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Some Thoughts on Old Lefties

Mike SteffanosTuesday, October 24, 2006
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.

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Continuous Mets Coverage:
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Comments (7)

High end pitching? I mean what do they mean by that?
John Maine? doubt it
Oliver Perez? I'd trade Oliver for Crawford
PelfreY? I'd do that.
I mean obviously it will be a package deal and it won't be just a pitcher but I'd trade a starter for Crawford.

I'd stay away from Giles and Castillo though. There should be cheap enough guys on the FA market. Even guys like Craig Counsell and Ronnie Belliard would satisfy me.

Would I do Lastings Milledge and Phillip Humber for Carl Crawford?
I would PREFER it be Pelfrey over Humber but I'd still do it.
I feel that at THIS point, there are only soo many slots in the rotation that Pelfrey or even Bannister can fill in for Humber.
It'd be a kick ass marketing plan for Tampa bay, they'd have the Big 3 Rice pitchers.

Heilman and cash for Crawford. Omar, if you are reading this, I beg you to pull this one off. Crawford-Beltran-Milledge... oh man...

I like Heilman, but he just isn't fitting. He's losing his setup role to Sanchez, they seem like they don't want to start him, and he seems disgruntled about the situation. Sign Dotel to take his place-- he'll be fine. The resulting young outfield tandem is far too much to pass up. Reyes-Crawford-Beltran-Delgado-LoDuca-Wright would hammer pitchers day-in and day-out. Throw in a decent second baseman to hit in front of Milledge and you'd restore the lineup to its previous prowess. Milledge would be under no pressure to produce hitting out of the eighth slot in a loaded lineup, yet with Wright and whoever fills in for Valentin hitting in front of him, he'd get his opportunities to showcase his development. This seems to make too much sense to ignore.

A couple of thoughts: I hadn't given any thought to the possibility that Rogers might be ingesting some sort of performance enhancer, but the idea fits right into my overall dislike of him. It also fits into the red-ass behavior he has shown these past couple of years, wouldn't you say? To my recollection he didn't have ANY of that fire back when he was a Met. Nor when he was a Yankee for that matter. But dem drugs, they make you crazy.

At least one source I read explained Tom Glavine's curious option deal thusly: if the Mets lose him, they still owe him $7 million. If so that makes replacing him with an $8-$9 million alternative a damn expensive proposition. As to adjustments and the league catching up to him, I thought he was in decline back in the mid-1990's, when his K to walk totals were falling off a cliff. He has made several adjustments since then, and I wouldn't bet against his having another good year. I only wish he had made his Mets adjustment earlier in his contract term.

Crawford is a terrific talent of course. One thought that I can't dismiss runs as follows: with Crawford on the team the Mets would be assuming that two players, Reyes and Carl, who recently overcame their low OBP totals, are not going to regress -- but sometimes ballplayers do regress. If those two showed regression as a pair to .325, say, then your offense becomes that much more feast-or-famine. There's a pretty good example of such an offense at the moment; it's wearing the Detriot uniform and it did make it to the Serious. But it's also a reason why I figured the Mets stood a good chance of beating the Tigers.

All the above does not mean that I wouldn't take Crawford. It DOES mean that I like diverse talents in a batting lineup, and I would try to find those especially if Crawford did find his way onto the Mets.

BTW, it really is amazing, is it not, just how different a pitcher Carpenter is when pitching at home.

Benny - I think high-end pitching is just guys with high ceilings who are ready to make the step to the majors. I think Pelfrey and Humber are the only 2 guys in the organization who match both criteria, and I'm not sure either one is truly major league ready. Pelfrey still needs better off-speed pitches, and Humber probably could use one more year to be ready to pitch 150+ innings.

I'm always surprised at how many Mets fans would trade Pelfrey rather than Humber. I know that Humber is more mature and has polished off-speed pitches, but the one thing you can't teach anyone is how to throw a fastball in the mid- to high-90s with good movement. I think Pelfrey's ceiling is higher, though it might take him another year or so to reach it. Anyway, I like both guys, and I'm not sure I'd trade either unless it was for pitching, but that's just me.
Matt - I think TB can get more for Crawford than Aaron Heilman and cash. With revenue sharing, cash isn't that big of a deal anymore. I'd take that deal if it was there, though.
dd - I've heard different numbers on what they'd owe Glavine if he didn't come back ranging from $3-7 million. I'd certainly take Glavine back in a heartbeat if he wants to be here. My point is that the decision is beyond the control of the Mets, and it's silly to think that if Glavine chose to leave he would be irreplaceable. I think he will be good, not great, in 2007.

I think there are certainly red flags with Rogers in the same way as with Roger Clemens, including the irrational anger.

Do I get a vote on Humber/Milledge for Crawford? If so, no. Crawford is not a good #2 hitter, as he strikes out a bit more than PLD (who is I grant not a prototype #2 hitter). I feel Humber/Milledge is too high a price to pay.

Glavine gets a $3.5 million buyout from the Mets if the options (team and player) are declined.

This team has 2 starters for next year, Maine and Perez. They need an Ace (Zito), and a #2/#3. El Duque would be a good option if Glavine leaves.
With the lack of signed starters, it would be hard to trade a Pelfrey or Humber at this point. Plus, given what we saw this year, Omar is going to want to stock up on pitchers. Add the Pedro out factor (and his having 2 years left on his deal) and the young guys need to be kept.

I could see Bannister and Heilman going in deals. I think Humber and Pelfrey are going to get real shots here in the next year or so. Plus, Humber was shut down in Winter ball, not a great sign, so his trade value may be down in any event.

I don't think any of us really get to vote on it, but I agree with you it would be hard to trade blue chip pitching prospects for position players right now. I also agree with you that keeping El Duque if Glavine leaves becomes more important.

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