Archive: October 18th, 2007

End of the Torre Era

No, it’s not Mets news (necessarily), but it’s the biggest news in baseball … and sports for that matter.

Proof? The Cleveland Indians might clinch their first World Series appearance in 60 years tonight, but not one sports columnist, talkradio jockey, or other pundit is mentioning their potential elimination game tonight against the Red Sox. So I guess it’s OK to give the un-rehiring of Joe Torre some play on MetsToday.

Though, we’ve already glossed over the potential domino effect of Joe Torre not returning to pinstripes in 2008. Now that it’s reality, and after having thought about it for about a week, I’m not so sure that a new Yankee manager will affect the decisions of Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada. The way I see it, both players may be upset that Torre’s not returning, but in a few weeks any disgruntlement will likely wear off. Plus, after losing Torre, I can’t imagine that Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenners would allow either Posada or Rivera walk away as well.

First, there is public opinion — to which George Steinbrenner is sensitive. He knows that the majority of Yankee fandom is not happy with the Torre decision, but also knows that there are enough ambivalence to get through the situation. Steinbrenner is justified, after all, by the $225M payroll — as much as anyone loves Joe Torre, a logically thinking individual has to know that the Yankees’ success over the last dozen years was more due to the willingness to spend money than the “genius” of Torre.

But if Torre leaves AND Mo Rivera and Jorge Posada also walk away? That’s not going to fly with Yankee supporters. If anything, Rivera MUST be retained — he is after all the greatest closer in the history of baseball, and god forbid Boston gets their dirty paws on their beloved, legendary icon. Further, I believe the Yankees will do just about everything necessary to retain Posada as well — partially because he’s nearly as beloved as Rivera, and partially because, as we’ve seen, there isn’t a suitable replacement on the market. For the Mets to obtain either of these Yankees, they would likely have to make an unbelievable, fiscally unsound offer — and that’s not the Wilpons’ style.

Now, what about the vacancy in the Yankees dugout? I’d thought that Don Mattingly was a foregone conclusion, but the words of Brian Cashman suggests otherwise:

“There may be some surprising names that show up of people expressing interest that you wouldn’t even think about. To be quite candid, we have not started a process of looking for a new manager.”

Hmm … surprising names, eh? Well what the hey … if it’s NOT going to be Mattingly, then who? And if they are serious about the position being one that has to be incentive-driven, then whomever they hire to replace Torre MUST also have the postseason bonus bucks written in — otherwise the Yankees are true scoundrels. It’ll be a few weeks before the “official” list of candidates surfaces. In the meantime, here is my wildly uninformed prediction of potential successors (if it’s not Donnie Baseball):

Bobby Valentine
Yes, he’ll wear out his welcome — and most of his players — within two years, but he’s the closest thing to Billy Martin available. And whether you love him or hate him, you have to admit he’s one of the best in-game strategists on the planet. Any doubts (or short memory)? Simply take a look at the 2000 Mets team he guided into the World Series. And yes he’ll be a media nightmare from the Yankees brass’ perspective, but his hogging of the spotlight will take the pressure off the players.

Bobby Cox
Here’s a crazy idea if you ever saw one, huh? Bear with me … first, Braves GM John Schuerholz has stepped down, which could affect what Cox does. Cox only played two years in the Majors — with the New York Yankees, so there’s a tie-in of sorts. The Yankees have the money and the wherewithal to get “the best” of everything, so why not try to pry away arguably the best manager in baseball of the last 15 years? And hey, why not bring in the “best” pitching coach in baseball, old pal Leo Mazzone, while you’re at it? The 67-year-old Cox probably will only manage another 2 or 3 years, and would be the ideal tutor for bench coach Mattingly. It makes great sense: Mattingly, with no managerial experience, would have an immense task to a) follow Torre’s legacy; b) be expected to get to the World Series; and c) do a & b as a first-year manager. Better to groom him another year or two under a genius, and let the legend of Torre fade away, before pushing him into the fire.

Joe Girardi
A lot of Yankee beat writers seem to be high on Girardi leading the Bronx Bombers. I’m not seeing it any more than Tony Pena. I get the feeling the Yanks want to bring in a BIG name, and though Girardi is known, he’s not “big”. For this exact reason, I don’t buy into the notion that Trey Hillman is a serious candidate.

Larry Bowa
His managerial review is mixed; critics feel his Phillies underachieved, supporters say he wrung everything out of them. He’s a candidate because he’s been around the Yankees for two years and gained the respect of players and management, and because his fiery disposition is the exact opposite of the calm Torre — and maybe the Yankee brass wants an “excitable boy” to put the pressure on their perhaps too-relaxed players. And before you dismiss his .522 winning percentage and second-place finishes, consider that Torre had a similar resume before donning the pinstripes.

Tony Pena
He has previous managerial experience, and though his career .410 winning percentage is abysmal, he put together an unbelievable 83-79 record for the 2003 Kansas City Royals — which was essentially a collection of trash. I think he’ll be considered to satisfy the Yankees’ need to interview one or more minority candidates. Along that line of thinking …

Don Baylor

A former Yankee, though hardly a legend and not . His record as a manager was very “eh” — under .500. But he does have a very nice-looking visual presence — what with those broad shoulders and chiseled facial features — and could fit right into the do-nothing, monotonous, stoic role that Torre made famous.

Cito Gaston
He was widely heralded as one of the best managers in baseball after winning back-to-back World Series Championships with the Blue Jays in the early 1990s. But after a 72-87 season in 1997, he never got another job. Why? Maybe ten years is too long to be out of the hot seat, but he could be a long, long, longshot.

Any other wild ideas to throw out there, before the “official” search begins? Post your candidates below.

READ MORE +

State of the Bullpen Address

As we continue to prepare for the Hot Stove Season, let’s take a look at the current state of the Mets’ bullpen. Following is a list of legitimate bullpen candidates who will be under contract with the New York Mets after the free agency filing period has commenced.

Solid (meaning, not injured and not likely to be starters)

Billy Wagner
Aaron Heilman
Pedro Feliciano
Joe Smith
Scott Schoeneweis
Guillermo Mota
Willie Collazo
Carlos Muniz

Questionable

Duaner Sanchez
Juan Padilla

Potential

Mike Pelfrey
Philip Humber
Jason Vargas
Adam Bostick

Longshots

Steve Schmoll
Eddie Camacho
Matt Durkin
Ryan Cullen
Tim McNab
Eddie Kunz

Notes: Aaron Sele, Dave Williams, Brian Lawrence, and Jorge Sosa are all free agents. Jon Adkins and Lino Urdaneta were granted free agency. Ambiorix Burgos underwent Tommy John surgery and is gone until 2009.

OK, after assessing bullpens around the National League in 2007 (What Went Wrong: Bullpen, Bullpen Part Two), we’ve come to the conclusion that a team needs an absolute minimum of TEN relief pitchers to get through a summer. But that’s only the part of it. If you go team by team, and check out the statistical splits for the pitching staffs “as a reliever”, you’ll find that nearly every NL squad used between 17 and 25 (or more) people as relievers. Yes, maybe 4-5 of those people threw only an inning or two, but the bottom line is, a team must have unprecedented depth in their bullpen simply to get through the grind of a 162-game season.

My rough estimate is that the Mets need to have at least 20 arms to call upon over the course of the 2008 summer. Think that’s a high number? Consider this: 15 Mets threw at least one inning in relief in 2007 — which was the lowest total in the NL. There’s no question their bullpen was overworked this past season, and much of it had to do with the reluctance to change bodies.

I think we’ve already beaten this to death though — if you disagree, and think the Mets can go into 2008 with a similar bullpen plan (six bodies filling set roles from April to October), then stop reading this article. Also check to see if any of the starting pitchers from the 1980 Oakland A’s are available.

So, let’s assume the Mets’ bullpen needs to be 20 deep. Of course they’re not going to carry 20 relievers on the 25-man roster. Figure on El Duque, Mike Pelfrey, and Philip Humber throwing out of the bullpen here and there, and we’ll bring it down to 17. That means you’d have at least 7 on the Major League roster, and another 10 in the minors.

Now look again at the current pitchers under contract. There are 8 “solids”, 2 “questionables”, and 6 “longshots”. That’s 16. If you add all four “potentials”, you’re up to 20. So there’s already enough depth in the organization, right?

Sure, if you want to finish in third place. There are too many doubts and question marks regarding the 20. For example, will Sanchez and Padilla be healthy? We hope so, but who really knows? Will any of the “longshots” really be a viable option? Maybe only one or two. Will the Mets convert any of the four “potentials” from starting to relieving? Not our call.

Further, who’s to say that all of the “solids” break camp healthy? Any of them — after being abused in 2007 — could easily come up with tendinitis or something during spring training. Finally, are we truly happy with the skills offered by Mota and Schoeneweis?

I don’t think it’s out of the question to bring 25-30 potential relievers into spring training. Doing that, though, will require that the Mets acquire at least 10-15 pitchers between now and February. My guess is that Omar and co. will be scouring the minor league free agents as much as the MLB FAs, as they’ll be much cheaper. Not sure when that list is released, I believe it’s in early November. When it does become available, we’ll give it a thorough review.

READ MORE +

Boras is Not Idiotic

There’s been much ballyhoo over last week’s comments by John Schuerholz in regard to his opinion of the value of Alex Rodriguez and the demands presented by Scott Boras.

Specifically:

“I think it’s obnoxious . . . for someone to suggest that this is a valid salary level for a professional athlete, no matter what kind of voodoo economics they can do in analyzing the books of MLB, it’s absolutely asinine . . .

“When he presented us with that kind of offer with Andruw Jones, we found it so ridiculous and obnoxious we didn’t even respond. It didn’t even rise to the level of requiring a response. It’s just idiotic.”

Piles of people are roaring with approval of Schuerholz’s brash words for the “evil” Scott Boras and his outlandish demands. Boras is the bad guy, isn’t he? He’s terrible for baseball, he’s ruining the game, he’s greedy, he’s crazy, etc. After all NO BALLPLAYER should be making $30 million in one season. It’s ludicrous. Doctors save people’s lives, they don’t make that kind of money. Teachers do much more for the world than a baseball player does, yet doesn’t make that kind of money in ten lifetimes, much less one year!

Boras = Bad Guy. Boras’ Demands for A-Rod = Idiotic, Asinine.

Huh. Sounds more like sour grapes to me, coming from a guy whose boss refused to part with profits for the last four years. If Ted Turner were still running the Braves, and not some faceless conglomeration of corporate accountants with an eye specifically on the bottom line, I wonder what Schuerholz would be saying? I wonder what he’d be paying?

From 1999 to 2003, the Braves’ payroll jumped from $75M to over $106M. Immediately after Ted Turner gave up controlling interest, that payroll went down, down, down — as MLB profits went up, up, up. Their 2007 payroll was down to $87M, and figures to keep dwindling after Andruw Jones and his “asinine” demands leave town.

But who, really, is the idiot here? Is it Boras, for taking full advantage of the American way of free enterprise and capitalism? Is it Schuerholz, for getting into a situation where the Braves will pay $35M between now and the end of 2009 for Mike Hampton (or another way to look at it: $50M over three years)? Or is everyone “asinine”?

Here’s the way I see it: back in the 1970s, when Reggie Jackson signed an “outlandish” million-dollar contract, he justified it by saying “I put fannies in the seats.” He was right — he did. People PAID to see Reggie Jackson. People turned on the TV to see Reggie Jackson. People bought T-shirts and jerseys with his name on it. They bought “Reggie” candy bars, for crissakes! And when a guy can bring in revenue, doesn’t it make sense to give him a fair share of the proceeds?

Without question, Alex Rodriguez puts fannies in the seats, and adds significant value to a team. I’m not necessarily on board with the arithmetics of Boras’ “voo doo economics”, but you have to agree that A-Rod = revenue.

However, what about Chris Woodward? He made $850,000 in 2007. How about Aaron Sele? The Mets paid him a cool million. Did you, or anyone you know, EVER turn on the TV to see Chris Woodward hit? Do you think anyone (other than his parents) bought a ticket to a Mets game to see Aaron Sele?

Yet, their million-dollar (or nearly million-dollar) salaries are dismissed by everyone. No one talks about Miguel Cairo getting a seven-figure contract, because, in relation to the A-Rods and Andruws and the Chippers and the Beltrans, it’s chump change. The value is lost because of the astronomical salaries around them.

But tell me: how many teachers make $850,000 a year? How many doctors make $2.5M, which is what Bobby Kielty raked in to be a fourth or fifth outfielder for the Athletics (before being released!). Why is there such an uproar about the salary demands of an uber-superstar, the greatest baseball player of all-time, yet not even a squeak about Jose Mesa making more money in one season than most of us will see in a lifetime?

I did some browsing at Cot’s Baseball Contracts and picked a few players at random and their salaries (you can click on their names to see their stats on Baseball-Reference.

[TABLE=27]

Again, remove yourself from whatever you think about $30M for a baseball player. Look at these guys independently as the bench warmers, has-beens, and valueless players they are in relation to their exorbitant salaries. If need be, compare one of their salaries to YOURS … in fact, compare one salary for one season to your salary over the next ten years. Do you honestly believe that a backup catcher or a middle reliever is worth more money than what you can give to this Earth over the next ten years?

Now again, who is the idiot?

The owners, for allowing utility infielders and fifth starters to make in excess of three, four, five, six, seven million dollars or more in a season — or Scott Boras, for trying to get top dollar for one of the few guys who can “put fannies in the seats” ?

There was a time I also believed that Scott Boras was the devil, but that thought has changed considerably. What I realized is this: the owners have the dough, so if they don’t spend it on an A-Rod, or an Andruw Jones, or some other star, it will go in their pocket. Say all you want about the Yankees spending $225M on payroll, but at least they are pushing their profits back into the business. Can the Braves say the same? Or are they talking about how much money the shareholders will be getting as a result of their outstanding fiscal management of the baseball operations this past quarter?

Boras is constantly looked upon as the bad guy … and yet we’ve never heard a report of him putting a gun to an owner’s head to agree to a contract.

Are the salaries for baseball players insane? Absolutely. Is it Scott Boras’ fault? Hardly.

READ MORE +

The Funny Pages

If you didn’t start reading MetsToday until late in the season, you may have missed some of the more comical images and posts.

I’ve taken the liberty of picking and choosing some of the archives from the 2007 season.

Enjoy …

Choker Selection

Willie’s Skill at Jenga

Planet Randolph


Public Service Announcement (Moises Alou on a milk carton)


The Fatal Flaw

The Time Has Come

Who Let the Dogs Out?

Why So Orange?

Series Preview: Mets vs. Brewers (Prince Fielder & donuts)

Series Preview: Mets vs. Phillies Phinito (Sal Iovine cartoon)

Mets Game 149 (Sal Iovine cartoon)

Plus, a few from last offseason:

Ten Reasons Tom Glavine is a Turkey

How Glavine is Screwing the Mets

Let me know if I’ve missed any of your favorites.

READ MORE +