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Mets Hot Stove: Endy Edition

Mike SteffanosSaturday, December 24, 2005
By Mike Steffanos

Chavez is a Met yet again -- will he actually play for them this time?

Mets.com: Endy is back
Marty Noble reports on the return of Endy Chavez to the New York Mets for the fourth time in his young career (he's only 27). He was signed by the Mets in 1996, then selected by Kansas City in the rule 5 draft in December 2000. They returned him to the Mets in the spring of 2001 because they were unwilling to carry him on their major league roster all year -- a requirement for a player taken in the rule 5 draft. A week later KC got him back via a trade. In 2002 the Mets claimed Chavez off of waivers from Detroit, but then lost him on waivers to les Expos 10 days later. So, despite being a Met four times, Chavez has never actually played a game for them. Quite an accomplishment.

Omar loves the kid, and he is a very good defensive outfielder -- something the Mets lack on their major league roster. If he made the team, he would be the only player I'd feel comfortable with in CF when Beltran gets a day off.

Acquiring Chavez and signing him to a major league contract creates a glut of backup OFs on the team, and would seem to indicate that the Mets might be looking to trade Xavier Nady or Victor Diaz. On the other hand, given that Chavez and Tike Redman are both left-handed hitting reserve outfielders, maybe Redman will go. I'm not really going to sweat this one.

New York Times: More Endy
Ben Shpigel fills us in a little more on the storied career of Endy Chavez, including:

For the most part, Chavez plays center field, though he has dabbled at the corner outfield positions, too. He is a rare left-handed hitter whose career trends indicate he hits better against left-handers (.279 in 276 at-bats) than he does against right-handers (.254 in 1,027 at-bats).

Shpigel also points out that Chavez didn't have to shave his beard and cut his hair, unlike that centerfielder the other New York team signed this week.

Sports Illustrated: The birth of modern free agency
Alex Belth has an excellent feature on SI.com about the Andy Messersmith / Dave McNally ruling that brought an end to baseball's reserve clause, creating the free agency system that we're all familiar with today. Curt Flood, the all-star centerfielder of the Cardinals, basically killed his own career by challenging the system and losing. According to Belth, Marvin Miller, the executive director of the Players Association, knew that the system was still vulnerable:

[Miller] knew the way to overturn the reserve system was more narrow and direct. It involved the interpretation of Paragraph 10a of the Uniform Players Contract, which stated that a team could renew a player's contract without the player's approval for the period of one year [my emphasis]. The owner's contended that this clause could be renewed indefinitely. Miller believed the language was clear: one year meant just that -- one year.

In the 1970 basic agreement, Miller got the owners to agree to the introduction of an impartial arbitrator to mediate grievances between the players and owners. Previously, the commissioner had been the final arbitrator, but Miller and the players didn't believe that the commissioner was a fair judge. With an arbitrator in place, Miller's hypothesis could be tested. It was, he believed, the key to the players' salvation.

In Messersmith, Marvin Miller saw an ideal test case of the reserve clause. The Los Angeles Dodgers were playing it extremely cheap with Messersmith. After a year (1974) when he had gone 20-6 with a 2.59 ERA in just under 300 innings, the Dodgers only offered a small raise and balked at giving Messersmith the no-trade clause he wanted. When the two sides couldn't work out their differences, the Dodgers renewed the contract unilaterally.

Messersmith went 19-14 in 1975, with a lower ERA (2.29) and even more innings (321 2/3). Still the Dodgers wouldn't budge. Alex Belth quotes Messersmith from a Sporting News article more than 10 years later:

It was less of an economic issue at the time than a fight for the right to have control over your own destiny. It was a matter of being tired of going in to negotiate a contract and hearing the owners say, "OK, here's what you're getting. Tough luck."

I think we all know how the case turned out, but please take a look at this great article. Whenever team ownership accuses a player of being greedy -- and many indeed are -- don't forget there was a time when the players played under a truly unfair system where the player danced to the team's tune or simply didn't play.

The Virginian-Pilot: Soler Sighting
Paul White pens the story of new Mets pitcher Alay Soler's Christmas visit to some kids at the Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters in Norfolk, Virginia. He lives in Newport News, because that's where his agent is from. Since none of us have seen Soler yet, here's White's description of the Cuban defector:

In person, Soler seems a tad shorter than his listed 6-foot-4. The 240 pounds seems dead-on, though. And judging from the way his midsection protruded slightly from his couple-sizes-too-small Tides jersey, those pounds aren't ideally arranged.

So now we know he's a little chunky. White reports that Soler is pitching quite well in the winter leagues, which might accelerate the Mets plans for him:

According to Tides general manager Dave Rosenfield, the most likely scenario would have Soler making his American debut with the Tides. But Soler's Puerto Rican League brilliance has encouraged the notion that, now 26, Soler may vault straight to the Mets.

As Soler's agent, Joe Rosario says, "They're not paying him $2.8 million to play in Norfolk." I'd still have to believe that, after missing a year with visa problems, the Mets are going to give him some time in Norfolk before calling him up. Since he is a starting pitcher right now, if they plan to use him in the bullpen they might want to let him get his feet wet as a reliever in Norfolk.

Happy Holidays, Everyone
Once again: I will try to post tomorrow if there is anything out there worth talking about. If not, we'll be back Monday. Be well and safe, and enjoy your families.

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