This winter will be abuzz with rumors surrounding San Diego Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. Some think his breakout 2009 season is a fluke, while others believe he’s on the brink of superstardom. In a well-researched article, contributing stathead Matt Himelfarb answers the question: Is Adrian Gonzalez worth it?
Over the past 24 hours, two MLB general managers were relieved of their duties.
Ricciardi was the golden boy oft-mentioned in Moneyball, but was unable to turn his saber-magic into success in Toronto.
The SI.com article summed up his tenure thusly:
The 2009 campaign was a microcosm of Ricciardi’s tenure as GM. There was a hopeful start, a sudden collapse, a lack of resources to turn things around, a spate of injuries, some painful decisions related to bad contracts and ultimately, pessimism for the future.
Ricciardi didn’t exactly employ Moneyball tactics in Toronto — in fact it was his irresponsible, unBeanelike contract decisions that contributed to his firing (for example: 2 years/$18M for Frank Thomas; 5-year deal for BJ Ryan; opt-out for AJ Burnett; long-term, expensive deals for Vernon Wells and Alex Rios).
Though his record as a GM is unimpressive, Ricciardi was spectacular as a scout, special assistant, and director of player personnel in Oakland. It’s doubtful anyone will consider him for another GM position anytime soon — particularly after the way he handled (bumbled) the Roy Halladay situation this season, and his ill-conceived, public comments regarding Adam Dunn last year. A return to a less-public position in someone’s front office would make sense. As you may know, Ricciardi began his baseball career in the New York Mets organization — he was a Rookie League and A-ball teammate of Billy Beane in the early 1980s. As you also may know, the Mets are rebuilding their front office, and in need of a special assistant and/or director of player personnel.
Similarly, the Mets could be in the market for someone like Kevin Towers, who is leaving San Diego after 15 years as the Padres GM. You don’t spend that much time in a position unless you’re doing something right — and Towers did a fine job keeping stability and executing successful rebuilding phases under the constraints of what was usually a small-market budget.
It appears that the Mets are going to give Omar Minaya at least another year to right the ship, but he could benefit from (or be pushed by) Towers’ presence — say as an assistant GM. Towers’ eye for finding talent off the scrap heap and his ability to make shrewd deals would be helpful with the anticipated cut in payroll.
The Mets are in the midst of making big changes in their organization, and will be hiring new faces. Here are two with proven track records who can make an immediate and positive impact.
**** UPDATE *************************
Joel Sherman reports that Omar Minaya could be considering both Ricciardi and Towers.
Mets 5 Padres 1
Put away that broom — there will be no sweep in San Diego!
One of the big reasons the Mets acquired Johan Santana was to avoid prolonged losing streaks. What they didn’t count on, though, were periods of losing 6 out of 8, or 7 out of 10.
In any case, thanks to the brilliant pitching of Johan, and an unusual output by the offense, the Mets avoided a four-game sweep and pushed their record to 52-59 — a mere 10 games behind the Phillies, only 9 behind in the Wild Card standings, and more than a dozen games ahead of the Washington Nationals.
Johan hurled 8 masterful frames, allowing 1 run on 5 hits and 2 walks. Against his better judgment, he handed the game to countryman Francisco Rodriguez, who did not disappoint. K-Rod was absolutely spectacular, coaxing three outs from the Padres without yielding a run. He would’ve earned himself his second save of the second half, too, if it weren’t for that meddling kid Danny Murphy, who drove in an insurance run in the top of the ninth that gave the Mets the four-run lead and removed a save situation.
If only Murphy could hit .330 – .350 and run well, he’d be a serious candidate for 1B next year. But if you’re not Rod Carew, you can’t be a slap-hitting first baseman. Murphy has definitely proven to be “money” with runners in scoring position, and did a great job on a tough two-strike pitch to dump the ball into the outfield and drive in that fifth run. Maybe there’s still time to move him to second base … or sign Manny Ramirez / Matt Holliday in the offseason to make up for his lack of punch.
Five Mets had two hits in this ballgame, including Santana, who was 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored.
Also 2-for-3 was Anderson Hernandez, who had been passed over in previous days to inject more offense into the lineup.
Jeff Francoeur had two hits and is now hitting an even .300 in August. He’s 11 for his last 30.
Next Mets Game
The Mets’ late summer western swing continues in Arizona at 9:40 PM EST (why they can’t start the game 40 minutes earlier is beyond me … don’t they go to bed early out there?). Mike Pelfrey takes the mound in opposition to Doug Davis.
In unrelated news, the Yankees will be facing Marc Rzepczynski of the Blue Jays tomorrow. Say that name ten times fast.
Padres 3 Mets 1
Bobby Parnell started his first MLB game, but fell far short of finishing it. In fact, he couldn’t finish the third inning.
Parnell allowed two runs on four hits and three walks in 2 1/3 innings, but it felt a lot longer and a lot worse than that. In some ways, the game as a whole resembled a Steve Trachsel episode — it just dragged on and on. And on.
Parnell’s outing would not have been so bad if the Mets mounted a rally at any point in the contest. But, like the evening previous, they shot their load in the first frame — scoring all of one run, on an improbable homer by Alex Cora. The Mets mustered only five hits all night, with Cora’s aberration the only extra-base effort.
Remarkably it could’ve been worse, as the Padres left 13 men on base. The Mets were lucky it was a two-run game.
Oh, and to twist that knife just a bit more … Heath Bell — last night’s winning pitcher — earned his 28th save. For those counting, that’s four more than Frankie Rodriguez. And the Padres have only 47 wins all year.
Parnell threw a total of 68 pitches, two shy of his “limit” of 70 — and double the amount he pitched on any one day previously this season. I remain absolutely stunned that an organization with so few personnel as talented and youthful as Parnell can be so incredibly irresponsible.
But it gets better. According to Jerry Manuel during the SNY postgame, Parnell is expected to go to 85 PITCHES in his next start !!! Who is the genius making these illogical decisions?
Heck, why not make K-Rod a starter? He should be able to hurl a good 75-80 pitches. And he’s not getting many save opportunities, so it will be a great way to get him work. And like Parnell, Frankie Fantastic was a starter in the minors, so he can do it.
BTW, people made fun of me when I joked about “reversing the game” in a post at MetsBlog last year. But with this game the Mets have executed it. Is it any surprise a joke became reality in this comedy of errors we call the Mets’ season?
The Mets are now 51-59. They have not been 8 games under .500 since 2004 — in the days when Art Howe “lit up a room”.
Next Mets Game
The final game of the four-game series will be played at 4:05 PM on Sunday afternoon. Johan Santana goes to the mound against former Saratoga Springs prep star Tim Stauffer.
Padres 6 Mets 2
Beware of Mount Everth.
We kept waiting for the bubble to burst, the shoe to fall, the dam to break, the bricks to fall — the Ollie to implode. Indeed, we sat sweating at the edge of our seats, nails chewed to the nub, through 6 full innings, waiting for the inevitable to occur.
Finally, in the seventh, Perez walked the first two batters he faced — a sure sign that doom was looming. He was momentarily saved by an undisciplined cement-head hacker named Kouzmanoff, then teetered back toward danger when Chase Headley blasted a double to deep left-center that scored one and placed runners on second and third.
Then, a few minutes past the stroke of midnight (EST), and a hair before Ollie’s ride home was to turn back into a pumpkin, Brian Stokes arrived and preserved the otherwise fine performance turned in by the Mets’ enigmatic lefty. Stokes put out that fire and then one he stoked of his own in the eighth before yielding to the record holder for saves in a single season, Francisco Rodriguez.
Remarkably, on a rare night where Oliver Perez kept himself together, it was Frankie Fantastic who suffered a meltdown.
K-Rod began the ninth by walking the leadoff batter, Kyle Blanks. He then allowed a double to Will Venable, scoring Blanks. He then walked Henry Blanco, and intentionally walked Oscar Salazar to load the bases. He then engaged battle with the 5’9″, 170-lb., 22-year-old rookie Everth Cabrera — who had not played above A-ball prior to this season, and hit all of 8 homeruns in over 1200 professional plate appearances.
Cabrera worked the count full, and, facing six men in the infield, blasted a K-Rod fastball into the rightfield seats — a walkoff grand slam to win the ballgame.
Offensively, the Mets got two quick runs in their first turn at bat, then went to sleep. They had just one hit after the third inning, and nothing resembling a rally over the final 8 frames.
Fittingly, former Met Heath Bell was credited with the win.
The play at the plate that scored Blanks could have gone either way. Brian Schneider made a diving, swiping tag just as Blanks’ hand was reaching for home plate. Had he been called out, perhaps the game would’ve ended differently — but somehow I doubt it.
Lucky for Schneider that the 6’6″, 285-lb. Blanks chose to make a head-first slide into home. You would think that a man that size would come barreling into the plate — resembling a Mack truck or a Sherman tank. If he had, and Schneider were in the way … well, it’s an image I would not want to witness on a full stomach.
OK, so Ollie had an outstanding outing — until two runners reached base. I guess the key is for him to throw a perfect game every time out. As long as no one gets on, he should be fine.
Does Ron Darling have a memory problem, or does he think that we do? He harped on Ollie’s “new” delivery tweak — the “beautiful pause” during the leg lift and just prior to the stride. Darling went on to laud Dan Warthen for directing this adjustment, etc., etc. Well, excuse me, but the rest of us who have been watching Perez pitch since 2006, have seen this pause before — on several occasions. It may work for a while, but like all of Ollie’s attempts at consistency, it won’t last long. Further, by stopping his motion in mid-delivery, he is also stopping the forward momentum that helps drive velocity and takes pressure off the arm. This “new” delivery may be effective now, but is not likely to remain so over the long haul. It’s just another tease, and an illogical reason to believe that Ollie “has finally turned a corner”.
And by the way, Oliver’s ability to keep his shoulder closed when he drives to the plate has little to do with the pause, and more to do with the fact he is starting his windup by stepping straight back behind the rubber. By stepping straight back, it gives his body a better chance to stay on a straight line toward the plate, and part of that is keeping his front shoulder in line, or “closed”. In contrast, when he starts by stepping sideways, he starts his entire body sideways, which causes his front shoulder to over-rotate back toward centerfield early in his motion, and the equal and opposite reaction is for that shoulder to fly open early. But before you dismiss my analysis — after all, I didn’t go to Yale and I didn’t pitch in the bigs — understand that it’s not my opinion, but rather a systematic chain of events explained by some guy named Newton.
Also, while the enormous Kyle Blanks was at the plate, Darling mentioned that “the bigger the hitter, the taller they are, the more vulnerable they are to the low strike”. Kids, don’t necessarily file that as a rule. Every hitter is different, and in fact, many tall hitters tend to be “stand up” hitters, meaning they don’t have a lot of bend in their knees / don’t crouch in their stance. And a “stand up” hitter almost always tends to be a LOW-BALL hitter — usually, the reason he stays upright is because he has trouble with HIGH pitches. Though, I will agree that tall hitters generally get the shaft when it comes to pitches called as strikes below their knees, as few umpires will adjust their strike zone up (though according to the rules they are supposed to).
As long as I’m in a critical mood, what was with the Jerry Manuel love-fest during the second inning? Kevin Burkhardt’s rundown of a typical day in the life of manager Manuel was mildly entertaining (though a bit long), and I was fine with that. But even my wife, who was busy doing god-knows-what on her iPhone, disengaged in her activity and asked me why Gary Cohen and Ron Darling were going on and on and on and on about Manuel being a wonderful person, a nice guy, a lover of humanity, yadda yadda yadda. Are the latest talking points issued by SNY designed to carve a favorable image of Jerry Manuel, to justify the Mets’ keeping him on board for 2010?
As my wife asked out loud,
“Tony LaRussa’s a great manager, right? Is he considered a nice guy? What about Lou Piniella? So what does being a nice guy have to do with managing a winning team?”
And I must add, she has NO IDEA who Leo Durocher is. Bless her.
Next Mets Game
The Mets and Padres do it again at 10:05 PM on Saturday night. San Diego supposedly has perfect daytime weather, but they insist on playing night games, much to the chagrin of we bleary eyed Right Coasters. Oh well. Bobby Parnell pitches the first three innings for the Mets while 21-year-old rookie Mat Latos starts for the Padres.
Padres 8 Mets 3
Ho-hum. Good thing this one was happening on the Left Coast, so most Mets fans were asleep while it was occurring.
Except, even the Mets fans who stayed awake to witness this depressing contest were fighting to keep their eyes open beyond the third inning.
Livan Hernandez did not pitch well. One would expect that a San Diego lineup full of youngsters would be easy prey for the wily veteran. However, these kiddies were clearly equipped with a game plan: make Livan throw the ball in the strike zone. Their collective discipline was devastating to Livan’s roundabout strategy from frame one, as the Friars worked him over for two runs and then another four in the third. Remarkably, Jerry Manuel left Livan in the game through the madness, and he gave up one more in the fifth before finally leaving.
Tim Redding got back to his usual routine, allowing the eighth Padre run in the seventh inning.
Meantime, the offense could do nothing against rookie lefthander Clayton Richard, who mowed down the Mets with ease before running out of gas in the sixth. The Mets mounted a mildly inspiring rally to chase Richard from the game, but Danny Murphy stifled it with a double-play grounder.
Aside from that rally-killing grounder, Murphy had two hits in four at-bats, as did Fernando Tatis. Tatis drove in a run and had the Mets’ only extra-base hit of the evening.
After watching Hernandez allow four runs in the third inning, and seeing him return to pitch the fourth, the fate of the Mets’ season became crystal-clear. The season is over, done, finished. Livan was left out there to dry, to save the bullpen. In other words, the game had been conceded. From here on it’s an early version of spring training, as the Mets will be holding auditions for the 2010 season. But hang in there, folks, and buy tickets — the Carloses are returning any week now!
Speaking of 2010, San Diego has some intriguing youngsters to build on for the future. Clayton Richard reminds me a bit of Cole Hamels, and they have some potent bats in Chase Headley and Will Venable. Everth Cabrera looks like a young Jose Reyes with his speed and fielding ability — though I’d like to see him dive for more balls. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this team compete again within 2-3 years.
Next Mets Game
The second game of the series will be played at 10:05 PM on Friday night. Oliver Perez hurls against his old team while Kevin Correia pitches for the Padres.
In part two of our Window Shopping series, we look at the San Diego Padres, who gave up on the season before it began.
This may not be huge news now, but it could become important later in the season, if either a Mets outfielder suffers an injury or is traded (read: Ryan Church).
The 34-year-old Brown will be assigned to AAA Buffalo. He hit .244 with 13 HRs with the Athletics last year. Generally speaking, he’s a free swinger who crushes lefthanded pitching, but overall is a low OBP, high-strikeout hitter with a little bit of pop and average running speed. He hits from the right side and plays good defense in either corner, often flashing a fairly strong throwing arm.
Considering the dearth of talent available in Buffalo, this was a necessary pickup.