Browsing Archive August, 2009

Josh Thole Promoted

josh-tholeWith the rosters expanding to 40 tomorrow, the Mets have announced the promotion of catcher Josh Thole from AA Binghamton.

According to MetsBlog, Thole will wear uniform #30.

Nick Evans is expected to get a callup as well, though it has yet to be announced. The Buffalo Bisons are not exactly brimming with talent, and still have games to play, so more players will trickle in to Flushing over the next two weeks.


Was Sean Green Worth All That?


A sickening feeling came over me after again looking at this December, 2008 trade:

Mets trade Aaron Heilman, Joe Smith, Endy Chavez, Jason Vargas, Mike Carp, Ezequiel Carrera, and Maikel Cleto in return for J.J. Putz, Jeremy Reed, and Sean Green.

Here’s part one of the analysis:


Do the Auditions Really Matter?

The Mets’ season has been officially meaningless for several weeks now, making the last quarter of the season something of a mass tryout. Heading into September, we’re hoping to see a few more fresh, young faces, and assuming we’ll garner information that will help shape the 2010 Mets roster.

Or will we?

A major consideration is this: what happens if some of the auditions go bad? For example, what if Bobby Parnell continues to have trouble getting past the fourth inning, remains very hittable, and still doesn’t have a reliable secondary pitch at the end of September? He still will be penciled in to the back of the 2010 rotation, won’t he? Somehow, the Mets will glean a shining moment or two from his outings, grasp onto it, and spin it as the reason he has “a bright future”.

Similarly, we’ll get a whiff of Josh Thole — and if he fails, does that mean the Mets will sign Bengie Molina or make a blockbuster trade to bring in a new catcher over the winter?

In contrast, what if Thole hits .400 and proves to be adequte behind the plate over, say, a 15-game span? Is that enough of a sample to mark him down as the catcher of the future? To bring back Brian Schneider at a reduced rate to be his guru? Methinks the decision has already been made, one way or the other.

And what does this last month really mean for players like Cory Sullivan, Angel Pagan, and Jeremy Reed? Are all three in competition for next year’s fourth outfielder position? Maybe, but if at least two of them are re-signed, the competition begins again next March, does it not? In fact, September likely means more to those three outfielders than to anyone else on the 40-man roster. (Though, in the end the least expensive of the three is most likely to be seen in Port St. Lucie in March — and that’s probably Pagan.)

Dan Murphy may be the biggest question of all — and one mystery that may not be unraveled by October. Should Murphy continue the strong pace he’s held for the last few weeks through September, he’ll finish around .275-.280 with a .325 OBP and maybe 10 HRs. What will that strong finish mean to the Mets plans for first base? The starting job for Murphy next year? And if Murphy slumps in September, does the plan become to acquire a first baseman?

Other than Parnell, is anyone getting a true “audition” for the pitching staff? The starting rotation currently includes Tim Redding, Pat Misch, and Nelson Figueroa. Are any of those three really being considered for next year? Figgy is coming off an outstanding start, but he’ll likely have to repeat that performance four or five times to get a legit shot at next year’s rotation. Yet, if Parnell pulls off a similar outing, many will point to it as a reason to mark him down as the #4 starter in 2010.

My point is this: during these “auditions”, people will see only what they want to see — the opinions are predetermined, and people will look for evidence to support that determination. If someone believes today that Bobby Parnell should be starting next season, it won’t matter if his ERA continues to balloon over the next four weeks — they’ll hang on to the fact that his slider has improved. If Figueroa spins three more starts like yesterday’s, they’ll be dismissed by those who view him as a journeyman at the end of his career. Should Dan Murphy slump in September, his supporters will accentuate his hot streaks and point out his advancement in the field; conversely, if he hits .350 over the final weeks, his detractors will harp on his lack of homerun power.

But that doesn’t apply only to fans — it’s also pervasive in the front office and the coaching staff. We know this because it’s the way they’ve operated over the past several years. Ironically, you need look no further than Murphy for the most recent evidence. As you may remember he was written in as the starting left fielder on the first day of spring training — it didn’t matter that Jeremy Reed flashed a better glove and was the team’s leading hitter. The handling of Mike Pelfrey at the beginning of his career was similar; the Mets made the decision that Pelf was ready for MLB and kept sending him to the mound regardless of how overmatched he looked (sound familiar?). The Mets’ expectations regarding players coming off injury is perhaps most telling. For example, the 2008 bullpen was built around the assumption that Duaner Sanchez would be the setup man –and stayed with that plan even after he failed to break a pane of glass in spring training. Similarly, they assembled the 2009 starting rotation with the idea that John Maine was 100%. Again, even after Maine struggled mightily all spring, he was expected to be the #2 or #3 starter. They had not seen his lack of command and hittability — they saw whatever it was they wanted to see (velocity? spin on the curve?), that would justify their preconceptions.

We can pretend that the final month is a “tryout” of sorts, but really, it’s four weeks to gather and collect information that supports preconceived notions. Along the way, someone for whom you have reserved no judgment may surprise you.


Mets Game 131: Win Over Cubs

Mets 4 Cubs 1

The Mets continue to impress by salvaging at least one win per series. If they can continue to win at least one out of every three, they are almost guaranteed to stay ahead of the cellar-dwelling Nationals. Keep fighting, men!

Though the season is over for most of the Mets fan base, it’s just beginning for Nelson Figueroa. He made the most of his opportunity in Chicago, pulling off perhaps the best start of his Major League career. Figgy struck out 10, walked 2, and allowed only 6 hits and 1 earned run in 7 innings.

Meanwhile, the Mets made mincemeat out of Carlos Zambrano, pummeling him for 4 runs and 11 hits in only 3 1/1 innings of work. Strangely enough, the Mets basically singled him to death — Anderson Hernandez’s run-scoring triple in the fourth was the only extra-base hit of the afternoon.

Brian Stokes pitched a perfect eighth and Frankie Fantastic earned his 28th save of the season with a scoreless ninth.


Figueroa also had an RBI single, scoring the fourth run of the ballgame.

Figgy became the only Mets pitcher not named Santana to strike out 10 in a game this season.

Former Cub Angel Pagan was 3-for-5 with a run scored and his 12th stolen base. Luis Castillo was the only other Met with more than one hit; he was 2-for-5 but struck out twice — unusual for him.

After Zambrano left the game, the Mets mustered only one hit the rest of the way against four Cub relievers.

Next Mets Game

The Mets get a well-deserved day off on Monday, then meet the Rockies in Colorado on Tuesday night. Mike Pelfrey starts for the Mets, no word yet on the Colorado hurler. Game time is 8:40 PM EST.


Mets Game 130: Loss to Cubs

Cubs 11 Mets 4

The Bobby Parnell Experiment took another step backward.

Parnell allowed 8 runs on 9 hits and 2 walks in 4 2/3 innings, capped by a grand-slam homerun.

The offense scored four early runs against Ryan Dempster, then kind of fizzled.

Not much more to describe about this game, from the Mets’ point of view. Another long day of watching poor fundamentals, questionable decisions, walks of the opposing pitcher, etc., etc.


The bullpen was no better than Parnell. Ken Takahashi allowed a run in his one inning, and Lance Broadway gave up two in his inauspicious Mets debut.

The Mets had a chance to have a HUGE inning in the fourth, loading the bases with no outs. Brian Schneider stroked a double to score two, but Fernando Tatis was tossed out at home after stopping at third, then re-starting toward home for reasons unknown. Then Jerry Manuel gave up an out (and the game) by allowing the already struggling Parnell to hit, and having him sacrifice for the second out. Angel Pagan grounded out weakly to get Dempster out of trouble.

Tatis became the 16th Met runner thrown out at home this season.

Was it just a coincidence that the cameras were focused on the back of Jake Fox’s jersey every chance they had?

Fox’s grand slam came on an 0-2 slider that hung up in the zone. It was like deja vu all over again — the pitch took almost the exact flight of Brian Stokes’ hanger to Alfonso Soriano on the previous afternoon.

Aaron Heilman made his first-ever appearance against the Mets. He wasn’t dominating, but did well enough. He also put on a few pounds (perhaps the home cooking?) and was wearing old-school stirrups. Something else was different, too — his arm angle, which was more over the top than we’d seen in the past. He’s still throwing three-quarter, but more of a high three-quarter than he usually did as a Met. If you remember, the more Willie Randolph and Jerry Manuel (ab)used him, the more Heilman’s arm angle would drop — to the point where at times his delivery resembled that of Joe Smith.

Seeing Heilman and Parnell in the same game stoked a memory. Remember when Omar Minaya explained that Aaron Heilman wouldn’t be a starter because he didn’t have command of enough different pitches? Yeah …

Next Mets Game

The Mets can’t leave Chicago fast enough, but before they do there’s one more afternoon affair with the Cubs. Game time is 2:20 PM, with Nelson Figueroa facing Carlos Zambrano.


Mets Game 129: Loss to Cubs

Cubs 5 Mets 2

Waiting to lose … that’s what it looks like these Mets are doing lately.

Pat Misch was hit hard by the Cubs batters, but most were outs or foul balls, and others were knocked down by the crosswind. As a result, he managed to hang around for 7 innings, allowing only one run on six hits and two walks. All in all, an impressive performance.

Through six, soft-tossing Ted Lilly matched Misch pitch for pitch, and the game was deadlocked at one apiece. But in the seventh, the Mets finally broke the tie, scratching out a run thanks in part to the terrible fielding of Alfonso Soriano. Two balls hit Soriano’s way fell for doubles, Lilly was chased from the game, and by the time the dust settled, the score was 2-1.

Brian Stokes then entered the game to hold the lead, but unfortunately did no such thing. Instead, he allowed four runs on a walk and three hits, including a booming homer by Soriano, in one-third of an inning.


Soriano was absolutely horrendous in the field, and I’m not sure how he was absconded from being charged with at least one error in the seventh. He flat-out dropped a ball earlier in the game, on a fly ball that bounced off his glove.

Stokes’ appearance was Exhibit A of why he has not been more successful in MLB despite seemingly “good stuff”. With a man on third and RBI machine Aramis Ramirez at the plate, Stokes’ first pitch was left over the middle of the plate, and Ramirez drilled it into left to drive home the run. After doing that, he was inexplicably pitching around Jeff Baker. (Kids, take note. If you’re going to pitch around someone, make it in a situation where the go-ahead run is on third, first base is open, and the monster RBI guy is at the plate — not AFTER the run has already scored.) Then, with men on first and second, Stokes got Soriano to chase two breaking pitches in the dirt to get ahead 0-2. He hung the next pitch chest-high and over the middle of the plate, letting Soriano demolish it.

The Mets need to decide whether Stokes is a starter or a reliever. If it’s a reliever, he needs to cut his repertoire to a fastball and one other pitch — one that he can master. His biggest issue has always been trying to throw too many different pitches. All can look good at one time or another, but none are consistent.

Next Mets Game

The Mets and Cubs do it again at 4:10 PM EST on Saturday. Bobby Parnell faces Ryan Dempster.


Yankees Block Carter – So What?

Yesterday I thought we’d reached a low point when the DFA of a career minor leaguer caused excitement in the Mets blogosphere. Today, I’m seeing we fans sink even lower in this steep abyss of failure and mediocrity we’re calling the 2009 season — because now, we’re mad at the Yankees for preventing the Mets from auditioning another career minor leaguer.

Don’t get me wrong — I was excited as the next guy at the possibility of seeing some new (and healthy) blood come into Flushing, and wow us with his homerun hitting skills. But now, various sources are reporting that Chris Carter will be staying in Boston, because the Yankees claimed him on waivers as a handcuffing strategy (it forced the Red Sox to pull Carter back and keep him on their 40-man roster). Disappointing, yes, the news will hardly ruin my September.

First of all, the Yankees could care less about who the Mets want to audition in meaningless September games, and that consideration likely never entered their minds. The Yankees, after all, are focused on “meaningful games in September” (as Fred Wilpon so aptly describes them). And I can’t blame them — why should the Yankees do the Mets any favors, particularly in the heat of a pennant race? Did the Mets do the Yankees a favor by giving Billy Wagner to the Red Sox? And in return for peanuts, no less? Along with the potentiality of the Bosox getting two extra picks in next year’s June draft? Hmm … LHP who throws mid-90s and has closing experience … draft picks … in return for two non-prospects … yeah, we should be ticked at Brian Cashman for screwing up the Mets’ September, since Omar Minaya was so kind in helping out the Yankees!

Second, the blame is misplaced if it’s on the big bad Yankees. You want to blame someone for screwing up Chris Carter’s audition? How about blaming the Red Sox, who should have pushed Carter through waivers a month ago. It’s standard routine to send all your players through waivers after the trading deadline — no doubt the Bosox passed through people like Mike Lowell, Rocco Baldelli, Takashi Saito, etc. — so why not Carter?

Third, consider the silver lining. The fact that Carter won’t be in New York means there will be opportunities for others. For example, maybe without Carter around, the Mets will consider claiming Matt Murton to try out in left field. Perhaps not having Carter’s means Josh Thole will get some reps at first base. Or it could mean someone like Lucas Duda or Ike Davis gets a surprise promotion. At the very least, it should mean more at-bats for Angel Pagan and Cory Sullivan, and more first base experience for Dan Murphy. Seeing those three players for another 25-30 games will be helpful in determining where (or whether) they fit into the plans for 2010.

But hey, if you want to project your anger toward the Bronx, that’s your prerogative — and if it helps you cope with this sorry excuse for an organization, then go ahead and let it all out. Personally, I’d rather be “mad” at the Yankees for something more worthwhile.


Who’s Next for DL, Albert Pujols and PEDs

MetsmerizedOnline hears from scouts around the league that Francisco Rodriguez could be the latest Met hiding an injury. The same article also displays some frighteningly awful numbers from K-Rod since the All-Star break.

Also on MMO, Joe D wonders if the Mets were duped in the Billy Wagner deal — and predicts dark days ahead.

Andy Martino of the Philadelphia Inquirer says we still don’t know if MLB players are clean — and invokes the name of Albert Pujols.

In somewhat related news, the courts have decided that federal agents were wrong to seize the infamous drug list and samples of 104 Major League Baseball players who allegedly tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003. Hard to take a stance on this one. On the one hand, the players’ rights of privacy were infringed upon. On the other hand, the wrongly-obtained evidence did show that many broke the law by taking illegal drugs and drugs without a prescription. As a result of this decision, Barry Bonds remains “innocent” and Victor Conte looks like a whistleblowing civil rights activist, rather than the fly-by-night drug-peddling shyster depicted by Game of Shadows. It’s up to you to decide who’s right and who’s wrong.

Back to the Mets, Metsgrrrl Caryn Rose has a primer for the team on how to be more fan-friendly.