What can I say?
Well, I can’t say that I expected what I saw as I sat in the stands listening to Brandon and Alexa’s absolute awfulness shoved down my ears. After all, coming off a series against the Diamondbacks where we hit like the dickens, I expected, well, something.
But did I really? I think I got the first inkling that the Mets might not play well as I entered through the rotunda, seeing the Mets Starting Lineup, Presented by Topps. “Juan Lagares, CF,” said the sixth card.
“What the hell…?” I said to my friend. “Lagares is on the D.L, as I know all too well.” At the time, I thought it had merely been the latest in a series of gaffs, such as the concept of “in-game hosts” or the demolition of Shea Stadium. However, during one of the Mets surprisingly many stretches of futility for a game that lasted three hours, I reflected on what I had seen.
“Were they trying to keep it a secret?” I asked myself, ignoring the stuttering hosts on the screen, who were presenting various winners with free t-shirts, despite the fact that it was already the heavily promoted free-shirt Friday. “Did they not want people to know?”
“There’s no way,” I thought at first, which shows just how naïve Mets fans can be. “There’s no way they were trying to keep the decision between a busted-prospect-turned career minor leaguer and a guy who batted .200 last year a secret…right?”
But then I remembered – this is the Mets. And when it comes to the Mets, there’s no telling who’s doing what, who’s going where, and why things are as they are. Take today’s starting lineup – Sandy Alderson, who spent $22.5 million on hitters this offseason, trotted out a starting lineup with, as is the norm, eight position players. Six of these players – count ‘em, six – had batting averages below .250 in 2013. Five of those players had averages below .230.
I think I really got my first inkling that something was wrong when I heard the initial reaction to the Chris Young signing. “I like it,” I heard. “He’s a professional hitter, and he’s got a good glove.”
“Are you sure?” I replied. “This is a guy whose batting average since 2011 is .225, and his defense isn’t good enough to make up for that.”
But nobody listened, because the Mets were in the news, and that made people (including myself) happy. Which brings me back to the real problem: the news.
The Mets aren’t in the news enough. Well, let me amend that. The Mets aren’t in the news enough for good reasons. Sure, the Mets have had their fair share of exposure for Bartolo Colón, Chris Young, Curtis Granderson…taking Colón out of the equation for now, those are two hitters worth, based on their numbers not just this year but over the past few years (and Granderson was in Yankee Stadium), about $3 million total. So why’d you sign ‘em, Sandy? Well, the answer is making itself clear to me, a little bit at a time: Sandy, like, to an extent, the rest of us, was hungry to make the news.
So the problem, Sandy, is not that you’re doing nothing, although…wait, what am I saying? That is most certainly a problem. However, another, underrated problem, is that you’re doing the wrong things. Did we need Chris Young? Would that money not have been better spent on Corey Hart, or Kendrys Morales, or one of the seemingly million free agent first basemen who will hit .270 with 20 home runs? I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – the best, easiest way to compile a championship team is to assemble a lineup with zero easy outs. Well, Sandy, we’ve got some homegrown easy outs in the lineup, and you’ve done nothing about them (hem, hem, Ruben Tejada), but we’ve also got some pretty easy outs in the lineup that you paid millions of dollars for despite the clear and overwhelmingly obvious evidence that they would, in fact, be easy outs. And that is the problem.
So, if I had to have a message, it would be this: if you’re going to make a signing, go all out. Don’t just make a signing because you think it will shut the fans up, because Mets fans, despite the fact that we’ve been patient with your Nixon-esque “plan” for the past few years, are not a stupid bunch. You show us a .200 hitter who you babble on about as if he’s only a notch down from Ted Williams, and we see, well, a .200 hitter. We’ve seen enough, over the years, to know a good signing from a bad signing. Clearly, the team has problems – the earlier line about the six starters under .250 should be proof enough of that – and you can sign all the strikeout-prone outfielders you want in the hopes that the fans will get off your back, but until you take steps to fix the actual, pressing problems, we won’t let you off the hook.
P.S: Why in the world did we trade Ike Davis for yet another AAA pitcher? We’ve got no shortstop and no great first baseman, and we get rid of a first baseman in exchange for another AAA pitcher, who we have enough of (deGrom, Walters, Leathersich, Edgin, Black,…) to choke a horse? Sandy – WE DON’T NEED ANYMORE MINOR LEAGUE PITCHING. GET US SOME BATS, AND BE QUICK ABOUT IT.
What makes a team good?
Well, I learned a few things today, as I sat up the 3rd base line in Caesars (best value seat in the house). I learned what makes a team good, as well as what can make a team exactly the opposite (bad). I learned what championship teams have, and in a shockingly stark contrast, what we have as Mets fans. We have, among other things:
A leadoff hitter whose 2013 batting average was .249.
A $60 million outfielder who is playing, well, unlike a $60 million outfielder.
A catcher and shortstop who have about two hits combined this season.
A bench that seems to be worsening exponentially with every game that passes.
A bullpen that, somehow, seems to be improving.
A first baseman (one of them, at least) who might just have turned it around.
A center fielder who looks to be mashing the ball with the same authority that he uses to turn every ball in his general direction into an out.
A captain that we can depend on, because come on, he’s the captain.
A starting pitcher who looked great, then okay, and in the end, good.
A second baseman who’s as dependable as they come.
So, contrary to popular belief, it’s not all bad. In fact, if Lagares (known to the experts in my section as “That kid…”) keeps hitting the ball like they attached Ted Williams’ head to his body, and Ike hits to all fields in a manner that before today seemed purely theoretical, and Valverde and his gut and Farnsworth and his tats keep nailin’ ‘em down, then who knows? This team could be going somewhere. Of course, I could be wrong. Hell, we’ve all been wrong, and with the Mets, you’re never exactly right, if you know what I’m saying (“You want Kazmir? Fine! But for the love of god, give me Zambrano!”). But with the scent of cold drinks, burgers, fries, sun, and good ol’ baseball in the air again, I think I’ll be optimistic for a little longer. Because in the words of the eternally suffering Mets fan longing for a shred of good news: “You know, that ball’s out of Yankee Stadium.”
Tomorrow there’ll be baseball,
The teams will take the field,
And shouts of good or negative,
The tow’ring stands will yield
‘Morrow shall the game be held,
At the ground once called Shea,
But negatives we will not feel,
For there’s a game today
The fans will show up early,
On the number seven line,
“I see it! There’s the stadium!”
The children will opine
The veterans, the more seasoned,
Will overtake the parking lot,
Sausages and burgers hot
Those who cannot be there,
The students, the oppressed,
Of their wretched situations,
Still will make the best
List’ning on their radios,
Dawdling in the halls,
Eagerly will they follow
Josh and Howie with the call
Meanwhile those attending,
Gametime will await,
Their six month thirst for baseball
Food and drink just cannot sate
Finally as the time arrives,
These fans begin to wake,
Then they move more quickly,
For they’ve a game to make
The lines of eager attendees
With haste approach the seats
For today’s a day for baseball,
And the fans will not be beat
As game time fast approaches,
The players are introduced
And still the fans’ excitement,
Has yet to be unloosed
But as the fans do take their seats
They are yet called to stand,
And sung out with great passion
Will be the song of our land
Finally will the players yield,
To whomever will M.C.,
Who will introduce the home team
in this baseball game to be
He’ll start out rather simple,
He’ll say “And now, here they are,”
Then the eager fielders
will be quick to heed the call
Then nigh on 40,000 fans
Will shout out loud with joy,
Being, for a moment,
A young girl or boy
Meanwhile those being kept away
Their radios will wield,
Hoping to hear Howie say,
“Live from Citi Field”
And as we see them on the field,
Our team of these nine men,
We’ll finally absorb it –
Baseball’s really here again
The game will soon procede,
Because the season must begin,
Steadfastly will the Mets advance,
Hoping for a win
To later innings will the game,
We’ll hear our first Lou Monte
At the 7th inning stretch
When at last the game concludes,
Regardless of the score,
Back to real life we must go,
But we’ll all long for more
And as we leave the building,
As we travel to our cars,
We won’t think of women,
Or of drinking at the bars
Of social state, of government,
Of problems, of our pay,
We will not fret, complain, or worry,
‘Cause tomorrow’s Opening Day.
On what many called one of the nicest days of the year so far, Bartolo Colón took the mound at Cashman Field in Las Vegas and quickly continued proving to an eager Mets fan base that he might just go down as one of the worst Alderson signings yet. But hey, it’s still Spring Training. There’s an old saying that says, “Worrying never solved anything, but then again, neither did an overweight, 40 year old pitcher,” and I say that until Colón proves without a doubt that he’s got nothing in the tank but blubber and drugs, we give him the benefit of the doubt, just as the Mets did when they listed his weight at 265 (the actual number is believed to be closer to 400).
But like I said, it’s just Spring training.
Also, they say that Ruben Tejada is a “sure thing” to be the Opening Day shortstop, which means quite a lot, inasmuch as Jason Bay was also considered a “sure thing.” I hope, and I know that you do as well, that these “sure thing” rumors are nothing more than clever tactics to reduce the asking price for Nick Franklin, who, in case you were wondering, batted .225 last year, which may not be worth giving up Rafael Montero, having seen him pitch, and pitch brilliantly.
Oh yeah, and there’s no chance that he makes the team out of Spring Training, apparently just because.
But I wasn’t thinking about any of this as I strolled through Central Park, the most important achievement of Robert Moses now that Shea is gone. Well, I was thinking about it, but it wasn’t getting to me. It didn’t seem prudent to be bogged down by pessimism amid the warmth of the sun, the sounds of the walkers filling the roads, and above all, the Mets coming out of the speaker on my trusty transistor radio. Sure, the Mets have problems, and sure, they can get aggravating at times, but this wasn’t one of them. Spring was in the air (and on the air!), and I found myself, for once, not worried. Who says Bartolo Colón can’t be what he was last year? Who says Chris Young can’t resurrect his career? Who says Ruben Tejada can’t bat .290 again?
I do. I don’t think any of them can do any of that. But for every time that Colón screws up, for every time that Tejada boots a double play ball, for every time that Chris Young fails to get the runner in from third with less than two outs, there’s still a Mets game going on. When Colón starts doing the wave stomach, well, it’s still baseball season, isn’t it? Even when the Mets are aggravating, or infuriating, or downright stupid, they’re still there, and they’re still the best team in the world to root for. And never was that more clear than today, as I walked through the park that Moses built, with the feeling of Spring in the air.
Why can’t Noah Syndergaard start the season in the majors?
Well, there’s a whole host of reasons. Money, and we want to develop him even more than he’s already developed, and also money is important, and also something about an innings limit, and another important element is money. Really, it’s all about the money.
Really, I have nothing against having Syndergaard start the season in the minor leagues. What I DO have a problem with, however, is this whole half a season in the minors, wait-until-June, extra year of “super-2″ nonsense. By the way, here’s a fun experiment: go up to the biggest baseball fan you know or, for that matter, the owner of the Mets. Ask them what “super-2″ means. Unless they are Scott Boras or Sandy Alderson, they will have absolutely no idea what “super-2″ is, but they will have enough sense not to let it influence the way they run a baseball team. If you want to start Syndergaard off in the minors, fine, but bring him up after you gain an extra year of free agency at the end of April, not in June.
The thing about the Mets is that they operate in a different style than most other baseball clubs. Most teams adhere to the “try to win” school of thought, the basic tenets of which involve putting the best players you have on the field, and if your best players aren’t good enough, getting better ones. The Mets, on the other hand, adhere to what I call the “completely incomprehensible” school of thought, which consists of making brash statements, and then contradicting them with personnel moves that sometimes seem downright stupid. Take the last few weeks.
1) Sandy insists that the Mets can win 90 games. David Wright agrees with him.
2) Despite that, it is already assumed at every level, and may already have been confirmed by the team, that Syndergaard will probably not debut until mid-June at the earliest, although I have been hearing recently that a strong spring could lead to a call up in late April.
So, in summary, the Mets are A) claiming that they can win 90 games, and B) deliberately preventing their best players from helping them win 90 games. For comparison’s sake, it’s as if McDonalds announced that their new burger was going to be healthy, and then deliberately withheld any healthy ingredients from it. To me, at least, it doesn’t seem like the most efficient way to run a team.
Which brings us back to Syndergaard. Basically, by insisting on waiting until June to call him up, the Mets are conceding that A) their finances are so bad that the roughly $2.5 million difference between a rookie contract and a first-year arb contract is extremely important, and B) that this season is already a lost cause (that’s six in a row, for those of you keeping score at home). Teams about to make a playoff run don’t hold back their best players. Teams that are looking ahead to “The future,” on the other hand, do. I say “The future” because no one is sure exactly when this “future” is. Since about half way through the 2010 season, they told us that the future was 2013. In the beginning of 2012, they moved the future back to 2014. The current location of the future is unknown.
The Pedro Beato Fan Club has learned, via Adam Rubin, that David Wright will not play during the first week of grapefruit league games. No further details were offered by Rubin, so the assumption is that this is Wright’s “break” which Terry often referred to at the start of camp. I don’t see that Wright needs a whole week off, but if it helps Wright stay healthy this season, then hey, I’m all for it.
Ozzie Smith, the hall-of-fame (if that means anything nowadays) Cardinals shortstop, has started a petition, aimed at the Obama administration, with the aim of declaring MLB Opening Day a national holiday. The petition can be found here. The first video released by his campaign, sponsored by Budweiser, can be found here.
Honestly, this is something I’ve been advocating for a long time. There’s nothing quite so American as the warm fresh air of spring, the smell of hot dogs and burgers grilling, and the roar of the crowd. My opinion, in fact, is that baseball should be recognized as the national sport, having been recognized since around 1890 as “The American Pastime.” Unfortunately, for one reason or another, I don’t see it happening, but it’s nice that someone is finally putting the suggestion out there.
Several other well-known former players have expressed support for the project as well, including Howard Johnson, whose video can be found here.
Often, when I look at the game of baseball and the Mets aren’t winning, one thought comes to the forefront of my mind: this system is completely broken.
Allow me to explain. Look at the contract of Albert Pujols. 10 years, $250 million, and he was already on the decline. The Angels overpaid – and drastically – for one reason: his past.
This is all too common in baseball today. Just look at the contracts that have been given out: $214 million to a rapidly aging Prince Fielder, $210 million to Robinson Cano, which is already agreed upon as a bad deal no matter which team is making it – even 5 years, $125 million for a 32 year old Josh Hamilton is not looking good right now. The cause, on the surface, looks like a straight-up case of inflation caused by a combination of owner stupidity and teams being forced to overpay to outbid other competitors. But this is not, in fact, the root of the problem.
Again, I present the case of Albert Pujols. Pujols, after three absolutely stellar years in St. Louis, signed a seven year, $100 million contract extension, with an option for an 8th year, before the 2004 season. This covered his seasons for ages 24-31.
Do you see the problem yet?
Pujols signed his mega-deal with the Angels on December 8th, 2011, about a month before his 32nd birthday. It is acknowledged, for the most part, that the prime of a player’s career usually ends around the age 32 or 33 season, give or take a year either way, and often slightly later for pitchers than hitters. Despite all of the signs pointing to the inevitable conclusion that Pujol’s prime was already ending, he had signed one of the richest deals in MLB history, which would take him through his age 41 season.
The question is, how did Pujols end up in the perfect position that he did, to sign a big deal and not live up to it? If he had signed a year earlier, he would have had at least one great season with the Angels – he batted .299, with 37 home runs, in 2011. Had he hit free agency a year later, he would have been coming off a mediocre (for him) season, batting only .285 with 30 home runs, and his decline would have been much clearer, making a deal like the one he received all but impossible. So why did he hit the market at that point?
The answer, of course, is his original contract, signed with the Cardinals before the 2004 season. Contracts like this are common – David Wright, for example, signed a 6 year, $55 million contract extension in 2006, and Jose Reyes signed a deal that ended up being worth 5 years, $34 million around the same time. Homer Bailey, age 27, just days ago signed a 7 year, $105 million contract that will take him through his age 34 season. Andrelton Simmons, age 24, also recently signed a 7 year deal, worth $58 million, which will take him through his age 30 season.
So what do all of these contracts have in common?
I’m glad you asked. To illustrate, I’ll once again use the career of Albert Pujols. Pujols signed his deal, which ended up covering eight years, before the 2004 season. It did not end until he was 31. In other words, it ended just when his prime could be projected to end, leaving teams interested in signing him with a bit of a dilemna. The other deals, though most are still active, are much the same. David Wright’s deal, for example, would have expired before his age 31 season had the Mets not signed him to an extension, voiding the option year. Bailey, who, in all likelihood, will pitch effectively for several years to come, will reach free agency at age 34, just when his prime is ending.
The problem, in simpler terms, is that the way contracts are given in today’s game, GMs are forced to sign players based on what they have done in the past, despite the clear impossibility of their repeating such numbers. In 2012, no one thought that Albert Pujols would perform for 10 more years at the level of the previous 10, but the Angels doubled his salary anyway. Of course, some level of overpayment will always be necessary, but today’s system, in which a 31 year old Robinson Cano was just signed to a 10 year deal, is completely inefficient.
Look at Mike Trout. In all likelihood, the Angels, assuming they can afford it, will announce within a year or two that they have signed Mike Trout to an extension of between 6 and 9 years, worth around $150 million. Assume that Trout signs an 8 year deal. He will hit the free agent market when he is 29, turning 30 the following August. Assuming that his current level of production continues, he will be on pace to have one of the greatest all around careers of all time, approaching, when he hits the market, 400 stolen bases and 300 home runs, and maintaining a high BA/OBP and above average defense. In all likelihood, he will sign one of, if not the richest contract ever, likely for 10 years and eclipsing $300 million. And therein lies the problem.
We all know that Mike Trout will not maintain the assumed level of production through his age 39 season. We all assume, in fact, that he will likely not maintain that level of production through his age 36 season. Yet it is common practice for teams to sign players to mega-deals in the hopes of a few great seasons, often signing on for more years of salary cap problems than years of strong performance. This is assumed by many to be THE way that contracts work, and the only way that can be successful. But I’m here to tell you about my newest innovation.
What if, today, the Angels offered Mike Trout a 14 year, $280 million contract? Averaging $20 million a year for the next 14 years? That’s a deal that Trout accepts in a heartbeat. He gets a sort of insurance – he knows that even if he tears his ACL and has to miss a year, it won’t impact his free agent status, and that he’ll be well paid until he is 36. The Angels get one of the best all-around players that anyone has ever seen at what are, for this caliber of player, team friendly rates, and they don’t need to worry about committing 10 more years to Trout when he’s 30. That last point makes all the difference in the world – it’s not inconceivable to think that Trout will still be performing at a moderately high level, albeit not worth $20 million a year. Basically, Trout would be locked up until age 36, when he could still be a valuable player, at manageable rates. Compare that to the current system, under which Trout, BARRING INJURY, will make big money through, in all likelihood, his age 39 season or beyond.
But hey, what do I know? If you don’t think that Trout would accept the deal I put forward, or don’t think that it would actually benefit the Angels, by all means leave a response.
From Josh Lewin’s Blog, and only making us respect him even more
Mere words can’t express the depth of my appreciation to the dozens of you who went above and beyond on my behalf these past few months.
Many of you took the time to reach out to both the Mets and WOR, and I can’t imagine that hurt my chances of a return to the job I’m so excited about having in the first place. Two little words aren’t close to enough, but they are totally heartfelt: “THANK YOU.”
During this process, some of you have taken some shots at the Mets or WOR, and I say this not as an apologist or a company stooge, but quite sincerely – I have had nothing but great experiences with both the Wilpon Family and the new radio station. They both have the best interests of the overall collective at heart, they really do.
Also, I’m aware that those with dissenting opinions of the “Howie&Josh” dynamic have taken some shots as well… and I’ll invoke the old George Carlin line: “Like my grandpa always said, ‘hey, if everyone liked the same thing, they’d all be after your grandma.’”
I solemnly and sincerely pledge that I will try as always to make every Met fan a happy listener to our presentation… I regard this job with a near-sacred responsibility since so many are so passionate. And although I may continue to disappoint some of you, please know I’m doing my best to please everyone, but given that no two listeners have the exact same taste, that’s simply an impossible task. The late Harry Kalas used to quote Shakespeare and tell us fledgling broadcasters “to thine own self be true;” and that’s the way I’ll continue to go at it: Mets fan, a little goofy (okay, a lot goofy), not in possession of a classic radio voice, but at the very least, wanting to inform and entertain for all nine innings without fail. That’s all I can control.
I am overjoyed that I’m back for another year to live out my childhood fantasy as a Mets radio announcer. There is no better partner in the business than Howie Rose, and I am honored to return as the John Oates to his Darryl Hall. It should be a really fun and interesting year. (I can’t wait to watch Bartolo Colon run the bases, can you?)
Lastly, I would love to host as many of you as possible after Opening Day to thank you in person, buy you a beverage, and just talk a little baseball. I’m guessing McFadden’s is the spot that makes sense. Let’s touch base via twitter in late March and coordinate a meet-up, which will serve as my chance to thank you very kind people, fan to fan.
Wishing you peace, love and soul… (and thanking you all again) –
With the news earlier today that Josh Lewin will return to the booth along side Howie Rose in 2014, the only question that remains is who will host the pre and post game shows on WOR 710, the Mets’ new flagship station. Recently, via insider Adam Rubin, the following clues have come to light.
1: “There has been a prolonged negotiation with one candidate who currently works in satellite radio.”
But based on that, we can narrow it down ourselves. For instance, we can be relatively certain that this person works with a sports radio station, and that this person is either a talk-show host or has some kind of connection to baseball. With those categories in mind, I conducted an exhaustive research study of Sirius XM radio, searching for all personalities who met the following qualifications:
1: A current XM sports talk show host.
2: No distinct connection to a city other than New York (so no Dan LeBatard, for instance).
3: No connections to any specific sports other than baseball (so, you’re not going to get, say, Troy Aikman).
5: No one too big to want to do Mets pre and post game shows (Dan Patrick, not happening).
ALSO CONSIDERED: Any special connection to the New York Mets or New York specifically.
With that in mind, here are the candidates, listed in no particular order. I believe I have narrowed it down to the seven most likely to be currently engaged in “Prolonged negotiations.”
1: Casey Stern. The current host of Inside Pitch on MLB Network radio. Happens to be a “Die-hard Met fan,” according to Wikipedia, and has done Mets-related work before. Seems to be a strong candidate.
2: Jim Duquette. Former Mets GM, current host of Power Alley on MLB Network radio. I think I speak for all of us when I say, “Please, Jim, I think you’ve already done enough.” Another strong candidate.
3: Jim Bowden. Former GM of multiple teams, including Reds and Nationals. Current co-host of Inside Pitch on MLB Network radio. No strong connections to New York. Doesn’t seem a particularly special candidate, but has baseball connections.
4: Cliff Floyd, a current part-time analyst on MLB Network radio. Was reportedly being considered for Lewin’s job. An interesting (and quite likely, in my mind) candidate.
5: Chris Russo. Probably not, but maybe…? He is originally a New Yorker, so I’d say it’s not completely impossible.
6: Steve Phillips. Current analyst on Mad Dog Radio, Mets GM from 1997-2003. Another interesting candidate.
7: Adam Schein. Host on Mad Dog Radio. He’s worked on SNY in the past, so it’s plausible.