NY Sports Dog: February 2009

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Memo to Mets: Extra Caution with Johan

By now we've all heard the reports that triceps tendinitis is the culprit behind Johan's tender throwing elbow.

The news is enough to send Met nation into a tizzy, and rightfully so.

As reported on ESPN, Johan himself is saying that his opening day could be in jeopardy.

"We have 162 games," Santana said on Saturday. "What we have to accomplish takes 162 games. Everything starts April 6, if it's going to be me or somebody else. It's tough to say right now."

Santana met with Mets general manager Omar Minaya and manager Jerry Manuel for about 40 minutes Saturday morning to discuss a plan of action for his ailing elbow.

The left-hander said doctors have told him an irritated triceps tendon is causing the discomfort in his throwing elbow.

While I think that is a stretch, it would behoove Mets management to take an ultra-cautious approach with their Ace.
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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Keith Hernandez: The Real American Idol

Over at MSG they are posting about Keith Hernandez winning another mustache award.

Last year, at "What Would Keith Hernandez Do?", there was a similar article and another award for this master of facial hair.

As you'll see, the competition was fierce, but really, was there any doubt that Keith would prevail?

Apparently you can't keep the man down!

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Original Mr. Met vs. Modern Mr. Met

Don't these two pictures tell us a great deal?
  • 1960's: Low tech costume, hotties wore hats and gloves (albeit with a hint of sexy stocking), clowns were still considered important.
  • 2000's: Low tech costume, hotties wear next to nothing, clowns relegated to the halls of Congress or in new positions as MLB umpires.

Oh how times have changed!

(or have they?)

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The John Maine Watch

Mets fans breathed another sigh of relief yesterday as potential #2 starter John Maine pitched in a game for the first time since surgery ended his 2008 season.

The surgery involved removing a bone spur in his throwing shoulder and, in the eyes of many, was one of the main reasons the Mets failed to win the NL East or secure a playoff spot.

Maine looked good in allowing only 1-hit over 2 scoreless frames. He had 2 Ks and only walked one.

"My arm feels great. My body feels great," Maine said. "I just feel like it's been such a long time. The mechanics are a little off and I was rusty a little bit, but other than that, and more importantly, my arm feels good."

"I worked hard in the winter, going through the rehab and all the therapy and all that to be able to come out here and have no setbacks, so I am happy with it and I am happy with where I am at right now," Maine said.

Maine has also been gradually increasing his arm strength with side sessions, and the Mets are carefully monitoring his progress.

"John Maine was throwing strikes," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said. "He hadn't been out there in a while, and he let the ball go. He pitched, so it's definitely for him, and for us obviously, a big step in the right direction."

If the Mets are to contend in the NL, John Maine will have to have a year similar to his 2007, when he went 15-10 over 32 starts and threw close to 200 innings.

That said, he is still something of a hit or miss proposition in 2009.

As most Mets fans know, Maine has a great deal of difficulty stretching his starts past the 6th inning. Even in 2007, his best season, he only went past the 6th inning 12 times in those 32 starts. Moreover, in 2008, he only went more than 6 innings 5 times in 25 starts.

The 2009 FanGraphs projections are not very optimistic...you can read them here.

All that said, yesterday was another good sign for a pitcher that always, and I mean always, gives 110%.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Mets Outfield At-Bats: There's Plenty

First off, let me state up front that I absolutely love what Jerry Manuel is doing early in Spring Training.

He is motivating guys, not letting anyone get too comfortable, and creating some healthy tension in spots where there should be competition.

As it stands now there are four players competing for starting time in the outfield--this is a good thing.

Let's look at 2008, and see how many at-bats the Mets outfielders had.

There were a handful of other OF at-bats...Easley played a few games out there, etc.

So all told there were approximately 1,900 outfield at-bats in 2008, and Endy Chavez accounted for 270 of those, or just over 14%.

If we total up all the at-bats from guys no longer with the team, the number climbs to about 375, or about 20% of all 2008 outfield at-bats.

The point is that the 2008 Mets had something of a wild rotation in the corners in 2008, and on any given day there were 4-5 guys that could be out there.

It was a sub-optimal situation.

Cut to 2009 and we have three guys clearly in the lead to man their positions for the bulk of the time: Murphy, Beltran and Church.

You then have Tatis as option #1 to start in LF or RF depending on the pitcher, who needs a rest, who is slumping or hitting, etc.

A great situation would be for Beltran to have a 550-600 at-bat season, Murphy and Church to come in somewhere around 450-500 range, and Tatis around 250 OF at-bats (he will get a few elsewhere). This still leaves about 100 at-bats for the "5th outfielder", thus avoiding a situation like last year in which the weak hitting Endy Chavez got 14% of all outfield at-bats with his .308 OBP and .330 Slg %

Of course at this point it's all speculation, but I will state again, as I have before, that our younger, more athletic outfield of 2009 looks much more potent than Angel Pagan, Grandpa Alou and a bunch of guys who were either past their primes or never had a prime.

It's a good outfield....potentially a great one.
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Monday, February 23, 2009

Mets Pre-Season Questions: Part 2, The Offense

My friend Ravi, a very, very smart baseball guy has written part two of his Pre-Season series. To read Part 1, please click here.


Mets Pre-Season Questions : Part 2, The Offense

In continuing my pre-season look at the New York Mets, I would like to focus on the offense. This past off-season, much has been made about bringing back the same hitters who were in part, responsible for two straight September swoons. However, consider the following:
  • 2006: 834 (3)
  • 2007: 804 (4)
  • 2008: 799 (2)
Those numbers are the run totals (and NL rank) the Mets have put up since the core of the team was formed, in 2006. Now one may look at those totals and notice a declining trend. However, it is important to note that the 2006 team had a much better supporting cast, with a big year out of Valentin, a great first half by Nady, consistent production from LoDuca, and a possible career year from Beltran.

I think the 800 run mark of the past two years is a fair estimation of what we can expect this coming year, provided the core does what it is supposed to.

That being said, there are a few questions this lineup will need to address in 2009. I won’t waste time looking at the Reyes/Wright/Beltran trinity, because we pretty much know what they can provide. I do think Beltran will get off to a better start this season, as he is healthy, as opposed to 208, where he was coming off surgery.

Instead, I chose to focus on 2 Mets about whom there has been much speculation, and whose success is integral: Luis Castillo and Carlos Delgado.

Luis Castillo

Is there anyone in the Met-verse more hated than Castillo right now? In fact, it seems like all the venom that was reserved for Heilman has been directed toward Luis Castillo. At the end of the day, we all know the criticisms…no power…lack of range…but surely there must be positives. Luckily, Robcast23 of Amazin’ Avenue has done quite a bit of grunt work for me.

One thing that is easily forgotten by us fans is just how good Castillo was (even though he was in the division):
  • This was a guy that since he started playing every day hit .290+ nine out of 10 seasons.
  • In that same stretch he posted an OBP below .350 only once, averaging approximately .375.
  • He has 3 Gold Gloves on his mantle
  • Its actually staggering from '02 to '07 to see how consistent he was across the board. He had basically the same season 5 (good) years in a row.
  • The only significant change has been the K%, which has steadily improved each year from a high water mark of 17.5% in '99 down to 11.7% in '08, which is a lot.
In addition, as mentioned on Amazin’ Avenue, there wasn’t meaningful variance in Castillo’s peripherals, when comparing 2008 to his career.

I think the biggest reason for Castillo’s lost season was his inability to get in shape. If you recall, Luis had surgery on both knees before the season. As a result, he came to camp in poor shape, and never really hit the ground running. Supporting my case is the one outlier in all of Castillo’s peripherals. The average player has a BABIP (batting average on balls in play). of .300.

However, some hitters have the ability to consistently maintain a higher rate (whereas pitchers tend to gravitate toward the .300). Luis Castillo is one of the players, as he sports a career .333 BABIP. In 2008, that number dipped to .269.

For a guy with little power, whose speed is so critical to his game, not being in shape is a pretty big deal. To understand the effect his knee surgery/lack of conditioning, look at his defense. Luis is a 3-time gold glove second baseman…Last year, I think Delgado had better range (joking). That doesn’t just happen overnight. Now I’m not saying that he is going to steal 60 bases, or win a gold glove, or have a 30 game hit streak. What I will say that if his offseason commitment to being ready the season is true, then you can expect a BA of close to .300, with an OBP north of .350. Not bad from the 2-hole.

Early reports say Castillo is in fact in excellent shape, and he himself said he is fully healthy. Hopefully it is a sign of things to come.

Carlos Delgado

I may as well copy what I said above and paste it hear, because I can make pretty much the exact same case for Delgado. It was, without saying, a tale of two seasons for Delgado. One was vintage, while the other was forgettable. Some like to believe that it was the dismissal of Willie Randolph, while Delgado’s resurgence started a few weeks prior.

Personally, I believe that is was a series of injuries, which cost Delgado a season and a half.

Is it coincidence that his slump came on the heels of offseason surgery in 2007, with Delgado injured throughout? When you look at how his 2nd half numbers compare to his career numbers, you may not think so either. Thankfully for us, Brian Joura at Fangraphs.com has done a wonderful job in analyzing Delgado’s performance, and giving us a fair expectation for 2009.

The first myth to dispel is that Delgado’s poor performance was because of Willie Randolph, and that his resurgence began upon Willie’s departure. Brian points out that from June 27th until the end of the season, Carlos put up a line of .295/.378/.576 –certainly numbers we are used to seeing from King Carlos- about three weeks before Willie got the midnight axe. (Of all the flak the Mets caught, Jon Stewart’s criticism was by far the funniest).

A lot of detractors say that Carlos cannot maintain his 2nd half production over the course of a full season, and I am inclined to agree. Of course, a look at some of his 2nd half statistics shows that his 2nd half was a tad unlucky. Delgado’s 2nd half BABIP was .295, compared to a career .309. In addition, his K and BB rates were in line with recent trends. However, I also think that while he won’t be as good as his 2nd half line, Delgado’s 1st half will not be so bad.

Ultimately, his full season performance compares very well to what Carlos has done over the past few years. As Brian points out, Delgado’s 2006 and 2008 lines are very similar:
  • 2006: .265-38-114
  • 2008: .271-38-115
One improvement Delgado made over his 2006 stats was his line drive percentage. Carlos did a much better job of squaring up on the ball and making solid contact in 2008, as he hit a higher percentage of line drives, and a lower percentage of fly balls. AS Brian astutely points out, though logic would suggest a higher line drive rate would result in a higher BABIP, the defensive shift teams use seem to mitigate this effect.

One potential red flag is that Carlos had a very high HR/Fly ball ratio. However, watching him day in day out, its not a stretch to say that Carlos still has big time power.

So what caused the most prolific left handed hitter over the past 10 years (non Barroid division) to have a miserable season and a half? Injuries. Prior to the 2007 season, Delgado had wrist surgery. Recently, Delgado has gone so far to say that the injuries were not the cause of his struggles, but rather is was a mental issue. His swing and timing was off. In my opinion, that was a result of the surgery, and recovery time.

In 2007, it seemed that every time he was on the verge of busting out, he got hurt again, ending with the broken hand he suffered at the end of 2007. In 2008, he was able to stay on the field, and address his timing issues. We all know what resulted.

Looking toward next season, it is entirely possible that Delgado’s power output could diminish. Most of Delgado’s homers are hit to right center, which is among the deepest parts of Citifield. At the same time, cheap is not an accurate way to describe Carlos’ homeruns. Delgado seems to be aware of the effect that the new park may have, and he has suggested trying to go down the line more, to take advantage of the right field porch.

My one concern is that this can cause him to change his swing, which could result in another tailspin. I’m not sure if he was joking around with that statement, but I do think he knows what he is doing.

While Carlos may not hit for a .290+ average, I think it is reasonable to expect a 30-35 HR season from Delgado, with 110+ RBI, and a .275 BA. If Castillo is able to stabilize the top of the order (I don’t buy into Jerry’s idea of Castillo batting 1 and Reyes 3), then I can see Carlos exceeding those expectations.

I’d like to give thanks to Amazin’ Avenue and Fan Graphs for providing me with excellent reference material.

Check back soon for Part 3.


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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Off the Field: Spring Training Food Choices

As anyone who has been to Port St Lucie knows, there are limited food choices available--mostly fast food and a few local restaurants.

Our spring training spies have seen a few Mets players over at McDonalds, and we think we know why.

Mickey D's has just unleashed a new food campaign to compete with Burger King's Angry Whopper.

Let us present...

The new McSad Deluxe!

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Mets Mt. Rushmore: Fan Vote

Just a reminder to please go vote.

Our post on Friday generated quite a bit of controversy, so we've decided to let the fans decide.

The current tally is as follows:

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The Comeback Kids

Ahhhh yes, Spring Training, where hope springs eternal.

First off, let me say that the likely Mets opening day roster already looks much better than last year's version.

Just to jog your memory, here is the 2008 opening day roster:

The Regulars

Jose Reyes, SS
Luis Castillo, 2B
David Wright, 3B
Carlos Delgado, 1B
Angel Pagan, LF
Carlos Beltran, CF
Ryan Church, RF
Brian Schneider, C

The Rotation

Johan Santana, LHP
Pedro Martinez, RHP
John Maine, RHP
Oliver Perez, LHP
Mike Pelfrey, RHP

The Bullpen

Billy Wagner, LHP
Aaron Heilman, RHP
Pedro Feliciano, LHP
Scott Schoeneweis, LHP
Jorge Sosa, RHP
Matt Wise, RHP
Joe Smith, RHP

The Bench

Raul Casanova, C
Marlon Anderson, UTIL
Damion Easley, UTIL
Brady Clark, OF
Endy Chavez, OF

The 2009 Mets will have at least:
  • 1 new starter (Pagan might make the team, but will not start in LF)
  • 1 new starting pitcher (Freddy or Redding with Pedro gone)
  • 6, yes 6, new relievers (Wags on the DL, Heilman, Schoeney, Smith, Sosa, Wise)
  • 3 or 4 new bench players (Easley, Clark, Chavez and, I hope Marlon, gone)
So there will be at least 10 new faces on the club...a huge turnaround. The bullpen has been re-tooled, and by all accounts, JJ Putz seems like a difference maker of enormous proportions.

With those changes the key is still the comebacks of some key guys that had injuries.

John Maine had surgery to remove a bone spur, ending what looked like a promising season on his journey to become a solid #2 starter. He was clearly struggling with the injury his last 6-8 starts, and his pitching suffered.

Fernando Tatis went down with a separated shoulder midway through September, and the Mets had another swoon. Most folks think a separated shoulder is only devastating to a pitcher, but it can throw a hitter off for months and months depending on the severity.

Ryan Church came back in September after multiple concussions and had a miserable month in which he batted .209 with a .299 OBP and .302 Slg %.

Luis Castillo had what can only be described as a "lost season". His 77 OPS+ on the year was made worse by the .111 batting average and .139 Slg % he put up in 46 horrible September plate appearances. It was, for lack of a better term, pure crap.

Now by all accounts Castillo looks like a new man--17 pounds lighter, pain free, and eager to prove he can still play this game at a level high enough to contribute to a championship (which he has done twice).

Church looks good, is swinging it well, and seems to be over everything...he reported that he finally felt all the way back in November.

Tatis is the guy we've heard the least about this spring, but he's excited to be back and performing all the drills.

John Maine threw 40 pitches yesterday. His control was off (naturally), but he said he was pain-free and Dan Warthen "liked what I saw".

These four are your comeback kids...these are the real questions marks...these are the difference-makers.

If 3 of the 4 play a full season and produce to their abilities, the Mets will have a monster 2009.

If not...
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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Mets News from the Blogosphere

Good morning Mets fans!

Isn't this time of the year incredible? We see who has come into camp in shape, get our first look at the new guys in action, and we mark the progress of our up and coming stars. We also get a look at the guys coming back from injury and the older players as well.

Over at Metsblog Matt Cerrone has a great interview with Nervous Nick Evans.

David Lennon at Newsday has a nice piece on the Mets new hunter, Tim Redding...he also has this item on Bobby Parnell and his chances to make the team.

The always entertaining Mack's Mets has some thoughts on Mets prospect Roy Merritt.

The 'Ropolitans thinks Mike Pelfrey needs a loan, after his money got frozen along with several other Boras clients.

The always entertaining Eddie Kranepool Society dreams about being in charge of Citi Field concessions.

By now you've figured out that the picture of Mookie Wilson has nothing to do with this piece...I just like it!

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Friday, February 20, 2009

KRod at Spring Training: The Video

Here's a good little video of KRod at spring training courtesy of ReelSportsFan.com.

The Mets Mount Rushmore

Who would you choose for the "Mets Mount Rushmore"?

Who are those four all-time greats that truly represent the team, the fans, the greatness that is NY Mets baseball, and who epitomize all things Mets?

It's not an easy choice is it?

You have greats like Dwight Gooden, Jerry Koosman, Ed Kranepool, Tug McGraw, Mookie Wilson, maybe Strawberry too....but you know they just don't belong on the Mets Mount Rushmore.

You think harder and decide against Gary Carter and John Franco. Al Leiter comes to mind along with Jon Matlack, but they don't quite make the cut either.

Then you think about Mike Piazza--surely he belongs...but, but, but...he does not just quite fit up there.

Then you look at Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran...two of the very best to ever wear the uniform...but again, not quite right.

So in the end you come up with four...you kind of knew along along who they would be, you even tried to talk yourself out of one or two of them.

But you knew...we all knew.

The Mets Mount Rushmore

EDIT: A lot of folks are clamoring for Piazza....look, I love the guy, but his last 3 years with the team were not very good, and he never won a ring.

If there was a 5th person on Mount Rushmore, Mike Piazza would be there.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Mets Hat Logo Revisited

I see the hat logo is in the Daily News today.

It's also featured on MLB.com.

Loyal readers might remember the piece I wrote about it back on 12 January...I am still in horror from the telling; in fact, my heart is racing, and I feel a bit queasy.

There is just "something" about that logo.

And if you REALLY want to check something bizarre out, head over to "What Would Keith Hernandez Do?"

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Note to Readers

It's been a great last few weeks reading about the signings, the team, the health of the players, the expectations for 2009, etc.

We've added some really talented new writers here, and, as always, we are 100% ad free...never an ad or (I hope), any wasted space on the page.

I link to SportSpyder as well as the Mets news feed from Mets.com, so you are always caught up on what folks are saying...kind of a one stop shop to get you going.

Lastly, the "My friends are Reporting" link on the left side of the page has the most current reports from the folks I consider some of the very best in the Mets blog world, including Matt Cerrone's MetsBlog, Steve from the Eddie Kranepool Society, Mack from Mack's Mets, and more...if you want your Mets site featured there I can always be bribed with beer.


All that being said, we are going on a quick 5-day vacation to NYC, gonna see a few shows, take in the sights, etc...so no new content here until Thursday or Friday of next week.

We are also going to visit the family in North Jersey...my sister-in-law broke her back, so we're going to spend a bit of time with them as well to help with the kids.

I am on a self-imposed "no computers" blackout; hence, nothing new here from me for a few days. Feel free to check in to see what "my Friends" are reporting and keep sending the comments, notes and e-mails...they are great.

See you in a few days and say a prayer for my sister-in-law!


P.S. We will have two interviews in the next few weeks: Pete Schourek and Ted Berg.

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Looking for Steady Freddy

Of all the off-season moves the Mets made, the one with the biggest upside is the addition of Freddy Garcia as a potential 5th starter.

It's also one of the moves that fans, the media, players and management love--the lightning in a bottle move.

Why I like it is because there is absolutely no risk, but a ton of reward.

According to this piece in the Daily News:

Garcia had an MRI exam on his shoulder in Venezuela after experiencing the winter-ball inflammation, which revealed no damage. Another MRI given by the Mets last week also showed him to have a clean bill of health.

"We played catch today with no problem," Santana said. "When we talked, we said if he stays healthy he's going to have a pretty good chance. He's done it in the past. He's a great competitor. He's a guy who will take the ball any time. He has that kind of mentality. Regardless of the situation, the team he's facing or anything, he's always that guy who wants the ball. That's what you need."

So far as anyone can tell, the shoulder is healthy--that is checkmark number one.

The next question is, "can he still win in the big leagues?"

We're not suggesting that he can return to the form that allowed him to put up eight 200+ inning
seasons in his first nine years.

But he did fare well in his return to the big leagues last September after a long absence:

2008 Season Stats

Moreover, he held the powerful Texas Ranger lineup scoreless over 5 innings in his first game back:

Game Log September 29, 2008
Sep 29@CWSL 8-25.022203377702055-- 4.20
Sep 23KCL 5-05.075532668772337L(1-1)- 4.50
Sep 17@TEXW 17-45.021001359591863W(1-0)- 0.00
Monthly Totals 15.011873612182420661--1-10 sv4.20

All good signs as we move forward.

The early chatter in St Lucie points to a wonderful battle for the 5th starter this Spring. And, unlike last year, we seem to have three solid options in Garcia, Tim Redding and Jon Niese.

Moreover, as all baseball fans know, a team needs a minimum of 6 major league quality starters to break with the team out of camp.

Don't believe me? Consider this:

11 different players made starts for the Mets in 2008....eleven!

How good will 2009 be if we can cut that down to 6 or 7 guys making all 162 starts?

The answer? Very good...very good indeed.

Here's a video of the arrival of Steady Freddy:

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

ARod Gets His Groove On

From the department of "wow"....an inside look at hanging out with ARod and his "girls" on vacation in the Bahamas.

NY Mag has hit on an instant classic.

You can read the full story here.

It's actually pretty funny, and I encourage you to laugh along with me..

The most surprising thing is seeing ARod with a young and attractive woman (women?), and not an older hag with muscles.

So now, let's party with ARod....

A New York intern — we'll call her Jane Blonde — was on vacation in the Bahamas this weekend [Ed: We know, we hate her] with some friends from college when, suddenly, they found themselves face-to-orange-face with none other than A-Roid and his lusty ladies! Because she is an intern, we made her tell us everything, then sent her back to her cube to fact-check some New York Weddings stuff. After the jump, read Jane's timeline of how, in one magic night, she was transformed from an Intern into a Celebrity Entourage Hanger-On to a Tabloid Superstar!

10 p.m. We enter Atlantis. “A-Rod is here!” someone whispers. Or maybe they didn't whisper it. You could just tell someone was famous in the room because of the way everyone was acting. Not knowing that he has been all over the news (we were on vacation too), we are not surprised that he has jetted off to the Bahamas for the weekend — isn’t that what athletes with inflated salaries do with their time?
10:15 p.m. As we proceed from the bar to the casino floor, we notice that all the major news stations start breaking news about A-Rod’s confessing to steroid use. Awkward!
10:20 p.m. We hit the casino floor, where our guy friends are playing poker at a blackjack table nearby. A-Rod is seated at the edge of the table, alone. He is intently focused on the game. Clearly, he needs some good luck.
10:45 p.m. Eventually, we proceed upstairs to Aura, the club inside the casino. Our friends have scored a table — which happens to be right next to the corner booth where A-Rod is sitting! We wonder if, at this point, he feels like he knows us well enough to say hi? Glance at him expectantly, waiting for him to break into giant white grin that says, "Don't I know you from twenty minutes ago?" Alas. He is typing on his BlackBerry. To whom? His wife or Madonna? He is a man of contradictions.
11 p.m. He introduces himself. "I'm Alex," he says, and we die. The security guard then ropes off his table. But we are in!
11:05 p.m. Oh, but only for a moment. Two women, a blonde and a brunette, sashay over and proceed to bump us out of the immediate vicinity of A-Rod ... but not far enough.
11:30 p.m. Make small talk with "blonde bombshell," as his attention is clearly focused on the brunette at this point (see picture). She is 19, and from Virginia Beach. "What brings you to the Bahamas?" we ask, innocently. "We're here for Alex," she says. "He's going through a really hard time right now."
11:45 p.m.: After we exhaust all possible topics of conversation, a moment of uncomfortable silence ensues as we simultaneously realize we are from two different worlds. She is part of a celebrity's entourage. We, however, are merely hangers-on of that entourage.
12:02 a.m.: Madonna’s “Hung Up” blasts over the speakers.
We look pointedly at “Alex” and whisper to our new friend, "This must be awkward." She smirks and nods her head in agreement. We're bonding!
12:05 a.m.: Wanting to play second fiddle no more, she gets up to redirect A-Rod’s attention. She snags the brunette and performs a girl-on-girl dance duet involving lots of intertwined legs and shimmying. A-Rod, slouched in the banquette, looks semi-amused, insofar as his face will allow it.
12:05 to 1:40 a.m. : Continued dancing.
1:40 to 1:52 a.m.: Three-way canoodling.
2 a.m.: The three of them depart together, neglecting to say good-bye. Decide they were just caught up in romance.
Today: Am tabloid superstar!

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Hope Springs Eternal: Hinge Points

My good friend Andy gives us a few thoughts on reasons for optimism heading into Spring Training.

I tend to take an optimistic view of the team, and, like Andy, have pretty high expectations for the 2009 Mets.

I won't say my Mets cup runneth over, but the glass isn't half-empty either.


Yes, we would all like to have a slugging left fielder.
Yes, we currently only have one lefty in the bullpen.
Yes, we have question marks in our rotation.

Got it, got it, got it.

Are we Mets fans being needlessly pessimistic as we enter the spring?

No doubt, Mets fans have been burned the last two years, so its understandable. But it's also reasonable to look at the 2009 Mets and see the potential for major improvement over 2008. Not one or two games better (even though that would have been enough to make the playoffs) but as much as a 5-10 game improvement in the standings.

While its silly to go into any season expecting any one player to have in improved season, it may not be silly expecting ONE of your main players to have an improved season, or to expect that a bullpen which was historically bad last year could simply be average or better this year. Its very early, but these potential "hinge points" - points where our season swings into a better posture than 2008 - are as follows:

1) Daniel Murphy

People can say what they want about Tatis, but he will mostly play against lefties, and my guess is the "floor" with Tatis is still a .250 hitter with some power. But Murphy is a big hinge point. If he duplicates last year's numbers, over a full season (say 400 at-bats since its a platoon) he will give the Mets:

27 doubles, 9 triples, 6 HR, 51 RBI, and an .313/.397/.473 split.

Those numbers would be fantastic from a #2 hitter, right? And while they may be less than ideal from a corner outfielder (on a team that really gets all its power from 3 players), they certainly aren't bad. By way of comparison, Jayson Werth, who played corner outfield for the Phils for much of the year, put up a.273/.363/.498 split, and was considered a "steal" by our rivals.

But is that really what he will do? If he falls off and struggles, then we might have a problem. But is that really his ceiling? I don't think its reasonable to expect him to have a .400 OBP in a full year, but at the same time 23-year olds do tend to show more power as they get more comfortable. If his splits were .280/.360/.500, would people like him more? Because those splits aren't inconceivable - his numbers at the Bing last year were .308/.374/.496.

The Sporting News listed Murphy as the 8th best prospect in all of baseball (for what that's worth). If he steps up, the Mets will have a more potent offense than they did last year.

2) A "Big" Season from one of the Big 4

Can the Mets get a truly "big" season from one of their big 4 (Reyes, Wright, Beltran, Delgado)?

Omar is actually right that none of them had a career year - and while it may be silly to expect a career year from any given player in any given year (especially for Carlos Delgado), its also worth nothing that by some metrics David Wright and Carlos Beltran had worse seasons in 2008 than they did in 2007, and that Jose Reyes' season went off a cliff in September (.314 OBP).

While it may be crazy to expect "career" seasons from any of the big 4, if any of them do have such a season it could totally transform the Mets offense.

What if Reyes puts up his 2006 numbers (.300/.354/487) or better? Or if Wright puts up his 2007 numbers - minus the terrible April start (.243 BA and 0 HR) - for a full year? That would be a season of .340/.420/.567 - and definite MVP consideration.

The point is, while it is not a good bet to EXPECT a career season, its not inconceivable that two or more of the "big 4" will have a better 2009 than 2008, so that if the other two remain roughly static, you still see major improvement.

3) How much does an improved bullpen help?

I think we may all be underestimating how much the improved bullpen will help, because we are underestimating how bad it was last year.

Last year's bullpen wasn't just bad for a team with championship aspirations - it was one of the very worst in all of baseball. Only seven teams had a higher bullpen ERA (despite the Mets pitching in a pitchers park and in the NL) and was third in all of baseball in blown saves (and 9th worst in save percentage).

If the Mets wind up having a top-10 bullpen this year (and that's still a big if) its not just an improvement, its a sea change.

Lets say the Mets, instead of blowing 29 saves, only blew 22 of those (which would put them smack in the middle of the pack). That's a 7 game improvement, which would have meant the Mets win the division handily with a 96-win season.

At the end of the day, I'm not saying any of these things WILL happen - but its not crazy for Omar, and us fans, to start the season expecting at least one, if not all, of these 3 hinge points to open our favor.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Ex-Congressman Warns Clemens

After Miguel Tejada pled guilty to lying and misleading Congress about steroids, Roger Clemens received a stern warning from ex-Congressman Tom Davis, a Republican from Virginia.

"I think you need to cut your losses," said former Rep. Tom Davis, a Republican from Virginia and ex-chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. "Frankly, I think we'll see charges in the Clemens case and they will come around pretty quickly. Lying under oath is serious. It's not like A-Rod lying to Katie Couric in an interview. When you're under oath, you have to tell the truth."

Davis and Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who was chairman of the committee, asked Justice to investigate Clemens for possibly lying to Congress about the use of steroids in baseball

Davis made his comments on the same that day that Houston Astros shortstop and former American League MVP Miguel Tejada pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball and admitting that he had bought human growth hormone but threw it out before using it.

"I don't think it bodes well for Roger," said Earl Ward, defense attorney for Brian McNamee, Clemens' former personal trainer who told federal investigators that he injected Clemens with steroids and HGH from 1998 through 2001, the New York Daily News reported. "How can they go after Barry Bonds and Miguel Tejada and not indict Roger Clemens?"

So it is all coming full circle now. Indictments, guilty pleas, tarnished images, and legends smashed forever.

You can read the full story from NBC here.

Thankfully the baseball season is upon us.
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DC Radio Somewhat Perplexed at the Dunn Deal

It's funny, millions of Mets fans wanted to Dunn, millions didn't.

But listening to the radio in DC, one thing is clear....Nats fans don't know what to think of their new two-year slugger.

The team is stacked with corner outfielders...stacked...loaded. It's the one position they need to upgrade least.

That said, they also finished 28th in HRs and Runs Scored, so his offense will certainly help.

So while they like the HR potential, worry is already in the air, and the Nats will more than likely move two outfielders prior to opening day.

I'll have more of the local reaction up as news comes in, but one thing is clear...the Mets need to actively look to the Nats as a trading partner once again...welcome home Lastings?

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Alomar's Ex: He has AIDS

In a stunning bit of news, Robby Alomar's ex has filed a $15M lawsuit accusing the ex-Met of having AIDS.

The NY Daily News reports:

Baseball great Roberto Alomar has full-blown AIDS but insisted on having unprotected sex, his ex-girlfriend charged Tuesday in a bombshell lawsuit.

The shocking claim was leveled by Ilya Dall, 31, who said she lived with the ex-Met for three years and watched in horror as his health worsened.

In papers filed in state and federal court, Dall said Alomar finally got tested in January 2006 while suffering from a cough, fatigue and shingles.

"The test results of him being HIV-positive was given to him and the plaintiff on or about Feb.6, 2006," the $15 million negligence suit says.

The court papers outline the couple's relationship, starting in 2002. A month after they began dating, Alomar convinced Dall to have unprotected sex and assured her he was disease-free, the suit alleges.

In 2004, Dall says she noticed cold sores in his mouth. In 2005, after a physical exam ordered by the Tampa Bay Rays, he was diagnosed with thrombocytopenia purpura, a blood disorder sometimes linked to HIV, she claims.

The doctor told him to have an HIV test and he refused, she says, stating he had been tested and was AIDS-free.

In April 2005, Alomar told Dall he was suffering from erectile dysfunction and confided "he was raped by two Mexican men after playing a ballgame in New Mexico or a Southwestern state when he was 17," the suit says.

It goes on to say that around the same time Alomar developed a persistent cough and was bedridden with extreme fatigue.

He developed thrush, a yeast infection, and was told by a doctor to take an HIV test - but refused, Dall claims.

"I don't have HIV," he told her repeatedly, the suit charges.

A few months later, the couple moved to Cleveland, where Alomar supposedly tested positive. Dall claims that after she learned Alomar had AIDS, she tested negative and no longer had unprotected sex with him.

They broke up last October.

You can read the full story here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Abreu Likely Heading West

Numerous reports, including this one from the LA Times, have Bobby Abreu headed to the Angels before the start of spring training this weekend.

According to the article:

Recent reports have indicated that he would be willing to settle for a one-year deal in the $7-million range.

"We'd still like a multi-year deal, but if he doesn't get what he wants, he'll be fine with a one-year deal," Greenberg said. "Then, he could re-establish his market value and hope for better luck next year. He might be faced with that."

As I sit here pondering Abreu while looking at his stats, there's certainly an appeal for the guy, especially in this lower price range.

That said, he turns 35 next month, and I liked what we got out of Fernando Tatis and Daniel Murphy last year.

By way of comparison, Bobby Abreu had an OPS+ of 120 last year. Fernando Tatis had an OPS+ of 123.

And for my loyal readers who remember this piece, there is absolutely a way to platoon Tatis and Murphy and get fantastic production.

Let's look at Tatis and Murphy and see if the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Fernando Tatis, RH Hitter, 2008:

vs RH: 167 AB, .287 BA, .353 OBP, .527 Slg, .880 OPS, 10 HR, 28 RBI
vs LH: 106 AB, .311 BA, .393 OBP, .415 Slg, .809 OPS, 1 HR, 19 RBI

Daniel Murphy
, LH Hitter, 2008:

vs RH: 121 AB, .306 BA, .391 OBP, .455 Slg, .846 OPS, 1 HR, 14 RBI
vs LH: 10 AB, .400 BA, .462 OBP, .700 Slg, 1.162 OPS, 1 HR, 3 RBI

Right away we see one issue--Tatis hit righty's and lefty's with almost equal effectiveness, but his power is down against lefty's. When you view his career splits, the numbers are equal. In other words--he doesn't fit the mold.

So let's dig a bit deeper, and look at both players home and away stats:


H: 143 AB, .350 BA, .409 OBP, .545 Slg, .954 OPS
130 AB, .238 BA, .327 OBP, .415 Slg, .742 OPS


H: 67 AB,
.284 BA, .380 OBP, .463 Slg, .842 OPS
64 AB, .344 BA, .417 OBP, .484 Slg, .901 OPS

Tatis thrived at Shea and Murphy thrived on the road. We'll have a new park in 2009, so we'll have to see if this was more psychological than anything else.

One last key to these player's differences--type of pitcher.

Each fared well against average and finesse pitchers, but against power pitchers, Murphy, with his short stroke, has an enormous edge.

73 AB, .229 BA, .297 OBP, .361 Slg, .658 OPS
Murphy: 35 AB,
.314 BA, .467 OBP, .543 Slg, 1.010 OPS
This obviously isn't a traditional platoon, but it can be a very good one. Play Murphy vs any power pitcher, regardless of what side of the rubber they throw from, and keep a close eye on both guys' home and away splits.

So forward we move...another player checked off the list.

Is Omar doing the right thing here? Is he playing his cards close to the vest in hopes of finding lightning in a bottle, or perhaps waiting out a mid-season deal?

Call me overly optimistic, but losing out on Bobby Abreu doesn't seem like a very big deal right now.
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Andruw Jones Now Officially a Ranger

Well, sort of anyway.

The former superstar slugger signed a deal that pays him $500K if he makes the team, with a chance to earn an additional $1M if he reaches certain incentives...like not striking out 76 times in 200 at-bats, as he did in 2008, with a 37 OPS+ on the year.

Just think, he was halfway through a deal worth $36M when he was released.

For $500K he was worth a flyer for the Mets in my opinion.

Ok amigos...tell me this hasn't been the strangest off-season ever???

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Early Injury Concerns

Something to keep an eye on early in Spring Training are injuries.

Several key Mets players are coming back from various ailments that could have a major impact on 2009.

Johan Santana had surgery to repair a torn meniscus on his left knee in October. Considering that his left leg is his driving leg, there is absolutely some worry here. Santana had the injury for most of the year and still managed to pitch one of the greatest games in club history. Mets officials asked Johan not to pitch in the WBC in order for him to focus on his rehab.

John Maine, arguably the Mets #2 starter coming into the season, had surgery in September on his throwing shoulder. In Maine's case the docs removed a lesion from the back of his shoulder socket and removed a bone spur.

Duaner Sanchez had surgery back in 2007 that forced him out for the year--all Met fans remember the accident that put the reliever on the shelf. In 2006 he posted a sterling 2.60 era and was a stalwart of the Mets bullpen. After returning from surgery in 2008 by barely making the club out of Spring Training, his velocity was down and his throwing motion looked different. Even more troublesome was the fact that he looked worse as the season wore on, putting up a 6.00 ERA in the second half after a 3.57 ERA in the first half. With Sanchez the thought was that he wore down and would need the second winter of rehab to get back to the pitcher he once was. We shall see.

Ryan Church started his Mets career off with a bang, and then concussions did his inaugural season in. He is on the comeback trail, healthy and has a lot to prove. After missing almost all of June, July and August, Church returned to starting status in September and put up a .209 BA, .299 OBP, .302 Slg % and .601 OPS in 86 horrible September at-bats. As much as I love the guy, his woeful hitting in September just may have cost us the pennant. The worry with Church is that one more head injury could end his career. We're all pulling for him to succeed because the talent is there, and he is a really good guy.

Luis Castillo, the Met most fans love to hate, is another player with a ton to prove. He had surgery on both knees in late 2007, and he never looked right in 2008. Because of the knee surgeries his legs were off, and he suffered through a trip to the DL for a strained left hip flexor, and also complained of right knee pain, a strained quadricep, and numerous other leg-related ailmets. His 2008 was awful and he put up a 77 OPS+ and a pitiful .305 Slg % for the year in 298 painful to watch at-bats. His fielding suffered as well.

There are other worries--JJ Putz was on the DL twice last year, Daniel Murphy hurt his knee in the Fall League, Beltran had the wall crash down the stretch and always seems one play away from damaging himself, and we did lose Fernando Tatis on Sep 18 after he separated his shoulder.

So the question is, "should we be worried about all of these injuries, surgeries, and carry overs from last year?"

I sure am.

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ARod Tests Positive for Spheroids

As in balls, and pretty big ones at that.

I am not suggesting he was brave or courageous when he took PEDs and cheated at the game we love.

Nor am I condoning his behavior because, as many have reported, "everyone was doing that."

But I do give him credit for going immediately onto the national stage and admitting what he'd done.

That took guts.

So let today mark the final time that this Mets blog will talk about ARod and steroids.

Pitchers and Catchers are reporting, the early arrivals are already at Port St Lucie, and we have bigger things to discuss: like the 857,342 discussions of Castillo vs Church for the #2 hole.

Let's allow the Yankees and Red Sox bloggers and the national media to run this story into the ground all year long while we talk about the Mets.

We can test positive for spheroids as well.

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Monday, February 9, 2009

The ARod Test: You Decide

OK boys and girls of all ages, it's time for a new game!

Look at the stats and figure out when ARod 'roided and when he was clean.

He said he was on the juice from 2001-2003--do you think he's being truthful?

First fan to correctly guess the true "ARod 'roid years" gets a prize (all answers must be verified by Katie Couric).

Career: Batting | Fielding
1994 Sea 17 54 4 11 0 0 0 2 3 20 3 0 .204 .241 .204 .445
1995 Sea 48 142 15 33 6 2 5 19 6 42 4 2 .232 .264 .408 .672
1996 Sea 146 601 141 215 54 1 36 123 59 104 15 4 .358 .414 .631 1.045
1997 Sea 141 587 100 176 40 3 23 84 41 99 29 6 .300 .350 .496 .846
1998 Sea 161 686 123 213 35 5 42 124 45 121 46 13 .310 .360 .560 .920
1999 Sea 129 502 110 143 25 0 42 111 56 109 21 7 .285 .357 .586 .943
2000 Sea 148 554 134 175 34 2 41 132 100 121 15 4 .316 .420 .606 1.026
2001 Tex 162 632 133 201 34 1 52 135 75 131 18 3 .318 .399 .622 1.021
2002 Tex 162 624 125 187 27 2 57 142 87 122 9 4 .300 .392 .623 1.015
2003 Tex 161 607 124 181 30 6 47 118 87 126 17 3 .298 .396 .600 .996
2004 NYY 155 601 112 172 24 2 36 106 80 131 28 4 .286 .375 .512 .887
2005 NYY 162 605 124 194 29 1 48 130 91 139 21 6 .321 .421 .610 1.031
2006 NYY 154 572 113 166 26 1 35 121 90 139 15 4 .290 .392 .523 .915
2007 NYY 158 583 143 183 31 0 54 156 95 120 24 4 .314 .422 .645 1.067
2008 NYY 138 510 104 154 33 0 35 103 65 117 18 3 .302 .392 .573 .965
Total -- 2042 7860 1605 2404 428 26 553 1606 980 1641 283 67 .306 .389 .578 .967
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