Archive Page 2
November 26th, 2013 by Lou
I would say as public relations go, the Mets are a model for how not to do things.
Just take a look at any post on Metsblog,com. Pay particular attention to the comments of the posts that are speaking more volumes than the posts themselves. It will take you a long time before you come across a comment that says something positive about the Mets. If the Mets lead the major leagues in anything, I’m sure it’s the most disgruntled fan base.
Of course the squeaky wheel gets the oil as they say. So is it a case of all Mets fans being thoroughly disgusted with this team or do only the disgusted fans take the time to write something? Take this morning for example. The first post of the day was about the new head of ticket sales and his marketing plans. You can only imagine the type of comments that post has generated. And you would be correct—sarcastic remark after sarcastic remark, some quite amusing.
But what else can the diehard Mets fan do? With all due respect to those in the front office that said that 2014 was the year they would target to make changes, we have seen very little action. Johnny Peralta was going to be the big acquisition to replace Ruben Tejada at short. Well he just signed a deal with the St. Louis Cardinals for four years and 53 million. Now you have to realize there was no way he would have ever taken such a deal from the Mets. The Mets would have had to double that salary just to entice Peralta and frankly he’s not that kind of player. But the Mets thought they could have gotten Peralta for two, maybe three years for less than 40 million. I would say the Mets brass have been taken a bit off guard as to what this year’s class of free agents are asking and apparently what they are getting from other teams.
And while the Mets seem to be sitting around twiddling their thumbs, the bullies in the Bronx have done it again. They signed Brian McCann to a contract that could turn out to be 100 million dollars over six years if vesting kicks in. It’s an insane deal but the Yankees are never afraid to get the player they covet regardless of the cost. And whether it’s a good deal or not (it will be a great deal in the short term), Mets fans see the Yankee ownership doing whatever it takes to win while the Mets appear to be satisfied with being .500 over the past 100 games.
We can argue that the Mets are taking the correct approach by building a strong foundation. They have done that. Their farm system produced more wins than any other organization last season and mostly done with outstanding pitching. That’s the cornerstone of any winning ballclub. But it’s clear that for the Mets to succeed at the Major League level, they need some better hitters to change the paradigm. Unfortunately while there are some great young pitchers in the organization, there is no second coming of Darryl Strawberry in the very near future.
So until the Mets land Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Nelson Cruz, expect more of the same from the fan base. Of course I jest. The odds are slim to none that the Mets get even one of these players. I do get where Sandy Alderson and his henchman are coming from. In an ideal world he wants the Mets to be competitive every season, like the St. Louis Cardinals. And like the Cardinals, that requires a strong minor league system, the ability to add payroll when necessary, and not have all the contracts line up so that the teams’ financial hands are tied for years. How a team adds to payroll is twofold. They sign free agents or take on contracts through trades. And as much as I defend the part about player development, this front office touted that a lot of money was coming off the books after this past season. First it sounded like there would be around 50 million to spend but then somehow that got whittled down to 30. And with the signing of Chris Young, now there’s about 23 left in the bank. The point is they were the ones making it sound like they would be able to acquire impact players. So if they can’t take the heat from us fans, they only have themselves to blame.
It’s not as if I’m tremendously disappointed that they have yet to make an impact deal. The off season is still young. But you begin to get the feeling there really is not a whole lot they are willing to do or can do. So why should I want to spend money on Mets tickets now, in November?
It’s still very early in the off season so I am willing to be more patient. After all, what really can I do? I guess I can comment on Metsblog posts but for what, not getting Johnny Peralta? Did I really care if we got Johnny Peralta? It would have been nice to get his production but I still think there are other alternative to get those types of numbers into the lineup. The Mets really need to be careful too. Do they really want to give up on Ike Davis already? He hit 30 home runs just two seasons ago and when he came back from the minors last season, he hit very well even though not showing the power we have been accustomed to. The last thing I want to see is Davis scorching the ball out of the park consistently for some other team.
The winter meetings are two weeks away. We should have a better picture for what is going to happen by then. At least I hope so.
November 5th, 2013 by Lou
Update November 29, 2013 – During the last three weeks, I happened to be in Providence, Rhode Island and on the eastern shore of Maryland. Although I cannot stomach the right wing bantor of WOR, I can report that the Mets new radio home comes in as clear as WFAN in both of those locations. They both are about 200 miles from Manhattan.
Original post -
I love some of the rhetoric I read in regards to the Mets moving over to WOR 710 AM in New York. The official word came yesterday but had been reported more than a week ago. Back in September it was reported that the Yankees reached a ten year deal with WFAN to broadcast their games. The Mets, after two collapses on the final day of the 2007 and 2008 seasons, then five losing seasons in a row were kicked out to the gutter. From a business perspective you cannot blame WFAN but their timing is a bit odd.
After all, the Mets under the leadership of general manager Sandy Alderson have rebuilt their farm and have some tremendous arms moving through the system. True, their position players at the minor league level are not plentiful but some at the low levels are and some of that great pitching should be able to bring in some much needed offensive help. At least that is the promise of this off season. No minor league system won more games than the Mets’ system did in 2013. Winning in the minors is not as important as player development but good player development manifests itself in wins.
By contrast, the Yankees system has grown barren with few if any impact prospects at the higher levels but they have some gems way down below. The free agent market not being what it was years ago does not seem to be a viable solution for the Yanks aging roster. And let’s face it, the Yankees showed blemishes this past season. Oh sure, they were still better than the Mets but clearly the Yankees were not nearly as good as three other teams in their own division. The Yankees also want to stay below the 189 million dollar threshold so even if there were superstar players available via free agency, the Yanks would be reluctant to blow out the bank account yet again. The point is the future is looking brighter for the Mets than it does for the Yankees. And as long as Sandy Alderson and Jeff Wilpon stay the course, we might see a Mets team that becomes a perennial contender in a few years.
Ah, but back to the radio. So the move for WFAN to bring in the Yankees and telling the Mets to take a hike might not necessarily be a good economic long term decision. But some of the things I read from fans in regard to the Mets heading to WOR seem silly. The major comments I read include 1) this happened because the Mets are cheap, 2) no one at WFAN will ever talk about the Mets again, and 3) now I can’t listen to the Mets as far away as I once could. Let’s look at these three points one at a time.
First of all, being cheap or being a spend thrift has nothing to do with a radio contract with a major league baseball team. The Mets do not pay a radio station to broadcast their games. It hasn’t gotten that bad yet. Think about it. If the Mets had to pay a radio station, it would mean they have no following what’s so ever. A commercial radio station makes money how? Right, by selling advertising time. Advertisers pay a radio station to air their commercials so they can sell crap for their client, the companies that make the crap. A baseball team with a huge following is a prime target to sell crap to. And the Mets, even with an angry fan base, still has a huge fan base. So a radio station knows if they can get the Mets to agree to have their games broadcast on their station, they will be able to sell advertising. The trick is to be able to bring in more ad dough than the money they will have to pay the Mets. That would be called a profit. And as it turns out, it’s a win for the Mets in that WOR is paying more to broadcast their games than WFAN did. However, WFAN is paying the Yankees more than they paid the Mets. But again, that could be a decision that ultimately backfires on the long running sports talk network but we’ll see.
Another comment, and one made by someone who should know better, baffles me. The comment was that WFAN will not be talking about the Mets anymore. The presumption is because their games are no longer broadcast on the station. Well here’s a news flash—the Jets games are on WEPN (Espn radio) and not WFAN. The Jets are constantly talked about on WFAN. So are the Knicks and Rangers. Both of these teams are also on WEPN and not FAN. There is always loads of Knicks and Rangers banter on WFAN. Why? You are correct again, because they are popular teams, especially when they win. Mike Francesa is an unabashed Yankee fan and has spent thousands of hours talking about the Yankees who were never on WFAN before next season. And here’s another amazing point, the New Jersey Devils and the Brooklyn Nets are on WFAN and you rarely here these teams discussed, well at least the Devils who have won three Stanley Cups and who are virtually always in the playoffs. Evan Roberts does talk about the Nets quite a bit to be fair. So you honestly think that the premier sports talk radio station in New York is not going to continue to interview the Mets manager, their general manager, and their players? You don’t think they will talk about Mets games the morning after, especially if the club is winning. That doesn’t sound very responsible if sports talk is your business. The Mets will continue to be a topic of discussion on WFAN. In fact, if it is not, WFAN is only spiting itself. Win or lose, people tune in to discuss the Mets even in the dead of winter. It has nothing to do with WFAN; it has to do with the Mets.
The final comment I want to discuss has some merit to it. The fact that some fans may not hear the Mets as easily as they once could. There is some truth to that. But WOR has the same power as WFAN, 50,000 watts. That’s a very strong signal. Now where I live, WOR comes in as clear (actually a bit cleaner) than WFAN. But because the transmitters are in different locations, listeners far away could have a different experience. WOR’s transmitter is located on the west side of the Hudson River in New Jersey while WFAN’s antenna is in the Bronx. So the respective location of the transmitters will have an effect on how the signal is received depending on the location of the listener. However, some listeners who had trouble receiving WFAN before may find WOR to come in with more clarity. But the bigger question is how many listeners does this actually affect?
Clearly if you live in the tri-state area, a Mets fan should have no trouble listening in their car or at home. It is fans that are hundreds of miles away that may encounter issues. For those fans I would say for the cost of about two good six packs of beer, you can purchase the MLB At Bat app for your smart phone, iPad, or computer and hear any major league baseball game from either team’s broadcast in crystal digital clarity. So the reality is getting a Mets radio broadcast is no more of a problem then it was before WFAN decided to give the Mets the shaft. Now the one thing I did enjoy last season, the only season this happened, was to hear the Mets on FM radio. That ends with the move to WOR, owned by Clear Channel who also owns about six FM stations in the New York market. For, now the games will not appear on FM radio however. But to complain about that as a major point is a bit whiny. It’s not as if this went on for years.
Look, I hate to sound like an apologist for the Mets. I’m just as angered by the last several seasons as any diehard fan. But on the other hand, I find the constant nit-picking and loathing of this franchise by many in its base to be very unproductive. We want our team to be good. That means we need to root for them whenever we can, showing them their fans are pulling for the team. Picking on the fact they changed radio stations is a bit over the top, don’t you think? And here is some more good news. Howie Rose will continue to be the Mets play by play guy on the radio. It is not a foregone conclusion that Josh Lewin will be back yet but let’s hope so. Likely Ed Coleman will no longer be part of the broadcast because he is an employee of WFAN but he could still remain the team’s beat reporter for the Mets’ former station. That also has yet to be determined.
October 30th, 2013 by Lou
For the first time in 95 years, the Red Sox have a chance to do something spectacular. With a win this evening or tomorrow evening, the Sox will clinch a Worlds Series in Boston for the first time since 1918. It would be quite the party.
Now if it doesn’t happen, I won’t feel too bad since Boston has won the World Series twice in the last ten years. The sweep in 2004 at Colorado ended an 86 year drought then they swept the St. Louis Cardinals in 2007, the team they are currently facing, a series also won on the road. Before ’04, you have to go back to the 1986 World Series when the Sox had a chance to win the Series at Fenway Park.
Boston defeated the Mets in games one and two at Shea Stadium heading back to Boston for games three, four, and five if necessary. New York’s two wins to open the Boston set guaranteed a Series win back at Shea regardless of the victor. Boston won game five then had to win just one of two at New York but of course Mookie Wilson and Bill Buckner set the stage for a Mets clincher in game seven.
So while all of Boston prepares for a huge celebration, there is no fan base that should be more aware of and prepared for disappointment than the ones who supports the red and navy blue. As an HBO special about the Boston Red Sox reported that after the famous game six of ’86, while fans roamed the streets aimlessly in Beantown, a fan was heard saying “This is the darkest day since Jack Kennedy was shot”. If that doesn’t tell you how seriously the citizens of Boston take their Red Sox, I don’t know what will.
I am pulling for the Sox because I lived in Boston a long time ago for several years. Of course I was true to the orange and blue (as the theme song says) but I became enamored with the Red Sox and their fans. And it didn’t hurt that they hated the Yankees either. But to assume that the Sox will win the Series because they lead three games to two and playing at home would be fool hardy. The Cardinals have a great team also and if they win, I certainly would feel very happy for Carlos Beltran, the greatest center fielder to ever where a Mets uniform and you can look it up.
Red Sox history in the World Series
The Red Sox won their first World Series in 1903 (then known as the Boston Americans) five games to three against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The series at that time was a nine game affair. They next won in 1912, Fenway Park’s first year, four games to three over the New York Giants. In that series, the Red Sox led the Giants three games to two, lost game six but won game seven. Interestingly, game two ended in a tie at Fenway because of darkness. The game was completely replayed. The Sox won in back to back seasons in 1915 and ’16, both were five game series against the Phillies and Brooklyn Dodgers (Robins) respectively. In 1918, the Sox defeated the Cubs, also leading three games to two but this time Boston won game six. The Sox had led the series 3-1 but lost game five. Then the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees and did not see another World Series championship for 86 seasons.
However Boston did get back to the World Series in 1946 when they met the St. Louis Cardinals for the first time in the fall classic. Just as now, the Red Sox led St. Louis three games to two, ready to win their first Series since 1918. But returning to Busch Stadium, the Cardinals took game six and seven disappointing the fans of Boston. The Sox and their faithful had to wait another two decades before getting back to the Series, and once again they faced the Cardinals. This time, in 1967, the tables were reversed in that St. Louis led the series three games to two heading into Boston for game six. The Sox took game six by a score of 8-4 but lost the deciding game seven 7-2. Then of course eight years later, the Red Sox and Cincinnati Reds played in one of the great World Series of all time highlighted by game six at Fenway when Carlton Fisk waived his home run fair as the Sox won in twelve innings by a score of 6-5. The Sox tied the series at three but lost game seven the next night by a score of 4-3. It was truly a heart breaking defeat for Red Sox fans. Eleven years later came the Mets and then another twenty years had to pass before the Sox became a truly dominant force in the American League and where we are today.
So tonight, the Sox have a chance to make history in Boston for the first time in a century but it is no sure thing. Michael Wacha pitches for the Cardinals and the young hurler has been phenomenal this post season. In 27 innings, Wacha has allowed three runs and has won four games during October including game two last week in Boston. Lackey goes for the Sox. He has been good and pitched in some tough luck but the Boston hitters will have to figure out Wacha to get it done this evening. My money is on a seven game series concluding tomorrow evening, with only one sure thing. It will be Halloween. Trick or Treat?
October 25th, 2013 by Lou
Before last evening, the last World Series game the Red Sox lost was on September 10, 1918.
It was against the Chicago Cubs in game 5 at Fenway Park. The Red Sox won game 6 the next day and won the World Series for the last time until 2004, an 86 year gap. Currently the Sox are now tied with the Cardinals at a game a piece as the series moves to St. Louis for game 3 tomorrow.
The Red Sox had won 10 consecutive World Series games if you go back to September 11, 1918. With the sweep of the Cardinals in 2004, the Rockies in ’07 and game 1 on Wednesday night, the Sox had won 10 straight Series games spanning almost a century.
Oh and as for the Cubs… they last won a World Series in 1908. They defeated Detroit 4 games to 1.
October 19th, 2013 by Lou
Seven years ago, Carlos Beltran was frozen at the plate when an Adam Wainwright curve ball broke about three feet into Yadier Molina’s glove ending the Mets’ season one game shy of getting to their fifth World Series. The Mets came close to the post season for two more seasons but as we know all too well, they have not been back since.
However, the Cardinals have. They won the World Series that year, defeating the Tigers in five games. They made the post season again in 2009, won another World Series in 2011, and made it to the NLCS again in 2012. This year, the Cards are headed to their 19th World Series starting next Wednesday in either Boston or Detroit after defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games.
The irony of course is that Carlos Beltran will go to the World Series with of all teams, the St. Louis Cardinals.
Beltran was not as appreciated as he should have been while wearing the orange and blue. His numbers were really quite unbelievable as a Met. In fact, Beltran was voted to the all time best Mets team, a presentation done in 2012, the Mets’ 50th anniversary. The center fielder chosen wasn’t Tommy Agee or Mookie Wilson or Lenny Dystra, it was Beltran and the numbers support the decision.
But unfortunately for Beltran, the moment he is most remembered for is that one at bat in game seven of the 2006 NLCS against the team he now plays for. He had a shot to be the hero, to put the Mets into the fall classic. But even the greatest of ball players fail seven out of ten times, the odds are always against.
To blame Beltran for the Mets failure that night was simply unfair. In fact it was Beltran’s double in the Mets first inning that set up the only run the Mets would score, their last of the season. With two out, David Wright singled Beltran home. Mets led 1-0. But the lead was short lived as the Cardinals came right back in the top of the second. A sacrifice fly scored the tying run and the game stayed 1-1 until the sixth inning when it looked for sure like the Cardinals would take the lead.
With one out, Jim Edmonds walked. Scott Rolen sent a line drive toward the Cardinals bullpen. Endy Chavez, the Mets left fielder made a tremendous catch as he climbed the wall and robbed Rolen of giving St. Louis a two run lead. Chavez throw back to the infield was cutoff by Jose Valentin and his throw to Delgado doubled off Edmonds. After that play, there wasn’t a fan in Shea Stadium that thought the Mets could possible lose that game.
In Mets half of the sixth, they loaded the bases on a one out walk, an error, and an intentional walk. Valentin struck out and the hero of the top of the frame, Chavez, flied out to center ending the Mets’ first scoring threat since the first inning. Yet both Valentin and Chavez were never vilified for not being able to drive in a run in the sixth.
In the top of the ninth with Aaron Heilman pitching, Rolen singled then Molina hit a two run homer. This was a familiar scene as Heilman had given up five home runs in the regular season and one in the division series before the devastating blow by Molina. Again when Mets fans look back on this game it’s not Heilman they remember, its Beltran.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Mets did not go quietly. Valentin and Chavez who could not deliver in the 6th, led off the ninth with back to back singles. The packed house stood on its feet. Cliff Floyd batted for Heilman and struck out. Floyd is still thought of fondly and he failed to get the Mets close or even. Jose Reyes had a fabulous season but he lined out to center for the second out. Runners were still on first and second. Catcher Paul LoDuca worked out a walk to load the bases and that brings us to Beltran.
Omar Minaya put the Mets back on the map when he signed Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran to free agent contracts in the winter of 2005. The latter was a seven year deal worth more than 100 million dollars. The Mets had a nice season in 2005, Mike Piazza’s last as a Met, finishing over .500 for the first time in four seasons. However Beltran had a disappointing first season with the Mets, struggling as many stars do when coming to New York. Minaya added Carlos Delgado and Paul LoDuca for the ’06 season and the Mets took off and ran away with the division.
Beltran had an unbelievable season for the Mets in ’06 tying the Mets single season home run record with 41 plus 38 doubles. He batted in 116 runs, walked 101 times, and scored 127 runs. He was as productive a player the Mets could have ever asked for. So when the Mets were down to their last out, Beltran is the batter most Mets fans would have wanted up in that situation. But as it turned out, Beltran became the goat for not swinging at a pitch that clearly would have buckled the knees of any superstar batter.
It was never fair, the wrath and jokes made about that fateful at bat. The echos of why didn’t he swing can still be heard echoing in the parking lot of where Shea Stadium once stood. Lost in the memory is the fact the Mets could not score a run after the first inning. They couldn’t do anything in the sixth with the bases loaded and one out. Aaron Heilman once again threw the gopher ball, and that Floyd and Reyes couldn’t get it done in the ninth either.
So as it turned out, the Mets post season ended that night, October 19, 2006. The Mets suffered a miserable collapse in 2007, a not so dramatic one in 2008 then have been south of .500 ever since as the organization endures another rebuild. But at least for Beltran, he finally gets to go to the place that has eluded him his entire career, his first World Series. He had a chance to do it in 2004 with the Astros when he was traded from Kansas City late in the season, but fell short of the Series. His post season was spectacular and his performance is what led to him getting the huge contract from the Mets.
He was in the playoffs last year too, with the Cardinals, a team making a habit of getting there every year. But once again, Beltran fell a series short as the San Francisco Giants defeated the Cardinals in the NLCS.
Finally this season, Beltran gets his chance to shine in late October. And the irony will never be lost on Mets fans that a trip to the World Series which seemed so inevitable seven seasons ago took this long to happen. Well good for him and I will be rooting for the former Met to do well. He was the best center fielder to ever don a Mets uniform. I just hope his teammate of 2006, the only player still with the Mets from that year, gets his chance some day soon. That of course would be David Wright, a player that Beltran had a great deal of influence on.
October 11th, 2013 by Lou
So what have we learned so far? Well, in 2013 it’s good to be a number one or number three seed. In both leagues the number one and the number three are in the league championship series. Detroit (#3), having shut out the Oakland Athletics, travel to Boston (#1) to begin the ALCS tomorrow evening at historic Fenway Park. Meanwhile in the National League, the Cardinals (#1) take on the Dodgers (#3) at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Number two seeds Oakland and Atlanta have gone home as well as the four wild card teams. And how about a shout out to the Pittsburgh Pirates and their fans? The Bucs had a fantastic season and will be a force to reckon with in the NL Central for many years.
I went to a Mets – Pirates game at PNC Park back in 2010. I thought then that with its fabulous setting on the Allegheny River and overlooking the Pittsburgh skyline that if the Pirates ever got good, they would pack the joint every night. That happened this summer and I’m sure the Pirates ownership will look at the receipts and realize this is the way to go instead of trading off outstanding farm players.
I also could not stop thinking about the fate of Billy Bean, the Oakland GM, and another Athletics exit after the first round. It was just like the movie Moneyball—fiction imitating life then life imitating fiction again or something like that.
So the tournament continues into the third round, at least that’s the way I see it. The wild card game is now the first round. I have heard arguments that the wild card round should expand from one game to the best of three. I completely disagree.
The point of the single game elimination is to provide incentive for teams to win their division. While it might be hard for a teams’ fans to swallow the fact that the march to the playoffs is over after one game, fans must remember their team got to the playoffs as a wild card, not as a division winner. What the new system does is to give a fifth team (in each league) a shot at the playoffs after having a winning season. Remember one wild card team from each league will move on to round two. The system prevents both wild cards from moving on and that’s a good thing. The one game wild card game provides great excitement. Yes you made the playoffs as a non division winner. Now prove that you truly belong with the elite by winning this one game. I love it. The Pirates proved it and took the Cardinals to game five of the NLDS. Tampa Bay fell to Boston in four, nothing to be ashamed of there either. Cleveland and Cincinnati both deserved a shot and they got it. To them, better luck next year. At least they can make the claim they made the post season in 2013.
The division series rounds (round 2) have become one of the more interesting aspects of the post season. There are a couple of days during the LDS when four games are played. It’s kind of like baseball’s version of March madness. I guess we can call it October madness. The League Championships (round 3) begin this weekend. Boston will have their hands full with Detroit pitching and St. Louis’ pitching will have to curtail LA’s offense.
Fans of my generation often say the playoffs are not what it used to be. It was better when the best team from each league won the pennant then went to the World Series. Well that was a different time and is really comparing apples to oranges. In today’s game, the regular season serves to give the five best teams from each league a ticket to the baseball tournament in October. A third of all baseball teams have a chance to be champion when the tourney begins.
Once divisional play, inter-league competition, and unbalanced schedules began, there had to be a playoff system in place that is fair and that accommodates multiple participants. For over fifty years, baseball maintained eight teams in each league that concluded the season with one playoff round, the World Series. That was a long time ago when teams did not travel past the Mississippi River. Relocation, expansion, and economics have defined modern baseball. Divisional play began in 1969 when leagues expanded to twelve teams each. Of course expansion did not end there. Since then Major League Baseball has grown from twenty-four teams to thirty teams. Considering the amount of teams, the current playoff format works very well with one exception. Home field advantage in the World Series should go to the team having the overall best record during the regular season. The All Star game victory should be nothing more than bragging rights. The fact that the All Star game determines home field in the World Series is silly and really should be rethought.
October 2nd, 2013 by Lou
During the press conference to announce that the Mets would retain Terry Collins for two more seasons with an option for a third, the Mets GM Sandy Alderson was asked why he decided to bring back Collins. He said that one of the reasons was that the Mets finished exactly at .500 over the last 100 games of the season. That is a fact. On June14th, the Mets lost to the Chicago Cubs at Citi Field. That was the 62nd game of the season with the Mets record having fallen to 24-38, 14 games under .500. They were in 4th place, 12.5 games back of Atlanta. I’m surprised Sandy didn’t mention that Terry got the Mets to third place this year instead of fourth, the way the last two seasons ended under this GM’s regime. I’m sure many will jump to criticize the remark but after looking at some of the numbers, Alderson does make a point.
In fairness to Sandy’s glass-half-full statement it should be pointed out that the Mets did play very well after that 62nd game. On Sunday, June 16th, the Mets began their best stretch of the season. After trailing 3-0 to the Cubs in the 9th inning at Citi Field, the Mets scored four times on two home runs, the second one a three run walk off from Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Marlon Byrd had also hit a home run that inning and was a huge part of the Mets playing much better. So from then until Sunday, the Mets played .500. Actually from June 16th through the end of July the Mets went 24-18, the best in the NL East. Why didn’t they continue at that pace?
On August 7th David Wright pulled a hamstring and missed seven weeks of the season. Bobby Parnell who was doing an outstanding job as Mets closer missed half a season because of a herniated disk. He had surgery in September and should be ready by spring training. Ike Davis who was horrible the first part of the season finally got it together but then tore an oblique muscle ending his season in early September. And of course Matt Harvey, who became the number one reason to be a Mets fan this season, came up with a slight tear in his Ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow ending his season too.
Injuries were a big part of why the Mets failed to improve on the record they also recorded a season earlier. Plus there were players who did not perform up to expectations. Lucas Duda and the aforementioned Davis were being counted on to deliver power and drive in runs. Both failed to do so. Duda in 100 games hit 15 home runs. That by itself is not as telling as the fact that he drove in just 33 runs the entire season. Davis matched Duda’s 33 so both of those players delivered a combined 66 RBI and 24 homeruns. That’s not going to get it done folks. Duda did seem to look more comfortable at first base once Davis’s season ended with injury. It would be interesting to see what he would do playing at first an entire season. But unfortunately for Duda that experiment will only happen if the Mets are somehow able to acquire a couple of corner outfielders who can drive the ball out of the ballpark regularly. The Ike Davis/Lucas Duda tryouts are over. Perhaps they will blossom elsewhere but it seems more and more likely they will not be able to do so in New York, at least not both of them.
Ruben Tejada was making everyone forget about Jose Reyes just a season ago but this season, he really underperformed. He eventually sustained an injury and was shipped to triple A once he finished his rehab. Tejada looked to be re-energized as a September call up but unfortunately he suffered a broken leg on an outstanding play, tripping over Justin Turner while catching a pop fly. Omar Quintanilla did a wonderful job replacing Tejada but clearly is not the long term solution at short.
So I get the spin that Alderson is putting on the season. Here’s a team that had a miserable start but took a nice turn when a) Alderson started swapping out pieces in the bullpen, b) brought up Juan Lagaras to play center and C) acquired Eric Young Jr. for left field. If you remember, the Mets opening day outfield included Collin Cowgil in center (sent down and later released), Marlon Byrd in right, and Duda in left. Cowgil contributed a grand slam on opening day and beyond that he was a total bust. Duda is a terrible left fielder with no range and made every fly ball an adventure. Byrd was a terrific signing and gave the Mets a competent right fielder all season long until he was traded at the end of August. So with all the late season injuries, the horrendous play during April and May, the Mets still managed to play well enough not to go under the .500 mark over those last 100 contests. Let’s not forget John Buck who hit a lot of homers in April then became what he is—a backup catcher and suffered a prolonged slump throughout the summer. Buck was later traded to Pittsburgh along with Byrd.
The Mets improved play in late June was due to very good starting pitching, a bullpen that stabilized, an outstanding defensive outfield with Young, Lagaras, and Byrd, and for a time clutch hitting. And while John Buck struggled at the plate, he was integral to helping the young Mets pitchers flourish. But the one area that needs work more than any other is the offense, especially at home.
Here’s an interesting statistic. When scoring the first run of the game this season, the Mets went 48-30 (.615). A .615 winning percentage over a full season gets a team into the playoffs. No team in the playoffs this season had a winning percentage as high. What this stat indicates is the Mets had fine pitching. Given a lead, they protected it until the end of the game 48 out of 78 times. The opposite stat is much more alarming. When the Mets scored second or not at all (shutout 8 times in ’13), their record was 26-58 (.310). Ouch. Translated it suggests the Mets were unable to come back in games they trailed. The Mets were not good at building rallies and rarer was the three run homer that can get a team back into a game in a hurry. The home run leader on the team was Marlon Byrd with 21. He was traded at the end of August for Vic Black and Dilson Herrera. Wright was second with 18 and again, he missed seven weeks of the season.
In games decided by two runs or less, the Mets were a combined 41-41 so the Mets played pretty well in close games, again a sign of good pitching. But when they were behind by more than two runs, we see a record of 33-47. In many of those games, the opposition scored first. With Mets’ hitters struggling to score runs, especially in bunches, that put pressure on the pitching to hold the opposing hitters. As good as the pitching was, that’s pretty rough to do day after day.
The only category the Mets were over .500 when considering run differential was one run games. The Mets were one game over .500, winning 29 games by a single run. That’s a good sign moving forward. Their worst margin was 3 run games, losing 13 of those. In blowouts, games decided by five or more runs, the Mets went 18 and 24. I’m not suggesting Mets pitching is without issue but clearly the offense is the one area that has struggled more so than others. As mentioned the Mets were shut out eight times in 2013. Over 162 games, the Mets averaged 3.18 runs per game. Compare that to Boston who averaged 5.27 runs per game.
The Moneyball guys will tell you that it is runs scored that counts. In 2013, the Mets were 23rd in the majors with 619 runs scored, 11th in the National League. They are not in good company. The teams scoring fewer runs were the Padres, Twins, Astros, Phillies (wow, the Phillies scored fewer runs than the Astros?), Cubs, White Sox, and Marlins. None of those teams are in the post season. Out of the ten teams that made the post season, five of them are in the top ten of runs scored (four of them division winners). The Pirates are the worst of the playoff teams at scoring runs in the majors at 17th with 634 runs scored. That’s a major reason the Bucs gave up two top prospects to the Mets for Byrd. The Red Sox scored 853 times and led the major leagues.
Home runs are important but by themselves are not as significant as driving in runs. The Mets hit 130 homeruns. The Mariners with a worse won-lost record than the Mets hit 188. The Cardinals, the top seed in the National League, hit five fewer home runs than the Mets but scored 164 more runs. The Cardinals play in a pitcher’s park, similar to Citi Field but have more gap to gap hitters than the Mets. The Cards had 322 doubles to the Mets’ 263 and their hitters drove in many more runners when in scoring position.
Then there is the all important OPS (on base percentage plus slugging)? Slugging is the total bases divided by at bats. In OPS, the Mets ranked 29th out of 30 MLB teams at .672. Only the Marlins were worse (.627). The Cardinals were 10th at .733. The Red Sox were first with a .795 OPS. The Mets were also 29th in slugging and 25th in on base percentage. Not a good place to be if the playoffs are a team’s aspiration. When looking just at the National League the Mets team batting average (.237), SLG (.366), and OPS (.672) ranked 14th out of 15 teams. They tied for 12th with the Phillies (.306) in OBP. The Mets were also 14th in total bases with 2035. The one category the Mets led the National League in was pitches seen at the plate (5th in the majors). Mets hitters saw 24,330 pitches during all plate appearances in 2013. That suggests the Mets hitters are good at working the count but perhaps they need to be more aggressive since they did so poorly in so many other offensive categories.
The other startling and quite obvious stat is the Mets record at Citi vs. their record on the road. The Mets managed to play a game over .500 on the road with a 41-40 record. Their home record of 33 and 48 should sound the claxons. Why such a disparity? The Mets swept the Giants in San Francisco. That’s a big ball yard very much like Citi’s. They won all three games in Target Field in Minnesota, another big park. They split four at Petco Park in San Diego. Again, another pitcher’s paradise. You can’t make the argument the Mets play better on the road because they are in smaller parks. In many cases as I have indicated the Mets did just fine in parks very much like their own digs. So what’s up with that?
I guess they take a different approach at home then they do on the road. Perhaps it’s a perception thing. Opposing players didn’t seem to have too much trouble hitting the ball out of Citi Field. There were 149 homeruns hit in Citi Field in 2013. That was good enough to be tied for 6th place in the National League for most homers hit (This is according to ESPN’s Home Run Tracker). But of those 149 homers, the Mets hit just 57 of them. It’s not the road or home, it’s the Mets hitters. They don’t hit.
On the pitching side of the ledger the Mets fared much better. They were 12th in WHIP (hits plus walks divided by innings pitched) in the major leagues, tied for seventh in the National League. This is a value that got much better for the Mets as the season progressed. The bullpen’s early season implosions contributed to this statistic not being much better when all was said and done. In the majors, the Mets jumped up to 10th after the All Star break. They were 19th prior. Within the NL, they were 12th out of 15 teams but after the All Star break to the end of the season, the Mets staff jumped to 6th in the league.
Then there is defense. In the infield Wright was outstanding at third which is usual. Davis was generally solid at first, Murphy has improved dramatically at second but will never win a gold glove. Tejada definitely took a step backward, no doubt about it. Quintanilla did a fine job in Tejada’s absence. The outfield was dreadful before Alderson brought in Eric Young Jr. from Colorado for pitcher Collin McHugh on June 18th. Alderson had earlier promoted Lagares who instantly became one of the major’s best defensive center fielders. Lagares may not drive in a lot of runs but he saved a lot by leading the league in outfield assists with 14 as a center fielder. He was second among all outfielders throwing out 15 runners. With Byrd in right, by the end of May the Mets had one of the best defensive outfields in the game. Overall the Mets were .971 in fielding percentage, 17th in the majors. Certainly they were better the last four months of the season.
Of course the Mets can improve their pitching and defense but what they have now and what is coming up from the minors can contribute to a winning season. What the Mets need are a couple of big hitters, guys that can drive in runs and hit the ball out of the ballpark.
So while we could joke about the .500 record over the last 100 games, Alderson was honest in saying that fact does not get the Mets to the playoffs. But the point he was making was that considering the terrible first couple of months of the season, the under performers being counted on to do so much more, the injuries then the trades at the end of the season, it was pretty remarkable the Mets did go 50-50 to end the season. It was a tribute to Collins instilling an excellent work ethic in his players. He kept his players focused and hustling in every game.
Alderson was also clear that he intends to make some significant changes to the roster this off season. How that happens requires us to be patient. Nothing will happen during the playoffs and its ten days after that before teams can begin to court free agents. It will be a slow process that will play out over the winter. Am I cynical? Of course, I’m a Mets fan. How can I not be? But I am somewhat optimistic.
If you look back over the first three years of Alderson’s regime he has been true to his word. He stated that he would do what he could to make the Mets competitive but that the organization needed to be rebuilt from the ground up. He has done that. The farm system is in much better shape now than it was before he took over. To the front office he added J.P. Riccardi and Paul DePodesta. Together they have completely restructured scouting, made fine draft picks and trades for blue chip prospects, building a foundation that all winning team needs. He has said that he would have much more financial flexibility once some contracts expired. Specifically he is referring to the money owed to Johan Santana and Jason Bay. Those two are off the books now with the Mets owing them just the buyouts. So when Sandy says he wants to do something significant at the major league level, I believe him. I hope the Wilpons have the money for him to use. If not—well that’s entirely another story.
Sandy Alderson is either going to have to spend money on the free agent market, make trades to bring in impact players, or both. But here’s the catch. In a recent interview with the Yankees GM Brian Cashman, also in need of player influx, he made it clear. While it is a goal of the Yankees to stay below the 189 million dollar payroll threshold in 2014, it is not a mandate. The point being the Mets are not about to get into a bidding war with the Yankees over a specific player. Forget Robinson Cano at second base for the Mets. That is not going to happen. It’s nice that Alderson says he’s going to spend money but the Mets are not the only team looking to improve their team this winter. And historically the Mets are not a club to outbid others, at least outside of Omar Minaya and you saw where those bloated contracts got us. The good news is the Yankees need pitching more so than the Mets do so perhaps the needs of the two New York clubs will not line up so much on the market but we’ll see.
And remember, how much a team spends is no guarantee a team wins anything. Ask the Los Angeles Angels how their season went. The Phillies are now suffering from the same malady that ailed the Mets beginning four seasons ago. The Dodgers better hope they win the World Series this season because they are on the hook for many years owing millions to players who are going to grow old while in those contracts. I really hate when Mets fans say the Wilpons are cheap. They are not cheap. The Mets have supported huge payrolls over the years but what did it get them. A better criticism of the Wilpons is they did not spend the money wisely. I do believe a team that wants to contend needs to spend around 100 million dollars on payroll. Alderson is intending to do so but only if the deals can be made to help the club, not to spend money for some cosmetic reason. Everyone clamored for the Mets to sign Michael Bourne last off season. Instead the Mets got a bargain in Byrd and look who had the better season.
As I mentioned in a previous post I was struck by the sellout the last day of the season. I plus 40,000 other fans did not show up to pay tribute to the 2013 Mets. We were there to honor and remember a better time, one where Mike Piazza led the team to victory. But the day hopefully served as an eye opener to Mets ownership and the baseball front office. The fans will come. They will come in droves to enjoy that magnificent baseball cathedral they have built in Queens. All they need to do is put a team on the field worthy of their fans. The Mets have many pieces and I agree with Sandy, there were a lot of positives even though the club won only 74 games. I like to think of another time in Mets history when I was a much younger person. It was 1968. The Mets finished in ninth place with a 73-89 record, one game worse than this season. The following year… well you know the rest.