Browsing Archive October, 2014

Joe Maddon and Mike Piazza

I still remember where I was (northbound on Route 287 just past Somerville, NJ) when I heard on WFAN that the Mets had acquired Mike Piazza. Three days later, I was at Shea Stadium for his Mets debut. The moment he stepped on the field wearing a Mets uniform, the team was transformed into a contender. It was the start of a rare period of sustained success for our otherwise mainly downtrodden heroes.

The Mets moved boldly when Piazza became available, acquiring him despite the presence of Todd Hundley, who had been one of the few bright spots on the team in the mid-1990s. Hundley after all,  had broken the record for most home runs hit by a catcher and was both a homegrown hero and a very quotable media darling.

For Mets GM Sandy Alderson and the Wilpons, this is their Piazza moment. Joe Maddon is available. Maddon is widely regarded as one of the best managers in the game and in every aspect, except one, is the perfect fit for the team. Unfortunately for the penny pinching Mets, his rumored contractural demands will put him beyond their reach. Rather than admit that, they will hide behind the  “we are very satisfied with Terry Collins” line. Now, I get the fact that Terry, like Hundley before him, did a lot for the team under trying circumstances. But had the Mets stuck with Hundley over Piazza, there is no back to back playoff appearances, no walk off series clincher against the D-backs, no Grand Slam Single and no 2000 NLCS win.

If the 2015 Mets stumble out of the gate the Collins watch will be on anyway. A Maddon hiring avoids that for them. Like they did in 1998, they need to thank Terry for his contributions and move him aside for one of the premier talents at the position. But apparently, it isn’t about winning.

If you, like me, are watching the World Series wondering how far away the  Mets are from this stage, you might be getting your answer.

 

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Craig on Mets’ List?

allen-craig

Normally, I am the first to denigrate any trade proposals and I fully expect the Mets to do nothing of the sort, but given the dearth of news about the Mets these days, there really isn’t much else to write about and I need to scratch this itch. So here goes.

The Mets should trade LHP Jon Niese to the Boston Red Sox for LF/1B Allen Craig.

Boston added Craig at last year’s trade deadline, in exchange for John Lackey, a move that you may have missed due to some of the more dramatic trades made that week. A listfranc injury limited Craig to just 29 games for Boston in 2014. He batted a measly 128/234/191 for the Sawk, likely attributable to the injury. But in the previous five years with the Cardinals he hit 291/343/460 with OPS of 803. More on him in a minute.

In what most Met fans would consider as a disappointing year, Niese’s 1.28 WHIP was a career best and he logged 187 innings last year, three off his career high in 2012. With the exception of the now-departed Jon Lester, Niese statistically out-pitched every 2014 Boston starter and came close to matching Lester in several (good) categories. While not an ace, Jon represents the next tier of pitchers and is a solid, less costly left-handed alternative to Lester. The Red Sox have a glut of outfielders, first basemen and designated hitters, so the opportunity convert some of that into a pitcher such as Niese may prove hard for them to resist.

As for the Mets, they get a man who has been called one of the best pure hitters in the major leagues. A right handed hitter, he can provide relief for Lucas Duda or Matt den Dekker against tough lefties. He could hit anywhere from second to fifth in the lineup, extending both it and the bench. He has even played a little second base. It is worth repeating that the Mets don’t necessarily need to add a slugger as much as they need to add a slasher like Craig, who consistently puts the ball in play. And, he is not bereft of power— just ask the Texas Rangers.

Unfortunately, any Met trade discussion has to include salaries. Here’s the beauty of it, the Niese and Craig contracts are nearly identical for their duration:
Year          Craig           Niese
2015             $5.5M         $7.0M
2016             $9.0M        $9.0M
2017             $11.0M       $10.0M*
2018             $13M*        $11.0M*

*Team Option
On the flip side, Mets GM Sandy Alderson has been characterized as wanting to win every deal and this one carries some danger. The major risk for the Mets is Niese is two years younger than Craig and could be entering some of his prime years locked into a team-friendly contract. Craig’s foot injury is the type that might never heal and if so, his best years are behind him.   That’s why you have team doctors check him out first. The betting here is that the Mets have enough pitching to cover Niese’s departure (even if this deal is made and then goes south). I also think that they actually run a greater risk with an ill-advised free agent signing or  dealing away multiple prospects for a power hitter.
I am starting to talk myself into believing this could actually happen. What do you think? Sound off below.

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Frugal Mets Fit Bud’s Brand of Baseball

I was watching the Mets-Marlins game last week when retiring commissioner Bud Selig stopped by the Mets’ broadcast booth to chat about the state of the game and, briefly, the state of the Mets. Bud basically repeated his standard spiel about how the game has thrived under his stewardship, how competitive balance is bringing hope to more fans than ever before, and how he has total confidence in his buddies the Wilpons. I’d heard it all before, but in this new context, hearing it while watching the small-budget Mets pitch and hit, it finally dawned on me: Bud is right. By not acting in the best interests of their own fans, the Mets ARE acting in the best interests of Baseball.

It is the Mets and Cubs who allow fans of small market teams to have hope. Not everyone can just buy their way to a title. The Yankees and now the Dodgers get to be the loathed over-spending juggernauts that make even other big spenders look out-classed, and Rays fans won’t grumble about the payroll advantage of the Orioles and Blue Jays.

If ALL the big market teams bought themselves all-star lineups, fans in Miami and Milwaukee might not buy their owners’ promises of contention. Look how attendance declined in Baltimore when Ripken retired and the Yankees and Red Sox were leading the game in payroll dollars and wins every year. But in 2012 the O’s did a few smart things, caught a ton of breaks, were incredibly clutch, and all the fans came back to watch them make the playoffs. All without the team breaking the budget.

This is Selig’s plan for the Wilpons:

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