Browsing Archive March, 2008

Not Stoked

We don’t know for certain whether Steven Register was put on waivers, though there have been enough “inside sources” reporting it for us to believe it’s true (or not). We do know that Brian Stokes was stretched out for 65-pitches and four innings in a minor-league contest — presumably to test his mettle as a long reliever.

Excuse me for not understanding the fascination with Stokes, who had a 7.07 ERA last year, an ERA approaching double digits this spring, and doesn’t have particularly electric stuff. Believe me, I’m all for the underdog, but there were several more deserving underdogs in camp this year — i.e., Register, Nelson Figueroa, and Ricardo Rincon.

From what we’ve seen of El Duque thus far, it’s clear he won’t be starting the season with the big club. Likewise with Mike Pelfrey. That said, Jorge Sosa is the most logical candidate to temporarily fill the #5 spot in the rotation — which in turn opens up the long relief role for someone such as Figueroa. Figueroa, after all, has put up good numbers and looked good as far as command and changing speeds goes.

Similarly, Steven Register has outpitched Joe Smith and Stokes yet appears to be the odd man out. Another illogical move, if the waiver rumors are true — and I’m a huge fan of Smith. Why did the Mets bother to take him in the Rule 5 draft if they weren’t going to give him a legitimate shot at a bullpen spot? What did he have to do to win a job? Strike out two batters per inning? Throw 105 MPH? If he hasn’t been waived, or if he has, and clears, and the Mets work out a deal with the Rockies to keep him, then I’ll get off the Mets’ back on this issue.

Finally, there is Ricardo Rincon, whose numbers aren’t as sparkling as those of Scott Schoeneweis, but who has shown better stuff. I’m hoping against hope that the Mets are able to keep Rincon stashed in AAA for that moment they realize The Show’s straight-as-arrow, 85 MPH, chest-high fastball is not going to fool MLB hitters forever. Rincon’s ability to change speeds, hit spots all over the strike zone, and make his fastball sink are far superior to The Show’s limited arsenal. Yes, over eight or nine innings in March, Show has the numerical edge, but over the course of a 50-70-inning season, Rincon’s stuff projects to be better. A last-minute trade seems unlikely, so, again, hopefully the Mets can somehow retain Rincon.


I Sing the Body Electric

The American FlagI’ve been waiting three years to use that headline.

You may have read or seen the news that people were lining up outside the SNY studios as early as 3am yesterday to audition for a chance to sing the national anthem at Shea Stadium. In fact, I feel bad for not announcing this golden opportunity to MetsToday readers — I hope you forgive me.

Personally, I think it’s a great idea; who knows, maybe the process will uncover someone truly worthy who has needed something like this to make the big time. I do, however, have one issue.

Why in the world would one sing anything other than The Star-Spangled Banner in the audition?

Last night on SNY, the showed snippets of some of the people who auditioned. Some sounded good, others … well, not so good to my ears. Whatever. But the strange thing was that there were a number of people who were singing songs other than the national anthem. Why? Why in the world would you sing any song other than the one you would be singing at Shea Stadium?

My nameless wife (OK, it’s about time already we identify her by her name, Amy) had this hypothesis:

“Perhaps those people didn’t know the words to the Star-Spangled Banner, and figure that they’ll learn the words (or someone will teach them) if they make it to the second round.”

Frighteningly enough, it makes sense.

Would you audition for the singing of the national anthem if you didn’t know the words? FYI, I’m pretty sure they don’t set up a karaoke screen behind home plate to help out.


Another Bad Commercial

A few days ago I asked what was the point or joke of the Jose Reyes / 2K8 commercial. FYI, I’m still waiting for someone to ‘splain.

Now there’s another commercial on SNY that is extremely bothersome to me, for a different reason: the Slingbox / police officer ad.

If you haven’t seen it, let me explain. Slingbox is a product that allows you to access your PC from anywhere in the world to watch TV. So, if you have a digital TV card on your PC at home, and you’re in, say, Paris, and you have an internet connection, you can use Slingbox to get to your PC and watch your home TV stations. Or something like that.

The commercial depicts two police officers in a squad car, with a laptop hooked up to Slingbox in the front seat of the car. The two cops are watching TV over the Slingbox while they are driving and in the process of pulling someone over. OK, am I the only one finding something incredibly WRONG with this picture? Isn’t it bad enough that there are idiots on the road who TEXT while driving? Now we have to worry about people watching television on their laptops while traversing major highways at 70+ MPH?

I know, I know … kind of off our central topic of the Mets … but I just had to get it out there.


A Pirate Pitcher

During the first week of February, I suggested that the Mets give Sean Burnett a flyer, considering that they had plenty of room on the 40-man roster, he was a low-risk, high-reward guy, and would come cheap. At the time, I had this crazy notion that the Mets might need an extra starter — just in case one of El Duque’s body parts acted up and/or something else unexpected occurred.

Once a promising young starter for the Pirates, Burnett suffered a serious elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery and knocked him out for the better part of two seasons. ARight before spring training, the Bucs DFA’d him, but he cleared waivers and stayed on with Pittsburgh.

Burnett put up a strong performance in winter ball, did well in the Pirates’ minicamp, and has had a stellar spring. However, he is fighting for the Bucs’ last bullpen spot and there’s a good chance he won’t make the cut.

So here we are, the Mets DO need another starter, and they may have a second chance to acquire Burnett for next to nothing. He may not be a better option than Nelson Figueroa or Jorge Sosa right now, but take a look at the lack of depth waiting in AAA and you tell me whether it makes sense to stockpile some arms like his.

Who knows, maybe the Bucs will add Xavier Nady to the trade as a throw-in.


Justin Huber Traded

The Royals have traded Justin Huber — but not to the Mets.

Rather, Huber was sent to the San Diego Padres for a player to be named later. Huber was out of options and wasn’t part of KC’s 2008 plans.

Yes, it was a longshot for Huber to return to the Mets organization, but he appeared to be a decent fit. After all, don’t the Mets need a RH-hitting first baseman / outfielder / backup catcher? Or am I missing something?

In truth, Huber hasn’t caught since 2004, so he wouldn’t be a viable option compared to Raul Casanova. And his career .204 average isn’t exactly awe-inspiring. But we Mets fans tend to get attached to the youngins’ that come up through the organization, and as a result we sometimes look past reality in our assessments. Heck, a part of me is wondering why Preston Wilson and Grant Roberts aren’t in camp.


Billy Wagner on Michael Kay

Yesterday marked the first appearance of Billy Wagner on The Michael Kay Show on 1050 ESPN Radio — and it won’t be the last.

Wagner will have a regular segment on the show, and I’m having a hard time figuring out how the Mets are OK with this.

As Adam Rubin noted:

“This much is guaranteed: Mets PR guru Jay Horwitz is going to have a weekly coronary, because Billy Wagner will be a weekly guest expert on ESPN radio 1050 AM.”

If you missed yesterday’s segment, you can hear it here.

Billy sort of sounds like a little kid on a farm — in a good way — with his high-pitched voice and slight southern drawl. While he didn’t say anything incredibly controversial, he definitely said a few things that could possibly be misconstrued or twisted by someone hell-bent on stirring up the Mets clubhouse. For example, when asked about “the collapse”, Wags didn’t blame anyone, but he did infer that David Wright and Jose Reyes weren’t making the plays in the field and/or weren’t focused, and that “the team could see it coming.”

Anyone else see Wagner’s regular appearance on 1050 as an accident waiting to happen? Those who regularly listen to Michael Kay might be thinking, “uh oh, another Tiki Barber”.


Fifth Starter Options

We spent most of the offseason wondering which veteran starter the Mets would sign as insurance behind Orlando Hernandez and Mike Pelfrey. Yes, way back in November we were concerned with the slight possibility that neither El Duque nor Pelfrey would be ready to take a spot in the rotation. Here we are, less than a week before opening day, and what do you know — the fifth spot in the rotation is the team’s largest question mark (and there are several questions right now).

Let’s take a look at who is, and who might be, available.

Free Agents

Claudio Vargas
The most recently released pitcher of consequence, Vargas was abruptly dropped by the Brewers despite a fairly decent spring. He’s a five-inning pitcher with a career ERA of just under 5, so I’m not sure he’d be any better than who the Mets already have.

Horacio Ramirez

Let go last week by the Mariners, Ramirez remains available. I’d be interested in him because of his lefthandedness, and the fact that he was fairly successful in the NL; maybe a return to the senior circuit is exactly what he needs to rediscover his groove.

Jeff Weaver
Another former Mariner, Weaver is still looking for a job. His 6.20 ERA last year is unattractive, but might be worth giving a AAA audition — but certainly not an MLB job.

Rodrigo Lopez
Also still looking for a job, Lopez had a 4.42 ERA in 14 starts with the Rockies last year. I was dead-set against making a deal for him a year ago, but today I’d consider him as a AAA option — though like Weaver there’s no way I’d give him an MLB job right away.

Freddy Garcia
He won’t be ready until at least July. I still think it’s a good idea to pay for his rehab, in hopes of getting something better than Brian Lawrence for the second half.

David Wells, Roger Clemens, Russ Ortiz, John Thomson, Eric Milton

No, no, no, no, and no.

Trade Possibilities

Jon Lieber

Here at MetsToday we strongly advocated for a Jon Lieber signing over the winter. However, Lieber was “promised” a rotation spot with the Cubs. Guess what? He’s starting the season in the ‘pen, as Ryan Dempster and Jason Marquis have won the 4th and 5th spots. Maybe the Cubs would consider moving the elderly innings eater for a NJ-born LOOGY. If they would throw in Matt Murton, all the better.

Jeremy Sowers (or Cliff Lee?)
Omar Minaya and Cleveland GM Mark Shapiro had a meeting a few days ago, but nothing was accomplished. Since then, Sowers was sent down and Cliff Lee won a spot in the Indians rotation. I’d take either of these lefties in a heartbeat right now.

Jonathan Sanchez

The Giants’ lefty is in the running for a rotation spot, but is sporting a 6.00 ERA this spring. Interestingly, that’s better than the two men he’s in competition with. I’d do Pelfrey for Sanchez straight up — though it’s doubtful there’s any chance of that happening.

Edwin Jackson
It wasn’t long ago he was among the top pitching prospects in all of baseball. He’s now losing a battle for a rotation spot with the Rays to J.P. Howell, and is out of options. The Rays might consider moving him, and who knows — maybe all the kid needs is Rick Peterson. Jackson is only 24 years old, by the way.

Dan Meyer
The Woodbury, NJ native has been a bust since being the centerpiece of the deal that sent Tim Hudson to Atlanta. The 26-year-old lefty made the A’s 25-man roster as a mopup reliever. He went 8-2 with a 3.28 ERA in 21 AAA starts last year. Maybe Billy Beane would part with Meyer in exchange for Ruben Gotay and/or one of the Mets’ spare relievers?

Internal Options

Jorge Sosa
The slider machine likely is the de facto Mets #5 starter. Who knows, maybe he can recapture the magic that made him virtually unhittable in the first half of 2007.

Nelson Figueroa

Being the type who roots for the underdog, I’m hoping “Figgy” has a lights-out performance in the “Civil Rights Game” and earns a spot in the rotation.

Aaron Heilman
It wouldn’t be MetsToday without at least one post arguing Heilman’s right to a rotation spot. Yes, it would take about a month to stretch him out, but the long-term results would be well worth the effort. With Brian Stokes, Matt Wise, Joe Smith, Steven Register, Pedro Feliciano, Ricardo Rincon, Jorge Sosa, and Scott Schoeneweis all pitching well out of the ‘pen, plus the eventual return of Duaner Sanchez looming, now is as good a time as any to give Aaron what he wants — there’s plenty of depth to fill in the gap. Omar, it can be all your idea, OK? Just do it already!

Jonathan Niese
He’s looked promising in his spring appearances, including his most recent yesterday afternoon. However, he still needs polish, and ran out of gas in the fifth inning. Hopefully the Mets will stretch him out in the minors, as I think we’ll see him at some point before the end of the season.

Tony Armas, Jr.

He won’t be in shape for at least another three weeks, at minimum. Even then, I’m not sure he’s the answer.