Tag Archives: David Wright

Mets, 2015: A Year to Remember

It hasn’t been 72 hours and I’m still thinking about the Mets season that ended too soon.  I haven’t had a chance to write that paragraph since 2008 which in baseball years is equivalent to forever.  So forgive me if I write this from the perspective of a 16 year old girl that just broke up with her boyfriend all too publicly and thinks her life is over.

Yes, life moves on.  Yes its only sports.  I get all that but at the same time, I don’t.  When a baseball season ends, you’re almost glad, right?  From February through September, its nearly 8 months of ups and downs that you can’t possibly predict or pretend to not agonize over.  There will be stretches of absolute brutal play that will make you turn the game off in the 4th inning and want to sit outside and watch your wife garden without a cold one in your hand because you drank enough for two frat guys at a kegger in that four inning stretch that you’re embarrassed to be this drunk at 3pm.

But here we are writing the epitaph of the 2015 Mets season and feeling strange.  The Mets opened up as 10/1 favorites to win the world series, tied with the Washington Nationals, the presumptive favorites heading into this past season.  That sentence alone is unbelievable to write because the Nationals spent $210 million to bolster a pitching staff already thought to be the best in the major leagues.  Yet, somehow the Mets not only beat them, they destroyed them from within.

One of many criticisms that I have as a Mets fan is that the ownership group, I lovingly call the Coupon family (real name Wilpons but ya know), is too cheap to keep a contender around for the long haul.  Somewhere along the line they will try to nickel and dime their way to a championship because they didn’t want to pay the $7 fee to invest through Scottrade and instead decided to trust a guy named Bernie Madoff with their money and well, the rest is Ponzi history.  But now the stakes are different and we all know it.  Over the coming weeks, we will get into who the Mets should keep, should let walk, and who they should start the car, drive to the airport and make sure the plane took off before fist pumping.  Whether the Coupon family will bow to public sentiment is anyone’s guess, but like any parental unit on a budget they will have to do some spending to keep the house in order.

However, today is the time to look over the season and digest it all because Lord knows Mets fans deserved a season like this.  Did the Mets deserve to win?  Sure says any Mets fan.  But in reality, they faced a better version of what everyone was convinced the Cubs were.  They faced a team with the heart of a champion and a team with some serious playoff chops.  They got beat by a better team.  Those are the facts no matter what any Mets fan wants to convince you of.

Sure you can talk yourself into the fact that the Mets had a lead in three of the four games they lost to the Royals but that would only be fooling yourself into a false narrative that the Mets were close to the Royals in the intangible department.  Wanna know how I know this as fact?  Think back to every single sick feeling you got when the Royals got to our bullpen, save game 1.  When was the first time you realized that Daniel Murphy stopped snorting the good stuff he was on during the first two rounds when he was a mix of 2002 Barry Bonds and 1926 Babe Ruth? The only surprise was game one.  Had the Mets won that first game and they had every chance to do so, this series may have swung in the Mets favor, but once Alex Gordon launched Familia’s pitch into the center field stands and Familia had blown his first save of the playoffs, you knew as a Mets fan that this was a different beast the Mets were playing.

So let’s forget that every Terry Collins move that worked in the first two series didn’t seem to play to the same tune in the World Series because he wasn’t facing a team with serious flaws that could be exposed.  Playoffs are oftentimes about match ups.  Once you beat a team at its own game, you can see the wall of confidence crumbling around them.  The Dodgers had the decided pitching advantage in the Division series because they could pitch Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke four times in five games.  But when the Mets beat Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke in two* out of the five games the math said that the Mets would win.

*= and it should’ve been over in 3 had it not been for that coward Chase Utley but let’s not open that wound. That’s a HBP for another day.

Jon Lester was a postseason veteran with experience and one could argue that Jake Arrieta was the best pitcher in all of baseball and the Cubs had the best under 25 positional talent in all of baseball and yet the Mets outhomered them and beat their two best pitchers en route to a sweep that even the most optimistic of Mets fans NEVER saw coming.  Surely we would, at best, beat the Cubs in 5 games.  But Daniel effing Murphy happened.

With 8 days to revel in their dominance, the Mets ran out of steam and gas that launched them into the playoffs.  From July 25th on, when they acquired Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe, finally after fans and columnists had wasted countless calls to sports talk radio shows and typed thousands of words imploring the front office to get some help, the Mets seemed to take off.  From the moment Justin Upton launched a cruel 3 run home run to help the Padres beat the Mets in a new twisted way things changed.  Or maybe, and this is everyone’s favorite version, from the time Wilmer Flores came out to play the field minutes after finding out what everyone else in the stadium seemed to know, that he had been tentatively traded along with Zack Wheeler to the Brewers for Carlos Gomez, wiping tears from his eyes because he was hurt being traded FROM the Mets.

Aside from Bret Saberhagen and Bobby Bonilla both of whom will be paid more than some of the Mets current crop of pitching beasts, nobody had ever been that open about loving the Mets.  Nobody.  And then Sandy Alderson for his next trick pulled a Yoenis Cespedes out of his hat and off they went.  From a team that could barely muster two runs to a juggernaut that couldn’t be stopped the Mets blasted their way through August.  As luck would have it the first opponents for the Mets were the Nationals.  The Nationals had underachieved all season yet were trying to convince everyone that everything would be ok with the old “wait till Denard Span comes back- then watch out world.”  Of course we had heard that line before.  The Nationals have had an excuse for every disappointment.  Who can forget sticking to their guns on Stephen Strassburg’s innings limit and ruining their best chance at a deep run?  Who can forget lifting Jordan Zimmerman after 8 and 2/3 innings because well Matt Williams knows how baseball is played and we don’t know shit.  

The Nationals always talked before the season about what they were going to do because they had the talent and deserved to be everyone’s lead dog heading in, but there was always that championship DNA that was missing.  When the Mets had acquired the pieces to legitimately threaten the Nationals, you saw how far from the title the Nationals were.  Not only did the Mets sweep that first series in late July, they then went Labor Day weekend to Washington and soul punched the Nationals in three straight games, coming back each time in stunning fashion.

To be honest, when you look back at the Wilmer Flores game, that was so typical of the Mets.  They left Flores in the game clueless to the fact that we live in an age where information gets shared so quickly that of course the fans would find out before the player does that they were traded.  That’s what the Mets do.  They fuck these things up.  Yet, it worked because of Flores’ outward show of loyalty.  That was the first sign that this team was going to do amazing things.  When the Nationals took a 4-3 lead during the Labor day weekend series opener, with Max Scherzer on the mound, and the Mets mounted a stunning comeback, you kinda sorta knew but you didn’t want to believe it.  When the Mets came back down 7-1 the following night you were almost there.  When they beat Strassburg to complete the sweep of the three game series, you knew this season was going to be special.

But that’s how fandom is when you root for a baseball team.  The fear of failure and another lost season can flip on the dime.  We as fans are allowed to change our minds when it comes to our baseball team because the baseball season is so freaking long that its like watching the Christmas story marathon on TBS every Christmas.  You fall asleep to the movie and wake up and find yourself amazed that you are in the exact spot you left it and its still going.

The season had plenty of questionable decisions that we can point to in detail.  None more so than the he said, agent said, they said, controversy over Matt Harvey’s innings limits.  Somehow the Mets again appeared to have public sentiment on their side after Harvey did damage to his tough guy, Dark Knight rep when he agreed with Scott Boras’ poorly timed and executed public demand of cutting short Matt Harvey’s workload a year removed from Tommy John.  In a case of curious Karma, it was Harvey’s tough guy rep that again did him damage when he demanded the ball in the ninth inning and began the set of events that ultimately cost the Mets the game and the World Series.

This is all to say that while the season ended badly and from late April to late July was depressing as all hell (remember the days when John Mayberry Jr was our clean up hitter?), the Mets ultimately did enough in early April and from July 31’st on to make this season memorable.  In a slog of a 162 game season, the downs usually outnumber the ups when it comes to the Mets given their recent history.  But not this season.  For Mets fans it was the culmination of all the talk of promise they had heard.  We had heard about how the pitching staff would vault the Mets into contention.  They did.  The front office promised that once they were ready to contend they would make moves and increase payroll and they did.  Despite all the criticism we were told that once Terry Collins had a major league team to manage, he would manage it well and he did.

Everything we had heard or thought about, happened.  But then the Royals came and took it all away and left us Mets fans in a sea of disappointment.  When I stepped off a flight on Monday night, I got an alert from the Mets to relive the 2015 season and they were already talking us into the old “hey atleast we got there” talk.

But that’s not what I wanted to hear.  This is what I wanted to hear:

This is what I wanted to see:

thank you

There’s work to be done this offseason and like I said its still early.  But here’s to the 2015 Mets.  They gave us moments of tension, of dominance, of history, of awesome comebacks and deflating failures.  Ultimately they went to the World Series and got beat by a better team that had an enormous chip on their shoulder after losing in Game 7 of last year’s World Series.  But take hope Mets fans.  The pitching staff will come back no matter what Scott Boras threatens.  Michael Conforto will see actual at bats against lefties next year when he transitions to everyday player.  Jeurys Familia will be the closer and from the looks of it a damn good one.  We will be adding a fifth ace in Zack Wheeler in July.

So let’s remember fondly Bartolo being Bartolo:

this tweet:

or this tweet:

Or that time the Mets made fans of even their biggest rivals.

Or that time the Captain made his return to the Mets in style.

Or the time that Cespedes just flexed on the Pirates Sean Rodriguez, 

Or that time Terry Collins hugged the fans after a huge Game 5 win against the Dodgers. 

Or the time Reuben Tejada caned in like Willis Reed into Citi Field 

Or that time that Flores became the most popular Met like in ever. 

Or that time the Mets soul punched their biggest rivals. 

Or the time Will from Queens called Mike Francesa and well, yeah.  

Or that time Daniel Murphy went insane in the playoffs.  

Or that time Jacob deGrom convinced Mets fans and baseball that he was the ace on the team during the All Star game.  

Or the time Steven Matz’s grandfather lost his collective shit at just how good his grandson was.  

Or the time Noah Syndergaard took to his superhero nickname in an awesome way.  

Or everytime you stared into the outfield and you saw just a sea of orange clapping plastic thundersticks and cheering like crazy people.  

Or the time you had to follow a Met game on Twitter, refreshed your feed and saw this at the very top and the fear/disappointment that would ultimately follow:

Or the time that somebody else stood looking at strike three while we got to go to the World Series.  Carlos Beltran, you’re finally off the hook (though its bullshit you ever were considering the..ok I’m over it)

Or the time you go back to back in a clinching game to completely take the home team out of it in the first inning:

But most importantly, here’s to the future:

See you in Spring Training!



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David Wright, the myth of a superstar

David WrightDavid Wright has agreed to sign the rest of his life away to the New York Mets, agreeing to the richest contract the franchise has ever given out.  The total value of the contract will net him $138 million, making him the highest paid Met.  EVER.

I’ve never been a David Wright fan.  I’ve always felt like his value has been overstated because of his Derek Jeter like presence in the club.  He’s a good looking guy who plays the game hard and never becomes back page folly.  He avoids any and all kind of blame, an amazing feat considering he’s viewed as the leader of a New York sports franchise.  Ask Patrick Ewing what it was like never winning a championship in New York and having to come into work amongst fans who blamed him for it.

The thing is not every player is Derek Jeter.  He’s won five championships.  He dates super duper models*.  He sends women gift baskets after he’s had his way with them at night.  He’s a living legend in almost every right.  When he reaches a milestone, he does so in style.  See, getting his 3,000th hit while hitting a home run.  And judging by his stats from last year reports of his decline were very much said too soon.
*=He dated Miss Universe.  You know how many guys get to date women on that scale?  And he did so publicly with an Indian woman at that.  Do you understand what that entails when a non indian man decides to date an indian woman?  Did her parents just never pick up a paper?  Were they Yankee fans and were excited that their daughter was dating the shortstop and future hall of famer? Miracle worker this Derek Jeter.

But David Wright, as stated above, is no Derek Jeter and the fact is no matter how many toothy smiles he gives he won’t ever resonate with the Met fan base the way Jeter does with the Yankee fan base.  If he’s our Derek Jeter than we’re as third class as every Yankee fan claims.  Its not to say that Wright isn’t a great player.  He is, but he’s not what we think he is and he’s not what we based his new contract on.

Most Met fans are rejoicing in the news that David Wright will be a Met for life.  I’m not.  He’s not a great fielder, he’s a good fielder.  He’s not a great clutch hitter.  In fact he’s very rarely clutch.  He’s got great stats but he racks up those numbers in meaningless games.  He’s the leader of a team that has not had a winning record in four seasons.  This is the guy you paid $138 million to over the final seven seasons.

I’m sorry if you’re waiting for stats to back up my case here.  But I don’t need them.  I’ve watched 90% of Mets games that Wright has played in and he does two things well: he racks up stats during blowouts and he smiles well enough to engender compassion and gratefulness.  The biggest argument that most Mets fans have is look at his statistics.  And I will argue back that they have not seen him in situations over the last few years with the chance to drive in more runs where he failed by doing the absolute worst thing you can do in those situations: strike out.  You can give me any advanced metric you want to play up Wright but he doesn’t pass the all important eye test.  Any real fan, who truly cares and watches the team as closely as I do (yes I’m being perfectly objective when I say this), knows what I’m talking about.  He doesn’t strike fear in the hearts of opposing pitchers and there are enough holes in his swing that pitchers feel confident enough to get him out.  That’s not a superstar.  That’s a star.

But in our ever present struggle with Yankee fans the Mets fans have put it in their heads that Wright is our Jeter and that argument falls on completely deaf ears as well.  He’s not.  He doesn’t have the rings, or the general ability to come through that Jeter has shown throughout his career.  Wright does many things well, but all in moderation, making him a superstar by default because there’s some unwritten rule that says every team MUST have a superstar.  But that mandate doesn’t sit well with me and shouldn’t for Mets fans.  When a guy of superstar ilk comes along, you will know him.  He walks different.  He gives you confidence in any and every situation.  You don’t dread his at bats like a kid waiting for a report card.  But the Mets fans have decided to look past the eye test and enjoy the illusion.  And the Mets in turn have paid him handsomely to keep the fan base playing up to that illusion.  Its a win win for both sides.

All of that to secure the services of a home grown star and avoid any further embarrassment.  This deal doesn’t secure the Mets first winning record in five years.  This only secures the Mets ongoing war with the press to win their half hearted approval.  Not signing Wright would’ve meant mutiny within the fan base and total bashing by every media outlet in New York for an ownership group who (literally) can’t afford to lose any more paying customers.  In reality, Wright is the only thing clean about this Mets franchise and the only pristine thing in the whole organization.  The Coupon family couldn’t let him walk away.  Then the focus would be completely on them and they couldn’t have that.  They can now throw David Wright in front of the fire before it reaches them but the truth is no one blames him because everyone knows what a complete screw up they are in the first place.  Really, who can look bad standing next to the Coupon family?  Doesn’t Wright become bigger and better in light of the Coupon family’s distressing financial situation and idiotic decision-making?

But is that the right reason for signing Wright?  Did the Mets compromise their own team for the next few seasons by signing Wright to a deal that could financially cripple them for years to come?  If this contract is backloaded and there truly is a “hard cap” that even has the Steinbrenners running to shave a few million off the edges, exactly how much money will the Mets have to throw around on a 25 man roster?  We know now that Sandy Alderson was brought in to cut payroll and fatten the farm system up.    But will he stay long enough to reap the rewards when the next two seasons could entail more of the same?

The Mets are looking at 2014 as the year of the purge.  When Johan Santana’s contract and Jason Bay’s contract magically disappear off the payroll.  But what will happen next is anybody’s guess.  We’re hoping that a bunch of kids mixed in with a free agent or two will mesh perfectly to finally reward Met fans for their patience.  Patience that has been long waning thanks to ponzi schemes and putzes running the organization.  But the feeling is that the David Wright signing begins a new era in Mets land.  A promise that the payroll restrictions aren’t as crippling as people think.  That the Mets can drop an ineffective player regardless of salary ramifications (see Bay, Jason).  That the Mets do care about the product on the field and the fans who pay to see them play by signing talented home grown players that fans have seen age before their very eyes.  That the fans have a legacy player in the ilk of a Tom Seaver because they were robbed of that with Darryl Strawberry and Doc Gooden.

I agree that the Mets deserve those things and should get those things, but let’s remember one thing:  the goal is to win and get better.  I woke up this morning to the news of David Wright’s signing not sure if we accomplished either goal.


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Ya Gotta Believe- in the plan

I will never look forget the look on Terry Collins face as pitch number 134 of Johan Santana’s no hitter disappeared from the reach of Cardinals 3B David Freese. SNY cameras caught the reaction of Collins as a historic moment unfolded: relieved. Exasperated. Thankful it was over. Eager to find out whether his de facto ace’s arm was still in one piece.

Terry Collins was a manager of the year candidate in large part thanks to that performance and his club’s play throughout the first half. But since June 1st Johan Santana has gone 3-5 and has seen his ERA jump a full run and a half to 3.98 from 2.38. Winning 3 out of 8 decisions isn’t crippling but in his last 3 decisions ranging 12.2 innings he has given up 28 hits and 19 earned runs. He landed on the DL with a leg injury but most observers look back to that 134 pitch effort and the extra rest Terry Collins gave as the fault.

Santana’s swoon has coincided with the Mets scheduled second half meltdown. That’s 12 losses in the last 13 games and 6 in a row now, two sweeps included. There seems no end in sight to the bleeding and most consider the patient to be dead. Fans are accusing GM Sandy Alderson of being asleep at the wheel, not making a move when a move needed to be made.

Most have fixed the gaze of blame on the bullpen and they would have every right. The Met bullpen has the worst ERA. They don’t have the fewest wins or the most losses, yet if you had to rank a more horrendous bullpen you would be hard pressed to find one from the limited scope of New York fans.

But Collins admits fully that the bullpen isn’t the only one to blame: the offense hasn’t shown up either. They have scored 3 runs or fewer in 6 of their last 12 games and essentially turned themselves from fringe contender to sell candidate at the July 31st deadline. But am I worrying? No and neither should anyone else.

I submit all the preseason signs that the Mets weren’t making an effort to field a competitive team. They didn’t even make an offer to Jose Reyes, their homegrown superstar SS despite playing in the biggest market in the world and fielding a payroll north of a $100 million forever. Their biggest signings were Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco. They stubbornly refused to bench Jason Bay despite his 2.5 year struggle. They brought up Kirk Nieunwheis and kept Lucas Duda in right to play everyday roles and announced to the world that their opening day starter was Johan Santana- a year removed from arm surgery and with the bubble wrap barely off his arm. It sounded a lot like a rebuilding year.

That’s until the players didn’t play like it was a rebuilding year. That’s until David Wright played MVP caliber ball. Until R.A. Dickey became the best pitcher in baseball. Until Ruben Tejada made every Met fan forget Jose Reyes.

But as the magic has fully worn off this team and it’s become what every Met fan feared, suddenly outrage is fierce and fervent. Contending was never part of the plan. There were clear holes in the lineup and with the bullpen and issues with the starting staff that it seemed like the front office just waited long enough for things to fall apart before admitting that they were sellers: their true intention prior to the season.

I felt as though the Rauch, Ramirez trade an Francisco deals were all done with the intention of eventually moving them to contenders. The second wild cards adds the list of teams who feel they have a realistic chance at a playoff berth probably two fold. The chance to keep filling their farm system was too enticing. Thus the news that they have quietly shopped Scott Hairston and Tim Byrdak to teams interested. I thought it was funny when Met officials dismissed the notion that they were shopping Hairston earlier because he was such a good influence in the clubhouse. I wonder how many teams were scared off by that statement. God forbid they went harder after a good clubhouse guy who just so happens to be an excellent situational hitter against lefties.

As bad as things have gotten in Gotham city, sorry Queens, I’ve had zero problem with the lack of activity from the front office to proactively go after one or two relievers by dealing prospects as if that would solve everything ailing the Mets.

It won’t and the Mets are wisely sticking to the plan. They overachieved in the first half and are now falling back down to earth and the typical shoot first ask questions last fan base is in revolt over the front office not setting the organization back another few years by dealing for middle relief and a big bat.

They haven’t just now quit on the season- they were waving the white flag before the season began with a series of moves designed to keep the organization looking and moving forward. So it’s in it’s typical late summer swoon; so what? What’s different about this team is that there is legitimate excitement over its prospects, starting with Matt Harvey’s first major league start. He is one of a few pitchers the front office feel strongly about moving forward and refuse to deal for any short term fix.

If these last 13 games have proven anything, it’s how less talented the mets are and how much growing up their stars have left to do. There is one great player (Wright), three good players (Tejada, Valdespin; I know in a limited role, and Davis) and a bunch of stiffs. To be competitive the Mets need to get better and become a more complete and deep team and that won’t happen this season, the sooner Met fans admit that, the better it will be.

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The Mets of 2012- How amazing indeed.

Two major reasons why the Mets are what they are in 2012.

This is going to be a very long rant because I just finished watching the Mets/Phillies play the rubber game of a very important three game set.  It was absolutely amazing considering the ramifications that this game may possibly hold for both teams.

Don’t get it twisted: this was NOT the way smart people would’ve figured this season to play out: the Mets with their rag tag, Quadruple A team contending for the NL East, while the significantly more “talented” team in Philadelphia at the midpoint of the season in the cellar and beginning the early stages of picking apart a contender.  Yes, its 2012 and all end of world scenarios are in play here but pardon my french when I write this: WTF?!?!

The Mets are now 45-38,  and now sit 4.5 games out of first place with a three game set against the lowly Cubs before the All Star Break.  The Phillies meanwhile are now 37-47, a full 13 games out of first and with this loss may have firmly placed themselves in the sellers side with the July trading deadline 26 days away.  Can the Phillies make up the difference with two plus months remaining?  Absolutely, and Met fans would know about their ability in September.

But here are some very rational thoughts on the Phillies: Cole Hamels, tonight’s starter and the Phillies youngest ace, is due to hit free agency this winter and all indications are that he will entertain offers from rival clubs.  Count the Mets out.  Count the Angels out thanks to last offseason’s spending.  But that’s it.  The Yankees can never truly be counted out and if they are involved you can bet that the Red Sox will be.  Then there are the Dodgers who are now out of the hands of Frank McCourt and in the eager arms of a group of owners who are looking to make a major splash in the second largest market and will surely be in on any major free agent especially one with SoCal ties like Hamels.  So the Phillies would be prudent in trying to get some kind of compensation for Hamels while he has this kind of value.  Hamels would instantly boost a minor league outfit depleted thanks to contender status moves that the Phillies had to make to shore up midseason weaknesses and create strengths.  The Phillies had a great run and can still make a very good run for the next two to three years but its clear that this team is trending down while the rest of the division is trending up.  Ruben Amaro, the Phillies GM will have some very interesting decisions to make especially with Shane Victorino who also may price himself out of a Phillie uniform.  Remember, the Phillies will be paying three guys in the range of $72 million.  Cole Hamels will demand a $25 million per year contract which the Dodgers will gladly pay from all indications and so the Phillies have to be careful whether they want to get into a bidding war with other teams OR get as much value as they can NOW.  The best option is to trade him for pieces and replenish a farm system that desperately needs it and this loss and their position in the standings now may have been the best thing for the franchise.

Now that we got that out of the way back to the Mets.  What a feisty team and a great win within the division for a team that has exceeded all expectations and surpassed everyone’s ideas about what this team would be.  There’s no ceiling because this team is basically David Wright and a bunch of question marks and even David Wright would’ve qualified as a question mark after two sub par seasons.  But Wright has been the player that the Mets expected and now becomes an indispensable part of this team’s future.  Much like last year when Jose Reyes played his best ball heading into an unsure offseason the Mets are now with yet another cornerstone player playing lights out and making the decision for the front office, you get the sense that perhaps the GM and ownership will play this one differently.

Last year I said the Mets should have traded Wright and done everything in their power to keep Reyes for the long term.  Wright had been largely ineffective thanks to concussions and injuries limiting his playing time.  This season, largely healthy for the first time and definitely the leader of a young team Wright has found rejuvenation with this ball club and the tone of the season seems to be rebound.  Johan Santana entered the year being a question mark in terms of what the team was expecting: he gave them the franchise’s very first no-hitter.  R.A. Dickey was a decent pitcher the last two years and was slotted in as their number three starter: he’s in line to start his very first All Star Game.  Chris Young returned after his own shoulder problems and hasn’t given up more than three runs in any ONE of his starts.  Jon Niese has warranted that extension he got prior to the season beginning.  That’s four starters who have combined to give them a top 5 staff in the NL.  Of course the bullpen is from hell but it only makes sense given the nature of building a bullpen: you pick six or seven guys and you cross your fingers the entire time.

The offense has been productive despite not getting any real power or being a team that utilizes speed.  They have worked long counts and gotten to the opposing team’s bullpen’s more often than not.  Its been impressive to watch and still very difficult to believe.  But all this has been spearheaded by the MVP-like season that David Wright is having.  I’ve long questioned Wright’s ability to have a big moment for the Mets basically saying he’s a good stat sheet filler but not someone you want leading your team.  I was very hesitant heading into this season to predict what kind of year the mets would have because I didn’t feel like Wright was the guy to lead this young team.  He never exhibited that kind of moxie you need from your leader but he sure was a good Derek Jeter at the microphone- offering up cliche’d responses to questions that made you wonder if he was reading from a cue card.

This season has been different and you have to figure that health has a big deal to do with it.  My opinion on Wright more has to do with my own personal hang ups based on my years of watching the Mets and seeing almost 95% of his games.  I don’t consider myself the foremost expert on David Wright but I do have some kind of perspective when I speak on him.  It was in 2006-2008 where he enjoyed his most productive years and even 2009 up until Matt Cain came head hunting with a pitch and put the Mets at rock bottom; Wright especially.  I put a lot of the Mets problems at the feet of David Wright especially in 2007 and 2008 when the Mets gave up late season divisional leads but the Mets had other players/leaders and he always got away with not having to answer the call.  He was never the Mets highest paid bat so he never was the first to get the blame.  Especially not when he’s in the same locker room as Carlos Beltran who still can’t shake his called third strike in game 7 of the NLCS back in 2006.

But this season, with Delgado, Reyes and Beltran all gone, he was the lone member of that 2006 team remaining so the blame wasn’t going anywhere but on his shoulders and he’s responded with his best year statistically.  He’s getting every hit in every situation imaginable.  His OBP (.441) is almost a full 100 points higher than last year. He needs just four more home runs and 6 more RBI’s to match last year’s output playing in 24 less games.   He needs four more walks to match his total from last year and has climbed to the top of several All-Time Mets categories.  Of course, this was expected from David Wright who since he came has been heralded as the best player on the Mets and deserves serious consideration for the MVP.

But the strength of this team has been hitting with 2 outs.  With two outs the Mets have scored 184  runs with two outs (5 of the 6 runs tonight) which is remarkable and shows how gritty this ballclub is and how effectively they have bought into hitting coach Dave Hudgen’s selective approach at the plate.  Many make the link between the OBP loving Moneyball types like Sandy Alderson, Paul Depodesta etc but the fact is the Mets have been aggressively attacking first pitch like tonight when Wright took the first pitch fastball from Papelbon and blooped it for the game winning hit.  Another two out hit but this after two hitters had worked walks to load up the bases.  Many times once the batters go down 0-2 its almost routine to find them back in an AB 2-2 or even draw a full count, forcing the pitcher to make a pitch somewhere in the strike zone and sometimes creating walks, which the Mets lead the league in as well.  Its no wonder they also lead the league by seeing the most pitches per plate appearance: 3.9.

So what to make of this feisty ball club going into the All Star Break with a good feeling but major offensive, defensive and bullpen issues?  Alderson has to be calculating.  First order of business is figuring out if he can bring up any of his young arms to pitch from the bullpen to give them a lift but chances are that both Jenry Mejia and Matt Harvey may only POSSIBLY see a spot open up when the rosters expand in september meaning that even in the case of injury or success they are enjoying in the minors the only way that they will get called up before September will be if a plague rips through the Mets team and they are forced to call up everyone to take the place of the major league team.  Otherwise I see the Mets being patient and allowing the young guys to grow and mature before putting them on the major league team.  The front office is being judicious in how they will respond.  The Mets may be contenders this far but the front office is NOT willing to trade the farm to get one or two role players.  They have built the farm system up in order to give the team a steady pipeline of talent and once the revenue streams start building up again (aka- fans start coming back to the ballpark in droves), the Mets will spend on free agents and do their best to lock up their young talent as well.

The biggest reason for the Mets success?  Terry Collins in my opinion.  He has been virtually the opposite of what his critics said.  They said he was overbearing and his players tuned him out.  They said he wasn’t fit to manage a bunch of young guys.  Well, all those critiques have proven to be wrong.  Dead wrong.  He’s not only handled the team well, he’s shown he cares.  It was especially evident during Johan Santana’s no-hitter in which the cameras caught Terry Collins extremely relieved face as the 134th and final pitch was thrown on a record-setting night.  He then shared a very emotional hug with Johan as he was coming off the mound.  He knows his players and has pushed all the right buttons this year.  They are a top 3 team in pinch hits.  All because of their ability in situational hitting.

Nothing more symbolizes this team than tonight’s game.  Getting good pitching when it mattered.  Getting five 2-out runs and especially that ninth inning.  Trailing 5-4 and facing a dominant closer like Jonathan Papelbon, the inning started with a double by Ike Davis who went through such a tough stretch in the beginning of the year, to the point where fans were calling for his demotion.  Then a perfect sacrifice bunt to move the runner into scoring position.  A strikeout by Kirk Nieuhenweis to make it two outs, but it seemed like thats where the Mets wanted to be anyway.  With two outs, the Mets worked out consecutive grueling walks by Jordanny Valdespin (6 pitch walk), and Ruben Tejada (8 pitch walk) to load the bases for Daniel Murphy.  Murphy went down 0-2, which made it three consecutive batters that went to a 2 strike count at that point in the blink of an eye.  Murphy fouled back a pitch and then took a pitch leading up to the fifth pitch of the AB which wound up being a chopper up the middle and bouncing off Papelbon’s leg and almost caroming into Murphy as he went down the first base line.  Papelbon tried to play it cleanly but slipped in the process of picking it up allowing the run to score from 3rd and the Mets to tie the ball game and set it up for Wright.  Wright who had already driven in 3 of the Mets 5 runs at that point came up and admitted that he was looking fastball and sitting on it.  With the first pitch, and the crowd still on its feet anticipating a Met win, (it felt like the world wouldn’t be right if the Mets lost tonight’s game), Wright got a 95 MPH fastball that came inside.  Wright looped it and it fell right before the outstretched arms of Hunter Pence and celebration ensued as Valdespin scored from third.

Its honestly the most fun Mets team I’ve seen in quite some time.  The 2006 season was fun because the Mets were dominant.  This season is fun because it almost feels like we’re playing with house money.  No matter what, ONLY good things can come from this season. And it makes sense.  In such an upside down season where the once power house Phillies are on the verge of being sellers at the trade deadline, and the Mets and Nationals competing for the NL East crown at the deadline the options and limits on this season are unlimited.  As a Met fan we can only sit back and watch.  David Wright promises more fun to be had.  Good times.

two of the biggest reasons the Mets are what they are in 2012

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Sports Roundup 12/4/2011 and Week 13 Picks!

Bill Simmons of Grantland.com is bringing you Day 1 of a 12 day series in which he covers the frantic NBA Free Agent Experience and makes the simple yet honest point: Even though the lockout was meant to stop dumb contracts, we’re about to get even MORE dumb contracts in the coming days.  Gentlemen, start your paychecks.  Speaking of which, Vishnu Parasuraman of Grantland explains the new deal in a comprehensive yet simple way.  Ok fine, so I got an Indian sports writer in there.  SUE ME!

I’m a huge Bill Simmons fan so you’ll be seeing alot of his posts linked for sure.  He’s a huge basketball junkie thus his opus titled the Book of Basketball which went through his thoughts and long held beliefs of the game so you knew he would have something for basketball junkies as the NBA was coming out of the lockout.  His point?  the deal could’ve been struck five months ago but players held stubbornly and owners were too dick headed to admit their faults.  Now, we have a 66 game season in which the league and its elder statesmen will be subjected to AT LEAST one back to back to back set of games.  NBA fans won’t care but remember that teams with older players will be rested more to survive the grind.  An interesting point that Simmons made was that this proved how vital the NBA views its slate of games on Christmas Day.  Its their Thanksgiving.  They didn’t want to lose it and couldn’t afford to do so and Simmons argued that it made sense and the NBA should consider making some cosmetic changes to their schedule in order to not get in the way of football and therefore step on their own toes.  Not many people pay attention to basketball on Sundays while the NFL is still pumping out its product.  And now with the NFL set to have a Thursday game every week and then some Saturday games starting on Christmas eve, you can bet that the NBA will be keeping a close watch on games.

By the way, here’s the updated schedule of games that will kick off the NBA season:

Boston AT New York (Rondo vs. CP3?), Miami AT Dallas (the banner will be unveiled but the rings apparently won’t be given out), Chicago AT Los Angeles (Who’s going to be the wingman for Derrick Rose this year?), Orlando AT OKC and Clippers AT Golden State.  Got all that?  That’s TNT for Knicks Celts followed by ABC for the next two games with the NBA Finals rematch and Kobe vs. MVP Derrick Rose and finally ESPN gets the last two games.  When’s the last time the NBA went out of its way to put the Clippers in a marquee NBA television night?  Ahh, the power of Blake.

I would make the argument that the NFL will have a tough slate to take away from the NBA but it appears Roger Goodell has paved the streets clean of NFL football, even disposing of Jay Cutler to make the Sunday night game with the Packers and Bears less interesting unless Caleb Hanie’s body gets possessed by a better QB.  Maybe he needs to bring the stache back?

Bill Madden of the New York Daily News is breaking down the wishlist and rumor mill stuff of the Winter Meetings.  For those that don’t know, this is where all the action happens and deals get done.  Oh, and so does Ken Davidoff of Newsday and Joel Sherman of the New York Post believes that the Yankees are going to be quiet for once and that’s because they are trying to cut costs.  Meanwhile here is Jon Heyman of SI (and soon to be CBS Sports) and Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports gives us the skinny on Yu Darvish the sought after pitcher from the Nippon Ham club in Japan.  

The Winter Meetings are interesting because fans are under the impression that this is MLB’s way of getting all 30 GM’s and player agents under one roof to make deals and sign contracts with players but its not.  Its a convention for GM’s, kind of like one of those training seminars your company sends you to and oh by the way every other power broker in the sport ends up in the same hotel (what are the odds?) and winds up swinging deals.  There’s only enough Public Safety Seminars one can stomach apparently.  Blackberries will be used and this is the week that cell phone companies see a spike in calls made and received from certain phone lines.  Either way, plenty of rumors to get to.

The Sherman article interests me because this is not the first time we’ve heard that the Yankees are tightening up their belts.  They ALWAYS say that and like Sherman points out seemingly always spend more and shrug it off because they can.  The Yankees are being more judicious with how they spend their money and they are right, CJ Wilson is NOT worth a major contract.  He’s a third starter in my opinion and NOT a number one.  His cost has been inflated because there’s no other marquee pitching talent available unless the Mariners somehow decide to put King Felix on the block but that’s a long shot especially if the rumors are true and they are going to make a run at Prince Fielder.  Jon Danks could be an interesting option seeing as how Kenny Williams has all but put the Rebuilding notice on his White Sox club and may part ways with their best pitcher to start collecting young assets.  The Yankees won’t trade their Killer B”s for anyone outside of Felix in my opinion.  They still could dangle Jesus Montero and get a pretty good return so the Yankees always have that.  We’ll see how it goes.

As for the Mets, I’ve always been in the trade David Wright Camp.  If the Mets were really interested in rebuilding and trying to maintain a level or status of a long term winner, they would look to trade Wright and I think it would be mandatory should Jose Reyes leave for another team.  One team he may be leaving for are the Miami Marlins who are now facing charges from the SEC about possible violations in how they got their majority-taxpayer-funded brand new ballpark.  Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports writes that free agents looking at Miami may be scared off by the investigation which has real legs and could possibly end up costing the Marlins a lot.  This is part of a bigger problem that baseball is facing as this will only make the SEC open every single team’s books about how they are getting local governments to raise money via taxpayers to fund these new stadiums.  Baseball is largely guilty of strong arming these local branches on a yearly basis that some in the industry view it as an “about time” investigation.

Back to the Metropolitans.  Sandy Alderson vows that the Mets will be fun to watch and reportedly have a gentleman’s agreement with them and Reyes where Reyes will bring back the final offers to the Mets and the Mets will either allow Reyes to walk or the Mets will match.  Of course that doesn’t mean Jose will take the first genuinely intriguing offer the Mets have.  He will most certainly take it back to other teams and given the state of the Miami Marlins with this pending investigation, Reyes may think twice about taking a multi-year deal to stay there.  The Marlins are willing to give Reyes a 6 year deal, something the Mets are rightfully reluctant to do.

I get Alderson’s hesitation with Reyes.  No one doubts the skill, but the injury history gives prospective employers pause and makes Reyes’ suitors that much smaller.  Marlins have been effectively ambitious this offseason finally inking a player with some star power to let baseball know they are serious, in Heath Bell who was given a 3 year deal worth $27 million which is a lot for a 34 year old closer.  That gives everyone but the Mets an effective end of game solution.  The Braves have Craig Kimbrel who won the Rookie of the Year award in the NL.  The Phillies signed Papelbon.  The Nationals have young Drew Storen ready to go.  So the Mets are looking to add a prominent closer themselves without breaking the bank given their other litany of needs which begs the question: if you’re not going to go after Reyes, why not turn your attention elsewhere and spend that 16-20 million you had slotted for Jose on the relief market and mid level starter market?

The interest in Reyes is real but the Mets have two budgets for the upcoming season: one that HAS Reyes on board and another that doesn’t have Reyes on board.  The on that has Reyes on board ranges from $100-110 million and one can only figure that the one that doesn’t include Reyes is somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million cheaper.  So the Mets won’t just spend the money to spend it and Alderson is cautiously spending the money because let’s face it, without Reyes or any kind of prominent free agent signing, the Mets will have a much lower draw at CitiField effectively eliminating any chance of turning a profit for the year.

Unless the Mets miraculously turn competitive.  Which isn’t impossible but highly improbable given the state of the other teams in the division and the current state of the Mets.

My prediction on Reyes?  He resigns with the Mets for 5 years and $95 million with a 6th year option based on games played over the final two guaranteed years.  Most fans have this idea that the Mets won’t spend but I don’t think the Wilpons are that frugal and that stupid.  They are stupid but not cheap.  They will spend and they know the ramifications of trying to field a Reyes-less team in 2012 to their bottom line.  Alderson and Co. know the skill set of Reyes and what he means to the franchise.  The fan base is almost unanimous that they want him back.  But at an effective price.  I think the fanbase more is about the rebuilding process and know that any exorbitant price tag given the state of the franchise’s finances would be crippling to any long term repairs the Mets hope to do.  Let’s be honest, we don’t know how much the bill will be on the Madoff case but reports indicate that it won’t be as high as one wished   thought.  Either way, the Mets will need all available space to sign their superstars if it is indeed their wish.  Let’s say Reyes leaves, David Wright will most certainly be discussed and presented as a carrot for any team to make deals but given his status being lowered, they won’t get back what they hope.  I think the Mets wait till the trade deadline so that with the new changes to CitiField can help build back up Wright’s status and then trade him.

Though, in either scenario, I think the Mets should trade Wright.  Not only for the Mets, but for Wright.  I admit he’s a very good player but he’s NOT a superstar and the Mets have treated him as such while other teams have looked at his last three years and seen a lower tier player.  Ryan Zimmerman of the Nationals is a better defensive AND offensive player and has been for the last two years at the very least.

Here’s hoping that Reyes decides to take a hometown discount.

Now, on to Sunday’s picks:

BILLS (-2) over Titans-  This is pretty much must win territory for Buffalo.  The Bills, now looking at their schedule again with clarity provided for us by the last few weeks of action, face a pretty tough schedule.  Where once the Chargers and Patriots were looking like the toughest tests on the schedule, the Chargers look like they have given up on the season and Norv Turner, and the Patriots may basically be resting their starters by Week 17 .  The Dolphins are competitive and nobody’s patsies and the Broncos are Tebow’s Team and look virtually unbeatable.

BEARS (-7) over Chiefs-  I’m not saying that this is a slam dunk.  The Chiefs CAN play as evidenced by their near upset win over the Steelers who looked old on Sunday night.  But unless Caleb Hanie plays mistake free football the Bears season is effectively over.  Which brings me to the QB carousel that took place this week and left one very famous name without a seat.  Donovan McNabb is no longer an employed member of the NFL.  Its a sad ending to a very good career which had its ups and downs.  Mostly, I think he benefited just as much as he faltered by playing in a demanding market like Philly.  McNabb has such thick skin that after being released by the Vikings citing his lack of a work ethic and weight gain, he was marketing himself as a STARTER for any franchise who wanted him.  A STARTER.  This is a guy who was traded IN DIVISION by the coach who constantly made excuses for him and was shown the door by an organization so messed up and screwed up in the head like the Redskins that he was replaced early in the season by a rookie who nobody expected to sniff the Metrodome turf.  I couldn’t believe how quickly he fell out of grace and now out of touch with his own ability.  McNabb’s biggest liability at this point is what made him famous in Philly: his unquestioning belief in himself.  As much as TO loves him some me, McNabb really loves him some me and not being picked up on waivers and TO’s inability to get anyone to even bother showing up for a private workout is fitting for two players who once were considered elite at their position yet many had lingering questions about their make up.

Oakland (+2) over DOLPHINS-  I think this game is going to be fantastic.  No lies.  I have to admit that trading two number one picks for Carson Palmer in my mind STILL isn’t a defensible trade but he’s been paying off these last few weeks and IF and WHEN Run DMC joins the fold the Raiders could end up being a very dangerous team moving forward.  Teams are now beginning to respect the pass which is opening up lanes for their rushing attack.  Michael Bush is lining up a very nice pay day for him next year.

Bengals (+6.5) over STEELERS-  How old did the Steelers look as compared to the hyped up KC Chiefs who field one of the youngest teams in the league?  Pitt’s moxie and veteran know how to pull out the W helped them but the Bengals are much more talented and with a full game from AJ Green should easily beat the Steelers IN Pittsburgh.

Ravens (-7) over BROWNS-  Classic let down game for the Ravens considering their season.  The one remaining question they have left to answer is if they can maintain their level no matter the competition.  That question must be answered with a win today.  MUST.

Jets (-3) over REDSKINS-  This is closer than many people think but I see a HUGE win for the Jets.  I mean a dominating performance.  I smell it coming.

Falcons (-1.5) over TEXANS-  Would’ve been a good game had even Matt Leinart played.  But some people love TJ Yates and believe he will be their starting QB moving forward and some are even giving him a small chance at Tom Bradying the Texans this year to a Super Bowl.  Hold your horses.  The defense has playmakers and the offense getting Andre Johnson back is a huge plus but let’s hold your horses and let them play today’s game and then we’ll fast lane them into the Super Bowl.

Bucs (-2) over PANTHERS-  Cam needs a strong finish to the season to secure that once locked up Offensive Rookie of the Year award he had giftwrapped back in September.  Last week was a good start in beating a Colts team he HAD to beat.  But looking at his stats they tell you something.  Since throwing for 422, 432 and 374 in three out of his first four games in the NFL, Cam doesn’t have a single 300 yard passing game since and only thrown north of 250 three times only one resulting in a win.  Its when he’s thrown for less than 220 (158 and 208) when he’s won so there’s that to consider for Ron Rivera and co as they move forward with Cam’s progression.  I wish ONCE in a team’s life that they unleashed a QB like the Falcons did Michael Vick and Eagles did until he got injured.  He puts not only defenses in such a bad way, but also referees who have problems knowing when to call late hit penalties and can sometimes get confused and make a huge call that can tilt the game in the team’s favor.  Cam has one thing going for him that Vick never had: he’s built like a tank.  Vick is injury prone not because of his style but because he’s built like a receiver.  Not Desean Jackson skinny but enough where one good pop as he’s going full speed can really hurt him.  Cam loves contact and can bring the lumber as grown folk would say.  If the Carolina offensive coaches can devise a way to have Cam throw 20-25 times and run 8-12 times and then run the football with their two headed beast at running back HOW is that a bad thing?  Some of you will say well Swith, isn’t that what they are doing already?  Yes.  But their defense doesn’t stop anyone.  I’m saying, don’t start making Cam chuck the ball.  Stick to the plan.  Stubbornly if you have to.  In his first year of development you have to let Cam know that the game plan that the coaches have set up is the right way to go and should NEVER be abandoned.  Teams that have trust and faith in their coaching staff to put them in the right place always wind up winning games.  Faith and patience go a long way in the NFL.  Look at the Super Bowl run the Giants made in 2007 and then their first 11 games of 2008.  They stubbornly stayed with the running game even when teams were beating them and they always won because they forcefully displayed their will against their opponents.  That’s what winning teams do: impose their wills on other teams.

PATRIOTS (-20) over Colts-  Two more reasons that Peyton Manning should get some MVP consideration this year: this outrageous line and the fact that NBC chucked this game so far out of its rotation as quickly as it could because Peyton wasn’t playing that they almost tripped over themselves getting to the league office to try and get Giants/Packers (Fox protected it) or Lions and Saints which will now be flexed into Sunday Night.  By the way, here’s a theory for all you conspiracy nuts:  Have you noticed the crappy schedule ESPN got this year for their Monday Night Package?  It appears ex- ESPN chief was in charge of not only giving NBC its incredibly lucrative flex scheduling deal but also giving ESPN its latest which is not to say that its payback for his fall, but let’s just say its kind of dicey the way it all went down.

SAINTS (-9) over Lions-  Speaking of which, the Saints looked unstoppable on Monday night but that’s because the Giants defense were looking fifty different directions and never knew where to line up or where to go.  They were a hot mess the whole evening and trust me, the Saints didn’t do them any favors with the way they ran up the score.  That last touchdown was meant to send a message and let’s be honest, anyone who is crying about how disgraceful and unsportsmanlike it was needs to chill.  If you can’t STOP a team from scoring then get somebody who can.  The Saints were right to never take the foot off the pedal.  That mentality will be the ONLY thing that helps them beat the Packers if and when they meet again down the road in the playoffs.

As it relates to the Lions and mainly Ndamukong Suh.  Look, he had a dirty play which reminded NFL fans of his earlier shady plays.  Then his post game press conference was NOT an apology I don’t care WHAT he says.  Does he need counseling?  No.  He lets his emotions show during games which is a good thing.  BUT, this young man’s recent car crash shows that there is a very dizzying pattern that seems to be playing out.  The Lions need someone to talk to him.  They were IN that game against the Packers until Suh stepped on that Packer line man and then the Pack ran away with that game.  They need Suh long term to be the rock and the NFL wants Suh to be a prominent wheel in its promotional cog.  There’s a lot at stake and the NFL hopes that the Lions will take care of it.

Also is Roger Goodell trying to get a consulting job on the side? First he advises Michael Vick where to go and now he advises Suh to appeal?  Even though his appeal magically met earlier in the week and he lost it making him ineligible to play against the Saints after some furor broke out about the commissioner’s shady appeal for Suh to do so.  Hmmm.  You would think his 10 million salary would be enough, no?

Broncos (-1) over VIKINGS-  This game is a lot closer now that Von Miller is a game time decision.  With no AP though, I can’t give the Vikes an edge here and no matter what, you can’t go against Tebow right?

49ers (-13) over Rams-  Finally, a team that plays consistently across the board.  I know they will show up against the Rams who have been playing SLIGHTLY better these last few weeks.

Cowboys (-4.5) over CARDS-  You know that Patrick Peterson touchdown is coming.  You can feel it like I can, can’t you?

Packers (-6) over GIANTS-  IF the team that wore the Giants uniforms the last two weeks against Philly and the Saints show up, forget about this game and the season.  Those last two Cowboy games are for naught.  IF the Giants show some fight, and this is basically Custer’s last stand here for the G-Men, then they have a shot.  They certainly have the offense, with Bradshaw back, to score points.

Chargers (-3) over JAGUARS-  Barely.

Enjoy Week 13!



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Meet the Mess part 5020304?

Consider Friday’s news about the Mets as a good thing.  A sign that things are finally improving for the better.

A year ago, I may not have been so forgiving but at this point, who really cares?  At this point, the Mets are so far along in the punchline scale that its very difficult to see them recovering.

As a Met fan, I must admit the next few hundred or maybe thousand words (who knows where this will go and it may be fragmented arguments and a lot of run on thoughts about the Mets) may sound very redundant on the point I’ve been making about the Mets: the ownership situation has been the liability.

I”ve been pretty much anti-Coupon* family for a long time.  After 2006 in which everything went right for the Mets and there was actual hope within the organization the Mets began basically deconstructing a very good team in hopes that they could strike lightning in a bottle again.  For some time I, like many Met fans began putting it all on the lap of the General Manager Omar Minaya.  Usually the GM is the first people blame.

*= Coupon= Wilpons

But as I began reading more and more reports it became obvious that there was a higher power involved in personnel decisions.  Rumblings of GM’s complaining about Jeff Wilpon’s inclusion in the decision making process led many to believe that Minaya was more of a worker bee- given instructions by the Queen Bee and ordered to make it happen.

Many of the decisions that followed were done to improve the bottom line more so than the actual product on the field.  Many of their decisions had very little on building a good team as much as it had to do with building a good product.  The Mets became obsessed with big ticket items surrounded by middling salaried players.

I always felt that the Mets, in their minds, were competing with the Yankees.  They defended their decisions and poor results by saying that they were one of the Top 5 payrolls cluelessly not realizing that it was in that very argument that they were being made to look like fools.  A top 5 payroll and these are the results?

But nothing made me more aware of their absolute lack of common sense than when the Madoff Ponzi scheme came to light and rumors began swirling about the Coupon family’s involvement.  They weren’t in collusion with Bernie Madoff- they too were swindled for sums of cash.  That figure was kept under wraps but became fodder for writers to discuss and ponder over.

I would never suggest that the Coupons actually reveal the figure they lost, but their continued refusal to accept that it would affect the day to day operations for the Mets was comical.  How in the world could you stand to lose anywhere between $250-$700 million and insist to the fan base that this would NOT affect payroll?

It was then that the $145 million payroll became a burden than a badge of honor for the Wilpons.  The situation became even more dire when according to multiple reports Bud Selig, the Commissioner of baseball, had to get hands and “suggest”* that the Coupons hire Sandy Alderson who was at the time working for MLB in the Commissioner’s office coincidentally cleaning up another mess- the baseball academies in the Dominican Republic

*= read demand

The thing that always irked me about the Coupons was their insistence in pushing this myth of fiscal security down our throats.  While the Madoff scandal was breaking before our very eyes, it became clear that Sterling Equities, the Coupon family owned corporation and majority holder of the Mets, had taken a dent thanks to Bernie and Co.

They continued to insist to the fans that nothing would change and repeated so everyone could hear, that the Mets had one of the highest payrolls in baseball which to them may have sounded great but to me or any other fan with a clue sounded like a cop out.  An excuse that a major corporate CEO should never have to use to justify anything.  That’s like Terrell Owens’ financial adviser saying that he had $25 million reasons to live in response to allegations that he tried to take his own life.

Are you serious?  That’s what you’re going to say?  The Jason Bay signing was a mirage.  A move intended to shift the focus off of darker days ahead.  The day when the lie was no longer going to work.  That day came Friday.

Friday, like a kid who had no excuse left, tried one last ploy to ease concern.  Except like every move since 2006- it only created a bigger sense of worry.  The Mets announced Friday that they would look to sell 20-25% of minority stake in the Mets.  Which naturally begs the question: why would anyone go through such a risk?  They’d be paying to help ease the cost of bills when the truth behind the Madoff scandal comes out.

And this decision can make one assume that there is more revelations to come.  The Mets were seen as winners in the Madoff scandal when it was revealed that they had withdrawn somewhere between 40-50 million dollars.  Irving Picard, the man in charge with collecting money to pay back investors burned by Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, is going after the Wilpons and truth is no one really knows what he does.  In fact, it stands to reason that one should only assume the worst: that the Mets will owe between $700 million to $1 billion when all is said and done which will lead to the greatest thing this Met fan can ever hope to hear:  The Coupon family must sell the Mets.

To say that someone wouldn’t be interested in minority stake would be foolish.  If there is more bad news, whoever buys the 25% would stand to gain from the windfall as only Sterling Equities would be held accountable for the Madoff mess and would automatically give the minority owner exclusive rights to negotiate a purchase which is very appealing.

Let’s not forget that the Mets have several things going for them.  They are located in the world’s number one market, they have their own television network which is a cash cow.  They have a brand new stadium which, under the right ownership group and situation could make it a very lucrative building.  Also, more importantly, baseball will not allow the Mets to fold.  They have the might and backing of the league office which always helps.

Organizationally the Mets are headed in the right direction.  They are trimming payroll and refusing to get involved in long term contracts that make no sense.  Its incredible that GM’s get paid ridiculous sums to go out there and sign free agents to ridiculous deals but if there is ONE thing that’s very clear nowadays its this: most sports franchise owners have Jerry Jones syndrome.

They’d rather spend more time figuring out how to maximize their profit potential by building these crazy state of the art stadiums than actually go the time-tested formula of building a perennial contender that will actually draw fans into said building.  How is that such a difficult formula to go by?

The gift and curse of today’s society is technology.  Now that we’ve been given all this technology and ability to have all this information at our finger tips we’re now complaining that we have TOO much information as if that’s a bad thing.

Nowadays, you can Google anyone and find something about them that five years ago may not have been possible.  The biggest problem, the fastest rising tech company today (Facebook) faces is privacy concerns.  People are so scared that they will be found out on the internet for their weird tendencies that they don’t want anyone to know about.  Of course, that information ends up on the internet and it is very difficult to keep that from happening unless you’re like Mikhail Prokhorov and hate technology and computers and don’t believe in them like they are some myth concocted by teenage geeks who made everyone believe their fantasy world of Warcraft was some realistic universe that somehow NORMAL people are slowly becoming a part of.*

*= I have  very good excuse for that weird run on sentence.  A few days ago I had a conversation with a tech friend.  I’ve recently been on Engadget, CNet and other techy blogs and like any person who found this vast amount of information I naturally brought it up to friends who I felt would be versed in such things so I could know even more.  Needless to say, telling tech geeks about their own world is somehow insulting to them and they make this very earnest attempt to make you feel and sound stupid.  Its in the looks of bewilderment like for instance bringing up IPAD 2 and Iphone 5 rumors.  I read up on what NFC is and as a sports geek myself I made the joke about how before two weeks the only NFC I knew was in football.  There were crickets at night that were louder than the silence that I got on that joke.  He went on to tell me that this technology is the future but that word has been floating around for the last couple of years and most new products will include this technology which by the way is basically a way for you to pay for your Starbucks treinte with your cell phone.  But you get what I’m saying.  And before anyone makes the counter argument that sports geeks are the same way let me remind you that the stereotype is that we’re stupid morons with pot bellies and we’re in the beer and wings crowd and not the wine and cheese.  We don’t snub our noses at the novices, we merely detest people with ten thousand questions while the biggest game in the universe (that being whatever we’re presently watching) is going on.  Please don’t do that, there is a time and place for such things and THAT is not it.

But the idea that TOO much information is somehow bad is not true in every sector of society which includes sports management.  I’ve long been a fan of learning how championship teams are built.  There isn’t a formula involved that is true but there are a few maxims that General Managers hold on to: you need guys who keep the clubhouse loose- because when the going gets tough, they are the ones that will calm your superstars down by coming into the clubhouse and farting real loud.  They are as important to a team as the superstar.

A few years ago I wrote an article about what I felt was missing from the Mets and what changed in the locker room dynamic between 2006 and 2007.  How could the Mets go from being a dominant contender in 06 to a bunch of choke artists in 2007?  For one, David Wright who was their cornerstone player, did not have Cliff Floyd who was both mentor and best friend on the team.  He played a valuable role in teaching Wright, then a novice, on all things baseball related and always kept him comfortable even under the duress of the media maelstorm that is New York.  Most notably I remember a TRL appearance by David Wright where he brought along Cliff Floyd.  For some the guessture was nice but many stories after that intimated that Wright needed Floyd there to get over the nerves of being on national TV because he was only now coming into his own.

Missing players like that have been the Mets problem.  Which of course makes the entirety of the Mets product look shoddy.  Reyes, Wright, etc are not built to be leaders who can motivate a group and get them out of the doldrums of a losing season.  That attitude needs to be built in and come from somewhere which is why the Mets needed a Terry Collins type.

But that we’ll get to.  The Mets need more than just a fiery manager.  They need a culture shift which is what Sandy Alderson and staff hope to do.  They’ve spent pennies in comparison to the old regime and it doesn’t automatically invite parades but its nice to see business done in other ways.  That throwing money at a situation doesn’t make it ok.  That telling everyone about how much money you are spending isn’t going to make anyone respect you anymore.  That its about how you spend that money and not how much.

If this episode has taught us anything its this: the Coupons lie is finally coming to bite them where it hurts.  It is no longer a secret.  The Mets ownership group has to continue their coming clean act.  They have to be forthcoming in the next few months in order to put any rumors to rest.

What does that entail?  If the situation is as bad as everyone’s assuming, cut the crap Coupon family.  Just sell.  Don’t sell minority stakes and stave off the eventual: cut your losses and let go.  Their stubborn refusal is still evident when they made it a point to emphasize that this is NOT about them selling the team.

Its clear they know more than they are letting on and will allow the system to leak the information.  That eventually we will learn what they already know.  But here’s what I’ve known for a while now: the Wilpons are what’s wrong with the Mets.  They have never been completely honest about anything.  Its all coming back to haunt the Mets and honestly its about time.  The Mets ownership group needs new blood and not a moment sooner.

The front office looks solid and sounds like they know what they are doing, but given the Coupons history of being honest maybe they had no idea what they were getting into and the promise of reinvesting that 50-70 million that will come off the books may not be realistic.  We will get into that in part two of this.  But for now the message is clear: Sell Coupons.  Save yourselves and just sell the Mets and be on your way.  You’ve done more harm than good.  If you love the Mets as much as you say you do then just sell the team to people who will do something with them.


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Mets 5- Rockies 0

Phew.  And I mean that.  You have no idea how relieved I am to be talking about a Mets win but don’t worry doomsday fans, I have some negative Nancy stuff too but worry not optimists, nothing too much like the last few days.

– First things first and much kudos and respect goes to Mike Pelfrey.  7 innings, 6 K’s, and 0 walks.  Ok, so he had one balk*, but to his credit he didn’t lose his marbles and kept his cool.  Let’s be honest, the Mets needed this like the Houston Astros needed a win.**  Maybe this is what the Mets needed to get to start things going and get a winning streak started.

*= Here’s a guy that led the league last year with 6 and threw 3 in one game.  But this time the balk wasn’t his fault, Melvin Mora called time and the umpire didn’t grant time and Pelf stopped in mid pitching motion.  He saw a sports psychologist in the offseason to fix whatever was ailing him and for two starts it seems as though its paying off.  Remember a few nights ago that someone called in and asked if the Mets need to see a sports psychologist?  Well I think that answers that doesn’t it?  LET THE HEALING BEGIN!

**= I had a few dirty analogies but I figured I’d stay away from them.  Who knows if the kids are reading this?

– The Mets made Pelfrey add a pitch to his repertoire and I know I’ve been saying over the last few days about going away from the strength of the pitcher.  But Pelfrey mixed in the split finger effectively.  Its becoming an out pitch instead of solely relying on the sinker.  The sinker I suppose is a very useful pitch in the air with the humidor effect as Rockies hitters were getting good slices on the ball later on, but the hits either hung up there or just died at the warning track.  It seemed as though that luck that had eluded the Mets were repaying them back.

– The last two nights the Mets have been terrorized by really athletic Rockies pitchers who flashed some power.  Well today Mike Pelfrey did it all even getting a hit and drawing a walk.  Not only that, Pelfrey scored a run* and drove in a run which of course always helps.  I suppose it was all in the cards for him today.

*= Last night Aaron Cook took advantage of Mike Jacobs’ mental error and scored a run as Jacobs forgot to check him at 3rd.  So it was nice to see some shoddy defense by the Rockies which benefited the Mets.  Its about time some bad stuff happened to another team.  Geez!

– Don’t mean to be a negative nancy but during the 3rd inning after Pelfrey scored to make it 2-0, David Wright came up to bat with Jose Reyes on 2nd and Luis Castillo on 1st and no outs.  Well, you’d think that Wright drew a walk or grounded into a double play right?  No.  Would you believe that Wright somehow made 3 outs?*  Well, not exactly but let me explain.  Its not quite sure what happened but based on the field it looked like Reyes faked the steal and Castillo jumped thinking he was stealing and tried to go double steal which is a great idea given both of their speed.  Unfortunately Reyes wasn’t going and just stood there as Castillo got caught in a run down.  That is one out.  The second out came when Reyes tried to steal 3rd and got caught**.  Which of course makes two outs and Wright struck out three pitches later.  Yes.  Somehow Wright put a cap on that rally with a punch out. ***

*= I know I’m tough on him but come on.  COME ON!  He’s the franchise, if he doesn’t like it, too bad.

**= Its clear Reyes still isn’t at full speed and while the Mets like to see him run and try to steal a base its clear he isn’t going all out and i’m noticing the drastic reduction in his speed which is troubling.  Its not like he’ll lose it completely but as he gets older, it only gets worse.

***= No, I refuse to be nice.  I hate watching Wright in situations like this because I feel bad looking at him struggling through it.  Its as if he is hearing the entire Met fan base screaming at him to come through and him worrying about letting them down.  He plays so tight in these situations and it s sad and frustrating all at the same time to see it happen.

– It was the Rockies B-team with Melvin Mora playing 2nd and Giambi playing 1st but a win is a win and I’ll take it.

The best thing about today’s game was how patient the Mets were.  Once again, they didn’t let a guy who clearly didn’t come out with his A stuff to beat them.  They were patient at the plate, especially David Wright who’s OBP right now is somewhere in the ridiculous .500 range.  He’s still striking out a lot but he comes up and makes sure to see a lot of pitches.  That plays well because if most of the line up is starting to be patient then the Mets can get quicker to the bullpen and take their chances with them in a close game.  The Mets have been using that approach this season and its helped a lot.  The best thing about this is that its been happening all season for the Mets, not just today so its a habit that’s sinking in and more often than not the Mets will be successful.

You’re not going to believe me if I told you but Fernando Nieve, Hisanori Takahashi and Ryota Igarashi never stepped foot into the game.  That’s right.  It was Pelf for 7 shutout 5 hit innings and then Pedro Feliciano with a scoreless 8th and then K-Rod for a solid ninth.  Yes sir, if the season continues to go like this the Mets will be fine.

– The Mets desperately needed this victory for morality more-so than anything else.  You can talk about this being the beginning of the season but playing here, in NYC, its a completely different ball game and to be honest those who aren’t from here will never understand it.  The season is young but the seat that Jerry Manuel is sitting on didn’t get that much cooler with today’s victory.  His job is on the line this early in the season and obviously if the team doesn’t produce the Mets will end up replacing him and while I don’t completely agree with it, I think that it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.  His job, GM Omar Minaya’s job is also on the brink of being lost had the Mets lost this game which would’ve made it 5 straight.  But this victory cemented in the Mets heads that they do have some semblance of pitching and can beat good teams.  Good teams battle adversity and live long enough to tell about it.  Again, last year who knows how this game would’v ended, but it seems as if the team unity and all the bonding that guys did and having a better, more lively clubhouse has something to do with it.  I like this group because they seem to like each other genuinely and support each other the same way.  Can’t wait to see how this victory helps Pelfrey gain some confidence and also for the Mets.

– Tomorrow’s game will be the first regular season on WB 11 so make sure you get tuned in for that.  While there was some debate over whether to put Johan Santana tomorrow night the Mets instead decided to stick to script and have Santana pitching the national game on FOX on Saturday.  It doesn’t get any easier for the Mets as they are slotted to face both Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright this weekend which always is interesting.  The Mets need this momentum to keep going.



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