By Mike Steffanos
There are a couple of 40-something southpaws who are occupying my thoughts this week for very different reasons. One of them did not endear himself to Mets fans when he pitched here a few years ago, and the other one finally earned our respect over the past two seasons after looking like one of our worst free agent signings for a while. One is currently pitching in the World Series, while the other came up short in getting his team there.
The one in the Series is obviously Mr. Kenny Rogers, who would like us all to believe that he has all of the personal hand hygiene skills of a Braves fan. I find it somewhat amusing that the controversy over Rogers involves some cheating with a substance on the baseball. One of MLB's worst-kept secrets is that many, if not most, pitchers break the rules by using substances to improve their grip on the ball. If you remember the hullabaloo between Frank Robinson and Mike Scioscia last year, it was not really about whether Angels pitcher Brendan Donnelly was using pine tar to enhance his grip. Scioscia was angry because this was common in baseball, and he felt that Frank Robinson knew full well his own pitchers were pulling some version of the same thing.
If MLB wants to resolve this controversy, they really need to make up their minds regarding what is allowable and what isn't for a pitcher, instead of just winking at rule breakers. You need to be prepared to enforce the rules you do have. If you need to expand beyond rosin as a legal grip enhancer, so be it, but make any changes you need to and then enforce the rules to the letter, because you look just plain ridiculous when you don't.
Funny, but I think Kenny Rogers is lucky that the uproar is about what he's sticking on his hands. When I look at Rogers, I can't help but wonder what he's sticking into his body. When a 41-year-old pitcher is throwing his fastball harder than he did when he was in his mid-30s, I can't help but wonder at the real effectiveness of MLB's testing for performance enhancers. Rogers looked finished after an awful and injury-plagued 2001 season. Now he's having some of the best seasons of his career. When Rogers pitches again, everyone will be looking for something on his hands that proves he's a cheater. Meanwhile, I wonder much more about substances that we can't see.
As for our lefty, the big noise right now is over whether he'll be pitching for us or the Braves next season. The "gloom and doom" crew is already painting bleak pitchers of our chances next season if Glavine decides to go home to finish his career. Sorry, but I can't get on board with this. While I agree it would be preferable to have the dependable Glavine back next year, I do not see it as make or break for the season. The league caught up to Glavine's tweaks to his game, and he is not the ace pitcher that he looked like in the last couple of months of 2005 and the first couple of 2006. If he has his control and can get the other team chasing bad pitches, he can dominate as he did in Game 1 of the NLCS. If not, we get the pitcher that lost Game 5. He's good, but not irreplaceable, at this stage of his career.
If Glavine goes, the Mets might have more incentive to sign Orlando Hernandez, and will look harder for a veteran starter. They do not need to replace Glavine with an ace however, as Glavine is not an ace. I hope he comes back, and wish him well if he doesn't. I simply refuse to allow the media to yank my chain over the future of Tom Glavine.
E-mail from a Reader
Received an interesting e-mail from "Jay" yesterday:
Mike, was wondering what you thought about trading for Carl Crawford this year to play LF. The DRays, with Young waiting in the wings, are going to dump him this off-season. He is signed long term at about 5 mil a year. That is dirt cheap based on today's market, but in DRay dollars, it's an absolute fortune, especially with the young (read cheap) guys they have as alternatives. Anyway, I thought you might blog about some trade options such as Crawford. He is the type of player I think that fits the mold of Reyes and Wright. He's young (25), plays great defense, is a tremendous base runner (57 steals), and can hit for average and power. He sure would look good at the # 2 slot! There are others you can play around with as well. Dontrel of course (love his attitude), Marcus Giles would be interesting, as would Luis Castillo. Just thinking this would make for an interesting blog discussion where you can throw around some crazy ideas. Anything to take our minds off the long wait till next year.
I had heard Crawford was on the market, but had also heard that Tampa was looking for high-end young pitching in return. I told Jay I thought that was the one thing the Mets could afford to give up least, so I thought a Crawford deal was unlikely. Still, it makes you salivate to think of Reyes and Crawford at the top of the lineup, doesn't it? I wonder if Crawford could wind up in the NL east, anyway. The Marlins could use an outfielder and leadoff hitter, and so could the Braves. Both organizations have no shortage of good young pitching, if they wanted Crawford bad enough to give it up.
I think -- and I stress this is only my opinion -- that Dontrelle Willis' chances of becoming a New York Met are quite small. I think the Marlins took a lot of heat in dealing away all of that payroll last year, and if they were to deal Willis or Cabrera it would only be if they received a ridiculous overpayment in talent coming back. I think their fan base would riot, and Major League Baseball might be forced to act. I doubt all of the negative publicity over last winter's fire sale made Selig happy. If the Marlins cut their payroll down any more it would look like a complete farce.
Finally, Jay, while Marcus Giles would be an interesting fit for the Mets, I'm not sure that I could accommodate him as a good guy in my mind. It took long enough to stop seeing Glavine as the enemy. All kidding aside, I could see either Giles or Castillo playing second base next season, but I'd be worried about Giles' tendency to get hurt, and 11-season MLB veteran Castillo is a very old 30. If I'm the Mets, I'm not going to give a long-term deal to either player.
Update: After posting this, I see that Hot Foot has some speculation over acquiring Crawford for Lastings Milledge and Phil Humber. Note that this isn't a rumor, but rather a "would you do this?" type of thing.
New Mets Message Board
Received an e-mail today about a new message board for Mets fans called Mets Nation. Check it out. I've added a permanent link under Mets Links at the right.