Sandy Alderson

The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow

I’ve been a Mets fan since I was seven.  I’ve seen a lot in my not-so-short yet not-quite-as-long as others.  I’ve seen the Mets win a World Series in front of my own eyes, but I also saw Mike Scioscia sucked the life out of a team and a fanbase on a cold October night in 1988.  I’ve seen two celebrations for an NL East at home, but I also saw Carlos Beltran take strike three.  I was at “Closing Day” at Shea Stadium, but I’ve been to many many games at CitiField, where we’ve yet to create our fond memories.

I was in diapers when Tom Seaver was traded, but rumor has it I was snoozing in my crib while my dad cried watching the evening news that night.  I was in first grade when the Mets were on WOR and some guy named Keith was playing for them, and my dad had baseball on more often than he had before.

I saw Dwight Gooden fall to his demons many many times.  I saw Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell traded for Juan Samuel.  Darryl Strawberry, nicknamed the “Black Ted Williams” when he was being scouted, walked away from the Mets to go home to L.A.  Generation K never lived up to our expectations, and Bobby Jones started out as overrated but became underrated as he left the team. The great dream of Scott Kazmir was dashed away when the Mets decided to become a “win-now” team with missing puzzle piece Victor Zambrano.

So is life, as Harry Belafonte once sang on The Muppet Show, for a Mets fan.

In the offseason leading to the 2008 season, I wrote a piece at my inaugural Mets blog My Summer Family when Johan Santana was traded to the Mets.  Its Always Darkest Before Dawn, I called it, because it was right after 2007 and the collapse and everything sucked.  And I just remembered that it’s never easy being a Mets fan.  And look…Johan Santana hasn’t quite lived up to our expectations either.  Then again, we should not be surprised.

The sun will come out tomorrow.  Little Orphan Annie sang this about better days to come.  I think we can gain a lot from this message for a lot of aspects of life.  If you’re still breathing, you have a bad day, you get dumped, whatever, chances are the days will go on and you’ll overcome it.

And we’ll overcome our loss of Jose Reyes.  It won’t be easy, and it won’t be fun, but it will happen because…it will happen.  It just has to.  When Beltran’s caught looking ended an improbable run in 2006, and then started a chain of events for failure with the team, we’re still here.  We’re still breathing.  We’re still rooting and believing just like we normally do.

Is it horrible to lose Reyes?  I won’t lie to you: it is.  But not for the reasons you think.  To be blunt, this is a business.  Free agents come and go and Reyes was no exception.  It happens. We root for the laundry and not the player (just the players who wear the laundry).  Sadly, this team was not winning with Reyes…they can keep not winning without him.

That can be simplistic I know.  Especially for a man who was the Mets’ first batting champion and is beloved by fans all over.  At the end of the day, Jose Reyes will be a Miami Marlin…and we’ll have to get over it.

The sun came out this morning, and will continue to rise in the east and set in the west every day after.  So fare thee well, Jose.  We’ll miss you, it will be hard to get over you, but we’ll do it eventually.

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The Wheeler Lining

It took me a long time to warm up to Carlos Beltran.  Yet, when he left via trade to the San Francisco Giants this summer, I loved him.  He became easily one of my favorite Mets players ever.  I wished that all fans could have seen him the way I did, and some of my blolleagues did, but I can certainly understand why about 50% of the Mets fan population did not like him all that much.  His personality wasn’t all that grand, and perhaps he was one of those players that would be appreciated more outside of the fishbowl that is headed up by the New York metro main stream media.

Yet there is always a downside to signing a guy, any player in any sport, to the type of contract that Beltran possessed.  There is the threat of injury, underperformance, the noose of tying up years and dollars to just one player.  In New York, it shouldn’t be that big of a deal, but for the Mets it always is because of their lack of foresight that the guy might not make it to the end. Look at Jason Bay: his numbers started dwindling the second he walked into CitiField.  Perhaps he’ll turn it around in 2012, but along with Johan Santana, their contacts will unfortunately tie up resources for short-term, and unless they show signs of improvement, it will be hard to dump.

Luckily, the Mets and most specifically Sandy Alderson got some value out of Beltran.  One of the clauses in Beltran’s contract was that the Mets could not offer arbitration once the contract expired.  I always assumed there was a “gentleman’s agreement” when offering arbitration, but at Beltran’s age it might have been more advantageous for him to accept arb and see what the market is for him with the Mets.  I doubt that would have been the case: I think Beltran was miserable in New York.  Yet, Alderson did the unthinkable and unprecedented move of trading Beltran at the deadline in 2011.  At the beginning of the season, people thought I was crazy when I suggested it could be Beltran who moved at the deadline.  There’s no value to keeping him around, especially if the Mets are not realistically competing. He was owed too much money, I was told.  We’d never get anyone of value back.  Someone though neglected to tell Sandy Alderson that.

Trading Carlos Beltran for Zack Wheeler (Zach? I’ve seen it spelled both ways) was a step in the right direction for the New “New Mets.”  Beltran once called the team he signed with in 2005 the “New Mets.”  They quickly became “Old Mets” under Omar Minaya’s watch.  With the removal of Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo and subsequent bad vibes of recent seasons, there are a few positives to take away from this.

One is that when Beltran was traded, the Mets agreed to take on most of his salary.  In a way, this was positive: though they still paid Beltran to play for another team, they did get some value in return in a prospect that could give years of return on investment.  With the grumblings about the financial situation of the Mets as well, perhaps this was a PR move too to show that they could still pay someone who was not playing for them anymore.

The second thing is that Beltran was traded to the then-reigning World Champions.  Giants GM Brian Sabean has a thing for older players.  It’s no secret that Beltran turned it on in 2004 right before he was a free agent for the Houston Astros in the playoffs that year.  What Sabean needed was a Beltran-type to propel them into the playoffs.  While Beltran had a slow start, he did his part but the team fell short.

I secretly rooted for the Giants.  Well, not so much a secret anymore, since I’m telling all of you.  But mostly because I wanted to see Beltran succeed (and for my selfish fan-crush of the Giants pitching staff, especially Tim Lincecum).  I would have loved to rooted for Carlos in the playoffs, but they did not make the playoffs in 2011 at all.

My blolleague over at KinersKorner and the Kult of Mets Personalities, Nik Kolidas, said something to me a while back.  When I said that I wanted to see Beltran in the playoffs, he said it would be a great thing if they didn’t make it.  For the Mets, that is.  It meant something actually went RIGHT for the Mets in this trade!  Meaning that another team actually gambled wrong and the Mets could have potentially walked away from the transaction better in the long-term.

Zack Wheeler hasn’t thrown a pitch for the Mets yet, or he may never, depending on whether he’s used as a trading chip for someone else.  Right now, he’s developing the correct way, something that the Mets have never been known for.  How many times have we heard about prospects being rushed just to satisfy a quick need for the team, only to never get over the rushing and never living up to his potential?  What he has done is provided some tangible value for Carlos Beltran in the end, and this was one of the first steps away from the damage this franchise has seen in over two decades.

When one door closes, another one opens.  This much we know to be true.  Things might not be 100% fantastic in Flushing for 2012, but just remember that behind every dark cloud there is a silver lining.  In this case, we could call the future of the Mets the Wheeler Lining. Finally, it appears that a Mets GM gamed the market to his favor, and potentially could lead to smoother sailing in the future.

Candy Coating a Poison Pill

If you listen carefully, you will hear the mumblings and grumblings of several in-the-know folks about the walls at CitiField.  Hell, even our very own Howie Rose calls the wall over in left field the “Great Wall of Flushing.”

On one hand, I can understand the venom.  Home runs have dropped off noticeably for the Mets in the time since CitiField opened, and in the design, our owners went for the “quirk” factor and not “realistic helpful” factor.  On the other, if there were low walls, the dimensions were any shorter causing a MORE homer friendly scenario, we’d hear all about how “CitiField is a little league park” or “bandbox” (similar to the refrains we hear about Citizens Bank Park and Yankee Stadium).

You can’t win, but you get what you deserve too, Fred.

Yet, on my weekly podcast, we’ve had some really passionate debate about moving the dimensions at CitiField, redistributing the field (moving home plate and playing field up a few feet), among other things.  I can’t say that I disagree with thinking that SOMETHING needs to change, but the items I feel passionately about are the Great Wall…there’s no reason why it should be so difficult to hit a home run to that side of the field (nor should it be so difficult to try to “stop” a home run from being hit).  The Mo’s Zone is the bane of my existence. There aren’t things that I think will compromise the integrity of the playing field, and won’t make a bandbox or make it prohibitve.

Sandy Alderson on last night’s game broadcast suggested that not only will changes be potentially made at CitiField, that they won’t be “subtle.”  Translation,they should be drastic.  The cheers could be heard ’round the Twitterverse.

I guess I have to ask this question: is this just candy-coating a poison pill?

Keep in mind, I am just looking at home runs hit at CitiField against Mets pitchers (starters or otherwise).  In 2011, Mets pitchers have given up 54 home runs; in 2010, 47 home runs; and in 2009, growing pains to the new park led to the Mets pitchers giving up 81 round-trippers.  Conversely, the Mets’ pitchers have given up 84 HRs on the road this year, 88 HRs on the road in 2010 and 77 away in 2009.  The disparity really wasn’t that great in 2009, but they were giving up way too many home runs in 2009.  Clearly, they’re giving up fewer home runs at home.  Compared to Shea, 2008 and 2009 numbers were VERY similar: 79 home runs at home, 84 on the road.

We could theoretically argue that the home run factor or lack thereof for the Mets has almost HELPED Mets pitching.

But the question isn’t so much what the pitchers are doing and how the hitters are faring.  How many times have we seen what would be home runs at other parks (and not even bandboxes) that aren’t even close at CitiField, or those infamous 400 foot outs in the Mo’s Zone.  Yeah, you know what, that pisses me off too.  But the Mets’ offense has had THREE YEARS to get used to the dimensions at this place and learn to play to its strengths.

In 2008, Mets hitters had 95 home runs at home, with 77 on the road.  Compared to 2009, they had 49 at home, and 46 on the road.  Due to the nature of the injury-ridden and horrific season in 2009, we could throw that stats out as an anomaly and call it a day (or a year, in this case).  Mets hitters had 63 home runs at home in 2010 and 65 on the road, and finally in 2011, with a few days left in the season, 45 home runs at home, 57 on the road.

Throw out the home run factor for the Mets offense. In 2011, with eight games left, the hitting line has been relatively uniform at home and on the road.  At home, hitters have ..263/.336/.390; on the road, .267/.335/.393.  Compare to 2010, .255/.326/.393 at home, and .243/.304/.373 on the road.  Who says the Mets have a problem hitting at home!  Okay, fine it’s all relative, but the point is all we’ve heard is how detrimental CitiField is to the team, and their stats bear out lower on the road.

Of course, at the end of the day, it’s all about wins and losses at home.  There’s been a distinct home field disadvantage.  CitiField was built for the mantra of “speed, pitching and defense.”  Speed and defense have clearly been lacking in the Mets, but the pitching has been relatively uniform.  I know, there have been inconsistencies but fact is, the dimensions of CitiField have been favorable to the Mets pitching.  In 2011, averages against are .254/.333/.376 and on the road, .274/.341/.376.  Mets pitchers in 2010: at home, .243/.318/.350 and on the road, .276/.342/.437.

It’s clear to me the problem lies in lack of offense, especially in situational hitting.  Unfortunately, that cannot be “taught” and is a favorable argument to saber folks about it being a crapshoot.  Want to know what I think is a crapshoot?  Tinkering with the dimensions and walls at CitiField.   We need better PLAYERS to hit in the park, and the only thing tinkering will do is mess with the pitching progress, and have the other teams hit more home runs as well.

Moving in the dimensions will only silence the vocal minority, when the reality is, a candy-coated poison pill will still kill you in the end.