Browsing Archive February, 2009

Mets Spring Training Game 3

I’m not counting the game against the Italians, so game three is the one the Mets played against the Cardinals.

The final score was Cardinals 9, Mets 8, but we’re not concerned with the score prior to April. Once again, we’ll focus on specific players and other errata.

Livan Hernandez

I must admit I’m personally pulling hard for “Not-Duque” to make this club, so my analysis may be rose-colored. I liked the way his fastball was sinking and was inducing ground balls. His slow curve was a little scary, though, hanging up there like a balloon. Can he get a way with it? We’ll see. He had some command issues when he got lazy with his follow-through, but otherwise was hitting his spots — something he must do to be successful.

Freddy Garcia

Can I pull for two starters to take one rotation spot? Unfortunately for Freddy, he didn’t look so hot. His fastball was flat, at a very hittable velocity, and was all over the place. His curve — important to his success — had little bite and also was hard for him to spot. To me he looks like he’s not yet as strong as he needs to be — and a 100% healthy and strong shoulder is vitally important since he doesn’t use his legs or momentum at all to power the ball. Still, I like the Mets rolling the dice on him, provided he will accept a AAA demotion to build himself back up.

Carlos Delgado

Carlos is looking great at the plate, waiting long on pitches, and keeping the hands back the way he did when he was in Toronto. He does this nearly every spring, though … will he keep this approach once April arrives? I said it last year, and I’ll say it again: Delgado is key to the Mets’ success.

David Wright

The only reason David made an error was because Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez made a point to talk about his defense and Gold Gloves. Jinxed!

Reese Havens

He didn’t play, but we were able to see him do an interview with Kevin Burkhardt. I’m very high on this kid, and think he can climb the ladder quickly if he can stay healthy. He’s an all-around ballplayer, and appears as though he’s already comfortable in front of the camera — a key to succeeding in NYC. The “step program”, though, didn’t sound particularly intriguing. Not that it needs to be.

Casey Fossum

The little lefty was effective, pitching a 1-2-3 inning in his first frame and allowing no runs and one hit over two innings. However his stuff looked ordinary and his fastball didn’t have much movement. His curveballs — he throws them at several speeds and angles — were always his forte, and I only saw him throw a handful, which were mostly the flat, low-80s, sideways, sweeping breaker (though, he did mix in one super-slow roundhouse that conjured memories of Ross Baumgartner). Hard to make an analysis on him just yet. I do like the way he uses momentum to power the baseball — very old school.

Connor Robertson

Robertson, like Fossum, was effective in the boxscore but didn’t throw enough to help make much of an evaluation. He reminded me of Jon Adkins — a below-average, straight fastball, average breaking ball. But his 1-2-3 inning consisted of about five pitches, so it’s impossible to make a judgment.

Adam Bostick

You can see why scouts have salivated over Bostick for years despite his persistently underwhelming performances. He’s big, tall, lefty, and comes from a low 3/4 angle with decent velocity, reminiscent of John Candelaria or even Ollie Perez. But his command is below average and his fastball looks like it stays on one plane (no downward movement). He’ll need to do two things to make the big leagues: concentrate on placing the fastball in one specific spot consistently and mixing it up with an average slider. Even then, his ceiling is as a LOOGY.

Albert Pujols

Keith Hernandez mentioned that “El Hombre” looked like he might have dropped a few pounds, and looked a little thinner in the face. I thought the same thing. Maybe he’s no longer taking those “B12″ shots. Hmm.

Jason Motte

The Cardinals righty reminds me of a combination of Eric Gagne, Derrick Turnbow, and Keith Foulke. He throws pretty hard, and looks scary. But he only throws one pitch, so nothing to be concerned about. If he ever develops a split-fingered fastball, the Cards may have something.

Mike Shannon

Nice to hear that the Cardinals broadcaster has a fine restaurant with a great wine list. He certainly is among the worst baseball broadcasters in history — Tim McCarver and Joe Buck included (funny, all the awful announcers come from St. Louis).

Royce Ring’s Beard

Hmm … hard to figure how much his beard truly affects his performance. He’s had it now for at least two years, and he’s still not come close to the early comparisons to Randy Myers.

The Mets travel to Lakeland, Florida, to play the Tigers on Saturday at 1:10 pm. However it does not appear that the game will be televised, so instead, get your fill by posting your comments below.

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Mets Spring Training Game 2

The New York Mets refused to send me to Port St. Lucie this spring, and I’m still waiting for that big windfall of money that was supposed to come with the big change in our country’s leadership, so as a result game analysis is limited to televised contests.

The Mets won the game 9-zip for their second February win in as many tries, but we’re really not counting wins and losses in the spring — they mean very little. Instead, we’ll pick and choose bits and pieces of the game that are worth analyzing.

Oliver Perez

I’m LOVING Ollie’s mechanics. For the first time in a long time, Oliver Perez’s pitching motion is more front and back as opposed to side to side. In other words, he is (sort of) following a straight line toward home plate. This is a much more efficient motion — not according to me, but to Sir Isaac Newton, who discovered that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

If you notice, Oliver Perez is now starting his windup by lifting his right foot straight back behind the rubber. It seems like a small maneuver, but it gets the back and forth thing initiated. Compare this to his windup of 2008, when he often started by moving his right foot toward third base. This first move got him going in a side-to-side motion, which eventually caused his front shoulder to fly open and his release point to be all over the place. Keep an eye on that right foot — it is the key to Ollie’s success.

Luis Castillo

He looked pretty good — physically he was in shape, he was running well, and he looked fairly confident at the plate. This idea of him batting leadoff, I’m sure, is simply Jerry Manuel’s way of boosting his confidence while also getting him as many game at-bats as possible to get going. When the real games begin, Castillo will hopefully find himself in his much more suited spot of #2.

Dillon Gee

This kid is highly hyped by team officials and is beloved by Brooklyn Cyclones fans, and he’s someone I would have liked to have seen live, from behind the plate. From the awful centerfield camera angle, there wasn’t much to see, though he looks to have solid mechanics and some downward movement on a below-average fastball (87-88 MPH). He only threw one inning, so it was hard to make a judgment one way or another. Hopefully we’ll see more of him.

Nelson Figueroa

Two hitless innings. His command looked a little off, but he battled. It’s going to be very difficult for Nelson to win a job with big names such as Livan Hernandez and Freddy Garcia in camp, and Tim Redding operating with a guaranteed contract. However, I’m rooting hard for him and hoping he can sneak his way onto the 25-man roster.

Andy Green

I think Andy Green came to bat sixteen times in this game. I like him as a ballplayer, but not sure why he’s in camp. There’s no room for him as long as Alex Cora and Fernando Tatis are around, though I suppose he has value as a backup if Cora gets injured.

Baserunning

The Mets, as a team, were especially aggressive and heady on the basepaths. Carlos Delgado took a rare extra base on a ball in the dirt, and Danny Murphy swiped third base by way of delayed steal. If slowpokes like Delgado and Murphy are going to be this aggressive during the year, it’s going to be an exciting season.

Hitting

Nearly all the Mets hitters showed good patience and strike zone judgment, and seemed focused on hitting the ball to the opposite field. Good things to see.

Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran appeared to be in a competition for the cleanup spot, with Reyes swatting two homers including a grand slam, and Beltran smashing a dinger of his own far into the palm trees beyond the left field fence.

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The Team Concept

Over the past two weeks, I’ve read, heard, and watched a multitude of journalists, radio jocks, bloggers, and TV personalities tell me that THIS YEAR, the Mets are really, really focused on establishing the “team concept” — thanks to the remarkable leadership of manager Jerry Manuel.

Manuel presented the “team-first” mentality on the first day in spring training, and has been relentless in making sure that everyone understands that the 2009 Mets will abide by this philosophy. Further, Manuel has put into effect a number of drills emphasizing fundamentals — such as hitting to the opposite field, placing bunts, taking the extra base, and fielding the ball with two hands — and is encouraging his players to be more aggressive on the bases.

This is great news, and a stark contrast to previous years, when previous manager Willie Randolph was always pushing his players to be individuals, poo-pooed fundamentals as “inconsequential details”, rewarded batters for pulling the ball, and insisted that baserunners anchor to the bag and only advance one base at a time.

Wait …. that’s not true … not true at all …

Amazingly, the honeymoon continues for Jerry Manuel, the manager who led the New York Mets to their second consecutive collapse yet is being given the benefit of the doubt in his first spring training as skipper of the team.

Yeah, yeah, I’m Mr. Negative. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been jaded by the rose-colored optimism of springs past. Though, I really believe I would have an easier time being upbeat and positive about this team if I wasn’t constantly reminded that everything good about it is the direct result of Jerry Manuel’s Ghandi-like wisdom, and everything bad is the fault of players who don’t embrace zen-Buddhism.

Truth is, I’m not that negative, just annoyed — I’d like to watch, judge, and enjoy the team on my own, without every idiotic talking head telling me what I should think. I’m actually quite happy about baseball returning to my TV screen, and looking forward to a fun season.

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Rolling the Dice

Pitchers and catchers have reported, spring training has begun, yet there are still several free agents still out there looking for a job. Further, there are still some holes and question marks on the Mets’ roster. How about rolling the dice on a few of the available options — especially since they can be brought in for little risk and at fairly low prices?

The Mets have already missed out on two of the most remarkable values of the offseason — Bobby Abreu at $5M for one year and Orlando Hudson at $3M (plus incentives) for one year. Both players publicly stated their desire to play in New York City, so it wasn’t an issue of the Mets having to do much convincing. And the idea that Hudson might have caused tension on the team because Castillo was still around is absolute insanity. How can a team that collapsed two years in a row be worried about retaining its personality? If anything, the Mets should have been hell bent on stirring up the comfort in the clubhouse.

Anyway, the point is, there are still a few undervalued gems waiting to be picked up, for a beggar’s purse. Let’s take a look at a few in particular, who are worth a roll of the dice.


Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez

Pudge has been telling people he wants to play for the Mets since last October. He’s going to come at a significant discount — probably less than $1M — and he might even be open to taking a minor league deal. How often do you find players who WANT to play in New York, and not because of money? The Mets are desperate for a solid, veteran righthanded hitter for the bench, and Pudge would be an ideal platoon partner with Brian Schneider — not to mention the winning background, leadership qualities, and strong clubhouse presence he brings to the equation.

Yes, the Mets already have Ramon Castro, but Castro has had trouble staying healthy his entire career — and it’s hard to believe that factor will change at age 33. The other argument is that Castro is a friend of everyone on the team, and keeps things loose in the clubhouse. Well guess what? Him keeping things looser and being such a strong personality has not helped this team get to the postseason the last two years.

For those who don’t like Pudge because he has a perpetually low OBP, hit poorly in his one month as a Yankee, and isn’t the same player he was 4-5 years ago, I agree. However, I also believe that Ivan Rodriguez in the twilight of his career is still at least twice as good — overall — as any combination of Robinson Cancel, Rene Rivera, and whatever other independent league backstop the Mets can scrape up when Castro goes to the DL multiple times during the season.

Ray Durham
I thought for sure the Mets would be all over Durham, especially since he played four seasons under Jerry Manuel. But then, maybe he and Uncle Jerry don’t get along? (Yes, Virginia, Jerry Manuel had major problems with his players in Chicago … oh, you weren’t aware? Anyway, that’s for another day.) Durham hits from both sides, can play 2B and the outfield equally adequately, has some punch, can still run the bases, and is an on-base machine. He’s currently contemplating retirement because no one is interested in his services, but if a potential contender such as the Mets made an inquiry, he might just consider a minor league deal. The shame is that the Mets were so quick to lock up Alex Cora on that ridiculous, guaranteed, $2M contract, and now are committed to handing him the backup infield job.

(Wow … think about that … the Mets signed Alex Cora for one million less than the Dodgers are paying Orlando Hudson. Who would you rather have? Alex Cora and Livan Hernandez or Orlando Hudson? Tough pill to swallow. Anyway, I digress …)

Joe Beimel, Will Ohman, Dennys Reyes, Ricardo Rincon

All four of these LOOGYs are still available. I like Rincon, Beimel, and Ohman in that order, and even though Reyes scares me, at this point he should be a relative bargain. So what the hey? The Mets can’t possibly think that Casey Fossum or Valerio De Los Santos can be trusted against the likes of Utley – Howard – Ibanez.

Mark Mulder

Mulder may never, ever return to being a solid starting pitcher. But what’s to say he can’t evolve into a LOOGY? No one is offering Mulder a contract of any sort, so he might be willing to take an incentive-laden minor-league deal as he continues his comeback. At 31 years old, he still has time to make it back.

Jay Payton

I can’t believe I’m suggesting the Mets sign Jay Payton, but let’s think about this objectively. The Mets could really use a solid, veteran, righthanded hitter who can play strong defense in the outfield and hit with occasional pop. Check, check, check. Give the guy a minor league deal and a chance to win a spot on the bench.

Chuck James

James was absolutely horrid in 2008, posting a 9.10 ERA before discovering he had a rotator cuff tear. Most likely, he won’t be able to contribute at the big league level in 2009. But hey, he’s a lefty, he’s only 27, and he wasn’t a power pitcher so the shoulder issue may not adversely affect his performance. Sign him to a cheap minor league deal, stash him in A ball, and look for him to help out late in the season or to compete for a job in 2010. The kid knew how to pitch before the surgery, so who knows — he might be another Jamie Moyer.

Nomar Garciaparra

Yes, he’s only a shell of what he once was, and he’s injury prone. However, his injuries are due to a medical condition that is pronounced by playing every day. With the Mets, he’d be a part-time player, filling in at several positions and being the first RH bat off the bench. The guy knows how to play the game, plays it hard, knows how to win, has performed under pressure, and can hit in his sleep. Watch him sign with the Phillies instead and get big hits to break the Mets’ back late in the season.

Ben Sheets

Take a page from the Jon Lieber chapter of Yankees history and sign Sheets to a two-year deal. Pay the man to rehab in 2009, and have one of the top righthanded pitchers in the NL East competing for a spot in 2010. What do you have to lose?

Did I miss anyone? Post your comments below.

Orlando Hudson
The price has now dropped to under $5M and only one year. You’re telling me that the Mets won’t bite, because they don’t want to sit Luis Castillo’s $18M on the bench? Surely you jest … if the Mets had been able to dump Castillo in, say, October, they might have considered Hudson’s 5-year, $50M demands. At

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Why the Mets Should Sign Orlando Hudson

Back in November, word on the street was that Gold Glove second baseman Orlando Hudson was looking for a 5-year, $50M contract.

Had the Mets not been saddled with the three years and $18M remaining on Luis Castillo’s contract, they surely would have at least entered the bidding on Hudson — and might have signed him quickly, as they did with Francisco Rodriguez. Certainly, it helped that Hudson had made public statements that he wanted to play in New York, and would “love” to play with Jose Reyes.

My, how times have changed.

The price for Hudson has now dropped to under $5M and only one year. What hasn’t changed is the Mets are still stuck with Castillo. However, consider this: Signing Orlando Hudson right now for one year at $5M puts the Mets at $23M over the next two years for their second baseman/men. That’s less than half of what Hudson was demanding in dollars, and is a three-year commitment as opposed to a five-year one. And instead of getting just one player for the position, the Mets get two.

Granted, for the last two years of the deal the Mets have only Castillo and not Hudson. But, there’s a chance that Castillo can prove himself healthy, and become trade bait. Before, it was too much for the Mets to swallow to have two second basemen with multi-year, multi-million dollar contracts. Now, however, the idea of having Castillo and Hudson on the roster at the same time is not only palatable, it makes perfect sense.

Sure, signing Orlando Hudson to a one-year, $5M contract means that the Mets have a very, very expensive backup second baseman in Luis Castillo. But when you look at the second base position as a budget unto itself, spending a total of $11M for one year to have Hudson and Castillo man the position … well, what are the Mets waiting for?

Now, if the Mets insist they don’t have another $5M to dish out for Orlando Hudson (but have more than twice that amount for an assortment of AAAA fodder), we may as well all pack it in.

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