Fred Wilpon is Scrooging the Mets and Their Fans Over

By Ethan Marshall

 

Fred Wilpon may very well be responsible for turning a talented Mets team that’s a few pieces away from being World Series contenders into a franchise in no-mans land.

Despite a high amount of ticket sales in 2017, including at the minor league level (thanks to Tim Tebow), the Mets expect to have a much lower payroll in 2018, down from $155 million to around $130-135 million.  This announcement came after the team traded away most of their pending free agents around the deadline for basically nothing.  Rather than taking on at least a portion of the remaining salary from players like Jay Bruce and Neil Walker in exchange for better prospects to replenish a dried up farm system, the Mets took no-names and long-shots while their trade partners took on the remaining salaries.

Why, then, are the Mets lowering their payroll at a time where they’re doing well financially and have a great opportunity to be contenders?  The blame can be placed on owner Fred Wilpon, who, unlike Derek Jeter, refuses to face his critics or even explain his actions to the New York media.  According to a New York Post story, Fred Wilpon gets upset whenever the Yankees make a big move, like their acquisition of 2017 N.L. MVP Giancarlo Stanton.  While this alone frustrates Mets fans to no end, as the team has done nothing but sign reliever Anthony Swarzak, Wilpon managed to make himself look worse.  Wilpon apparently believes the Yankees’ willingness to spend money in excess in order to compete almost every year is not a good long-term formula for financial success.  The Yankees have been doing this for the last 20-30 years, and show no sign of slowing down.  They are the definition of success.  Wilpon’s logic makes zero sense!

If this is Wilpon’s best argument for refusing to allow general manager Sandy Alderson to even know how much money he has to spend this off-season, then he shouldn’t be the owner of a major league baseball team at all, let alone one in the big market of New York City.

 

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Mets owners (from left to right): Jeff Wilpon, Saul Katz and Fred Wilpon.   Photo credit: Mets Merized Online.

The Mets should be pursuing free agents like Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer.  While they’ve been attached to free agents like Jay Bruce and Addison Reed, who could both be very useful, they’ve shown a reluctance to spend big on these candidates, to the point they haven’t even made any offers.  Instead, the player the Mets have been most closely attached to at this stage of the off-season has been Adrian Gonzalez, who will be 36 next season and is coming off a season in which he suffered major back injuries, because he’d only need to be paid the major-league minimum.  Additionally, the Mets may have wasted their opportunity to acquire second baseman Jason Kipnis from the Indians, who are now more reluctant to trade him than during the winter meetings.  Negotiations stalled when the Mets were reluctant to take on most, if not all, of the $30.5 million on Kipnis’ remaining contract through 2020.

There is still plenty of time left this off-season for the Mets to fill the holes needed to be corrected, but with only $10 million believed to be left to spend, this wouldn’t be enough to inspire much optimism for a big signing any time soon.  There has been no reason given as to why the Mets are cutting their payroll, which was just the 12th-highest last season, by $20 million.  The Mets window of competing won’t last much longer.  If the reason behind this is because Fred Wilpon doesn’t think the starting rotation can live up to expectations or stay healthy, this is not a good excuse.  Regardless of how the rest of the rotation performs, Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom can be one of the best one-two starters in the MLB.

Several Mets fans, upset at ownership’s lack of confidence and financial investment in the team, are considering boycotting the team if nothing is done this off-season to inspire confidence.  These fans are talking about cancelling their season-ticket orders and not tuning into Mets games on TV or the radio.  While the Wilpons have never been liked by Mets fans, they are facing hostility from their team’s fanbase not seen since the fallout from the Madoff scandal, which left the owners in financial ruin.  With the Wilpons acting as though they are in financial trouble, fans have again called for them to sell the team, so that both sides may benefit.

There is no reason a New York baseball team that was in the World Series just two years ago should be run like a small-market team.  There is no reason the Mets shouldn’t be in the market for players like Eric Hosmer or Mike Moustakas.  There is no reason for money to get in the way from signing Jay Bruce and Addison Reed, with the former providing a solution at both first base and right field and the latter being perhaps the final piece to a potentially strong bullpen that would also consist of Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos, Jerry Blevins and Anthony Swarzak.  There is no reason small-market teams like the Colorado Rockies and Kansas City Royals, and rebuilding teams like the Philadelphia Phillies, should be out-spending the Mets.

Mets fans are under the impression that most of the money coming towards the team is just ending up in the Wilpons’ bank vault, where there is enough money for them to dive into and swim in, similar to Scrooge McDuck.  If the Mets’ needs aren’t addressed this off-season, there is a good chance that this time, the fans will fight back by not spending on a team whose owners refuse to spend on.  Fred Wilpon needs to stop questioning the Yankees’ model for success, and start following it.

Are Dominic Smith and Amed Rosario the Next Wright and Reyes?

By Ethan Marshall

 

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David Wright and Jose Reyes celebrating the Mets division title in 2006.  Photo credit: Ron Antonelli.

The left side of the Mets infield played a big role in making them playoff contenders from 2005 to 2008.  Jose Reyes, nicknamed “Mr. Excitement,” presented a threat to opposing pitchers and catchers every time he got on base.  He provided life at the top of the lineup. So often would he start the first inning with a single and a stolen base or a triple before scoring, that the term “Reyes run” was used to refer to this.  Over this four-year period, Reyes stole a combined 258 bases, leading the league in that category in all but one year, including a franchise-record 78 stolen bases in 2007.  He had no fewer than 190 hits in any of these seasons.  In 2008, he posted a league-best 204 hits.  Reyes also combined for 65 triples, leading the league in that category in three of the four years.

While Reyes provided the speed, Wright provided the power.  He hit 116 home runs and drove in 449 runs over that span.  He finished fourth in MVP-voting in 2007, when he had a 30-30 year, batted .325, slugged .546 and had an OBP of .416.  It became a familiar sight for Mets fans to see David Wright driving in Jose Reyes.  Not since Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry in the 1980s had there been such a talented and admired duo of Mets. The young dynamic duo seemed destined for Hall of Fame careers, but injuries kept sidelining them, likely ruining their chances.

While the two have been reunited as teammates on the Mets, Wright has yet to take the field since Reyes was signed to replace his injured buddy.  Injuries have kept the captain sidelined for over a year, but he recently took a big step forward when he was cleared to resume baseball activities.  Reyes has been vocal of how much he misses Wright, and is optimistic that the captain will play this season.

While Strawberry and Gooden were terrific athletes in their Mets careers, they didn’t get along as well as many people actually believed.  Throughout their baseball careers, David Wright and Jose Reyes have been known to be very close friends.  Reyes often described their bond as similar to that of brothers.

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Dominic Smith and Amed Rosario hanging out together during Spring Training.  Photo credit: Joe Robbins/Getty Images.

Now, 13 years after Wright and Reyes shared the left side of the infield for the first time, a new young duo has appeared in Queens.  Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith, the Mets top two prospects, have now made their MLB debuts.  Their relationship in the minors was very similar to that of Wright’s and Reyes’.  After the game in which Smith made his MLB debut and Rosario hit his first career homer, both players spoke highly of each other and described the bond they shared as akin to that of brothers, just as Wright and Reyes have described their relationship.

Many Mets fans have already expressed that the new duo reminds them in both skills and personalities of those of Wright and Reyes.  Like Reyes at his age, Rosario is a speedy shortstop with strong defensive skills and the potential to be a great hitter.  Reyes has even become a mentor to Rosario since Spring Training, texting him almost every day.  Since Rosario’s promotion to the Mets, he and Reyes are often spotted fooling around and having fun together.  They both have a youthful and bubbly personality, making them likable in the clubhouse.

While Dominic Smith doesn’t play the same position as Wright, he has shown the same defensive ability as a young Wright.  Perhaps the biggest similarity between the two is their ability to use the whole field effectively.  Smith has shown strong opposite-field power in AAA Vegas this season, something Wright made a career doing (until Citi Field opened, designed basically against him with a deep rightfield).  Both Smith and Wright showed a strong maturity despite their young ages.  Perhaps Wright can become a mentor to Smith in the same way Reyes has for Rosario.

Whether or not Rosario and Smith can be as successful as Wright and Reyes, while also avoiding the constant injuries that slowed down the latter two, has yet to be seen.  They haven’t played a month in the big leagues, but the hype surrounding them is very similar to when Reyes and Wright were top prospects.  Time will tell whether or not they live up to the expectations presented to them.

 

The Bruce is Loose

By Ethan Marshall

 

The Mets’ trade of Jay Bruce to the Indians speaks a lot about the state of the organization right now.  Ownership appears to be focused more on saving money than getting valuable prospects in return.  While the trades of Lucas Duda to the Rays and Addison Reed to the Red Sox allowed for the Mets to save money too, the prospects received in return may prove valuable pieces of the Mets bullpen in the near future.  All of the young arms the Mets acquired in these trades are described as throwing in the mid-to-upper-90s by scouts.  All three of the pitchers acquired for Reed are hard-throwing 22-year-olds.  However, some of the pitchers are further along in their development than others.

The pitcher the Mets received for Jay Bruce, Ryder Ryan, wasn’t even a ranked prospect in the Indians’ system.  A 30th round pick, Ryan has posted a 4.50 ERA in two minor league seasons.  Considering how solid Bruce has been this season, this trade is mind-boggling.  According to Ken Rosenthal, the Mets were focused more on getting a team to pick up the $5 million remaining on Bruce’s contract than to receive decent prospects in return.  This is further shown by the fact that the Yankees were willing to give the Mets multiple prospects who were much better than Ryan in exchange for Bruce if the Mets were willing to take on 4/5 of his salary.

For several years, Mets fans have complained about the Wilpons preferring to pad their own wallets rather than improving the team they own.  This trade has only added more fuel to this notion.  As far as MLB contracts are concerned, $5 million isn’t that much money.  If the goal is to save money for free agent signings in the upcoming offseason, the Mets could’ve (and should’ve) taken the Yankees offer, which allowed them to save some money while also gain valuable prospects in return.  By trading Bruce for what likely amounts to a player who will never see the MLB, the Mets wasted one of their most valuable trade chips.  They likely would’ve received a better return by keeping Bruce and giving him a qualifying offer at the end of the season.

 

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Drew Smith pitching for the Rays’ Advanced A Charlotte Stone Crabs.  Photo Credit: Dilip Sridhar.

Drew Smith was Tampa Bay’s 30th ranked prospect when he was traded, with a fastball that could reach 98 m.p.h.  He has pitched well at each level in the minors, posting a career 1.74 ERA with 141 strikeouts in 129 innings.  While he was assigned by the Mets to AA Binghamton, Smith could play a valuable role for the team in 2018.

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Stephen Nogosek pitching for the Oregon Ducks college baseball team.  Photo credit: Mark Humphrey.

Stephen Nogosek may be the furthest from being major-league ready among the young arms the Mets received from Boston.  However, he was also the highest-rated among the three pitchers acquired for Reed, at number 18.  He was assigned to High-A St. Lucie upon his acquisition.  He’s posted a 3.27 ERA with 99 strikeouts in 85.1 innings pitched in the minors.  The main point of concern for Nogosek right now is that he has control problems, with a career 3.5 walks per nine innings.  While he clocks in as reaching 96 miles per hour, his fastball has no movement whatsoever.

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Jamie Callahan pitching for the Red Sox low-A affiliate Lowell Spinners.  Photo credit: Jonathan Raymond.

Jamie Callahan may debut for the Mets as early as September.  He’s currently pitching for AAA Las Vegas.  In 376 career minor league innings, Callahan has posted a 4.79 ERA with 365 strikeouts.  His velocity typically sits in the mid-90s.  He was ranked as the 23rd-best prospect in the Red Sox system.  Since being moved from a starter to a reliever, his velocity has increased from the low-90s to the mid-to-upper-90s.  He has a great splitter that has become his out-pitch.  However, like Nogosek, Callahan has very little movement on his four-seamer and has control issues, with 4 walks per nine innings in 28 innings pitched this season.

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Gerson Bautista pitching for the Red Sox organization.  Photo credit: Kelly O’Connor.

 

Gerson Bautista has a 2.73 ERA with 167 strikeouts in 198 innings in his minor league career thus far.  He was ranked as the 28th-best prospect in the Red Sox farm system upon being traded.  Along with Nogosek, Bautista was assigned to High-A St. Lucie.  He’s shown the ability to reach 100 miles per hour at times, but also has control problems, with 4.1 walks per nine innings in his career.  While he does have a slider that sits in the high 80s, he hasn’t mastered the pitch yet.  The slider can prove to be very effective if he can get better control and movement from it.  Another issue is that he was suspended in 2013 for testing positive for PED use.

The trade of Bruce may also signify the Mets may not be that interested in attempting to re-sign him in the offseason.  While the Mets recently said they believe Michael Conforto could play centerfield in the long term, this trade may mean they will be pursuing a centerfielder in the offseason and move Conforto to rightfield.  As a result, the Mets may be more focused on pursuing Lorenzo Cain than Jay Bruce this winter.

The Mets basically traded Bruce for money.  Players who are usually traded for cash are usually minor leaguers who may have had cups of coffee in the majors, not star players. The one positive thing to come out of this trade is that, unlike the Rangers with Ernesto Frieri, the Mets didn’t trade Bruce for $1.

Mets’ Offensive and Pitching Comparisons to National League Average Since 2011

By Ethan Marshall

The Mets’ 2017 season has been nothing short of a disaster thus far.  Until recently, the team was getting solid pitching every day, but little to no run-support.  Now, while the team has been scoring runs, the pitching has faltered.

It’s commonly believed for a baseball team to be successful, they  need a combination of good hitting and solid pitching.  Before the Mets were a playoff team each of the last two seasons, they were a bottom-of-the-barrel team in the National League for quite awhile.  The charts below examine the Mets’ team batting averages (BA) and earned-run averages (ERA) since 2011 to those of the league averages in that same time frame.

The data below suggests a team built like the Mets can be successful with slightly below-average hitting as long as the pitching is superb.  The data shown confirms the saying: “Good pitching beats good hitting.”

 

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Data Source: Baseballreference.com

 

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Data Source: Baseballreference.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Panic Time for the Mets’ Rotation?

By Ethan Marshall

 

The disaster that has been the 2017 Mets season thus far has fans thinking “How can this get any worse,” every day.  With Yoenis Cespedes and now Noah Syndergaard sidelined indefinitely with injuries, the Mets need to right the ship without their best pitcher and hitter.

Noah Syndergaard walks off the field with trainer Ray Ramirez after suffering a partial tear of his right lat muscle yesterday in Washington.  Photo credit: AP Photo/Nick Wass.

Syndergaard’s injury may prove more costly in the long run.  With Seth Lugo and Steven Matz still weeks away from returning from their own injuries, the Mets are without a decent replacement.  The current plan for Friday is for Rafael Montero to start, but he’s failed to prove he belongs in the big leagues time and time again.

Assuming the Mets sign free agent Doug Fister (which they should), he would likely need two or three weeks to get himself ready to pitch in a major league game.  As early as it is, the Mets could explore the trade market for a pitcher that can eat up innings.

Bartolo Colon, who the Mets let go in the offseason because they felt they already had enough pitching depth, could be a suitable target for Sandy Alderson.  The Braves are in rebuilding mode, and with Colon signed on a one-year deal, he seems likely to be traded at some point this season.  Colon proved incredibly reliable in his Mets tenure, eating up innings while pitching well.  The Mets could really use a pitcher with a rubber arm like Colon’s right now.  With the Mets beginning their first series at SunTrust Park in Atlanta tonight, this could be a good time for Alderson to talk with Braves general manager John Coppolella about working out a deal for Colon.

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Bartolo Colon pitching at Citi Field against the Mets.  Photo credit: Getty Images.

 

The Mets and Braves have gotten along well in recent years on the trade front.  In July 2015, the Mets traded minor league pitchers John Gant and Rob Whalen for Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson.  In June 2016 the Braves again traded Johnson to the Mets, this time for minor league pitcher Akeel Morris.

Of course there may be problems in negotiating a deal for Colon.  The Braves may try to take advantage of the Mets’ desperation by asking for higher tier prospects in exchange for Colon.  Additionally, Colon has an ERA of 5.59 in 29 innings pitched.

The Mets can’t afford to throw Montero out to the mound every five days for at least the next three weeks.  Whether it’s through the waiver wire, free agency or trading, the Mets need to find a replacement that can give them a quality outing each start.

Perhaps one way to negotiate with the Braves is to consider offering media magnet Tim Tebow.  The Braves just opened a new stadium, and need a way to sell more tickets.  Arguably nobody draws as much a crowd as Tebow.  While he alone wouldn’t be nearly enough for the Mets to give up for Colon, he could still draw the attention of the Braves if he continues to produce in the minor leagues.  While he is only batting .237 for the Class A Columbia Fireflies, he did go 6-21 last week, posting a .285 average.  Trading Tebow for Colon may just be stupid enough to work.

 

 

Tebow, Tebow, Tebow

By Ethan Marshall

 

The Tim Tebow show arrived in Port St. Lucie a few weeks ago, and, this week, he appeared in two spring training games for the Mets.  The 29-year old prospect went 0-7, with three strikeouts and a hit-by-pitch in the the Grapefruit League.

After signing with the Mets last summer to play full-time professional baseball for the first time since when he was a junior in high school in 2005, Tebow was thrown right into the wringer this spring. His Grapefruit League debut last Wednesday came against 2016 A.L. Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello.  Porcello struck him out looking on four pitches.

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Tebow walking back to the dugout after striking out in his first at-bat of spring training.  Photo credit: Jason Vinlove, USA TODAY Sports

Tebow’s second at-bat seemed like a Hollywood movie moment in the making when he stepped into the box with the bases loaded and nobody out.  A homer would’ve added to the circus that is Tim Tebow.  While Tebow did hit the ball hard, it was on the ground and right at the second baseman, resulting in a double play.

After getting hit in the shoulder in his third at-bat, Tebow didn’t even flinch as he tossed his bat and went to first base.  Tebow would get doubled up shortly after this when he was caught too far off first base on a lineout to second by L.J. Mazzili.

While Tebow and the Mets have been criticized for inserting him into the starting lineup, taking away playing time from potentially better ballplayers, it should be noted that Tebow was a very good baseball player in his high school days.  Tebow’s former high school  baseball coach, Greg “Boo” Mullins, described him as a “six-tool player,” the sixth tool being his character.  In a 2013 interview with The Sporting News, the former Nease High (Ponte Vedre, Florida) baseball coach said “Everybody should know this: He wasn’t just a great football player, he was a great baseball player too.  I believe he could have played in the big leagues.

In his junior year, Tebow batted .494, with four homers, 30 RBI, and 10 doubles.  Mullins projected Tebow could’ve been drafted between the 7th and 12th rounds out of high school.  He went as far to say that Tebow could’ve potentially be drafted in the second round had he played baseball in college.  The reason he was never drafted, as Mullins points out, was that while multiple MLB teams were considering drafting him out of high school, they didn’t want to waste a pick on a man who had clear intentions of playing football over baseball.

Despite Tebow’s unsurprisingly poor spring performance, Mets manager Terry Collins did see some bright spots in the former Heisman Trophy winner.  According to The New York Daily News, Collins said “The speed of the game is really something he hasn’t seen before.  [Wednesday] was his first game, he went back and took live (batting practice) and he saw better at-bats [Friday].  He was more rested at the plate, a lot more comfortable.  All things considered I thought he did a nice job.”

Regardless of how Tebow’s baseball career pans out, every at-bat, every defensive opportunity, and every game he participates in will be heavily covered by the media.  For the Mets, this is just the beginning of the Tim Tebow circus sideshow.