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The Mets: Old Pitchers and Lazy Shortstops

Mike SteffanosTuesday, July 15, 2008
By Mike Steffanos

Sunday night while basking in the glow of the return of good baseball to Queens, I caught a comment about the Mets by ESPN's Buster Olney. I think it was on Sportscenter, but it may have been Baseball Tonight. Anyway, talking about the Mets, Olney made the point that the pitching staff was old.

Say what?

Here is your current Mets pitching staff and their ages as of today (I also included 3 pitchers on the DL who might play a part in the second half):

Pedro Martinez36
Johan Santana29
John Maine27
Oliver Perez26
Mike Pelfrey24

Billy Wagner36
Scott Schoeneweis       34
Pedro Feliciano31
Aaron Heilman29
Duaner Sanchez28
Carlos Muniz27
Joe Smith24

Disabled List
Orlando Hernandez41?
Matt Wise32
Tony Armas30

That's quite a group of senior citizens! The starting staff is actually fairly young other than Pedro. Wagner is also 36, but has been fairly durable. At 34, Scott Schoeneweis is hardly ancient, particularly as a lefty specialist. El Duque is up there, but anything he could give them in the second half is gravy at this point. I actually think their staff is a good mix of young and veteran, although Wagner scares me at times.

I'd love to hear Olney's reasoning for labeling their pitching as old. I'm used to the fact that he rarely has anything positive to say about the Mets, but this seems somewhat of a reach beyond that. The average age of their five starters is 28.4, and the seven relievers average 29.9. Not wide-eyed kids, by any means, but hardly old by any reasonable standard.

As puzzling as Olney's "old" label for the pitching staff was, it pales in comparison to something CBS Sports' Scott Miller wrote last week. Of course, I usually wind up shaking my head when I read something by this guy, so I probably shouldn't be surprised.

Miller wrote an article titled "Anti All-Stars: The antidote to all that's right with the world" where he picked Jose Reyes as the shortstop. Here's what he had to say:

He's got talent. He's got speed. He's got pizzazz. He's also got an infuriating case of immaturity.

The most egregious sin for anyone blessed with this much talent -- baseball player, pianist, painter -- is to not get the most out of it. Right now, that's Reyes. Sure, his numbers are respectable. But this guy has the tools to be great. And he won't put out to get there.

I was there in Anaheim when he threw a colossal fit on the field when interim manager Jerry Manuel removed him from the game as a precautionary measure to protect a mildly strained hamstring. It was the worst thing I've seen on the field since Jose Guillen threw a similar fit years ago while playing for the Angels.

Reyes embarrassed himself and the Mets organization with his petulant tantrum and helmet-flinging episode. Manuel handled it well behind closed doors later, but that didn't erase the very public picture of Reyes acting like a spoiled little brat.

It wasn't long after that he showed up Carlos Delgado when the first baseman failed to make a play on a borderline throw from Reyes at short.

Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki was considered after he injured himself while slamming his maple bat to the ground in anger and landed on the disabled list. But this year, Reyes is the obvious call. Grow up, Jose.

Those of us who watch Reyes day in and day out know that he can be immature and frustrating at times, but those of us who remember what we were like when we were 25 aren't shocked when someone that age is immature. Then again, we're not paid to write intellectually lazy drivel for a national sports web site.

There are writers like Peter Gammons who combine a great love of the game with deep knowledge and a level of intellectual subtlety. On the other hand, there are guys like Miller who has one gimmick to play over and over again -- write something silly and obnoxious and get people fired up at you.

Reyes can be high strung, he can make bad baseball decisions at times, and he has a temper. On the other hand, for a poor kid from the Dominican Republic who literally grew up in the biggest media fishbowl on the planet, he's turned out pretty decent.

While the incidents of losing his temper on the field that were cited were bad moments for Jose, those of us who seem him a lot understand those moments are the exception, not the rule. He's certainly not perfect, but to try to label his as a chronic malcontent is ridiculous and merely reflects a bias on the part of the writer.

At times overhyped for talent that he hasn't quite managed to completely harness, and then criticized for failing to live up to that hype, one thing I have never worried about Reyes is a lack of effort. Frankly, sometimes he seems to try too hard and gets in his own way. I get the fact that fans of other teams don't like Reyes because he's animated and comes across as cocky, but that doesn't excuse labeling him as some sort of dog when he actually brings the effort day in and day out.

To accuse Reyes of not getting the most out of his talent because "he won't put out to get there" in a best-case scenario displays an astonishing lack of understanding by Miller of what he is writing about. More likely, it reflects an intellectual laziness and even intellectual dishonesty that I've seen in his work before that makes me question which CBS executive Miller is blackmailing with incriminating photos.

I disagree at times with writers like Buster Olney, Ken Rosenthal, Tom Verducci and Jon Heyman, but I also respect their knowledge of the sport and the insight they provide. I love to read their stuff even when I disagree with them. Scott Miller, on the other hand, has nothing to offer anyone with more than a casual interest and knowledge of baseball.

Remember, Scott, it doesn't count as humor if they're laughing at you. This rotten tomato is for you, pal.

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 (4)

I'm most amused by the people who, while Willie was manager, complained that the Mets showed now passion, but, when Jose shows a little passion about the game, get on his case for being immature.

If you want passion, you're going to get ballplayers getting angry at events. You can't have one without the other. Genteel or refined passion isn't passion at all.

If Reyes merely shrugged his shoulders after that bad throw, everyone would complain he didn't care. If he gets upset, he's immature. Sometimes you just can't win.


Jose is lazy? How many players, ever, have improved their command of the strike zone as well as Jose, from such a starting place? Jose took his on base percentage from an unacceptable .305 his first three years, to about .356 the last three years, an enormous, rare leap that required serious work and is the principal reason why we can speak of Jose as a great talent in the first place. Jose endured a series of leg injuries of the sort that have stymied scores of careers before his; he endured the Mets foolish decision to move him to second base while a lesser player manned his position.

I see Jose's outbursts as the other side of the coin of his gleeful personality. He is not exactly the most controlled individual on God's green earth. You can't like the juvenile moments, but thank goodness everyone is not exactly the same; it takes all kinds to fill the freeway.

We all want the world from Jose, but we should, and do, appreciate what we are getting from him. He's six years into his career, and he is GOOD; let's let him play, hope for more hard work and incremental improvement, and not let the writers afflict him with the Strawberry Curse.

As a first time poster but regular reader I just wanted to say I love the blog.

Anyways, I should let you know that CBS Sportsline's MO is to get a lot of people riled up enough to get posts in the comments section below the article. There isn't a well thought out article on the entire site because of this. You shouldn't take anything they write seriously.

RealityChuck - Even the incident where Manuel took Jose out of the game and he got mad -- sure, it was immature, but I respected the fact he wanted to stay in the game. How is that dogging it?
dd - Good point. Strawberry was also built up a as player beyond what he deserves and then criticized for not living up to the legend. I hope the arc of Jose's career diverges from what happened to Daryl.
kvd - I agree with you. I made the point that Miller's style was to write something obnoxious that gets readers pissed off. Unfortunately, many people will form their opinion of Jose based on crap like his.

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