Tag: Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs

Greetings from Coca-Cola Park!

Happy Baseball Season everyone. I was able to attend last night’s Buffalo Bison-Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs game at beautiful Coca-Cola Park in Allentown, PA. I bought these seats in January, hoping to get a glimpse of either Matt Harvey or Jeurys Familia. Instead, we got Dylan Owen, making an emergency start for Jeremy Hefner, who was called up that afternoon. As a “bonus” the Pigs pitcher was old friend Pat Misch. The real treat was seeing just-promoted Josh Edgin. A good outing for Edgin: 1.1 IP, 2Ks, 1 H and 0 runs. The Bisons won, I think. The frigid temps and light flurries during the 7th-inning stretch forced us to leave before the final out.

After too long of a wait (glad to be working again!) it was good to see professional baseball again. Minor league baseball is a hoot. For about $75, I got four tickets behind the Bison’s dugout, a parking pass and some warm food. The baseball is good and the Iron Pigs do a decent job of keeping the patrons entertained in between the action. There are stats aplenty for us prospect-watchers and an accurate radar gun.

But enough about me…

Matt Harvey’s start in Buffalo matches how he finished the season in Binghamton. For the record, his numbers this year in AAA read like this: 1-1 with a 6.63 ERA, 1.84 WHIP and .308 BAA. Not exactly Top of the Rotation numbers. Yes it has only been four starts, but at this juncture, Harvey appears to need plenty more seasoning before he can be rightly considered as part of the solution.

No Reese Havens last night, either on the field or on the roster. Comparisons to Fernando Martinez abound, but Havens’ injury history reminds me more of the Jay Payton saga. Like Havens, Payton was taken as a compensation pick for losing a lefty free agent pitcher (Payton: Sid Fernandez, Havens: Tom Glavine). Drafted in 1994 and highly-touted, Payton had four surgeries, three on his elbows and one on his left shoulder. After spending the better part of his first several professional baseball years on the DL rehabbing, he finally made his debut late in 1998 season, only commit to a major base running gaffe in a key loss to Atlanta. The good news is that he later rebounded to help the Mets to a World Series berth as the starting CF in 2000. Hopefully Reese’s story has a similar outcome.

The time off has got to be killing Havens. Daniel Murphy is looking less and less like the long-term answer at second base and Jordany Valdespin is apparently being groomed as a utility player. If healthy, Havens would probably be on the fast track to Citi Field. Instead, he is off on another rehab taking swings in a Port St. Lucie back lot somewhere.

Like most fans, I was pleasantly surprised by the Mets decent start. And I really enjoy rooting for a bunch of guys who came up thru the system. But let’s be real: none of these baby Mets are likely to ever become perennial All-Stars. My sense is that the ceiling for most of them is a complimentary role on a good team. That isn’t to knock them at all and hopefully, that future good team for most of them is the Mets. I just don’t see any of them developing into the centerpiece of a World Series winner. Pick any one: Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Murphy, Josh Thole, Dillon Gee, Bobby Parnell, Lucas Duda, Ruben Tejada, Ike Davis and even the recently-extended Jon Niese. There is no consistently outstanding facet of their game and each is missing something. As the team did in the mid-80’s with Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter and then again a dozen years later with Mike Hampton and Mike Piazza, they will probably have to go outside of the system to get those missing ingredients that push them to the top.

And finally, I resist the notion proffered in some places that having half a roster comprised of homegrown players is proof that Omar Minaya wasn’t such a bad GM. Please. First off, the austerity movement imposed on/implemented by Sandy Alderson left the Mets with little choice than to give several of these players roster spots. Then there is WAR (Wins Above Replacement), a stat that works pretty well in measuring value. The WAR for each of the aforementioned players is in the 1.5 to 2.5 range. Consider that the top five or so elite players for each position typically post a WAR of 3.5 or above. A bit more subjective perhaps (and that’s one of the beauties of baseball), but pull up any of the top Mets prospects lists that came out last winter. Two of the names at the top of every list are Zack Wheeler and Brandon Nimmo, both of whom arrived after Omar left.

What do you think? Concerned about Harvey? Have a Reese Havens sighting to report? Think Omar was a good GM? Sound off in the comments section!

READ MORE +

In the Bleak Mid-Winter: Some Random Thoughts

I think most Mets fans are hoping for a scenario that goes something like this: a combination of losses on the field and in the courtroom that forces the Wilpons into selling. Then as 2013 dawns, the team has rich new ownership, a dream team in the front office and a roster full of dynamic young players.

Not so fast. One of the keys to the Wilpons’ losing control of the team will be a further decline in attendance. Declining attendance is usually connected to a poor on-field performance. A poor on-field performance means one of two things: either a rash of devastating injuries or the reality that the new “core” of Duda, Davis, Tejada, etc. isn’t very good. If the latter is indeed the case, then the team is in for a long stay in the basement.

The last time ownership changed here was after the 1979 season when a perfect storm of poor play, financial woes and front office blunders dragged the franchise to hell. Already down and out for three seasons, the Mets struggled for nearly four more years after the Wilpon-Doubleday group took over, going through three managers in the process. It wasn’t until the end of the 1983 season and the arrival of Ron Darling, Darryl Strawberry and Keith Hernandez that things began to look up.

It’s a conundrum. I think everyone wants the Wilpons gone, but to hasten their demise, the team has to be awful. If they are awful however it means a total rebuilding (just two players from the 1980 team, Mookie Wilson and Wally Backman lasted to 1986) and several more years of 5th place finishes. If they play better and hover around .500, the Wilpons may just decide to try and hold on, which means more teetering on the edge of financial ruin, etc. etc.

One wonders if the Wilpons couldn’t benefit by hiring a spokesman to handle all of their media contacts. I can’t help but think that at 74, Fred may no longer be up to the task of dealing with the press. His New Yorker interview last spring angered and alienated both fans and players. His recent words after the owners meetings reassured us that his family is “holding up well” (well, that’s a relief) and that he hopes the fans will “give the Mets a try” (as if the team is a brand of snack food).Hard to gauge, but I’d be willing to bet that every time Fred opens his mouth, he costs the Mets 10,000 tickets sold. Where is Jay Horowitz while all this is going on? Perhaps it’s time for a younger, hipper, more believable mouthpiece and one with no current ties to the Wilpons to intervene.

Matt Harvey, Jeurys Familia and Zach Wheeler are the Mets next great hope. Just ask Baseball America, hey they’re never wrong—right, Fernando? My hope is that Sandy Alderson is quietly shopping them around, just to see what they could get in return. Let’s face it; probably none of these guys is the next Stephen Strasburg. About the only thing more dangerous than trading away young pitchers is depending on them to develop into franchise-saving stars—right, Pulse?

So Scott Boras found his “stupid owner” in Detroit, eh? On paper that Tiger batting order looks terrific but in the field…well let’s just say that they are going to have to score a lot of runs! Remember the Howard Johnson in center or Daniel Murphy in left experiments? How did they work out? It probably also means that we can cross off Detroit from the list of possible destinations for David Wright this summer.

David Einhorn got a hefty fine from the U.K’s finance regulator for insider trading. First Bernie Madoff and now Einhorn. The Wilpons can sure pick’em.

I may not get to Citi Field at all this season, but I do plan on several trips to Coca-Cola Park, home of the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. The Buffalo Bisons are coming in for three separate stands, so I hope to get a glimpse of some future Mets, right here in Allentown. Coca-Cola Park is a beautiful place to take in a game, not a bad seat in the house, with a friendly staff and reasonably priced tickets and food. Think about this for a moment: a minor league community with a reputation as an industrial wasteland (thanks again, Billy Joel) one that hadn’t hosted a professional baseball game in nearly 40 years, was able to build a great stadium literally from a patch of weeds. The Iron Pigs, despite a poor record, have set minor league attendance records each year since their inaugural season in 2009. Meanwhile, there is another stadium that also opened in 2009 about 100 miles to the northeast that is unloved by the fans, has poor sight lines, charges exorbitant rates for food and celebrates someone else’s heritage. What went wrong?

And finally, if you expect that the Mets will “go big” in this June’s draft and spend lots of money on premiere talent, I have a bridge in New York I’d like to sell you. I do have this rich old guy with a Brooklyn fetish interested but if you make me a strong offer…

READ MORE +