Browsing Archive October, 2009

Mets Game 162: Win Over Astros

Mets 4 Astros 0

Finally, it’s over.

The worst Mets season since Art Howe “lit up a room” has come to a close — and the team finished with a bang.

The Mets swept the ‘stros behind the spectacular pitching of Nelson Figueroa, who pitched the best game

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Two Men Who Can Help the Mets: J.P. Ricciardi and Kevin Towers

Over the past 24 hours, two MLB general managers were relieved of their duties.

New Padres owner Jeff Moorad fired Kevin Towers and the Blue Jays let go J.P. Ricciardi.

Ricciardi was the golden boy oft-mentioned in Moneyball, but was unable to turn his saber-magic into success in Toronto.

The SI.com article summed up his tenure thusly:

The 2009 campaign was a microcosm of Ricciardi’s tenure as GM. There was a hopeful start, a sudden collapse, a lack of resources to turn things around, a spate of injuries, some painful decisions related to bad contracts and ultimately, pessimism for the future.

Ricciardi didn’t exactly employ Moneyball tactics in Toronto — in fact it was his irresponsible, unBeanelike contract decisions that contributed to his firing (for example: 2 years/$18M for Frank Thomas; 5-year deal for BJ Ryan; opt-out for AJ Burnett; long-term, expensive deals for Vernon Wells and Alex Rios).

Though his record as a GM is unimpressive, Ricciardi was spectacular as a scout, special assistant, and director of player personnel in Oakland. It’s doubtful anyone will consider him for another GM position anytime soon — particularly after the way he handled (bumbled) the Roy Halladay situation this season, and his ill-conceived, public comments regarding Adam Dunn last year. A return to a less-public position in someone’s front office would make sense. As you may know, Ricciardi began his baseball career in the New York Mets organization — he was a Rookie League and A-ball teammate of Billy Beane in the early 1980s. As you also may know, the Mets are rebuilding their front office, and in need of a special assistant and/or director of player personnel.

Similarly, the Mets could be in the market for someone like Kevin Towers, who is leaving San Diego after 15 years as the Padres GM. You don’t spend that much time in a position unless you’re doing something right — and Towers did a fine job keeping stability and executing successful rebuilding phases under the constraints of what was usually a small-market budget.

It appears that the Mets are going to give Omar Minaya at least another year to right the ship, but he could benefit from (or be pushed by) Towers’ presence — say as an assistant GM. Towers’ eye for finding talent off the scrap heap and his ability to make shrewd deals would be helpful with the anticipated cut in payroll.

The Mets are in the midst of making big changes in their organization, and will be hiring new faces. Here are two with proven track records who can make an immediate and positive impact.

It would be a nice departure from their previous strategy of putting into place, people who have no experience, qualifications, nor credentials for their assigned jobs.

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

Joel Sherman reports that Omar Minaya could be considering both Ricciardi and Towers.

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Mets Game 161: Win Over Astros

Mets 5 Astros 1

Only one more to go.

The suddenly inspired Mets took another one from the ‘stros in front of the hometown crowd, despite missing cavalry members Carlos Beltran and David Wright from the lineup.

Pat Misch was impressive once again, allowing one run on five hits in five frames.

The offense took advantage of the Houston outfielders’ unfamiliarity with expansive Citi Field, getting several extra-base hits resulting from poor positioning and judgment of balls off the outfield wall. Carlos Lee, in particular, had a rough afternoon, with several balls going off his glove and/or falling safely behind him.

Brian Stokes, Pedro Feliciano, and Sean Green threw 3 2/3 innings of scoreless relief before Frankie Fantastik came on in the ninth to get the last out of the game and earn his 35th save.

Notes

In a fabulous, heads-up play by Kaz Matsui early in the game, Josh Thole was thrown out at home on an infield ground ball that was knocked down by Lance Berkman. Catcher J.R. Towles did an excellent job of blocking the plate, and the SNY crew suggested that Thole’s best plan of action would have been to bowl over Towles. Gary Cohen added that the last Met to knock over a catcher in a play at the plate was Ty Wigginton in 2004.

Hard to believe, but I think Cohen’s right. Ballplayers today avoid contact at the plate as a rule; I suppose it comes from the fact that most youth leagues have rules that disallow physical contact, and players develop the instinct to slide at all times. Perhaps also, the players today are too palsy-walsy with each other and don’t want to be “a bad guy” by doing something that might incur injury on another player. That’s too bad, because that’s not the way baseball is supposed to be played. There was and should continue to be a physical element that includes contact. People are quick to point out the Pete Rose – Ray Fosse tragedy, and indeed there have been a few frightening and career-ending incidents, but a handful of those over the course of 100+ years is not enough reason to change the way you play the game. Once in a while, a situation warrants the runner attempting to clock the catcher — and in those situations, it’s usually more dangerous for the runner to be sliding. Personally, I’d prefer to see a little more passion, fire, and aggression when it comes to trying to score. (I’m not singling out Thole; you can point to just about every Met and most MLBers who have the same defensive, “always slide” approach — it’s the way the game is played today.)

Thole’s triple gave the Mets 48 for the season, breaking the old team record for triples in a season — which was 47 in 1978. Hard to believe that the ’78 Mets held that record, especially when you look at their roster that year. The only guy on that team that you would qualify as a legitimate “speedster” was Lenny Randle, who had 8 three-baggers. Remarkably, the team’s stolen-base leader in ’78 — John Stearns with 25 — had only one triple. (Stearns, btw, set a record for stolen bases by a catcher that season … what a bizarre year.)

Stearns also was the man who clocked Dave Parker in Gary Cohen’s “favorite home plate collision” (mine too). The 6’5″,240-lb. “Cobra” came steaming into home plate like a freight train but the 6′, 185-lb. “Bad Dude” held his ground and upended Parker — busting Parker’s cheekbone in the process.

Hard to believe that Sammy Gervacio had a 1.15 WHIP and 2.25 ERA through 28 appearances coming into this game. His mechanics make it almost impossible for him to command his pitches — his front shoulder flies open way early and stride foot lands a good three feet to the left. As a result he has no balance, his momentum is going sideways rather than toward the plate, and his release point is wildly inconsistent. I suppose the wacky motion throws hitters off, but how long will that last?

I like Sean Green’s new submarine style, though he’s having trouble adjusting to it. His command is not great with it but with time it should take some strain off his elbow and thereby allow him pitch more often without a loss in effectiveness. If you are a longtime MetsToday reader, you know I’m a big fan of the submarine arm motion for several reasons.

Fernando Tatis and Cory Sullivan had a combined 9 plate appearances while Nick Evans remained on the bench. Perhaps Jerry Manuel wants Evans to finish the season on a high note, and feel good about Friday’s triple all winter.

Last Mets Game

For the first time since 2005, we know for sure that game 162 is the last one of the season. Brooklyn native Nelson Figueroa faces Nicaraguan Wilton Lopez in a 1 PM start on Sunday afternoon.

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Mets Game 160: Win Over Astros

Mets 7 Astros 1

A chance to go out with a bang.

After getting swept four times in their seven September series, the Mets won the opener of their final series of the season — guaranteeing, at least, they won’t go oh-fer-October.

John Maine was brilliant, pitching perhaps his best game all season. Maine went a full seven frames, allowing only one run on five hits, walking none and striking out seven.

Meantime Wandy Rodriguez’s magic against the Mets continues to occur only in Houston — though his six-inning, 3-runs-allowed effort was respectable. It was reliever Doug Brocail who got whacked for four runs in the ninth inning and swelled the final score — making the game seem less close than it really was. (Was that a Yogi-ism?)

Notes

For one of the few times since 2007, Maine had sharp command of his fastball. His velocity was encouraging, as well, reaching 93 on occasion. He had the ‘stros batters jumping out of their shoes on his slider, as well, which he mixed in expertly. Though, I’d still like to see him throw his change-up more often, especially early in counts, rather than use the slider as his change of pace.

If nothing else, this outing pretty much cemented a 2010 contract for Maine.

Both David Wright and Jeff Francoeur went 3-for-4, Frenchy with 2 RBI.

Daniel Murphy hit a pinch-hit, two-run homer, his 12th of the season.

Nick Evans shook off the mothballs and appeared as a pinch-hitter as well — and blasted a triple.

What in the world was Michael Bourn doing attempting to steal third in the first inning with none out and Miguel Tejada, Lance Berkman, and Carlos Lee following him in the lineup? I haven’t watched enough of the ‘stros to know what went wrong for them this year, but boneheaded decisions like that are a clue.

Equally strange, in the fifth frame, Wandy Rodriguez sacrifice bunted with a man on second and one out.

Nice conversation among Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez, and Ralph Kiner about the enormous number of strikeouts in this day and age. The idea of cutting down the swing and protecting the plate with two strikes has completely left the game since teams pay more millions for more homeruns and Beanehead math said that the risk of swinging for homers and missing on strike three outweighed the negatives. But now that steroids are less prevalent — and in turn homerun totals are dropping — I wonder if two-strike strategy will go back to the old-school philosophy.

Next Mets Game

The next-to-last game of the season occurs on Saturday afternoon at 1 PM. Pat Misch faces Yorman Bazardo.

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Mets To Lower Ticket Prices

In a letter to season-ticket holders, the Wilpons wrote:

“Everyone at the Mets – our Ownership, GM Omar Minaya, Manager Jerry Manuel, the coaches, players, front office and staff – shares your disappointment with the 2009 season. You soon will hear from Ownership and Omar about how we plan to improve the ball club through a combination of player signings, trades, enhanced player development and continued commitment to one of the highest player payrolls in MLB.

We are currently finalizing our ticket pricing for 2010. Season Ticket prices will be reduced by an average of more than 10 percent, with several seating areas being adjusted by more than 20 percent. Every Season Ticket Holder invoice for 2010 will be less than 2009.”

Big woop.
mets_tix
More than TEN PERCENT???? And “several” seating areas reduced by more than TWENTY??? WOW !!!!!

Why does this news not excite me? Mainly because I stopped buying ticket packages three years ago, when the prices started to obnoxiously rise at a rate completely incongruous with my shrinking amount of disposable income. A 10-20% reduction drops the pricing structure from “impossible” to “way out of my budget”.

But that’s because the Mets increased ticket prices about 12% across the board after their last playoff appearance, raised them another 20% after the greatest collapse in MLB history, and of course raised them by astronomical proportions (in some cases, as much as 100%) for Citi Field’s inaugural season.

Dave Howard’s explanation for the 2008 raise in prices was this:

“We considered where we were in the marketplace. Our average ticket price is still the lowest among the nine major pro sports teams in the New York area,” Howard said Saturday. “Our payroll is among the highest in baseball. We put our resources back into the team. We tried to strike a balance.”

I never understood what the Mets’ Shea Stadium ticket pricing had to do with Knicks, Devils, Nets, and other teams that played half as many home games and had half as many seats available. And you can’t ever compare your ticket prices to the Yankees — unless you start spending like the Steinbrenners. But Howard needed some kind of stat to use to support his case.

The most recent letter from the organization promises sweeping changes in the offseason — indeed, we’ve already seen the firings of several key people in the front office and at the minor league levels. More should be on the way, but hopefully, this time, there will be some kind of plan in place — rather than change for the sake of change (please, no Art Howe moves this time!). The tidbit about “…continued commitment to one of the highest player payrolls in MLB” is intriguing — and ambiguous. Obviously they won’t be in the $200M range of the Yankees, but they can drop from their current $150M payroll to as low as $110M and still be among the highest budgets in MLB. For example, the Red Sox were at around $120M on Opening Day 2009, the Cubs at $135M, the Angels were at $114M, Phillies were at $113M, and the Dodgers started at $100M.

Prior to the 2009 season, the Detroit Tigers lowered ticket prices and raised their payroll. I don’t see that happening in Flushing. But if nothing else, it should be a newsworthy offseason.

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FOUND: Nick Evans

nick-evans-swingA year ago Daniel Murphy had a partner in crime — a righthanded-hitting version of an infielder-turned-outfielder with a simlarly promising bat, questionable glove, hustling approach, and fresh off a hitting streak in AA. The two rookies gave the team a mild spark at the tail end of the season, with Murphy’s Wade Boggs imitation overshadowing the lesser but still promising performance of his B-Mets teammate. There was much excitement surrounding the two young men, as they exemplified the best of the fruits sown from the farm known as the Mets minor league system — a system that was gravely underestimated by the pundits (according to Farmer Minaya).

It’s OK if you don’t remember the name of Murphy’s sidekick, as it’s a simple, common, unassuming name — one that sounds like it came out of a Hardy Boys mystery or a Hemingway novel. If you forget his name, don’t fret — it appears his own manager forgot it as well, since he hasn’t written it onto a lineup card for the last three weeks.

It turns out that the young man was forgotten, but not gone. Despite rumors to the contrary, Nick Evans has been with the Mets this entire time. But he hasn’t been seen in ballgames because in addition to his manager forgetting his name,

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