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Happy Zito Day

Mike SteffanosTuesday, December 19, 2006
By Mike Steffanos

Omar Minaya, Jeff Wilpon and a contingent from the team's front office are winging their way out to the left coast to have a long-awaited sit-down with Barry Zito and Scott Boras. For all of the speculation on just how much interest the Mets have in the 28-year-old southpaw, the fact that they're flying out today certainly shows a desire to sign him for the Mets.

I became rather amused reading the locals today as I saw the various spins being put on this trip. First from Adam Rubin in the Daily News:

Minaya relishes face-to-face meetings with recruits, particularly in their homes. He successfully landed Pedro Martinez after visiting the Dominican Republic and Carlos Beltran after visiting Puerto Rico two winters ago. The GM similarly visited Billy Wagner in Virginia last offseason, and the closer and his wife Sarah later toured New York with Tom and Chris Glavine as guides.

Contrast the above with Michael Morrissey in the New York Post:

The Mets' front office will meet with Zito today, but the former Oakland ace apparently didn't want to fly cross-country to New York. Thus, the meeting will take place in southern California with the left-hander and his agent, Scott Boras, a team spokesman confirmed last night.

Although a face-to-face meeting outside the Big Apple doesn't prevent the possibility of a deal, it negates some of the things the Mets wanted to do. Third baseman David Wright volunteered to show the 28-year-old lefty around Manhattan, and one could imagine the two successful bachelors prowling the town. Veteran pitcher Tom Glavine vowed to fly up from Georgia specifically for the recruiting visit, and a club official had said closer Billy Wagner also was on board to do his part.

Instead, the Mets must negotiate with Boras on his turf and on his terms. Boras is known for bleeding every last dollar out of a franchise with his free-agent signings, and many believe this negotiation will be no different.

So while Rubin sees this trip as a positive, with Minaya relishing a face-to-face, Morrissey sees a dark, ominous cloud floating over that plane winging westward. Another interesting contrast is between Morrissey and Newsday's Ken Davidoff on the Mets decision not to bring Rick Peterson along. According to Davidoff, it was just a logistical decision:

The Mets discussed the idea of bringing Peterson with them, a person familiar with the situation said, but Minaya ultimately made the call to limit the club's contingent to the front-office level.

Morrissey, coming across as a "glass half empty" guy throughout his piece, of course finds the negative:

Pitching coach Rick Peterson isn't scheduled to be part of the party, and neither are any players, a team spokesman said last night. Zito sought out Peterson's tutelage as an amateur and blossomed while both men were in Oakland.

Although Zito probably could call Peterson any time, the fact there won't be a face-to-face meeting between the two should be seen as a blow to the Mets' effort to put their best foot forward. Similarly, Mets players could accentuate the tangibles and intangibles of playing in New York, but that won't happen, either.

Did you ever have a relationship with someone who insisted on interpreting every little thing you did as it related to them, whether you really meant anything by it or not? That happened to me a couple of times, but those ladies had nothing on New York sportswriters. They have to stretch their imaginations to come up with something for their demanding editors, satisfying our insatiable desire for hot stove news. I don't envy them, but then again, there are worse ways to make a living. And for what it's worth, with due respect to Morrissey, I think he's finding negatives that don't really exist.

For those of you that have Barry Zito on top of your Christmas wish list, you must just feel grateful that something is happening, even though it's likely that we'll be into the new year before this thing finally gets resolved. But the ball is rolling now, and we should soon get a strong indication of just how serious the Mets are. We hear that they're not going to be the high bidder, but they'd better be close. Remember, it was Barry Zito that chose to hire Scott Boras as an agent, and Zito is smart enough to understand that Boras almost invariably chases the last dollar.

For what it's worth, FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal thinks that Zito should sacrifice some money to pitch in New York:

If Barry Zito wants to become the pitching equivalent of Alex Rodriguez - a free agent who chased every last dollar - then he should sign with the Rangers.

If he wants to give himself the greatest chance of success, he should choose the Mets.

... With the Mets, Zito would work at pitcher-friendly Shea Stadium, reunite with former A's pitching coach Rick Peterson and - perhaps most important - pitch in the less-potent National League.

Zito, 28, is 102-63 lifetime with a 3.83 ERA. His next six years probably will not be as good as his first six, given his declining strikeout rate and rising opponents' OPS.

Yet, if he's thinking at all about the Hall of Fame - not an unreasonable notion, given his consistency and durability - his decision will be easy.

Go with the better team. Go with the better situation. Go with the Mets.

I think many Mets fans who want to see Barry Zito in a Mets uniform next season heartily concur. Still, I just can't discount that Zito elected to sign with Boras, and I question just how much money he'd be willing to leave on the table. This is going to be interesting. Anyway, whatever it is, it's now officially started.

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

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Comments (12)

The thing that gets my goat with all this Zito attention is the lack of focus on upgrading elsewhere, pitching and otherwise.

Is there any good reason not to pursue Marcus Giles?

Even if we sign Zito, should we be comfortable with Glavine, El Duque, Maine and Perez comprising the 2-5 slots in the rotation?

Should we sit quietly while the Astros and White Sox try to hammer out a trade for Jon Garland?

My answer to all of these is "no." Your thoughts?

Why is Morrissey confusing Omar with Don King? I could just imagine an entourage of 30 or so people getting out of the stretch limo at Zito's house. Everyone knows that you have to take a couple dozen people or so with you if you want to be taken seriously!

C Dubb - I don't see Giles as being a great solution at 2B, and I think Valentin is just a place holder. Although Giles signed a reasonable contract with San Diego, I think it would have cost much more to get him here, and I just don't like him that much. I don't really love Garland, either, but I know some do. I'm sure Omar has a plan b if Zito goes elsewhere. I don't have a clue who it is, but I'll trust him on it. He's done well so far.
Bren - It's not easy to write a story out of almost nothing, but that's what baseball writers have to do nowadays.

Mets plan B, if they don't sign Zito is Suppan? Always Amazin shows Jeff Suppan comparison to Zito and it isn't that bad. I don't know if I like it, but it makes me fell better that there may be a plan B.

That's a good question, Rev. I've heard that Suppan is a part of plan b, but they will still try to trade for a pitcher.

Plan C?? Stevie Trashcan?? My thought is Barry is on his way here and everyone is playing hard to get. On a lighter note I couldn't help think of a young Rick Peterson on Cerrone's link to the Roger, Gary and Mookie video.

God, I hope not on Trachsel. I've seen enough.

Speaking of Rick Peterson, I was reading a piece on the fate of the Astros yesterday. In it was mentioned the "recently fired Dave Wallace." You'll recall Boston decided not to keep Wallace on back in October.

Remember when Wallace was The Guy, the guy most Mets fans didn't want to see depart? When Wallace moved on I remember numerous columnists taking shots at Valentine for being so hard to live with, that the Mets stood to lose this most valuable part of their brain trust.

Come to think of it, we were sold on Bob Apodaca pretty hard too, weren't we?

I don't mean this as a slam at Peterson, not exactly. But I do wish it was easier to actually know just how much a coach brings to the situation, and how much effect he has. From where I stand Peterson has had some successes and some failures, all of which is to be expected. Yes, Barry Zito has worked with Peterson, and coming to the Mets represents a chance for Zito to work with a familiar face once again. And that may or may not be the equivalent of a college art student obtaining a fellowship to study under Pisacco. We just can't tell from this distance.

dd - I like Peterson. I think he's done a very job in working with the pitchers, especially the young guys and relievers. He has implemented an orderly system in the organization. He is acknowledged to be very good at helping guys straighten out mechanical flaws. That's all I need from a pitching coach, I don't need them to be miracle workers or saviors.

I think the Mets really built up Peterson when they brought him over because they trying so hard to find any positives back then. I think that did Peterson more harm than good in the long run.

Mike: Maybe its the Xmas season, but your journalism standard is elevating. Your use of Rubin/Morriseys contradictory arguements is well thought out and you appropriately differentiate/present the media bias.

Your concluding use of Foxsports (Rosenthals) paragraph is a brilliant summation in itself. In fact THIS is the reason I believe Omar is hardballing. Last yr HE HAD TO SIGN WAGs (after being outbid on Ryan), Prior he had to overpay for Beltran (now a bargain) and Pedro to give the Mets credibility* With a WS contender intact, and Peterson in tow, Omar can offer Zito a contract with option yrs (yr5 & 6), and incentives as opposed to guarantees.

*Given Vernon Wells contract & Beltrans MVP season (Yes I say Beltran was the true NL MVP)I think Howard was the July-Sept MVP) I think Beltran has elevated. Also is there a Mets MVP curse out there? Strawberry should have been MVP in 87, Piazza in 2000.


Apodaca: Was close to BV but came in an ERA when the Mets bombed on developing Pulse, Izzy and Wilson as well Robert Person, Acevedo, and Grant Roberts. Apodaca did well but I cannot explain his flaws except that team ERA was that great.

Wallace: Was a noted and respected teacher. I think he did well in '99-00 with Wendell, Cook, Yoshii, Reed and Leiter. But as you noted he and BV clashed and he would rather walk than coach with BV. Was Wallace with the WS title B-Sox? He also has done more with less there in my opinion. Beckett and Foulke were injured last yr. Schilling is MASH all star.

Peterson: MetsGeek etc has worn out the Stats of pre-post Peterson Oakland. Plus, in my view Peterson has helped Kris Benson, Ollie, Maine, Petey, Glavine considerably. It would put this arguement to rest if once reunited with Peterson Zito (or Mulder) regained his Cy young caliber output. Also notable Dave Duncan did great work with Suppan and Jeff Weaver last yr, and has created a CY young winner in Cris Carpenter.

Ed - I'd be surprised if they didn't have to guarantee a fifth year and then offer options to sign Zito. If Meche gets 5 guaranteed, Zito surely will.

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