’ll wait and see.

*** FYI, if you posted on this trade before this article went live, please be advised I moved all the relevant comments from the previous post to this one ***


New Relief Option

While we ponder the previous potentialities of Dotel and Chacon, rest assured the Mets are already on the case — they’ve acquired Brian Stokes from the Rays for cold cash. Yes, THAT Brian Stokes — the one who logged a 2-7 record with a 7.07 ERA in 59 games for Tampa Bay last season, allowing 49 runs and 90 hits in 62 1-3 innings. I know, I know, it’s too exciting to breathe just thinking about it. This deal brings me back to that much-ballyhooed winter evening of December 10, 1985, when Len Berman came on at the end of the channel 9 news to tell us that the Mets had acquired Gary Carter. Despite this remarkable turn of events, I’m fairly sure that Omar Minaya is still pounding the cell phone in search of more relief to tandem with Stokes.

Seriously though, I wouldn’t put too much stock in the Stokes purchase. I’m guessing it was a favor to the Rays, who have a ton of young talent to protect on the 40-man, while the Mets have empty spaces all over the place. Tampa Bay was likely going to release Stokes outright, so instead they get some cash. There’s also the chance that Stokes gets sent back to Tampa Bay at the end of spring training, for “cash considerations” or a player to be named later. And then there is the absolute longshot that the Mets are actually interested in his services. Hey, I never understood their signing of Darren Oliver, Chad Bradford, nor Pedro Feliciano, and all those decisions turned out great (of course, there was also Jose Lima, Jeremi Gonzalez, Mr. Koo …).

Here is the scoop on Stokes from Baseball America, circa January 21, 2007:

“He also missed three months of the 2003 season with a right shoulder strain before having Tommy John surgery in August and sitting out the entire 2004 campaign. Stokes showed a better feel for all of his pitches last year, mixing his 90-mph fastball with a mid-70s curveball and improving changeup. His heavy fastball has natural sink and produces groundballs when he’s at his best. The key to Stokes’ success centers on throwing strikes. He gets in trouble when his fastball rises above the knees because it tends to straighten out, making it much easier to hit. At 27, Stokes is old for a prospect, but his rebuilt arm has relatively low mileage and he’ll be a strong candidate for the back of the Tampa Bay rotation or the bullpen in 2007.”

Well that’s a nice write-up, but the fact of the matter is that Stokes allowed nearly two baserunners per inning in 2007 while filling the back end of the Tampa Bay bullpen. Maybe The Jacket can work his magic and extract something special out of him, who knows. Or maybe the simple move from AL East to the National League will transform him into Jon Adkins. Ah … now we’re getting somewhere. The Mets need some AAA bullpen depth, and Stokes fits the Adkins role — a guy with big league experience who might be almost good enough to eat up some innings, but who will also be happy receiving a check to play baseball, even in the minors. Additionally, Stokes can probably be left off the 40-man roster if necessary … for example, to protect the next Jesus Flores.

Since the Mets gave up nothing but cash, and likely won’t have to worry about him hogging a spot on the roster, I have no qualms about the acquisition. The more the merrier.


Relief Options

We all know the Mets need pitching, for the beginning, middle, and toward the end of games. And I’m not buying — for a second — Marty Noble’s announcement that “everything is secondary” to upgrading the starting rotation. Maybe that is specifically in regard to the trade market … but even then, I’m not sure; I think there is a possibility that the Mets trade for a better catcher than Johnny Estrada before they trade for an ace starter. While the Mets certainly would be a better club if they could get their hands on a Johan Santana or Danny Haren, I don’t believe that is the end-all and be-all of the winter. Plugging in a decent middle-of-the-rotation guy to fill Tom Glavine’s workload is a priority, yes, but that would NOT be considered an upgrade (more like, a “lateral move”). Additionally, if the Mets go into 2008 with Pedro Martinez as their nominated ace, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world — as long as they fortify the bullpen.

Signing a free-agent reliever is probably the easiest and most effective way to accomplish that task, and the recent buzz is that both Octavio Dotel and Shawn Chacon are interested in the Mets, and that the feeling is mutual. Actually, it’s a little better than “buzz” — it’s a direct quote from agent Dan Horwitz. This is the type of stuff I’m happy to hear.

Go ahead, bash all you want about Dotel’s health and Chacon’s flash-in-the-pan career. But the bottom line is that they are two of maybe three or four attainable relief arms worth pursuing (David Riske and Luis Vizcaino also come to mind) — I’m omitting guys like Troy Percival who prefer and will find a closer job. According to Horwitz, Dotel is interested in setting up, and because of his recent injuries, has no leverage to demand anything beyond a one-year deal. That’s good, because we don’t want another multi-year Mota / Show deal this winter. If healthy, Dotel will be the premier setup man in the NL East. If not, well, that’s a chance you take.

As for Chacon, I think he has more value than meets the eye. Because of his recent string of bloated ERAs, he similarly cannot hold out for some crazy 2- or 3-year deal. He doesn’t appear to have any health issues, and he still throws a good sinker. Ever since saving 35 games in homer-happy Coors Field for the Rockies in 2004, his role has been in constant flux — he’s been closing, setting up, mopping up, playing ROOGY, and starting. Maybe all he needs is a defined role. His issue is that he’s a guy who pitches to contact but also walks too many guys, which suggests one of two issues: either he’s going away from (or has no) plan of attack, or there’s a mechanical problem that precludes him from repeating his delivery. I haven’t seen enough of him to know which is the issue, but I know that Rick Peterson will be all over it and get him pitching more effectively (just give him ten minutes). Chacon is NOT worth slotting into a setup job, but he could be ideal for the “Darren Oliver” role that somehow disappeared when Aaron Sele arrived. He knows how to pitch out of the pen, and he’s been a starter and thus his arm has been through multiple innings. Start him out as the long man and who knows, he might eventually be valuable as an occasional 6th and 7th-inning guy.


Garza Off the Market

The “buzz” had been suggesting for weeks that the Twins would trade hot pitching prospect Matt Garza to the Tampa Bay Rays for Delmon Young. Well finally, the deal is done, and it looks like a good one for both teams.

The Twins sent Garza, minor leaguer Eduardo Molan, and Jason Bartlett (wasn’t he just part of the Brad Lidge trade? oh no, that was Eric Bruntlett, never mind) to the Rays in exchange for the enigmatic Young, shortstop Brendan Harris, and outfield prospect Jason Pridie. Though Garza is highly rated, he was an excess arm in Minnesota, who was in need of good young bats. In Young they get a potential All-Star, in Harris a starting shortstop with pop, and in Pridie they might have their replacement for Torii Hunter — a centerfielder for the next 5-10 years.

How this effects the Mets? First of all, it puts an end to the Carlos Gomez (or Lastings Milledge) – for – Garza rumors. It also likely eliminates any more talk regarding Johan Santana, because the Twins’ most urgent need were young outfielders ready to step into big league jobs — and that is the one thing the Mets have to offer. Though there is some possibility that the Twins might consider flipping Pridie, I’m not seeing it. So two of the Mets’ most valuable chips in a deal for Santana — Gomez and Milledge — have become moot subjects in trade talks.

At the same time, the exit of Garza might mean the Twins would want to replace him with similarly talented and youthful pitching prospects. Suddenly Philip Humber, Mike Pelfrey, Kevin Mulvey, and Deolis Guerra become more interesting targets — though, a trade for Santana likely would have to include at least three or all of those hurlers. As great as Santana is, do the Mets want to completely empty their cupboard? My guess is no.

I could be wrong, but my guess is that this Garza-Young trade effectively ends any trade talk involving Johan’s transfer to the #7 train.


Brocail Off the Market

Rumor has it that Doug Brocail has signed a contract with the Astros, which will be announced on Tuesday.

Oh, that’s right … we really don’t care.

In other news, Kerry Wood signed a one-year deal to remain with the Cubs; the presumption is that he’ll be a candidate to close, with Ryan Dempster moving back to the starting rotation. Though it might have been nice to see a pitcher with Wood’s talent on the Mets, there didn’t appear to be any interest whatsoever out of Flushing, and Wood seemed determined to return to Chi-town. That said, the Wood signing is something of a positive for the Mets, in that the Cubs now likely won’t be going after any other middle relievers on the market that might interest the Mets (i.e., Octavio Dotel, David Riske).

The latest “buzz” is that the Yankees and Twins are working on a deal involving Johan Santana. My assumption is that the Yanks would have to part with at least Philip Hughes, Ian Kennedy, and Melky Cabrera — and some pundits are guessing that Robinson Cano could be part of the package. If I’m Brian Cashman, that deal is a no-brainer — Hughes doesn’t look like the #1 ace everyone hyped him to be, and the ceilings of both he and Kennedy are questionable. Such a trade would be somewhat similar to another Twins deal that sent a Cy Young lefty to New York about twenty years ago — the Frank Viola trade to the Mets.

On July 31, 1989, the Twins sent Viola to Flushing in return for Rick Aguilera, David West, Tim Drummond, Kevin Tapani, and Jack Savage (Savage was actually a PTBNL). Back then, West was about as bright a prospect, if not brighter, than Hughes is today. Similarly, Tapani was comparable to Kennedy, and Aguilera was seen as a guy who was probably good enough to be a fourth or fifth starter on any team in MLB other than the Mets, who at the time had a 5-man rotation of Dwight Gooden, David Cone, Bobby Ojeda, Ron Darling, and Sid Fernandez (wow … those were good days for pitching in Shea!). Though the Mets toyed with Aguilera as a closer, he wasn’t supplanting 26-year-old fireballer Randy Myers anytime soon, and thus was expendable. The rest is history — Viola was 38-32 in two and a half seasons as a Met, Aguilera went on to become one of the AL’s most dominant closers and save 311 games, Tapani had a 13-year career as a solid #2 / #3 starter, and David West accomplished what can be most accurately described as “bupkis“.

I digress …

So if the Yankees do in fact pull off the deal, the Twins would suddenly have an excess of young starting pitching, which could help the Mets (can you say, Matt Garza for Lastings Milledge?). Additionally, I’d imagine that if Melky Cabrera goes north, then Andruw Jones becomes a Yankee almost immediately — does anyone else fit quite so perfectly in centerfield for them with Melky gone?

Further, if the Yanks and Twins do not come to terms, you’d have to think that either the Red Sox or the Mets are next on the waiting list. Are the Mets willing to send Mike Pelfrey, Philip Humber, Lastings Milledge, and a fourth prospect to Minnesota for Santana? I sure hope so. Problem is, I’d guess the Twins would also ask for John Maine or Oliver Perez, and/or Aaron Heilman. Unless they’re willing to add Joe Nathan and one of their young arms to the deal (Garza? Scott Baker?), I’d have to pass.

By the way, and speaking of Yankees, I haven’t heard anything on Luis Vizcaino. Wouldn’t he be a nice arm to add to the bullpen? Yes, I realize he’s been “Torre-ized”, but he might be related to Gumby and have no problem throwing another 80 games in 2008.

Completely off topic, Chris Snelling has been traded to the Philadelphia Phillies. I believe this is the 18th time he’s changed teams in the last ten months, and wonder why the Mets have been left out of the fun? I hope Omar hasn’t been banished from the “in” group.


Who Will Catch On?

I’m standing by my theory that Johnny Estrada is the Mets’ starting catching worst-case scenario for 2008, and that Omar Minaya is working to upgrade the position in the coming weeks.

And if there is any truth to the “buzz”, then my suspicions are correct — according to Ken Rosenthal:

“The Mets inquired about the Giants’ Molina at the general managers’ meetings, and they could attempt to revive the talks by offering newly acquired Johnny Estrada and perhaps another player. It is unclear whether the Giants want to trade Molina, however, and their trade leverage would be compromised by the $6 million that Molina is owed in each of the next two seasons.”

Interesting, isn’t it, that two years after offering both Bengie Molina and Ramon Hernandez identical deals, both backstops are once again rumored to be targets by Minaya?

If Tracy Ringolsby is a source we can trust, then it’s true that the Giants are looking to move Molina and the Orioles are doing the same with Hernandez.

Personally, I’d be quite happy with either of these options over Estrada, but not at the cost of a Mets top prospect — i.e., Mike Pelfrey, Lastings Milledge, Phil Humber, Kevin Mulvey, Carlos Gomez, Fernando Martinez, Deolis Guerra. And I sincerely believe that — despite buzz to the contrary — either Hernandez or Molina could be had quite easily without giving up one of those valuable chips. The key is in how desperate the Giants and/or the Orioles are to shed salary.

Ramon Hernandez

The Orioles signed Hernandez to a backloaded deal, and owe him $7.5M in 2008, $8M in ’09, and have a club option for $8M in 2010, or a $1M buyout. So at minimum, Hernandez gets $16.5M over the next two years — that’s a lot of dough, particularly with hot prospect Matt Wieters possibly only a year (or less) away. If the O’s believe Wieters is that close, they’d be silly not to deal Hernandez now, while he still has some value. It’s rare for a starting catcher to be coveted at the trading deadline (though both Paul LoDuca and Mike Piazza were traded during mid-season at different points in their careers), so it’s not as though Baltimore can wait until then for a better package. They’d have to bet on a playoff contender’s starter going down with injury, and even then most teams are more comfortable letting the understudy take over, since he has better knowledge of the pitching staff and the team. Further, if Hernandez’s offense continues to slip, his value becomes almost nonexistent — though he’s a good defensive catcher he’s no Johnny Bench back there. Right now, Baltimore is playing the role of upper hand — as they should be — and demanding top prospects in return for Hernandez. But as the winter grows colder, so will the offers, because the other teams looking for a starting catcher are the Rockies, Marlins, Cubs, and possibly the Reds (did I miss anyone?). Neither the Rockies nor the Marlins would be interested in taking on all that salary, and you might put the Reds in that category — though their big splash for Francisco Cordero could be a sign of loosening the purse strings. So if the Orioles can’t interest the Cubs or Mets in taking Hernandez and his hefty contract off their hands, they’ll have a heckuva time dealing him elsewhere. I’m not in tune with the players the Cubs might have to offer in a deal, and don’t have a good measure on their desperation for catching, but I’d be surprised if they were willing to deal prospects the caliber of, say Gomez, Pelfrey or Humber in return for Hernandez.

What the Cubs can’t offer, and the Mets can, is an adequate stopgap backstop to keep home plate warm for Wieters — Johnny Estrada. In addition, moving Hernandez and replacing him with Estrada — knowing full well that Wieters is on the way — is a good public relations move by Baltimore. Realistically, we all know that the O’s are not going to be in the ’08 postseason, but they can’t simply go into rebuilding mode, dump all their veterans, and expect the fans to show up. By dumping Hernandez to clear the way for Wieters, however, the Orioles look good to their fans, who likely are anticipating the young catcher’s arrival and see Hernandez as a roadblock.

Bengie Molina

Meanwhile, the Giants owe $12M, through 2009, to Molina. That doesn’t seem like a whole lot of money for a guy who is still a decent all-around catcher and a team leader. Unlike the Orioles, the Giants don’t have a stud receiver waiting in the wings — but they do have Eliezer Alfonzo (Edgardo’s cousin), a cheap, 29-year-old backup who hit 12 homers in a half season as the regular in 2006. Consider him the Giants’ version of Ramon Castro. Alfonzo spent most of 2007 on the DL with a knee injury, but appears to be healthy again and ready to play full throttle in ’08. Behind him is another 29-year-old Venezuelan named Guillermo Rodriguez, who is equally cheap and has shown some pop. So if the Giants are sold on Alfonzo as a starter, and are looking to shed salary and get younger at the same time, then the buzz around Molina does have some merit. What it would take to get him, though, is not clear. They might also be interested in Estrada as a fallback plan in the event Alfonzo doesn’t pan out, but with Molina goes 19 HRs and 81 RBI that may not be replaced from a team already desperate for hitting. The Mets aren’t likely to deal, say, Lastings Milledge in return for Molina — unless, of course, one of those young arms is also part of the deal.

The Deal of the Winter?

The Orioles supposedly want top prospects for Ramon Hernandez. The Giants need a young bat, particularly with the exit of Lastings Milledge. Both Baltimore and San Francisco have excess arms the Mets would like to have. So if a deal for either Hernandez or Molina happens, there is a possibility that the Mets will send a Milledge-type prospect in the trade — but also get a good young arm as part of the deal.

For example, I believe it would be worth sending Milledge West if it brought back both Molina and, say, young lefty Jonathan Sanchez. I’m not so high on Noah Lowry, and don’t believe any of their other young hurlers would be part of such a deal (i.e., Matt Cain, Brad Hennessey, Tim Lincecum). Sanchez appears to be on the cusp of establishing himself, and looks more ready to help an MLB team — either in the bullpen or rotation — than Pelfrey or Humber. I realize Milledge has a high ceiling, but if you can turn him around for a solid starting catcher who can bat 6th or 7th and a young lefty who’s almost certain to make a contribution in ’08, you have to do it. Of course, the Giants would probably want a bit more in the deal — though it might not require much more (in other words, not another top trading chip).

Likewise, if the Orioles are insistent on fetching top young talent in a trade involving Hernandez, they’ll need to add Eric Bedard, Jeremy Guthrie, or Daniel Cabrera to the deal. Heck, maybe even throw in Chad Bradford — I’d be happy to see him back in Shea slinging from down under. Better yet, it could be time for them to give up on Hayden Penn and make him a “throw-in” — similar to what they did with John Maine a few winters back.

The more I think about it, the more I get the feeling that the Johnny Estrada acquisition was a key precursor to a larger deal down the line. The winter meetings begin shortly, and I have a funny feeling Christmas will come early for Mets fans.


Milledge Nor Gomez

MetsBlog pointed out a John Sickels post designed to elicit traffic and response — he states that the Mets have unnecessarily rushed Carlos Gomez and suggests that it may negatively affect the youngster’s long-term prospects.

Mostly, I agree with Sickels’ analysis — I do believe that Gomez had no business being in MLB last year, and that he needs at least another full year at a lower level to develop his batting skills. However, I also think that the Mets had few choices other than promoting Gomez at the time — it was in the midst of losing Shawn Green, Moises Alou, Lastings Milledge, Ben Johnson, and Endy Chavez to injury (did I miss someone?). At the time, it seemed a fine idea to bring up Gomez and give him a taste of the bigs, and in my opinion it was the right move. But, Gomez should never have found his way into nearly 60 games — a two week stint should have been enough of a “taste”, followed by a return to AA or AAA to get back to the learning process outside the pressure cooker. Of course, part of the “problem” (if you want to call it that) was that Gomez started off with a bang, going 5 for his first 13 and then, after tailing off, he remained just productive enough to not be an encumbrance on the team. During that time, he showed occasional flashes of stardom that kept everyone thinking, “hey, maybe he IS ready for prime time”. In hindsight, Gomez was overmatched, though he did show the ability to adjust. Ideally, he might have been better off taking his lumps in AA and learning to dominate rather than simply survive.

Similarly, Lastings Milledge still hasn’t convinced me that he is ready for the bigs, though he proved to be much more productive with the bat. But that’s where it ended — yes, Milledge was a much better hitter than Gomez, and you could argue that he was more effective than Shawn Green. Overall, though, Milledge was not up to snuff when it came to baserunning, defense, and situational hitting. Like Gomez, Milledge’s shortcomings were not enough to be an encumbrance to the team, and his hitting streaks overshadowed them. Interesting, isn’t it, that Gomez’s stellar defense and incredible speed weren’t enough to make us forget his paltry hitting, but Milledge’s bat erased all of his negatives? But that’s baseball — if you can hit, there’s a place for you.

Because of his immature offensive skills, most are in agreement that Carlos Gomez should start 2008 in the minors. In contrast, because it appears that Lastings Milledge can do some damage with the bat, most agree he should walk into spring training as the Mets’ starting rightfielder. I’m not so sure I agree, for two reasons. First, Milledge needs more time to polish his all-around game. The offensive-minded fans and the statheads like to glaze over “small issues” such as taking the wrong route to a ball, overthrowing the cutoff man, throwing to the wrong base, baserunning mistakes, etc., but guess what — those are the types of things that lose ballgames. And if Milledge continues to make those mistakes, but doesn’t hit enough to overcome them, then wouldn’t it make sense for him to spend more time in a place where he can make those mistakes and learn from them?

Here’s the thing — Lastings did hit pretty well, for a while, in the second half of last season. But he didn’t show enough, to me, to suggest that his offense would overwhelm his defensive and fundamental issues. I don’t see him hitting .300+ with 25+ homers. In fact, I see someone who will hit about .280 with maybe 10-15 HRs. Not bad, but not great. What bothers me is that if he does have that kind of year in the bigs, does that become his ceiling? Might he have a better 2009, 2010, and beyond if he improves his overall game and has a standout offensive season in AAA? As with Gomez, I’d rather see Milledge have chance to dominate at a lower level, and fully develop all of his skills, rather than shortcut his maturity and build enough of his ability to survive in MLB. Lastings Milledge has the raw athleticism to one day develop into a good to excellent all-around ballplayer. Force-feeding him to the bigs may instead set his mold as something less — such as a one-dimensional offensive player.

As with most things, I’m probably wrong — Lastings Milledge may be ripe for a breakout year in 2008 and become the power-hitting Gary Sheffield-type outfielder everyone’s been promised (even if he’s never hit more than 15 homers in a minor league season). But if I’m right, wouldn’t it make sense to pick up a stopgap outfielder for ’08, and allow both Milledge and Gomez a pressure-free year to develop at their own pace? Wouldn’t the Mets be better off with a “sure thing” veteran, or two-man platoon, that would hit about what we think Milledge will but also bring a complete game to the table? There are free agents available, so it wouldn’t be necessary to trade away prospects. For example, how about a two-headed rightfield comprised of Shannon Stewart and Luis Gonzalez? Or Trot Nixon and Reggie Sanders? What about bringing in someone like Brady Clark to platoon with Endy Chavez and Marlon Anderson? Travis Lee, Brad Wilkerson, Preston Wilson, and Ryan Klesko are all available for short-term deals, and all offer decent production over 350-400 at-bats. There’s also Ben Johnson to consider — the guy who was supposed to be the stopgap in 2007. I think a combination of Johnson and Travis Lee would compare offensively to the best Milledge will do in ’08, but also provide better defense, situational hitting, and baserunning instincts.

Come to think of it, maybe that’s exactly what Omar Minaya is planning — a stopgap solution for rightfield — because one or both of Milledge and Gomez will be dealt for pitching before this winter ends. If so, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. After all, we haven’t even brought up the name Fernando Martinez.


Bloggers 1 Sportswriters 0

Earlier this month I posted my theory on why the hot stove was so full of misinformation this winter — something to do with the “professional” sportswriters losing eyeballers to the great fan-driven blogs such as MetsBlog.

Well it appears that at least one longtime “professional” sports reporter is feeling the heat, and is getting remarkably defensive and downright rude when the topic of bloggers enters his atmosphere.

A few days ago, Philadelphia Daily News writer Bill Conlin wrote an article discussing how wonderful it was for Jimmy Rollins to have won the NL MVP. Ironically, a PHILLIES FAN and blogger emailed Mr. Conlin with the argument that DAVID WRIGHT was a better choice for the award (see, those Philly guys aren’t so bad after all!). Bill Baer of Crashburn Alley posted both his initial email — which was both polite and intelligent — to Mr. Conlin, as well as Conlin’s rude response, which was,

“Know what, pal? Bash this. . .Tell your bloggers, my career against theirs. . .”

Huh. It gets better … or worse, depending on your perspective. Baer responded with his disappointment, as well as letting Conlin know that purchasing a Philadelphia Daily News in the future would not be happening. Conlin fired back with a vulgar email that seemed to be built around the assumption that Baer was a Mets fan, which concluded,

“. . . One question: When a Mets team chokes in a forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a gagging sound? Next time bring more to the table than wishful fan numbers that bear no semblance to reality. I wonder how it feels to be the Phillies bitch”

Apparently Conlin didn’t get the fact that Baer was a Phillies fan in the first two emails. And as if he hadn’t already stuck his foot in his mouth, Conlin purportedly sent another email, stating:

The only positive thing I can think of about Hitler’s time on earth–I’m sure he would have eliminated all bloggers. In Colonial times, bloggers were called “Pamphleteers.” They hung on street corners handing them out to passersby. Now, they hang out on electronic street corners, hoping somebody mouses on to their pretentious sites. Different medium, same MO. Shakespeare accidentally summed up the genre best with these words from a MacBeth soliloquy: “. . .a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. . .”

Now, I didn’t think I’d ever give the former German dictator space in my blog, and don’t intend to at any point in the future. If the correspondence posted on Crashburnalley — which you can read in full here — is in fact legitimate and not some blogger looking for cheap inbound links, then either Conlin is a) incredibly paranoid; b) a total jerk; c) a stupid jerk; or d) all of the above.

I tend to believe that this is a factual electronic discussion between blogger and sportswriter, and it makes me wonder just what in the heck is going on in the minds of not only some immovable dinosaurs reporting sports these days but also the editors and publishers who continue to pay them. Could a man who makes his living thanks to the Constitutional right of the “freedom of the press” also have the audacity and stupidity to spit on the “freedom of speech”? Because that is essentially what he is doing by stating that bloggers would have been “eliminated” and by comparing us to idiots.

Obviously, Conlin thinks he’s above us because he gets a paycheck to do the same thing we bloggers do for free. After this firestorm, though, he might be forced to join the “pamphleteers” — and I’m pretty sure there will be few “passersby” to take his handouts.