Saturday, December 31, 2011

Studious Metsimus Presents The Happy/Crappy Recap For 2011

We've reached the end of another year.  It was a year in which the Mets missed the playoffs for the 43rd time in 50 seasons.  It was also a year in which New York finished in last or next-to-last place in the division/league for the 25th time.  You don't need Antonio Alfonseca to tell you that the Mets have accomplished that feat in half of their seasons.

The year began with Johan Santana supposedly being out until August, but it was never specified in what year he would make that late-summer return.  Mike Pelfrey was supposed to fill in for Santana as the Mets' ace.  He pitched more like Ace Ventura.  Jason Bay was supposed to prove that 2010 was a fluke.  Mission not accomplished.

On the bright side, Oliver Perez didn't get to throw ball four for the Mets in 2011 and Luis Castillo didn't get to hobble his way around Citi Field in search of a glove that didn't drop crucial Subway Series pop-ups.

The year was happy.  The year was crappy.  But how happy and crappy was the 2011 season for the Mets?  That's what this post is all about.  Let's start with what went right.

Terry Collins was not the fans' first choice to be Mets' manager in 2011.  Fans who wanted to see Wally Backman as the skipper of the Mets got their wish, sort of, as the former spark plug was promoted from Brooklyn to manage the AA-Binghamton Mets.  Collins did not get off to a fast start, to say the least, as the Mets lost 13 of their first 18 games.  However, he quickly got his players back on track and by late July, the Mets were four games over .500 and had fans thinking about meaningful games in September.  The ride didn't last for the full 162-game journey, but it showed that Collins could handle this team and gave fans hope for better things to come.

It was expected that the Mets were going to trade Carlos Beltran at some point during the 2011 season.  But Beltran had not played an injury-free season since the Mets said sayonara to Shea.  The odds of getting anything of value in return for Beltran did not appear to be great as the season got underway.  But something funny happened on the way to the trade deadline.  Beltran played.  And played.  And played.  Not only did he play, he played well, hitting around .300 for most of the season and leading the team in home runs and RBI.  The highlight of Beltran's season came on May 12, when he hit three home runs in a game against the Rockies at Coors Field.  That caught the eye of the offensively-challenged San Francisco Giants, who parted with their top pitching prospect in July to acquire Beltran.  Carlos Beltran was not going to be a Met in 2012, but Zack Wheeler might make an appearance at Citi Field within the next year or two.  Who would have thought the Mets could acquire such a top prospect for a player who was one injury away from not being worth a bag of baseballs and a used jock strap?

Like Beltran, Jose Reyes had also spent more time checking himself into the DL Hotel than on the field prior to 2011.  Reyes still made two trips to the disabled list in 2011, but when he was on the field, he was brilliant.  For most of the season, Reyes was leading the league in multi-hit games, triples, runs scored and one other category.  It was a category that no Met had ever led after Game No. 162 prior to this season.  Notice my use of past tense in the previous sentence.  By collecting a hit in his final at-bat, Reyes finished the season with a .337 batting average, becoming the first Met to win a batting title.  And I can't think of a better segueway into the crappy part of our season recap.

"Now batting for the Miami Marlins, number 7, Jose Reyes."  Admit it.  You never thought Reyes would ever play for a team other than the Mets, let alone a division rival - a division rival that Reyes watched from the Shea Stadium dugout as they eliminated his former team from postseason contention in consecutive seasons.   The departure of Reyes marked the biggest free agent defection of a homegrown player since Darryl Strawberry switched coasts following the 1990 season.  Back then, the Mets responded to the Straw Man's departure by finishing with a losing record for the next six seasons.  That doesn't bode well for the 2012 Mets.

The injury recovery time prognosticator at Citi Field failed again in 2011.  David Wright was only supposed to miss a few weeks with his injured back.  He ended up taking a two-and-a-half month paid vacation.  Ike Davis was day-to-day when David Wright danced the forbidden dance with him near the Coors Field pitching mound.  We're still waiting for Ike's return.  Johan Santana?  Apparently, his injury is causing major league baseball to consider changing the 15-day-DL to the 15-month-DL.  Ever since moving into Citi Field, no one has been immune to the injury bug.  Expect Mr. Met to go on the DL in 2012.

Hey, buddy.  Can you spare a dime?  How about a couple hundred million dimes?  That's what the Wilpons are probably asking right now, as the Mets' financial woes continue to get worse and worse.  As a result, Sandy Alderson hasn't been able to pursue big ticket free agents, while his division rivals have not hesitated to add star power.  The Phillies signed closer Jonathan Papelbon.  The Nationals traded for starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez.  The Marlins got whoever they wanted not named Pujols.  Season ticket holders get special perks.  Potential minority owners will get their own set of perks.  The only perks fans really want are spelled with a W, an I and an N, and the Wilpons seem more interested in spelling "NO SALE" than a much shorter word like "WIN".

Well, there you you have it, my friends.  It was another year full of happy moments as well as crappy moments.  There were times to cheer, times to boo and times to complain about there not being more chicken nacho stands at Citi Field (although that might have been more Joey doing the complaining than me).

As always, we'd like to thank you, our faithful readers, for making it a blast to write about our favorite team, whether they make us smile or make us hide our heads under paper bags.  Your continued support, as always, is very much appreciated.

We'd also like to thank our fellow bloggers, from Greg Prince and Jason Fry at Faith and Fear In Flushing, to Joe D at Mets Merized Online and the ever-wise John Coppinger (a.k.a. Metstradamus), your sites have inspired us at Studious Metsimus to be better bloggers.  We can't thank you enough for your contributions to the Mets blogosphere, but we sure can try!

Other blogs worth reading include Remembering Shea, Kiner's Korner, The Real Dirty Mets, Mets 360, On The Black, MetsBlog, Random Mets Thoughts, Kranepool Society and The Daily Stache, to name a few.  (But there are many other outstanding Mets blogs out there!)

Oh, yeah.  There's one more blog I forgot to mention.  Perhaps you've heard of A Gal For All Seasons (and if not, shame on you - but if you click on the link above, all will be forgiven).  The author of that site inspires the Studious Metsimus crew more than any other blogger in the Mets blogosphere, and I'm not just saying that because she's my wife.  Really.  I'm not kidding.  Ya Gotta Believe (me).  Let's just say that she's the reason the Studious Metsimus team will always have happy recaps, even if one of us asks for a $106 million box of chocolates.

From all of us to you and yours, we hope you have a happy and healthy New Year.  Then again, as long as we remain fans of the Mets and not players on the Mets, we shouldn't have a problem with health issues.  Let's Go Mets!

Photo by Jason Bornstein (Remembering Shea).  He brings out the blue and orange in all of us.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

It Was Never Meant To Lastings

How the mighty have fallen!  According to, former Mets prospect Lastings Milledge will not be playing in the United States in 2012.  Instead, he will be a member of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, earning $570,000 next year, plus performance bonuses.  Milledge also has a club option for the 2013 season.

Prior to the 2006 season, Milledge was the Mets' top minor league prospect as a 21-year old and was one of the top prospects in the country.  However, his flashiness (Milledge high-fived fans at Shea Stadium after an extra-inning game-tying home run) irked his teammates and rubbed opponents the wrong way.  In addition, Milledge was not exactly skilled at pitch selection (in 391 plate appearances as a Met, Milledge drew 25 walks while striking out 81 times).

As a result, the once highly-touted prospect was traded to Washington following the 2007 season for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider.  In 2008, Milledge appeared to be on the way to fulfilling the lofty expectations placed on him as a rookie in 2006.  In 138 games for the Nationals, he hit 14 home runs and stole 24 bases.  But that was the last time Milledge would be an everyday player in the major leagues, as injuries and poor performance derailed a once-promising career.

Since his kinda-sorta breakout season in 2008, Milledge has played for the Pirates and White Sox, but hasn't come close to replicating his one good season.  Milledge split the 2009 season with the Nationals and Pirates, combining to hit .279 with four home runs, 21 RBI and seven stolen bases in 244 at-bats.  In 2010, Milledge played the entire season in Pittsburgh, picking up 379 at-bats.  However, his production was not that far off from what he accomplished in 2009, despite the extra 135 at-bats (.277, 4 HR, 34 RBI, 5 SB).

Milledge signed as a free agent with the White Sox prior to the 2011 season but only played two games in Chicago before being sent down to AAA-Charlotte, where he returned to his 2008 form (.295, 12 HR, 27 SB).  Despite appearing to be back as the player the Mets expected him to be when they first called him up in 2006, Milledge was not re-signed by the White Sox following the 2011 season and was granted free agency.

Now in Japan for up to two years, Milledge will try to prove that he wasn't just a flash in the pan.  At age 26, he still hasn't entered his baseball prime and could potentially do well enough for the Swallows to draw the attention of a major league scout or two, but it's amazing how far his star has fallen.

After growing tired of him, the Mets turned Lastings Milledge into Ryan Church and Brian Schneider.  They then turned Church into Jeff Francoeur.  Francoeur was traded to Texas last year for Joaquin Arias, who is now in the Kansas City Royals organization.  The Mets now have nothing to show for Milledge.  Then again, Milledge had nothing to show for the Mets when he was here.

Some players have gone to Japan and returned to the United States to embark on a long, successful career (see Melvin Mora).  Perhaps this will be the case with Milledge, a player I once had such high hopes for.  Good luck, Lastings!  I've got a high-five waiting for you when you come back.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Yes, Joey Beartran, There Is A Sandy Claus!

It's the holiday season, a time for giving and good cheer.  It's also a time when children send their annual letters to Sandy Claus, asking him for anything and everything they can think of.  I had never thought of becoming one of these letter writers, mainly because I had better things to do with my time, like visiting baseball stadiums from sea to shining sea.

Recently, I gave in and finally sent a letter to Sandy Claus, not really expecting to get a response.  However, a few days after I mailed out the letter, a mysterious package arrived at my cubby hole (see photo below).

Could it be a gift from Sandy Claus?

I remembered in my letter, I asked Sandy Claus for a healthy and productive season from Johan Santana.  I also wanted Jason Bay and pretty much the whole team to take advantage of the lowered and moved-in fences at Citi Field.  In addition to that, I asked for R.A. Dickey to get more run support and for the top pitching prospects to stay in the minor leagues until they were ready to face major league hitters.

I didn't think any of those things I asked for could fit in a box, but one of the other things I asked for was a set of Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots.  However, I did specifically say I didn't mean it literally.  I'm sure those fighting robots can be lots of fun (especially if someone spikes my chicken nachos first), but I was using them as a metaphor.  What I really wanted was for the Mets to not back down from a challenge and to show some fight in them.  That, of course, could also not be squeezed into a box.

Then I remembered my last wish in my letter to Sandy Claus.  I asked for a box of chocolates.  Could that be what was in the package?  My parcel was shaped like a box and chocolates could fit in there easier than R.A. Dickey's run support or Jason Bay's power stroke.

Without wasting another second, I carefully ripped open the box with my paws and found its contents to be even better than what I expected.

Life is like a box of chocolates.  Or in this case, a GKR mug full of chocolates.

The package was indeed full of chocolates.  But it wasn't just any chocolates.  They were Ferrero Rocher chocolates!  And they didn't just come in any old box.  They came in a Gary, Keith & Ron mug!

For so long, I had made fun of all those kids who wrote letters to Sandy Claus.  I never thought any of them ever received what they asked for.  But my mind has now been changed forever.  I'm Joey Beartran and I now have my proof that there is a Sandy Claus.

As I said earlier, the holidays are a time for giving and good cheer.  Sandy Claus gave me a GKR mug full of delicious chocolates and as a result, I ended up with all the good cheer I could handle.  This holiday season, I hope all of you give of yourselves and spread good cheer to those you love (and even those you don't - like Yankees and Phillies fans).

One way to give good cheer to those less fortunate is by making a donation to a good cause.  Perhaps you have a cause you'd like to get involved with.  If you don't, might I suggest the cause championed by the gentlemen on the chocolate-filled mug above?  I can't guarantee that you'll get a mug full of decadent confectioneries for your generosity, but I can guarantee that when you pitch in for a good cause, someone in need will receive holiday cheer because of you.  Isn't that what the holiday season is all about?

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some chocolates calling my name.  I can't leave them waiting, can I?  From me (Joey Beartran) and my colleague (Ed Leyro), we'd like to wish you and yours a very happy and healthy holiday season!  Be good to each other and never stop believing!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What If The Mets Had Followed The Minayan Calendar?

Today is December 21, 2011.  According to those who follow the Mayan Calendar, that means the world is supposed to end exactly one year from today, on December 21, 2012.  For some Mets fans, however, the world came to an end on the day it was revealed the Wilpons had less money than this guy.

Still, there are some Mets fans who believe they will see better days before they see the end of days.  After all, the Mets from the late '70s, despite needing magic to come back (and a GM named Frank Cashen), eventually did see better days in the mid '80s.

But let's just say for argument's sake that the end of the world was coming in one year.  And let's also say that the reason for its coming was because Omar Minaya was never fired.  What if the Mets had not subscribed to the Mayan Calendar, but instead believed in the Minayan Calendar?

We recently pretended to ask Omar Minaya himself a few questions about what he would have done to the current Mets had he still been employed by the team.  The answers he made up were quite surprising to say the least!

Studious Metsimus:  Seeing that no one stood out at second base in 2011, what do you plan to do to give some stability to the position?

Omar Minaya:  I'd re-sign Luis Castillo to a three-year, $20 million deal.  Hey, Dan Uggla got five years and $62 million from Atlanta.  All he did was hit .233 and watch as the Braves collapsed in September.  With Castillo, we'd get a player who has experience with late-season collapses and can hit for a higher average than Uggla.  So what if Uggla had a 33-game hitting streak last year.  Castillo topped that, hitting in 35 straight games in 2002.  Did it happen as a Met?  No.  But it could.  So that being said, I think Castillo would be the perfect choice for the Mets.  We can sign him and commit two fewer years and $42 million less than the Braves gave to Uggla.  I'd say that's a bargain.

Studious Metsimus:  Last year, R.A. Dickey led all Mets starters with a 3.28 ERA, but only won eight of 21 decisions.  The team leader in wins (Dillon Gee) had a fine start, but faltered as his innings piled up.  What would you do to bolster the starting rotation in 2012?

Omar Minaya:  I'd like to get a top notch starter, perhaps one who recently won a Cy Young Award.  Remember 1989?  That was the year the Mets traded Rick Aguilera, Kevin Tapani, David West, Tim Drummond and Jack Savage to Minnesota for former Cy Young Award winner Frank Viola.  If memory serves me correctly, Viola won 20 games for the Mets the following season.  No Met has won more than 18 games in a season since then.  Drummond and Savage combined to win three games in the major leagues.  West finished 31-38 in ten major league seasons.  I don't recall what Aguilera and Tapani did, but judging how the other three pitchers did after being traded to Minnesota, I'd assume they probably didn't do too well, you know what I'm sayin'?  Therefore, I suggest trading Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia to the Chicago White Sox for Jake Peavy.  Peavy won the National League Cy Young Award in 2007 as a member of the San Diego Padres and is only under contract for one more year, with a team option for 2013.  Yeah, he's going to make $17 million in 2012 and he only won seven games in both 2010 and 2011, but that shows he's consistent.  We can't go wrong with this deal!

Studious Metsimus:  What about your bench?  As things currently stand, the Mets could use a little help in that department.

Omar Minaya:  Help is on the way in the form of Julio Franco!  This signing would serve two purposes.  First, he would come off the bench as our top pinch-hitter and would serve as a backup to Ike Davis at first base in case David Wright decides to play footsie with Ike near the pitcher's mound again.  Second, with all the talk of Jamie Moyer attempting to return to the major leagues at age 49, it would just be another way for the Phillies to take the spotlight away from the Mets again.  Julio Franco should ALWAYS be the oldest player in the major leagues.  Not Jamie Moyer.  Not anyone else.  Plus, should Terry Collins fail, I could always have Franco be player/manager.  I'd be a fool not to sign Julio Franco!

Studious Metsimus:  I'm contractually obligated to ask you this question, so I apologize in advance if this brings up painful memories.  Oliver Perez.  Are you going to bring him back to pitch for the Mets?

Omar Minaya:  No apologies necessary.  And Mets fans, you don't have to worry.  I'm not bringing back Oliver Perez to pitch for the Mets.  That being said, I am going to sign him as our new pitching coach.  Look, Dan Warthen has been the Mets' pitching coach since the team played at Shea Stadium.  That's way too long for a man who wasn't even a good pitcher during his time in the major leagues.  Did you know that over his career, Warthen walked 198 batters in 307 innings?  That comes out to 5.8 walks per nine innings.  It's also almost a walk higher than Oliver Perez's career rate (5.1 BB/9 IP).  That's the man the Mets entrusted to teach their pitchers how to throw strikes consistently?  I'd rather take my chances with Ollie.  At least he could throw a strike every once in a while.

Studious Metsimus:  Here's a tough question.  Mets fans are still bitter over the loss of Jose Reyes.  What would you do to offset the departure of one of the most beloved players in franchise history?

Omar Minaya:  That's an easy one.  Obviously, with Reyes staying in the division, we're going to see him quite a bit and I'm sure he's going to try to run wild on the bases when he plays us.  We're going to need someone who can punch him out whenever he tries to steal a base, that's for sure.  Therefore, I'm going to trade for Miguel Olivo.  Olivo has always been good at throwing out baserunners, but in case Reyes tries to show us up on the bases, Olivo can literally punch him out.  Surely, you remember the John Maine game of the 2007 season.  Most people remember it for the near no-hitter that kept the Mets alive in the race for the division title.  I remember it because of Miguel Olivo.  Since that game, I've wanted Olivo on my team.  I'm not letting this chance pass me by.

Studious Metsimus:  Finally, I'd like to ask you one more question.  It's a topic we've discussed recently on this blog, regarding statues at Citi Field.  If you could immortalize a former Mets player with a bronze statue, which player would that be and why?

Omar Minaya:  Come on!  Are you serious?  Who's the most beloved Met of all-time?  Do you even have to think about it?  Clearly, it's Joe McEwing!  When I was languishing in Montreal as their GM hoping I'd get the call from the Mets, I watched Super Joe show off his skills on the field regularly.  I'd never seen anyone hit Randy Johnson so well in my life.  In fact, he was so good against the Big Unit that he had fifteen more at-bats against him than any other pitcher he faced in the major leagues.  In 44 at-bats against Johnson, McEwing batted .250 with five doubles and one home run.  Trust me, that's actually pretty good, as Johnson held opponents to a .221 batting average over his two decades in the majors.  The Mets already have VIP entrances for Casey Stengel, Gil Hodges and Tom Seaver.  They also have their retired numbers up on the left field wall.  Erecting a statue to honor any of them would be overkill.  Therefore, I vote for a Joe McEwing statue.  It's the least I could do to make up for releasing him prior to the 2005 season, you know what I'm saying?

We know what you're saying, Omar.  That being said, what exactly did you just say?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Statue of Limitations

Earlier this week, the Baltimore Orioles announced that in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the opening of their ballpark at Camden Yards, six bronze statues will be unveiled honoring each of the team's Hall of Famers, all of whom have had their numbers retired by the team.

The Orioles are not the first team to honor their greatest players and managers with statues.  In fact, many teams have bestowed that honor to its greatest representatives.  This past August, the Chicago Cubs dedicated a statue to the late Ron Santo, who was recently selected by the Veterans Committee for Hall of Fame enshrinement.  Santo's statue joined the sculptures of other Cub greats outside Wrigley Field such as Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and broadcaster Harry Caray.

Other teams with statues of their greatest players include the Pittsburgh Pirates (Honus Wagner, Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente), San Francisco Giants (Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda) and Atlanta Braves (Warren Spahn, Hank Aaron, Phil Niekro).  Those franchises have been in existence far longer than the Mets, but there are other clubs who haven't been in the league as long as the Amazins that have statues of their best players.

For example, the San Diego Padres have a Tony Gwynn statue outside Petco Park while the Milwaukee Brewers have a Robin Yount sculpture welcoming fans to Miller Park.  Both Gwynn and Yount are members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.  The Houston Astros, on the other hand, have statues of Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell outside Minute Maid Park.  As of this writing, neither player has been inducted to Cooperstown.  (Bagwell received 41% of the vote last year and Biggio is not yet eligible.)

All four players mentioned in the previous paragraph played their entire major league career with the teams that immortalized them in bronze.  But some teams have chosen to honor some of its best players with statues despite the fact that these players played less than half of their careers with these teams.  One particular name comes to mind immediately.  Nolan Ryan played five of his 27 seasons with the Texas Rangers, but who's statue stands beyond the center field fence?  Of course, it's the Ryan Express. 

In addition to statues of its best players, some teams have other baseball-related busts.  The Colorado Rockies have a statue outside Coors Field dedicated to "The Player".  In Arizona, a statue of a player with his fans stands outside Chase Field.

So why am I making all this hubbub about statues?  Perhaps it's because the Mets don't have one outside Citi Field.  Of anyone.  Even though there's a certain "Franchise" player who received the greatest percentage of Hall of Fame votes in history.

 Strike a pose, Tom.  Perhaps someday this one will be bronzed for all eternity.

As of now, the Mets are one of only five teams without a sculpture of any kind to honor its best players and personnel.  (The others are the Rays, A's, Marlins and Dodgers.)  Why don't the Mets have anything other than the third base VIP entrance dedicated to Tom Seaver?  When fans enter Citi Field, they should be greeted by Tom Terrific in bronze form.  Not only is he the greatest pitcher in franchise history, but he is also the sole Mets player in the Hall of Fame and the only player whose number has been retired by the team (Casey Stengel and Gil Hodges both had their numbers retired for what they accomplished as managers).

The lack of a statue to honor the man known as "The Franchise" when some teams have statues dedicated to non-Hall of Famers and other teams have sculptures for players despite having a shorter history than the Mets is an absolute shame.

The Mets should have a Tom Seaver statue at Citi Field.  In addition, they should also have a statue of Jesse Orosco's iconic pose after striking out Marty Barrett to end the 1986 World Series.  It's time for the Mets to be proud of their history, not hide from it.

We want "The Franchise" at Citi Field.  Not just for an occasional ceremonial first pitch, but forever.  A life-sized bronze statue of Tom Seaver would ensure that.  It took until Citi Field's second season for the Wilpons to make the ballpark look like it belonged to the Mets.  Hopefully, it won't take them much longer to realize that Tom Seaver should be immortalized with a statue at the park they built.  After all, it's their "Franchise", is it not?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Don't Trade Jonathon Niese!

On Friday, a story broke about the possibility of trading Jonathon Niese to the Colorado Rockies for outfielder Seth Smith.  Fortunately, that trade will not become a reality, as earlier today, Jerry Crasnick of and Baseball America tweeted that the Mets have no interest in sending Niese to Colorado for Smith.

Of course, looking at Jerry Crasnick's tweet on the topic suggests the Mets wouldn't trade Niese to Colorado in a package involving Smith.  It doesn't say the Mets wouldn't trade him to the Rockies in a Smith-less deal.

Trading Niese at all right now would be foolish.  A player like Seth Smith, who will turn 30 before the 2012 season ends, does not give the Mets the production at an outfield position they need.  Since becoming an everyday player in 2009, Smith has averaged 24 doubles, 16 HR and 55 RBI per season, while hitting .275 with a .346 on-base percentage.  He has also played an average of 138 games a year over the past three seasons.

By comparison, Lucas Duda has played in 129 games in the major leagues since his first call-up in 2010.  In those 129 games (which are nine fewer than Smith has averaged per season since 2009), Duda has combined to hit .273 with a .347 on-base percentage, picking up 27 doubles, 14 HR and 63 RBI along the way.  Seems like the same player, doesn't it?  The only difference is that Duda is giving the Mets Seth Smith-type numbers at age 25, before entering the prime of his career, while Smith has already entered his peak years and has been achieving his numbers in a hitters' park.  Duda has played half of his games at cavernous Citi Field.

Although Niese has spent time on the disabled list in 2010 and 2011, he has still averaged 28 starts per season over the past two years.  Before getting hurt, he made great strides in 2011.  Niese increased his strikeout rate (7.7 K/9 IP in 2010, 7.9 K/9 IP in 2011) while showing better command of his pitches (3.2 BB/9 IP in 2010, 2.5 BB/9 IP in 2011).  He also did a better job of keeping the ball in the park, reducing his home runs allowed from 20 in 2010 to 14 in 2011.

Jonathon Niese is the type of pitcher the Mets have given up on too soon in the past.  Rick Aguilera did fairly well (37-27, 3.58 ERA) in his four and a half seasons in New York.  Kevin Tapani was also a promising prospect in the Mets organization.  Both pitchers were traded to Minnesota while they were still in their twenties.  Aguilera went on to become the Twins' all-time saves leader (recently surpassed by Joe Nathan and Tapani won 143 games in a 13-year career in the big leagues.

Even a player like Pete Schourek, whom the Mets gave up on after three seasons in New York, went on to surprise the non-believers.  In 1994, he went 7-2 for the Cincinnati Reds, who claimed him off waivers.  He followed that up by going 18-5 in 1995, leading the Reds to a division title and finishing second to Greg Maddux for the National League Cy Young Award.

It's been quite some time since the Mets have let a homegrown pitcher develop in the big leagues.  Not since Bobby Jones has the organization produced a pitcher that had some success in the major leagues as a member of the Mets.  Unfortunately, Jones last pitched for the Mets over a decade ago.  The team has failed to develop and keep one of its own pitchers ever since, choosing to fill its starting rotation with free agent acquisitions and players acquired via the trade market.  The one recent exception has been Mike Pelfrey, and he's only become the first Mets pitcher to give up more hits than innings pitched in six different seasons.

Jonathon Niese has the potential to become the next great homegrown pitcher for the Mets.  He also has the potential to be traded to a player of Seth Smith's caliber.  After so many failures with trading away young pitching talent too soon, shouldn't the Mets give Niese a chance? 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Colorado Carlos

In 2011, Carlos Beltran had his finest and healthiest season in three years, combining to hit .300 for New York and San Francisco.  He also added 39 doubles, 22 home runs and 84 RBIs between the two teams.  Despite those impressive numbers, Beltran wasn't attracting much attention in the free agent market.  Until now.

According to Jon Heyman, there is one team that's putting Beltran on top of their wish list this offseason.  Heyman's tweets say it all:

If Colorado doesn't get Michael Cuddyer from Minnesota, they will go all out for Beltran.  You may recall that in a game at Coors Field this past May, Beltran swatted three home runs for the Mets against the Rockies.  All three blasts came with a man on base, making Carlos the first Met to ever hit three multi-run homers in the same game.

Although Beltran only has a .276 career batting average at Coors Field, more than half of his hits have gone for extra bases.  As a result, Beltran's lifetime slugging percentage in Denver is .552, which is well above his career mark of .496.

Colorado could be a good fit for Beltran offensively, but Coors Field's spacious outfield could be difficult on his ailing knees.  Carlos has publicly stated that he would not want to be a DH, so staying in the National League would afford him the opportunity to remain an everyday outfielder, although it would be a risk for any team to sign him to a long-term deal.

Stay tuned for more news on Carlos Beltran as it breaks.  Hopefully, Jon Heyman will have his Twitter finger ready to go should Beltran sign with the Rockies soon.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Joey's Letter To Sandy Claus

Dear Sandy Claus,

You may not know me, but I know you.  I know you're the guy who spreads holiday cheer at Citi Field by giving Mets fans what they ask for when they write you a letter, so here's mine.

My name is Joey Beartran.  I've been a Mets fan all my life, from the time I was born at Shea Stadium in 2004 to Jose Reyes' final game as a Met.  In the time I've been a fan, I've seen Art Howe do nothing but make excuses for his latest loss.  I've also seen Willie Randolph take his team to within one long hit of a World Series berth and I had one eye open when he was unceremoniously axed in Anaheim.  Jerry Manuel?  I saw him do something a real gangsta would never do - laugh at every question in the post-game interview, even after gut-wrenching losses.

Last year, I met Terry Collins in person and realized he's barely taller than I am.  I also saw a man who resembled you, but his name was Sandy Alderson.  Still, he was a very nice man to talk to and I think you should hire him as one of your helpers.

Anyway, I have some things I've been wishing for.  They're things that all Mets fans would probably want as well, so I hope you read my letter and can give us what we want for the holidays.  Here goes.

I'd like Johan Santana to pitch an entire season for the Mets.  Ever since his Herculean effort in the next-to-last game at Shea Stadium in 2008, Johan has missed the entire last month of the season in every year.  Last year, he didn't pitch at all for the Mets.  I go to many Mets games and I'd like to come to the ballpark with reasonable expectations that the Mets are going to win.  Johan used to give me that feeling.  Please give me that feeling again in 2012.

Speaking of Johan, I'd also like the Mets not to say that a player is day-to-day and then have him miss two and a half months.  When David Wright was placed on the disabled list in mid-May, he was supposed to resume baseball activities in a week and a half.  Two and a half weeks later, he was told he had to stay away from baseball for another three weeks.  It took over a month from that point for Wright to return to the Mets' lineup, finally playing again in late July.  I don't even want to get into Ike Davis, whose injury caused him to be originally listed as day-to-day when his proper status should have been season-to-season.  Let's stop with those incorrect injury assessments, okay?

I'd like Jason Bay to regain his power stroke.  After hitting 36 homers and driving in 119 runs for the Red Sox in 2009, I expected him to do the same when the Mets signed him during that offseason.  In the two years since his signing, Bay's cumulative power numbers (18 HR, 104 RBI) are still short of his numbers compiled during his final season in Boston.  The fences have been moved in at Citi Field for 2012.  Let's hope Jason Bay has noticed this.

Speaking of the walls being moved in, how about sending out a memo to the rest of the team as well?  Since the Mets moved in to Citi Field three years ago, only David Wright has surpassed 20 HR in a single season (29 HR in 2010).  You can even take that a step further.  In that 2010 season, Ike Davis finished second to Wright in home runs with 19.  No other Met has hit more than 15 HR in a single season since they moved to New Ebbets Field.  (Daniel Murphy hit a team-leading 12 HR in 2009 and Carlos Beltran led the team with 15 HR in 2011.)  In 1998, Sammy Sosa hit 20 HR in the month of June alone.  Only one Met has reached that total in an entire year since Citi Field opened its doors.  Let's make it two in 2012 (but three or four would be better).

I'd like some Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots.  That's not meant to be taken literally.  I meant that figuratively.  I want the Mets to show some fight in them for a change.  If a player gets knocked down by an opposing pitcher, I want a Mets pitcher to knock down an opposing hitter.  Bob Gibson did it.  Don Drysdale did it.  Both pitchers are now in the Hall of Fame.  The Mets only have one Hall of Fame pitcher, and I'm sure no one wanted to face Tom Seaver either, especially after an opposing pitcher knocked down one of his teammates.  No one is afraid of the Mets.  Make them afraid.  Make them very afraid.

I need R.A. Dickey to get some run support in 2012.  Dickey led the team in 2011 with his 3.28 ERA.  But keeping opponents' runs to a minimum didn't help his won-loss record, as R.A. went 8-13 last year.  From May 20 to the end of the season, Dickey sported an excellent 2.69 ERA.  Surely he must have had a winning record over those final 24 starts.  Unfortunately, he did not, as he went 7-8 with nine no-decisions during that stretch.  (And don't call me Shirley.)  Dickey allowed two earned runs or less in 15 of those 24 starts, but was only credited with a win in five of those starts.  Let's get R.A. the help he needs by crossing the plate a little more in his starts.

I'd like Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler to be the real deal in the minors.  The last time the Mets had several highly touted pitching prospects in the minor leagues at the same time, Generation K was born.  How did that go for the Mets?  In less time than it takes to not make Jose Reyes a formal contract offer, Generation K turned into Generation KO, as injuries and poor performances knocked out Paul Wilson, Bill Pulsipher and Jason Isringhausen before the Mets became legitimate contenders.  Don't rush Harvey and Wheeler to the majors until they're fully ready.  Jenrry Mejia was rushed to the majors in 2010 and what did that do for him?  You guessed it.  Injuries and poor performances.  It happened a generation ago.  Don't let it happen again with Harvey and Wheeler.  They're not to be promoted until they're ready to face major league hitters.  Period.

Last but not least, I'd like a box of chocolates.  It doesn't have to be a $106 million box of chocolates.  I'm just really hungry and want a box of chocolates.  And if it's not too much trouble, perhaps you can bring me a new Mets hoodie as well.  I've had this one since I was born and it's getting a little old.  Thanks so much.

Love and best wishes for the 2012 season,
Joey Beartran

P.S.  My Studious Metsimus colleague would also like Jonathon Niese not to be traded.  He has some weird obsession with him, one I can't explain, but who am I to argue with him?  Thanks, Sandy Claus!  Hope you read my letter!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Ex-Mets Come Out On Top At Winter Meetings

Earlier this week in Dallas at the Late Fall Meetings, the Mets came away with three new relief pitchers and a new centerfielder.  They made a trade to acquire centerfielder Andres Torres and reliever Ramon Ramirez from the Giants, and signed free agents Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco to close out games.

The Mets weren't the only team to wheel and deal in Dallas.  In fact, it seemed as if every transaction involved a former Met.  So which former Met left Dallas with the biggest smile on his face?  You may be surprised when you hear the answer.  Let's run through the list of former Mets who were involved in transactions since the beginning of December.  (Players listed alphabetically)

  • Rod Barajas (one year, $4 million from Pittsburgh)
  • Heath Bell (three years, $27 million from Miami)
  • Chris Capuano (two years, $10 million from Los Angeles)
  • Octavio Dotel (one year, $3.5 million from Detroit)
  • Jose Reyes (six years, $106 million from Miami)

All of those former Mets will be counting their millions all the way to the bank, but none of them has as big a smile on his face as another former Met.  So tell me, my fellow Mets fans, do you remember Jerry DiPoto?

That, my friends, is ex-Met Jerry DiPoto.  Please don't all say "who dat?" at the same time.

Jerry DiPoto came to the Mets in a trade conducted during the 1994-95 players strike.  The Cleveland Indians sent DiPoto, along with fellow pitchers Paul Byrd and Dave Mlicki to the Mets in exchange for outfielder Jeromy Burnitz and pitcher Joe Roa.

DiPoto pitched two seasons for the Mets, going 11-8 with a 3.98 ERA.  His line in 1996 was one of the oddest in baseball, as DiPoto had a sky-high 1.76 WHIP (allowing 136 baserunners in 77.1 innings), yet he finished the season with a 7-2 record.  Of course, that's what happens when the runs you give up belong to somebody else, as DiPoto allowed 18 of 38 inherited baserunners to score, with none of those runs being charged to him.

So why would Jerry DiPoto, a man whose pitching career ended in 2000 at the age of 32, have the biggest smile on his face coming out of this year's Late Fall Meetings?  Perhaps that has something to do with his current job as the general manager of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in Orange County near Disneyland.

After only four months as a general manager in the major leagues (two and a half months with Arizona in 2010 and six weeks with Los Angeles/Anaheim/Orange County/Disneyland), DiPoto made the biggest splash at the Late Fall Meetings, signing future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols to a ten-year, quarter billion dollar contract and top free agent starting pitcher C.J. Wilson to a five-year, $77.5 million deal.  DiPoto did all this despite being on the job for less time than it took Steve Trachsel to throw a pitch with men on base (men that DiPoto would likely have allowed to score had he been a teammate of Trachsel's on the Mets).

No wonder Jerry DiPoto is smiling.  He just heard that the 1995-96 Mets player reunion was canceled.

Within a matter of 24 hours, the Angels signed the best hitter on the planet (no offense to Val Pascucci, but Pujols has surpassed him at the plate) and took away their division rival's ace starting pitcher.

The Texas Rangers, who had to deal with Pujols for seven games in last October's Fall Classic, will now have to face Pujols a minimum of 18 times per season over the next decade.  And they also won't have C.J. Wilson, who did not allow a hit to Pujols in six World Series plate appearances against him.  Instead, the Rangers will have to face Wilson with Pujols backing up his new teammate at first base.  All this is due to the swift dealings of Jerry DiPoto.

When Jerry DiPoto was a Met in the mid-'90s, he was a vulture on the mound, swooping in to record seven victories in 1996 despite not being adept at keeping runners off the basepaths.  Although he is no longer an active player on the field, DiPoto has become quite active off the field and he clearly still hasn't given up his vulture tendencies.  Just ask the St. Louis Cardinals, Texas Rangers and especially the Miami Marlins, who thought they had the right offers on the table for Pujols and Wilson until DiPoto swooped in and grabbed them away.

Many ex-Mets have had a December to remember so far.  But Jerry DiPoto has topped them all.  He played for Dallas (Green) when he was a Met in 1995 and 1996, then he went to Dallas (Texas) and played all the other general managers there by scoring the biggest free agent hitter and pitcher on the market.  It's no wonder Jerry DiPoto is the ex-Met with the biggest smile on his face.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Where In The World Is Octavio Dotel?

When Octavio Dotel broke into the major leagues in 1999 as a member of the New York Mets, no one expected him to do much.  He had already pitched four seasons in the Mets' minor league system and was halfway through his fifth when he got the call to join the big club in late June.

Dotel ended up being a pleasant surprise for the Mets, going 8-3 as a spot starter and making the postseason roster as a reliever.  He was the winning pitcher in the "Grand Slam Single" playoff game and was supposed to be a future star for the Mets.

Then Mike Hampton became available.

Considering that Al Leiter, at age 33, was the youngest starting pitcher in the Mets' regular rotation in 1999, the possibility of adding a 22-game winner who was just 27 years old made Dotel expendable.  Hampton became a Met.  Dotel became an Astro.  It would not be the first time Dotel would switch teams.  In fact, with yesterday's news that Dotel signed a one-year deal with the Detroit Tigers, he has now become the player with the most changes of address in major league history.

When Octavio Dotel takes the field for the first time as a Tiger in 2012, it will be his 13th team in the major leagues.  That will break the record set by Mike Morgan in 2000 and tied by Ron Villone in 2009 and Matt Stairs in 2010.

What makes Dotel's accomplishment more amazing is that at age 38, he'll be playing for his 13th team at an age younger than Morgan, Villone and Stairs were when they made their first appearances for their 12th team.  Morgan was 40 when he pitched for Arizona in 2000, while Villone was 39 when he first took the mound for Washington in 2009.  Stairs was the elder statesman of the trio, making his first appearance for his 12th team (San Diego) at age 42.

Dotel wasn't as peripatetic when he was in his 20s.  After his trade from the Mets to the Astros following the 1999 season, he remained in Houston until 2004, when he was dealt to the A's at the trade deadline.  At the time, Dotel was 30 years old and had only played for two major league teams.  Since then, he's suited up for (take a deep breath) the A's, Yankees, Royals, Braves, White Sox, Pirates, Dodgers, Rockies, Blue Jays and Cardinals, finally winning a World Series ring for the first time in St. Louis this past season.

Is Octavio Dotel participating in the Cardinals' victory parade or is he just sitting on his moving van?

With his move to Detroit, Dotel will now be playing for his third American League Central team, following his short stay in Kansas City in 2007 and his two-year stint in Chicago (the only team for which he's played more than one season since leaving Oakland following the 2005 campaign).  The Tigers will also be his 12th team over the past nine seasons and sixth team since the beginning of 2010.

Dotel has played for at least two teams in every division in the majors except the American League West (Oakland is the only AL West city he's called home).  However, that might be due to the fact that the AL West is the only division in baseball that has fewer than five teams.  Don't worry.  Give him time.  He'll be in Texas, Anaheim (I refuse to call it Los Angeles) or Seattle soon enough.

Most players celebrate winning their first World Series by going to Disneyworld.  Octavio Dotel is celebrating his first title by going to his 13th team in Detroit.  Something tells me he shouldn't unpack his belongings upon arriving there.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Mets' Winter Meeting Transactions: Pros And Cons

The snow hasn't begun to fall yet, but we saw a flurry of activity yesterday for the Mets in the Late Fall Meetings (winter doesn't start for another two weeks, so the Winter Meetings are a misnomer).  The Mets needed bullpen help so they stocked up with three veteran relievers.  They also made a "change-of-scenery" trade, acquiring one centerfielder coming off a down year for another.

Let's take a look at what these three separate transactions will do for the Mets and what this will do for the team in 2012 and in the future.

Jon Rauch

Sandy Alderson made it clear that the Mets were in dire need of relief help.  He admitted as much when discussing how the team suffered in the pen after the trade of Francisco Rodriguez last July.  The hodgepodge bullpen featured a combination of inexperienced career minor leaguers and washed-up veterans, and the Mets blew many late inning leads because of it.  A change was definitely needed for the 2012 season.

In his first acquisition of the night, Alderson signed Jon Rauch to be the Mets' primary set-up man.  Before Pedro Feliciano led the National League in appearances for the Mets, that distinction belonged to Jon Rauch.  Rauch made 85 appearances for Washington in 2006 and followed that up with a league-leading 88 appearances in 2007.

His career has been a series of ups and downs since leaving Washington in 2008.  In parts of two seasons in Arizona (2008-2009), Rauch was 2-8 with a 4.87 ERA and 1.42 WHIP.  Then he went to Minnesota for 1½ seasons (2009-2010) and flourished with the Twins, going 8-2 with a 2.82 ERA and 1.28 WHIP.  He also racked up 21 saves as a temporary replacement for closer Joe Nathan.  Finally, as a member of the Blue Jays in 2011, Rauch had a subpar season (5-4, 11 saves, 4.85 ERA, 1.35 WHIP).  He missed time in August due to an emergency appendectomy and ended the season on the disabled list with torn cartilage in his right knee.
Pros:  Rauch is nicknamed "The Wookie" for his tall frame and sometimes resemblance to Chewbacca, instantly making him R.A. Dickey's best friend in the clubhouse.  He also has excellent control, walking only 28 batters over the last two seasons (in 109.2 IP) and possessing a career ratio of 2.7 walks per nine innings.

Cons:  Sometimes Rauch can be a little "wild in the strike zone", as evidenced by the 11 home runs he gave up last season in only 52 innings pitched.  Also, as seen in his career recap above, Rauch's performance has varied drastically from team to team.  He can be very good, as he was in Minnesota, or he can be maddeningly inconsistent, as fans of the Diamondbacks and Blue Jays can surely attest.  Will another change of scenery bring out the good Jon Rauch?


Frank Francisco

A teammate of Jon Rauch in Toronto last season, Frank Francisco has been a very consistent pitcher since 2008.  Over the past four seasons, his ERA has never been higher than 3.83 or lower than 3.13.  He has also given no fewer than 40 hits and no more than 49 safeties in each of the last four years, while allowing between 20 and 22 earned runs per season.  He has achieved this level of consistency despite having different roles from year to year. 

Francisco served as the set-up man in Texas in 2008, before saving 25 games as the Rangers' closer in 2009.  He went back to the set-up role for Texas in 2010, before becoming a closer for the Blue Jays in 2011, saving 17 games in Toronto.  Francisco will not be continuing his set-up man/closer roller coaster ride for the Mets in 2012, as Terry Collins has already anointed him as the team's new closer.

Pros:  Francisco is a fireballer who will rack up a ton of strikeouts, something that has not been a strength of the Mets' bullpen in recent years.  His 10.5 K/9 IP rate over the past four seasons is among the best in baseball.  Francisco has also proven that he can handle any relief role in the bullpen and finished the 2011 season strongly (1.37 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and held opponents to a .188 batting average after the All-Star Break).

Cons:  Although he is a strikeout pitcher, his strikeout rate has gone down slightly from year to year (11.8 K/9 IP in 2008, 10.4 K/9 IP in 2009, 10.3 K/9 IP in 2010, 9.5 K/9 IP in 2011).  His WHIP has also increased annually since 2009 (1.12 in 2009, 1.27 in 2010, 1.32 in 2011).

Angel Pagan traded for Andres Torres and Ramon Ramirez

After an outstanding second half in 2009 and a breakout season in 2010, Angel Pagan took a step back in 2011.  After managing to keep his batting average around .300 for most of '09 and '10, Pagan could only muster a .262 average last season.  He also had his lowest on-base percentage in four years as a Met (.322) and made too many questionable baserunning decisions.

Andres Torres had a similar situation to Angel Pagan in 2011.  Torres shocked everyone with his breakout 2010 season for the World Champion San Francisco Giants (.268 batting average, 43 doubles, 8 triples, 16 HR, 63 RBI and 26 SB in 139 games).  But he had a miserable follow-up campaign in 2011 (.221 batting average, 24 doubles, one triple, 4 HR, 19 RBI and 19 SB in 112 games), causing him to lose playing time once the Giants acquired Carlos Beltran from the Mets.

Ramon Ramirez had a shaky start to his major league career in Colorado, but has flourished since he left the Mile High city after the 2007 season.  In the four years since his departure from the Rockies, Ramirez has compiled a 2.77 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP, while holding the opposition to a .220 batting average.  But since becoming a Giant at the trade deadline in 2010, Ramirez has been one of the most unhittable relievers in the majors, compiling a 2.07 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and a .194 batting average against him.  He also didn't give up many long hits as a Giant, holding opponents to a .267 slugging percentage and allowing only two home runs to the 388 batters he faced.

Pros:  Angel Pagan for Andres Torres straight up would have been a bad deal, as Pagan is younger than Torres and even with a down season in 2011, still performed better than Torres did for the Giants.  The addition of Ramirez, a quality arm in the bullpen with an extended period of success, makes the deal more attractive.  Plus, Andres Torres can serve as a stopgap in center field until Kirk Nieuwenhuis is ready for the majors (hopefully by late 2012), similar to the way Rey Sanchez held shortstop warm for Jose Reyes until his call-up in 2003.

Cons:  The Mets acquired a centerfielder with 27 HR and 118 RBI.  That's not his total for one season.  That's what Torres has amassed in 1,423 major league plate appearances over parts of seven seasons.  Torres also has 4,444 plate appearances over 1,035 minor league games.  That means Torres has over three times as many plate appearances in the minor leagues as he has in the majors.  When a player who will be 34 by Opening Day can say that about his professional career, that's not something to be proud of.  It also doesn't say much about his ability to stay in the major leagues.  Pagan has a better chance of replicating his 2010 season than Torres has of doing the same.

We owe (the fans), we owe (the fans), so it's off to work we go!

The 2012 Mets improved themselves at the Late Fall Meetings by adding three quality arms in the bullpen.  Jon Rauch will be the primary set-up man and can be counted on to pitch as many days as he is needed.  Frank Francisco may not have dominant numbers, but he has been a model of consistency over the past four seasons and is a legitimate strikeout pitcher.  Ramon Ramirez has the potential to be the best reliever in the Mets' bullpen.  He doesn't depend on the strikeout to retire batters.  Rather, he makes opposing hitters swing at his pitch, and allows mostly singles when he does give up hits, which over the past few seasons has become a rare sight.

I can deal without Andres Torres in the outfield, but at least he does possess some speed, which the Mets will need now that Jose Reyes is no longer on the team.  Plus, there's always a chance that he might be able to find some of that 2010 magic in his tank, although is .221 average and 19 RBI in 398 at-bats last year reminded me a little too much of Luis Castillo.

For now, it appears that Sandy Alderson is trying his best to mold this team in his image.  He is getting quality players without spending top dollar or too many years of commitments.  It's still too early to know what this will mean for the 2012 Mets.  But at least it shows that it won't just be 20 Buffalo Bisons and a handful of veterans sitting in the dugout at Citi Field next season.  For the amount of money Sandy has to play with, I'd say he's doing a pretty good job.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Joey's Soapbox: My Connection To Jose Reyes

Greetings, Mets fans.  This is Joey Beartran reporting, although I have to say that I am too distraught to get up on my soapbox today.  As you already know, Jose Reyes has traded in his orange and blue duds for a Miami Marlins' Skittles-colored jersey.  It's a day I never expected to see, and one that I'm having a tough time accepting.

It's not because I'm upset that Reyes remained in the NL East, where the Mets will see him for 18 games per season.  It's also not because the Mets lost their leadoff hitter and shortstop, replacing him at those positions with Angel Pagan and Ruben Tejada, respectively.

My tough time accepting the loss of Jose Reyes goes back to the day I was born.  Please allow me to explain.

I'll always be connected to Jose, and not just through an internet connection.

On June 20, 2004, my future colleague at Studious Metsimus saw me sitting up on a display in the Mets Team Store located behind home plate at Shea Stadium.  I was dressed in the gray Mets hoodie you're used to seeing me in, surrounded by... nothing ... I was the last Mets bear of my kind in the Team Store.  From my vantage point, I could see outside the windows of the store, but I couldn't see the field, even with my proximity to home plate.  Therefore, I had yet to see Jose Reyes play.

It was Father's Day and my future colleague decided I should come out from behind the window and see my first Mets game in person.  So he paid $25 for the right to take me off the display (I don't come cheap) and we went up to our seats in the mezzanine.

That weekend was special for other reasons in addition to it being my first Mets game after my "birth".  On Friday, June 18, the Mets held a ceremony to honor Mike Piazza for becoming the all-time leader in home runs by a catcher.  The following night, June 19, was Jose Reyes' first appearance for the Mets after spending the first two-plus months of the season on the disabled list.  I wanted to see Reyes so badly, being that I was not "alive" for his rookie season in 2003.

Do you know how much of a fan of Reyes I was?  I told my colleague once we left the Team Store on June 20 that my name was Jose (even though we all know it's Joey).  Reyes did not lead off for the Mets that day.  That honor went to Kaz Matsui, who was also playing shortstop for the Mets at the time, with Reyes manning second base.

The game between the Mets and the Tigers was scoreless through three and a half innings.  Jeremy Bonderman was pitching beautifully for the Tigers, taking a no-hitter into the bottom of the fourth.  Then Jose Reyes came to bat to lead off the inning and everything changed, both for me and the Mets.

Reyes worked a seven-pitch walk to start the inning.  After Bonderman struck out Mike Piazza and Cliff Floyd, he faced the dangerous Richard Hidalgo.  Hidalgo had just been acquired by the Mets from the Astros prior to the weekend series against Detroit and was familiarizing himself with Shea Stadium.  Prior to his fourth inning at-bat, Hidalgo had gotten off to an 0-for-8 start as a Met.  But in none of those eight at-bats did Hidalgo come up with Reyes on base.  That was not the case in this at-bat.

With Reyes bouncing back and forth off first base, Bonderman started to become frazzled.  He threw several times to first baseman Carlos Peña with Reyes getting back safely each time.  Finally, after throwing a strike to Hidalgo, Bonderman grooved a pitch that Hidalgo hit over the fence for his first home run as a Met.  Without question, it was Reyes' nerve-jangling dance off first base that caused Bonderman to change his approach on the mound.  I had just seen firsthand what a dynamic player Reyes was, how he could change a game by getting into the mind of the opposing pitcher.

 I idolized Jose Reyes so much that I'd slide into second base head-first like he would.

It was the beginning of a love affair with Jose Reyes that took me to the highest highs (the 2006 playoffs) and the lowest lows (any of his ten million trips to the disabled list).  Ever since Father's Day 2004, I followed everything Reyes did.  I cheered when he moved back to shortstop after Art Howe's ill-advised decision to move him to second base in 2004 failed miserably.  I cringed when Jerry Manuel tried to bat him third in the lineup in April and May 2010.  I was confused when Jose took himself out of the lineup after collecting a bunt base hit in the team's final game of the 2011 season, then elated when he won the batting title later that night.

But alas, that bunt hit was the last time I'd see him in a Mets uniform.  It would be the last time anyone would see him wearing the only major league uniform he had ever worn.

Jose Reyes is now a Miami Marlin.  It doesn't seem right, does it?  I didn't know who the Mets' shortstop was before Reyes played his first game in 2003 or who wore No. 7 last before it became synonymous with Reyes.  It didn't matter to me that Rey Sanchez manned the position prior to Jose's debut or that Jason Phillips wore No. 7 for 11 games in 2002.  It was all about Jose Reyes for me.

Now he's gone.

I named myself Jose after my "birth" because I wanted to be like No. 7 on the Mets.  He was the future of the team but he was right there in front of me in the present.  He was flashy, energetic and he played with such a love of the game, it was hard not to love him.

I will still be a fan of Jose Reyes.  After all, it's hard to give up on something once you've had a connection with it for your entire lifetime.  But that connection will never be the same for me.  It won't be the same when I see Ruben Tejada start a double play.  Whenever Angel Pagan wipes dirt off his pants after stealing a base or legging out a triple, no one will start singing "Jose, Jose, Jose, Jose".

It'll be quite difficult for me at Citi Field in 2012.  As always, I'll root for the name on the front of the jersey instead of the one on the back.  But when the Marlins come to town and I see the name "REYES" on the back of their leadoff hitter's jersey, a mountain of memories will flood my mind.

Jose Reyes and I will always have a special bond, going back to the day we first met on June 20, 2004.  The Mets won that game against the Tigers, but I feel like I won by getting to see him play for as long as I did.  Guess that's a connection that'll never break.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Song Parody: It's So Hard To Say Goodbye To Reyes Today

Everyone is talking about Jose Reyes' departure from the Mets today.  From this piece at Kiner's Korner to this one at A Gal For All Seasons to this other one at Mets Merized Online, bloggers from all over Mets-ropolis are waxing nostalgic about the Mets' former shortstop.

Former shortstop.  Those are words reserved for Rey Ordoñez, Mike Bordick and Kaz Matsui.  They're not words we ever thought we'd use for Jose Reyes.  But now it's a reality.  Jose Reyes is no longer a Met.

Usually, the purpose of a song parody is to poke fun at something Mets-related, hence why I've written more parodies on Oliver Perez than anyone else.  But today, I'd like to bring it down a notch.  Two decades ago, when Jose Reyes was still in grade school in the Dominican Republic, Boyz II Men had a hit with their poignant ballad, "It's So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday".  That song couldn't be more appropriate for the way many Mets fans feel about this sad day.

So let's pause for a moment to reflect on our former shortstop (sigh...former...) as we sing "It's So Hard To Say Goodbye To Reyes Today":

How do I say goodbye to who we had?
The shortstop who smiled and laughed
Will not be back.

I thought he'd be here forever
But Jose has gone away.
It's so hard to say goodbye to Reyes today.

I don't know who will show at once-filled Citi Field.
All I know is that we've been
Always behind you.

If we're competitive tomorrow
I hope it's worth losing Jose.
It's so hard to say goodbye to Reyes today.

And I'll take the speedy memories
His beaming smile and his energy.
It's so hard to say goodbye to Reyes today.

And I'll take the speedy memories
(Take with me those memories)
His beaming smile and energy.
It's so hard to say goodbye to Reyes today...

Broken News: The Two Hours Before Midnight Massacre

Welcome to the latest edition of Broken News, where someone else breaks the news and then we break it some more.  Broken News might be the perfect title for what I'm about to say because fans of Jose Reyes feel like their hearts have been broken this morning.

A little over two hours before midnight, it was revealed that Jose Reyes decided to accept the Marlins' latest contract offer of six years and $106 million to leave the only team he'd ever known.  I'll let that sink in before I continue...


...I know.  It'll never sink in.  Soon he will take his physical, pass it and appear before the Miami media (which probably outnumber the true Marlins fans in South Florida - the ones who still proudly wear their Charlie Hough Marlins jerseys to games).

Gone will be the legs that produced 1,300 hits, 99 triples, 370 stolen bases and the only batting title in franchise history.  Replacing him at shortstop will be Ruben Tejada, who shows promise defensively and is very good at working the count.  That being said, this is the equivalent of replacing Tom Seaver in the rotation with Pat Zachry, who was also a promising young player in 1977 coming off a Rookie of the Year campaign with the Reds.  Pat Zachry was no Tom Seaver.  He was barely better than Nino Espinosa, but Nino rocked his afro better.  Ruben Tejada might not be able to rock anything, other than an occasional double or two that might hit the moved-in walls at Citi Field on three hops.

None of this is Ruben Tejada's fault and fans should not expect him to replace Jose Reyes' production on the field.  Similarly, no one should boo Angel Pagan if he's not the leadoff hitter Reyes was.  However, those two players will probably be heckled when they go through a slump, prompting the 7 Line to create "Bring Back Reyes" T-shirts and placards for display at an empty Citi Field.  (Note to the 7 Line:  If you do create "Bring Back Reyes" shirts, can I have one for free for giving you the idea?)

The Marlins are giving Jose Reyes $106 million for the next six years.  That's more than the Mets are willing to commit to every player on their roster in 2012.  The average annual value of nearly $18 million is more than the $15 million the Marlins spent on their entire 25-man roster in 2006, which coincidentally was the last (and only) time Jose Reyes played in the postseason.

 Double sigh...

You might say that $106 million is too much to pay for a player who'd been on the disabled list in each of the last three seasons.  You might also say that six years is too much for a player whose game depends on his legs, especially one who will still be earning $18 million annually when he's in his mid-thirties.

But one thing is for sure.  Jose Reyes was a dynamic player, one who could change a game like no other player on the Mets could.  The Marlins noticed that and were willing to take a risk, one that might bite then in the end, but for now makes them a far better team than the one that finished in last place in the NL East in 2011.

The Mets never had a chance.  And the way things look now, they're not going to have a chance in the NL East for years to come.  Last night, the current generation of Mets fans lived through their version of the Midnight Massacre.  If the Marlins ripped the fans' hearts out in 2007 and 2008, then they took their souls last night when they acquired Jose Reyes.

It's always been hard to be a Mets fan in this town.  It just became harder.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Where Are The 2006 Mets Now?

Don't let the title mislead you.  This post is not meant to inform you on what members of the Mets' last playoff team are up to.  On the contrary, it's meant to show you why that team might not have been as good as we thought they were at the time.

A total of 49 players suited up for the Mets in 2006.  As of this writing, only four of those players played for the Mets in 2011.  Those players were Jose Reyes, David Wright, Carlos Beltran and Mike Pelfrey.  However, Carlos Beltran was traded to the San Francisco Giants in July and Jose Reyes might have played his last game as a Met, leaving Wright and Pelfrey as the only two members of the '06 NL East champions who stand to be Mets in 2012.

Let's put it this way.  If Wright and Pelfrey are the only players left come Opening Day 2012, that'd mean the 2006 Mets would have the same number of players on the 2012 team as they have on the DL.  That doesn't stand for disabled list.  That stands for deceased list, as Jose Lima (four starts in '06) and Geremi Gonzalez (three starts in '06) are no longer with us.

The potential for having only two players left out of 49 a mere five years after that team steamrolled their way through the 2006 regular season is unusual in baseball, even in this day and age when free agents leave their teams frequently.  The 1996 Yankees, a team that won a World Series ten years before the Mets failed to get to one, had more players left on their 2011 roster (Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera) than the Mets might have next April on Opening Day from their 2006 team.

But contrary to what it appears to be, this post is not about the few players left on the team from the 2006 roster.  It's not just that most of the players from 2006 are no longer members of the Mets.  It's that these players are no longer in major league baseball, period.

Of the 49 players who played for the 2006 squad, only 14 played in the major leagues in 2011.  Of those 14 players, two of them finished the season in the minor leagues (Aaron F. Heilman, Lastings Milledge) and another (Chris Woodward) collected only ten at-bats in the majors after spending the majority of the season playing at the Triple-A level.

It would take longer for you to read the list of 35 players from the 2006 Mets who did not make an appearance at the major league level in 2011 than it did for Steve Trachsel to deliver a pitch to home plate when there were runners on base, but we're going to do it anyway.  Here they are, in alphabetical order, with their current whereabouts and/or statuses.

  • Brian Bannister (retired)
  • Chad Bradford (retired)
  • Carlos Delgado (retired)
  • Victor Diaz (out of majors since 2007; played in Mexico in 2011)
  • Mike Difelice (out of majors since 2008; managed Kingsport Mets in 2009 and 2010)
  • Pedro Feliciano (signed two-year deal w/Yankees in 2011; might never pitch for them due to injuries)
  • Cliff Floyd (out of majors since 2009; broadcaster for FOX Sports Florida)
  • Bartolome Fortunato (out of majors since 2006; played in Canada in 2011)
  • Julio Franco (waiting for Omar Minaya's call from San Diego)
  • Tom Glavine (retired in non-devastating fashion)
  • Geremi Gonzalez (R.I.P.)
  • Shawn Green (retired; on book signing tours for his new book)
  • Anderson Hernandez (played w/Astros' AAA team in 2011)
  • Orlando Hernandez (played w/Nationals' AA team in 2010, left the team to walk the Earth)
  • Roberto Hernandez (retired)
  • Jorge Julio (out of majors since 2009; bouncing around in Pittsburgh's minor league organization)
  • Ricky Ledee (retired)
  • Jose Lima (R.I.P.)
  • Paul Lo Duca (out of majors since 2008; serves as a horse racing analyst)
  • John Maine (left Rockies' AAA team in 2011; might be walking the Earth with Orlando Hernandez)
  • Eli Marrero (out of majors since 2006; serves as batting coach for Reds' rookie affiliate)
  • Pedro Martinez (retired 10 minutes ago)
  • Kaz Matsui (out of majors since 2010; played in Nippon Professional Baseball league in 2011)
  • Henry Owens (out of majors since 2007; suspended for HGH in 2009 and hasn't played since)
  • Oliver Perez (played w/Nationals' AA team in 2011; not good enough to make AAA team)
  • Royce Ring (played w/Mariners and Red Sox AAA teams in 2011)
  • Duaner Sanchez (out of majors since 2009; played in Mexico and Independent League in 2010)
  • Alay Soler (retired)
  • Kelly Stinnett (retired)
  • Steve Trachsel (retired)
  • Michael Tucker (out of majors since 2006; played for various independent teams since 2009)
  • Jose Valentin (out of majors since 2007; player-owner for Santurce Crabbers in Puerto Rican league)
  • Billy Wagner (retired)
  • Dave Williams (out of majors since 2007; last played professionally w/Nationals' AAA team in 2009)
  • Victor Zambrano (don't ask)

Aaron F. Heilman and Lastings Milledge both ended their seasons at the minor league level in 2011.  Chris Woodward was lucky to get a late September call-up.  That leaves only 11 players from the 2006 Mets who played exclusively in the major leagues in 2011.  One of those 11 players (Ramon Castro) only played in 23 games with the White Sox in 2011, missing the majority of the season due to a right hand fracture.

That leaves only Heath Bell, Carlos Beltran, Endy Chavez, Philip Humber, Guillermo Mota, Xavier Nady, Darren Oliver, Mike Pelfrey, Jose Reyes and David Wright as the only players from the 2006 NL East champions to play exclusively in the majors only five years after they were teammates on the Mets.

Most of the players from 2006 are either retired, dead or Victor Zambrano.  It's also stunning to note that a large number of players who were good enough to be part of a division winner in 2006 were no longer worthy of playing in the major leagues just five years later.

If you recall, both Pedro Martinez and Orlando "The Dookie" Hernandez were scratched from the postseason roster in 2006 because of injuries.  Neither pitched well after 2006 (we don't recognize Pedro's renaissance with the Phillies in 2009 because that would be saying something positive about a member of the Phillies, which is taboo here).

Also, for those who blame Beltran for the Mets' failure to advance to the World Series in 2006, let me remind you that he wasn't the only Met to strike out with the bat on his shoulders in the ninth inning of Game 7.  Before Beltran, Cliff Floyd took strike three as a pinch-hitter with the tying runs on base and nobody out.  That's the same Cliff Floyd who was too hurt to start any of the games in the NLCS after Game 1.

The 2006 Mets steamrolled their way through the 162-game regular season.  But that team was full of players who were either one injury away from ending their careers or no-names who had no business being in the majors.  What do you know?  Only five years later, a great number of those players have suffered career-altering injuries or haven't sniffed the major leagues since Shea Stadium was still around.

A winning team needs a mix of veterans to guide the kids along.  But the 2006 Mets depended too much on veterans.  Now, those veterans are no longer around, succumbing to injuries and Father Time.  That has forced players who are still kids themselves (see Reyes, Jose and Wright, David) to be the team leaders.  Given those facts, is anyone surprised that the Mets have now trudged their way through three consecutive losing seasons?