Will You Second Guess Sandy Alderson?

The general consensus about the Mets new general manager is that he’s a great hire and going to do great things for the franchise.  That he’s capable of advanced analysis and really understands the game.  Sure, some fans are skeptical, but for the most part we’re happy that he’s leading this club.

He’s already joked that the honeymoon is over, but how long will we truly give him until we second guess his decisions?  Will we ever give him the benefit of the doubt or will we insist we know better if he chooses someone for the roster we disagree with?

Specifically, if Sandy Alderson watches Oliver Perez throughout Spring Training and determines that he can add value to this team by being on the roster, will we be okay with it?

I doubt it.  A recent poll on Metsblog suggested that more fans would rather Perez fail than succeed.  I find this disturbing.  Oliver Perez is on the Mets, and when players on the Mets do good, the Mets do good. The Mets doing good is what matters the most.

So while I certainly have favorite players and guys I would like to see make the club like Nick Evans and Daniel Murphy, ultimately what I want is the best 25 guys that will lead to the Mets having the best possible club to start the season.  If that means Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, or even Jose Canseco, I’ll root for them to do well.

They Played Baseball!

Men, some of them even with METS written on their chests, played baseball this weekend!  I know some don’t get excited for exhibition baseball, but it’s a beautiful day in New York and the familiar sounds of baseballs are in the air and on the screen.  Opening Day doesn’t seem far away.

It’s not even about the results.  The results this early in the Grapefruit League season are practically worthless.  That players are getting reps and throwing pitches and swinging bats and catching and throwing the baseball is enough.   Not that that will stop  fans and even beat writers from proclaiming who will make the team and who will get cut.  I’m not ready for that yet; Those are late spring decisions.

I’ll be headed to Florida for three Mets games in mid-March.  I’ll have some fun tweeting pictures and observations and just basking in the excitement of being at a baseball game.  Until then, read my posts from week about what to watch, and what not to, in Spring Training.

Signs of Spring

There’s snow on the ground again and it’s freezing out.  Not to fret though, because baseball is getting closer!  Check out this cartoon by Jim Borgman (of Zits fame) that represents this time of year so perfectly.

Also, as The Happy Recap points out on Twitter, the first Spring Training Mets broadcast is close enough to show up in a TV guide.

Hu’s Telling the Jokes Around Here?

I can practically guarantee that this conversation will happen during a Spring Training broadcast.
Gary Cohen: “It‘s the bottom of the third inning here at Digital Domain Park.  The Marlins just made a pitching change, bringing in their ace Josh Johnson to get his work in.  David Wright at the plate with the bases loaded.

Ron Darling: “The Mets are down a run, this is the perfect opportunity for them to tie the game even with an out.”

Keith Hernandez: “They’ve got some speed on the bases.  With..who’s on first?”

Gary: “Hu’s on second.”

Keith: “No, on first. Who’s there?”

Gary: “Yes.”

What NOT To Watch in Port St. Lucie

Yesterday I mentioned a couple of things to watch for in Spring Training. Today I’ll run through a couple of things that aren’t worth paying much attention to.

The results don’t matter.  This goes double for guys with guaranteed spots and pitchers.  Pitchers tend to experiment with different things like pitch selection, grip, or even a new pitch.  They may stand on a different part of the rubber or pitch from the stretch with no one on just for practice.  Being that the games don’t matter, they’re able to tinker without affecting the standings. An example of this is last spring Mike Pelfrey said “I threw all split-finger fastballs one inning.”  This is not something that he would do in a game situation.

The numbers for the guys competing for spots may matter a bit more, but the entire experience is an evaluation and a showcase.  It’s more than who strikes out the most batters or who hits the most home runs.  It could be about any number of things and often managers and general managers may go on feel.  They could be looking at how hard a guy hits the ball, even for outs, or looking to see if he’s laying off bad pitches that were causing too many strikeouts in years past. Spring Training is almost always a small sample size subject to a lot of variation.  AAA players, pitchers working on things, defenders playing a position for the first time, pitchers experimenting with new grips and new deliveries and pitches all create a game that’s not quite the same as the regular season.   Often decisions need to be made on less measurable things like work ethic, bat speed, or getting good reads on fly balls.

Reports On Physical Condition
Inevitably someone in camp is in the best shape of their lives, while others packed on some pounds.  This information is beyond useless beyond making fun of the fat guy on a rival team’s roster.  It’s still six weeks to Opening Day and everyone is well into a regimented workout program by then that makes what they ate in the offseason while they were essentially on vacation worthless. No one criticizes you when you have a second helping of pulled pork and another cocktail when you’re on vacation, so lay off the players.

Game Scores and Records
For every example of a team that dominated Spring Training that did well in the regular season there is a team that did horrible in Spring Training and still did well in the regular season.  None of it matters.  Guys are just putting in their work.  It’s a rotating cast of characters parading through the game and half of them won’t even make the team.  Sometimes they tie. Sometimes they play a 10th inning for fun and sometimes the manager pinch hits an unseasoned AA rookie for his superstar in the bottom of the 9th just because he wants to see if he can hit the lefty on the mound.  The same goes for lineups early on.  Sometimes stars bat higher up in the order so they can get their two or three at-bats in earlier in the game and get off the field.  You may bat a pitcher third because you want him to practice a bunt or move a player to lead off to challenge him to take more pitches.

Spring Training is a lot of fun, but it’s still an exhibition for the real thing.  There are a lot of interesting things to watch, but there are plenty of things that aren’t worth worrying about either.

Could The Madoff Situation Actually Help Alderson?

This post is it.  I’ll comment once with my thoughts about this Sterling Equities news, and then I’m going back to desperately counting the seconds until pitchers and catchers report. (1,173,300 seconds until it’s 2/15, as of this post)

Did the recent Sterling Equities news regarding the Wilpons looking to possibly sell part of the team actually help Sandy Alderson do his job?  The news may help Alderson lowball other teams on money-related transactions more so than he might otherwise be able to do.  While he’s not going to get players for free that other teams don’t really want to move, if a team is looking to make a deal with the Mets, they might subconsciously be expecting less in return.

Reporters have gone wild with speculation about what this means, that the Wilpons will sell, and that they won’t be able to spend any money.  Some predict Reyes traded by the trading deadline as a result, although some predicted this anyway.  Buster Olney, who’s actual post is behind a paywall, suggests some rival executives are all but positive Reyes gets traded because they can’t afford to keep him.  This suggests two things to me: 1. I’ve never been a fan of Olney anyway, but in the age of blogs and Twitter if what you’re writing is behind a paywall there is a pretty good chance it’s not worth reading.  2. The Mets are best off extending Reyes in Spring Training because even if they wanted to trade him in some crazy scenario, the rumors that they have to hurts their negotiating position.

I don’t expect this news to amount to anything more than another name on the media guide list of owners, but it’s certainly possible this is the start of a slippery slope to a scenario that includes the Wilpons having to sell off the entire team.  The initial info seems to suggest that the news is more of a guardrail against that slippery slope than the first tumble, but many of the details are still hidden and most are above my head in terms of financial understanding.  What will be, will be.  The roster is mostly set.  The Mets will play baseball in 2011, and I’ll be able to go there and root for them and cheer for them.  That’s pretty much 99.6% of my concern as it relates to who actually owns the Mets.

Still, perception is meaningful.  The team may very well be projected to not even afford the letters on their uniform backs at this rate. (One might suggest they stick to only two different uniforms in that case and remove the names altogether)  Sandy Alderson may be able to use the perception of constraint when dealing with free agents, and with other teams when the trade involves money or paying contracts, to his advantage.  Maybe Alderson finds a suiter for Oliver Perez, and instead of paying 11 million of his contract, he uses the Madoff situation to suggest the Mets only pay 10.5.  Maybe Jose Reyes really does want to stay here, and Alderson milks his loyalty by getting him to sign for less under the guise of needing that money to buy competitive players around him.

This is probably still a stretch.  The 2011 roster and budget are nearly financially complete, and the Mets won’t likely be looking to spend a lot of money before the All-Star break.  At that point, the potential financial windfall of being successful in September and making the playoffs almost always offsets the initial cost of bringing the last two months of an expensive players contract.  Sandy Alderson told me that he’d have no constraints at that point, and I hope that remains true.  It’ll be interesting to see how Alderson conducts business going further; if crying poor helps him negotiate, or if he dispels rumors by actually spending money on Reyes, or on mid-season acquisitions.

1989 Baseball Cards and Spring Training Tickets

1989 Pack of Topps Baseball Cards

I saw some old baseball cards in a vending machine today and figured I’d buy a pack.  They were only 75 cents after all and I could win a trip to 1990 Spring Training! I was a little unnerved by the 22 year old bubble gum though.

Obviously I hoped to get a Mets player.  Or at least someone else cool.  Closest I got was probably Frank Viola as a Twin.  I got four Oakland Athletics: David Parker, Storm Davis, Terry Steinback and Dave Otto.  Terry Mulholland of the Giants was there, as was Orioles #1 draft pick out of Auburn, Gregg Olson.

Speaking of Spring Training…Although if I did make it to 1990 Spring Training I might try to warn the Mets off of Generation K or tell them to outbid the Yankees, who signed Mariano Rivera as an amateur free agent that Spring…My tickets to the Mets Spring Training games came in the mail today.  I’ll be there both Friday March 18th and Saturday March  19th.  Can’t wait for it, it’s going to be a lot of fun.  Anyone else going down this year?

Mets Portraits Support Little League

The Mets are supporting the local Little League down in Florida. They’ve agreed to have a couple of art clubs paint portraits of a handful of Mets players and then auction them off, with the money going to support Florida District 17 Little League teams.  Being featured will be David Wright, Angel Pagan, Jose Reyes, Mike Pelfrey and Jason Bay.

The artwork will be on display at Digital Domain Park all of Spring Training. I’ll be down there in the middle of March and am looking forward to seeing some of them.

Baseball Equinox

As Faith and Fear in Flushing points out, yesterday was the (Mets) Baseball Equinox. That magical time of year when the start of the baseball season is closer than the end of the last season.  It’s time to look forward.  It’s only 42 (ish, no official date yet) days until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training on February 13th.

It’s unlikely the entire roster will be clear when that day arrives, or even set in stone on Opening Day.  The Mets aren’t likely to be revealed as a powerhouse out of camp, or be picked by many to even mak

e the playoffs.  Like many teams that go into the season with players with potential, players with talent, and players that need to stay healthy, it’s a fresh start and a fresh chance to change the narrative.

This isn’t a franchise that’s praying and hoping it’s latest batch of draft picks turns out to be superstars that they can control for years and actually compete.  The Mets are an under-performing team that finished around .500 last year. They’ve been cast as injury-prone, washed-up, creaky, soft, or just simply not that good.  As Sandy Alderson fills out the roster, and the Mets report for Spring Training and start showing us what they can do, they’ll have a chance to start changing what they’ve been type-cast as.

Carlos Beltran can hit the season healthy, and prove that a combination of time and his knee-brace can keep him on the field and performing all year long.  David Wright can take the mantle of captain, whether officially or unofficially, and lead this team.  Ike Davis and Jon Niese, among other 2010 rookies, can take that next step forward and become better major league baseball players. R.A. Dickey can assert that he’s a burgeoning knucklerballer, not a one-year wonder. The Mets can start rewriting their story as a well-run, hard-working team of talent rather than the usual mess they’re portrayed as.  It’ll take some effort and success and maybe even luck to start getting the reporters and fans to see this cast of characters as a new team.  Still, the foundation is there.  The Mets have a new general manager and manager that the media would love to cast as saviors.   They’ll be falling over themselves to to explain how Collin’s fiery leadership is leading to wins and success on the field.  They’ll praise Alderson’s construction of the bench, or the bullpen, or his choice at 2B as brilliant.

It’s 2011 and we’re closer to the new season than the old one.  Baseball is around the corner and the Mets have nowhere to go but up.  There are still acquisitions to happen, and jobs to be won, but when the season starts we’ll have a lot to cheer about.