Tag: omar minaya

What If Pedro Martinez Didn’t Sign with the Mets?

So, last night I was watching Bob Costas’ “Studio 42” interview with Pedro Martinez. One of the discussion points was Pedro’s leaving Boston for the Mets, and Martinez made very clear that he wanted very much to stay in Boston, and would have passed on Omar Minaya’s 4-year offer for a 3-year deal from the Red Sox, had Larry Lucchino not “waited till the last minute” / presented the contract so late in the process (according to Pedro, it was within 15 minutes before the deadline).

I vaguely remembered this turn of events, but hearing it again — and now with the benefit of hindsight — I really have to wonder: what if Lucchino had made that 3-year offer earlier, and Pedro re-signed with the Bosox? How might that have changed the course of history for the New York Mets?

READ MORE +

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 +

Are We Even Worse Off Than We Thought?

Last summer, while Jose Reyes was running away with the NL batting crown, I envisioned a fierce bidding war for his services developing over the winter. The way I figured it, there had to be at least a dozen teams lining up to throw money and years at him. After all, he is the total package, right? He has the speed, the energy, plays a premium position, has some pop in his bat and is on the right side of age 30. What team wouldn’t want him?

Well, we found out: there were 28 teams not interested enough to make contact with his agent and only one that made an offer. Reyes ended up signing with his only suitor, the Miami Marlins. And they got him for a contract that only two years ago would have seemed like a bargain.

There is an old saying about familiarity breeding contempt. After watching Jose’s entire career with the Mets, I was hesitant about seeing him get a long-term deal. Too many injuries! And for a team like the Mets with a long history of regrettable contracts, I felt that a multi-year deal was another ticking time bomb. FWIW, I think the Marlins will regret three, possibly four years of the deal. I favored dealing Reyes last July, but that’s another topic.

So, I watched and waited in hopeful anticipation during last week’s winter meetings. I was cheered by Sandy Alderson’s comments about listening to offers on everyone on the roster. That’s good. After three consecutive sub-.500 seasons, no one should be untouchable. A nice prospect or two, like what they got from the Giants for Carlos Beltran last July would certainly jump start the rebuilding process. What isn’t so good is the types of offers they reportedly received for what should be their prime trading chips, a.k.a the contract-friendly, major league ready starters currently wearing a Met uniform.

For example:

Daniel Murphy: Hit .320 last year and was 5th in the NL when he sustained a season-ending injury. Alderson praised his leadership ability. So here come the LA Dodgers with an offer of Tony Gywnn Jr. Tony Gwynn Jr.? He of the .660 OPS? On his third team in the past three years? Two years older than Murphy and nearly twice as expensive? WTF?

Ike Davis: Accordingly the Pirates, yes the Pittsburgh Pirates, the team that hasn’t won anything in 20 years, came calling, offering AA outfielder Sterling Marte and AAA pitcher Brad Lincoln. The latter is not a prospect: he projects at best as a 4/5 starter. Marte has some appeal, but he is at least two years away. Isn’t Davis supposed to carry a gold glove and have the potential to hit 30 homers?

• Jon Niese: I thought that left handed starting pitchers under team control for the next several years are just about the most prized commodity in baseball. So we hear the Mets are “listening” to offers on Jon. One would expect a long line of suitors. Nope. In fact one of those interested teams was the San Diego Padres. Then they hire Omar Minaya and they suddenly aren’t interested any more. Coincidence? Didn’t Minaya draft this guy? (Rhetorical question).

Bobby Parnell: Like Niese, Bobby is young and under team control for the next several years. Although not a southpaw, he does have that triple-digit speed fastball. He is also available. There aren’t even any good rumors out there about a deal for him.

So adding it all up leads to an unpleasant conclusion: the Mets are what their record says they are, which is a bad team with a roster full of players that most teams don’t have more than a passing interest in. The slow market for Reyes and the lack of interest in players from last year’s roster certainly indicates that. Perhaps the next coming weeks will reveal better news, but given the circumstances right now we are getting a good indication of what the market thinks about current Mets. Between this and the latest revelation on the Wilponzi’s finances, we may be on the precipice of a long dark age.

READ MORE +

Pedro Martinez and the Mets

Pedro Martinez was a fan favorite in Flushing.

Two years after he threw his last pitch, Pedro Martinez plans to announce his retirement from major league baseball.

There’s no question Pedro was one of the game’s most dominant pitchers in his prime.  He won a total of 219 games and won 3 Cy Young Awards along the way.  What’s more impressive is that he dominated a hitters’ league during the steroid era.    He posted sub-1.00 WHIPs 6 times from 1997-2005.  He struck out 200 or more batters all but once from 1996-2005, including two years of over 300 Ks.  His best season came as a member of the Boston Red Sox in 1999, a season in which he posted a 23-4 record with 313 Ks, and a microscopic 0.74 WHIP.  Though he played for several teams, he’ll always be known for his exploits with the Red Sox.

But what is his legacy with the Mets?  Can his 4 years in Queens be categorized as a success or failure?

GM Omar Minaya inked Martinez to a 4-year $53MM deal following the Sox’s 2004 World Series victory.  Many questioned the contract, especially the length, since there were already rumblings about Pedro’s health, and the slowing velocity of his fastball.

However, the early part of his contract was a success.  Martinez gave the Mets a certain amount of “cred” among other players in the league.  Many believe the Martinez signing helped to lure Carlos Beltran to the Mets that same winter.  And perhaps Carlos Delgado the year after.

On the field, Martinez was close to vintage in 2005.  While he never threw as hard as he did during his prime, a 92-93 MPH moving fastball set up his changeup and curveball beautifully.  He went 15-8 with a 0.95 WHIP and 208 strikeouts.  He completed 4 games that year, which was a great help to the weak bullpen led by the team’s mediocre closer, Braden Looper.

Red flags were raised as he was shut down in late September, with the Mets out of the race.  The focus on Pedro’s sore right toe was a dominant and surreal story throughout the offseason, and into the Spring.

Questions of his health waned after Martinez got off to a 5-0 start in 2006.  But he began to break down, first suffering a hip injury while slipping on the clubhouse steps.  His performance steadily declined as his trips to the Disabled List increased (He had a total of two stays on the DL).  He went 4-8 the rest of the year, and was seen crying in the dugout after a miserable outing in September.  An MRI revealed he had been pitching with a torn rotator cuff and a torn calf.  His season was done, and his career was threatened.

Martinez rehabbed, and made an admirable comeback in September of 2007.  He went 3-1 with a 2.57 ERA, though his stuff was clearly not what it was.  In 2008, he strained his hamstring in his first start, and missed most of the season.  He totaled a 5-6 record with a 5.61 ERA.  He would go on to pitch one more partial season with the rival Philadelphia Phillies in 2009.

So how does one measure Pedro’s time with the Mets?  Off the field, his credibility with the rest of the league helped to build the contenders of 2006-2008.  But his health issues marred his performance on the field.  Think of how different the 2006 postseason could have been with a healthy Pedro in the rotation instead of John Maine, Oliver Perez, or Steve Trachsel.  A healthy Pedro might have helped stave off the collapses of 2007 and 2008.

But his body betrayed him, and the Mets pitching staff suffered.  The teams of 2006-2008 were ultimately disappointments, and unfortunately, so was Martinez.

The disappointment wasn’t necessarily his fault – Minaya and the Wilpons took a chance on a declining superstar.  It was a gamble that payed off early on, but in the long run didn’t meet expectations.

Despite his performance, Pedro will remain a fan favorite among the Mets faithful.  He showed guts and a competitive fire.  He was refreshingly honest with the media, and the fans loved his entertaining personality.  And when you boil it down, baseball is about entertainment.  So maybe Pedro’s legacy with the Mets wasn’t a total loss.

READ MORE +

Now You’re Talking Turkey: Mets Transactions During Thanksgiving Week

In my household, the week before Thanksgiving has traditionally been one of preparation. Since we host the annual family gathering, there is food to be bought, a turkey to stuff, rugs to vacuum, bathrooms to be cleaned, toys to put away and extra chairs to be brought up from the cellar.

For the Mets, this week has also signaled the start of their preparation for the next season. With an eye on ticket sales, several Mets GMs have swung deals during this shortened work week. For most of us fans, the news of these transactions is a welcome change from a long stretch of no news at all. In more recent years, a genuine move means temporary relief from the incessant and preposterous speculation in all corners of the media about rumored trades and/or signings.

In retrospect, perhaps we should have had more patience! Here are a passel of Thanksgiving week deals made by the Mets, a few which may lead to some indigestion.

READ MORE +

Pridie Gone, Evans and Buchholz Free

The Oakland Athletics have signed Jason Pridie, who was waived by the Mets a few days ago and exercised his right to become a free agent.

Interesting the Pridie was able to find employment so quickly. Just as interesting, that the great genius Himself — Billy Beane — is who signed him. Makes you wonder: did the brilliant Mets front office blunder? Which of Pridie’s stats is Beane looking at and deeming a market inefficiency? Is Pridie the next Scott Hatteberg? Inquiring minds want to know …

In all seriousness, I like Pridie and believed it made sense for the Mets to keep him around. But, the fact they let him go makes me believe that the Mets will tender a contract to Angel Pagan, since there are no other centerfielders in the organization with MLB experience (OK, maybe you can count Fernando Martinez and Jason Bay). Not that Pridie would have had a shot at starting in 2012, but he was a solid backup. What do you think? Is this a move designed to insure that Captain Kirk Nieuwenhuis moves up the totem pole and gets a legit shot at MLB playing time in 2012? If so I’m happy with that plan.

In other news, both Nick Evans and Taylor Buchholz have officially declared free agency. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they will flee Flushing. But it does mean they are free to explore all options. I know that Evans is not likely to become an everyday player for a championship team, but I do believe he has value to someone. I can see him turning into a Garrett Jones — getting a chance to play fairly regularly for a bad team, putting up surprising power numbers, and making a decent living for himself as part-time MLBer. I also still think he should consider donning the tools of ignorance, just to add some value as an emergency backstop.

As for Buchholz, there is still a question as to whether he will pitch for anyone in 2012, since he is still dealing with depression. I believe that a healthy Buchholz can be a solid middle reliever. But, I also put his need to heal from his mental issues over my desire for him to pitch for the Mets, and if to become mentally healthy it makes more sense for him to play elsewhere, I’m not going to begrudge the guy nor get upset about him leaving. Obviously I have no knowledge of the details of his challenges but I do know that New York is one of the most stressful places in the world to live and work — even if one is not a MLB player. Buchholz seems like a nice kid with legit talent so I hope he gets through this and is able to play baseball again, be it in New York or elsewhere — if that’s what he wants to do.

Two other former Mets free agents are in the news: Omar Minaya and Bobby Valentine. Both, apparently, are being considered for jobs with the Boston Red Sox. Interesting, no?

READ MORE +