When You Just Can’t Wait

Admit it, Sandy. This team isn’t going anywhere.

Having waited through 6 seasons of relative futility, I wasn’t going to be put off by one more game lost. After all, it’s been the norm since May of 2009. What’s one more game? Really, the Mets, in losing 7-4 to the Dodgers late last night, were doing exactly what we all expected.

However, I was still angry.

To lead off the game, the Mets sent up Curtis Granderson – whose .322 On-Base Percentage this year hardly qualifies him as a leadoff hitter.

At shortstop was Wilmer Flores, who is only playing because everyone is sick of Ruben Tejada.

At catcher was Travis d’Arnaud, whose .219 career batting average would make him a backup on any team that didn’t already have Anthony Recker as a backup.

At third base, David Wright, clearly struggling, did not get a day off, because the player who could competently fill in for him – quite competently, I might add, as he is batting .318 – was actually on the Dodgers, having been non-tendered by the Mets.

In the minor leagues, Wally Backman, managing a team 15 games over .500 which won its league championship last year, seems to have little chance of moving up a level.

You might say the same thing about Noah Syndergaard, despite the fact that calling up young pitchers is something of a proven combination.

Jose Reyes, who the Mets opted not to re-sign, “not because of money, but because of a new baseball philosophy,” is hitting .293 with 23 stolen bases in Toronto.

I’m not even going to mention this guy.

This offseason, the Mets spent $32.5 million on 3 players. The total WAR of those players is 2.6.

The Orioles spent $8 million on Nelson Cruz. His WAR is 3.2.

The White Sox spent $11 million on José Abreu. His WAR is 4.2.

This offseason, the Mets non-tendered Justin Turner without really replacing him. His WAR, as a part-time player, is 3.1.

It seems like the Mets are waiting for lightning to strike the bottle.

In fact, it seems like the Mets are doing absolutely nothing besides waiting.

It’s seemed that way since Sandy Alderson came in.

Of the three players involved in the Angel Pagan deal, all three went back to the Giants after the 2012 season.

Angel Pagan has batted .290 since the trade.

Andres Torres and Ramon Ramirez have both left the MLB.

Terry Collins hasn’t made a major lineup move for approximately 400 years.

It’s “almost certain” that Terry will be back next year, despite (going on) three consecutive seasons of 74 or 75 wins.

Again, they’re just waiting.

What for? I have no idea.

Apparently not Wally Backman – despite his proven managerial talents.

Apparently not Noah Syndergaard – despite his prodigious fastball.

Apparently not money to spend – they spent money on Chris Young and Curtis Granderson.

Sandy, it’s been long enough.

What –

What in the world –

What in the world are you waiting for?

Martino: The People Want to Believe

Andy Martino wrote yesterday in the Daily News of the sustained agony that the Mets have inflicted upon fans. His impression: that the front office is nearing the end of its five-and-some-odd year leash. “Anger and excitement are both in the air, waiting for the Mets to choose between them,” he wrote. “This time next year, if this plan has not led to a better place, even the most open-hearted will find it difficult to believe.”

Click here to read Martino’s column.

Terry, don’t Fret

If Terry Collins was a knight in the middle ages, his title would not be too hard for even the most uninterested passersby to figure out: “Terry the Safe.”  Why?  Because never, in the (seemingly) billion years that he’s been managing,Terry has never – not once –  been in danger of losing his job.  “We like what Terry’s doing,” says Sandy, who is also safe because the Wilpons, at this point, have about as much interest in their team as a block of clay.  “Terry’s really making this roster work.”

Is he, Sandy?  What about the 3 for 277, or whatever it was, with runners in scoring position?  What about the fact that Jacob deGrom, whose numbers are completely respectable, doesn’t have a win yet?  What about the fact that when the Mets win, they do it on fluke grand slams from Taylor Teagarden, and not on consistent contributions (besides Murph – #ImWith28) from their supposed best offensive players?  

Now, I’m not saying that Terry is the biggest problem.  That lies squarely with the Wilpons, who are completely uninterested in winning, and routinely dropping $30 million on apartment complexes in Brooklyn instead of on their team.  Bud Selig, deliver us from evil.  Nevertheless, Sandy (presumably) does have some say in the decision to fire a manager, and surely he must realize that despite the propaganda, Terry, in plain and simple terms, is doing okay at best.  

What does that mean?  Well, Terry is just there.  He’s not usually hurting the team, but occasionally, his decisions won’t help (see “Chris Young bats leadoff,” or also “Chris Young plays at all”).  On the other side, he doesn’t usually do all that much to help the team – Terry Collins is, at this point, little more than a watcher.  But even that isn’t really the problem.  Willie Randolph was little more than a watcher, and, indeed, probably hurt his team more than Terry has, and he managed the Mets to 3.5 consecutive winning seasons.  The problem here is that with this team, which doesn’t (thanks, Wilpons!) have slugging superstars, lights-out relievers, or fiery catchers, a manager needs to be more than a watcher.  On a team (thanks, Wilpons!) (also, thanks, Sandy!) this bad, a manager actually needs to become part of the game – a manager of this team needs to make his players give all that they have, unlike in 2006, when Willie, I’m sure, had no problems with getting the absolute best out of, say, Carlos Delgado, who was already an established star.   

So what’s the problem?  The problem is that Terry Collins, despite his past successes, doesn’t seem, at this point, to be a turnaround manager – he’s not Davy Johnson or Gil Hodges, who used unorthodox moves and crafty strategies, along with help from the front office, to turn bad teams into good ones.  Under Terry Collins – and with no help from the front office – a team will simply coast.  A bad team?  They’ll coast badly.  A good team?  Terry could manage them to a championship.  But right now, the Mets need more than what Terry is, an average manager.  They need a special manager.  Because assuming the “help from the front office” strategy isn’t happening, the Mets need a manager who can get the absolute most out of his team at all times.  And that, despite the all too frequent assurances of Sandy Alderson, is not what Terry Collins is.

Two for the Score of One

Doubleheaders are usually exciting.  Then again, with these Mets, “usually” doesn’t mean anything at all.

Sunday’s doubleheader was lots of fun, to be sure.  It began with banner day, which was just a blast, and continued with Rafael Montero pitching six sterling innings, David Wright raising his batting average some 14 points, and Anthony Recker going 4 for 4.  All in all, it was a fun day of baseball.

But that’s just it.  Was it really supposed to be just a fun day of baseball?  I didn’t even consider this question until the subway ride home, when two rather loud gentlemen in my train car began discussing the game, and the team in general.  “2006, those were the glory days,” said one of them.  “We only got one year of glory days!” complained the other.  In 2006, I thought to myself, we didn’t go out to the park to see a fun afternoon of baseball, did we?  Not to mention 1986, 1969, and other successful years that the Mets have had?  No, if I remember correctly, we went out there because we wanted to see a win, and maybe have fun if there was time during the domination.  Not that I’m complaining about fun.  Fun is fun.  But I can’t shake the feeling that there’s something missing.

I couldn’t shake it Oliver Perez’s long-awaited entrance into the game – for an opponent! – couldn’t muster more than a smattering of boos.  I mean, come on – in 2006, even the entrance of Braden Looper into a meaningless 8th inning could get 55,000 people angry.  But this was Ollie P, who is, completely objectively and as confirmed by scientists, just the worst, and we couldn’t even get in his head?  Worse yet, we couldn’t even score on him?  Something was missing.

Something was missing when the first game ended and the stands thinned.  What were there, maybe 10,000 people in the stands for game 2?  Maybe?  I know it’s the Mets, but still – in 2006, you could have 55,000 people at game 1, and 50,000 wouldn’t have left for game 2 if you’d paid them.  The interest – the interest is gone.  Maybe not for everyone, but for those thousands of fans who left with nine innings of baseball just sitting there for the viewing pleasure, not to mention an Eric Young origin story, the interest just wasn’t there.

You know when I really felt that something missing?  When game 2 got into the later innings, and the Mets just couldn’t seem to score, even when they actually scored.  Cowbell man was belling, the scoreboard was thumping, for cripes sake, the Mets were AHEAD – what was the problem?  Why couldn’t auditory, visual, and, for all I know, psychokinetic prompting get the crowd to say three words multiple times, interspersed with an extra syllable?  What’s so hard about “Let’s Go Mets! (who!)”?  

It came to me then.  Sandy, and Fred, and Jeff, and all those other front office blockheads, can talk all they want – we’re going to change the culture, we’re going to rebuild a winning ball club, we’ve made strides in the right direction, we’ve got a solid club here, yadda yadda yadda.  But if you want to see the real progress that’s being made, just look to the fans.  In 2006, the fans, all 55,000 of them, were chanting their allegience into the concourses, down the ramps, in the parking lots, and probably all the way home.  And regardless of what Sandy says, it sure looks like it’ll be a while before Chris Young and Lucas Duda draw the same interest as Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado, the stars who Sandy now refuses to sign.    

Old Man Summer

You can’t hate Terry Collins.

Oh, sure, you can dislike him.  You can bemoan his decisions.  You can lament the fact he is making your hair fall out.  You can do whatever you want.  But in the end, I just can’t hate him.

Terry’s remarks on his reasons for not playing Juan Lagares in four out of five games were a perfect example of two of the fundamental principles that make Terry Collins what he is: his almost shocking lack of understanding, and that inner fire that, much as I agree that Terry will not be the manager of a championship team, I just can’t hate.  “For cripes’ sake,” he said.  “I didn’t bench him.  He sat for two days.”  So wrong, Terry, and yet, in some obscure, far-fetched ways, so right.  

I’ll start with the much more obvious wrongness.  Lagares, for one, sat for two days, not four.  In his place, under the guise of increasing offensive output, was Eric or Chris Young, who, together, are batting about .203.  “Lagares isn’t giving us offense,” said Terry answering questions on the benching of Lagares, who had hit .286 in the weeks before his four-game benching.  We know that we need offense, but the thing was, Lagares was giving us offense.  He’d slumped for less time than Daisuke Matsuzaka spends warming up, and he found himself on the bench.  Clearly, that’s not right, especially if his replacement in the leadoff spot is Eric Young Jr., with whom Terry seems to have a fascination bordering on unhealthy.

However, what I cannot help but enjoy about Terry is his occasional toughness, his sporadic bursts of energy, and his been there, done that personality.  “Holy cripes!” he said.  How many of us even knew that was an accepted phrase?  And out of that group, how many would have used it voluntarily?  Terry Collins, my friends, does not care what the fans think about him, and while it’s undoubtedly driving us all to an early, stress-related grave, one can’t help but enjoy it.  It’s times like that that always drag me back, just a little bit, towards the Terry camp.

Now, of course, there are days – far too many – when Terry sounds way more like Richie Kotite than is comfortable, and on those days, not to mention the days when he refuses to let his starters go long enough, the days when he lets his starters go too long, the days when he forgets to pinch-run for Bobby Abreu down a run in the ninth…on those days, I would have him fired faster than Jose Valverde can give up insurance runs in the top of the ninth.  Terry, being a manager on a losing team, in a big city, with a self-proclaimed lack of financial problems, needs to get wins out of his team, and when he doesn’t, because they’re lying about the financial problems, he needs to be angry about it.  And he isn’t.  Not enough.  But when he gets angry, or gets some wins, or both, Terry Collins is a fun guy to watch.  Not a good manager, not a brilliant strategist, but just a fun guy.

On the other hand, please don’t mistake that last sentence for anything expressing the sentiment that Terry should be here.  He should have been out of here last week, and Wally Backman should have been here last year.

An Open Letter to Sandy Alderson

Dear Sandy,

How did you react when you saw the bullpen unfold yet again in tonight’s loss to the Marlins?  Did you get angry?  Did you decide that something needed to be done?  Or did you do the opposite, and remain calm in the face of adversity?  For that matter, how do you usually react when faced with these rather common bullpen meltdowns?  Do you ever get swept up in the emotion of a bitter loss, or do you separate yourself from the game, and not allow anger to dictate your strategy?

Well, I’m here to tell you that whatever you do in those situations, it’s wrong.  How do I know?  I’ll tell you how I know by giving you two numbers:   239 and 278.  Those are the numbers of wins and losses, respectively, that your team, whose operation is funded by and based on the demand of the fans, has accumulated since you were named general manager.

“Oh!” I’m sure you’ve already said, glaring at me while leaning back on a leather sofa with a glass of red wine.  “When will these imbecilic bloggers learn?  We’re rebuilding.

Yes, I’m sure you are.  You know how I’m sure?  Because your team has a healthy number – three, to be exact – of prospects in the official top 100 rankings, and only one less – namely, two – inside the top 97.  Rafael Montero – bless his soul, and I can only hope that you promote him before he turns into a minor league lifer and languishes forever in Las Vegas – is ranked 98th.

I must say, however, that the list of the top 20 Mets prospects is even more eye-catching.  Prospects numbers 3 to 10 are all position players, which is exciting, since we have more pitchers than Bismarck, North Dakota has residents.  These certainly are some exciting prospects.  All I can say is, it’s a shame that five of those eight are projected to arrive in 2016 or later.  You certainly know something about building a winning ballclub.

Alright, let’s cut the crap.  Most of these prospects are already busts (Gavin Cecchini, you don’t get to dog it on the field if you’ve never hit above .278), and all of the ones that aren’t are still stuck in the minors because apparently the universe would end if you had to pay them an extra million dollars in 2021.  You’ve got Jacob deGrom waiting in the minors – he’s outgrown Vegas, everyone can tell.  The same can be said of Syndergaard and Montero, although I’ve heard that Syndergaard is missing something in his game – I’ll bet you 100 dollars that he suddenly “finds it,” right out of the blue, around the time that the super-2 clock expires.

If you take a look at your current bullpen, I think you will find a common theme.  Admirable though the experiment was (and here I use “admirable” in the sense of “not admirable”), I think we can all agree that the “It is possible to put together a bullpen using only rapidly aging rejected former closers and ridiculously wild 22 year olds” theory has been soundly disproven.  Jacob deGrom is not wild – he’s walked 10 guys in 34 innings.  His ERA is 1.89.  Even putting that aside, there is no physical way, according to the laws of mathematics and physics, that deGrom could be any worse than the current bullpen, or the current closer (the identity of the current closer is actually unknown, much like Nixon’s secret plan to end the Vietnam War).

Sandy, recently you asked your fans, who pay your salary, for our loyalty in the form of an insultingly aloof letter.  Those players who consented to have their names attached to it included Keith Hernandez, who came over in a blockbuster trade and turned the team around, Ed Charles, who was not homegrown, but brought in in a trade, and Doc Gooden, who was called up from the minors at age 19 and went on to have one of the most successful 5 year runs of all time.  Of course, some of the other players were homegrown, but I think we can agree that between Harvey, Niese, Gee, Wheeler, Wright, Duda, d’Arnaud, Lagares, Germen, and Familia, we’re doing okay with the homegrown players.  Sandy, if you would just act, act instead of waiting perpetually for next year, this team could take the next step forwards.  All it takes is a shortstop, an outfield bat (and here I am referring to “not Curtis Granderson”)(not Chris Young either), a reliever, who you already have in the minors, and Syndergaard.  Doc Gooden brought the Mets to the next level, and now you’ve got a superstar fireballer waiting in the wings – follow history, Sandy, because history does not lie.

I’m quite serious when I say that those four additions would transform this team from a loser into a winner.  You can’t win with pitching and no offense – the 1974-1977 Mets tried it with no playoff appearances, and after that, the team disintegrated and didn’t make the playoffs until 1986.  We need two bats and two arms, and I’m confident that two arms are waiting for you in the minors, if only you would reach out and take them, arbitration be damned.  The bats will come, whether via free agency, trade, or the farm, but the arms can come first.  We may disagree on the best way to win, but I think we can agree that sitting around doing nothing is NOT a way to win.  And so far, that’s what you’ve done.  So get us a reliever, and then we can talk about loyalty.


P.S.: The reason I say that you’ve done “nothing” is that the two major bats you added offseason – Young and Granderson – have a combined batting average, since 2011, of .234.

Too Close to Call

So.  The umps suck.  What else is new?

Well, I don’t know if this is new, but a problem has arisen that demands immediate attention.  I will explain the problem as best I can below, but bear in mind that I’m coming off watching a Mets loss that was caused by this problem, so I may be slightly biased.  I’ve typed key terms in capitals for organizational purposes.


To explain the problem, I will start with the first sentence of the definition of the strike zone, taken verbatim from the official 2014 MLB rulebook: 

“The STRIKE ZONE is that area over home plate the upper limit of which is a horizontal line between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level of which is a line at the hollow beneath the kneecap.”

I will also put forward another definition, which may seem redundant, but apparently not for MLB umpires:


Based on the above definition, certain assumptions can be made:

1) The STRIKE ZONE is the area inside the STRIKE ZONE, and no other areas.

2) The STRIKE ZONE does not extend outside the MLB-defined strike zone.

Keeping in mind the two points stated above, I will rephrase my earlier point: The STRIKE ZONE is, and only is, the STRIKE ZONE.

What do I mean?  Well, here’s what I don’t mean:

1) The STRIKE ZONE only exists inside the strike zone.

2) Therefore, the STRIKE ZONE is not “close to the strike zone,” but “inside the actual strike zone.”

3) Therefore, any ball that is not inside the ACTUAL STRIKE ZONE, no matter how close, is not a strike, because it was NOT INSIDE THE ACTUAL STRIKE ZONE.

3) Returning to the MLB definition of “Strike Zone,” and substituting the term “over the plate” for “inside the strike zone” in the first part of the sentence, I will make the following statement, which describes the root of the problem:

“Any ball that is not over home plate, no matter how close, is not a strike, because it was NOT INSIDE THE STRIKE ZONE.”

The problem with this is that it has apparently been forgotten in equal measure by both umpires and broadcasters.  It used to be that a “close pitch” was one that was an inch or two outside, and a strike had to be in the strike zone, which – follow me closely here – is what makes it a strike in the first place.  In other words, a close pitch was just that – close to catching the plate, but not quite getting there.  Now, however, the strike zone is completely different – for reasons unknown to me, it extends a few inches off the plate in either direction, and a pitch that comes in six inches outside is usually described as “just missing” or “too close to take.”

Originally, a pitch that was thrown a little bit outside the strike zone – what would today be called a strike – was considered a good pitch because such pitches often yielded swings, which meant the batter was swinging at pitches that were not strikes, which meant that the chances of solid contact decreased.  However, good hitters – Ted Williams comes to mind – could lay off the close pitches, and only swing at the true strikes.  However, as the game evolved, people found themselves looking at pitches two or three inches off the outside corner, and thinking to themselves “Nice pitch!” without knowing why.  So, naturally, they came to a conclusion: “those must be strikes!”  

The problem with this system, as opposed to the former “true strike” system, is that today, any pitch that is not called a strike is almost always completely unhittable.  Today’s hitters, already conditioned to swing at anything close, find themselves swinging at pitches that today are considered “close,” but are, in fact, six inches or more outside the actual strike zone.  In the earlier days of Baseball, players would swing at pitches outside the strike zone only in certain situations – protecting the plate with two strikes, for example, and even if a pitch was slightly outside the strike zone, these players could still hit with relative confidence, since a ball one or two inches off the plate, even though it is not a strike by the MLB definition, is not markedly harder to hit with authority than a ball over the outside corner.  However, with today’s expanded strike zone, players, especially when protecting the plate with two strikes, often find themselves swinging – they do this every time, and every time I am flummoxed – at pitches that they actually cannot physically reach, as if they expect their bats to hit a growth spurt during their swing.  But is this habit of swinging at pitches that cannot be reached, much less hit hard, the fault of the players?  Of course not!  Why are the players swinging at these absurd pitches in the first place?  Because the umpires are A) getting steadily worse, B) have no accountability, and C) do not call pitches solely based on their location, but factor into their decisions count, pitcher, hitter, and in some cases, whether it will make them look like a man.  

So what am I saying?  I’ll tell you what I’m saying.  The fact that strikeouts are increasing rapidly, and offense as a whole is decreasing as well, from about 4.75 runs per game on average from 1993 to 2009 to about 4.25 runs per game on average since 2010, is the fault of the umpires.  I don’t know about the effect on MLB revenue, the possible long-term ramifications in the sport, or the impact on contract amounts, but I will say one thing: with all the talk of obeying the rulebook and cleaning up the game, doing something else to make it harder for the hitters, while simultaneously going against one of the oldest and most basic rules in the rulebook, doesn’t seem like a strategic move on MLB’s part.  Of course, it’s not really any move at all on MLB’s part – the expansion of the strike zone has been completely unofficial – but you’d think in the effort to bring back fans who were disillusioned after the steroid era, making a basic change THAT IS ALREADY IN THE RULEBOOK AS A RULE, which would bring the playing field somewhere closer to level for hitters would be welcomed by MLB.

Of course, MLB also welcomed George Steinbrenner, so when it comes down to it, you never really can tell.