Thursday, December 31, 2020

Maximizing Player Value

The Tampa Bay Rays get a lot of credit, most of it deserved, for running a pretty successful baseball club on a small budget. Of course, it wasn't always that way. When they came into being as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, they spent their first decade of existence in last place in the AL East. Their best year from 1998-2007 was in 2004, the only time they won 70 games. Meanwhile, they lost over 100 games in three different years. I know the Mets franchise got off to a much tougher start back in the sixties, but baseball was much less liberal in giving players to expansion teams back then, and there was no amateur draft until 1965. I'd argue that being terrible for a decade puts the Rays in a class by themselves for ineptitude, despite the assist from the Mets in giving up Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano in 2004.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

It's Still Early

A few more thoughts on the big moves by the Padres discussed yesterday. If I was a Cubs fan, I would not be a happy camper right now. After a pair of fifth place finishes in 2010 and 2011, Theo Epstein was hired to run the Cubs, and immediately tanked the next couple of seasons to rebuild the farm. After suffering through a 101 loss season in 2012 and a 96 loss season the following year, Cub fans endured one final fifth place finish in 2014 before making the playoffs with a 97-win club in 2015. That team, of course, lost in the NLCS to the Mets, but the Cubs peaked the following season with 103 wins and a World Series championship.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Eating Your Vegetables

When I was a kid, my brother and I were raised by my maternal grandmother after my underequipped Mom punted on the responsibility. My grandmother has been gone for many years now, but she remains one of the finest people I have ever known in my life, and also one of the greatest Mets fans. My grandmother had the biggest heart of anyone I've ever known, but she was somewhat overmatched trying to raise a couple of kids at an age when she should have been able to kick back and relax a little — not that that was ever part of her personality. Looking back, my grandmother contributed much of what has made me a decent person. Sadly, though, I didn't realize most of this until many years later.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Here's to a Future Lurker

This is my first full offseason blogging in a decade. One thing I learned my first time around is to have some writing ideas at the ready for the long periods with no news, particularly over the holidays. As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I have a "saved stories" folder in my newsreader with stuff going back to October. I didn't have time to write about this stuff then, but It's a great source for content at times like this. Or maybe I do what I did during the weird coronavirus extended offseason this spring when I came back to blogging, and write a series of posts on a particular past season that had a special meaning for me. I'm interested in a lot of facets of baseball and enjoy writing about them, so I usually don't struggle too much coming up with writing topics.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

2021 Can't Be Another Lost Year for Mets Prospects

I've been writing a lot about minor league baseball this year, focusing mainly on the harm that the changes to the affiliation process will do to the towns and small cities left behind. Ultimately, I think that will backfire on MLB, severing a crucial link between the game of baseball and a significant chunk of America. There was a terrific piece on FanGraphs a couple of weeks ago showing how, by their calculations, the changes to minor league affiliations will cost 5.2 million people the chance to attend minor league games in person, as they will simply live too far away from an affiliated team.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Celebrating the New Culture

As I was finishing up yesterday's post, news was breaking on the Mets making another significant front office hire. Former Red Sox assistant GM Zack Scott was named as Senior Vice President/Assistant General Manager. He's reunited with new Mets GM Jared Porter, who he worked with for years with the Red Sox until Porter left to join the Cubs. Scott was also a finalist for the Mets GM job.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

It's What You Don't See That Matters

Tim Britton had an excellent piece in The Athletic yesterday about new Mets owner Steve Cohen. It was rather long, heavily researched, and, as with anything written about Cohen, done without any cooperation from the man himself. Despite his willingness since buying the Mets to engage with fans on Twitter and do the lengthy interview with Steve Gelbs for Mets Hot Stove, Cohen notoriously avoids speaking with print reporters. Interestingly enough, although Britton notes that "more than a dozen" people were interviewed for the piece, twice that number of folks declined to give interviews, even anonymously. Hey, if I worked for the guy, I'd probably take a pass, too. Not worth it.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Put It in the Rearview

Today's post was originally going to be about something else — reactions to Tim Britton's long profile of Steve Cohen in The Athletic. Then I got some bad personal news that made me put that half-written post on the back burner, at least for today. We'll probably get back to that one tomorrow. For today, I was informed that I am officially unemployed again with a whole hour's notice. It seems a somehow fitting end to a year that featured a badly mishandled pandemic, a long multi-month layoff in the spring, an excruciating disk injury that took four long months to resolve, a weirdly truncated 60-game baseball season, and some serious medical concerns for Lisa. And those are only the lowlights of this stinking year.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Depth Isn't a Four-Letter Word

Although anything certainly can happen, we're probably not going to see a big flurry of moves in baseball over the next two weeks. The Mets have made some progress in signing depth pieces, while also adding Trevor May to the bullpen and inking James McCann to a four year deal. Getting Jared Porter into the fold as their new General Manager was important for this offseason and for the future. They still have a lot left on their to-do list, however. If they went into battle with the players already under contract, you'd probably be looking at a .500 baseball team, and that would be dependent on key players staying mostly healthy. Of course, we'd all bet the farm that major additions are still coming, and we would be pretty disappointed in 2021 if the Mets weren't at least strongly competitive for a playoff spot.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Some Thoughts on McCann, Arenado and Springer

After listening to some of James McCann's press availability, I came away impressed with the Mets new catcher — at least as a person. I have a pretty good feeling that the Mets pitchers are going to like working with the guy. After a couple of years of reportedly not being very happy with Wilson Ramos, this is a big deal. As for the rest, only time and a chance to see him play will provide an answer to whether or not this was a good signing. He doesn't have to win a silver slugger award to be an asset to the Mets, he needs to hit enough to justify a starting job and do the job defensively and handling the pitching staff.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

When Will the 2021 Season Begin?

On Tuesday, USA Today's Bob Nightengale published a piece stating that MLB wants to delay the start of the season for about a month, with the likelihood that the result would be a season of less than 162 games. The thinking, apparently, would be that they would want all of the players and support personnel vaccinated to avoid the need to reimplement the strict health and safety protocols from this past season. Of course, the league also wanted the players to make salary concessions for a second straight year, with fairly predictable results. The article included a quote from an NL team owner, bravely hiding behind anonymity:

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Getting the Little Things Right

Back about a month ago, I was writing about the Mets search for a President of Baseball Operations that wasn't going very well. None of the names that Alderson and Cohen had prioritized were panning out. They couldn't get permission to speak with many of them, and the ones they did meet with cited family reasons for not wanting to uproot and come to New York City. It was amusing when a few items started popping up in the media, questioning whether the struggle to get candidates to even interview represented some sort of early failure for Cohen's regime. Talk about a hot take!

Monday, December 14, 2020

Thoughts on Changes to the Minors and Our New GM

If you're someone who follows baseball pretty closely, you're probably aware that big changes are coming to the minor league affiliates of major league teams. The Mets used to have five A Ball affiliates, ranging from rookie level up to advanced A. Next year there will be only two, which will lead to some interesting choices in what to do with many of their young players. Both Sandy Alderson and Steve Cohen have stressed the importance going forward of developing homegrown talent, and new GM Jared Porter spent a good chunk of his career with the Red Sox, a model large market club when it comes to scouting and development. They're all going to face a new challenge of developing talent under the new minor league setup, and with a prospect base who missed out on an entire minor league season in 2020.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

My Cup Runneth Over

I'm trying really hard to remember back a couple of days ago to what it felt like when the Mets were still trying to find a starting catcher and a GM. Try as I might, I just can't recapture that feeling. Not that the club's shopping list is all checked off by any means, but things have a right on schedule vibe to them now rather than a when the hell is something going to happen? feel. This contentment will last for precisely as long as it takes for word to leak out that the Mets are deep into things with Springer or Bauer, but I figure I might as well enjoy it as long as it lasts. Serenity is a transitory emotion.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

The Mets Get Their Catcher

Good news about the Mets and free agent catcher James McCann agreeing to terms. With the other recent news that the Mets are close to naming their new GM, this hot stove season that seemed anything but hot a few days ago is finally gaining some steam. Looking at Mets Twitter, the general reaction seems to be one of happiness, although it's not universal, of course. I'm not sure there are many things in the world that you can get 100% consensus of Mets fans, we're just not built that way. I saw some tweets from fans that were very disappointed the Mets didn't seem to pursue J.T. Realmuto very hard. McCann might have been seen by most as the second best catcher on the free agent market, but he was a very distant second.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Beware the Dreaded Dombrowski

As if things aren't tough enough for Mets fans who are still left longing for a real impact free agent signing, now Ken Davidoff of the Post is describing the Phillies hiring of Dave Dombrowski to run things in the City of Brotherly Love as a "haymaker" delivered right in the schnoz of Steve Cohen's stated mission of winning a title with the Mets. Apparently, fans of the team like myself should now quake in fear of what this hiring means for all of our hopes. So, thanks to Ken Davidoff, Dave Dombrowski joins the long line of boogeymen that the New York media utilizes to beat Mets fans over the head. In his honor, I have included the picture of my favorite fictional Dombrowski, Louis, who I'm pretty sure anyone much short of retirement age will need to Google. You're welcome.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Is Paying Big for a Starter Still a Wise Move?

I was taking a look at potential Mets target Jake Odorizzi's stats today. While Sandy Alderson certainly hasn't come out and said anything, Odorizzi is widely viewed as a fallback from Trevor Bauer, depending on how the Mets elect to allocate their spending and what other offers Bauer receives. One thing that immediately jumps out when I looked at Odorizzi was the innings totals. The guy has a pretty substantial track record as a 5 innings and out pitcher. Throwing his lost 2020 season out, in 2019 Jake averaged 5.3 innings per outing, in 2018 it was 5.1, and 2017 was also 5.1. Those aren't shocking numbers given the way the game has evolved away from being dominated by starters, but I still found it eye-opening.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

It's All About Balance

It doesn't seem like that long ago that the Mets were all about pitching. The Mets rode the back of terrific starting pitching all of the way to the 2015 World Series, despite featuring a relatively weak lineup even after the addition of Yoenis Céspedes. Michael Conforto was on that team despite being in only his second year of pro ball and, to his credit, performed well in the playoffs. Daniel Murphy was just coming into his late career power surge, and carried them through the early rounds, although he fell off badly in the Series. David Wright had less than 200 at bats left in his injury-shortened MLB career. Curtis Granderson ran endlessly hot and cold for the Mets, but was a decent player. Travis d'Arnaud was having his last good year as a Met, but wasn't the hitter he would become after departing. Michael Cuddyer was one of Sandy Alderson's biggest mistakes, and the rest of the roster was littered with filler such as as Lucas Duda, Wilmer Flores, Juan Lagares, etc. Their defense left something to be desired, too. It was only great pitching that got them to the brink of a championship before falling short.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Phillies Won't Accept Dead Man in Return for Wheeler

I really wasn't going to try to post again until tomorrow, but this one was a little too good to pass up. Yesterday, ESPN's Buster Olney reported that the Phillies were listening to offers on former Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler. Needless to say, this started a veritable sh*tstorm of controversy. After all, the Phillies just signed the guy last year. Combined with earlier news that Philadelphia isn't considered a favorite to re-sign catcher J.T. Realmuto, fans of the team were not at all happy. After all, they lived through a period of tanking and rebuilding to get to this point, and it hasn't exactly paid off all that well. You would certainly expect ownership to reply in the usual formal manner, something to the effect that, while listening to all offers on any player, there were no plans to arbitrarily ship the righty out of town just for cost savings.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Free Agents, Post-Coronavirus Baseball and the Weight of Expectations

Joel Sherman had an article in the New York Post yesterday about the Mets' reported pursuit of pitcher Jake Odorizzi. According to Sherman, the Mets seem to be viewing Odorizzi as more of a fallback, depending on how the free agent dominoes fall this winter.  Which makes sense. They're probably not going to sign Trevor Bauer and Odorizzi unless they strike out completely on position players and settle for cheaper options there. It might go the other way, too. They might lose out on both Bauer and Odorizzi and look elsewhere for starting pitching. You never know how the free agents will start to fall. Remember, in 2005 the Mets were never looked at as the frontrunners for Pedro Martinez or Carlos Beltran. Sure, Omar Minaya was aggressive, but some of it was beyond the Mets' control. If the Red Sox wanted to keep Pedro and the Yankees were more interested in Beltran, neither one of them would have wound up as Mets.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Tanking Is Ugly, and Doesn't Always Work

Interesting piece by Sam Miller on ESPN.com about the Phillies' failure to reap the full benefits of tanking. It's a really good piece, and not behind a paywall, so I recommend you take a look at it. What interested me in particular about it was that it runs contrary to the belief of many around baseball that tanking is some sort of automatic route back into contention. I remember there was an article by Daniel Kaplan in The Athletic back a month ago that I responded to rather vigorously in a post of my own. Basically, Kaplan was taking a contrarian view to the idea that the Mets under Cohen were primed to succeed. Citing the success of the Yankees and a somewhat bizarre idea that the location of Citi Field in Queens doomed the Mets' chances of having good attendance, Kaplan went on to cite an unnamed source to suggest that tanking and rebuilding was the way to go:

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Comings and Goings

There have been a few minor player additions since Steve Cohen and Sandy Alderson have taken over the team, but inking reliever Trevor May earlier this week represents the first significant move of the offseason. It wasn't quite the Trevor signing that everyone wanted to see, but it was a decent first step to building a better team for next season. Assuming that Jeremy Hefner remains the pitching coach, he'll be reunited with a pitcher that he previously worked with successfully as a bullpen coach in Minnesota. The one big red flag for May is that he is somewhat homer prone, but the same thing could be said about much of the Mets bullpen, including the current closer.

It’s Not Quite as Dark as It Seems

I've been working on a long post looking ahead to the choices the New York Mets will be facing in the offseason. I've been dissatis...