I Hate to Admit It but It’s Time for the DH In the NL

I do not like the Designated Hitter, never have and likely never will. But I am onboard with the National League finally accepting the rule first used by the American League in 1973.

The main reason for my acceptance of the DH is because in baseball everywhere, professional and amateur, the National League is the only league to not use the forty-three year old rule that allows a permanent pinch hitter for the pitcher. The DH was supposed to have been an experiment for a couple years when it was introduced for the 1973 season in the American League. Apparently the experiment is ongoing because it is now 2016 and every baseball league on this planet save one employs the DH. The Japanese Pacific and Central Leagues use the DH. The Caribbean Winter Leagues, the European Baseball leagues, and the Australian Winter League use the DH. All independent minor leagues as well as colleges and high schools use the designated hitter. Now that we have finally re-opened trade with Cuba, I’m sure we’ll learn that their talented leagues use it too.

Beyond the NL, there are a few exceptions. In Triple A and Double A, pitchers bat when two NL affiliates play each other. But when AL affiliates play NL affiliates, they don’t. However in the Pacific Coast League (AAA), the two NL affiliate rule can be overridden by the two teams if agreed upon.  In the minor leagues below AA, the DH is used regardless of affiliation. So then why in the world would National League owners want their pitchers to bat in the major leagues when they have had such little experience doing so before? Pitchers that command a huge portion of a team’s expenditure are unnecessarily exposed to potential injury when standing in the batter’s box or running the bases.

Now if I came across a genie in a bottle and was granted three wishes, one of the three would be to abolish the DH in all of baseball.  I’m really old school but I completely understand and accept that the DH is never going away. It makes the most sense to finally incorporate the rule into the National League.

In a league governed by one office, what sense does it make to have two sets of rules anyway? In 2000, the National League and American League offices were dissolved and the singular office of Major League Baseball was formed, one office to oversee both major leagues. At that time, umpires were pooled together in one group and do all games regardless of league. There was a time when there were AL umpires and there were NL umpires. Not anymore. A team of umps can be at Citi Field for one series then move over to Yankee Stadium for the next. It’s been that way since 2000.

So why does the DH rule remain the only difference between the two leagues?

One reason is stubbornness. Many NL owners simply did not like the DH and did not want to see it implemented in the senior circuit. There is a feeling that the older NL has more tradition than the younger AL. I find that argument to be inconsistent. Tradition is a perception. Are three divisions and 30 teams traditional? Are wild card teams traditional? Are ballparks with roofs traditional? Is modern uniforms made from modern material traditional? Are 5000 square foot video boards traditional (and at Wrigley Field no less)? How about replays for umpires? Is that traditional? Some might feel that people of color entering baseball went against tradition. Who wants to defend that abhorrent tradition?

Baseball has always been about change. It has reflected American society for almost 150 years. Way back in 1973, when I was still quite young, I saw the DH implemented and many did not like it. But do you realize the percentage of fans today that have never known the game without a DH? A person born in 1973 is turning 43 years old this year. Those at that age that are baseball fans have watched a lot of baseball. The DH is part of their tradition.

Getting back to pitchers and injury? With today’s salaries of major league players, owners worry a great deal in regard to injury, especially when it comes to pitchers. Why have their star pitchers stand in a batter’s box in most cases unequipped to handling a 95 mile an hour fastball? And when pitchers do get on base, they are then vulnerable to be injured running the bases. You would think that NL owners would want to protect their pitching investment at all cost. With all due respect to the Mets pitching staff and their ability to hit, most pitchers are automatic outs. How is that good for the game?

The DH also has implications on player movement. An older hitting player, still quick with the bat and still having some pop is not likely to go to a National League team. There he would be relegated to pinch hitting once per game if the situation warrants. He might play one or two days a week. In the American League, that same hitter might play every day as a DH and may be more of a draw for fans to come to the ballpark as well.

Now to be fair, counter to the pro DH argument is pitching stress. In the AL, pitchers never get to face bad hitters, at least bad hitting pitchers. In the NL, the pitcher might work around a batter or two to get to the pitcher. Obviously that strategy as well as whether to pinch hit for the pitcher would be lost to the game for good. But again, except for the NL, it has been gone for over four decades now. But none the less, the DH has caused more pitchers to want to go to the National League and not just to hit but to have an easier time of it when pitching through the bottom of the order.

One more point. What other league has two sets of rules? Would it be fare if kickers in the NFC had to kick an extra point from ten yards but their AFC counterparts had to do so from the 15? No other sport except baseball plays by two sets of rules. Now granted it’s only one rule but it is a big one.

I love the game when the pitcher hits so my brain is arguing completely against my heart.  But unless aliens threaten our existence if we don’t remove the designated hitter, the rule is here to stay. The NL needs to stop putting off what eventually is going to happen and finally accept its fate and employ the DH. But don’t be surprised  in a few weeks if I write a post completely contradictory to this one.

Mets Make Good Deal… for Now

Now that the Mets have indeed signed Yoenis Cespedes to what is effectively a one year deal, what will Mets fans rail about next?

The Mets have signed Cespedes to a three year deal but he can opt out after one. He would likely do that if he has a very good season. It will give him a chance for the mega deal he craves in a much slimmer outfield market next off season.

Prior to Friday, I saw comments on Metsblog.com (which is a horribly redesigned site by the way) blasting Sandy Alderson for not just flat out signing Cespedes. In fact, some of the comments should have banned certain users for life. It appears that some have forgotten some very successful recent history.

Alderson’s plan put the Mets into the World Series last year. Thankfully he doesn’t react to a certain faction of Mets fans who so obviously need a life. Alderson’s strategy for getting back Cespedes paid off. And make no mistake that had Cespedes signed with Washington who guaranteed more money and years, Alderson would have simply crossed his name off the whiteboard and moved on to the next plan. The Mets GM is a man with a vision and he is not going to cave to impetuous fan reaction. I, as well as the vast majority of Mets fans, am thankful for that.

From day one of Sandy’s hiring, his goal was to rebuild the farm system and to create flexibility with payroll. Contrary to popular belief by the many financial geniuses among the Mets faithful, a baseball team regardless of its location simply can’t print its own money. So while the squeaky wheels in the fan base complained that the owners are cheap, the Mets this off season went out and acquired second baseman Neil Walker, shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, outfielder Alejandro De Aza, pitchers Bartolo Colon, Jerry Blevins, and just last week, Antonio Bastardo. Now they have acquired Cespedes and will give him 27.5 million for the one year and if he elects to stay the length of the contract, the Mets will pony up an additional 47.5 million. Plus the Mets have settled with all of their arbitration eligible players* for the 2016 season and the word is they are still looking for additional bullpen help.

The Mets payroll will be around 140 million or more on opening day. For now, the noisy fans need to stop screaming about the cheap Wilpons and the bottom line Alderson. Regardless of the fan’s and media’s perception, here is what I think has been going on all along. Other than signing the checks, the Wilpons had little to do with the amount of payroll since they hired Sandy. It has always been Alderson’s plan to not spend for the sake of spending. Alderson is the one who wanted to get the bloated contracts off the books. Alderson is the one who saw the need to rebuild the farm system and scouting department. He’s the one who knew the Mets had to trade some popular players (Beltran and Dickey) to bring in some of the pieces. And he’s the one that knew it would take five years to realize that goal. If anyone had bothered to stop spewing their X-Files-esque conspiracies and listen, they would have understood this all along. But it still doesn’t stop the criticism leveled at this team even after they have signed Cespedes.

Here’s a quote from Bob Klapsich of the Bergen Record after the Cespedes signing– “Let’s face it, with a payroll approaching $140 million, the Wilpons are just about off the hook” and “For once, ownership got it right. If they were indeed responding to fan pressure, then maybe the dark age is officially over”.  So instead of saying I (Klapisch) was wrong, that this was the plan all along, he attempts to save face by insinuating that the Wilpons finally listened to the fans. No Bob, the Wilpons listened to their General Manager and have been doing so since giving the keys of the baseball operation to him. That’s the way it’s supposed to work.

Ken Davidoff had this to say. “After this move, you probably won’t hear many more calls (for now) from the Mets fans to boycott Citi Field”. Well he’s right but the “for now” remark concerns me. In fact, WFAN radio talk show host Evan Roberts stated that by making this move, the Mets put off fan outrage for another six months for when presumably Cespedes opts out. So in other words, by signing Cespedes, the Mets will make matters worse if he leaves. Are you f—ing kidding me? How do the Mets win (off the field) with this kind of logic?

David Lennon, who I like, offered this remark – “The Mets are putting their money where their mouth is… There has been plenty of howling over their business plan in recent years, and deservedly so”. No, it would have been deservedly so had the Mets stated they would spend and sign players at all costs. They never claimed that. The Mets never implied under Alderson they were going to run their team like the 1980s Yankees.

Richard Justice of MLB.com got it right by saying “These last two seasons have been an endorsement of Alderson’s blueprint. … Now that the Mets have just played in their first World Series in 15 seasons and still have Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz leading baseball’s best rotation, they’ve made it a really good time to be a Mets fan. And it got even better on Friday” Richard is 100 percent correct. Now I will add the following:

It required a lot of patience for the Mets to get to where they are today. By not spending willy-nilly to satisfy incoherent fans or blustery members of the media, they were able to retool the franchise and put themselves in the position to bring in the needed pieces to win and to sustain success moving forward.  With the young players developed and acquired by Alderson and his front office, the guidance imparted by manager Terry Collins and his coach’s, the Mets have created an atmosphere where players want to come to New York now. They play in a great ballpark in a great city and are run by people that know what the hell they are doing. For a rare time, we saw a player in Cespedes leave money on the table to play where he truly wanted to play. That’s loyalty and that speaks volumes to Sandy for building it, Terry for running it, and the Wilpons for financing it. Personally, I thank them all.

*Update Jan 30

My mistake. The Mets just settled with Neil Walker but Jeurys Familia is still yet to sign.

Move On from Cespedes

It’s a month away from spring training but we still have the Yoenis Cespedes signing or not signing fiasco to follow.

Lots of Mets fans want the Mets to sign Yoenis Cespedes, as if only then can the Mets be validated as a real contender. I guess a National League championship and a trip to the World Series did not account for much. I know what you’re thinking. The Mets don’t achieve those goals without Cespedes and that’s likely true. But I can’t stop thinking of how vulnerable Cespedes was late in September and through the post season. No doubt, he’s an electric player when he’s hot but he’s extremely frustrating when he’s not. It appeared that the opposing NL pitchers had figured him out.

For me, that’s a problem and why if I were GM, I would do exactly what Sandy Alderson is doing. Dangle a short term contract and if he is able to acquire more elsewhere, good luck Yoenis.

We have to stop this nonsense regarding the splashy big time winter acquisition. Certainly if the need was there and the right player fit, the Mets, a club in the biggest market in the country would need to make the move.  But Cespedes long term is not the right fit. He’s not an everyday center fielder either. You can’t put him in left and hold back Michael Conforto who could become a very productive offensive player for the Mets. He has all the tools and plate discipline to do so. You have Curtis Granderson in right and he’s got two more years on his contract. Plus Curtis does the little things like take walks, run the bases well, and hit with some power. The Mets can’t take him out of the lineup. And if the goal was to get stronger up the middle and why the Mets acquired Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera, then how do they take Juan Lagares out of center?

Some might say the Mets will be like they were in the first half of last season before they acquired Kelly Johnson, Juan Uribe, and Cespedes. The difference is the Mets now have those kinds of players on the major league roster. With Walker, Cabrera, Wilmer Flores, and Ruben Tejada, the Mets have a lot of flexibility in the infield. It gives Terry the option to move guys around on the field and in the lineup, especially with all the switch hitters. Plus the Mets made a smart and cheap gamble in Alejandro De Aza. Not a great player but coming off a down year. If he can bounce back, the Mets have a quality glove and bat to spell Lagares against tough righties. There is a possibility the Mets acquire another bat other than Cespedes. There is still a long way to go to opening night in Kansas City.

My hope is the Mets don’t sign Cespedes. I would rather see what they can do with the players they have and what some of the guys in the minors can do like Dilson Herrera, Brandon Nimmo, and Darrell Ceciliani.

There were too many time last season when Mets pitchers had to get four outs in an inning because of weak defense on the infield. That was addressed with the deals that brought in Walker and Cabrera. For me, it’s not about pounding my chest praising a big back page deal. It’s about wins. With the additions the Mets made and Conforto who looks to become an outstanding hitter, the Mets will make up for Cespedes in the aggregate. That’s Moneyball 101.

A New Year

Well well, it’s a new year and soon pitchers and catchers will be reporting to Port St. Lucie. It really doesn’t feel like it was that long ago when the Mets were still playing. That’s because they ended the season on November 1st, losing game five and the World Series to the Kansas City Royals at Citi Field. I just hope all the pitchers had time to rest up for the 2016 campaign.

So let’s review what has happened since the Mets last removed their uniforms.

Player wise the Mets made some additions as well as some subtractions. The theme of the offseason so far has been to get stronger up the middle and to bolster the bullpen. It started by the Mets trading lefty Jonathan Niese to the Pittsburgh Pirates for second baseman Neil Walker. Contrary to some writer’s assessment, I have a Pirate fanatic friend who tells me the Mets picked up a great player in Walker. While not flashy, Walker makes all the plays and seldom defeats himself the way Daniel Murphy often did. He also has a bit more pop than Murph and is a switch hitter giving Terry Collins some more flexibility. So in with Walker seems good but what about out with Niese?

Jon was puzzling at times often getting frustrated on the mound and being his own worst enemy. But he certainly found himself in a reliever’s role during the post season. With Zach Wheeler not likely due back from elbow surgery until mid-season at the earliest, it was assumed Niese would be the fifth starter. Since sending Niese to Pittsburgh, the Mets resigned Bartolo Colon to a one year deal hoping he can repeat his performance from last season until Wheeler comes back. Then it’s hoped Colon will take his place in the bullpen and make spot starts down the stretch. At least that’s the plan.

With Walker now a Met, the door was closed on bringing back Murphy. Unfortunately for the Mets, he ended up in Washington. In a lineup with Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, and newly acquired Ben Revere from Toronto, Murphy could become painful for the Mets during their 19 contests with the Nationals. I would have much rather had Murph sign with a team in the American League as a DH.

I do believe the Mets made the right move. Regardless of Murph’s Jeter-esk performance during the NLDS and the NLCS, in the World Series he reminded all of us that he can be Throneberry-esk as well.  When you have a pitching staff as young and as dominant as what the Mets currently have constructed, it’s imperative that the defense up the middle makes the plays and not give the opposition additional outs.

That brings us to the acquisition of Asdrubal Cabrera. Again, not the sexiest move off-season fanatics were hoping for but a solid defender who can also hit some and is another switch hitter. He’s not the slick defender he used to be but is still very good and better than the other options the Mets currently have. He also hit 15 homers last season. If Juan Lagares is healthy now and all indications from his winter-league play suggests that he is, then the Mets have improved up the middle, a clear weakness from a year ago.

Other players who have left…

Kelly Johnson is gone having signed a deal with the Braves from whence he came. Too bad, I liked Johnson and thought he could be a good guy off the bench. Backup catcher Anthony Recker left as well, signing a minor league deal with the Cleveland Indians. The Mets have plenty of options to replace Recker. Kirk Nieuwenhuis was claimed off waivers by the Brewers. Of course Kirk has the distinction of being the first Met player in history to hit three homeruns in a game at home. It happened last season after being reclaimed from the Angels who picked him up when the Mets designated him for assignment earlier in the season. (Lucas Duda hit three homers at home just a few weeks later). Now that Kirk is gone, I won’t have to worry about misspelling his name anymore. Forgotten man Dillon Gee who was demoted mid-season has left the organization signing a minor league deal with the Royals.

Other players who have come in…

The Mets have brought back reliever Jerry Blevins on a one year deal. Blevins retired everyone he faced until his forearm was fractured in mid-April from a line drive hit back up the box. Blevins could certainly help to fortify a leaky pen. The Mets also signed Alejandro De Aza to potentially platoon with Lagares in center or at least play against tough right handed hitters. De Aza is an okay player but was a safe bet considering what Denard Span wanted and ultimately got from the Giants. Pitcher Buddy Carlyle and first baseman Marc Krauss have been signed to minor league deals.

In limbo…

Reliever Tyler Clippard, outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, and third baseman Juan Uribe are now former Mets and still have not signed with anyone else. It’s possible that one of those players could be resigned but it is very unlikely that it will be Cespedes. The Mets have said they would be interested on a one year deal but it’s highly unlikely that will happen. Some team will bend and give at least a three year deal to Cespedes.

The Mets are not done. They would still like to acquire another reliever and likely another outfielder. But like the other moves, they will not be grabbing the back pages.

Other noteworthy transactions…

Out goes Pepsi, in comes Coca-Cola. The Mets and Pepsi terminated their agreement. No more Pepsi-Porch. Coke and the Mets signed a deal and it is unclear what will happen in right field. And one more weird transaction, Paul DePodesta, the assistant general manager, left the Mets to become the GM of the NFL Cleveland Browns. That’s like finding out your wife left you for another woman.

DePodesta was instrumental in helping the Mets rebuild. I guess the lore of using his analytic skills in a completely new arena (pardon the pun) was too great to pass up. The Mets say they have candidates within the organization and feel confident moving forward that their business operation will not miss a beat.

And one other thing…

I do not like the new design of Metsblog.com. That’s no fault of Matt Cerrone who does a fine job. But Metsblog has now become a rubberstamp website for SNY so all of their team sites have the same look and feel. How utterly boring. And I really dislike the mobile site that takes forever to reload and often doesn’t even bring you to the latest story.  A big thumbs down to SNY.

Hall of Famer Mike Piazza

A great wrong has been righted as Mike Piazza has finally been voted into the Hall of Fame. Piazza, the greatest hitting catcher of all time was voted in to The Hall in his fourth year of eligibility. Congratulations Mike!

Now the next right thing must be that Piazza goes in wearing a Mets cap. He was much more of an MVP with the Mets than he was with the Dodgers. He played more games with the Mets. He had more homers and RBI with the Mets. He helped the Mets get to the post season twice in a row in 1999 and 2000, the only Mets club to date to ever get to the playoffs in back to back seasons. He helped the Mets win the pennant in 2000 and if it was not for a stiff October breeze coming in off of Flushing bay, he might have just tied up game five of the 2000 series against the Yankees in the bottom of the ninth.

If the powers that be are honest, Mike needs to be the second Mets player ever to enter the Hall of Fame.  He meant so much more to the Mets and let’s not forget the Dodgers ran Piazza out of town when they could not agree on an extension.

It should be a great ceremonious summer for the Mets in 2016. With Mike going into the Hall and the thirtieth anniversary of the greatest Mets team of all time, the icing on the cake should be Piazza’s number 31 being retired and placed on the left field wall right next to Tom’s 41.

This is a great day in Mets history.

Minaya vs. Alderson

The Mets are the reigning National League Champions. 2015 marked the first time the Mets reached the World Series since 2000. Since then the Mets also played in the post season in 2006 but failed to make it to the World Series, losing game 7 of the NLCS to the St. Louis Cardinals.

The general manager at that time was Omar Minaya. He was given the reigns of the Mets following the 2004 season. He stayed as the head of baseball operations until the fall of 2010. After Minaya was let go, Sandy Alderson was hired to right the ship.

I bring this up today because of some of the feedback I read from Mets fans unhappy with the 2015 offseason so far. The apparent expectation was that since the Mets came within a breath of winning a World Series, the front office would be more proactive in going out and signing some big time free agents. The Mets have made moves, some good moves, but have not made any blockbuster deals. Apparently only a team making huge signings is a serious contender. Or is it?

To a faction of Mets fans, even after winning the pennant, the only thing that will make them feel the Mets are legitimate is for Alderson to sign a big player or two to contracts for way too much money and way too many years. Let’s look back at the two most recent GMs and contrast their styles to determine if the current Mets are on the right track or not.

At the time Omar was hired, he said many things that made Mets fans feel warm and fuzzy. From the moment of his hiring, he talked of signing Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran, the two biggest names on the market at that time. This was not your father’s Mets’ GM. This guy was a true breath of fresh air to Mets fans that long waited for a GM to talk big in a town dominated for years by the Yankees.

Minaya convinced Mets ownership to open up the checkbook. In the winter of 2004-2005, Minaya backed up his words and signed Beltran and Martinez. He also brought in less noteworthy but solid players in Ramon Castro, Chris Woodward, Miguel Cairo, and Marlon Anderson.  In 2005, the Mets contended for a while but ultimately finished only a couple of games above .500. It was however, the first winning season since 2001. There were a lot of good feelings heading into the winter.

During the offseason, the Mets traded with the Florida Marlins for Carlos Delgado. Also via trade, Minaya brought in outfielder Xavier Nady and also acquired catcher Paul LoDuca to replace future Hall of Famer Mike Piazza. Omar signed free agent Billy Wagner to be the closer and side-arm righty Chad Bradford to be the setup man. Another free agent signing brought in outfield defensive wizard Endy Chavez. The 2006 Mets did not disappoint as they cruised to a division title, their first since 1988. In the post season, the Mets swept the Dodgers in the NLDS then took the NLCS to the seventh game before losing with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth.

By then, Mets fans were insatiable when it came to the spectacle of the off season transaction. The Amazin’s became the champions of winter with the many blockbuster signings and trades made during this era. After 2006, Mets fans were convinced the signing and trading for big time players was the way to go, regardless of the cost. There was little concern for home grown talent. Being so close to the World Series, we all wondered what Minaya would do to give us the championship in 2007.

Minaya brought in free agent Moises Alou. It was a gamble because Alou could still hit but his health was an issue. Heath Bell and Royce Ring, two useful Mets bullpen arms were traded to San Diego for Jon Adkins and Ben Johnson. The Mets also singed Damion Easily who was with the Diamondbacks. Minaya let Bradford get away as he signed with the Orioles and Chris Woodward signed with the Braves. These were two players who could have helped the Mets in ’07, especially Bradford.  Minaya spent even more money signing Jorge Sosa, Scott Schoenweis, Aaron Seile, Robinson Cancel, Jesus Feliciano, Sandy Alomar Jr., Fernando Tatis, and pitcher Chan Ho Park.  With all these players signed, the Mets were positioned to repeat as division champions. If so, it would be the first time in Mets history to ever accomplish such a feat.

You know what happened. It all fell apart. The Mets did not have a great starting staff. The bullpen was taxed beyond belief. With a seven game lead in September with seventeen left to play, the Mets suffered one of the worst collapses in baseball history. At the time, the Mets had the third highest payroll in major league baseball, only behind the Red Sox and the Yankees.

Prior to 2008, Omar Minaya spent again, this time by trading Carlos Gomez and Phillip Humber for Cy Young award lefty Johan Santana then signing him to a new multi-year deal. Also in 2008, the Mets jumped into second place in payroll behind the Yanks. With a total of 137.8 million dollars, the Mets failed to make the playoffs on the last day of the season for the second consecutive season. Shea Stadium closed for good after that depressing game ended with Mets fans left wondering what it would take to get this team back to the playoffs.

Prior to the 2009 season, the first at Citi Field, money was again used to hopefully solve the Mets woes. Minaya signed free agent Francisco Rodriguez to be the new closer. He also signed Livan Hernandez to bolster the starting rotation and an aging Gary Sheffield to hopefully supply some punch in the batting order. In ‘09, the Mets still with the second highest payroll in baseball fell below .500 at 70-92, their first losing season (record wise) of Minaya’s tenure. Only the Washington Nationals had a worse record in the NL East as they quietly were working on building their farm system. Livan Hernandez was released by the end of August. Minaya also traded Billy Wagner to the Red Sox. The Mets began to dump many players that simply did not work out. Needless to say, the Mets were in complete disarray.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. So was it fair to say Minaya was insane when prior to 2010, he signed Jason Bay to a three year deal worth over 60 million dollars or even a year earlier when he resigned Oliver Perez to a three year 36 million dollar deal when no one else was making an offer. Neither ever panned out and the Mets continued to lose. The Mets payroll had dropped to 5th highest in the majors but still at 132.7 million, very high for a team that could not even play .500 ball.

2010 was Minaya’s last as Mets general manager. He was fired in October and eventually replaced with Sandy Alderson. Minaya, for a short time, brought back respectability to the Mets organization. He instantly turned them into a winning club, making one playoff appearance. But he could not recover from the collapses of ’07 and ’08, continually attempting to spend his way out of trouble.

Alderson was tasked with bringing the Mets back to respectability once again. But unlike Minaya’s propensity to spend money like a drunken sailor, Alderson would be methodical, rebuilding the organization from bottom to top. It was said that Alderson just shook his head when he saw the money the Mets owed to talent that was not very good. His goal was simple and stated from the outset. He would rebuild the farm system and spend little and as wisely as possible at the major league level attempting to lower the payroll to create more flexibility. He talked of making the Mets competitive but any smart fan could read between the lines. The Mets were going to suck for a few years while a new foundation to the organization would be built.

This is not what the fan base wanted to hear. You would think that after all the failed seasons that followed 2006, fans would be more patient and realize that Alderson’s approach is what the organization needed to get back to a contending level. But no, off-season after off-season, we continued to hear and read the complaints of a cheap organization only out to make money and not spend to make the team better.

Then came the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme. That really threw a monkey wrench into the works. But in retrospect that mess could not have happened at a better time. In fact it may have actually aided Alderson in that it appeared that not spending was not his fault. However, I don’t think Alderson would have spent the money anyway unless it was on the draft and the future of the team. And in regard to the draft, while fans complained of not spending, it was Alderson who convinced ownership to spend above slot in the amateur draft to acquire the higher profile prospects.

Sandy’s plan was to rebuild the farm, have a manageable payroll for maximum flexibility, and make smart free agent signings and trades. It all paid off in 2015. The Mets young starting staff that had been given time to develop in a completely retooled system blossomed and performed at exceptional levels. With the help of mid-season deals (there’s that flexibility), the Mets pushed on and won the NL Pennant.

So here we are today, the end of 2015. The Mets lost the World Series. If you were able to go back in time to a year ago and tell fans what was in store for 2015, they all would have signed on the dotted line. However, now that the Mets have not signed a big star, we hear the same complaints about the cheap front office yet again.

We saw what Minaya’s approach accomplished. It was one trip to the post season followed by seasons of frustration. Alderson’s approach continued the frustration but all the while underneath the covers, he and his staff were building something sustainable. Now it would be unfair to coronate Alderson just yet. He like Minaya has taken the Mets to the post season only once. And like Minaya, has a shot at back to back division titles, an elusive goal in the history of this organization. So we will see if the smart but non-spectacular moves pan out as the Mets head into the 2016 season.

It would have been easy for Alderson to resign Yoenis Cespedes to quell the ire of the masses, even if he did struggle mightily in the post season. But the Mets front office continues to keep their wits about themselves and not give in to media and fan pressure. It strikes me odd that I will listen to someone like the Daily News’ John Harper who in one breath thinks Cespedes is not worth the money but in the next says the Mets should sign some big time player to appease the fans. Is that what it’s about, winning the winter?

Let’s not forget that Alderson did sign one big star player to a huge contract a couple of years ago. That would be David Wright and as much as we all love David, you can see by his recent struggles with health how risky these types of deals can be.

The big spenders last off-season was the San Diego Padres. How’d that work out? The Marlins were also the darlings of the media for the moves they made. They were awful too. The problem today is that baseball is a twelve month season with each team’s media fighting for stories. However, keep in mind no games of significance are played from November through March. I stopped caring about the offseason. I keep abreast of what is going on during the hot-stove but I no longer get anxious about it. We’ve seen far too many teams spending big only to not have a winning season. And we have seen teams like the Royals, the Giants, the Cardinals, and now the Mets, not make the spectacular move and do just fine.

The Mets are the NL Champs. That goes a long way for me giving Alderson the benefit of the doubt. Unlike Minaya’s teams, this one is filled with many young players loaded with potential. With the crop of talent on the major league roster and the many prospects in the lower levels, the Mets are poised to be a very good team for many years to come. I will continue to believe in Sandy’s plan until proven otherwise.

Note: I probably come across as a real Minaya basher here. Understand I really like Omar and as mentioned he gave the Mets instant cred when he took over. He’s sincere, loyal, and I would love to sit down with him and talk baseball. From all accounts, Omar is simply a downright nice guy. His fault was his inability to manage an entire baseball operation. He also did not have enough backbone to stand up to the front office or the media. Minaya’s best ability is of talent evaluator. It’s easy to give Alderson and his front office lots of credit for the Mets success last year. But realize many players that made it happen were brought in by Minaya. They include Daniel Murphy ‘06, Ruben Tejada ‘06, Lucus Duda ’07, Dillon Gee ’07, Jeurys Familia ’07, Wilmer Flores ’07, Jenrry Mejia ’07, Kirk Nieuwenhuis ’08, Hansel Robles ’08, Steven Matz ’09, R. A. Dickey ’09, who Alderson used to get Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud from Toronto,  Matt Harvey ’10, Josh Edgin ’10, Jacob deGrom ’10, Erik Goedell ’10, and Matt den Dekker who was traded to Washington to get Jerry Blevins. And let’s not forget Minaya’s biggest signing as GM, Carlos Beltran who became the greatest Mets centerfielder of all time. He was traded by the new regime to San Francisco for Zach Wheeler who will hopefully be back from elbow surgery this coming season.

No one organization can be built by one person’s vision. Minaya with all his faults as GM left the Mets with a fine corps of prospects, many of whom have panned out. But also give credit to Alderson’s regime for developing those players they inherited as well as drafting their own crop of talented young players.

The Grind of a Major League Baseball Player

Michael Cuddyer retired on Friday. He still had one year left on his two year contract he signed last fall to play left field for the Mets.

Cuddyer did not have a stellar year on the field by any means. He played hurt but provided a very positive veteran influence in the clubhouse. Current left fielder and star in the making, Michael Conforto praised Cuddyer for his help and support. Instead of being bitter as a young player took his job, Cuddyer went out of his way to help Conforto adjust to life in the Show.

In retiring, Cuddyer leaves roughly twelve millions bucks on the table. That’s some serious cash to walk away from. Now granted, it’s not like Cuddyer does not have a lot of money. He played fifteen years in the Bigs and I’m sure he squirreled away a lot of money. So why retire now, why not play out one last year and collect what’s left on his deal?

It appears Cuddyer has had enough. The wear and tear on his body reached the breaking point. He recently underwent surgery to repair a core muscle that he apparently struggled with all season long and likely contributed to him having a subpar campaign. In his statement, Cuddyer said “…after 15 years, the toll on my body has finally caught up to me.” What? What toll? It’s baseball. Everyone knows baseball is a lazy man’s sport. It’s not like football where athletes take a beating during every play. It’s not like basketball or hockey where the action never stops. What in the world is he talking about?

Of course I am being flippant. What Michael Cuddyer is talking about is the grueling schedule of a professional baseball player. No other sport requires their athletes to compete on a daily bases the way baseball does. Too often, baseball gets labeled as slow or not a very athletic game. That’s because of the obvious comparisons to other sports where action is more dramatic. Yes, there is a lot of standing around in baseball. However, with that requires tremendous focus because it is unclear when the action will begin and players need to be ready for when it does. Any pitch could be the beginning of a play that will require different baseball skillsets to come into play. They include running, throwing, diving, sliding, and even colliding into other players or barriers like outfield walls or into the stands trying to catch a foul ball.  And let’s not forget having to hit a round hard ball with a round wooden bat, one of the most difficult skills in all of sport. That ball is coming at the hitter in excess of 90 miles per hour in most cases, often curving into or away from the hitter. Sometimes a hitter gets hit by the ball causing serious injury with the only consolation being awarded first base. The changing speed of the pitch keeps hitters off guard, trying to adjust their timing in order at a shot of hitting the ball. Baseball is easy? Not when failing seven out of ten times gets you into the Hall of Fame. It’s that hard! It is a game of failure requiring tremendous competitive skills.

Baseball is also a sport that requires all team members, for the most part, to possess the same skills. With the exception the pitcher in the American League’s, everyone on the field must take a turn at bat. Everyone in the field must be able to throw and catch the ball. In football, there are positions where it is against the rules to catch or throw the ball. In baseball everyone is expected to run around the bases as fast as possible, a distance equivalent to running the length of a football field from end zone to end zone (90 feet x 4 = 360 feet, 120 yards).

Granted, football is physically demanding. The NFL regular season is 16 games with each team getting one week off. The NHL and NBA play around 80 games, or two to three times a week. Major League baseball teams play 162 games (sometimes 2 games in one day) over a sixth month period with just 20 days off including the four day all-star break. There is also a month and a half of spring training that includes around 30 games and if a player is lucky enough to play deep into the post season, add another month of play to the schedule. No professional athlete travels more often than an MLB player. Show me another sport where a team plays a game in the afternoon or even at night because of national TV demands then has to travel across the country to play a game the next day. You will not find that to be true in any of the other three major sports. (And that’s something that really needs to be looked into by the Players Association in the next round of negotiations.)

The point is baseball is a grueling game that requires athletes to be in tip top shape. Today’s ballplayers work out constantly on top of a ridiculous schedule. In a game where there are literally millions of dollars on the line for athletes that have no guarantee of a long playing career, it is in their best interest to be in the best physical condition as possible. Long gone are the days of Babe Ruth famously downing a few hot dogs during the course of a game or even a Keith Hernandez sneaking in a smoke in the corner of the dugout. Players know what’s at stake if failure becomes routine. With a farm system second to no other professional sport, there are many players ready and willing to take the place of a falling star.

Some players stay too long. It’s hard for them to quit. It’s not just the money or fame that comes with being a major league ballplayer. It’s the need to compete. They have known it all their lives from when they were stars in Little League. Professional baseball, like any sport, is not something you pick up after you receive a degree from college. You need to start young and dedicate your life to it. In most professions, people can stay until their sixties or even older. If you are 36 years old in professional sports, you are considered a dinosaur. Players like Alex Rodriguez and Bartolo Colon who are in their 40s are the exception.

In reading Cuddyer’s statement, it’s clear he struggled with the decision to retire. However, I give him credit for not extending what would surely be less of a performance than where his numbers dictate what kind of player he should be. He’s won a batting championship and has been on the all-star team twice. He’s been to the post season seven times. He made it to the playoffs six times with the Minnesota Twins, getting as far as the league championship series in 2002. His only trip to the World Series was with the Mets in October. He leaves baseball a league champion, not a bad way to go out.

I felt that Cuddyer would have had a better season in 2016 considering his injury issues this past season. Apparently he knew better than to come back knowing he would not be able to give it his all. It’s really a noble thing he is doing because the money he will not be paid now will help the front office get a player or two that will help this club as they try to get back to the World Series next season.

Cuddyer is an example of what the grind of baseball can do to a player over the course of a career. So let’s not think for a minute that baseball is a sport that doesn’t require an athlete to be tough. It also requires skill, dedication, and perseverance. We assume many players have had long careers because we tend to focus on the stars of the game. But in most cases, it’s rare that a player makes it to 15 years in the big leagues. That in itself is an accomplishment.

Good luck in the future Michael and enjoy your retirement.