Tuesday, January 29, 2008

HALLELUJAH! The Mets' Pitching Woes Are No More

Just get a pitcher. Someone who can really contribute. Those were the desperate cries of Mets fans all over the globe, who collectively watched the worst collapse in sports history last season. Well, after much worry and anticipation, the Mets have brought someone in. The man that super baseball geek Tim Kurkjian referred to as “the clear cut best pitcher in baseball” is, in principal, a New York Met. That man is Twins superstar Johan Santana. No one needs a lecture on Santana’s stats. He has been the triple crown winner (strikeouts, wins, ERA) over the last four years in all of major league baseball. The soon-to-be 29-year-old lefty has a record of 82-35 over the past five years. Simply put, Santana is the nastiest dude around.
Some may quickly become skeptical, pondering the astronomical price the Mets must have paid the Twins. Well, fear not, Mets’ faithful. Omar Minaya is great at his job, as he proved through this deal. The Mets’ have given four of their top seven prospects (according to Baseball America), but managed to keep their top prospect, outfielder Fernando Martinez. Sure, Carlos Gomez will be missed. Kevin Mulvey, Phillip Humber and Deolis Guerra are all great prospects. But that is all they are. For unproved prospects, we can get the best pitcher in the Major Leagues? The paragon of pitching in baseball will be a New York Met, and for prospects, and not even the top prospect, the price is cheap.
Of course, there is one catch. Omar Minaya and his front-office gang must sign Johan to a contract extension within 72 hours. Considering the fact that Barry Zito, a good pitcher but not even a perennial all-star, signed a 7 year, $125 million contract last year with the Giants, Johan’s price tag will only be higher. But, that is what is so great about being a Mets fan. The Mets are not the Royals, nor are they the Pirates or (Hallelujah) the Marlins. Freddy Wilpon will drop the cash for Johan Santana, and all Omar needs to do is lock the southpaw up for as long as he can. The Mets have come too far in this process for the extension not to happen. They are certainly a PR conscious team. Ergo I have no doubt that Johan Santana will officially be a Met by Friday.
After last year’s September fiasco, every Met fan screamed for some pitching, just a little bit of pitching. Is a quality start every now and then so much to ask? Well Omar Minaya heard your screams, folks, and instead of groans and sentiments of utter disgust, there will be cheers and feelings of glee. What were the Mets missing last year? What has been their absolute top priority this off-season? An ace. Someone who can set the pace for the four starters following him. Remember, this is the same Johan who not only threw a complete game shutout at Shea Stadium in 2007, but also doubled twice. This move will take the Mets from a contender in the NL East to the best team in the National League, and maybe even all of baseball.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Pagan Acquisition, Chavez Injury, Kotsay to the Braves and the Mets Trade for Blanton?

We love Endy Chavez for many things. "The Catch" against the Cardinals in game 7 of the 2006 NLCS. His great energy. His tremendous defense. The one thing we don't love is when Endy is hurt. He played in just 71 games last season and his loss creating gaping hole in the depth of our bench. So when I heard that Endy injured not only his hamstring but also his right ankle while playing winter ball in Venezuela I was unsure of his status with the Mets. Especially considering the fact that we will platoon a plethora of different guys at Right this season, I was really hoping Endy would get more playing time than he has in the past. But another injury. And now, in addition to newly acquired Ryan Church, Endy will have to compete for playing time against ex-Cub Angel Pagan.
Pagan is a 26 year old switch-hitting speedster, who plays all 3 outfield spots. Pagan is not new to the Mets, as he was traded from the organization in 2006, after being with them since 2000. He started 69 games over 2 seasons in Chicago, and is regarded as a good energy guy off the bench who can steal a base every now and then. 
An energy guy off the bench with speed? Sounds like someone I know. Was this move made by Omar simply because the Mets have seen a guy like Endy and Omar thought, "We should get another one of those?" Or is it because Endy will be leaving us in a deal for an ace? 
The most likely reason for Pagan's addition seems to be the latter. Any team would want Endy, as he is a low-priced, valuable commodity. So who Omar, who could it possibly be now? Johan seems like it just will not happen, and the Mets have fallen way behind the Mariners in the Erik Bedard Sweepstakes. Perhaps it will be the A's Joe Blanton, who was dangled earlier this off-season by Oakland. The A's just yesterday traded starting center fielder Mark Kotsay for reliever Joey Devine, so the A' s have a hole to fill. If they are willing to fill it with Endy and are not looking for too much else in return for Blanton (i.e. someone not named Humber, Pelfrey or Mulvey), it seems that the Mets must pull the trigger.
Believe me, I don't want to see Endy go. But here he is injured again, the Mets have just acquired an Endy Jr. in Angel Pagan, and the A's have an open spot in their outfield. We desperately need a starter, and our window to make a deal is running out. So prepare to say good-bye to Endy, Mets fans, and hello to Joe Blanton.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Worst Collapse in Sports History=Raise in Ticket Prices? Give Me a Break

As you may have heard by now, tickets for the 2008 season at Shea Stadium will increase by 20%.  Of course, often times after a season, teams are  inclined to raise prices, especially for a team building a new stadium on New York City real estate. The Boston Red Sox have increased prices consistently since their 2004 World Series Championship, and raised prices dramatically again for the 2008 season, after claiming another title in 2007. But in the Mets' case, is this another harsh move which the Mets suits will claim is just "business"? It may seem unfathomable and even downright stupid, but are the Wilpons and Co. making the Mets less accessible as time goes on? Prices are going up. The 57,000 seat Shea Stadium is being replaced with the 45,000 seat Citi Field. Prices are higher. Fewer seats will eventually be available. And all this after Mets fans' hearts were stomped on and thrown in a blender through the hell that was September? Come on Freddy. Give me a break. We have yet to make a move to significantly improve our club, and although it may not be intrinsically correct, can we not agree that the Mets' franchise owes us, the fans, a little something? 
Going into '08, 16% of seats will be in the $10 range, which is nice for the economical fan. However, what if you don't want to be stuck in the nosebleeds where the jets from nearby Laguardia scrape your head? This is where the new prices really come in to effect. Loge boxes near home plate, which last year cost $71, will be raised to $88. If a family of four wanted a great experience at Shea, what used to be somewhat affordable  now simply may spread a family too thin. Enough of this garbage. Fred Wilpon, make the Mets accessible, and give the fans an affordable, quailty expereince which they can afford!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Brian Schneider: An Upgrade?

When first hearing that Omar Minaya’s replacement for Paul Lo Duca would be Brian Schneider, I was disappointed. We had had the opportunity to sign Yorvit Torrealba of the Rockies, who had come off a great playoff run. There was talk of trading for Gerald Laird of the Rangers, who is a young, exciting prospect, who probably wouldn’t cost very much. I did consider the fact that Schneider (31) is 4 years younger than Lo Duca (35), but Lo Duca also has 4 more All-star appearances. But I have faith in Omar and knew he would not let our catching unit decline from last year.
On the offensive side, Lo Duca is regarded around the league for rarely striking out, and for keeping a walks-to-strikeout ratio close to one. Lo Duca struck out only 33 times in 2007, while he walked 24 times. However, in what is supposedly Lo Duca’s strongest offensive category, it seems Schneider is equal, if not better. His BB to K ratio is 1 on the dot, as he struck out and walked 56 times apiece. Similarly, the knock on Schneider is his low batting average of .235 compared to Lo Duca’s .272. However, offensively, Schneider really does have the upper-hand. Neither is a homerun hitter (Lo Duca had 9, Schneider had 6) or an RBI machine (both had 54). Both had 28 extra base hits, which is not impressive. So it seems there is only one more significant category, that being on-base percentage. Here is where the numbers are most astonishing. Although Lo Duca hit nearly 40 points higher than Schneider, his OBP is 15 points lower than Schneider’s .326. Although there is the major discrepancy between the batting averages, Schneider really makes up for it with his OBP, and every other stat is nearly the same or better than Lo Duca.
Defensively, Schneider seems to be the clear-cut choice. While 72 of the 94 runners that ran against Lo Duca were successful (a CS% of just 23%), only 53 of 77 were successful against Schneider (a CS% of 31). Furthermore, Schneider is coming off a year of tremendously important experience, as he caught a plethora of young pitchers for the Nationals. If the Mets are to keep both Phillip Humber and Mike Pelfrey, they will both certainly have extended time in the big leagues, and Schneider will be a great calming influence. Schneider could also help Joe Smith out of the bullpen, who really fell apart in the second half of 2007. With Ramon Castro adding a strong bat off the bench and Brian Schneider’s command and knowledge of the game, the Mets’ catching unit in 2008 should be equal, if not an upgrade over the 2007 model.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Really? Kyle Lohse?

The Mets need pitching help. Any baseball fan knows that. We have faith in Omar Minaya to bring us what we need in the off-season. He has not done very much so far, and with every day that passes, our window for obtaining pitching diminishes. We have demanded for Minaya to get aggressive and deal some prospects (see my post from Dec. 25), or to at least sign the likes of mid-level pitcher such as Carlos Silva. But with the news that the Phillies have dropped out of the Kyle Lohse bidding war, it seems that the Mets have become front runners. For some, this may be a relief, as the Mets will get a relatively young ( he's 29) middle of the rotation starter. But of course, there is a catch, that being Lohse's agent, the infamous Scott Boras. This is the same Scott Boras who negotiated Barry Zito's deal with the Giants for 7 years and $126 million dollars just a year ago. He is reportedly asking for $1o million a year for 4 years for Lohse. Is he serious? 10 million dollars for a guy who went 9-12 with a 4.62 ERA last year. For 10 million dollars, can I at least have an ERA below 4.50, or a .500 record? The Mets do have a good relationship with Boras, but lowering the price on one of his clients is quite a difficult task. 
 Come on Omar. Not only would signing Lohse be a waste of money, but he is not the answer. We need a horse, an ace who will give us quality starts. Lohse is a vet, having been in Minnesota, Cincinnati, and Philadelphia, but at best he is a 3, more likely 4th starter. Having Lohse would basically end all interest the Mets had in other starters available, as presumably the budget would be gone in Lohse's ridiculous contract. That would be the Mets would fall out of any talks with the Twins, and would squash a potentially huge deal with Orioles for Erik Bedard. The Mets need to make a move, but that move needs to be one that will help us move forward, not one that will push us back. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Screw the Future! The Mets' Time is Now

88 wins. One short. All we needed was one win against a team that was 21 games under .500. Tom Glavine. 300 game-winner. One of the most talented and prolific left-handers in the history of Baseball. Sure, Willie Randolph and Mets fans across the globe collectively thought, he's 41. But he's the only Mets' pitcher in nearly 30 years to start 30 or more games in 4 consecutive years. Ergo, everyone had faith. It could never happen to us, could it? The most pathetic and drastic collapse in baseball and potentially all sports history by our team? Preposterous! So the 41 year old southpaw takes the hill. And we smile. We're ready to tell Phillies fans to shut it after we beat them in a playoff. But the baseball gods had other plans. We all know the story. Tom Glavine has the worst outing of his career, and history is made, as our formerly proud orange and blue are now the laughing stock of  the sports world. So what was the problem? Can we truly blame Glavine, who had the weight of the entire Mets' season on his shoulders? What if any other starter stepped up and won in the week before the final one, wouldn't that have eliminated the desperation of that fateful game? Well, no matter the answer, we now know that Omar and the Mets' front office needs to get us some starting pitching. We acknowledge that Jose Reyes' bat took a hiatus, and the rest of the Met hitters followed suit, but I find it hard to believe that our best player can be the cause of the fiasco that was the month of September. 
So here we are, on Christmas Day, still without a cure to the disease of our biblical-aged pitching staff. We lost Tom Glavine, which lowers are average age, but now we're simply left without a pitcher, as opposed to a younger one. It is going to cost us, whether it is Fernando Martinez, Carlos Gomez, Mike Pelfrey or Phillip Humber. But let us imagine the benefits of completely disregarding the team three years down the line. No matter if its Erik Bedard or Dan Haren or even Johan, these men are young (which is an extremely relative term in the case of the Mets).  Sure, its possible any one of them could have a terrible game down the stretch, but these all-stars would have contributed enough additional quality starts that one game would not have cost us everything. Plain and simple, we know our window for a shot at a championship is running out. Moises Alou  Carlos Delgado really showed their age in 2007,and  even Billy Wagner is balding. Other prospects will come to the Mets. Don't simply treat us to the services of Matt Wise and Ryan Church. Get us a starting pitcher, and do it now! We cannot finish one win shy again this coming year. The loss cannot come at the hands of a cellar dweller team  It may cost us later, but we can get to the series, and we can win it all. Let's do it!