The 2012 Major League Baseball season begins right now, for reals!
Really, it does. When the Mets take the field for a spring training contest this afternoon, two teams will have already finished Opening Day. As you read this, the Oakland Athletics are facing the Seattle Mariners in Tokyo, Japan, in a game that counts toward both teams’ 162-game regular-season schedule. Seriously.
If you don’t believe me, go to MLB.com and watch the game yourself.
Happy Opening Day!
Better yet, if the Mariners agreed to also take on some or most of the contract of Oliver Perez, would you do it?
Those who visited MetsToday last year may remember this topic.
I felt it appropriate to re-visit where Jason Vargas is today … and you’ll understand why shortly.
Although Seattle is a million miles away and on the Left Coast, it is still in the Major Leagues. The Mariners — which was a media favorite in the preseason — are having a disappointing season to say the least. The team is so bad that future HOFer Junior Griffey couldn’t even stay awake through an entire ballgame. Their record is 28-41, dead last in the AL West. By all accounts, it is a lost season.
So if a pitcher on that club has a winning record, he must be pretty OK, eh?
Enter Jason Vargas, who owns a 5-2 record, 2.88 ERA, and
While being interviewed by Chuck Garfien on Comcast Chicago (hat tip to MetsBlog), J.J. Putz admitted that he had bone spur in his elbow long before his trade from the Mariners to the Mets, the Mets were aware of it, and the Mets didn’t put him through a physical prior to making the deal official.
Skimmed from MetsBlog:
“When the trade went down last year, I never really had a physical with the Mets,” Putz told Garfien. “I had the bone spur (in the right elbow). It was discovered the previous year in Seattle, and it never got checked out by any other doctors until I got to spring training.”
According to Putz, the Mets told him not to discuss the injury with reporters, saying:
“I knew that I wasn’t right. I wasn’t healthy. The toughest part was having to face the media and tell them that you feel fine, even though you know there’s something wrong and they don’t want you telling them that you’re banged up.”
There are so many things wrong with this I don’t know where to start. Why would the Mets knowingly acquire damaged goods, especially knowing the high salary that came with it? Why would they give up so much talent in return?
The answer is simple: season ticket sales. The Mets latched on to the nonsense propogated by the media that the reason they missed the 2008 postseason was due to a terrible cast of characters in the bullpen (rather than the mismanagement of the bullpen, the lack of an extra slugger, piss-poor fundamentals, below-average defense, occasional lackadaisacal effort, or the fact the rotation was absent of a high-quality starter behind Johan Santana). It was easy to blame all the team’s woes — and in particular their second consecutive late-season collapse — on one scapegoat, the bullpen.
Once everyone bought in to the idea that “the Mets bullpen needs a makeover”, the signing of Francisco Rodriguez combined with the trade for Putz was a seemingly simple solution that would propel the Mets back into the postseason. Therefore, the story the Mets sold to prospective season-ticket buyers was: “we’re bringing back the same team, adding two elite relievers, so we’re a lock to make the playoffs — hurry and buy a ticket package lest you get shut out from the glory and celebration in October”.
It didn’t matter that Putz was damaged, and could possibly miss the bulk of the season. As long as the injury was kept secret, people would believe the Mets would have a fantastic bullpen — perhaps the best in all MLB — and therefore would easily trot to “meaningful games in October”.
Why else would a team send seven players to two different teams for a $7M player? Why else would they completely ignore a documented history of chronic elbow problems?
Further, why would a team allow a high-salaried pitcher with a known injury compete in the World Baseball Classic? Perhaps because if they didn’t, people would wonder why — and the injury could be revealed. Or, maybe the plan was to keep fingers crossed in hopes that Putz could stay healthy enough in short spurts to display his 95 MPH a few times — in turn getting Mets fans jazzed up to buy ticket packages in March.
This time, it’s not a conspiracy theory. This time, the Mets really did know something, and kept it from the public, for the sole purpose of ticket sales.
Which makes one wonder about Jason Bay and the various concerns that caused the Red Sox to pull a 4-year contract off the table. Suddenly, we can’t be so sure to believe Bay’s assertion that he’s completely healthy. After hearing this news from Putz, we need to re-examine the detailed, bizarre story written by Rob Bradford of WEEI regarding what happened with Jason Bay and the Red Sox. Perhaps the Red Sox cautious approach was valid. Maybe there is a good reason that the Mets were the only other publicly known bidders for Bay’s services.
After all, the top “scapegoat” for the Mets’ failures in 2009 — after, of course, the injuries — was the lack of homeruns. The Mets’ “story” for prospective 2010 ticket buyers is this: “When healthy, we have a championship club. And now we just added a big-time slugger to hit some homeruns and really annihilate the competition. So hurry up and buy your ticket package lest you miss the glory and celebration in October!”
Of course, it doesn’t matter whether Jason Bay has potential injury issues that may creep up as soon as mid-season. All that matters is you phone in your ticket order — NOW. Leave the worrying about what happens after Opening Day to the Mets.
Remember Yusmeiro Petit? About 4-5 years ago, he was ranked as highly as #2 among the Mets prospects by Baseball America, who were impressed by his ability to throw 4 pitches over the plate. As a 21-year-old, Petit whipped through AA, posting a 9-3 record and 2.92 ERA for the Binghamton Mets — striking out 130 batters in 118 innings, walking only 18, and holding opposing hitters to a .209 AVG. He was a sure-fire back-end starter at worst, and some believed he’d eventually develop into a #2 or #3.
Where They Are Now: Ezequiel Carrera
This afternoon I received an email from the Southern League announcing that Ezequiel Carrera of the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx had won the batting crown.
I’m thinking … “hey, that name sounds familiar!”. Of course it does — Carrera was one of the two dozen players traded by the Mets for Sean Green last winter.
The speedy centerfielder finished the year with a .337 AVG, and also led the league in on-base percentage with a .441 clip. The 22-year-old Venezuelan native also stole 27 bases.
Of course, the Mets are set in centerfield through 2011 with Carlos Beltran, so if the Mets held on to Carrera he wouldn’t have a shot to make the club until he was at least 24 years old. And even then, there’s a good chance Jose Reyes will still be around to man the leadoff spot.
Further, anything can happen between now and then. Carrera’s batting crown is for the Southern League, which is AA ball. Some players can make the jump from there to the bigs but Carrera will likely have to prove himself for at least another year — either by repeating AA or in AAA next season. And truth be told, Carrera is a slap hitter with speed and a good glove — along the lines of a Luis Castillo. In other words, not a potential superstar. Still, thought you’d be interested to see how a former property of the New York Mets performed this year.
While the Mets remained status quo over the past 48 hours, a number of trades were made among postseason-contending teams. Let’s break them down.
Phillies obtain Cliff Lee and Ben Francisco for prospects Jason Knapp, Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald and Lou Marson
Wow. The Phillies get a Cy Young winner and a very capable (and relatively young) fourth outfielder in return for three minor leaguers. Granted, those prospects are top-notch, but they are still prospects — not proven MLBers. Further, the Phils did not give up any of Kyle Drabek, JA Happ, Dominic Brown, nor Michael Taylor, their four most coveted youngsters.
Lee steps right in to give the Phillies the best one-two lefty starting combo in MLB. Francisco is a talented offensive force who runs the bases well and has gap / doubles power that could evolve into homerun power at Citizens Bank Park. He is, however, a notorious streak hitter who runs scalding hot and ice cold — not unlike current Phillie Pedro Feliz. This trade more or less locks up the NL East for the Phillies.
Mariners trade Jeff Clement, Ronny Cedeno, Aaron Pribanic, Brett Lorin and Nathan Adcock to the Pirates for Ian Snell and Jack Wilson.
Finally, the Bucs find a taker for Jack Wilson, a hard-nosed, good-fielding, light-hitting, overpaid shortstop. Snell was an eternal enigma who requested a demotion to AAA to get his head straight. Both will do well in Seattle, and the Pirates will be happy with the players they received. Cedeno steps right in to Wilson’s position at shortstop, and Clement is essentially a lefthanded-hitting version of Ryan Doumit — an offensive-minded catcher with some holes behind the plate, and who may eventually find a home at 1B.
White Sox trade Brian Anderson to Red Sox for Mark Kotsay
The Red Sox had DFA’d Kotsay to make room on the roster for Adam LaRoche, so the fact they received anything for him in return is gravy. They get Anderson, who is essentially a hyped-up version of Jeremy Reed, and can stock him in AAA. The White Sox get a veteran bat who will be used immediately in return for a player who was unlikely to ever meet previous expectations. Good move for both clubs.
Giants acquire Ryan Garko from Indians for minor leaguer Scott Barnes.
This was the deal the Mets needed to make — obtain a slugging, under-30, inexpensive first baseman / outfielder who can fill in at 1B and the outfield corners and be a candidate for regular duty in 2010. Unfortunately, the Mets don’t have ANY minor league pitching prospects at the AA level who are coveted by other teams, so such a deal can’t happen — at least, not without the Mets overpaying (as usual). After being drafted out of St. John’s last year, Barnes rocketed through the Giants’ system, and despite being in the minors, could be ahead of where Jon Niese is right now. But since the Giants have tons of young pitching at the MLB level and throughout their system, he was expendable. This is what is defined as “depth”.
Giants acquire Freddy Sanchez for minor league pitcher Tim Alderson
In a matter of 24 hours, the Giants replaced one-half of their infield, adding much-needed offense to their feeble-hitting lineup. In Sanchez they get a solid singles hitter who will step right in to play second base, which has been something of a black hole for San Francisco this year. They did, however, give up a solid pitching prospect in Alderson — a 20-year-old who was ranked the #4 prospect in the Giants’ organization, and the 26th-best prospect in all of baseball. But again, the Giants are loaded with young arms, so it’s not a big deal for them. Maybe they overpaid, but, you have to give up something to get something — especially at the trade deadline. The Bucs, who are going nowhere, did well with this deal.
The Phillies deal, obviously, is the one that on the surface most affects the Mets. But the Giants also made moves that should significantly improve their club, and since they’re unlikely to oust the Dodgers in the NL West, they are a major obstacle in terms of the Wild Card.
The Mets likely won’t make a deal — partially because they don’t have the parts to spare, and mainly because they look at players returning from the DL as their “acquisitions”. The problem with that thinking is, you don’t know when those players will return, nor if they’ll return at 100% right away. For example, Jose Reyes might be back by mid-August — but will he be able to run at full speed? Similarly, when / if Carlos Delgado returns, how long will it take him to get his timing back? And will his hip allow him to swing with the same force he had before? Will either Billy Wagner and J.J. Putz be able to crack 90 MPH when they come off the DL? Lots of hopes and wishes — which has been the Mets’ strategy for three years running.