2011 Spring Training Plans

Spring Training Workouts
Spring Training Workouts

Due to a deadline to book a free flight with JetBlue I’m departing Florida Sunday morning March 20th.  This has made it easy to pick a weekend to go to Spring Training this year.  The only decision is how many days to take off and how long to stay.  Spring Training is in a way the Mecca of baseball fans.  It’s a great experience that everyone should experience at least once. There is excitement in the air, the players are working out and more relaxed, and there are more opportunities to get close and get an autograph.  The seats are much closer and much cheaper.  It’s warm and really gets those juices flowing for the season to come. 

I looked at the tenative schedules, since nothing is completely official yet, and came up with a plan.  The Mets are about as far away from home as they can be on Wednesday and Thursday of that week, playing the Twins and Red Sox on the other side of the state.  Disappointing, but to make up for it I’m thinking of taking in the Red Sox against the Braves in Disney on Wednesday, and then going to Universal Studios and the new Harry Potter ride on Thursday, and of course a Shamrock Shake for St. Patricks Day.
The Mets are home on Friday against the Braves.  This will be a perfect day to go to the park for the early morning workouts.  Saturday they have a split squad game in Disney, so a lot of the younger guys will be away from Port St. Lucie, but the rest of the team plays the Nationals at home.  After that I’ll fly home, and anxiously await the Mets to join me and start the season. 

Are you going to Spring Training this year?  What type of plans do you have, or are you thinking of?

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Join The Club

There are posts and comments all over the Metsosphere about being excited and optimistic for the future.  All centered on the Mets “Big 3” in Alderson, Ricciardi, and DePodesta.  (What’s with Sandy hiring Pauls?  Any of the managerial candidates named Paul?) To that I say, “Join the Club”.  Maybe my optimism has been a little misguided over the years, but I believe this team has underperformed and still has the talent to have a shot at the post season in 2011.  Once these three guys get going in the front office, I believe the Mets position will only be strengthened.

So if you’re ready to put aside all the negative Mets stereotypes, ready to stop expecting the worst, and ready to look at the reasons the Mets can succeed versus doubting that they will then welcome aboard.

To compliment this post, and this blog, I’ve created an Optimistic Mets Fan Club Google group.  The group has no purpose, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t join.  I’ve also created a Facebook group.  If you don’t like it, the terrorists Phillies win.

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Do You Trust Sandy Alderson?

It seems most of us do. Sandy is a smart guy, and he’s a lot closer to the process than we are. I understand that second guessing the team is almost as much fun as actually watching them play, but it’s time to take a little step back and trust in our newly hired general manager and his front office.

The idea is that just because we think something is obvious, that a decision HAS TO happen, doesn’t mean it does. We are not the general managers of this team, we are fans. As fans, the number one thing we want to see is the Mets to play winning baseball on the way to the World Series. We do not know how to achieve this, and we certainly don’t have a better idea of it than Sandy Alderson.

It’s time to stop demanding that Oliver Perez has to go. We do not know better than Alderson on whether or not Luis Castillo can contribute to the 2011 Mets. We don’t know that Backman/Valentine/Mazilli/Stengel is the absolute perfect fit to manage this team. We don’t know how attainable certain free agents are, how much we can afford to give them, or what the best fit for the team is.

I’m not saying we can’t talk about it. It can be fun to debate free agents acquisitions, it’s an interesting exercise to write up mock 2011 batting orders. Digging into advanced statistics to look for bargain pitchers can be a great learning experience about the game. It makes sense to doubt that Oliver Perez will get his fastball back up or be a contributing pitcher.

Last year nearly every free agent signing or trade was met with comments from Mets fans along the lines of “Why didn’t we at least offer X?”, “That guy would’ve been perfect at Citi Field!”, “Henry Blanco? Well gee, the World Series is a lock now!” Many of these comments were unfair last year, and the same holds true today. Sandy has a plan, and we’re going to have to trust in him to execute it. Trust in him not to put losing players on the field, and to start building a roster that can compete year after year.

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Signing Alderson Does Not Mean the Mets are Suddenly Respectible

The search for the next Mets general manager is (almost) over, and for now we don’t have a lot else to talk about.  Unfortunately the most important facts are hidden from us; the candidates’ plan for the future.  Looking at past history is certainly helpful, but what really determines who the best choice is is the game plan that person has to bring the Mets to the World Series.mets

Nothing will dispel the adjectives and storylines currently trending among Mets writers.  We’ve heard broke, dysfunctional, disastrous, cheap, stupid, tyrannical, clueless and many others.  Signing a general manager that’s perceived to be a good choice may quiet that some in the offseason, but that’s only a band aid. If and when the Mets announce their choice this week, the team won’t actually be any better.

This is why signing a guy as a figurehead of autonomy is not the way the Mets should go.  A quiet offseason does nothing for ticket sales or profits.  It’s the actions of the new hire that will do that, and even that’s unlikely until those actions, acquisitions and trades, put up statistics in regular season games and the Mets look like a winning club.  So we can speculate about who is the best choice, but until we see the decisions made, it’s not easy to know that.

Until the Mets are winning, consistently, all those stories people are writing about the Mets being dysfunctional will continue.  You’ll hear people crack jokes about Prevention and Recovery, joke about the Mets doctors, criticize Jeff Wilpon’s apparent involvement in the way things are done and reference Bernie Madoff any time anyone gets more money than is thought to be fair or the Mets don’t sign or talk to a player that someone thinks they need.

Outside of the fanatic fan, us bloggers and tweeters and hard-core followers, most people don’t even know or care who the general manager of the team is.  If the team is exciting, popular, and winning they will come to the stadium.  If it’s not, they won’t.  No GM is a savior; it’s going to take a lot of hard work from everyone all the way down to the 40th guy on the extended roster to get this team back to respectability.  It’s not about names or faces or organizational structure but about winning.  So let’s get this general manager selected and into the office so we can start with the process of building our 2011 World Champion New York Mets.

Jon Heyman is reporting tonight that the Mets have decided on Sandy Alderson.  If this is indeed the case, my point stands: The team is not yet better.  Let’s take the next step and start interviewing smart, talented people to manage the team.  And let’s start keeping some things internal before blabbing it to the media.  Either announce it officially, or don’t tell Heyman, because telling him is as good as announcing it.

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The Mets’ Wheel of Time Turns

The Wheel of Time turns, and Mets seasons come and pass, leaving games that become legend. Legends fade to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called 2010, an Age yet to come, an age long past, a press conference started in Flushing. The conference was not the beginning. But it was a beginning.

Okay, the quote barely makes sense, but the cyclical nature of the Mets history reminded me of Robert Jordan’s epic series. The Mets are again faced with a reboot of sorts, shedding some dead weight and redirected the franchise that has run off course.

Shea Goodbye
Shea Goodbye

So far I feel Fred and Jeff Wilpon said the right things.   I’m sure some of it’s probably saying what we want to hear, but they’ve given the right answers and seem to have the right goals and motivation.  I’ll take it.  Words are all we have right now, until after the World Series when we can start signing guys, and even that’s nothing until we play, and win, some games.

This season wsn’t a total waste for me.  The Mets made a lot of strides in appeasing and interfacing  with fans and bloggers. They created a Twitter account and started interacting. They invited a group of bloggers ‘into the fold’ and gave us an opportunity to stand on the field and talk to players during batting practice. They’re aware that there are a lot of intelligent people that spend a lot of time focusing on the Mets and thinking about them in detail.  Giving us that opportunity this year was an amazing thrill and one I’m extremely thankful for. It also gave me a chance to meet some of the fellow bloggers that I’ve been interacting with for a while.

You may have noticed, or not, that I’ve been posted a lot less.  It’s not the Mets, although them being mostly irrelevant for a month didn’t hurt, but me.  I’m getting married this weekend and things have been rather hectic.  The Mets did not reward me with a wedding present of a NLDS game to miss, and David Wright did not respond to my wedding invitation . I probably won’t be updating much over the next couple of weeks, but I suspect once things settle down I’ll get right back into it.  I’ve got some stuff planned in the offseason including some sabermetric debates that I’ve been putting off as well as some trying to match up the title of the blog with the 2011 season and the direction of the team.  In other words, a couple of spin posts trying to justify believing the Mets can and will win the World Series in 2011. (Hey, it’s more fun than predicting doom and gloom. Aren’t you tired of that?)

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4 Players I do NOT Want on the Mets Next Year

David Eckstein : Cause he sucks.  Read Fire Joe Morgan for more.
Javier Vazquez : I don’t want to hear any “NL is weaker” crap.  I don’t want to sign players that had a good year two years ago. Vazquez is at best a project.
Orlando Hudson : He’s not just very good.  Provides a little more power than what we’ve got, but fades down the stretch, is pretty whiny and is getting up in age.  He’s not coming off a good year either, despite being on the best team in baseball.
Manny Ramirez : Not sure he’s even a fit anyway, but I’m sure he’ll get mentioned by someone.  Old, not really a fit.  Another huge ego guy that’s not going to accept a diminished role and will demand too much money.

David Eckstein : Cause he sucks. Read Fire Joe Morgan for more.

Javier Vazquez : I don’t want to hear any “NL is weaker” crap. I don’t want to sign players that had a good year two years ago. Vazquez is at best a project.

Orlando Hudson : He’s not just very good. Provides a little more power than what we’ve got, but fades down the stretch, is pretty whiny and is getting up in age. He’s not coming off a good year either, despite being on the best team in baseball.

Manny Ramirez : Not sure he’s even a fit anyway, but I’m sure he’ll get mentioned by someone. Old, not really a fit. Another huge ego guy that’s not going to accept a diminished role and will demand too much money.

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Omar Could Stay For 2011

There have been signs that the Mets were never going to go all-in in 2010. As far back as the offseason, the Mets appeared to have a plan of not overpaying for mediocre players. They considered John Lackey, considered the top pitcher on the market, but ultimately decided that he was going to get more years and commitment than they felt was wise. They resisted Bengie Molina’s demands for a second year, something we’d all be screaming about for 2011 had they given it to him. Joel Pineiro had a contract offer from the Mets, but played chicken with them hoping for more money or another year, something the Mets felt was not in their best interests and didn’t budge on. We’ll likely never know if this was due to some budget constraints, or due to a philosophy of not giving out bad contracts. Outside of budget issues, Omar also resisted trading away prospects for rentals or other pieces during the season. It’s impossible to know if there was one guy that would’ve turned the season around, or gotten them to the playoffs. It certainly doesn’t seem like it based on where they’ve ended up, but hindsight is always 20/20. Maybe there was a creative solution that could’ve gotten the Mets a contributing second baseman, or a solid right fielder when Castillo was sidelined with the injury and Jeff Francoeur settled back to his sub-par career norm. However, Omar’s resistance to trading prospects this season has helped bolster the farm system and has created more options going forward.

I think this plan reflects well on Omar. He seems to have conducted business in 2010 according to this preset plan likely put in place with his agreement or from the owners. While it’s possible it was set in motion to keep Omar from sacrificing the Mets under bad long term contracts or gutting the farm system for a outside shot at success this year, it seems more likely that he executed the organizational plan very well in 2010 and it’d be surprising for them to fire him as a result of that. It’s never an easy thing to evaluate a GM. We don’t know what decisions were solely his, and what decisions of his were vetoed by either the owners or the other people involved in making decisions. We also don’t know what decisions Omar may have vetoed that would’ve worked out, or that he just couldn’t get done. There are rumors and hints at both positive and negative budget issues and it’s unlikely we’ll ever know exactly what the financials are, or were, for the Mets.

The Mets are even more aware of the risk of long term contracts with Johan Santana’s recent torn capsule in his shoulder casting doubt on the productivity of the back end of his contract. Johan was and is one of the best pitchers in baseball, and it’s looking like even that may not have been worth the money and years. I think this only accentuates why the Mets won’t, and shouldn’t, go after Cliff Lee in the offseason. Having one long term, high priced, contract for a pitcher is risky, two could be catastrophic. Investing over $40 million dollars a year on two pitchers who will be on the field less than 40% of all Mets games may be irresponsible. This subject will probably be debated back and forth all offseason anyway though.

I wish the Mets had given 2010 a better shot than they did, although I consent that part of it was the underperforming Bay, Beltran’s slow recovery, Maine’s un-fixed injury, Murphy’s injury and even Castillo’s bone bruise that kept 2B production down from his usually OBP and subjected us to Cora and Tejada for too long. I don’t dislike the Mets plan. It’s often possible to find a cheap option that will approximate, if not better, the performance you’d get by signing a guy an average free agent like Jason Marquis or Joel Pineiro with a lot less commitment for the future. R.A. Dickey did as well as any free agent pitcher on the market, including John Lackey. The Mets trusted in Niese and were rewarded. Josh Thole certainly looks very solid, both defensively and offensively, and i’m so glad Omar didn’t give Bengie that second year.

Not trading prospects will end up being a boon as well. Ike Davis hasn’t been much better than Daniel Murphy was in his “rookie” 2009 season, but he’s well above average defensively, and has more power. Niese has grown up, Thole is here, Jenrry Mejia and Dillon Gee may be outside shots at contributing next year. Ruben Tejada has looked pretty good defensively. There are others in the minors as well. This doesn’t mean the Mets are set for 2011, but they have a lot more options going forward. Knowing more about these prospects and having them close to Major League ready gives the 2011 Mets a lot of possibilities in terms of getting production for cheap from Ike Davis, or maybe trading a guy that doesn’t fit as well for a different piece of the puzzle.

Omar is still here right now. There’s no doubt that the Mets have a lot of things they need to accomplish this offseason, and I can see how a head start on getting to know what’s needed on the team could help that. What real reason is there to keep Omar around for September when the Mets are out of the playoff race? The biggest decisions he’s making right now are which rookies to promote to the Mets, and using that major league exposure to determine the holes and needs of the Mets for 2011. Chances are the ownership group is involved in which players are getting looks too, and isn’t this something a new GM could do as part of his (or her, though that seems unlikely) process? The Mets are going to have a lot to do this offseason, including picking new coaches and a manager and improving the team on the field. Wouldn’t it make sense to reassign or fire Omar sooner rather than later and get a head start on the administrative changes?

So based on all this, it does appear that Omar has been doing a good enough job to warrant not getting fired. Does that mean he keeps his job? One concern with the team is that they may stick with a guy too long, or make a decision based on what happened last year versus what will happen next year. It’s the front office’s job to pay a guy on what he’ll do in 2011, not reward him for what he did in 2010. This can apply to the GM as well. Omar may well have done a good job creating a 2011 Mets puzzle that looks promising, but will he do a good job putting together those pieces so that the end result is a 2011 Mets World Championship? That is the difficult question here, and one the Wilpons need to think long and hard about. If it was up to me, I think I’d look long and hard at other options, but I think if Omar can and does lay out a fully thought out and complete plan for 2011, and beyond, that he could return.

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The Mets Core

The particular suggestion is problematic because it reflects something akin to an underpants-gnome approach to sports analysis. David Wright and Jose Reyes are the best players on the Mets this year. The Mets will not win a World Series this year. Thus, the Mets will not win a World Series with David Wright and Jose Reyes as their best players.

That’s a quote by Ted Berg, the guy who broke the story on Tommy Hanson of the Atlanta Braves being related to the band Hanson, in relation to stories suggesting the Mets should break up their core and blow up the entire team for next year.

I could go on for pages about why it’s a poor idea, but that quote from Ted pretty much sums it up.  David Wright and Jose Reyes are great players, but even great players can’t win on their own in baseball.  Baseball is great because it’s a team sport, and requires a team effort over a long period of time to succeed.  The Mets are not doomed for 2011 and the best way to succeed is not to blow it up and hope you get lucky replacing two virtually irreplaceable players but to figure out talented, healthy players to add to them to make a team.  Then find a good leader and set of coaches that are capable of guiding the team over a 162 game season and keeping them focused and level-headed enough to win.

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I Predict an Oliver Perez Sighting Tonight

I know no one wants to hear it, but I’m suspecting we may see Oliver Perez tonight, and definitely before the end of the road trip. Here’s a couple of reasons why:

1. He hasn’t pitched in ages.

2. reports that he’s “looking better” (I don’t know how this can be when he hasn’t actually faced batters)

3. The Mets have already not lost this series, and 2 road wins a trip is normal. Could be thinking it’s house money at this point?

4. Bullpen tired from yesterday.

5. B.S. about missing-Frankie need to get more value from everyone else.

At this point, with the Mets virtually eliminating and sending subtle signs that they’re very aware of this, it might be time to try to get Perez into a state where you might be able to raise his value such that an opposing GM may consider trading for him if they’ve had a couple of beers. It’s in the Mets best interest to play him since his value cannot go down, but if they could tease some modicum of success out of him down the stretch, or in Spring Training next year, they might be able to trade him for a long-shot AAA player or a down on his luck reliever.

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Depressingly Early Football Season and Long Term Mets Plans

My posts have been lacking lately. Part of that is certainly that the Mets don’t produce much to be optimistic about right now, but I am also having a lot of computer issues involving memory and hard drives and multiple reformats of my laptop. I spend most of my time at the computer cursing at it and telling it get going; which is much like how I feel watching the Mets. I was holding out hope as things spiraled out of control with the Mets as is befitting the title of this blog, but my hope is dwindling as the math suggesting the Mets will make the playoffs, even if they were to morph into a powerhouse overnight, grows bleeker and bleeker.

They can still make the playoffs. They won’t, but the possibility does still exist. A strange confluence of events including David Wright not having another slump, Jason Bay coming back and accumulating all the stats that he would need to reach his career averages for the year in the final month, Carlos Beltran shaking off the rust/age/injury and playing well, Castillo putting up career norms for OBP and getting driven in regularly, would have to happen first. Some of these will happen, but it does not seem like it will be enough to matter.

My personal opinion is that the Mets have subtly given up on the season, but they do have a long term plan in place. Promoting the unready Tejada and the possibly unready Fernando Martinez suggests as much. I think the Mets should probably take the next step and start interviewing managers, if not GMs. Take the two weeks to figure out who should manage this team next year, and give them a month to get acclimated with Wright, Reyes, and the rest of the 2011 incumbants so they don’t have to do so in Spring Training. I think it would help the long term goals. One reason not to do this immediately is if the Mets plan on dumping Omar Minaya, in which case you’d want to take care of that before the manager situation, and you may just run out of time to do this all sequentially. Tonight is the night the draft picks have to sign by, so it’d be a perfectly opportunity to make a move forward after that. Give a new GM time to analayze the team and it’s holes and create a offseason strategy. Start the ball rolling, hint at the long term plan, and bring some more of the kids of up in September and I bet Citi Field won’t be quite as empty as some are predicting.

It’s sad that I’m aware that the Giants are playing a preseason game tonight. (Against the Jets too) I prefer years where I don’t even know the Giants record until late October. Or at least late September. I prefer football games as an appetizer to a big Sunday Night Baseball game featuring the Mets and a pressure filled push towards a playoff berth. (results aside)

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