Saturday, May 29, 2010

No Winn Situation

With Curtis Granderson returning to the Yankees roster after his DL stint with a Grade 2 strain of the left groin, room had to be made. In a move that sort of surprised a number of people, me not being one of them, the Bronx Bombers decided to cut outfielder Randy Winn.

Winn signed a one year, 1.1 million (plus incentives) contract this off season and became a part time player for the first time in his 13 year career. He struggled mightily in that role, batting .213 with 1 homerun and eight RBIs in 61 at-bats.

Winn wasn’t expected to be cut when Granderson returned… many figured 25 yr old Kevin Russo would get sent packing back to Scranton-Wilkes-Barre, but the Yankee brass feels Russo has played well subbing for Marcus Thames, who is down with an ankle injury. Russo’s numbers aren’t overly impressive himself though… he’s batting .250 with 0 homeruns and 4 RBIs in 20 at-bats, but Manager Joe Girardi likes Russo’s flexability to play the infield and outfield.

Winn was brought in by the Yankees to platoon with Brett Gardner with the expecation he would play against lefties, but Winn went 0 for 11 against lefthanded pitching. Winn never seemed confortable in a part time role and his struggles were evident from day one. As I said when the signing happened, this one was a total mistake. The Yankees got lucky to be able to sign Thames to a minor league deal and he makes much more sense for them (his ankle injury not withstanding). The Yankees themselves realized their mistake, cutting Winn so early in the season and keeping Russo who really hasn’t shown any reason to believe he’s going to be much of a contributor down the line.

The Yankees can afford to make such mistakes though, and it’s a smart move to cut their losses now.

As for Winn, he’ll likely go home and see if someone else will come knocking. Seeing as the Yankees will pay all but the major league minimum of his 2010 contract, Winn will likely get a shot from someone looking to see if a veteran presence can help their club.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Keys to the Citi

Wow. What a difference a week makes.

Last week the Mets had managed splits in their two games series with the Braves and Nationals… after losing four straight to the Marlins. They had lost nine out of eleven and looked to be in a mess of trouble as they fell seven games behind the front running Phillies. A six game homestand with the Mighty Yankees and those hated Phillies loomed. Things looked like they were about to spiral out of control.

Seven days later, the Mets have won five straight and went 5-1 against two of the best teams in the majors. They didn’t just win… they looked GOOD. Contender good. Playing hard, looking solid, being smart, taking advantage of the other team’s mistakes good.

And as a result they have picked up five games in the standings and are just two games back.

More amazingly, the Mets didn’t give up a single run in the three game sweep of Philadelphia. Three straight shutouts of their hated rivals including seven masterful inning by The Big Pelf, Mike Pelfrey, who stands at 7-1 with a 2.54 ERA.

So… who is this team? The incredible contenders who play like winners at home, treating the Braves, Dodgers, Yankees and Phillies like cannon fodder? Or the not-quite-loverable losers on the road who have battled, but lost constantly to the Marlins, Nationals, Rockies and Cardinals as visitors?

In any case, the team seems much better off with R. A. Dickey and Hisanori Takahashi in the starting rotation in place of Oliver Perez and John Maine. With Jose Reyes and Jason Bay seemingly out of early season slumps and consistant play from the regulars, the Mets have been playing inspired, having won six out of seven and looking to break the losing trend on the road with the Brewers this weekend.

It be a true contender, this team MUST win games on the road. Hopwever, for now, having the best home record in Major League Baseball and sending the defending NL Champs home with their tails between their legs is cause for some celebration and smiles.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Reyes is the Straw that Sturs the Mets’ Drink

During a rough patch in which the Mets lost nine out of eleven and fell from second place into last, Jose Reyes went 10 for 47 for a .212 batting average and scoring 6 runs.

In the last five games (in which the Mets have won four of) he is 9 for 24 for a .375 batting average and 5 runs.

During that fantastic streak in which the Mets won 10 out of 11 games, Reyes was 13 for 41 for a .317 batting average and 10 runs.

See a pattern yet? I did… so, after digesting that info I took a quick look at Reyes’ production in the Mets wins and losses for the entire season.

The Mets are an amazing 15 -4 in games that Reyes scores at least 1 run. They are an astoundingly bad 6 – 16 in games in which he plays and does NOT score a run. They were 2-2 in the four games at the beginning of the season in which he did not play.

So what does that tell you?

Well you certainly don’t need a calculator to figure it out. Without production from Reyes, the Mets don’t win. Simple as that.

There’s no secret formula here people. Reyes had excellent seasons in 2006, 2007 and 2008. The Mets were contenders each of those years. In 2007, when the Mets dropped six of their last seven to lose the division on the last day of the season, Reyes was 5 for 32 for a .156 batting average and 3 runs (scoring in the one game they won in that last seven).

This is a team that has a lot of talent. David Wright, Jason Bay, Ike Davis and (eventually) Carlos Beltran are all excellent hitters who can (and at times will) carry a team on their backs…. however, the Mets are built to win around the guy who energizes his ballclub more than almost any player in baseball. If he hits and runs and scores, the teams wins.

So for all of your screaming to trade Jose Reyes… take a look at those numbers and realize the guy is freaking 26. He has a LOT of baseball still in him and in reality most ballplayers hit their peak at age 28-30. In other words… HE’S ONLY GOING TO GET BETTER.

Is Reyes a frustrating player? Absolutely. He drives me as nuts as the next guy… but the Mets need him and when he’s on… well… damn he’s one of the best.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Maine Problem

Well, John Maine didn’t exactly go as deep into tonight’s game as you might have hoped… in fact, he was out one batter into the game (right after a five pitch walk to The National’s leadoff hitter Nyjer Morgan).

Maines warm-up session didn’t seem to go very well, with his velocity down and his mechanics different than normal. The Mets pitching coach, Dan Warthen didn’t like what he saw and Maine was pulled and replaced by left-hander Raul Valdes, who then went five innings, giving up only one run.

Already down two starting pitchers when Oliver Perez was demoted to the bullpen after another disasterous start and Jon Niese went on the DL, the Mets cannot afford another blow. Maine had been pitching fairly well in the few starts before his last one but the Mets are looking at a rotation of Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, Hisanori Takahashi, R. A. Dickey, and Valdez. Not exactly what was expected when the season started.

This is getting to be a critical part of the season here. The pitching is going to play a huge part.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

You See… The Phillies are Just Jerks

So what do you call a team that cheats, and when called out about it, tries to deflect things to bitch about a division rival… one that your team has basically ridiculed for three years?

You call that team the Two Time Defending National League Champions apparently.

So a number of news outlets (including Yahoo Sports,, ESPN and CBS Sports) have reported that The Colorado Rockies accused the Phillies bullpen coach, Mick Billmeyer, of using binoculars to steal signs from their catcher during monday’s game (a 9 – 5 win for Philadelphia). This follows other complaints about the Phillies including both the LA Dodgers and NY Yankees making the same claims during the playoffs last year.

After viewing some videotape, the Commisioner’s Office informed the Phillies that they would not be allowed to use binoculars during games. No one from the Commisioner’s office actually used the word “cheating” or “stealing signs” or “stealing sequences”, but the general concensus seems to be the Phillies have a reputation for this sort of thing.

So, of course, what does Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel do when asked about it?

Why… he attacks the Mets of course. Manuel was quoted saying: “Somebody maybe ought to check the Mets if they did that. Their [bleeping] home record is out of this world and they’re losing on the road. Sometimes that’s a good indicator of getting signs and [crap]. I see somebody sitting there at 17-2 at home and 4-12 on the road, I’d get concerned about that. That kind of crosses my mind… I’m not accusing them, but you look at that and – damn. We’re about the same home and road. I’m just saying their record is much better at home and they hit better… (The Rockies complained) because we beat them… Keep crying. I’m sure if they can steal signs, they’ll steal them. And believe we will, too, if we can get them. Yeah, we will. Legally. If you’re dumb enough to let us get them, then that’s your fault. That’s been in the game for a long time.”

Manuel went on to say that his coach was only using binoculars to check out the positioning of his own catcher during Colorado at-bats. Right… despite the fact that the cameras showed Billmeyer using the binoculars during Phillies at-bats… NOT during the time his catcher would have been on the field playing defense.

Even if you ignore that bit of info and try and forget the fact that television cameras captured outfielder Shane Victorino chatting to someone on the bullpen phone in the Phillies dugout… it doesn’t change the fact that the Phillies manager totally used a baseless accusation towards a division rival to deflect the glare from his own team’s wrongdoing. A runner at 2nd basebase trying to see a catcher’s sign and relay it to the batter is one thing… that happens. A coach using some sort of equipment, be it binoculars or a camera of sorts is plain cheating.

Amazingly yet, there reported that there were whispers of the Phillies doing the same thing against the Mets in the early season series this year when facing Mets’ ace Johan Santana who strangely enough had his worst outing of the year by far that night. “Some people were talking, amongst us, the bullpen coach would come out and hang over the fence when they were hitting,” Rod Barajas said yesterday, according to The Associated Press, regarding Santana’s start. “And then when we were hitting they were sitting back.”

There were complaints about the Phillies using a camera in centerfield and trying to catch signs back in 2007 by the Mets and The Boston Red Sox also.

Ok… so am I the only one who sees a pattern here? Jimmy Rollins, Cole Hamels, Victorino… they all seem to be obsessed with the Mets… which makes no sense seeing that the Phillies have won the damn division the last three years. Two of those years the Mets handed them the division on a platter… so maybe they realize they WOULDN’T have won them without the Mets collapse and that bothers them… but in any case… to constantly bring up the Mets in a negative light every time there’s something to be talked about is just plain being a team of jerks.

Hamels has called the Mets “choke artists” and said “we think they always will until they prove us wrong”.

Victorino threw an elbow into Jose Reyes’ chest during a rundown while on the basepaths during a game early last season that should have resulted in Victorino being out at the end of the play. Somehow the ump blew it and called Reyes for obstruction. He was called safe (when he was actually out). Victorino would then score when the inning continued (when it should have been over) and the next hitter hit a homerun. Not only was the bush play bad enough, but after the game Victorino snickered about it and called the Mets whiners.

This from a team that complained non-stop about Jose Reyes “over-celebrating” in 2006 and 2007.

Fact is, the Phillies are a bunch of unlikeable schmucks. They brag, they insult, they seemingly cheat, and when things don’t go their way they whine. Yet, people are supposed to believe the Mets are the “bad guys” and the Phillies are the blue-collar heroes.

Please. Enough is enough. The Mets need to make a stand against this team of idiots. In my opinion, their leadoff hitter needs a plunking in the first inning of the first game the two teams next play. Hopefully Victorino will be leading off.

Rivalry is one thing. Being a fricking ass is quite another. Time to shut the damn Phillies up.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Slowly Getting It

Another one bites the dust and it’s about time.

The Mets figured out that another one of their dead-weight players was not going to help the team and cut him loose. Frank Catalanotto was designated for assignment yesterday and Chris Carter was brought up from Triple-A Buffalo to replace him.

Frankly, this is a move I would have made weeks ago. Carter has been doing nothing but hitting the ball like a madman in Buffalo, hitting a rock solid .339 with 16 extra base hits and 20 RBI in 28 games. He looked great in spring training. In fact, as I have stated many times before, once Daniel Murphy went down with his injury, I would have made Carter my opening day 1st baseman. Obviously he won’t be doing that since the 1st baseman of the future is already there in the exciting Ike Davis, but Carter can play the corner outfield spots as well as spot Davis at first.

As with Mike Jacobs, I like Catalanotto, but he just wasn’t getting the job done. He was a drain on the bench batting .143 in 21 at bats as a pinch hitter, with five strike outs.

The Mets are starting to get it. It’s important to not wait to make the moves that will improve this club. Jacobs was a mistake, and thankfully they realized it quick enough that it wasn’t a disaster. Davis came up and breathed new life into the team, and they’ve played much better since. Catalanotto was next and while it took longer it’s still the right move early enough to help.

Now, it’s time to get rid of Gary Matthews, Jr. I don’t care how much he’s getting paid (not too much, but he is making a million this year). Matthews is worse than Jacobs and Catanotto were. After “pinch hitting” in the 7th (I use quotes because what Matthews has been doing cannot honestly be called actual hitting) and striking out again, he is batting .136 with 18 strikeouts, 0 RBIs and two extra base hits in 44 at bats. Keep in mind Matthews had a double in his 1st at bat on opening day which means he’s only had 3 base hits in the 43 at bats after that. He is BEYOND a disaster. At this point *I* could likely make more contact. He needs to go.

So far, this team is playing above what many expected of them, and without the overworked bullpen blowing a few games in the Reds series and in the last game of the Giants series, this team would be doing even better. You need to put guys in the clubhouse to helpo, not make things worse. Please Omar, keep up the right decisions in cutting out the dead weight and get someone else in here to replace Matthews. It’s already too late. Don’t let it be later.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Reyes’ Batting Dilemma

Well, we’re a few weeks into the great Jose Reyes Batting Third experiment, and overall, while he has had some success there, I think the move is not the best of ideas.

One of the biggest complaints about Reyes over the years has been his lack of patience at the plate. It seems he swings at everything sometimes, especially bad pitches in the dirt.

In the number three hole, it seems to me that Reyes is looking more for the big hit… swinging for the fences, as if he needs to up his power numbers to justify batting in a position that is considered one that drives in runs.

Whether this is Reyes’ mindset or not, it at least LOOKS like that’s what he’s doing, and that is just a big mistake.

Reyes should be looking to make contact… drive the ball and make things happen. His apporch to hitting shouldn’t be any different than if he was still batting leadoff. Hit the ball, use his speed… cause havoc out there on the basepaths… that should be his main concern.

He’s not even stealing bases at his point… which is a total mystery to me.

This has been one of my biggest problems with Jerry Manual. He’s got all of this speed on his team, but he doesn;t ever seem to run wild. Say what you will about Willie Randolph as a manager… but he understood how important the running game was with his team and he used it perfectly.

Reyes has 4 stolen bases on the season. He should have had that last week alone.

At this point I would much rather Reyes return to his leadoff spot in the order. Leave Luis Castillo (who isn’t doing too bad so far this season) in the 2-hole for now and bat either Wright or Bay 3rd (I would make it Wright who seems to have had more solid at bats this season overall than Bay so far). Once Beltran is back you can bat him 3rd (IF he comes back that is).

But Reyes? But him back in leadoff and just set the light for green on him. Please Jerry… let the kid run. Enough of this experiment… it’s had it’s moments, but let’s get back to the basics here, ok?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

All time top players by position: Yankees

So following along with my post about the top Mets players per postion, I promised to do one for the Yankees. As with the Mets, I did the top five except for outfield and starting pitcher. I tried to make sure the players spent at least a few years with the team in making the list or at least had a hell of an impact during the time they were in pinstrips.

This was harder for me because unlike with the Mets, where I’ve watched about 125 games a year for the last 28 years and know Mets history inside and out; I’m not quite as well versed with Yankee lore. I mean, I’m a baseball fan and I do know a lot about the Yankees and actually watch about 25-35 games a year of the team (and filp to see an inning here or there quite often) so it’s not like I’m totally shooting from the hip on this one, but you will give me a little lee-way if my list doesn’t match your own.

Actually, no… don’t give me lee-way. blast me. Post your own and tell me why I’m wrong if you don’t like mine.]

In the end I solicited help from my brother Lenny (a die hard Yankees fan) who made some suggestions that I incorpirated into my overall list.

Anyway, here goes:

First Base
1. Lou Gerhig
2. Don Mattingly
3. Tino Martinez
4. Moose Skowron
5. Chris Chambliss

I had Mark Texeria on the list originally, but in reality his one year with the Yankees wasn’t enough. Two years from now he’ll be on the list and most likely at number four or three. Gerhig and Mattingly are pretty much no brainers at the top and Martinez is one of those players that Championship teams just have to have… a selfless player who just plain knows how to win.

Second Base
1. Tony Lazzeri
2. Joe Gordon
3. Alfonzo Soriano
4. Willie Randolph
5. Bobby Richardson

I had Jimmy Williams in there as my number five originally but changed it to Richardson when Lenny brought it to my attention. He was much better with his glove that his bat, but Casey Stengal once called him “the greatest .260 hitter to ever play the game” due to his ability to get a large number of clutch hits. I left Robbie Cano off the list (despite his amazing start to the 2010 season) due to his inconsistancy over the years. He is on the cusp on the list however. I put Soriano on here because despite the fact his defense wasn’t too great, his offensive numbers at 2nd were outstanding.

1. Derek Jeter
2. Phil Rizzuto
3. Frank Crosetti
4. Tony Kubek
5. Roger Peckinpaugh

Wow, and I thought the Mets all time shortstop rankings were thin. Before actually sitting down to do this list I was sure Jeter would be #1, but it wasn’t even remotely close. I’m surprised to find some excellent defensive shortstops here but not a hell of a lot of offensive ones. I don’t think you need me to tell you why Jeter is #1.

Third Base
1. Alex Rodriguiz
2. Graig Nettles
3. Clete Boyer
4. Red Rolfe
5. Joe Dugan

Surprise Surprise, Lenny and I 100% agreed on the 3rd basemen. A-Rod has been with the Yanks more than long enough to be reconized as the best player to ever play that position. Nettles was damn fine with both the bat and the glove. There wasn’t anyone else that really jumped out at me, so Boyer, Rolfe and Dugan were pretty much locks with a solid mix of offense and defense.

1. Yogi Berra
2. Bill Dickey
3. Jorge Posada
4. Thurman Munson
5. Elson Howard

Lenny and I agreed on the catchers here, but not in their order. He had Munson at #3, Posada at 4 and Howard at 5. I had Posada at 3, Howard at 4 and Munson at 5. his arguement that Muson did more in just under ten years then most catchers do in more was enough to get me to move him over Howard, but Posada’s bat is too much for Munson to overcome in my opinion. Posada isn’t the best with his glove and he’s not exactly overtly adapt at blocking the plate either, but you cannot ignore the excellent hitting stats he’s compilied over the years. Like with Jeter, I’m sure no one needs an explanation of why Yogi is #1. He is one of the greatest overall baseball players period, much less one of the greatest catchers. Catcher is a position I know quite welll for the Yankees and this was by far the easiest of the positions to rank. Berra was a no-brainer for me. He hit well, he played defense well, he had the greatest quotes ever. Dickey was a hell of a player also and was another great with the glove and bat.

1. Babe Ruth
2. Mickey Mantle
3. Joe Dimaggio
4. Dave Winfield
5. Bob Meusel
6. Roger Maris
7. Reggie Jackson
8. Earle Combs
9. Bernie Williams
10. Paul O’Neill

The top three here is an outfield that transends any teams top three. Could you imagine having these three guys toegther in their prime? Jeez. After the top three, things get very hard. I had names like Bobby Mercer and Willie Keeler on my original list. Lenny had Roger Maris as high as #4 and Winfield down at #6. We went back and forth for a while and I settled on this list. O’Niell made the cut mainly because the guy was just a freaking warrior. One particular play stays in my head with him. In the 1997 playoffs against the Indians, O’Neill streatched a single into a double with 2 outs in the 9th inning of the game the Yanks were elminated in. Despite the fact the Yanks were pretty much dead already, he was playing 150%.

Starting Pitcher
1. Whitey Ford
2. Lefty Gomez
3. Ron Guidry
4. Red Ruffing
5. Herb Pennock
6. Andy Pettitte
7. Mel Stottlemyer
8. Catfish Hunter
9. Waite Hoyt
10. Mike Mussina

This was another case where Lenny and I mostly agreed (I had Roger Clemens in my original list but Lenny correctly convinced me he didn’t belong) in names but not in order so I compromised on things. Without trying to get into the individual stats on these pitchers, looking at the list and realizing that Clemens, David Cone, Allie Reynolds, Jimmy Key and Devid Wells all didn;t make the list is quite impressive.

Relief Pitcher
1. Mariano Rivera
2. Rich Gossage
3. Sparky Lyle
4. Dave Righetti
5. John Wetteland

If you have to ask why Riveria is #1 then you just don’t know baseball and perhaps cooking or music is your thing. No one has ever thrown a single pitch in relief and been better. I think Rivera will be the guy that surpasses Tom Seaver’s highest-ever percentage of HOF votes (with 98.84%). The rest of the Yanks relief corps is a solid bunch. Wetteland wasn’t there too long, but he had a memorable run.

So there you go. Rip it apart if you wish. Tell me where I’m wrong (or right). In any case, one thing we can agree is that the Bronx Bombers have a hell of a list of players that is dipped rich in baseball history.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Not the End of the World

So, the Mets blazed into Philadelphia on Friday and cut through the defending NL Champions like they were a minor league team. At the end of the game my 15 yr old son, Patrick, turned to me and said “They’re killing them.” I nodded but warned him: “Don’t get too excited. There is a lot of baseball to be played.” Pat agreed.

Two days and two rather large losses later, the Mets have returned to earth. The Phillies stormed back and made short work of Mike Pelfrey (who didn’t exactly get defensive help) and Johan Santana.

But I wouldn’t get too down Met fans. I would actually take a look to see how the Mets follow this series up. Do they bounce back and start a new streak? Do they stay down and return to the uninspiried play of the first 10 games? How does the team react? That, to me, is a hell of a lot more important than two games in early May.

The incredible streak the Mets were on did something important. It showed that the team is capable of some strong play and has the ability to contend. I don’t think any realistic baseball follower REALLY thought the Mets were suddenly better than the Phils, and this weekend showed the fortitude the defnding NL Champs have… however as long as you are prepared to temper your expectations, I think this Mets squad is one that will give us some very meaningful games this summer.

There was news that the Mets hope to have Carlos Beltran resuming baseball activities in the next week or so. Hopefully this is true. Beltran will be a nice lift to this team, as will the return of Daniel Murphy, who can replace Frank Catalanotto as the utility/pinch hitter. Beltran playing will return Angel Pagan to the fourth outfielder’s spot and hopefully bring about an end to the horrible Gary Matthews Jr. experiment. That alone will improve the team.

So don’t get down about two bad losses. Instead, hope that the Mets can bouce back and show you there is hope and something to look forward to in the upcoming weeks and into the summer months. This team has shown us something, so let’s be glad for that.