Browsing Archive January, 2011

Reactions To News That Mets Are For Sale

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Mets For Sale

So much for the conspiracy “theory” — as it turns out, the Madoff scandal did and does affect the Wilpons and the New York Mets in particular, despite countless denials to the contrary.

From last week’s press release:

As Sterling Equities announced in December, we are engaged in discussions to settle a lawsuit brought against us and other Sterling partners and members of our families by the Trustee in the Madoff bankruptcy. We are not permitted to comment on these confidential negotiations while they are ongoing.

However, to address the air of uncertainty created by this lawsuit, and to provide additional assurance that the New York Mets will continue to have the necessary resources to fully compete and win, we are looking at a number of potential options including the addition of one or more strategic partners.

I’ve always enjoyed the Mets’ strategy of releasing bad news on a Friday, whenever possible, so that the media pickup is somewhat lessened. They’ve done it consistently with player injuries, arrests, suspensions, and firings, for example.

Another consistency regarding news out of Flushing: telling us things are fine, when they aren’t — a theme that ran repeatedly with the player injuries of 2009 and 2010.

I was going to write my own, original response to this latest situation, but someone already published a piece that pretty much sums up my thoughts, so why reinvent the wheel? See Barstool Sports NYC. That site could be considered NSFW and has some foul language, so I’ll give you snippets of the best parts.

But mark my words, this is the beginning of the end for the Wilpons owning the Mets. For 3 reasons – 1. This is how the Mets … operate. How many years have we heard about a Carlos Beltran “strain” and 6 weeks later we find out he needs season ending surgery? How many times have we seen Reyes as “day-to-day” and it turns out to be like 90 … days? This is what they do. The come in real low in an effort to keep everyone calm and as time goes on you realize just how (bad) of a situation they are in and all the sudden its a full blown disaster. So all this “just looking for financial partners” and what not is the tip of the iceberg. 1 year ago the Wilpons promised Madoff wasn’t an issue at all. Now its somewhat of an issue. And in another year we’ll find out it they’re completely broke.

Pretty much how I see it, too. But there’s more good stuff from Barstool:

2. The fact that they announced this without a bidder lined up means this Madoff lawsuit is 150 times worse than they ever expected. Seems like they were sucker punched by the potential severity of this suit. This is a New York baseball franchise. Top 3 profitable franchise in all of baseball. And they are basically putting out an open casting call for financial partners? Thats like the kinda (stuff) I do on Barstool. Put up a picture of a chick and ask the Stoolies to find her. Just announcing you are now open to whoring yourself out without any prospective partners already lined up is … desperate. It’s like online dating. The Mets are … J-Dating right now.

Barstool sums up the Wilpon ownership era thusly:

I’ve always maintained this team will never win a World Series under the Wilpons management. Too incompetent, too timid. Always willing to go three quarters of the way, but never willing to go the distance. The Mets will always be stuck in no man’s land with the Wilpons – Never rebuilding, but never winning. That’s New York Mets baseball under Fred and Jeff Wilpon.

I agree with most of these points. In particular, that this recent news is only the tip of the iceberg; there will be much, much more as this lawsuit drags on.

By the way, in case you missed it, we had an interesting discussion in a comments thread from December 8, 2010, where we suspected “something big” regarding the Madoff situation was going to come out eventually.

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15 DUPACR: Jerry Grote

Loyal readers of MetsToday know that I’m a catcher. Do you know why I’m a catcher? Because when I first became aware of baseball (thanks to WOR and WPIX), in the mid-1970s, my two favorite players were Thurman Munson and Jerry Grote — both catchers, both wore #15. Therefore, since there are 15 Days Until Pitchers And Catchers Report, we honor Jerry Grote.

Contemporary Mets fans most closely associate the number fifteen with Carlos Beltran, and that’s fine. To me, #15 on Beltran’s back is weird; it’s like seeing a single-digit number on a pitcher’s uniform, or #99 on a quarterback’s jersey. Because the number 15 (and 5, for that matter) is supposed to be a catcher’s number — but that’s my issue.

How did Jerry Grote grab my attention in my formative years? Because he was a bad ass (or a red ass, as some of his employers and teammates described him). His nasty character begins with his name — pronounced “grow-tee” — which sounds like the short name for grotesque, or gross. You didn’t need to meet him to know he was mean, you need only look at his baseball card — his grimace and threatening eyes burned through you. Grote was the catchers’ catcher, a throwback to another time. He caught with two hands, sans helmet, in a dirty uniform and with a menacing aggression.

John Strubel wrote a fitting, accurate profile of Grote earlier this winter; here is a snippet:

Grote’s desire to win led to unparalleled intensity on the field. During his 12-year career in New York, teammates labeled Grote surly, irascible, testy and moody. Then, there’s Koosman’s description: “If you looked up red-ass the dictionary, his picture would be in there. Jerry was the guy you wanted on your side, because he’d fight you tooth and nail ‘til death to win a ball game.”

Grote played with an anger and intensity that was, at times, intimidating to opponents, umpires, the media and teammates alike.

“When I came up I was scared to death of him,” said Jon Matlack, winner of the 1972 Rookie of the Year award. “If you bounced a curveball in the dirt, he’d get mad. I worried about him more than the hitter.”

Jerry Grote he had no fear, took crap from no one, and poured every last ounce of himself onto the field. Looking back at them now, his offensive numbers look underwhelming, but for the era his hitting was acceptable considering what he provided behind the plate. His first priority and main value was his ability to absolutely control the defense, call a ballgame, and properly handle a pitching staff — and his accurate, shotgun arm was lethal to would-be basestealers. In his heyday, he threw out 45-50% of basestealers and prevented many from taking off — important in the pitching-dominant NL in the late 1960s. Even into his early to mid-thirties, when his battered body was older than his age, he was able to gun down 30-35% of baserunners — which was still about average for the time.

How great was Grote behind the plate? Ask Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan, both of whom included Grote in their Hall of Fame induction speeches. Intangibles may be immeasurable, but they can also be invaluable.

To this day, when I squat my creaking knees behind the dish, I channel my inner Grote — the ultimate bad ass.

Other #15s who you may remember include Claudell Washington, George Foster, Al Jackson, Rick Aguilera, Jose Vizcaino, Matt Franco, and Ron Darling (when he wasn’t wearing #12 or #44). Which #15 do you remember, and why? Post in the comments.

The countdown thus far:

#15 Jerry Grote
#16 Dwight Gooden
#17 Felix Millan
#18 Darryl Strawberry
#19 Anthony Young
#20 Howard Johnson
#21 Gary Rajsich
#22 Ray Knight
#23 Doug Flynn
#24 Kelvin Torve
#25 Willie Montanez (no link … sadly, didn’t have time to write a post)
#26 Dave Kingman
#27 Pete Harnisch
#28 John Milner
#29 Alex Trevino
#30 Jackson Todd

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16 DUPACR: Dwight Gooden

With 16 Days Until Pitchers And Catchers Report, we honor the day with former #16 Dwight Gooden. This was a fairly easy choice, though I did for a moment consider Lee Mazzilli, who made the number famous in Flushing in the 1970s and early 1980s. If you weren’t around back then, you might think it preposterous to consider “Maz” — but back then he was the closest thing the Mets had to a star (and matinee idol, believe it or not). Mazzilli was annually the Mets’ lone All-Star representative and usually the only guy in the lineup hitting over .250. Plus he had a great baseball name.

Funny, in high school (1984-88) I used to wear a gray #16 “Property of New York Mets Baseball Club” t-shirt under my football and baseball game jerseys for good luck. People used to think the #16 was for Gooden, but it was actually for Mazzilli — a too-large gift for my 11th birthday. The timing for when I finally grew into it was impeccable.

But I digress … this is about Duh-wight (as Ralph Kiner used to say), who electrified Shea Stadium with the lightning bolts that screamed from his right arm.

Like Darryl Strawberry, we knew Dwight was a superstar the moment he stepped on the field. It was hard to separate the two in our heads — if you thought of Dwight, you thought of Darryl, and vice-versa. Ironically, this is the way it went for most of each of their roller-coaster careers.

Dwight and Darryl were supposed to make the Mets a “dynasty” — something the Yankees were called in the late 70s — leading the team into the World Series every year for the next 10-15 years. Darryl was going to some day break both the single-season and career homerun records, and might even win the Triple Crown. Dwight was going to pitch the first no-hitter in Mets history — we were sure of it! — and win 300 games easily. In their early 20s, they were sure-fire Hall of Famers — barring injury or some other incredibly unfortunate mishap.

But we won’t go there; we know how things turned out. As with Darryl, no matter what turns “Doc” took off the road to greatness, I still vividly remember that greatness, and cherish it — however brief it was.

For three years — 1984-1986 — Dwight Gooden was the best pitcher in baseball, hands-down. He accomplished this status while being too young to drink (legally), which when you think about it, is all the more amazing. Starting from a violent, intimidating, high knee lift and hip coil, he threw a blazing, 96-98 MPH fastball that moved laterally and vertically; an overhand curveball with such tight spin and sudden drop it was deemed “Lord Charles” (curves were called “Uncle Charley” in the old days); a wicked slider that dashed furiously away from waving lumber; and just for fun, he’d toy with a change-up that he didn’t even need. Dwight was so dominant, it didn’t seem fair that batters had to face him — particularly at night, when his fastball seemed to speed up just a bit more, and his curve dropped a little harder.

That curve was something else. Nolan Ryan was the only other pitcher I ever saw with a curve like that, but he didn’t have the same control of it, and it didn’t drop as dramatically. Doc’s deuce would seem to start two feet over the batter’s head, then dart straight down into the strike zone at his buckling knees. With the image of the yellow hammer now firmly entrenched in the batter’s head, Dwight would follow up with a rising fastball that started toward the strike zone at a level near the batter’s belt buckle, and wind up at shoulder height — past the breeze of a too-slow bat.

What was nearly as unbelievable as Gooden’s talent was the fact he didn’t throw a no-no in a Mets uniform. With his dominating stuff, a no-hitter seemed inevitable every time he made a start. How anyone ever made contact remains a mystery to me.

What are your memories of #16? And are they of Gooden, Mazzilli, or someone else? Share in the comments.

The countdown thus far:

#17 Felix Millan
#18 Darryl Strawberry
#19 Anthony Young
#20 Howard Johnson
#21 Gary Rajsich
#22 Ray Knight
#23 Doug Flynn
#24 Kelvin Torve
#25 Willie Montanez (no link … sadly, didn’t have time to write a post)
#26 Dave Kingman
#27 Pete Harnisch
#28 John Milner
#29 Alex Trevino
#30 Jackson Todd

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Mets Make Offer To Shylock

According to various sources, Rodrigo Lopez will make a decision this weekend to accept a minor-league contract and invitation to spring training from one of several teams making such an offer — including the Mets, Braves, and Rockies.

The Portugal native and purported Marrano was formerly a physician to Queen Elizabeth, before being hanged, drawn, and quartered in June 1594 when he was found guilty of conspiring to poison Her Majesty. William Shakespeare’s “Shylock” character in Merchant of Venice is said to be based on Lopez’s life.

Why the Mets would want to sign a guy who has been dead for over four centuries is beyond me. Maybe he can lend the Wilpons some money?

Unless their offer was made to the other Rodrigo Lopez — the one who has lost 15 or more games in a season as many times as he’s won 15 or more. In that case, I understand, sort of.

Rodrigo Lopez the MLB pitcher spent most of his career with the Orioles, but his last three seasons in the NL with the Rockies, Phillies, and Diamondbacks. He missed all of 2008 after Tommy John surgery, and came back to make 33 starts for Arizona last year, posting a 7-16 record with 5.00 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, and 116 Ks in 200 innings. The last figure is the most valuable: Lopez will take the ball and eat up innings, which is what the Mets need. Consider him a poor man’s Livan Hernandez, as he throws pus, gives up tons of hits, but somehow gets enough outs to keep a job.

If Lopez signs with the Mets, I’m sure much will be made about his fly ball ratio, and in turn how pitching in Citi Field will benefit his performance (he allowed a league-leading 37 HRs last year). Perhaps; but if so, it will merely change him from a pretty mediocre MLB pitcher to a fairly mediocre MLB pitcher.

Personally, for an innings-eating, fly-ball veteran pitcher on the wrong side of 35, I’d prefer Kevin Millwood. Millwood doesn’t give up quite as many homers — despite pitching in the AL East — and tends to strike out more batters. Beyond that, the two pitchers’ stat lines are eerily similar over the past few years. My guess is that Millwood would require more money and/or a guaranteed MLB contract, as opposed to a minor-league deal with ST invite.

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