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The Jewels of the System

Mike SteffanosThursday, October 26, 2006
By Mike Steffanos

It's still fairly quiet on the hot stove front, but there were a couple of good articles today on some kids who may well be the future of this franchise. In the Bergen Record, Steve Popper discusses the choices the Mets will have to make with Lastings Milledge. Lastings is obviously no big favorite with the fourth estate, so most of what I've read on him so far boils down to calls for the Mets to trade him. Popper is more even-handed than most in this look at a most important off-season decision:

Milledge didn't quite fit in the clubhouse, rubbing some players the wrong way with a cockiness that didn't befit a rookie. But then again, he wasn't a typical rookie.

He's a player who has been touted as having the best tools in the minor leagues. He's been in the spotlight since he was 12 years old, when he played in the Little League World Series, and he carries the weight of family expectations. His father and his brother made it to the minor leagues, but never made the step to the major leagues.

To me it's fairly simple. If you're running the Mets and you still believe in the kid, you only trade him for a young stud pitcher in a deal that's fair to both teams. If you like the kid, but have doubts he will be ready to fill a full-time major league role in 2007, you bring in someone to be a 1-year stopgap. Too many fans and pundits seem ready to run Milledge out of town based only on his struggles last year and his ego and immaturity. A smart, well-run team will figure out how to make it work if the talent is there. They certainly won't panic and trade a kid without receiving proper value in return just because the kid isn't cuddly and loveable enough for some.

On Baseball America's web site, Chris Kline has a Arizona Fall League Notebook that's chock full of Mets-in-training. There is good news regarding Mike Pelfrey's progress in developing the off-speed pitches that he needs to become a top major league starting pitcher:

Pelfrey has made strides--along with some alterations--with his offspeed stuff over the last three weeks. He scrapped his hard curveball for the equivalent of a slider. It's a sharp, late-breaking offering that has shown flashes of having good depth and tilt.

"You can see he struggles with it at times," a scout from an American League club said, "but when he stays on top of it and stays easy in his arm action, it has the makings of a plus pitch."

It's something Pelfrey needed, but with his fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s, adding an 85-87 mph slider is only half the battle. He didn't have good command of his changeup for much of 2006 either, but has worked extensively on controlling his arm speed and tinkered with his grip slightly to have an effective third pitch--especially against lefthanded hitters.

..."I just have to keep using the slider and the changeup to where I'm comfortable throwing either one at any time and know I can command and locate it where I want it," Pelfrey said. "I'm happy with where things are right now, but I know I still have a lot of work to do to get them where they need to be."

I still like Pelfrey a lot. He has a 97 mph fastball with great movement that he can locate, as well as a very effective hard sinking fastball in the low 90s. You can't teach that kind of stuff. If he can polish off those secondary pitches and stay healthy, I'm absolutely convinced he can dominate in the major leagues. He seems to have a nice makeup, too, and wasn't at all overwhelmed by his short time in New York this season. I think Pelfrey is summed up very well in this quote by a Twins' pitching prospect playing on the same AFL team:

It's 60-feet, six inches for everybody else, but for Pelfrey it's more like 50 feet--total. He gets such good extension, he's very free and easy and the ball just explodes out of his hand. And with that height advantage, the ball's on top of hitters a heck of a lot quicker than a lot of other guys out here. Add in that velocity and he's dirty ... just plain filthy.

Kline also offers up good stuff on Kevin Mulvey and Fernando Martinez in this same notebook, and you don't have to be a BA paid susbscriber to read it. Check it out.

Mets.com: Marty's back, and he's answering your e-mails
Mr. Noble has returned from the DL with some intersting thoughts on the NLCS.

Sorry, that's all I have time for right now. I have a lot on my plate at work today.

More Mets Stories:
SportsSpyder Mets

Continuous Mets Coverage:
Hot Foot

Comments (9)

I was in transit, but just a quick hi. Thanks for the season of high end reading. It was great.

1. U owe me a CASE of beer nuts!

2. I'm not that pressed about Glavine. I think he will be back. But I think he is easily replaceable...on the mound. look what Kenny did in Detroit. I for one am happy for KR. I'm also gratefull for the shot in the arm he gave us when he came in '99. I would also like mention(again) that he lost gm6 only because Dotel, J Franco and Benitez blew great oppurtunities. other lefty possibles include mulder, and ted lilly. More Likely Schmidt may get an offer now that Perez has emerged as a top tier LHP, and at least a #3.

3. On milledge. I think we asked too much of him too early. shawn Green was not THAT much better. also I think Milledge tho erratic tends to make highlight reel plays. i would like to have seen what would have happened if X stayed. I think we did miss him. Lastings should be dealt but i dont see where.

4. On that note; I think ray Durham is a great fit. I think Floyd should stay. But I dont think he will.


I tend to agree with Noble: when Mota gave up those two runs, it was a very bad sign for the team. They were supposed to hold a 2-run lead, especially if they wanted to be champs. The Mets strengths deserted them at precisely the wrong time.

BTW, I saw an article during the NLCS comparing Wright's slump with A-Rod's. There were various theories about why he didn't get the same sort of bad press that A-Rod did, but I think it all boiled down to attitude. If a reporter asked Wright about the slump, he'd discuss it and give every impression that he felt bad that he was letting the team down. A-Rod just clammed up. It's basic press relations: better to say something than to ignore it, and if you admit you know there's a problem and you're trying your damndest to fix it, both the press and fans are going to understand.

Finally, I think the best would be to keep Milledge. It's too early to give up on him, unless, of course, someone is handing us an ace on a silver platter (e.g., Dontrelle Willis).

ed - I don't hate Kenny Rogers. You're right, he gets too much blame for 1999. However, I think he and Roger Clemens are both 40-something poster boys for better pitching through chemistry. We agree on Milledge, too much is being made of things that happened this year. Durham is interesting. Agreed on Cliff.
RealityChuck - Not to mention Wright is 23 years old and in his first playoffs. If they get in next year and he is as bad, he won't get the same pass he did this year. Agreed on Lastings.

listening to mike Lupica...(by accident), i got a sense that the mets were supposed to win...yet like 1988, they fell short. The SHOULD have won game 7 and game 2. unlike reality...I dont blame Mota...time and time again Willie left the pitcher in too long. I think green should have caught the ball and i think mota was out of gas and tried too hard to groove an inside FB. Ditto Aaron in game 7.

pig backing of Metstradamus, the strength became the weakness but only because Willie went against himself by staying too long with relievers. then again maine and Ollie shine in game 7 and that bodes for the long term. note to fans st lou, Sd and houstn have been repeat post season players, now the Mets are on line for a dynasty.

add to that the salary aspect. maine and Ollie are cheaper rotation candidates as is humber and pelfrey. Stir in a Schmidt, VZ and pedro and this is a dominant staff.

gomez and lastings plus Endy, beltran and (?) have the makings of a gold glove OF. With $$$ to spare.

I think that people that don't like Willie as a manager will always find a way to fault him. I completely disagree with you, especially with Heilman. Pitching him that second inning was exactly the right thing to do. Both Aaron and Mota threw picthes with bad location. It happens.

What I don't like about the media is how they're just waiting for Lastings Milledge to fail. Whether its on the field or off the field, its as if the media's perception (and how they deliver it to the everyday man/fan) is already made up and it doesn't matter what he does. His reputation is done, its already settled.

You HAVE to love what Fernando Martinez is doing. To put it simply, he's a high school junior, competing with some of the best of the best. Guys that have REACHED the majors, college graduates, and just overall grown ass men.

Benny - It's almost funny to see how hard some of these guys are trying to push Milledge out of town. Fernando is amazing. I'd love to get a chance to see him play.

Milledge. Martinez. Beltran. You can't give that up. Hopefully Pelfrey and Humber turn out to be beasts, and our future honestly looks about as set as it's gonna get.

Matt - One thing though. I'm not saying that if someone makes you the right deal you don't take it. I just don't believe in dealing a guy because he has some problems, unless you really believe you can't fix them.

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