February 14, 2015

Pre-Season Rankings, Spring Training and Monks

It's cold, it's snowing and I'm constantly shoveling.  Must be February in New York.  The worst sports month of the years (although the Islanders and Rangers have made it bearable) only offering is the constant reminder that the weather is better in Florida and that baseball is almost here.  This off season has been particularly odd in that most of us expected the Mets to be gun slinging and picking off free agents while making all types of trades to better this years roster.

Well, Cuddyer, Mayberry Jr. and...oh yeah, that's it.  As we scratch our head at the evident lack of activity and ponder whether or not Sandy has done enough to improve the team the players have begun to arrive en masse to Port St. Lucie, many of them having been there for weeks already for the strength and conditioning program.

Time to move past the "disappointing" off season, look forward to what we do have in front of us and imagine what can be.  April 6th brings the beginning of 2015 and the Mets jump right into the deep end against the team many people assume is the inevitable NL East champ and World Series contender in the Nationals.  A good start is paramount to this team getting its feet under them and most likely to Terry Collins keeping his job.  5-15 to start the year is almost assuredly a one way ticket from Las Vegas to Queens for Mr. Backman.

However, I want the fans to take a different approach.  We must remind ourselves that this is a marathon and not a sprint.  Rarely do teams go wire to wire without some form of a challenge from a division competitor.  A bad start does not entail a bad season.  Is it harder to rebound from, absolutely, but it's not impossible.

I can see the headlines now, Mets drop 2 of 3 to Nats to open season, the hot seat is on full blast and fans flock to the airwaves to voice their concern.  Reminder, the Mets opened both the 1986 and 1988 seasons at 2-3.  In 1969 they opened at 3-7.  Leading the first mile of the race is much less important than leading at the wire.  Keep pace and don't get lost in the pack.  Wins in April count the same as wins in September so as long as you get them it doesn't matter when, it just matters how many.

Mets fans always speak proudly of the teams success on Opening Day.  Great, we are the best team on day one and rarely the best team on day 162, so who cares?  It's like taking solace in the fact that you beat the Yankees four straight even though you finished with 74 wins.  I don't care if I lose to the Yankees all six times this year.  I care that we get over .500 and steal a wild card spot.

Slow and steady wins the race, especially in baseball.  They play the games for a reason and starting the first week of April we will find out what we have become.  Maybe the monks in Laos will serve us some wins in return for the rice they got from Mr. Harvey.

We know the pitching will be good, how good is a question but with the depth they have and the added experience I can see them being better than last year with ease.  The tell tale sign for me will be the first time the bases are loaded with less than two outs.  Will this offense struggle to plate runs or do we see them turn the corner and become a better situational hitting team.  I feel confident that if that bases loaded moment results in a two run double followed by an RBI single this team will settle in and take off.  If the opposite happens and two guys strike out, followed by a pop up on the infield we may be in for a long summer again.

Only a few more weeks and it begins again, see you in April.

February 5, 2015

Mets Fans Are Putting Too Much Emphasis On Harvey's Return

As spring training nears, fan discussion naturally turns towards expectations of the season ahead.  It should come as no surprise that those expectations vary widely.  There are those among us who believe that the Mets have a legitimate shot to contend for a playoff spot.  When you ask those fans what makes them so confident, you will almost undoubtedly hear about the impending return of staff ace, Matt Harvey.  When he toes the rubber for the first time since August 24, 2013, he will do so with much fanfare and an unreasonable expectation that he's the difference maker.

Make no mistake, Harvey is the real deal.  He has the mindset most fans crave out of their peak performers and at a minimum, had the abilities to back it up.  I hope you caught that.  Had...  Because when Harvey does return for the Mets, he will return having had Tommy John surgery. Although that is no longer the bleak fate for pitchers it once was, it still comes with its own special set of uncertainties.

What fans should expect from Harvey is some control issues.  Come April, Harvey's sabbatical from Major League Baseball will have reached twenty months.  That's plenty of time for any pitcher, even one of Harvey's ilk, to have acquired some rust.  Combined that with what has historically been a decrease in velocity in the first year back from Tommy John surgery and Harvey may be much more hitable than the guy we all remember.  This all assumes he makes it through spring training without a setback, of course.

Let us pretend for a minute that Harvey returns to form and takes the mound at Citi Field in full Dark Knight fashion.  The blistering fastball and the hellacious slider on full display.  What then?  I think a fact that's lost on most Mets fans is that in 2013...the season in which Harvey was considered dominant...the season in which he started the all-star game for the National League, the Mets went just 13-13 in the games he started.  No pitcher, regardless of greatness, can lead his team to glory if it doesn't score any runs for him.

I don't mean to infer that Mets fans shouldn't be excited about the return of the team's ace.  At a minimum, the Mets will be a better team on paper with him, than they were last season with him sidelined.  However, there are multiple factors that are well beyond his control.  Factors which will almost certainly play a roll in his 2015.  Will Harvey be great in 2015?  I don't know, but I don't think it makes or breaks the Mets season either way.  I'm not sure any player who only takes the field every fifth day could.  So be happy he's back, but remember there's only so much the Dark Knight can do.

Like what you read?  Catch me on Twitter at @RobPatterson83.

No Moncado for the Mets?

I will admit that I have had issues with the Mets lack of interest in the Cuban market(link). And initially with all the hype of Yoan Moncado and his path to becoming a free agent my thoughts didn't change. However, this kid while displaying the tools is going to potentially cost a $30 million contract and on top of that a 100% tax to the team. For all you math challenged folks that's $60 million for a player with not a lot of real elevated playing experience. Essentially a $60 million prospect.

A few years ago the Mets spent their first round draft pick on Gavin Cechinni. And while I have read about some potential character flaws he appears to be progressing through the system as he should. Then you have Amed Rosario who according to Keith Law (espn.com 2.1 via MetsBlog) has crazy potential based on his tools and he was signed a year ago for $2 million.

My point is, Cechinni and Rosario can only be viewed as prospects at this point as they are unproven but Moncando really can't be viewed as much else. The other Cuban players that have been signed in recent years all had several years of experience in their respective leagues and were in their mid twenties so those gambles would have made more sense but $60 million is a huge risk. I just wish the Mets would have take a gamble on one of the others.
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February 3, 2015

Why No Cubans Sandy?

Over the past few years there have been some breakout players coming from Cuba and making a splash in the big leagues. Unless you live under a rock you know the names like Puig, Cespedes, and Abreu. Rusney Castillo was signed late last year by the Red Sox, Yasmani Tomas became a D-Back this off season and there is Yoan Moncada waiting for his pay day.

With each of these players the Mets front office has claimed to have scouted and done their due dilligence. However it was never reported that the Mets were really in on any of them. That's a head scratcher when the team has had needs like a power hitting OF, SS, and potentially someone to man first base when when the Ike Davis/Lucas Duda situation existed. The latter a thing of the past.

Over at MetsBlog I found a quote from Sandy regarding them getting in on these international players. "We haven't been in that category, but I expect we will be in that category soon." he said.

Um, when? These players are being signed and having an immediate impact. They are signing fairly healthy contracts however in each case they are younger players and don't cost a draft pick. Yet we Mets fans have to sit here and hear things like "he doesn't fit what we are trying to do here or we don't view him playing at this or that position." I get that it can be a gamble but they are paying off much better than some of the local gambles this team has made over the past few years. What gives, Sandy?

February 2, 2015

Well Well Well...

Now that football season is past us we can put on our collective optimism caps for the upcoming baseball season. Well at least most can. I on the other hand can't seem to find mine.

This and last year were supposed to be the seasons where the Mets were going to turn things around. And while they have improved somewhat I still can't get excited and that sucks. Sandy had holes to fill in the OF, SS, and the bench. He did add Michael Cuddyer in the OF which hopes to be an improvement over Chris Young and whoever else trotted out there last year. Mayberry was signed to help out on the bench and could be interesting. We still have an unknown at SS with rumors swirling about as usual on who they may or may not trade for which in my mind appears to be smoke and mirrors from the front office as other GM's (Rizzo) say they have had no such conversations. But hey, let's make the incumbent player in Wilmer head into spring training with mental doubts about what the front office thinks of him.

They made changes to the field (again), signed someone's best friend. Hired a coach that had success with a current player so not sure how that plays out with the other players. Yes, Grandy thinks highly of him but has anyone else asked any current and former Yankee players their thoughts? Didn't seem to be much outcry when he was fired.

Yes, we have young quality pitching. The farm system is being restocked well but when does this translate into big league wins? I want to be optimistic. I try to be optimistic but this organization is driving me up the wall. Big market team small market payroll yet everyone including MLB itself seems to be on board with this "plan". Other teams appear to be rebuilding at a quicker rate. Mets twitter is crazy and even my favorite bloggers aren't making sense at times. It's tough to follow.