Browsing Archive January, 2011

Mike Pelfrey Named Mets Opening Day Starter

As reported by ESPN-NY’s Adam Rubin, manager Terry Collins announced that Mike Pelfrey would be the Mets’ Opening Day starting pitcher.

I wouldn’t term the decision shocking, but it is certainly unusual. I can’t think of another team that publicly announced their Opening Day starter more than three weeks before pitchers and catchers reported to spring training.

I suppose the announcement was made to boost Big Pelf’s sometimes fragile confidence. By being named the #1 so early, he is “the man” and can prepare himself as such. What does that mean? It means he won’t worry so much about his performance and stats during spring training. Instead, he’ll focus on getting himself into great shape and on working on his secondary pitches — which could still use a bit of polish.

Looking back to last spring, Pelfrey’s numbers in exhibition games were awful; he had an ERA in the 8s and we discussed here whether we should be concerned. My take was that he was “working on things”, and in the end, thank goodness he did, because the result was Pelfrey finally mixing in off-speed pitches on a consistent basis. If he spends another spring training further “experimenting” and getting used to throwing his change-up, it can only help.

But, the pessimistic side of me has two concerns about this decision to make him the #1 starter. First, I hope it doesn’t jinx him; can’t you just imagine something freakish happening in spring training to prevent Pelfrey from beginning the season? Sorry, as a Mets fan I always assume I’m walking on thin ice. Second, I’m a little concerned about Pelfrey regularly going up against the #1 starters of every other team. Surely, he won’t embarrass himself against the Roy Halladays, Josh Johnsons, Tim Hudsons, Zack Greinkes, and Chris Carpenters of the world — but can he beat them? I’m not so sure, but I guess someone has to try.

What are your thoughts on this announcement? Do you like it? Do you agree with the timing? Do you think it will be a negative or a positive?


Reyes Pulls a Pujols

According to Adam Rubin on ESPN-NY, Jose Reyes is not interested in negotiating a contract extension after Opening Day. Said Reyes:

“I don’t want to talk about any contract during the season because I want to be focused on doing my thing and help this team to win a lot of ballgames”

And, perhaps in response to new GM Sandy Alderson’s edict that the Mets would wait to “see how he plays” when asked if the team would extend Reyes …

My family is here. They’re comfortable. I’ve got my daughter here going to school. I don’t want to be somewhere else. But, at the same time, I understand this is a business and everybody never knows what’s going to happen. I just want to perform on the field and see what happens after.

It’s too easy — and not fair — to parallel these quotes by Reyes with the recent demands / deadline set forth by Albert Pujols. Though it’s being spun similarly, there is no indication that Reyes is insisting on an extension right now. Would he like one? Of course — he’s clearly happy to be a Met and in New York. I don’t think these quotes are in any way intended to spark the front office to begin negotiating. Rather, Reyes is simply stating what any ballplayer SHOULD state: that he wants to focus on his job and performance on the field once the games begin.

And truly, what would it matter if Reyes’ intention was to establish an ultimatum? The writing is on the wall — Jose Reyes most likely will be in another uniform in 2012 (possibly at some point in 2011). If Reyes has another injury-filled year, or if he has only a so-so year, the Mets probably will let him walk. If he has a spectacular season, Alderson probably won’t offer the long-term deal he’s likely to attract on the open market. The only way I can see him returning to Flushing in 2012 is if he has a horrid season, or misses 100+ games, in which case he’ll need to sign a one-year, incentive-laden contract to rebuild his value.

What I find interesting is that many fans have this notion that the Mets will get a great package of young MLBers and top prospects if Reyes starts out strong and is traded near the deadline. But why would a team give up a big package for a three-month rental? And if such team was in the playoff hunt, they’d be very unlikely to give up anyone on the 25-man roster, and might not be willing to part with near-ready talent, either. I suppose there are a number of things that can happen between now and July, but I’m just not seeing the Mets getting a spectacular return for Reyes in a deadline deal. Maybe if a contending team loses their starting shortstop to injury, and they feel Reyes can both fill in and put them over the top — then maybe they’d give up the farm. Who knows, maybe someone like the Reds would pull the trigger on a deal, or the Brewers; both of those teams seem destined to make a good run yet might be one player short of a championship season.

The way things look, my plan is to savor every at-bat Jose Reyes takes as a Met in 2011, since his days appear numbered. On the flip side, we may be engaging in interesting conversation about him five months from now.


26 DUPACR: Dave Kingman

There were a few other players to choose from, but it had to be Kong. It had to be.

A few that I considered for various reasons included Wilmer “Vinegar Bend” Mizell (for the nickname, of course), Rico Brogna (for his given name, of course), Bruce Boisclair (for posing with an aluminum bat for his 1979 Topps card), Orlando Hernandez (for his many arm angles), and, especially, Terry Leach — who if it were not for Kingman, would have been my choice to represent #26. Because, how can one not like Terry Leach? He was the ultimate blue-collar underdog, a tremendous teammate, and by all accounts, is an interesting and fantastic human being.

But as much as I wish Terry Leach could have pitched forever, Dave Kingman is the guy.


27 DUPACR: Pete Harnisch

OK, for those who remember Pete Harnisch, you likely are wondering why of all people I’d pick him to represent #27. Certainly, Craig Swan would be a more appropriate representative. Indeed, I was very close to choosing “Swannie”, since he was the best pitcher the Mets had between Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden; in fact, many refer to that time period as “The Craig Swan Era”.

And truth be told, I also considered Randy Milligan — despite the fact he had exactly two plate appearances as a Met (one strikeout, one walk). Milligan was one of those minor-league phenoms I fell in love with based on reports out of Tidewater and Jackson that I read on a weekly basis in The Sporting News and Baseball America. That was a long time ago, when we didn’t have the internet to instantly look up stats, there was no sports talk radio, and, unless we had the bucks to pay for SportsChannel, we had to wait until 11:23 PM (just before the weather) to find out the final score of the Mets game on WPIX-11 or WOR-9 News. Back then, the only thing we knew about minor league baseball was what was reported by The Sporting News — a magazine produced on newsprint that was supposed to arrive every Wednesday but often didn’t make it to your mailbox until Friday or the following Monday or Tuesday (especially during the winter months). Eventually, in the late 80s, Baseball America became available north of the Mason-Dixon line, and it was around the same time that I began following the slugging exploits of Milligan in both BA and TSN. My fervor for Milligan reached an all-time high when I was able to see him live, on my TV screen, when ESPN broadcast the AAA All-Star game. There was one point when Milligan was described as “one of the best prospects in baseball” by the New York Times, and was highly coveted by the Nantai Hawks of Japan. Unfortunately, Milligan never did much as a Met, mainly because he was blocked by Keith Hernandez, and was eventually traded to Pittsburgh for Mackey Sasser. Eventually, he had a few decent seasons with the Orioles — for whom he is now a scout.

But wait, this post is supposed to be about Pete Harnisch — and I’m sure you’re on the edge of your seat wondering why in the world I’d choose the pitching version of Richie Hebner.


Mets Sign Chris Young

I know, I’m about two days late on this. But hey, I’ve been busy … there’s this “full-time job” thing that gets in the way of my blogging. And if it weren’t for the damn bills that keep coming in every month …

Anyway, that’s my problem, not yours. And speaking of problems, Chris Young is now the Mets’ problem.

Oh jeez, sorry to burst your bubble. I’m sure there’s a chance that Young comes back from his latest shoulder injury and pitches well — I’m just not counting on it. Certainly, he’s more worth a $1.5M gamble than Kelvim Escobar was, but that’s not saying much, is it?

I would really, really like to see Chris Young come all the way back and be the pitcher he was in 2007. I’ve always liked Chris Young, perhaps because he pitched at Princeton so he “feels” like a local kid … and so him becoming a Met is sort of a “coming home” — even if he is a native of Dallas, Texas. So I am rooting for him — but holding zero expectations due to his chronic injury history. Expect nothing, and you won’t be disappointed … but you could be wildly surprised. And for someone who has made only 36 starts in 3 years, suffering through myriad shoulder and back issues, I think it’s fair and prudent to have low expectations.

What I like about this signing is that it’s already supported with a backup plan. The previous front office would have signed Young as the main addition to the pitching staff, penciled him in to the #3 or #4 slot, and rubbed rosary beads together while saying a hail mary in the hopes that he’d make 30 starts. In contrast, the Fantasy Front Office has a backup plan of Chris Capuano, Boof Bonser, Dillon Gee, and D.J. Carrasco in the event Young falters. If Omar Minaya were still in charge, the backup plan would have been El Duque, Tony Armas, Jr., or Bartolo Colon — and you know I’m not joking when I say that.

By the way, I noticed there is a slo-mo video of Young’s mechanics posted on youTube — spotted via MetsBlog via MetsFever. When I get some time later this week / this coming weekend I’ll break it down and explain all the elements of his style that you should not be teaching youngsters.

In the meantime, post your comments on Chris Young. What are your expectations, if any? Why are you counting on him or not counting on him to be a reliable member of the starting rotation? What do you think is his ceiling — and basement — for 2011? Do you think it was a smart signing, and why or why not? (For the record, I think it was a very good signing; $1.5M guaranteed is a drop in the bucket these days and there is a possibility he can be a solid #4 through 15-25 starts, which to me is well worth the cost.)


28 DUPACR: The Hammer

The book that inspired this series — Mets By the Numbers — also chose John “The Hammer” Milner as the player of focus for #28. But I have to admit, it was a tough decision.

In comparison to other numbers, #28 was not worn by very many players — partly because coach Bill Robinson hogged it for a five-year period. But it was worn by several of my personal favorites; you have to understand, though, that I’m a weird guy and like/liked players for sometimes weird reasons.

For example, there is Mike Marshall (the pitcher, not the goon first baseman / outfielder), who pitched his last 20 MLB games as a Met in 1981. His 1982 Fleer baseball card picturing him in the Mets uniform was something of a rarity; since he was not a member of the MLBPA, there wasn’t a Topps card of him for several years before then (Topps’ contract was with the MLBPA, so they didn’t produce a card for the few non-members). Dr. Mike Marshall was probably the first MLBer to study kinesiology, and among the first to apply the concepts of kinesiology and elementary motor skills to pitching mechanics. He, and his results, are widely poo-poohed and he’s considered something of a flake … not to mention, he usually comes off as an a-hole in interviews. Still, have to love his non-conformist, out-of-the-box thinking, even if it is a bit nutty.

Other #28s that strike my fancy include Sherman “Roadblock” Jones (one of the greatest nicknames in baseball history), Juan “Goggles” Padilla, Scott Strickland (for whom I had an unhealthy man-crush), and Bobby J. Jones (not to be confused with Bobby M. Jones).

But in the end, it is John Milner who, to me, most associates with Mets uniform number 28. How can you go wrong with an Atlanta native whose nickname was “The Hammer” — and named so at the same time the “real” “Hammer” (Hank Aaron) was still playing? That’s one of the elements of baseball that have sadly left us — the nickname. No one has nicknames anymore; back in the day, nearly everyone had one.

Milner was a lean and strapping slugger in the days when hitting 17 homers in a season was “slugging”. He had the meanest, coolest, thickest sideburns seen on a ballplayer before Eddie Murray arrived in Baltimore. Milner was the closest thing the Mets had to a home-grown star — until Lee Mazzilli came along to be the closest thing they had to a home-grown star — and showed flashes of fulfilling stardom with his quick wrists and plate discipline. He drew his walks and didn’t strike out frequently for a “homerun hitter”, but that combination never resulted in a very high batting average; .271 was the best he could do in the orange and blue. Prior to the 1978 season, he was dealt to the Pirates in the wacky 4-team deal that also sent away Jon Matlack and brought back Willie Montanez (ironically, Milner was traded four years later by the Bucs to the Expos in return for Montanez). After he left Flushing, I secretly rooted for Milner and his Pirates to paste the Orioles in the ’79 World Series, and renounced my fandom during the Pittsburgh Drug Trials.

Milner passed away in 2000 from lung cancer, a sad ending to the life of one who created fond memories for many a Mets fan in the 1970s.

The countdown thus far:

#28 John Milner
#29 Alex Trevino
#30 Jackson Todd


Does Smart Mean Good?

Since the Mets have done little in the way of providing storylines this winter, the media and blogosphere has had to grasp at straws in order to create content that involves the Major League Baseball team in Flushing.

One of the more recent angles has been the “intelligence” of the Mets’ new front office and their possibly not-so-coincidental targeting of similarly “smart” baseball players.

If you haven’t already read, new GM Sandy Alderson is a graduate of both Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School; his assistant Paul DePodesta is also an Ivy Leaguer, a grad of Harvard. Their combined smartness is expected to make the Mets a better organization. If you believe the Mets were a “dumb” organization before, then there is certainly some credence to that thought — even if DePodesta’s brains didn’t keep the Dodgers from recording the second-worst record in their LA history in 2005.

But when the intelligence angle is extended to the players, I’m not so sure it holds much water. The prospect of seeing brainiacs Chris Capuano, R.A. Dickey, and Chris Young in the clubhouse was interesting enough for an article in The New York Times, but that trio’s success will depend much more on their arms than their heads.

Maybe I’m just being my typically pessimistic self, but it wasn’t that long ago that the media made a big deal of John Maine’s intellect. More recently, there was Stanford grad Chris Carter, whose background in stem cell research apparently wasn’t valued enough by the Mets’ braintrust to offer him a contract.

One of my all-time favorite baseball stories about intelligence was rehashed by Mets By the Numbers a few days ago. It recounted the story of Jay Hook, an original Met whose sketches describing the Bernoulli Principle’s involvement in the flight of a curveball were published in an industrial magazine (pictured left, from the MBTN website). As it would happen, not long after the article’s publication, Hook was lit up (as he often was) by the opposition’s bats, prompting manager Casey Stengel to remark, “It’s wonderful that he knows how a curveball works. Now if he could only throw one.”

I know, I know — it’s a slow winter, and the writers have to come up with something. Intelligence is as good a topic as any; it’s hard to argue — at least, when there aren’t games being played — and getting smart ballplayers neatly follows the story of the intellectuals in the Mets’ fantasy front office.

What do you think? Would you feel more confident about the Mets’ chances if they acquired players with higher IQs?