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Out of Nowhere

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Sometimes a pitcher explodes onto the scene, as Matt Harvey did in 2012 or Doc Gooden in 1984, immediately staking his claim to glory. Some, like former #1 overall pick Brian Taylor, never even come within sniffing distance of the majors despite major hype as a prospect. Still others take a more circuitous route to major league success. 2005 Mets pitcher Aaron Heilman is a member of that third group.

Drafted #1 by the Mets (18 overall) in the 2001 draft out of Notre Dame University, Heilman put up decent numbers as he advanced from A ball to AAA by June 2003. Heilman was elevated to the major leagues after GM Steve Phillips was handed his walking papers that June, and it did not go well. Heilman was pummeled over 13 major league starts to the tune of a 6.75 ERA and a WHIP of 1.83. Over 65.1 innings he gave up an incredible 13 HR. It was clear that Aaron Heilman was not a major league pitchers at that point, and rather questionable that he would ever be one.

Sent back down to Triple-A…

Let It Burn

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A couple of weeks ago there was abounding optimism that an agreement would be worked out and we would see Major League Baseball in 2020. Recently, that optimism is deflating faster than a week-old Mylar balloon. Buster Olney is the latest baseball writer to express his incredulity that we don't seem to be getting any closer to an agreement between the owners and players.

Olney's main point is that both the owners and players must see that, if an argument over money is what keeps baseball dark this year, the fans won't forgive them whenever Major League Baseball does get around to coming back. It's a valid point, particularly if other sports manage to maneuver their way back into the public eye this year.

The concern that Olney expresses comes from conversations with people on both sides that are fairly moderate in their viewpoint. These moderates are having a difficult time seeing how this all gets worked out. Meanwhile, the implications aren't only for this year,…

The Return of Alex and Jennifer

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According to the New York Post, Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez haven't given up in their efforts to buy the New York Mets. The Post reports that the duo are now working with "senior  bankers" at JPMorgan Chase to put together the capital needed for the purchase. The article also states that they are putting hundreds of millions of their own wealth into the purchase.

Their thinking behind the purchase is interesting. Apparently they envision Citi Field as part of a larger entertainment and shopping venue. We've heard talk of something like that for years, but not much has really changed. The neighborhood around the ballpark is still pretty seedy. Unless your idea of entertainment is walking by rows of chop shops, there will need to be a huge investment involved in making the vision of Citi Field as an entertainment hub a reality.

It makes a ton of sense, really. That was supposed to be some of the justification behind building the new ballpark. Even back then they…

The Red-Headed Stepchild

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Since my return to blogging about 2-1/2 months ago, I've written several times about Minor League Baseball. I've speculated on what might be involved in developing prospects when there will likely be no Minor League season at all. I've shared my concerns over the future of the Minor Leagues, and the implications of MLB's plan to eliminate some affiliated cities. I wind up writing about the subject so often because I've come to understand the true importance of Minor League Baseball.
I didn't always feel that way. When I started watching baseball I didn't even know what the Minor Leagues were. I was ten years old, and it didn't even occur to me to question where the players came from before they appeared on my TV screen in New York Mets uniforms. Over a period of time I saw players coming to the Mets from their Triple-A affiliate in Tidewater, and slowly came to an understanding about how players were developed.
At one point in my teens I was so into ba…

Driving Off a Cliff

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There has been quite a bit written the past couple of days about how the Player's Union has reacted to the rather outlandish proposal MLB dumped on them this week. As Jeff Passan wrote for ESPN yesterday, the extreme position taken by the owners had the opposite effect that MLB probably hoped would happen. Union moderates that supported reaching a compromise the most were alienated and more or less driven back into the arms of hardliners.

If you haven't been closely following what's been happening in the negotiations, here is the basics of what MLB offered the players Tuesday: The salary structure starts with a prorated salary based on games played. If 50% of the schedule is played, then no one would receive more than half of their 2020 salary. But that's only where the cuts begin.
Players making the League minimum salary would get 90% of their prorated pay. In a half-season example, a player at the bottom of the scale would make about 45% of what they would have if this…

The Not So Funny Money Blues

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The big news of the day, which technically broke yesterday, is that MLB has finally made a concrete financial proposal to the union. Given the sense that a deal needs to be made fairly soon in order to meet the early July goal, I was honestly shocked that this hopeless proposal is what MLB decided to go with. It's fairly obvious that MLB doesn't expect the union to agree to the tiered salary structure they proposed. It's clearly meant to drive a wedge between the players and convincing a percentage of the public that the players are evil, greedy monster.

Let me get one thing on the record here. I don't think anyone should be paid what the top stars in baseball get paid. Being paid multi-millions of dollars per year for playing a game is insane. It's really hard for me to identify with someone making that kind of money, much less feel sorry for them taking a hit along with most of the rest of us during this pandemic. Then again, I feel pretty much the same way abou…

Walking the Ballpark

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In March of 2005, Mets GM Omar Minaya was scrambling to find a starting pitcher to replace Steve Trachsel, who just had surgery for a herniated disk and would miss most of the season. He reached a deal with the Dodgers to obtain 31-year old lefty Kazuhisa Ishii in exchange for catcher Jason Phillips.
Phillips was an interesting story during his short time in New York. After very brief stints in the majors in 2001 and 2002, Philips broke out in a big way for the Mets in 2003 at age 26, batting .298/.373/.442 with 11 HR and 58 RBI in just over 450 plate appearances. The distinctive corrective goggles that Phillips wore became part of his legend, with some fans nicknaming him GGOG, or Greek God of Goggles, as I remember it. He was one of the few bright spots on an abysmal 66-win club, and Mets fans, including myself, prayed that it wasn't just a fluke.
Sadly, it was. Phillips' numbers dropped precipitously in 2004, and by 2005 it was clear that his ceiling was nothing more than b…

Cutting Through All of the Nonsense

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Today at The Athletic, Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich are reporting that MLB has backed away from demands for a revenue sharing plan, and is prepared to offer the players an alternative tomorrow. Given the limited amount of negotiating time available to get a half-season and playoffs started, this is very good news. Revenue sharing was always going to be an incredibly tough sell. Other than a silly, overblown controversy over an alleged "smoking gun" email, little of consequence came out of these last two weeks of PR wars.

As best as I can understand it, the new proposal might be a return to the prorated pay idea that the players want to keep, with the possibility that some of the money would be deferred to a future time when, presumably, the clubs would be under less financial pressure than they are during this pandemic. If that is the case, it seems like a reasonable accommodation on both sides. I'm looking forward to the release of more details as they come out.

The…

The Dark Cloud

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Those of you who are regular readers of this blog know that I've been writing a series of posts on the 2005 New York Mets. That was the year I began my original blog, and also it was a pivotal year in the history of the club. Besides, it was chock full of interesting things to write about, particularly when you find yourself in a year without baseball.

I've written nine pieces for the series so far, including a two-parter. I've written about heroes and goats, great games and a nagging enigma. I've written about significant players who take a piece of your heart with them when they leave, and others who fell short of eternal glory. I enjoyed writing every one of these pieces, and I look forward to writing more of them.

However, there is one that I have made a couple of failed attempts to write. I wanted to write about pitcher Victor Zambrano in the context of his 2005 season. I finally just decided to abandon the idea, but rather than just move on I thought it might be…

One Tin Soldier

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I made a decision a few days ago that I wanted to take a break from writing about the ongoing negotiations between MLB and the Players' Union. When I tried to analyze the bits of information that were trickling through each day I started to get the feeling that my brain was being led around in circles. It really didn't matter if MLB presented the most comprehensive set of safety protocols to the union. Without an agreement on the money, the rest was a lot of noise.

Still, although MLB Commissioner Manfred spent a lot of time throwing some dire numbers out in front of the public, it's been two weeks and we've yet to see a monetary proposal. What we have seen is two weeks of a propaganda campaign meant to portray the owners as reasonable and the players as greedy. Although the times are quite different thanks to the pandemic, the way this has proceeded is comfortably familiar to those of us who have been watching these negotiations for decades.

According to Jeff Passan&…