Browsing Archive December, 2008

New Green Home Jerseys for Mets

In an effort to better tie in the New York Giants’ side of their history, the Mets will be wearing green home jerseys as “alternates” in lieu of the traditional blacks.

From what I gather, the green matches the color of the Citi Field seats, which as you may know are a tribute to the green seating in the old Polo Grounds.

The green dye used to produce this particular hue is 100% organic, made from a mixture of soy and lentils. According to a person familiar with the team’s thinking, the use of this dye is part of a new “green” initiative by the Mets to be more earth friendly. In fact the jerseys are consumable, and, strangely enough, those sold at retail will have detachable green wafers made from the same material so you can “sample” the flavor — though I’d suggest you smear a little mustard on them before taking a bite.

These photos were sent to me by a MetsToday reader:


I checked with two different Modells stores in the Hudson County area, and both said that these jerseys would be in stock shortly after the new year. One sales rep confirmed the report:

“Yeah dude, that’s the new Mets jersey. Pretty dope, bro”

Naturally, I’ll be adding these jerseys to the MetsToday store as soon as they become available.

In the meantime, have a safe and happy New Year!

***** UPDATE *******

Turns out this green dye — the one supposedly produced from a mixture of soy and lentils — is in fact made from people! That’s right … soy-lent green is people! As such the Wilpons have decided to go back to the old black jerseys as an alternate.


Mets Make Lowe Offer

According to the several sources, including the New York Times, the Mets have offered Derek Lowe a three-year, $36M contract.

If the Mets can get Lowe that cheap, I’ll be amazed. I find it hard to believe that no other team in MLB can afford a 3/36 deal for Lowe. If I were Brian Cashman, for example, I’d be on a flight to get to Lowe’s house ASAP to make a better offer. Think about it: the Brewers signed Jeff Suppan to a 4/42 deal back in the winter of 2006 — and Suppan was, back then, in a similar place as Lowe, though not quite as accomplished. I realize the economy has changed in the past two years, but #2/#3 starters who can crank out 200 innings a year and have impressive postseason numbers remain a rare commodity. If the Brewers, for example, allow the Mets to sign Lowe to such a paltry deal, then Milwaukee owner Mark Attanasio should be tarred and feathered for his remarkably inane, “woe is me” comments of last week. Three years and $36M is a bargain for a talent like Lowe — a bargain that ANY small market team can easily swallow, from St. Louis through Kansas City to Milwaukee.

Of course, my fingers are crossed that Lowe is crazy enough to accept such a low-ball offer — though that seems like hoping against hope with Scott Boras advising him.

On another note, it is my opinion that if the Mets do in fact sign Lowe to such an affordable contract, they should then have plenty of extra dough to throw at Oliver Perez as well — and spend it on the bipolar lefthander. Enough of this “one or the other” nonsense — sign them both! Last I checked, the Mets have only two healthy MLB starters returning, and will need all the rotation help they can get.


Mets After Andruw Jones?

Back on October 21st, we threw out the idea of the Mets trading Luis Castillo to the Dodgers for Andruw Jones. Exactly ten days later, Joel Sherman dreamed up the same deal (hmm …. is it possible he reads MetsToday?). On Monday afternoon, Buster Olney reported that the Mets were indeed talking to the Dodgers about Andruw Jones — however, those talks did NOT necessarily include Luis Castillo. Naturally, there is already at least one source poo-poohing Olney’s scoop. Seems everyone wants to be either the first to report a rumor, or the first to squash it.

So let’s pull back for a moment, and look at this rationally. First, the Dodgers have absolutely no interest in Castillo. A month ago, when the left side of their infield was empty due to free agency, they might have, but in the last few weeks they signed both Casey Blake and Mark Loretta (as well as Rafael Furcal). Blake almost certainly will start at 3B, pushing youngster Blake DeWitt to 2B. Loretta is the ideal backup for all infield positions and insurance if DeWitt suffers a sophomore jinx. In other words, Castillo doesn’t fit. So if Jones comes to the Mets, it’s a near guarantee that Castillo will not be wearing Dodger blue.

But that doesn’t mean Jones to the Mets is dead — the Dodgers are still desperate to shed his contract, and are operating as if he was not on the roster. Otherwise, why would they be kicking the tires on Adam Dunn, Bobby Abreu, and, of course, Manny Ramirez? Clearly they’ve given up on the idea that Jones can succeed in LA, and — come hell or high water — he’ll be gone before spring training. There aren’t too many other teams in MLB who have the money to take a gamble on the $15M left on Jones’ contract … heck, few teams can handle taking on HALF of it. The Mets have the resources to do it, though, and might be willing to do so if it costs them next to nothing in return — and if the Dodgers are willing to throw in a young pitcher such as 24-year-old LOOGY Greg Miller.

But then what about Castillo? Is there some way that he can be jettisoned while Jones jets his way into Flushing? Perhaps, but only if a third team is involved. Is this getting too complicated? Too unbelievable? Maybe, but it’s happened before. One need only look to the immovable contract of Mike Hampton back in the winter of 2002. If you remember, the Rockies were on the hook for around $70M over 6 years at the time, and Hampton was coming off a miserable 7-15 season with a 6.15 ERA. However, they managed to move his hefty contract — eating a nice portion of it — by involving both the Marlins and the Braves, as well as seven players. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Can Omar Minaya pull off a similar heist? Time will tell, but one thing’s for certain — Orlando Hudson is waiting very patiently, quietly, and idly, hoping something breaks with one of the two New York teams. He won’t wait forever, but it’s kinda strange that not a peep has come from his camp this winter. Methinks that Minaya has made a contingency offer to the O-dog, perhaps with an expiration date.

Personally, I like the idea of rolling the dice on Jones. When he’s right, he’s a rare talent, with the ability to put a team on his shoulders and carry it. If he wants to play in MLB beyond 2009, he will have to put up decent numbers, so one would think he’ll be motivated to, at minimum, arrive to spring training in shape, ready to rock and roll. My inside source confirmed that Jones’ major issue at the plate had to do with his leg injuries — it’s hard to hit when you don’t have solid legs beneath you — and that his condition was exasperated by being overweight and out of shape. The same source also told me that, in-season, Jones worked his fanny off — there was only one player who put more time in after hours, and that was Manny Ramirez. I’m betting that no matter where Jones winds up, he’ll have a better year than most corner outfielders.

Whether that year will occur in Queens is anybody’s guess. In the meantime, keep your hands away from the hot stove — the fire is still stoked and going strong.


Red Sox Pick Up Penny

The Boston Red Sox have signed Brad Penny to a one-year, $5M contract, which can reach $8M through incentives.

Nice pickup by the Bosox, and a good fit for the somewhat troubled righthander. Penny has the potential to be a dominating starter with ace-like stuff, but his injury-riddled and underperforming 2008, lackluster work ethic, and abrasive personality make him a question mark. Since Boston needs him only to fill out the back end of the rotation, and have Justin Masterson as a backup, it’s an ideal low-risk, high-reward gamble for them. From Penny’s perspective, he has an opportunity to rejuvenate his career, and position himself for a ridiculous contract next winter — all he has to do is win 14-20 games in the beastly AL East.

I don’t believe the Mets were ever rumored to be interested in Penny, which is slightly disappointing. Those who only saw Penny against the Mets probably came away unimpressed, as Penny struggled mightily against the orange and blue, particularly at Shea. However, when healthy, he’s the righthanded version of Oliver Perez — some days he looks unhittable, other days he can’t get out of the fourth inning. On a one-year, $5M deal, I would have hoped the Mets at least kicked the tires on him — even though I hate him almost as much as Scott Olsen. At the end of the day, though, he doesn’t seem to have the type of personality that can handle New York. That said, it will be interesting to see how he fares in Boston, whose media and fan base can be just as, if not more, demanding than NYC.


Yanks Steal Cash, Nats Snatch Gustavos

The Yankees have taken Cash directly from the Red Sox — Kevin Cash, that is. Fitting? Ironic? You make the call. In any case, yes, it’s true, the Yanks have signed backup catcher Kevin Cash.

Speaking of swiping backup backstops, the Washington Nationals signed Gustavo Molina — formerly of the New York Mets. Wait till they find out — as the Mets did — that Gustavo is NOT one of the “Molina catching brothers”, despite being named Molina, and despite being a catcher.

Further intriguing, the Nats also signed pitcher Gustavo Chacin. They now lead all of MLB in Gustavos. Meantime, the Mets no longer lead the league in Reyeses … Argenis has been released and Al is expected to sign elsewhere.


Buy Me To the Moon

With the recent signing of Mark Teixeira for $180M over 8 years, the New York Yankees have spent a total of $423.5M on three free agents this winter.

Add in the $248M still owed on Alex Rodriguez’s contract, and the Bronx Bombers have committed over a half-billion dollars ($671.5M to be exact) to three ballplayers over the next eight years.

If that’s not an attempt to buy a World Series Trophy, I don’t know what is.

Based on this winter’s signings, the Steinbrenners clearly did not have any investments with Bernard Madoff (unlike another baseball team father-son ownership based in New York City … though, we’re assured that little financial scandal won’t affect their organization in any way).

The immediate reaction by 99% of people is that this enormous outlay of cash by the Yankees is despicable, unfair, and/or “exactly what’s wrong with baseball”.

Hmm ….

On the one hand, it’s slightly upsetting that Teixeira did not choose to join his hometown Baltimore Orioles, who have some bright young arms, athletic outfielders, and a future superstar catcher on their horizon. Adding a solid All-Star bat like Teixeira might have been the last piece of the puzzle to push them into contention at some point within the next 2-3 years. Already the toughest division in baseball, the AL East would have been even more competitive if the O’s joined the ranks of the elite.

But now, it’s a three-team race among the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays — who have to prove 2008 wasn’t a Cinderella season. No matter how much the Blue Jays and Orioles improve, it’s doubtful they’ll sniff the postseason before 2012. Though, you never know.

Does that make the Yankees a big bully? Is their spending this winter as obnoxious as everyone says — particularly in this difficult economy? Are the Yankees singlehandedly “ruining baseball” ?

No, no, and no. And no to any other such nonsense.

First off, the Yankees had over $80M come off their 2008 budget thanks to the expiring contracts of Bobby Abreu, Jason Giambi, Andy Pettitte, Mike Mussina, Carl Pavano, and Kyle Farnsworth (yes, I know Farnsworth was traded, but it was nonetheless another $5.5M off the books). With all that coming off, it’s entirely possible that the Yankees’ 2009 budget will be BELOW their 2008 spending even with the additions of Teixeira, C.C. Sabathia, and A.J. Burnett. Heck, they may still have room to sign Manny Ramirez. Yes, their payroll is still going to be a good $70M or $80M more than the next-highest spenders, but they’re not going above and beyond what they’ve been doing since 2003. And guess what? Despite spending more than any other team for the last five years, the Yankees have yet to make a World Series appearance. Huh.

Secondly, while every other team in baseball is crying about the economy, claiming they can’t afford to pay for free agents — and in many cases, laying off non-player personnel — the Yankees are HIRING. If the Steinbrenners follow up these big free agent signings with an announcement that they’re cutting their administrative staff or stadium maintenance people, then something stinks. But that doesn’t appear to be the case. In these tough times, I openly applaud business owners like the Steinbrenners, who instead of laying off people for fear what the future might bring, are instead investing in their future and seeking to improve and grow their product.

Obviously, the Yankees can afford to pay all these ridiculous salaries — they must be doing well. Would you prefer that they sat on their money, or hid it somewhere, rather than doling it out? Consider this: with the signings of three All-Stars, how many Teixeira, Sabathia, and Burnett Yankee jerseys and T-shirts will be sold? How many more baseball gloves with those players’ “autographs” on them will leave the shelves? How much money will Teixeira, Sabathia, and Burnett themselves spend, now that they’re ultra-millionaires? My guess is all three will put at least some of their earnings back into the economy, as well as into charitable foundations. Spending money in these tough times shouldn’t be frowned upon — it should be embraced and encouraged. Somehow, it all trickles down, eventually.

Finally, it is not the Yankees “ruining the game” by spending boatloads of money. If anyone is “ruining” baseball, it’s the San Diego Padres, who are dismantling their team piece by piece because their owners are in the midst of a divorce. To me, it is vastly more despicable for a teams like the Padres and Marlins to run “fire sales” in an effort to reduce payroll — and in effect, put a minor league team on the field. I understand that small market teams can’t compete, financially, with the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, etc. But if they can’t figure out a way to generate the minimum $40-60M to cover a Major League payroll, then either find a new management team, sell the club, or go to the minors — in my opinion there are too many MLB teams anyway.

Which brings me to another point that isn’t related to the Yankees, but with MLB in general. We’ve heard that the Diamondbacks and Blue Jays have been “forced” to lay off administrative personnel during this offseason. It’s also been reported that MLB had to cut their staff significantly, specifically in their MLB Advanced Media / website department. Can someone please explain to me how and why there are teams and MLB itself cutting staff when they made more money in the last five years than they ever have in history?

It was widely reported last winter that paid out $30M to each club, after it generated nearly $400M in revenues. MLB Advanced Media’s growth has been fast and furious, and I find it VERY hard to believe that revenues were down in 2008 — if they were, they couldn’t be down by much.’s user base, paid subscriptions, and traffic all went up. In addition, it was also widely reported that MLB as a whole made over six billion dollars in 2007 — an all-time high — and set attendance records. Following that momentum, several teams during the 2008 season set records again for attendance and ticket sales (including our New York Mets). So for the last two or three years, baseball has been absolutely booming, bringing in money faster than they count it — yet, teams (other than the Yankees) are crying poverty and adding to the unemployment rate. Is it me, or is something rotten in Denmark?

Perhaps I’m in the minority, but the money being thrown around by the Yankees is, to me, refreshing. At least there is one team doing well enough to feel they can put their profits back into the company, with an eye toward improvement and long-term growth.

Happy holidays.


Last Year’s Scrap Heap

Last winter we regularly combed through the scrap heap in search of possible nuggets for the Mets to consider. Strangely enough, few if any of our recommendations were acted upon by the Mets. Is it possible that Omar Minaya and Tony Bernazard do NOT read this blog? Crazy thought, I know.

Anyway, the recent signing of Jody Gerut to a one-year, $1.775M contract by the Padres reminded me that he was one of players we discussed here prior to the opening of 2008 spring training.


Padres sign OF Jody Gerut to a minor league contract.
This doesn’t really mean much to Mets fans, since Gerut is a lefthanded hitting outfielder — and we already have Endy for that role. But it’s intriguing to me anyway. Gerut finished fourth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2003, when he hit 33 doubles, 22 homers, drove in 75 runs, and batted .280 in only 127 games for the Indians. Then he fell off the planet due to knee injuries, and hasn’t appeared in an MLB game since 2005. However, he’s tearing up the Venezuelan league this winter, to the tune of .390 with 80 total bases in 40 games. It appears he’s healthy, and motivated to win a job somewhere. The Padres might have a find in this guy.

In that same article from late last January, we also liked Sean Burnett, David Aardsma, Jeremy Affeldt, Octavio Dotel, Franklyn German, and Mike Myers. OK, we missed on Myers, but the other five enjoyed mixed success. Let’s review each of them.

Sean Burnett
What was said in January:

… while researching Gerut, I noticed that former #1 pick Sean Burnett had a 2.45 ERA in Venezuela. Burnett looked promising in a short trial as a 21-year-old in 2004, then succumbed to elbow issues and Tommy John surgery, which eliminated him from competition for all of 2005 and part of ’06. It appears he’s now healthy, and was never a flamethrower — more a control guy with a hard sinker. If his velocity is near the 88-90 range, he has the control and guile to be a solid #4 at the MLB level. He’s still on the Pirates’ 40-man, and it might be interesting to watch his progress. If he cracks the 25-man roster, who knows — he might be trade bait come July.

What happened in 2008:
Burnett did make the Pirates’ 25-man roster and appeared in 58 games, posting a 4.76 ERA and 1.60 WHIP. Not great by any means, but he held LH hitters to a .171 batting average, .238 OBP, and .271 SLG. Add in he’s only 25 years old and still recovering from his elbow issues — and still very cheap — and suddenly he’s a bargain LOOGY with some upside.

David Aardsma

What was said in January:

Aardsma was a 2003 #1 pick after becoming Rice U’s all-time career saves leader. He was rushed to the bigs by the Giants, was knocked back down quickly, and bounced to the Cubs and White Sox in the past two years. Personally, I think this kid has great potential, but needs to stay in one place long enough to build his confidence and prove his worth. He just turned 26 years old, and could be one of those guys who could blossom all at once and “come out of nowhere” — a la Cla Meredith or Tony Pena — to become a valuable middle reliever. After Aardsma was DFA’d, a part of me hoped the Mets’ brass was on the case, but the BoSox moved quickly in acquiring him for two non-prospects. I think he could have been a nice addition to the bullpen depth — particularly since he still has options.

What happened in 2008:
Aardsma played a fairly important role eating up innings out of the Bosox bullpen, appearing in 47 games and striking out 49 batters in 48 IP. He walked 35, though, and posted a 5.55 ERA and 1.72 WHIP. Before you scoff at those numbers, however, check out what he did outside of Fenway Park — 23 IP, 15 H, 19 K, 13 BB, 2.25 ERA, 1.21 WHIP. That walk rate is still high, but this is clearly a guy who had troubles pitching with the Green Monster at his back. Away from Boston, Aardsma had numbers comparable to Juan Cruz.

Jeremy Affeldt
What was said in January:

… had he not been offered a spot in the Reds’ rotation, he might have been a nice fit in the old Darren Oliver role.

What happened in 2008:
OK, he wasn’t really a “scrap heap” guy, but his strong 2007 in Colorado only earned him a 1-year deal with the Reds. In Cincinnati he had another strong season, which he parlayed into a 2-year, $8M contract with the Giants.

Octavio Dotel
What was said in January:

Yes, I’ve been advocating the acquisition of Dotel all winter. And I still think, even at two years, he would have been worth it. If the Mets were willing to give flash-in-the-pan LOOGY Scott Schoeneweis a three-year deal, I see no logic in failing to offer a two-year deal to Dotel, who has tons more upside and significant experience in both closer and setup roles. Yes, his fragility is a concern, but that’s why he came as cheap as he did …

What happened in 2008:

72 G | 67 IP | 92 K | 52 H | 29 BB | 1.29 WHIP | 3.76 ERA

Like Affeldt, Dotel was hardly a “scrap heap” guy, but teams were shying away due to concerns about his health. The two-year deal given by the ChiSox seemed risky. Well, as you see he appeared in 72 games and had a crazy amount of strikeouts — just the type of “swing and miss guy” the Mets admitted they needed desperately in their 2008 bullpen. The one negative was susceptibility to the gopher ball — he allowed a dozen dingers. Still, how would the Mets’ season have played out if Dotel was one of the relief options?

Franklyn German

What was said in January:

German is a flamethrower who once rated higher than Joel Guzman in the Tigers’ organization. German stands 6’7″, weighs 270 lbs., and hurls the ball in excess of 100 MPH. Why he hasn’t done much is something of a mystery — his strikeout totals in the minors have been insane (career: 531 Ks in 495 IP) but he hasn’t been able to stay on an ML roster. I’ve seen him pitch both in Detroit and in the Dominican League, and can’t figure it out — in the Dominican, he’s been an intimidating, effective closer. He was a free agent this winter and chose to stick with Texas despite spending all of 2007 playing for their AAA team. I would have liked to seen him as one of cans of paint the Mets throw on the wall this spring — a Jorge Julio type that Rick Peterson could have had fun with. But then, I guess that project slot has been filled by Joselo Diaz.

What happened in 2008
As usual, German had trouble getting out of AAA, mainly due to control issues. He did manage to open the season in the bigs and pitch in 17 games with the Rangers, hurling 22 innings, allowing 18 hits, 13 walks, striking out 15 and posting a 2.08 ERA. After a three-inning outing in late May, he was DFA’d, signed by the Pirates, spent the rest of the year in AAA, and then in August was traded to the White Sox for a player to be named later. I’m not certain, but believe a big league club has already invited him to spring training.

Like last winter, we’ll be sifting through the scrap heap in search of hidden gems between now and the opening of spring training 2009. Hopefully Omar and co. are paying attention this time.


Dock Ellis Dead

Dock Ellis pitching for the MetsThe man who claimed he pitched a no-hitter while high on LSD has passed on at the age of 63.

Dock Ellis — and yes, “Dock” was his given first name — enjoyed a colorful 12-year career in the big leagues during the 1970s, including a 17-game stint with the Mets in his final MLB season in 1979. Strangely, his 1980 Topps baseball card displays him as a Met, despite the fact that the Pirates purchased his contract from New York in late September of 1979. Unfortunately for Ellis, the deal came too late to be included on the postseason roster, in the last year the Pirates made it to the World Series (and won).

Interestingly, Dock Ellis was once traded for Doc Medich. It was a deal that also sent Willie Randolph from the Pirates to the Yankees — one of a string of steals by Yankees GM Gabe Paul in the mid-seventies.

Looking back on his career, one of his best seasons — when he went 17-8 with a 3.19 ERA in helping the Yankees get to the World Series in 1976 — Ellis struck out only 65 and walked 76 in 212 innings. The sabermetricians would have had a field day with those numbers had they been around back then.

But the numbers weren’t the craziest thing about Dock Ellis … in addition to pitching on acid, he also wore curlers on the field, was once maced by a security guard, and began one of his starts against the Reds by intentionally plugging the first three batters he faced. He tried to bean the fourth, as well, but Tony Perez managed to duck four times and draw a walk.

After his playing career, Ellis eventually cleaned up and remained sober to his dying day. He devoted a good portion of his time during retirement counseling ballplayers on the dangers of drugs.

I’ll leave you with this, from the 2005 Dallas Observer article “Balls Out” — which by the way is an excellent article, and a fair alternative to purchasing Dock Ellis in the Country of Baseball

on June 12, 1970, Pittsburgh Pirate and future Texas Rangers pitcher Dock Ellis found himself in the Los Angeles home of a childhood friend named Al Rambo. Two days earlier, he’d flown with the Pirates to San Diego for a four-game series with the Padres. He immediately rented a car and drove to L.A. to see Rambo and his girlfriend Mitzi. The next 12 hours were a fog of conversation, screwdrivers, marijuana, and, for Ellis, amphetamines. He went to sleep in the early morning, woke up sometime after noon and immediately took a dose of Purple Haze acid. Ellis would frequently drop acid on off days and weekends; he had a room in his basement christened ‘The Dungeon,’ in which he’d lock himself and listen to Jimi Hendrix or Iron Butterfly ‘for days.’

A bit later, how long exactly he can’t recall, he came across Mitzi flipping through a newspaper. She scanned for a moment, then noticed something.

‘Dock,’ she said. ‘You’re supposed to pitch today.’

Ellis focused his mind. No. Friday. He wasn’t pitching until Friday. He was sure.

‘Baby,’ she replied. ‘It is Friday. You slept through Thursday.’

Ellis remained calm. The game would start late. Ample time for the acid to wear off. Then it struck him: doubleheader. The Pirates had a doubleheader. And he was pitching the first game. He had four hours to get to San Diego, warm up and pitch. If something didn’t happen in the interim, Dock Philip Ellis, age 25, was about to enter a 50,000-seat stadium and throw a very small ball, very hard, for a very long time, without the benefit of being able to, you know, feel the thing.

Which, it turns out, was one of the least crazy things that happened to him on that particular day.