Archive: February 11th, 2008

Top 10 Reasons John Rocker is Expanding the Steroids Issue

Just when we thought all the PED controversy surrounded Roger Clemens, John Rocker comes out of nowhere and tells the world that team doctors recommended steroids to him, Rafael Palmeiro, Ivan Rodriguez, and Alex Rodriguez.

Uh-oh.

Let’s hope against hope that John is off his Rocker and just looking for some headlines (and/or a book deal). There IS a shred of possibility that he’s lying. For example:

– Rocker claims he failed a steroid test in 2000 and Bud Selig knew all about it. Only problem is, MLB wasn’t testing anyone for steroids back then … so maybe he was trying out as a tight end for the Falcons?

– Rocker now claims that “40 – 50 percent” of MLB players are on steroids. Last spring, he told ESPN that “less than 10 percent” of players were users. In one of these claims, he’s lying, and if he’s lying, then perhaps we can’t believe anything that comes out of his mouth.

Why would Rocker come out now and make such wild claims? Why should we believe anything he has to say on the subject? Here are my theories …

Top Ten Reasons John Rocker Opened His Mouth (Again)

1. He was hired by Rusty Hardin to make up crazy stories and deflect the attention away from Roger Clemens.

2. He’s still sore about that whole SI article “misunderstanding”.

3. He needs a book deal to pay off his new Remington Pump Action 7600 Rifle (with self-install gun rack that bolts right to yer pickup’s flatbed).

4. He was tired of seeing Jose Canseco get all the glory when it came to PEDs knowledge. “I know mo’ ’bout the juice than that damn spic — an’ he’s no stoopider than me!” (direct quote from Rocker).

5. Wanted to take the sails out of Canseco’s upcoming book, and be the first to publicly associate A-Rod with steroids. “Jus’ call me ‘Scoop Brady’, y’all”

6. Is angry his trainer never saved any of HIS beer cans or needles for future DNA evidence. “I drunk me a bunch a beer and smashed the cans right here on my forehead — and not one was saved by nobody! How my s’posed to get on CSI and meet that hot little blondie?”

7. Is building buzz for an upcoming DVD titled, “How Steeeroids Kin Perteck Y’all frum the Scummy Foryners in Noo York (wit bonis feetcher on “Stacking fer the Seven Trane”)

8. The steroid issue is only the beginning; next week, Rocker will be outing all the “queers and queens” in his solitary effort to “clean up” MLB.

9. Is hoping his steroid talk will make people forget he’s an arsehole, and idiot, and an inexcusably offensive racist.

10. He’s somewhere between clinically imbecilic and moronic, and shouldn’t be allowed out of the house without supervision.

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Mets Sign Tony Armas Jr.

Sit down folks, big news here … the Mets have signed Tony Armas, Jr. to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.

While the Mets might have more need for Tony’s dad right now (a slugging, RH-hitting, rightfielder), I’m on board with this no-risk move. In fact, I liked the idea of adding Armas last winter. As it turned out, it wasn’t the best idea, since he sported a lofty 6+ ERA last year in Pittsburgh. But who knows, maybe he wasn’t all the way recovered from his 2003 rotator cuff surgery (some people heal more slowly than others). He’s always been a tough competitor, so he has that going for him. To have him hanging around in AAA with the off-chance he finds a bit of that old magic is not the worst thing in the world.

If you have low expectations, there’s a decent chance you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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Ten Mets Prospects At a Crossroads

Previously we presented the Mets’ Top Ten Most Intriguing Prospects. Now, we go over the Top Ten Mets Prospects At a Crossroads.

1. Anderson Hernandez

Two years ago at this time, Hernandez was everyone’s choice to be the starting second baseman at the ML level — despite having to compete with veterans Kaz Matsui, Bret Boone, Jose Valentin, and others when camp opened. In fact, his flashy defense won over Willie Randolph and his coaching staff and he indeed was in the lineup on Opening Day — and was highlighted on ESPN the next day for a leaping “web gem”. However, he soon went on the 15-day DL with a bulging disk in his back and Jose Valentin claimed the second base job for good. With Luis Castillo in place for the next four years, and Jose Reyes already playing his natural shortstop position, AHern’s best bet to make the team is to beat out Ruben Gotay for a utility spot. However it’s hard to imagine the Mets needing a good-field, no-hit infielder on the bench — it’s not like Castillo or Reyes will need a defensive replacement in the late innings. The Mets may have to showcase Hernandez this spring with hopes of trading him for some A-ball talent.

2. Ben Johnson
Since Jon Adkins was unceremoniously dismissed from the organization, Ben is all we have left in return for Heath Bell and Royce Ring. Had he not suffered injuries last season, he likely would have been playing a lot of outfield for the Mets — but then, that story could be told for several Mets outfielders in 2007. After tearing up his ankle last year, he still isn’t 100%, and may not be by Opening Day. Tough break for a guy who plays as hard as anyone, flashes a good glove, and looks like he might have power potential. He turns 27 in June, and needs to be on someone’s 25-man roster this year if he’s going to have any kind of MLB career. With the Mets unable to bring in a quality veteran RH OF bat, Johnson might have an opportunity to shine if (when) Moises Alou breaks down. I’m rooting for him.

3. Ruben Gotay
All Gotay did was hit in excess of .350 while Mets management scratched their heads wondering what they should do with the second base position. His invisibility to anyone inside the Mets brass is still a head-scratcher for the rest of us, but with Castillo locked up it doesn’t appear that Gotay’s future will be with the Mets — except as a backup infielder and pinch-hitter. But even as a utilityman he’ll have his hands full and may not make the team out of spring training. If I were him, I’d be putting on the tools of ignorance and pronouncing myself the emergency catcher.

4. Willie Collazo
The little lefty was a non-prospect his entire career, but forced his way up the ladder by continuously succeeding. It’s possible the Mets have another Pedro in Collazo — though the Feliciano version. At 28 years old, he’s not getting any younger, but he does have the advantage of being lefty — and as Jesse Orosco will tell you, sometimes that’s all you need. With a good spring, an injury to one of the other lefties, and a little luck, Collazo could head north come April.

5. Jason Vargas
After bursting on the scene with 13 strong starts for the Marlins as a 22-year-old in 2005, Vargas’ career has been all downhill, coming to a crash in two ugly spot starts with the Mets last season. However, it was discovered afterward that he had an elbow issue, which minor postseason surgery may have corrected. If he’s 100%, and his velocity is back, he could be the surprise of the spring. If the velocity doesn’t return, he’ll be back in AAA and possibly looking at a future as a soft-tossing LOOGY.

6. Carlos Muniz
Like Collazo, Muniz has never been identified as a prospect, but he put together good back-to-back seasons in A and AA (31 and then 23 saves) and the Mets had no choice but to promote him. While the numbers look nice, it has to be understood that he was “old” for the leagues he was in, and will turn 27 in mid-March. If he doesn’t crack the Mets’ roster, he will quickly be marked as a “AAAA” player. Personally, I think he’ll be good depth in AAA to bring up and down as needed — the old Heath Bell Shuttle.

7. Mike Carp
What a difference a year makes. Last March, he was an impressive 21-year-old who appeared to be on the fast track to the bigs. After an injury-filled, disappointing season in AA, however, Carp suddenly is fighting to retain status as a leading first base prospect in the organization. If he doesn’t do an about-face, Carp could see Nick Evans leapfrog over him in the eyes of the Mets’ brass.

8. Stephen Register

We don’t know much about this guy, other than the fact that former Chicago Bulls GM Jerry Krause thinks he can make the team. If Register doesn’t make it north, the Rule 5 pick will be offered back to the Rockies. A strong spring could net him his MLB debut.

9. Joe Smith

After being nearly unhittable through the first half of 2007, combined with the exit of Guillermo Mota, you’d think Joe Smith would be almost guaranteed a spot in this years’ bullpen. However, Smith was overused and burned out by July, and never pitched nearly as well as his first two months in the bigs. Now he has to fight with Register, Muniz, Collazo, Brian Stokes, Ruddy Lugo, and nearly a dozen non-roster invitees for a spot in a suddenly crowded corps of relievers. His biggest obstacle is Register, who likely will get the nod due to his Rule 5 status if the two pitchers perform at equal levels in the spring. Then again, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to have Smith ready and waiting in AAA if/when the bullpen repeats its second-half nosedive in 2008.

10. Adam Bostick
The hard-throwing lefty was identified as a prospect after strong showings in A and AA, but did not match that success in AAA last year. He’ll turn 25 on St. Paddy’s Day, which means he still has some time but that time is running short. His best chance to stick will be in the old Darren Oliver role, but it’s more likely he’ll return to AAA. Unless he shows marked improvement over last year, Bostick — like fellow former Florida Marlin Vargas — could be looking at a transition to the bullpen.

11. Ambiorix Concepcion
Much like the amps used by Spinal Tap, this top ten list has eleven. You may or may not have ever heard of Ambiorix Concepcion, but it wasn’t that long ago he was the hottest thing going in the Mets organization — like, F-Mart hot. But don’t believe me, read this from Baseball America:

“The short-season New York-Penn League was loaded with pitching in 2004, but a position player claimed the mantle of best prospect. There wasn’t a manager in the league who questioned the remarkable talent of Brooklyn outfielder Ambiorix Concepcion.”

However, his over-aggressiveness at the plate and injury problems sidetracked his path to stardom, and spent last year in A-ball after reaching AA in 2006. He was a free-agent over the winter and I’m not clear whether the Mets re-signed him. Wherever he is, he’ll need to show some of the skills that had scouts salivating 3-4 years ago, as he seems to have dropped off the face of the earth at age 24. It’s now or never for the one-time phenom.

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Veteran Bats Moving Fast

Only a few days ago we discussed various possibilities for the Mets’ bench, focusing on righthanded batters who ideally play 1B, OF, and/or catcher.

Since then, several veterans have been scooped up, including many mentioned here (by me and you). Hat tip to Walnutz on some of these.

Herewith a roundup of recent last-minute signings and ST invites:

Mike Sweeney (Athletics)
Once again Billy Beane grabs a vet with an excellent bat on the cheap. Sweeney accepted a minor league deal with an ST invite and the “opportunity” to back up Jack Cust, Dan Johnson, and Daric Barton at DH / 1B. Looking at that situation, maybe he would have been OK backing up Carlos Delgado and putting on the catcher’s gear once in a while for a team focused on the postseason. Who knows, Delgado may slump and the Mets may decide to overbuy at the trading deadline for Sweeney.

Tony Clark (Padres)
Clark returns to his home in San Diego for $900K and remains in the NL West, a division he knows well. He was too tall for the Mets anyway.

Craig Wilson (Reds)
The OF/C struggled with the bat the last two years due to injury, but claims he’s now healthy. He accepted a minor league deal with ST invite. According to Ken Rosenthal:

The Mets, looking for an inexpensive, right-handed hitting outfielder, considered free agent Craig Wilson before he signed a minor-league contract with the Reds.

The team does not believe Shannon Stewart or Kevin Mench would provide adequate insurance if Moises Alou were injured — Stewart has a below-average arm and Mench is a below-average defender.

Mench is expected to sign a minor-league deal with the Rangers.

Chris Woodward (Yankees)
The Yanks invite the hairless utlityman to spring training. There wasn’t any talk of him returning to Shea, but his hard play and strong fundamentals made him something of a fan favorite while with the Mets, so thought I’d mention it.

Eric Hinske (Rays)
Hinske took an ST invite to fight for a spot on the Tampa Bay roster. He was a lefty bat and strikes out a lot so not much interest for the Mets, but worth noting.


Juan Gonzalez
(Cardinals)
Yes, THAT Juan Gonzalez. Glad the Mets didn’t so much as kick the tires on this one.

Sean Casey (Red Sox)
Again, a lefthanded bat, but worth noting. He’s a good fit for the Bosox.

Pitchers Picked Up

Victor Zambrano (Rockies)
Colorado pitching coach Bob Apodaca (former Met as well) says he can fix this guy in NINE minutes.

Mike Lincoln (Reds)
This guy had a couple of good years as a middle reliever, then his ERA doubled and hasn’t been seen in the bigs since 2004.

Brendan Donnelly
(Indians)
Once a lights-out setup man, Donnelly had Tommy John surgery this past August and was named in the Mitchell Report but still found an ST invite. Shows you how desperate teams are to find bullpen help.

Sean Burnett
(Pirates)
The Bucs DFA’d Burnett, no one claimed him, and they re-signed him to a minor league deal. I still think he would have been worth stashing in AAA, but we’ll see what he does this spring.

Josh Towers (Rockies)
Glad he signed with the Rockies because it means he didn’t sign with the Mets. In the mold of Adam Eaton / Josh Fogg, except he’s not even that good.

Matt DeSalvo (Braves)
Nothing interesting here, other than he was with the Yanks so you probably heard of him.

Mike Maroth (Royals)
At first glance, I thought he might be a good choice for AAA depth, but he’s most likely the lefthanded version of Brian Lawrence — except he throws a bit slower.

Scott Elarton (Indians)
The eternal enigma, Elarton gives the Indians a chance to look stupid.

If you are interested, here are a few of the free agents still waiting for an ST invite:

– Sammy Sosa
– Antonio Alfonseca
– Bartolo Colon
– Armando Benitez
– Tony Batista
– Kris Benson
– Russell Branyan
– Shawn Chacon
– Jeff Cirillo
– Kyle Lohse
– Shawn Green
– Livan Hernandez
– Jason Tyner
– Mike Piazza
– Aaron Sele
– Jeff Weaver
– David Wells

There are others … but the names don’t get much prettier.

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