Browsing Archive June, 2014

Mr. Alderson, Your Baby Is Ugly

I spent nearly a quarter century in the Directory Publishing business. Along the way, I worked for several interesting people. Among my favorites was a woman named Brenda. She headed up our New Products Division during one of those rare times when any idea could at least make it to the table for consideration. She was savvy enough to realize that her tastes may not reflect those of the general marketplace. “I need you to tell me if you think my baby is ugly,” she would state during intra-department meetings when she championed a concept or product that she liked. In a corporation where butt-kissing was considered a vital career preservation tactic, her approach was like a breath of fresh air. My association with her helped me to extend my career there for another decade, much to my personal, professional and financial benefit.

More recently, one of my left-leaning friends told me that the Mets’ biggest problem is a lack of diversity. Coming from him and coming near the end of the Omar Minaya era, I mentally rolled my eyes. I see now that he was correct in that there were (and still are) no non-Wilpon yes-men voices in the Mets upper management. Much like the chatter from MSNBC or Fox, all of the discussion inside Citi Field is taking place in an echo chamber of like-minded idiots. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the Mets think they have a beautiful baby and by all indications, have doubled down on their flawed (to put it mildly) approach.

I used to give Sandy Alderson a pass over the financial constraints placed on him by the Wilpons. But with each passing move, it is becoming more and more obvious that the game has passed him by. His 90-win pronouncement at the beginning of the season was a clear warning of how out of touch he really is. There was a brief glimmer of hope for this team after the Philadelphia series. Since then, they have gone 1-6 with a host of other “ugly baby” developments tossed in.

With the #10 pick in this year’s draft, they essentially drafted another Lucas Duda, passing on much better multi-dimensional players who could help the team shortly. Then, we all got reacquainted with Angel Pagan, whom Alderson’s lieutenants talked him into trading for trash after the 2011 season. How good would Pagan’s 323/373/433 slash line look in the Met lineup right about now? I hope Angel flashed his World Series ring at Terry Collins a few times while rounding the bases. Finally Travis d’Araund, the supposed key piece in the R.A. Dickey trade to Toronto two years ago, was shipped to Los Vegas after a 63-game stretch where he hit twenty points below the Mendoza line. Perhaps more disturbingly, Travis looked and played poorly defensively. According to published reports, both he and some members of the pitching staff expressed dismay over his demotion. Apparently this echo chamber extends into the Met clubhouse.

Speaking of the infamous Mr. Mendoza, Alderson has become his GM equivalent when it comes to personnel decisions. For every Scott Hairston, LaTroy Hawkins or Marlon Byrd that he grabbed off the scrap heap , there is a Brad Emaus, a DJ Carrasco, a Danny Herrera, an Omar Quintanilla, a Jon Rauch, an Andres Torres, a Frank Francisco, a Collin Cowgill, a Shaun Marcum, a Chris Young (or two), a Scott Atchison, an Anthony Recker or a John Lannan on the other side of the ledger. That’s a sub-.200 average. Yes, I know that all teams try on different players throughout the season. The Mets are unique in that not only do they rely on these players to fill key roles, they insist on shoving them down our throats game after game, long after even a casual observer notices their ineptitude . Whatever eye for talent Alderson used to have is gone and much like Joe McIlvaine, a failed Mets GM from an earlier era, he seems unprepared with any backup plans in case Plan A goes bust. Notice that d’Araund’s replacement is Taylor (206/366/390) Teagarden? Sure, he hit a hanger over the fence for a Grand Salami on Tuesday, but it will probably take him another two weeks to drive in his next four runs. At least this time Alderson replaced a poor-performing player with one only slightly less bad. His two big attempts to improve one of the league’s lowest-ranking offenses this past winter were Young and Curtis Granderson, both of whom actually underperformed the average Mets 2013 hitter the year prior. Talk about an ugly baby.

And while we are on the topic, anyone here still think that Zach Wheeler is a future ace? I’ll bet you can’t wait to see what “prospect” we get from Pittsburgh as the PTBNL in the Ike Davis deal. Meanwhile the Miami Marlins, Jose Reyes’ other former team, also operating on a shoestring with an owner everyone despises and a sidelined ace, appear to be light years ahead of the Mets both in the standings and in player development.

I am not really a fan of his, but I agreed with Paul LoDuca’s comments from last week. The team needs to be burned to the ground and rebuilt. This isn’t about fringy moves with players not under contract past 2014. Other than David Wright and Granderson (immovable contracts) and Matt Harvey (injury) everyone should be on the block. Everyone. This includes serviceable vets like Daniel Murphy and Jon Niese, along with promising youngsters like Jennry Mejia and Juan Lagares. The Mets need at least 20 new players and will need to make deals that bring back multiple players back that fit into a well-thought-out rebuilding plan. But who will drive? Would you trust it to Alderson? I wouldn’t. Neither would I want Paul DePodesta nor JP Riccardi, Sandy’s failed Moneyball henchmen, to try their hands at it. Besides, do you think any of these guys would have the guts to admit to making such a huge blunder and tear it all down?

Maybe Jeff Wilpon decides to run the team himself, through a patsy like John Ricco. That might not be a bad thing if Jeffy is willing to channel George Steinbrenner and spend fistfuls of money, attempting to put an All-Star at every position. This is Jeff we are talking about however, so while a puppet GM is a good possibility, any smart baseball moves or big cash outlays are unlikely. Ideally he could pull a Leon Hess circa 1997 and put a Bill Parcells-type strongman at the top of the organization, while taking a step back.

That move made a new fortune for the already wealthy Mr. Hess. In the end, that might be the only face-saving “out” available to Jeff (and Fred). They might only need to look as far as the WOR radio booth where a certain former Mets architect is slowly rebuilding his image…

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Is Dillon Gee’s Season Over?

If you haven’t already heard, Dillon Gee suffered another setback in his struggle to return to the mound from a latissimus dorsi injury. This is his second setback, and the latest report is that Gee will be out for at least several more weeks — and there is no timetable for his return.

With so much mystery and lack of information about this injury, the next question is: will Dillon Gee return at all in 2014?

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Mets Game 60: Loss To Cubs

Cubs 7 Mets 4

Cubs sweep an opponent for the first time all year, and sweep the Mets at Wrigley for the first time in ten years.

Mets Game Notes

Jacob deGrom‘s dominance came to an abrupt end — and wouldn’t you know it, it ended on a day the Mets finally scored a few runs? Not enough runs, but runs nonetheless.

I like the way deGrom spots his fastball just at the edge of the upper strike zone, and just a few inches above it — it’s a stark contrast in elevation from his sinker, which makes both pitches more difficult for batters to judge. He didn’t really pitch badly, and if it hadn’t been for the umpire review system, the stat line would have looked decent. Oh well.

The NL really needs to implement the DH, so we don’t have to suffer through watching pitchers try to hit. Oh, wait…

Do we need to discuss the fact that the Mets had multiple opportunities to mount rallies and score runs, but squandered them? Nah, just listen to this song:

For the second time this year in a game started by deGrom, we saw an overthrow of 3B that resulted in a play at the plate. Anthony Recker appeared to be giving the runner an inside lane to the plate, up until just before he received the ball — when he put his right leg down in front of the plate. His tactic wasn’t that much different from Russell Martin‘s in Mets game #50, and I’m surprised it wasn’t reviewed by the umpires. I’m not sure it would’ve been overturned, but it seemed close enough when watched live to consider. More concerning to me was the way Recker positioned his right leg — he had the side of his foot in front of the plate, and the inside of his leg exposed. Had the runner gone right for his leg, he might’ve blown out Recker’s knee. Ideally, a catcher has the front of his knee facing the runner, to best and most safely absorb a blow from contact. But with this new interpretation of the rule, ironically, there isn’t enough time for the catcher to get himself into a safe position. The rule is supposed to be making the play less dangerous, but if the runner went right toward the plate, and busted through the side of Recker’s calf, it would’ve been completely clean and legal but Recker’s season likely would’ve been over.

Similarly, in the play at the plate in the second involving Travis d’Arnaud, it looked eerily similar to the play that knocked out Buster Posey. Like Posey, d’Arnaud put himself into a dangerous position by diving back toward the plate to stop the runner. Luckily, Luis Valbuena was sliding off to the side, but had he been going straight for home plate, and sliding hard into it, very bad contact between the two players could have resulted. I don’t know — was it the players observing the new interpretation of the rule that saved them from injury, or just dumb luck?

As a Mets fan, surely you’re wondering why Andrew Brown spent the last month and a half in AAA.

On a positive note, slugging Chris Young walked twice from the leadoff spot. Baby steps.

Geez, the Cubs didn’t even need their closer to finish up the sweep. And they beat up on the Mets’ current closer. One would never guess Chicago is 11 games below .500.

Like Keith Hernandez, I was disgusted with the lack of fundies in this ballgame, and particularly upset in the top of the fifth, when two bad things happened on the same play. With one out and men on first and second, David Wright lifted a fly ball to center field. Both runners tagged up, and the throw from Chicago center fielder Justin Ruggiano went toward third base. Why? Why, why, why? An alert Starlin Castro cut off the throw and flipped it to Darwin Barney, but Barney, instead of simply placing his glove down in front of the bag and waiting for Curtis Granderson to slide into it, chose to lunge after Granderson’s sliding body. Bad decision by Ruggiano, poor execution by former Gold Glover Barney. Not that it mattered, as the Mets couldn’t take advantage of the two-out, men on second and third situation.

Highlight of the game — hands-down — was Keith’s telling of the story when he almost died because of a bumblebee. Does Mark Burnett watch Mets games? Clearly not.

Three hours and 16 minutes and game over before 10:30 was refreshing. Still too long for a ballgame, for me, but compared to what we’ve been enduring lately, it was most welcome.

During the postgame, Bobby Ojeda suggested that Travis d’Arnaud be sent down to the minors to figure things out. Something to consider, I suppose, but the issue is that d’Arnaud has pretty much proven that he can hit minor league pitching at all levels. Now, he needs to learn how to adjust to MLB pitching, and that can’t be done in the PCL. Tough call, and I’m not sure where to stand on this, but my inclination is to keep him in the bigs. At the same time, Recker has been the better overall catcher so far this year, and the Mets are supposedly gunning for 90 wins so …

What’s your thought?

Next Mets Game

The Mets lick their wounds and move on to San Francisco to play the Giant. Oh damn, more late nights. Ugh. At least it’s the weekend, so we can sleep in. First game begins on Friday night at 10:15 PM Right Coast Time. Jonathon Niese faces Matt Cain.

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