I love baseball, but baseball isn’t perfect. I think there are a few things baseball could do to make itself more exciting, more competitive, and maybe just a little fresher.
1. When the home team loses, play a sad song. With the exception of nationally-televised games, baseball coverage is inherently partisan. Coverage is biased towards the home crowd: The announcers are some of the biggest fans of their respective teams on the planet, results of minor league games are often reported, and discussions of the most insignificant stories surrounding the team take up whole half innings, like who eats chicken in the clubhouse. But at the end of the game, win or lose, the home TV network will play the same triumphant, vaguely sporty song. It doesn’t matter if the game was over in the third with the score 43-0, David Wright, Jose Reyes, and Johan Santana all collided while trying to catch a popup and had to be rushed to the hospital, and Keith Hernandez missed his dinner reservation; they will still play that happy victory song. I propose that they not do that. Nothing irritates me more than that song after the Mets lose (which happens kind of a lot). Baseball is about stories, and at that moment, that song is completely incongruous with the storyline. I offer this as a suitable replacement.
2. Make revenue sharing merit-based instead of need-based. As it currently stands, the rich teams pay out a bunch of money, and the poor teams get a bunch of money. Some of the poor teams spend it, while others simply pocket it (I’m looking at you, Loria). Let’s have a little fun with it instead and structure it like Arne Duncan’s Race to the Top. If nothing else, Arne has shown us that you can get people to do crazy things they wouldn’t otherwise do if you give them a wad of cash in return. If a team moves to a four man rotation: boom, $5 million. If the Mets start getting Ike Davis (their rookie first baseman who was a two way player in college) appearances in relief against lefties so that Pedro Feliciano doesn’t have to come in EVERY SINGLE DAY: boom, $1 million. The Royals start a reliever for three innings, then bring in Greinke: boom, $10 million. You get the idea. I honestly don’t care much what the potential innovations are or where the ideas come from. They could be voted on by fans, or decreed by Bobby Valentine. Hopefully teams would just try something different. Brilliant Writer Joe Posnanski has written that teams are deathly afraid of being different for fear of being called “unprofessional,” and the result is teams like the Royals who try to win the same way the Yankees do, and ultimately fail year after year because they simply don’t have the same level of resources. Perhaps if there were tangible incentives to overcome the disincentive of conventional baseball taboos, we might see somebody take a chance and try something new. We’ll never know if all those funky ideas out there work until we get somebody to try them. Do the Pirates really have anything to lose?
3. Institute a salary cap and a salary floor. On opening day of 2006, the Yankees had a payroll of $194 million. The Marlins had a payroll of $15 million. Derek Jeter made $4 million more than the entire Marlins team. This simply isn’t fair. It isn’t fair to the rest of the league that the Yankees get to spend an order of magnitude more money (though the Yankees themselves aren’t doing anything wrong). It isn’t fair to the fans in Miami that Loria only spent $15 million and pocketed their revenue sharing money (Loria is certainly to blame here). Baseball isn’t a market where we want a stratified set of products. Ideally, most of the clubs ought to have a shot to make the playoffs most years. Mandating a range of $75 to $125 million might help elevate those teams permanently in the cellar, it and might put a damper on those teams expected to win it all every year. At the risk of renaming this blog “Joe Posnanski says,” I’m going to reference another post of his about the inherent inequity of the status quo, and how the volatile baseball playoffs serve to obscure how unfair it really is:
[T]he expanded playoffs have been genius for baseball … because the short series have been baseball’s one Yankee-proofing defense against the ludicrous unfairness of the New York Yankees. Hey, if the game is rigged, rig the game. The Yankees spend a lot more money than any other team. As a direct result, they had the best record in the American League in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2009. They made the playoffs every single year but one this decade (and going back to 1995). They are the best team with the best players every year — that sort of big money virtually guarantees it. So, you create a system where the best team doesn’t always win. In fact, you create a system where the best team often doesn’t win. For years the Yankees didn’t win. They lost to Florida. They lost Anaheim. They blew a 3-0 series lead against Boston. They lost to Anaheim again and Detroit and Cleveland — and how could you say that baseball is unfair? Look, the Yankees can’t win the World Series! See? Sure they spend $50 million more than any other team and $100 million more than most. But they haven’t won the World Series! Doesn’t that make you feel better?
4. Get rid of guaranteed contracts. With proposition 3 in mind, proposition 4 has, I think, an even stronger case. For fans, the only thing guaranteed contracts guarantee is that we are going to see players (too generous?) like Gary Matthews Jr. (and his OPS+ of 28) shuffled around the league. Who do guaranteed contracts help, other than bums like Mo Vaughn? A bad regime that gives out a few bad long term contracts can make a franchise non-competitive for years (see Toronto). Who wants to see that? Of course there should be some protections for players. All injuries should be covered, and there should be decent severance, pensions, etc. But the bottom line is that if I suck at my job I should get fired, and if you suck at your job you should get fired. And if Gary Matthews Jr. can’t rack up more total bases in two months than Miguel Cabrera can in one game, he should be launched out of a cannon into the sun.
5. Add a few rules to shorten the game. I have to admit that I’m not sure if this is actually a good idea, but it is interesting. The SEC has recently instituted rules to try to keep the game moving. With no runners on base, pitchers will have 20 seconds to throw each pitch, or else it’s a ball. If the batter isn’t ready in the box before the last 5 seconds, it’s a strike. I like that they’re doing this in the college game first, and it will be interesting to see how it goes. I would hope that this is the type of rule that would have an impact on the speed of the game, but almost never have to be enforced, kind of like the 3 second rule in basketball. Many people feel that baseball games are just too long to watch, and I’m sympathetic to that. As obnoxious as Joe West is, he has a point. I do worry that this change will make games go too fast for those who are in the stadium to watch the game and enjoy an evening at the ballpark, but the benefits to those of us at home may outweigh the costs. Maybe then I could even get Sarah to sit still and watch an entire game.
The Mets stink. Everybody knows it, no secret there. There isn’t really too much to talk about with regards to the 2009 season. Hopefully Omar is going to manage to sell off some piece to some desperate team. He probably won’t. Maybe we can start talking about next season soon, but I’ll leave that to a subsequent post.
This post is devoted to talking about one of the few bright spots of 2009: the unveiling of shiny new Citi Field. I think, at least for now, shiny is the best word to describe Citi Field. Coming from ancient Shea (which they apparently really let go at the end of 2008), Citi is clean, modern, and attractive. The urinals look like escape pods from a space faring vessel of some sort (would have taken a picture, but, you know…). The concourses are open and airy and allow a view of the field even from the line for hot dogs.
Citi is like all of the modern ball fields I have been to (Coors, PNC, Minute Maid, Safeco): the marketing word is “intimate”. Some have said this is just a sneaky way to be able to reduce supply and raise ticket prices, but that doesn’t make sense to me. Why not just raise ticket prices? Wouldn’t they make more money if they had more mouths to fill with hot dogs? I think there is something to be said for the experience at these new ballparks. Every seat is a good seat, even the “cheap” seats ($30 doesn’t really qualify as cheap in the real world). You aren’t craning your neck to see the plate, you aren’t staring at the back of the head of the person in front of you, you aren’t a thousand feet in the air, and you don’t need binoculars to read the numbers on the back of the jerseys. These are all good things. I think (hope) that most fans could care less about the waiters and the sushi and the indoor dining options and the fun zones for kids and the multilevel team stores, but they are there and they don’t really detract from the game except that those “customers” could be replaced by people who, you know, care about the Baseball game.
The one Major League failure that Wilpon and Co. have made with Citi field is that they barely indicate what team plays there. There is a sign that says “Mets” on the scoreboard, a list of championship years and the old apple by the center field entrance, and a few old pictures of Mets greats from the past on the outside of the stadium in left field. That is it. I am not exaggerating. I had read about people being upset by this, and I thought it was silly, but when I actually visited myself I was shocked. How could they have been so dismissive of Mets history? There ought to be a Tom Seaver baseball here, a Mike Piazza baseball bat there, pictures of the ’86 team jumping up and down at home plate after game six. I actually felt offended walking around, looking for something Metsy to look at, and coming up empty.
What really pissed me off was the level of homage paid to the Dodgers, who as you may recall are a current Major League team who the Mets play nine times a year. I don’t have a problem with the stadium design taking inspiration from Ebbets Field. The Mets franchise was built on filling the void left by the departure of the Dodgers and Giants. Mets blue IS Dodger blue. But they take it way too far at Citi Field. Jackie Robinson was a great man, but his rotunda does not belong at a Mets ballpark. Period. Put it in a museum, put it in LA, put it anywhere else. It is offensive to me, as a devoted Mets fan, to stand in the Jackie Robinson rotunda. Is Fred Wilpon even a Mets fan? After seeing the rotunda, I felt betrayed. Architecturally, the rotunda is a beautiful space. The light spilling in during a daygame is as close to breathtaking as a ballpark is going to get. But the entire atmosphere is ruined by a stupid six foot tall plastic 42, looping videos of Dodger players (mixed in with gag-worthy praise for the rotunda from the Robinson family), and a complete lack of respect for the Mets franchise and tradition. Being a Mets fan, being an underdog in your own town, is about taking abuse. Usually the abuse comes from management (see the Seaver trade, the Kazmir trade, the Cone trade, etc) and from Yankee fans. I guess there is no reason to expect any different from ownership.
But all of that was easy to put aside, on a sunny day, watching a Mets win. Citi is a nice field, and only needs some Mets-specific customization. I had a great time, and I would pay $30 again for an upper deck ticket. A new stadium is now one less item Mets fans will have on their “Maybe Next Year” list. Still remaining on that list would be a number 2 starter, a number 3 starter, a number 5 starter, a left fielder, a right field who can take a walk to save his life, a second basemen with functional knees, a catcher hitting above the Mendoza line, a manager who think statistics are more useful then his “gut”, a general manager who develops a decent farm system…
Listening to Steve Phillips rail against Beltran on the national broadcast of tonight’s Mets game made me want to throw things at the television. “The Mets need to rethink their 17 million dollar investment.” “This one time, Beltran tried to bunt for a hit, and he was the number 3 hitter and THAT’S WEIRD.” “Beltran doesn’t come through in the clutch.” “The Mets should keep Reyes and Wright, and trade Beltran.” WHAT?
Yes, we all saw him freeze on that curveball from Adam Wainwright in game seven in the 2006 NLCS. But Cliff Floyd also struck out with 2 runners on, and Jose Reyes lined out to center field. The most important point is that that AB was an aberration.
Beltran’s Postseason line (101 plate appearances):
30 H, 18 BB, 11 HR, 19 RBI, .366/.485/.817
Beltran’s clutch numbers in 2009:
2 outs RISP (21 plate appearances):
6 H, 4 BB, 7 RBI, .375/.524/.500
“Late & Close” (7th or later with the batting team tied, ahead by one, or the tying run at least on deck) (32 plate appearances):
10 H, 5 BB, 1HR, 6 RBI, .370/.469/.556
Within 1 Run (89 plate appearances):
33 H, 12 BB, 2 HR, 15 RBI, .434/.517/.618
FACT: Not only is Beltran a Gold Glove defensive center fielder who puts up consistently excellent offensive numbers in every possible way, he is EVEN BETTER in clutch situations, and without question the Met you should want at the plate with the game on the line.
PS. Thanks to Joe Morgan for telling Sterling Steve that he was wrong, and that it would be nearly impossible to replace Beltran.
PPS. Great job on the Mo Vaughn deal, Steve.
Yeah, it’s a month into the season. And I don’t know anything about American League baseball. But what use is it being a guy with a blog if I can’t make proclamations about things I know nothing about?
American League East – Boston Red Sox
(Sarah: New York Yankees)
The AL East has three teams which will contend, both in the division and for the pennant. Tampa Bay proved it was the best team in the league last year, and they return all of their key players, a year older and wiser, plus a full year of David Price once they call him up. They have budding stars at multiple positions. They now have some playoff experience, and pretty much everybody is healthy. And I didn’t pick them.
I just like the Red Sox too much. They have the reigning AL MVP in Dustin Pedroia, and he isn’t the best hitter on the right side of the Red Sox infield. They have solid talent in the outfield, including a great low-risk/high-reward signing of Rocco Baldelli.  Their pitching is the key. Josh Beckett is great when he’s healthy, and Daisuke Matsuzaka was the second best pitcher in the AL last season. Jon Lester was the fourth best pitcher in the league last year, and most people don’t even think he’s reached his full potential yet.
I’m not picking the Yankees for the division, and I don’t think they will win the wild card either. I don’t like AJ Burnett, and Andy Pettitte is a year older. Mark Teixeira is a great signing, but they are still saddled with a bunch of aging former stars, including the worst defensive shortstop in all of baseball (maybe you’ve heard of him).
American League Central – Minnesota Twins
(Sarah: Cleveland Indians)
This post only gets worse from here. I really have no idea what I’m talking about. But, for you, I’ll forge on.
I picked the Twins for two reasons. 1. I like Ron Gardenhire. Every year he seems to have nothing to work with, and then he wins the division. I really don’t know how he does it. 2. At least looking at the numbers, they have a young and deep rotation. I honestly don’t think the Twins are great, but I don’t think the rest of the division is great either.
The Indians and the Tigers both seem to have tons of talent, but not be able to pull it together. But I think really it comes down to pitching. Outside of Cliff Lee, who completely lost his mind last year and decided to be amazing, the Indians didn’t really pitch well. Nobody else pitched more than 130 innings, and nobody else was better than league average. The Tigers had fewer people shuffle through their rotation, but none of them were very good. Justin Verlander and Nate Robertson really struggled last year, and without those guys they aren’t going to win games.
I couldn’t in good conscience pick the Royals, because, well, they are the Royals. However, it is worth going over how ridiculously good Zack Greinke has been this year. 6 starts, 45 IP, 3 CG, 2 shutouts, 54 K, 8 BB, and to top it off, an ERA+ of 1156. That is not a typo. Also, Zack is his middle name. His real name is Donald. NOW YOU KNOW.
The White Sox won the division last year, and they have essentially the same team. But they are so boring. Too many words on them already.
American League West – Oakland Athletics
(Sarah: Seattle Mariners)
Los Angeles got a whole lot worse, losing Francisco Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira. Statistically, they overperformed by a ton. Their Pythagorean record last year was 88-74, but they somehow managed to win 100 games. The Red Sox proved they weren’t as good as their record by swiftly ending their season in the first round.
Seattle was terrible last year, and they won’t be any better.
The Rangers never seem to have any pitching. A good rule of thumb: If Kris Benson is in your rotation, you are a bad team.
That leaves Oakland. This is the smallest division in baseball, as well as one of the weakest. Oakland made a few moves to supplement their young players, bringing back Jason Giambi and bringing in Orlando Cabrera and Matt Holliday. Two fifths of their rotation is younger than I am. If a few of them do well, I think they win this division. Billy Beane has showed his hand a bit, bringing in Matt Holliday while knowing he can’t resign him. If they are in the hunt in July, I wouldn’t be suprised if they made a move to enable them to make a run this year.
National League East – New York Mets
(Sarah: New York Mets)
I figured I’d get the obvious one out of the way first. I say it’s obvious not because the Mets are good, but because any pretense of impartiality would be absurd. The NL East is, in my estimation, one of two divisions in baseball in which four different teams could win it.
The Nationals are run by idiots, don’t spend money on players, and have one of the worst farm systems in baseball – their season is already over.
The Marlins have loads of young talent, and if it all comes together at the same time (like it did for them in 1997 and 2003) they can beat anyone. However, I think an 85 win season is more likely.
The Braves are improved over last year, and I relearned the painful lesson every year for my entire childhood that the Braves shouldn’t be counted out. They got Derek Lowe, and kept him from the Mets, and have enough bright spots from last year to put it all together in Bobby Cox’s irritating tradition.
The Phillies had a great year last year and return essentially the same team in 2009. However, I think it is fair to expect their bullpen to regress toward the mean this year, and the possibility that Cole Hamels gets Verduccied looms over their season.
Much to my chagrin, the Mets did not seize any of the myriad opportunities this offseason presented to upgrade the rotation. Omar does deserve credit for taking the Met’s biggest weakness last year (everyone in the bullpen not named Bill), and turning it into a strength with the additions of Fransisco Rodriguez, Joseph Jason Putz, and Sean Green. It’s easy to forget the Mets won 89 games last year, and I expect more in 2009.
National League Central – Chicago Cubs
(Sarah: Chicago Cubs)
Only the Angels won their division last season by a wider margin, and the Cubs don’t figure to have much competition this year either. They lost starter-turned-closer Kerry Wood, but gained last year’s MLB leader in OPS, Milton Bradley. I actually liked the Mark DeRosa trade, as I thought Chicago sold high on an overvalued player.
If the Cubs stay healthy, they will run away with this division. The Brewers got alot worse when they lost C.C. Sabathia. The Astros, Cardinals, and Reds have a shot at the division if it everything comes together, but in terms of personnel they all essentially tread water.
We should all be amazed by the most consistent team in all the land: the unflappable Pittsburgh Pirates. In baseball, consistency is key, and the Bucs have delivered a losing season for 16 years in a row. One might imagine that through some freak accident, some wild luck, some once-in-a-decade anomaly the Pirates would win 82 games. But no.
National League West – Arizona Diamondbacks
(Sarah: Los Angeles Dodgers)
I think I may be in the minority on this one, but I just don’t see the Dodgers winning this division. I think the loss of Derek Lowe will hurt much more than people think it will. Not to mention Brad Penny, Joe Beimel, Takashi Saito, and others. Their rotation simply got worse. I Love (with a capital L) Johnathan Broxton at the end of the game, but I don’t think that is going to make up for the shakiness at the beginning beyond boy-wonders Chad Billingsly and Clayton Kershaw.
Some people are picking the Giants this year. To me, this is a funny, funny joke. Their number 3 hitter, Pablo Sandoval, is 3 months younger than I am. Their cleanup hitter is Bengie Molina, who has been consistently a below league average hitter his entire career. I know Mike Piazza, and you, sir, are no Mike Piazza. Have you ever heard of number 5 hitter Fred Lewis? No, you haven’t. Don’t feel bad — nobody has. He played in 133 games last year, the most of his young career, and was a league average hitter. For comparison, the Mets have Carlos Beltran batting 5th, the Cubs have Aramis Ramirez, the Phillies have Raul Ibanez. Randy Johnson is 45, Barry Zito is still terrible, Tim Lincecum and his 5’11 160 pound frame are a leading candidate to get Verduccied after increasing his innings total by 81 last year. I don’t see this team as a playoff team.
The Padres stink.
The Diamondbacks didn’t really add too many big pieces this offseason (Jon Garland), and they lost some big ones (Randy Johnson, Orlando Hudson, Adam Dunn). But I’m still picking them. Why? Pitching. I love Brandon Webb and Dan Haren. Jon Garland and Doug Davis aren’t great, but they could be good. The key to their season, I think, will be Max Scherzer. Scherzer pitched an outstanding 56 innings last season, compiling a 3.04 ERA. I would not be surprised to see even better results this year from Max and his 98 mph fastball. Combined with Webb and Haren, that would be a diverse and devastating front of the rotation. If the Diamondbacks get a decent showing from their young position players (Chris Young, Stephen Drew, Conor Jackson, Justin Upton), who are all a year older, I think they will be the class of the division.
Stay tuned for American League predictions.
Tim Redding felt no need to wait until the end of the regular season to get beat up by the Marlins. No, he figured he would let them get started in spring training — you know, to get a little practice in.  Powering through the gaudy Marlins lineup, Tim Redding gave up a mere nine runs in two innings. This LOWERED his ERA from the truly spectacular 135.00 back down to the more earthly 40.50.
 Interesting fact: The combined age of the Marlins 40 man roster is less than the combined age of the two Hernandez brothers.
But we all should have known the fun wouldn’t last forever. Today the Mets announced they are shutting Tim Redding down indefinitely due to “shoulder weakness”. I think they are just being nice. He should be shut down for “general weakness”.
How did this happen? How did he get a guaranteed $2.25MM contract? Because he is an “innings eater”? Wrong. He has never pitched 200 innings in a major league season. Because he is young, or has some great potential waiting to be unleashed? No. He is 31, he’s never been very good, and he is never going to be any better.
I am not going to say that Pedro Martinez is the answer for the Mets 5th starter spot, but how can a first ballot Hall of Famer, who single-handedly made this franchise credible, get laughed at for wanting a $5MM guaranteed deal, and this scrub can get half that and nobody freaks out? I am biased of course. I LOVE Pedro. I will readily admit signing Pedro would be a bad baseball move. But wouldn’t it be great?
I have got to believe he has something to prove. I have got to believe that his ego needs one more great year, a signature “Old Pedro” season, where he doesn’t quite have everything he used to, but he is so smart and he loves the game so much that he gets hitters out with mind-curveballs. Remember, we really aren’t that far removed from 2005 Pedro, 217 inning Pedro, All-Star Pedro, 145 ERA+ Pedro, sprinklers dancing Pedro, tractor driving goofy smiling Pedro.
Wouldn’t it be great?
It didn’t take too long. Apparently, Omar has fond memories of the Steve Trachsel era because he just signed his most recent incarnation. I’m sorry Steve Trachsel; let me be fair to you. Tim Redding, somehow, is worse than you were.
For a measly $2.25 million dollars, we will have the privilege of 1.5 baserunners on average every inning. Exciting! An earned run in ever other inning. Enjoy!
I don’t have a problem with the man himself. I have no doubt that he is trying. But the numbers show that he is a below average pitcher, well below average as a matter of fact (88 ERA+)*. And if Jerry Manuel shares Omar’s flawed baseball strategies, which I believe he does, we can expect to have a bad pitcher pitch almost as many innings as Johan Santana. This is where my real objection lies. I simply cannot understand why it is considered acceptable to have a terrible pitcher as your 5th starter. I understand this guy isn’t going to pitch in the playoffs, should the Mets be lucky enough to make it, and be lucky enough to have the four guys in front of him stay healthy. I understand it is unreasonable to demand 5 aces, unless you are a Yankee fan. But why is the fact that this guy “eats innings” so desirable? Why is it better to have one bad pitcher pitch alot of innings than it is to have a series of prospects, who at least have a chance to be average or better, moving through the role? I would argue that the expected value of the latter solution is much higher, even if we can expect more variance. Not to mention that you could pay ten pitching prospects with the money spent on this below average guy who happens to be durable.
*The numbers show that I was truly unfair to Trachsel earlier in the post. Trachsel had a career ERA+ of 99, or almost exactly league average. At least Reddding didn’t give up Mark McGwire’s 62nd home run…I guess?
But don’t worry kids, the news isn’t all bad. Not only was Tim Redding among the league leaders in games started, earned runs allowed, and wild pitches, he was also fourth in the league in sacrifice bunts! SMALL BALL INTANGIBLES ARE OFF THE CHARTS. If Willie was still managing, he would immediately be declared “one of his guys”.
What should Omar do? Let’s be constructive. At this point, Omar simply has to sign Derek Lowe. He is running out of options. I didn’t think this before. I used to think it was too much money and draft picks for a 36 year old pitcher. But as pitchers and catchers gets closer and closer (1 month, 2 days!), the reality of the Mets slim starting rotation is starting to set in. There is one consistently good pitcher on the market, and it is Derek Lowe. As a side note, it is NOT Oliver Perez. Ollie was a league average pitcher last year. He is not worth the absurd money he wants.
The one guy who really jumps out at me as a great option as a “5th starter” is Ben Sheets. I don’t get it with him. Nobody wants him. Last year he pitched 198 innings, had a 3.09 ERA, an ERA+ of 139 . And apparently, people are talking one year deals for $4-5MM. The Mets should offer a deal like the one the Red Sox gave to Smoltz: $5MM guaranteed, $5MM in incentives. Worst case: the Mets eat $5MM. One thing that Bernie Madoff and I have in common is that we don’t care about the Wilpons money. Best case: The Mets have one of the best rotations on the league and a playoffs one-two punch that is as good as most.
Are you like me? Not to give the Red Sox too much love, but am I the only one who loves what they are doing with their rotation? They have 8 pitchers who could start, plus the option of moving Smoltz to the bullpen where he was very successful. I love it! They can absorb injuries without suffering too much in terms of quality. Every team with the resources (like, um, THE METS) ought to do this. I went back in the archives to look and see when the last time a team made it through a season with no injuries sustained by the starting rotation and it turns out it was NEVER. Unless failure is acceptable, any system should have redundancy where it is cost effective. Expect pitchers to go down, and engineer the team to absorb it.
Please Omar: Heed my call and buy me some pitchers.
If you have followed the Mets in 2008, I probably don’t need to tell you about the bullpen. In case you haven’t, let me fill you in: It stinks.
Given my main point from part 1, you may be expecting another one-stop-shop solution from me. You may be expecting me to advocate on behalf of the man known as K-Rod, Francisco Rodriguez. In fact, the Mets are apparently already showing interest. I really like K-Rod, and I think he’s a good pitcher. But I don’t think he is the answer.
I think the Mets need a fundamental change in the way they view the bullpen. Change we can believe in. Look at the teams that made the championship series in each league this year. The most expensive closer of the bunch was Brad Lidge, who was given a contract extension midseason. And he was essentially claimed off the scrap heap (don’t try and tell me Michael Bourn and his .288 OBP was a real prize). The vast majority of the pitchers coming out of the pen for playoffs teams are young, homegrown, power arms. Jonathan Broxton, Cory Wade, Jonathan Papelbon, Justin Masterson, Ryan Madson, David Price. All of these pitchers throw the ball around 95 mph, yet all of them together probably costs less than the $10 million the Mets will pay Billy Wagner next year to not pitch.
So I want to give our young guys a chance. I think Eddie Kunz may end up being our set up man before July 2009. Bobby Parnell looked pretty good in limited exposure. Brian Stokes? Why not! Giving these guys a chance means getting the dead weight ahead of them on the depth chart out of the way. Give away Schoeneweis to anybody who will take him, or release him. I want to believe in Duaner Sanchez, but he may never be the same after his accident. It may be time for him to go. Feliciano and Smith were dreadfully overworked, so I think they could easily bounce back and have a better year next year. Trade Strong Sad to the Rockies for Huston Street.
I’m not against signing a free agent, as long as it doesn’t cost a draft pick. The interesting name in the mix is Kerry Wood. Even though he is a Type A free agent, he was not offered arbitration by the Cubs, meaning he doesn’t cost a draft pick. That means all he costs is money, and as I said before, I don’t care about the Wilpon’s money. The same goes for Joe Beimel, who could be a nice 7th or 8th inning guy. I would sign both of these guys, as well as any Japanese pitcher who seems halfway decent.
Basically, the philosophy is this: The Bullpen is a crap shoot. With the exception of a short list of pitchers, it is very difficult to predict what you are going to get from any given guy any given year. So don’t give up your valuable human capital (draft picks) and treasure for a guy who may have arm issues, like K-Rod, a guy who hasn’t proven anything, like Fuentes, or a guy who is freaking terrible, like Trevor Hoffman*. Instead, the Mets should stock up on arms who might contribute, give the young guys a chance to prove themselves, and give short, high dollar amount contracts to lure free agents who don’t cost prospects. In the current market, under-control players with talent are valued above all else, and our strategy should be to preserve and cultivate them, not give them to the Angels or the Rockies.
*Seriously, how does a guy named TREVOR have a billion saves? Is he the least intimidating pitcher ever?
This is me rooting for the Rays as hard as I can.
I wasn’t that invested in the ALCS, although I was pulling for the Rays by nature as I’m always anti-dynasty. I wanted to see crisp baseball, and I got it with a little bit of drama thrown in. The World Series is a totally different stories.
Negative feelings: I hate the Phillies. How much do I hate the Phillies? Let me count the ways. I hate Cole Hamel’s smarmy pretty boy face. I hate Chase Utley’s slicked back hair. I hate Ryan Howard’s terrible Subway commercials. Pat Burrell haunts my dreams. I’m annoyed by Jamie Moyer’s resistance to osteoporosis. And more than anything, I hate how they are sore winners.
On to the positives. Matt Garza is a stud. So are Shields and Kazmir (…WHYWHYWHY…). This team has plenty of boppers, they play solid defense, and they are fun. Longoria, Pena, and Upton are stars. This is why people watch baseball. This team is young, wild, and strapped.
Price is very impressive. Boy, the places you can go with first round draft picks. Since he is new to the big leagues, he probably doesn’t have a great nickname yet, so I’m going to call him Peerless. Peerless Price. I AM SO ORIGINAL.
So to sum it up, this October you have a clear choice. You can go with a bunch of whiny, disrespectful strikeout machines who hate children and pancakes, or you can go with a young, unassuming upstart rockstars who play the game right and have fun.
You choose. I already have.