Cespedes Buys Prized Pig; Shopping Spree Continues


Were you worried about Yoenis Cespedes potentially opting out of his Mets contract after 2016? Well fear no more because he’s probably already spent 75 million dollars on a combination of cars and livestock. Remember when we were worried about Matt Harvey and how his off the field activities would be portrayed by the media? Well, nobody is ever going to care again. Not as long as Yoenis Cespedes keeps up this Supermarket Sweep-like run of spending. He spends millions of dollars on custom sports cars and now he buys a prized pig straight cash from some kid at the St. Lucie County Fair. By the time we get to October, he’s not even going to have room on his fingers for a World Series ring because he’s already going to have diamond rings on every single one.

At this point, it’s pretty clear what everyone meant by Cespedes is a “distraction”. They just meant that he’s an absolute mega star with an unlimited amount of swag. “La Potencia” really couldn’t be a more fitting nickname. He easily outshines every player with his smile and power and now he can outspend them all. Along the way, I’m sure some other players simply got jealous and called him “a distraction”. As long as our guys (cough cough Matt Harvey) can keep their egos in check and let Cespedes be the star of the show, everything will be fine.

I also couldn’t be happier that the Wilpons finally cut a big check and now they are going to be forced to watch Cespedes publicly burn the money right before their very eyes. Although I suppose cars and livestock are better investments than any of the Wilpon real estate holdings.

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Weekly Roundup: Everyone Is Still Alive

Everyone Is Still Alive: Well the first full week of Spring Training is in the books, and so far nothing has happened. And that is literally the best thing that could have happened for us. Other than Dan Warthen’s irritable bowel syndrome, everyone is still walking and breathing. Everyone keeps saying “I feel great”. Bartolo Colon is working out like a fiend and showing no sign of being 43 years old. Zack Wheeler had his first post Tommy John throwing session from a mound, and the 10 pitch session supposedly went well. Even David Wright is conducting interviews from an upright position despite his spinal column being more tangled than the Apple headphones in my jacket pocket. That being said, it’s best that we just avoid injury-related conversations. We can’t risk throwing off the delicate balance that has somehow been established in the Mets Universe. (Also, as I was typing this, Curtis Granderson inexplicably left camp in the middle of the day to go the doctor. Probably just going to the dermatologist to get a boil lanced. Nothing to worry about.)

The league also finally came out with the new slide rule this week. Read all about it in my post here. I doubt it will work because MLB has no clue what it wants. The rule sure as hell doesn’t ban takeout slides. So we’ll probably just watch more players get rocked and then here managers and players complaining about how the new rule makes things worse and needs to be repealed. Home plate collision protocol 2.0. Should be fun.

Bikes, Cars, and Helicopters: The only “meaningful” storyline in camp to date has been that Yoenis Cespedes has driven 500k worth of custom cars to Spring Training. The players love it. The beat reporters love it. I couldn’t care less. Cespedes said he used to ride a bike in Cuba, and he’s worked hard to have all these vehicles now. And I completely agree with him. He deserves every penny he’s made in the MLB. Show off your wealth Yo. I do think it’s a little ridiculous that Terry Collins had enough of a problem with Cespedes’ backwards hat that he brought it up to the media, but he hasn’t had much to say on the subject of “safe driving”. I don’t know, but maybe its worth advising your star hitter to be responsible behind the wheel of his race cars? I guess I just figured that would be something Terry might worry about. I assumed old people fear death.

Anyway, after all this car talk, I read yesterday that Dodger Yasiel Puig supposedly inquired about buying a helicopter to fly to Dodger stadium in an effort to avoid the LA highway traffic. And of course, the idea was squashed because it’s banned by federal law. You have to love this move by Yasiel Puig though. The team asks him to mature this offseason and be less of a distraction. And he responds by asking them if he can park his helicopter in the general admission lot at Dodger Stadium essentially confirming that he has no idea what the word “distraction” actually means.

Soup for Everyone: This week Terry Collins said Eric Campbell has a “very legitimate” chance of making the team. I completely agree with the notion that our roster would be better off with a good bench player that has experience at 1B, 3B and corner OF. But I honestly think we’d be better off adding the equipment manager to the roster over Soup. Soup getting a significant number of ABs due to other injuries was a major reason we struggled so much offensively last season. I started to look up his 2015 splits to try and offer some explanation of how he could help the team, and then I remembered he hit .197 last season and I decided to go on living my life.

Tejada Free Agency Gift: Ruben Tejada was supposed to be under Mets control for the 2016 and 2017 season. However, he only needed one additional day of service time to be eligible for free agency after the 2016 season. So the Mets gave him the extra day as part of his recent arbitration settlement. That’s really generous of the Mets organization. Oh and then we promptly announced that Eric Campbell may make the team over him in 2016. So if things go well for Ruben he may even get to be a free agent by the end of Spring Training when we release him. Hooray for Ruben! However it’s far more likely that he makes the team and gets rocked on another takeout slide in the first month or so.

Commissioner Goeddel and Utley Play 18 Holes: Mets pitcher Erik Goeddel told the Daily News that he recently played a round of gold with his brother Tyler (who just got selected in the Rule V Draft by the Phillies) and Mets nemesis Chase Utley. Apparently Chase recognized Tyler in the gym and asked to join the two brothers for their round. Not sure why Commissioner Goeddel decided to partake in this round. Spending 3 hours with someone you hate on a hot Florida golf course sounds like my version of a Guantanamo Bay interrogation session. Maybe Erik Goeddel was planning on driving the golf cart at maximum speed towards the water hazard, and then bailing at the last second only to watch Chase drown? Or maybe the brothers drove one car to the course and Chase being the dick that he is refused to give Tyler a ride home because his hotel was “a little out of the way”. Either way I am not a big fan of Commissioner Goeddel rubbing elbows with the enemy unless he has some ulterior motive. We shall see…

Mr. Manfred’s Neighborhood Play

I already posted about the new takeout slide rule yesterday. Ruben Tejada Rule. Chase Utley Rule. We can call it whatever the hell we want. As I said yesterday, I see it as nothing but a pointless rebranding of the already muddied takeout slide rules. And we are going to spend 162 games debating if the runner made an “attempt” to touch the bag and an “attempt” to hold on to the bag. It is ridiculous, and we are in arguably the same position as last October.

But today, all I am reading about is how the masses are appalled by the fact that the league published the new slide rule while simultaneously making the existing “neighborhood play” reviewable. The neighborhood play allows an infielder to record a force out at second base during a double play without technically touching the bag. It historically existed to protect shortstops and second basemen from takeout slides. And now that it can be reviewed by instant replay, it essentially means the league will enforce the actual rule of staying on the bag to record a force out. As a result of this change, Terry Collins said, “Someone is going to get their clocks cleaned.”

MLB continues to blow my mind with their myriad of unwritten rules like the neighborhood play. So we literally just made a play reviewable that doesn’t technically even exist by rule. And it only existed in the first place because the league refused to make a real rule addressing takeout slides. It literally exists because runners consistently crush middle infielders on takeout slides, and in order to give the infielders a chance to survive, everyone agreed off the record that they don’t have to touch the bag while turning a double play. You know what else we could have done all this time? Maybe release a “no crushing the middle infielder on takeout slides” rule. Does that work? Has anyone in MLB ever heard of writing down real rules that make sense?

And you know the best part? This new slide rule does not ban takeout slides at all. In fact, the league has openly talked about how they want them to remain a part of the game.

Let us recap: 1) Real rules exist that say fielders need to stay on the bag to record a force out. 2) Unwritten “neighborhood play” rule exists and says the opposite. 3) Now instant replay can be used to ensure the unwritten neighborhood play rule will no longer be enforced. 4) Slide rules now exist that define a legal slide and an illegal “roll block”. 5) The league does not want to discourage legal slides to break up a double play.

It is so simple everyone. Now, the league just wants middle infielders to stay on the bag, and they only want double plays to be broken up by runners that legally “take the fielder out” of the play. Get it?

As I said yesterday, the rule deliberation is pointless because the only way this works is if the league bans takeout slides through enforcement. They just have to consistently call the runners out. If they consistently side with the infielder then the practice will die out. And once the actual rule is established by virtue of the calls made during the games, hopefully somebody grabs a pen and writes it down.

Mets Camp is Quiet; Too Quiet

The top stories of Mets Spring Training so far have been:

1) Yoenis Cespedes owns nice cars and drives them to camp.

2) Cespedes made waffles on the first day of camp and probably flipped the whisk once he crushed breakfast.

3) Jacob deGrom tripped while running (probably with Jerry “Magoo” Blevins) and then his deGroin hurt for 12 hours but now its fine.

4) David Wright has the spine of an 80 year old man and can’t ride the bus on spring road trips because that makes it hurt.

5) Cespedes wears his hat backwards and Terry Collins does not like that and plans to tell him.

That last story about Terry planning to confront Cespedes over his backwards hat is almost not believable. I mean maybe we don’t know all the details. Maybe the back of the hat smelled and Terry couldn’t stand the stench. Or maybe it wasn’t an actual Mets hat. Or maybe Cespedes met Terry at a church for a funeral and refused to take his hat off. I mean if a backwards hat is an actual problem for Terry and other elderly managers, then I think I see how he got the reputation as a clubhouse “distraction”. I guess Terry has been too distracted by the orientation of Cespedes’ hat to notice that the team spends half the day standing in the Tradition Field parking lot staring at Cespedes’ rocket cars.

Listen, I am not complaining about the lack of news coming out of camp. No news is good news. All I’m saying is stay alert. Keep your head on a swivel. Don’t get caught off guard because we are Mets fans and the other shoe always drops. Speaking of the other shoe dropping, today is Spring Training physical day where Ray Ramirez checks the players for testicular lumps. I think physical day should just be cancelled as absolutely nothing good can come out of it.

Also, runner up for top story of camp was the arrival of Fred Wilpon’s dog Blue. Blue’s full name is Jackie Robinson and undoubtedly lives in a doghouse modeled after Ebbets Field. And his doghouse reeks of Kirkland Signature dog food or “whatever is on sale”.

MLB Slide Day; Stopwatch Era Begins


MLB finally came out with their revised rules in response to the Chase Utley takeout slide that ended the 2016 postseason for Ruben Tejada. How about a big round of applause for MLB, as it only took them 5 months to respond to something so simple and straightforward.

So here is what they came up with:

“A runner is still allowed to make contact with the pivot man, provided the following four conditions are satisfied:

  1. He begins his slide (i.e., makes contact with the ground) before reaching the base;
  2. He is able and attempts to reach the base with his hand or foot;
  3. He is able and attempts to remain on the base (except home plate) after completion of the slide; and
  4. He slides within reach of the base without changing his pathway for the purpose of initiating contact with a fielder.

As well, the runner may not engage in a ‘roll block,’ or intentionally initiates (or attempts to initiate) contact with the fielder by elevating and kicking his leg above the fielder’s knee or throwing his arm or his upper body.”

So there it is. It took them 5 months to come up with that, and quite frankly it is completely and utterly meaningless. I see it as nothing, but a pointless rebranding of the already muddied takeout slide rules. The first point would be meaningful if we were addressing the sliding style of Pete Rose in the 1970 All-Star Game, but at this point in time all the players are starting their slide before they reach the base. The second and third points say “attempt” to reach the base and stay on the base. It’s going to be real fun watching umpires debate “an attempt” for 162 games. And the final point is the key one in my mind and will ultimately determine the success of the rule. The runner can’t change his “pathway for the purpose of initiating contact with a fielder”.

This is going to come down to one simple thing: Look at the base. I know it says “pathway”, but they really mean the runner shouldn’t shift his focus from base to fielder. It is going to become the “look at the base” rule. Chase Utley, Chris Coghlan and all the other hard-nosed players are going to have to sell the legitimacy of their slide by staring at the base the entire time. When Coghlan and Utley crushed Kang and Tejada, they both had their arm extended and made varying attempts to touch the base. Utley didn’t make much of an attempt to stay on the base, and technically his move was a “roll block” because he threw his upper body. But an adjustment to avoid the definition of a “roll block” can easily be made by the dirty players. They just need to stay low and reach for the base. Chris Coghlan stayed low and reached for the base when he took out Jung Ho Kang. But almost all these dirty slides involve the runner visibly shifting his focus and attention from the base to the fielder. They all look up or to the side or wherever the fielder is standing. And from now on, all they are going to do is keep their arm out and their face aimed at the bag.

All the rule deliberation is pointless. It always has been. The only way to eliminate this practice is for the umpires to consistently call the runners out. If they consistently side with the fielder then the practice will die out. It’s no different than helmet to helmet hits in the NFL. Once the referees threw the flag the players adjusted and now most guys aim low. If the umps call the runners out, they’ll give themselves up, slide as a mere formality, and the takeout strategy will become non-existent. Let’s just hope that the umps protect the fielders all season and ignore all the complaining sure to come from baserunners and old school managers.

Pace of Play Miracle: The other announcement from MLB today, was the beginning of the stopwatch era. Now mound visits by managers and pitching coaches will be 30 second timed visits. Hooray. It’s what we’ve all been waiting for. The league has yet to expand on these ground breaking pace of play developments but I am assuming any arguments about violations of the 30 second clock will be limited to 60 seconds for each manager and any challenges to the 60 second manager objection will be sent to the replay center in New York for review.

The second pace of play change is the one I find appalling. Now break timers between innings will mirror the time allotted to broadcasters between innings: 2:05 for locally televised games and 2:25 for nationally televised games, a reduction of 20 seconds each from the 2015 season. I don’t know about you, but if this takes away one single Cellino and Barnes or Grand Prospect Hall commercial on SNY I am going to lose my mind.

MLB’s First World Problems: Qualifying Offers and “Tanking”

tanking

All offseason I’ve read about how the current MLB qualifying offer system as well as the practice of teams “tanking” are hurting baseball’s competitive balance while simultaneously damaging the integrity of the game.

Before I douse the hyperbolic flames supposedly engulfing MLB as a result of these two hot button topics, let me give some background on both of them.

Qualifying Offer System: The qualifying offer system is the means by which MLB ensures that a team losing a significant player to another team in free agency has a chance to get a draft pick back as compensation, thereby promoting competitive balance. Under the MLB qualifying offer rules implemented in 2012, a team can make their own prospective free agents a “qualifying offer”. A qualifying offer is a one year contract with a salary based on the average of the top 125 contracts (this offseason it was 15.8m). If a player accepts the offer, he returns to his team on the one year deal at the pre-determined salary. If he rejects that offer and signs elsewhere, the team he leaves receives draft pick compensation from the team he joins. The draft pick compensation sent by the team signing the free agent is generally their first round pick unless they were among the 10 worst teams. In that case their pick is protected and the team losing the free agent would get a supplementary pick at the end of the first round.

Consensus Gripes: For the league’s elite players, it’s an easy decision to reject these qualifying offers since the players stand to receive higher average salaries and longer term commitments on the open market. The mid-level talent has a more difficult choice because the salary being extended on the one year qualifying offer may be higher than the average amount they stand to earn in free agency, but they have to weigh that against the possibility of receiving a longer term commitment on the open market. The gripe has been that the association with draft pick compensation has significantly hurt the value of certain free agents and often times prevented these players from receiving the long term deal they anticipated.

My Beef: Listen, there is no denying that the tie to draft pick compensation has hurt the value of certain free agents this offseason. The most prominent example of a player still unsigned who is supposedly being affected by the qualifying offer is Ian Desmond, a SS with a strong albeit flawed track record. Desmond has been one of the most productive offensive SS in the game between 2012 and 2015 hitting 19 or more home runs in each season. However his defense is nothing short of awful. He grades out as one of the worst defenders at his position over that timeframe. And last season in his walk year, his offense fell off as well. He hit .233 with a .674 OPS. He also failed to steal 20 bases for the first time since 2011. A month ago, there were more examples of solid players still seeking employment which highlighted the alleged impact of the qualifying offer on the market. But in the last 2 weeks, pitcher Yovani Gallardo and CF Dexter Fowler signed 3 year 35 million dollar deals with the Orioles. One could argue these deals were slightly below market value, but in my opinion they were close enough that both signings dealt a blow to the qualifying offer detractors.

But let’s operate under the assumption that the markets for Fowler, Gallardo, and Desmond were negatively impacted by the qualifying offer. Maybe these players aren’t getting the contract offers they want because front offices are currently overvaluing draft picks. Maybe they aren’t getting paid because teams are valuing defense so highly that they prefer to divert resources towards players that have a strong defensive track record. Hell, the offensive resume of Jason Heyward isn’t that far off from that of Dexter Fowler. But Dexter Fowler has always been a below average defensive CF and Heyward got 184 million dollars primarily for his glove. Another possible explanation for the lack of offers could be that teams are simply using the qualifying offer system as an excuse to actively drive down the price tags for mid-level free agents. After all, there are unlimited examples of teams getting burned by handing out long term deals to mid-level players of this ilk. Two outfielders that comes to mind are Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher who both signed 4 year deals with the Indians during the 2012 offseason. Both were mid-level talents in their early 30s that signed long term deals, and both turned out to be complete busts.

The reason Gallardo, Fowler, and Desmond failed to get their desired contracts is probably some combination of all the factors I mentioned above. But do we really want a remodeled draft pick compensation system that ensures these types of players continue to get overpaid in free agency? After all, expensive guaranteed contracts for players that go bust are among the most debilitating obstacles for a mid-market club to overcome. Teams have been overpaying mid-level players based on their past performance for a long time, and quite frankly its been refreshing to see less of that under the current rules even though it’s been an unintended consequence of the system.

I’ve also seen the claim that the qualifying offer unfairly impacts small market teams because of how important the draft is to their long term strategy. They are less inclined to go after a player tied to draft pick compensation because they stand to lose the first round pick as well as the pool money associated with their slot in the draft. This argument makes sense, but I am not exactly sure how a new system would fix the disadvantage of small market teams. Jon Morosi put forth some interesting hypothetical proposals that could be considered under the new CBA. Generally speaking, any new proposal would limit the number of teams forced to give up their pick by creating a system that disincentives the extension of a qualifying offer. I may be going out on a limb here, but if we create a new system where the tie to draft pick compensation is less prevalent, and therefore the market for mid-level players is no longer depressed, wouldn’t the expanded market for these players lead to the small market teams being priced out anyway?

And all you have to do is look at the NFL to see how much worse things could be. At least MLB’s problem only has a minor financial impact on the mid-level talent. In the NFL, the best players can be extended the exclusive franchise tag which is essentially a one-year contract for an amount no less than the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position. In that situation the player cannot negotiate with other teams on a longer term deal. In a sport where injuries are so prevalent and prime earning years are so scarce, you would think such a owner/team friendly tactic would be contested by the NFL Player’s Union in their CBA. But it still remains intact and regularly stops some of the NFL’s best players from cashing in at the earliest possible point in their career. Let’s at least be grateful that under our current CBA, former star players like Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, and CC Sabathia can get significantly overpaid well into the twilight years of their career.

I just think in the end, the qualifying offer dilemma is such a first world problem in the sports world. The financial impact to these mid-level players is so insignificant when you look at it with the backdrop of a baseball industry with players making billions.  Despite that fact, the MLB Players Association will surely overhaul the entire system to get these middling talents what typically amounts to one extra year of guaranteed money.

Tanking Controversy Overview: I went into this in some detail in a February 9th post. I think the claims being made across the league that teams are actively “tanking” to rebuild their franchises are being overblown by the owners of big market MLB teams because they don’t like sharing revenues with rebuilding clubs.

There are undoubtedly a large number of teams in the league currently in the midst of a rebuilding effort. This is nothing new. It just so happens that the current rebuilding teams are using what the Cubs and Astros did as their blueprint for success. These two teams spent 3-5 years among the worst in the sport and collected high draft picks as a result. With the talent they acquired through the draft and through trades, the Cubs and Astros have returned to a competitive state once again.

As I pointed out on February 9th, the MLB draft doesn’t have a top heavy talent distribution with a diminishing overall player value as you get lower in the first round. And there’s been very little recent evidence to show that a top pick in the draft guarantees a star player. This “tanking” phenomenon has really been just the latest example of how intelligent executives find a way to game the system. Before 2012, the MLB draft did not have a rigid slotting system with spending caps. So the most talented players would demand extremely high bonuses that were loosely regulated under league rules. As a result of that, players represented by agents like Scott Boras would frequently make their bonus demands known before the draft and the small market teams that had high picks would literally pass on the top talent because they could not afford to meet their contract demands. It wasn’t a matter of gaming the old system because it was essentially rigged in favor of the big market clubs. In order to rectify this competitive imbalance, Major League Baseball negotiated a slotting system in 2012 that assigned teams spending caps according to where they pick in the draft. Just like that, the league made it impossible for big market teams to buy the draft. And now the best talent is consistently and appropriately being selected at the top of the draft board.

Consensus Gripes: So the tanking argument centers on the belief that teams who know they won’t be competitive in the coming season are refusing to add talent through free agency and are purposely designing flawed rosters to ensure they get top draft picks which are allotted the largest spending limits. And it is pretty clear that this is going on to varying degrees in the sport.

My Beef: What’s the big deal? We know why the Union is mad. They don’t like that the “tanking” teams are not spending on mediocre free agents that can marginally improve their team. The big market clubs/owners are mad because the “tanking” teams aren’t reinvesting shared revenues in their on field product.

But do we really want a league full of Padres, Rockies, White Sox, and Tigers? These are mediocre teams that are refusing to embrace the reality that their team is not going to win as currently designed. When these teams suck in 2016, do they deserve more credit than the “tanking” Braves and Brewers because they ultimately spent some money on free agents and fielded a slightly less flawed roster? Do we want to discourage rebuilding? 3 to 5 years of poor play that leads to 3 to 5 years of success seems more desirable than 6-10 years of mediocrity. Just look at the Rockies. The Rockies stink. The Rockies could trade Charlie Blackmon and Carlos Gonzalez for 5 prospects, but instead they are doing some kind of half-assed rebuild. They traded Troy Tulowitzki and Corey Dickerson, but kept the rest of their players electing to be mediocre again. What if the league designs a system that discourages these types of rebuilding strategies? Would it stop trades for prospects like the ones where the Mets traded R.A. Dickey and Carlos Beltran to net Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud and Zack Wheeler?

And again this is such a first world problem relative to other sports. In a league with incredible parity, do we really want to make massive overhauls to the way teams set themselves up for sustainable success? Just look at the NBA and the real tanking problem that exists there. We talk about MLB tanking, but in the NBA, fans get upset when their dog-doo team wins one game in the final week of the season if it changes their draft lottery odds. We talk about how tanking in MLB hurts the competitive balance, but did we even take a second to look at the state of the NBA? Right now NBA fans looking for a conservative investment would be better off blowing out their 401k and “investing” in a Cavs vs. Warrior NBA Finals matchup. If you are looking for a little more risk, but still an overall conservative position, just bet on the Warriors to win it all. I mean it’s almost laughable for MLB owners, executives, and experts to be complaining about the MLB competitive balance when the NBA legitimately has a guaranteed champion in February.

In the end, I am not denying the existence of these two issues in MLB. They exist and when the collective bargaining agreement is renegotiated next year, changes will undoubtedly be made to address them. All I am saying is, when your sport has the most powerful player’s union, the most parity, and 9 billion in revenue, let’s just make sure we don’t overhaul things too much. After all, the owners and executives will all just find a way to game the new system anyway.

Update (2/25/16): Since I posted this, Yovani Gallardo supposedly failed his physical with the Orioles despite having no major known medical issues. As a result his 3 year 35 million dollar deal became a 2 year deal with an option. I think this goes to my claim above that teams are using the qualifying offer system as an excuse to actively drive down the price tags for mid-level free agents. I player with no market for his services and no injury history agrees to a market rate contract and then promptly fails his physical providing the signing team with more bargaining power? Sounds very fishy. Also Dexter Fowler backed out of a 3 year deal with the Orioles to return to the Cubs on a 1 year deal. To me this says very little about the qualifying offer and more about Fowler following his heart like Cespedes did with the Mets. But trust me the lack of market for both players is going to be blamed fully on the qualifying offer.

Weekly Roundup: Spring is Here and Good Things Keep Happening

terry fred laugh

Spring Training started this week, and almost every Mets player arrived early giving fans a clear indication of how dedicated the entire team is to the goal of winning the 2016 World Series. Bartolo Colon was looking as sexy as ever during fielding drills. Michael Conforto talked about how much he wants to improve in his sophomore season. And Yoenis Cespedes showed up early to camp on Sunday to hopefully silence the lying critics who consistently question his character and motivation. Even Terry Collins’ old man base tan was in full effect. In the photo above taken by Mets beat reporter Anthony DiComo, Terry had a nice laugh when Fred offered to manage his 401k.

That’s right, other than Matt Harvey and Lucas Duda talking about some of their World Series Game 5 regrets, it was all smiles in Mets land this week. Quite frankly, it has been mainly smiles for the last six months, and the unprecedented streak of happiness has me waiting for the other shoe to drop. But until that happens, let the good times roll.

Chase Utley and his Apology Fruit Basket: This week Ruben Tejada, victim of the vicious Chase Utley NLDS takeout slide, said that Chase still hasn’t reached out to him directly to apologize for his disgusting “hard-nosed baseball play”. Ruben indicated in the New York Post that he’s still not over the play, and he wants MLB to implement changes to better protect middle infielders. But he did mention that Chase “sent me a couple of things”. Utley is such a jerk. Intentionally crush an infielder and then send him a goddamn edible arrangement like he’s Derek Jeter compensating a woman after a one night stand. I cannot wait for Noah Syndergaard to be on the mound this season and face Chase. Show him what we think of his damn fruit basket apology.

Sports Illustrated Says Mejia Cost Himself 47 Million: Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated said this week that as a result of his lifetime banishment, Jenrry Mejia may have cost himself close to 47 million dollars in potential future earnings. He based this on the fact that Mejia lost $2.595 million salary in 2015, $2.47 million salary for 2016, a possible $9 million over his 2017 and 2018 arbitration-eligible seasons and a potential free agent contract close to $31 million in 2019. I completely agree that Mejia is an absolute moron for not simply trying to pitch clean and collecting whatever money he could through the arbitration process. That being said, in today’s MLB it’s tough to entertain the possibility of a player collecting millions over a long career when he spends his offseason loading up on horse testosterone. That’s more of a 90s MLB pipe dream. It certainly doesn’t matter anymore since Mejia won’t make a cent playing on the Field of Dreams with Pete Rose, Shoeless Joe Jackson and the rest of MLB’s all banned team.

Collins Says Lagares is Hot: Terry Collins raved about Juan Lagares and his offseason conditioning this week as he arrived at camp in “unbelievable shape”. I’m a little disappointed Juan didn’t recommend his trainer to Mejia, but I am certainly ecstatic to hear that Juan came to camp in the best shape of his life. Although I can’t imagine all those arm curls having a positive effect on his already torn UCL. Either way Terry couldn’t get enough of Juan’s “sweet sweet ass”.

Wright is Deteriorating: I honestly can’t bear to listen to another interview with David Wright. The reporters all asked him this week about how many games he hopes to play and how his back is feeling. And according to Mike Puma, he said he has “good and bad days physically but the vast majority are somewhere in between”. It’s never good when your franchise player is describing his physical condition in the same way as your 88 year old Grandmother #PrayforDavid.

Jon Niese is The Mayor of Bittersville USA: When Jon Niese was originally traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Neil Walker in December, he took a parting shot at the Mets basically saying he wouldn’t miss their lousy defense. At the time I remember giving him a pass because he was a lifelong Met, the trade probably caught him off guard, and also our defense was miserable. But this week Niese arrived at Pirates camp and complained about the Mets even more. This time he was whining about how the Mets handled their starting pitchers in 2015. You know the same starting staff that had the 4th best ERA in the league in 2015. Niese gushed about how excited he is to get away from the potential six man rotation the Mets used at times last season. He also blamed all his poor pitching in the second half of 2015 on the fact that he pitched on July 24th rather than leave the team to be with his wife who was in labor. He gave up 6 runs over three innings in that game and had a 5.46 ERA across 11 starts and four relief appearances after that start.

I think at this point it’s clear Jon Niese has handled his trade to the Pirates about as well as he handled any in game adversity during his entire Mets career. One bad call by the umpire, one bloop single, one unexpected trade and Niese has a complete and utter meltdown. The wheels fell off for him every damn time he was tested. His post trade cry baby act is a joke. Especially considering he witnessed how poorly we treated Dillon Gee. Gee was our opening day starter in 2014. And as soon as our young starters emerged last season, we sent him to AAA Vegas for a little unwanted casino seasoning. Gee was rightfully upset, but he sucked it up and played out the season in Vegas. Now Gee has moved on with his career as he tries to win a rotation spot in Kansas City. Instead of doing that to Niese, we traded him to a geographically close, 98 win team, that actually wanted him. Boo-hoo Jon. I’m so sorry you have a chance to compete for a championship with a new team loaded with talent. Jon needs to grab a tissue, dry his tears, and move on with his life before his act gets any more pathetic.

What If We Never Get Back?: This week, Curtis Granderson reminisced with reporters about his experience with the 2006 AL Champion Detroit Tigers. He stated that the 2006 Detroit team is as an example of how there are no guarantees that a team will return to the World Series after an appearance the prior season. Grandy said, “We had a lot of young arms, a lot of position players mixed in with some veteran guys, some All-Star guys and we figured we’d get back there the next year.” That Tigers team never made it back to the World Series, and they didn’t even make it back to the playoffs until 2011. It goes without saying that making it to the World Series in consecutive seasons is very rare. I’m happy Curtis, as a veteran player, is telling all the young guys to forget about last season and focus on putting in the work needed to be successful yet again in 2016. But I sure as hell can’t forget last season. And I don’t know if I will be able to handle anything other than another deep playoff run. Losing in the NLCS in 2006 was devastating, especially knowing the Mets probably would have beat the hell out of Curtis’ Tigers in the World Series like the Cardinals did. But it was the collapsing in 2007 and 2008 that sent us spiraling back into the doldrums as a fan base. I just hope that this 2016 team has the talent and fortitude to get back to the World Series and take care of unfinished business, so we never have to go through that post 2006 emotional letdown ever again.

ForgeryGate: Wilpons At It Again

I figured it’s day three of spring training and the only Mets news would be about Big Sexy Bartolo Colon starring at the first teamwide workout while David Wright conducts interviews on the sideline from his massage chair. Nope. The Wilpons are back in the news again. Just another fraud related headline. But don’t worry. It has nothing to do with them at all. Some evil evil man has pled guilty to forgery and wire fraud as he allegedly forged the signature of Mets COO Jeff Wilpon as part of a scheme that cheated investors out of $3.5 million.

First off, how are the Wilpons still regularly convincing judges and juries and everyone that they’ve done absolutely nothing illegal when everything they touch turns to fraud? It’s mind blowing. At this point you would think the justice system’s mantra would be “innocent until proven Wilpon”. I mean when the Wilpons are even on the periphery of a financial related crime, wouldn’t the assumption be that every other party is innocent and the Wilpons have to be the mastermind?

Furthermore, authorities said the “guilty” man incorrectly spelled Jeff Wilpon’s first name on the forged documents which to me is an absolute dead giveaway that Jeff was actively involved in the scheme. As we all know, Jeff has never signed a document in his entire life. In fact, I am guessing this “guilty man” is just the person Jeff pays to rubber stamp all his legal documents. Obviously this time the man was out sick or something, and as a result Jeff had to personally sign these documents. He was probably just scribbling his nickname “Jeff” all over each page as his lackeys looked on and said, “Good job Jeff!! We are so proud of you.” Well either way as usual Jeff gets off scott free. Some minion in the Wilpon machine takes the fall for the big dogs yet again.

Speaking of Wilpons, paleontologists unearthed a full Fred Wilpon at Mets camp yesterday, one of the oldest owners to be discovered at Spring Training to date.

A Dream of Spring: Mets Pitchers and Catchers Report

Pleasantville1) Opening Day   2) Pitchers and Catchers   3) Christmas

That is probably my “day of the year” power rankings. I’m not one to pay attention to the Farmer’s Almanac or Groundhog predictions. Spring starts for me when pitchers and catchers report to camp. It’s always been that way and always will be. It may not be sweatshirt weather yet in New York, but it’s coming. Once the pitchers are long tossing in Florida, the cold winds of winter start to die down and the Long Night gradually comes to an end.

Today is the day when most of the players officially reunite and start stretching and smiling. Sandy Alderson, who’s still undergoing chemotherapy, rolled into camp today with an enormous Spring Training grin on his face. He said, “I haven’t been this upbeat about a team in a long time.” Despite all the adversity he’s faced since his cancer diagnosis, he’s still glowing with positivity. There’s no doubt that the players and the fan base share in his optimism.

Talk of the Day: During his interview today, Sandy refuted something that a number of people have floated around during the offseason. He squashed the idea that Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera will potentially serve as 3B on days when David Wright needs time off. Certainly makes sense considering Walker has played 15 total major league games at 3B in his career and Cabrera has played 1. Not to mention those games at 3B came during their rookie seasons, and they aren’t exactly known for their defensive skills at their natural positions.

Speaking of positional flexibility, Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki said they are going to get some reps at 1B this spring. Just some casual grounders to get a feel for the position. Looks like 1B and 3B are going to be a little hobby this spring for every Mets player. But don’t worry. We are lucky to have well established utilityman Wilmer Flores to fall back on just in case some of these experiments don’t work out. With a grand total of 58 career games at 2B and 27 at 3B, Wilmer has really established himself as a regular Venezuelan Army Knife. If you aren’t familiar with Wilmer’s primary defensive resume, he’s known for his below replacement level defense in 154 career games at SS.

Now I don’t mean to turn this into a Wilmer bashing party. I really like Wilmer. He cried because he loves the Mets so much. I couldn’t respect his passion or offensive skill set more. I love him at the plate. He’s got power, and he can put the ball in play when he needs to. He’s been a real competent major league hitter for us over the last two seasons particularly at times when we had very few of them. And I even like the idea of him coming off the bench and serving as infield depth. But we have to acknowledge the reality that he’s played 27 games at 3B in his major league career and 0 at 1B. And currently he’s number 2 in the depth chart at 1B, 2B, SS, and 3B. It’s a definitive weakness in the design of our roster.

And that brings me to my next point. Once again today, there was talk about the possibility that we may trade Alejandro De Aza. Jon Morosi said the Rangers are keeping tabs on De Aza. Ken Rosenthal said we aren’t yet entertaining a trade of De Aza but might eventually. I rambled on and on ad nauseum about this in a February 3rd post. Trading De Aza simply because he may not get as much playing time as we originally anticipated and because he’s going to get paid 5 million dollars as a reserve is absolutely insane. People really need to stop reporting how much sense it makes to trade him. Somebody even implied today that our minor league signing of Roger Bernadina makes De Aza more expendable. Bernadina being a guy who hit .167 in 2014 and didn’t play at the major league level last season. I can’t even get into it. I just don’t have the energy to once again defend the need for depth and the need to have 25 quality players on the roster in order to succeed. But why aren’t these writers making the actual rational point regarding De Aza and the roster spot he represents?

Points:

  • Trading Alejandro De Aza makes sense because we won’t be able to give him as much playing time as originally anticipated.- False
  • Trading Alejandro De Aza and replacing him with an equally talented player that plays 1B/OF and is better suited for our roster makes sense.- True

It’s really that simple. As I mentioned above, the weakness on our roster as it is currently constructed, comes in the form of the lack of right-handed hitting depth at 1B/OF. We never replaced Michael Cuddyer. Lucas Duda only started 127 games at 1B last season. Daniel Murphy and Cuddy appeared in almost 40 games at 1B for the Mets in 2015. Now Murph is a National and Cuddyer sits in a retirement home suffering from some combination of the Coors Field withdrawal and METS disease that prematurely ended his career. All it will take is one simultaneous DL stint for Duda and Wright and our weakness will be exposed. Don’t forget, Eric “Soup” Campbell waits in line behind Duda to take grounders at 1B in Port St. Lucie. He would be behind Flores in the drills, but Wilmer is too busy taking grounders at every other damn position. Now I don’t have the answer for how to fill that De Aza spot with a more appropriate player. None of the free agents currently available fit the description I outlined above. I’ve poured over the list. I keep thinking about Ryan Raburn, and then I remind myself that he’s only played 14 games at 1B in his 10 seasons in the big leagues. Might as well go with Flores if we can’t find someone with experience.

Long story short, I just don’t want to hear about De Aza being traded anymore unless someone is proposing exactly how to improve the roster by trading him. But let me just stop. Now is not the time for negativity. Spring. Rejuvenation. Rebirth. Everything’s blooming. All that crap.

By the way, the best thing about all my vocal support for Alejandro De Aza is going to be when he’s batting .180 in May and I’m calling for his head.

Quote of the Day: Bob Nightengale in a USA Today interview quoted Terry Collins saying, “I’m not going to sit there today and look at all of these (bleeping) numbers and try to predict this guy is going to be a great player. OPS this. OPS that. GPS. LCSs. DSDs. You know who has good numbers? Good (bleeping) players.”

Gotta love crotchety old Terry. Once he gets his tan on point in that Port St. Lucie sun, I’m sure all that old man rage will just melt away.

The Next Generation: 2016 Top 10 Mets Prospects 

Today, ESPN’s Keith Law released his highly anticipated 2016 Mets Top 10 Prospect rankings. Law is one of ESPN’s baseball analytics gurus, and he previously worked as a special assistant for current Mets Assistant GM J.P. Ricciardi when Ricciardi was GM of the Blue Jays. This year, Law had the Mets farm system ranked at 16th out of the 30 teams. Middle of the pack. Not showing off. Not getting left behind. Now that did represent a significant drop from our 4th place ranking in 2015. That being said, the drop makes some sense considering we promoted the top three prospects from his 2015 list (Noah Syndergaard, Michael Conforto and Kevin Plawecki), and we traded our top pitching prospect Michael Fulmer to Detroit at the 2015 trade deadline for Yoenis Cespedes.

Anyway, here is Law’s list and my thoughts:

1) Dominic Smith: The scouts love this guy. He was drafted 11th by the Mets in the 2013 draft. Law has him at 29th in his overall MLB Top 100 Prospects list. Law describes him as “one of the best pure hitters in the minors”, and he hit .305 in 118 games at High A ball last season. His power is still developing, but his glove is supposedly MLB ready and gold caliber. The idea of a defensive-minded player in our infield is borderline unfathomable (closes eyes…sees Lucas Duda throwing ball over D’Arnaud’s head in Game 5… shudders). His ETA is 2017 which would align well with Duda’s free agency timeline after the 2017 season. The only negative mentioned by Law is that Smith looked like he had gained a lot of weight in the Arizona Fall League, and he wasn’t talking about muscle mass.

Keith Law just fat shaming the hell out of Dom Smith. I think we can cut the guy a break, I mean after all it is winter. A perfect time to put on a little mass in the midsection for the sake of warmth. Granted, Smith is from California so additional blubber might not be entirely necessary. And conditioning is part of his job description as a professional athlete. But I am just going to pretend its a minor seasonal weight fluctuation, and that he’s on track for a breakout rookie campaign in 2017.

2) Steven Matz: Hard to count Matz as a prospect, but he didn’t hit maximum rookie innings thresholds in 2015. So he’s still technically a rookie. And why didn’t he meet the thresholds? Late promotion but also injuries. And injuries are the biggest red flag with him. In fact Law indicated his ceiling is capped at a number 4 starter with number 1 stuff because he fears he just won’t pitch enough. He doesn’t see him as a horse like Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, or Jacob deGrom. Let’s hope Matz proves Law wrong.

3) Amed Rosario and 4) Gavin Cecchini: Two shortstops in our Top 5 and in the leagues Top 100? Really? Is a Jose Reyes successor really on the horizon? Are the annual Spring battles between Ruben Tejada and someone else finally coming to an end? According to Law the answer is yes. Rosario, ranked at 42 in Law’s Top 100, is 20 years old but projects as a possible star. Law says “he has the kind of raw tools and athleticism to be a top 10 prospect in the game in a year”. Cecchini, ranked at 89 in Law’s Top 100, is closer to the major leagues then Rosario. He projects as a contact hitter with above average defensive skills. We selected Cecchini 12th in the 2012 draft, so the high expectations around him make sense. He broke out offensively at AA last year and is likely to start at AAA Vegas this season. If he can get past the distraction of the Vegas clubhouse slot machines and have a big season in AAA, he may be in the plan for 2017.

5) Wuilmer Becerra: We got this OF in the R.A. Dickey trade. He is 20 years old and projects to be a regular who can hit for average and power. The idea to trade R.A. Dickey after he won his CY Young Award in 2012 was an absolute no brainer. However, the haul Sandy got for him is truly astounding. Thor, Travis d’Arnaud, and this outfielder Becerra. It’s already looking like an all time heist based on the early success of Thor and D’Arnaud. If they both really go on to have successful, healthy major league careers and Becerra actually becomes a viable major leaguer, it’s going to look even more lopsided in the Mets favor.

6) Brandon Nimmo: Jose Fernandez, Sonny Gray, Kolten Wong, and Joe Panik. All pretty good players right? Well we passed on all of them in the 2011 draft when we selected Nimmo 13th out of high school. Nimmo doesn’t project to have the defensive skills to play CF, and he has not developed the power that the Mets originally anticipated. He was going to start the season at AAA, but he tore a tendon in his foot so he will now miss 4 to 6 weeks. “4th outfielder” is being thrown around. “Bust” can’t be far behind.

7) Desmond Lindsay: Mets second round pick in 2015. He projects as a speedy defense first CF.

8) Robert Gsellman: He’s a sinkerballer that projects as a 5th starter. Should start the year in AAA Vegas and serve as rotation depth. Hopefully, our young starters are healthy and we never see him in the rotation. Ever.

9) Jhoan Urena: He’s a 21 year old third basemen that played at Single-A last year but battled injuries. Keith Law likes his swing and propensity to make contact.

10) Luis CarpioHe’s a 17 year old SS that has raw skills and handles himself well in the field and at the dish for his age.