Tag: manny ramirez

Mets – Dodgers: Quick Preview

brooklyn-dodgersThe Brooklyn Dodgers of Los Angeles come into Flushing with a 52-30 record, the best in MLB, with their guns a-blazing. They send three starters to the mound with ERAs under four, and none of them can be considered their “ace”. They have scored the third-most runs in the NL — 43 more than the Mets — and lead the league in team batting average (.272, or two points better than the second-place Mets). And they score without the longball — they have 64 HRs, which is 14 more than the Mets but far below average compared to the rest of MLB. Which means they play “small ball”, which happens to be the brand of baseball best suited to the vast expanse of Citi Field.

Oh, and they’ve accomplished all this without Manny Ramirez for three-quarters of their games. And Manny is back.

The only thing going for the Mets is the Dodgers have been “treading water” over their last ten games, with five wins against five losses.

Game 1: Mike Pelfrey (6-3, 4.26 ERA) vs. Clayton Kershaw (5-5, 3.49 ERA)

Big Pelf has really been an enigma this year, mixing in starts like his last against Milwaukee (nearly 8 innings, 6 hits, no runs) with debacles like his June 4th start in Pittsburgh (3 IP, 9 hits, 8 ER). Which version of Pelfrey will show up tonight is anyone’s guess.

Kershaw, in many ways, is the lefthanded version of Pelfrey. The 21-year-old can be absolutely dominating at times, while looking lost at others. He’s induced as many as 12 ground balls in a game, and struck out as many as 13. Rarely does he get past the fifth inning, and he’s often his own worst enemy, particularly when it comes to bases on balls. Could this be any more fitting a matchup?

Game2: Oliver Perez (1-2, 9.97 ERA) vs. Hiroki Kuroda (3-4, 3.91 ERA)

The Thirty-Six-Million-Dollar Man returns to a Mets uniform in an attempt to keep his ERA from going into the teens. In four rehab starts covering 17 innings, Ollie allowed 17 hits, 11 walks, 2 homeruns, and 10 runs total (6 earned). However, he did strike out 18, so there’s that.

Perez faces Hiroki Kuroda, who is averaging 6 innings per start and sports a svelte 1.01 WHIP. How good is Kuroda’s control? He’s walked 9 batters in 48 innings. However, he’s been roughed up in four out of his last five starts — though, three of those came against American League teams.

Game 3: Livan Hernandez (5-4, 4.56 ERA) vs. Randy Wolf (3-3, 3.49 ERA)

Can we glaze over Livan’s last start? I think so, considering that he powered through 7 innings in 5 of his 6 starts previous to Philly. Those days are going to happen, and with Hernandez, they’ve happened rarely (4 bad starts out of 16 is pretty OK for a scrap heap reject). In Livan’s last start against LA, he was on the wrong end of a 2-1 ballgame. If Joe Torre checks the stats prior to making out the lineup card, he may consider writing in Brad Ausmus (.323 lifetime vs. Hernandez) and Mark Loretta (.333), who along with Rafael Furcal (.333), Andre Ethier (.375), James Loney (.364), Casey Blake (.400), and Manny Ramirez (.600) are members of the Livan Hernandez Fan Club.

Wolf is the guy that all the Monday morning quarterbacks say the Mets should’ve signed instead of Oliver Perez. Well gee, thanks for that bit of afterward wisdom. Looking back, maybe the Mets should’ve signed him for no reason other than to prevent him from starting against them, as he’s become a Mets killer over the last few years. In his last start vs. the Mets, he held them to two earned runs — and that lineup included Carlos Beltran in the 3-hole and a red-hot Angel Pagan at leadoff.

Final Thoughts

Not much to talk about. The Dodgers are a better team than the Mets on paper, on the field, on the mound, at bat, and fundamentally. That doesn’t mean they can’t be beat. It does, however, suggest that the Mets will have their hands full.


Manny’s Performance Enhancement for the Bedroom

As it turns out, the drug that Manny Ramirez tested positive for was a SEXUAL enhancer, not unlike Viagra.

According to Yahoo’s Tim Brown and Steve Henson:

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the substance is supposed to boost sex drive. It is not Viagra, but a substance that treats the cause rather providing a temporary boost in sexual performance, the source said.

According to Manny’s official statement:

“Recently I saw a physician for a personal health issue. He gave me a medication, not a steroid, which he thought was okay to give me. Unfortunately, the medication was banned under our drug policy. Under the policy that mistake is now my responsibility. I have been advised not to say anything more for now. I do want to say one other thing; I’ve taken and passed about 15 drug tests over the past five seasons.”

So there you have it — Manny was indeed trying to hit more homeruns, but in the bedroom rather than the ballfield.


Oliver Perez Signed

Finally, the Mets signed Oliver Perez.

The contract is a very fair three years at $36M. Not too much for the Mets to feel hamstrung in the event Ollie spends more time as Mr. Hyde, and not so little that Perez should feel slighted. And in fact, the three-year contract makes a lot of sense for the still-young lefty, who at the end will be only 30 years old and — if he plays his cards right — could be in line for a mega deal.

Personally, I’m very happy Oliver Perez is back with the Mets. He’s one of the few members of the team who has some style and character, and plays the entire game with passion. Yes, that passion sometimes is his downfall, and he has yet to learn how to avoid falling apart and beating himself when things go poorly. However, it’s part of who he is, and I enjoy watching “colorful” and unique ballplayers.

As we all know, Ollie is as gifted as any lefthander in MLB. Whether he can “figure it out” and get his mental skills to reach the levels of his physical gifts remains to be seen. Should that connection ever occur, the Mets could have the best lefty in the NL, a dominant Cy Young candidate. More likely, he’ll be the same Ollie we’ve known since 2006 — up and down, outstanding at times and awful at others. In the end, that’s OK, because the bottom line is this: he takes the ball every five days, and he goes into the 7th inning the majority of the time. Yes, there are days he can’t get out of the fourth (or third) frame, but for more than half his starts, he’ll get past the sixth. Considering that both John Maine and Johan Santana are coming off surgeries, and the back end is full of question marks, one cannot underestimate the value of an above-average starter making 30-32 starts. It’s easy to forget the days that people like Brian Lawrence, Jose Lima, Dave Williams, and Chan Ho Park took the mound too many times.

With Oliver Perez in the fold, we can assume that the Mets are done assembling arms for the starting rotation — though, I’d still like to see Pedro Martinez brought back on a minor league deal. They might pick up another scrub for the back end, but you can forget Ben Sheets — at this point, it ain’t gonna happen. Hopefully, Omar Minaya will now focus on bringing in one or two more middle relief arms (Chad Cordero?) and a power-hitting outfielder. At this point, I no longer care if it’s a lefthanded hitter (Adam Dunn? Bobby Abreu?) or a righty (Manny Ramirez!) — a strong hitting lefty is still better than anything that Fernando Tatis and Danny Murphy can produce.

Oh, and how about picking up Pudge Rodriguez on the cheap, to platoon with Brian Schneider? He’ll come cheap.


Kucinich Pushing the Citi Out of Field

Mets Citi Taxpayer Field

After receiving a sweet bailout as a reward for royally mismanaging its finances, Citigroup is coming under fire from prominent politicos such as Dennis Kucinich, who says the US government should demand that the bank cancel its “Citi Field” sponsorship with the Mets.

“The Treasury Department, which forced Citigroup corporate executives to give up their private jet, should also demand that Citigroup cancel its $400 million advertisement at the Mets field and instead being to repay their debt to the taxpayers.”

Hat tip to MetsToday reader “wohjr” for the link.

An intriguing proposal, to say the least. On the one hand, Citi did enter into a contract with the Mets, and what’s the point of a contract if one side decides to, um, bail out? Further, doesn’t the company need to continue advertising and promoting their brand? For example, if the US bails out GM, does that mean they should stop doing TV commercials? Tough question.

On the other hand, would Citigroup gain enough customers in the next 20 years to justify the $400M investment? Hard to say, as I’m not a marketing forecaster.

From the perspective of the average joe, smattering your name across a baseball stadium when you’re broke doesn’t look so great. It could, in fact, be argued that Citigroup will LOSE customers as a result of continuing with their sponsorship. It doesn’t matter if Citi takes that $400M and spends it on a rash of TV commercials, magazine ads, and PR events — the guy on the street can’t SEE that money being spent.

Naturally, there’s also the point that taxpayers have been partially funding the stadium’s construction … so why isn’t the taxpayer’s name on the front of the park?

From the Mets fans’ perspective, it’s just as murky. Without Citi’s name on the stadium, the Mets have $20M less to work with every year — which more or less pays for Johan Santana’s contract. Since the team appears to already be penny-pinching, would such a loss in revenue result in payroll cuts? Would the team begin to operate even more like a small-market club? Of course, there’s also the possibility that they are able to get another, more lucrative sponsor for the stadium. Though, it’s hard to imagine someone stepping up with big bucks in this economic climate — unless the company is Google or Raytheon.

Many have been speculating that the Mets disinterest in big names such as C.C. Sabathia and Manny Ramirez was due to the Bernie Madoff scandal. Perhaps. And, perhaps they are also bracing for the possible loss of Citi’s $400M commitment.


Mets Selling Tickets But Still No Manny

According to the Associated Press, the New York Mets have sold out all luxury boxes and at least 25,000 seats for each of the 81 games to be played at Citi Field in 2009.

There are about 10,000 premium seats available now, and per-game tickets go on sale in March. Citi Field’s capacity is 42,000.

Per Mets Executive Vice-President David Howard:

“It’s better than where we were at this point last year,” Howard said Tuesday after a news conference at the Baseball Assistance Team annual dinner. “I think we’ve seen some effects of the economy. I think what we’re seeing now is there is a high degree of interest, but people are definitely shopping price. In some cases, they’re trying to get partners. We’re certainly not going to be spared by economic climate.”

I’m not too good at math, but it appears that the Mets have a few dollars in the till thanks to ticket sales. Can someone out there do the calculations and figure out if there’s enough to pay Manny Ramirez?


Mets Sign an Outfielder

The Mets’ front office is really cooking with gas now! Hot off the heels of the Casey Fossum pickup, the team has now added Cory Sullivan to their outfield, signing the 29-year-old to a $600,000 contract that includes another $300,000 in incentives.

Obviously I can’t contain my excitement … especially when this signing comes so close after the Fossum deal. The Bisons are starting to look like a real AAA team — one that might actually provide competent support during the year in the event of injuries to players on the big club’s 25-man roster.

It does seem strange, though, that the Mets would scoop up another light-hitting, good fielding, centerfielder who hits from the left side. Endy Chavez was surplus last year, and the Mets already have Angel Pagan and Jeremy Reed signed to guaranteed MLB contracts, not to mention Marlon Anderson. Oh, and there’s Jason Cooper and Rule 5 (minor league phase) pick Carl Loadenthal, and the imminent arrival of Fernando Martinez. Considering that neither Carlos Beltran nor Ryan Church will ever be taken out of games for defensive purposes, all these Endy types are overkill, no? You can only put in one player at a time to play left field, after all.

FYI, Sullivan’s career: 355 games, 927 ABs, 8 HR, 78 RBI, 25 SB, .279 AVG., .330 OBP, .391 SLG. He does have the reputation of being a very good fielder, though the sabermetrics don’t necessarily support it.

The only way this signing makes sense is if it is a small part of something bigger brewing. For example, maybe the Mets are about to ship Ryan Church and Daniel Murphy to Colorado for Aaron Cook or Jeff Francis, and will then sign Adam Dunn and Manny Ramirez to play the corners — both of whom WOULD require late-inning defensive replacements. Pipe dream, I know, but dreams are about all we Mets have left at this point in the Hot Stove season.


Can the Mets Make a Deal?

It’s less than a month before spring training, and the Mets still need a frontline, #2 / #3 type starter; middle relief help; starting rotation depth; and a legitimate left fielder (who ideally bats with power from the right side). They also have a question at second base and might have interest in upgrading the catching position — though those issues are not nearly as dire as the others.

If you hear it from Omar Minaya, however, the only question is the starting pitching. Whether he’s lying through his teeth or not is up for debate, but his public opinion is that the middle relief will be handled by one of the rule 5 picks and Sean Green; the starting pitching depth is covered by Jon Niese and Bobby Parnell; and he’s very comfortable with Fernando Tatis and Dan Murphy in left field.

The reality is that, if he truly believes what he says, then the Mets are likely to finish in third … or fourth place. The Phillies, Braves, and Marlins all will be competitive in ’09, and the Mets as currently assembled do not look head and shoulders above any of them. They could tip the scales their way with the acquisition of a big bat and a solid starter, and there’s still time to do so.

However, it appears that neither of those acquisitions will come through free agency. It’s interesting to see the media and fans clamoring for the return of Oliver Perez — only months ago, many of these same people couldn’t see the inconsistent Ollie flee fast enough. That said, the idea that Perez is the “frontline” starter the Mets need is somewhat amusing. But hey, he’s the best left of a sorry lot, and if the Mets can re-sign him, then that one hole is filled.

But if they don’t, what is their recourse? The latest rumor suggests that Ben Sheets is the answer. Sheets does have frontline skills, but would the Mets want to add another health risk to a rotation filled with question marks? The next-best option after Sheets is Jon Garland, who is a nice innings-eater but at best a #4.

Conversely, the big bat the Mets need has been staring them in the face all winter: Manny Ramirez. For whatever reason, though, they continue to resist making an offer to the best righthanded hitter in the universe. After Manny, no options exist; the only other righthanded-hitting outfielders of consequence are Andruw Jones, Jay Payton, Jonny Gomes, and Kevin Millar (though, Moises Alou has not yet officially retired). Like Manny, the Mets have shown no interest in any of these players.

Maybe the Mets sign one of the aforementioned starters. But if they don’t go after Manny — and that appears to be a foregone conclusion — where will they find that righthanded bat for left field? Certainly not from the farm system — the only position player close to MLB ready is Nick Evans, who was overmatched in his short stint last year. A trade would have to be made.

But what do the Mets have available for a trade? Their organization is so low on valuable chips, it took four minor leaguers, three MLBers, and help from the Indians to obtain J.J. Putz. In order to make a trade for an impact bat, the Mets would likely need to orchestrate a similarly complex deal, or create another hole to fill.

Naturally, the Mets won’t be trading Jose Reyes, David Wright, Carlos Beltran, Mike Pelfrey, nor Johan Santana. You can probably add Carlos Delgado to that mix, and it’s hard to believe they’d swap away John Maine — he’s needed for the rotation and his injury puts his stock at an all-time low. No one wants Luis Castillo, so forget about that idea. Ryan Church might have some value, but because of his headaches, his greatest value may be to the Mets. Pedro Feliciano also might draw interest, but then the Mets are without a steady lefty in the bullpen. At times this winter, there’s been talk of moving Brian Schneider, perhaps to the Red Sox but 1) will he be enough to bring back an offensive force, and 2) if so, where do they find a new starting catcher? Would free agent Ivan Rodriguez be an option? The Mets would need to move fairly quickly to swap Schneider and still have time to sign Pudge.

Looking around MLB, there isn’t an abundance of available outfielders that fit the Mets’ needs. Righthanded hitters with some punch have become a rarity — which is why the Phillies were forced to add LH-hitting Raul Ibanez to their already lefty-heavy lineup. A quick look around turns up the names Eric Byrnes, Austin Kearns, Jose Guillen, Marcus Thames, Xavier Nady, and Gary Matthews, Jr., as players who might be available. Not exactly an awe-inspiring group, and yet most of them are probably unattainable in return for what the Mets have for trading chips. It might make sense to spin a youngster like Evans for a proven hitter stuck in AAA — someone like Matt Murton — or to take a chance on a guy who once showed promise, such as Gomes. But that doesn’t really upgrade the current situation of uncertainty in the outfield — rather, it muddles it further. There are only so many at-bats available in spring training to offer the likes of Tatis, Murphy, Evans, Jeremy Reed, Angel Pagan, Marlon Anderson, and whomever else is invited to ST.

Bottom line — unless their thinking changes in regard to the free agent pool, the Mets are likely to enter spring training with similar personnel as they have today. But of course, anything can happen.


Lineup Comparison: Phillies

Consider this: the “team to beat” is the Phillies, so the Mets’ focus should be on putting a team on the field that is better head-to-head. I don’t believe that the Mets’ pitching staff — even with the game shortened to seven innings — is head and shoulders above the Phillies’. Where the Mets have an advantage at the end of the game, the Phillies appear to be stronger through the first seven. So the separating factor between the two teams is more likely to come down to offense — an area where they were exact equals in 2008, tying for second in the NL with 799 runs apiece.

The question is, can each team score almost 800 runs again, and/or, will one team have an offensive edge?

Comparing the two lineups, it’s a close call. The Mets have Jose Reyes, David Wright, Carlos Beltran, and most likely Luis Castillo occupying the first four spots in the lineup. The Phillies counter with a top four of Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard. We can argue which team is stronger leadoff through cleanup, but I tend to think that — even if Dan Murphy is the Mets’ #2 hitter — the teams are pretty close to equal. Similarly, the bottom of the orders are comparable — right now it looks like the Brian Schneider / Ramon Castro platoon hitting eighth vs. the Chris Coste / Carlos Ruiz tandem.

Where the edge will come, then, is in batting spots 5 through 7. It’s my cockamamie theory that the team strongest 5-7 will be the NL East champions in 2009.

Take a look at the comparison side by side:

Raul Ibanez | Carlos Delgado
Jayson Werth / Geoff Jenkins | Ryan Church
Pedro Feliz / Gregg Dobbs | Fernando Tatis / Daniel Murphy

The order above is interchangeable, but what I tried to do was pair up the combinations that most closely matched. Ibanez and Delgado are similar in that they’re both entering the twilights of their careers, but had strong enough finishes to their ’08 campaigns to provide optimism for ’09. I think this comparison, like the first four hitters, is a wash. I expect a dropoff from Ibanez due to the change in leagues and aging process, but CBP may artificially soften that downward trend. Delgado will still hit more homeruns, but Ibanez will swat more doubles and hit 25-30 points higher. In the end their runs and RBI totals should be close.

Where the Phillies really had an advantage last year was in the #6 and #7 holes, which featured any combination of Jayson Werth, Pedro Feliz, Greg Dobbs, and Geoff Jenkins. The Werth / Jenkins tandem last year combined for .260 AVG. /33 HR/96 RBI production. Feliz had his typical injury-riddled year, dotted with hot streaks and cold streaks, and Dobbs might have hit a little over his head at .301. None of those players are guaranteed to repeat their performances, mind you, but all of them have enough history to lead you to believe they’ll come close.

That said, I’m not sure Church can approach the production of Werth / Jenkins (or Werth on his own, if that’s how it shakes out). Looking at each’s skillset, Church and Werth may well put up close to equal numbers. But that will only happen if Werth’s 2008 was his ceiling, AND Church can significantly increase his ability to divert pitches over the wall.

Just as concerning, I don’t know that the Tatis / Murphy experiment is going to be head and shoulders above the Pedro Feliz / Greg Dobbs combination. If Feliz can stay healthy — which is a big if — he’ll hit his typical .250, and probably hit 20-22 homers. Dobbs may not hit .300 again, but his 9 HRs and 40 RBI in 226 ABs were a followup to 10 HR and 55 RBI in 324 ABs in 2007. In other words, there’s a decent shot that the 30-year-old Dobbs provides similar numbers in ’09. If so, that gives the Phillies a combined #7 hitter with a line somewhere in the neighborhood of a .270 AVG., 30 HR, and 100 RBI. Can Tatis and Murphy match that? Again, there would have to be either a status quo or decline on the Phillies’ duo, and a trend upward for the Mets. Not impossible, but another case of hopes and wishes.

Of course, the Mets could remove all doubt by signing Manny Ramirez. However, all indications suggest that won’t happen. In fact, the Mets likely won’t sign either of the other two impact bats still available — Adam Dunn and Bobby Abreu. Beyond those three, there might be a few veteran hitters who, with a little luck, could tip the lineups into the Mets’ favor — someone like Andruw Jones, Kevin Millar, Garret Anderson, Jonny Gomes, or Ken Griffey. Millar, in particular, would seem to be a nice fit, as he could spell both Delgado and Church, and/or be the platoon partner for Murphy in left, and provide a solid RH bat off the bench. But, Millar could be looking for a regular job elsewhere, and even if he is interested in wearing the orange and blue, Tony Bernazard still holds a grudge against him for crossing the picket line in 1994 (Bernazard was an important pencil-pusher for the MLBPA back then).

But in the end, none of the free agents appear to be on the Mets’ radar, and it’s hard to see a situation where the Mets can import one via trade. Their top trading chips for an MLB position player are Murphy, Jon Niese, and Fernando Martinez, and they’d probably have to trade at least two of those three to get back an impact bat. The chance of that happening is about as likely as Eric Byrnes arriving in return for Luis Castillo — slim and none.

In short, the Mets and Phillies, as currently constituted, appear to be equal again offensively. The Phillies are probably done making offseason moves. So, if the Mets can acquire one more big bat, it would give them an edge — at least, offensively.

Unfortunately, the Mets still have to make three or four moves to improve the pitching staff, and their “one thing at a time” approach suggests that bat may not make it by spring training.