A blog dedicated to the New York Mets with some other baseball thrown in.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Josh Hamilton Interview / To Hell and Back

I do not really want to talk too much about the Mets. If I do, I might have a conniption fit. Lets run this down:

Johan Santana coming into face the Mets had a 5.51 ERA. He goes seven innings, gives up one run, K's 10 and leaves with a 5.12 ERA and the Mets lose.

Kyle Lohse coming into face the Mets had a 5.61 ERA. He goes seven innings, give up two runs on five hits and leaves with a 5.33 ERA and the Mets lose.

Last night, Darrell May comes in with a 6.14 ERA. Now the Mets actually got to him. He gave up 5 runs in 6 innings and left with a 6.26 ERA and he still got the W. Coming into the game he had amazingly given up 17 homeruns in 12 innings. If any game was a must win, it was this one. The Mets are now 4 games under .500 and 5.5 games out. The Mets astoundingly had 17 hits and measly 5 five runs. Their inability to knock people in is getting truly amazing. Another 23 men left on base results in another ugly Met loss.

Oh, by the way, Seo, you are in trouble. The Mets have Erickson in AAA who is making one more rehab start. After that, I would be shocked if the Mets did not bring him up. Such veteran presence is far too tempting for the Mets to pass on. Oh, and nice message to send you young players. Pitch six good games in row, and have a bad seventh you are gone. I seriously hope I am wrong, but I think the Mets are about to get older.

  • Craig Brazell played left field in last night's game. Maybe the Mets are contemplating bringing him up? Probably not, he's not over 35.

  • Beltran is officially on the block.

    "If I get traded to a team where they already have a center fielder, of course I don't want to sign with them," Beltran said.

    Cameron, a Gold Glover last season, played right field early in his career. But he signed with the Mets believing center field was his.

    "It would be tough to move," he said. "If I knew that was the case I would have gone to Atlanta."

    Newsflash, Cameron, YOU SUCK! If you didn't suck, we might not be looking. You are hitting .193, you are not allowed to complain if you suck so much. The Mets will most likely not get him. At this point, I think the Mets ought to re-think this buying mode thing. Unless they reel three wins a row, it is starting to look bleak. This stretch of games were some must win games. With the impending Yankee series and Cincinatti series, they needed not to waste these games.

  • To further anger me, Duquette said not to expect Humber to be signed anytime soon. He said the market has not set itself. Yeah it did, the #1 pick got 3.15 million, so the #3 pick should bet around 3 million. Get him signed and get him working with Peterson. Stop being cheap.

  • Yesterday it was written that the Mets did not want to rush Wright along. They were also reluctant to put him at Norfolk because they did not want him to feel pressured by playing near his hometown and wanted him near HoJo. What? Wright is batting .363. Do not want to rush him? He is rushing himself by destroying the league. On top of that, if playing in front of his family to too much pressure, then how can he deal with New York? Some guys who's name I cannot mention was batting .287 when promoted to AAA after ONLY 65 games and was promoted to the majors after 42 games in AAA while batting a paltry .269. GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF YOUR ASS! Let's get the logically progression of Wright in motion. Get him at AAA, which is one step closer to the majors.

    Damn, I said I did not want to talk much about the Mets and I did.

    Here is an article that I thought was rather interesting. I know not everyone has ESPN Insider access I'll do the illegal thing and post it. If you do not know who Josh Hamilton is, he was the 1st pick overall in the 1999 Amature draft by the Marlins. He is wildly talented, but has had some trouble over the years. This article gives you and interesting look at that. Enjoy.

    Until a few weeks ago, the scar on the back of Josh Hamilton's left hand was caused by a hot muffler. It's just the kind of burn you might get from accidental contact with the underside of a car -- Hamilton's supercharged '73 Barracuda, for example. But now he's been asked an innocent question about the two-inch circle of gnarled flesh, and he's giving it serious thought. He looks at his hand and works it over in his mind: The muffler story ... or the truth?

    He stares out across the Tampa restaurant, takes a deep breath and starts talking.

    Josh Hamilton has returned to his North Carolina home after leaving the drug rehabilitation center in Tampa where he was being treated for substance abuse, according to Wednesday's edition of the Tampa Tribune.

    The Tribune did not give a reason for Hamilton's departure. However, a source close to the family told ESPN that Hamilton's departure could be the result of some discussion of Hamilton's switching to a different program.

    The newspaper reported that Hamilton left the program last week just prior to the publication of an story on him in the June 21 issue of ESPN the Magazine. The article was based on an interview arranged without the approval of Hamilton's agent, Casey Close.

    There was a drug dealer in one of his earlier rehab attempts ("Three treatment centers ago," Josh says) who was so obnoxious Josh couldn't stand to be in the same room with him. "It takes a lot for me to want to hurt somebody," he says, "but I wanted to hurt this guy." Instead, he left the session, returned to his room, packed up his belongings and sat on the bed. He didn't hurt the dealer, and part of him felt virtuous for that decision. But he had to hurt something. So he focused his anger on himself.

    He lit four cigarettes, one by one, and laid them across the back of his left hand. The business ends rested atop the webbing between his thumb and forefinger. He set his jaw and watched as the embers burned into one of his most valuable assets. The disfiguring heat seared his skin. An acrid mixture of cigarette smoke and scorched flesh overtook the room. Josh saw it and smelled it. His fury blocked the pain.

    The Devil Rays paid Josh Hamilton $3.96 million back in 1999, when he was taken one-one -- the first player drafted in the first round. He was the golden boy, the polite kid from North Carolina who kissed his mother and grandmother before every game. He consistently threw 95 mph as a left-handed pitcher, yet was drafted as an outfielder.

    He was the best high school player since A-Rod, picked ahead of Josh Beckett, a five-tool myth sprung to life in the rolling hills outside Raleigh.

    Josh Hamilton. Can't miss.

    He looks at his damaged hand as he talks about the drug dealer and the cigarettes. He's nearing the end of his sixth stay in a treatment center, and he's got stories. Man, has he got stories. This is a tough one, one of the toughest. When it's done, he makes eye contact, gauging the table's reaction. "Before now, I've been telling people I burned it touching a muffler," he says.

    He spits out a laugh, more relieved than amused. "It feels good to tell the truth," he says.

    *  *  *

    ON MARCH 19, four days into his current treatment program, Hamilton watched TV between meetings. The news crawl at the bottom of the screen told him that he'd been suspended for the season for violating baseball's drug policy. He is the first player since Darryl Strawberry in 2000 to receive such a harsh penalty.

    These days, Josh Hamilton is just trying to make it through the day.
    His first thought as those words unfurled? Leave. Pack up, get out, screw it. He'd walked out of these places before, and with no baseball 'til spring training 2005, why get clean?

    Then something stopped him.

    "A light went on in my head," he says. "I don't know if it was God or whatever, but it just came to me. It's about time I did this for myself."

    He hasn't played in a game since July 10, 2002, and he's essentially been out of baseball since the day in March 2003 when he showed up late for a spring training workout one time too many and Lou Piniella sent him home. Piniella told him to get his head and his life straight.

    Lou didn't mention a word about baseball. For Hamilton, talent was never an issue.

    The parents of the kids in his North Carolina Little League knew that. They called the commissioner to complain about this 7-year-old who was hitting and throwing the ball so hard. Nothing against the kid, they said, but he's a man among boys. Soon Josh was moved up alongside 10- to 12-year-olds, including his brother Jason. In one at-bat, 7-year-old Josh Hamilton hit a ball that flew 200 feet, up and over the outfield fence.

    Jason, a catcher who peaked out at UNC-Greensboro, remembers being awestruck a few years later, watching his younger brother hit balls 400 to 450 feet -- off a tee. At Athens Drive High, Josh was so good some folks wondered if he even needed the minor leagues. When scouts clocked his fastball at 95 in the late innings, his father, Tony, advised him to take a little off unless he wanted to be drafted as a pitcher. Even then, the only guy who could get Josh out was Josh.

    Tony Hamilton worked two jobs and sometimes slept as little as two hours a night in order to coach his son and drive him to games. Tony's what they call "country strong." Family lore has it that Tony once bench-pressed 540 pounds when he was 19. Linda Hamilton is a legend in her own right, a softball player who, her kids say, could hit the ball 400 feet. Linda washed Josh's clothes at night, when the utility rates were lowest, to offset the cost of expensive camps and out-of-town tournaments. Life was family and baseball. You couldn't find the division on a dare.

    When the Devil Rays took Hamilton one-one, area scout Mark McKnight said, "Character may have been the final determining factor. You read so many bad things about pro athletes these days, but I don't think you ever will about Josh."

    He used part of his bonus money to pay off his parents' debts, and he bought them each a car. Tony took a leave and Linda quit her job so they could live with Josh as he navigated the minors. "We'll do this for two or three years," Tony told Josh. "By then you'll be in the big leagues."

    Baseball didn't always look kindly on the family's tight bond. A man needs to be a man and all that. But Josh hit .347 in rookie ball and was the youngest player in the Futures Game and co-MVP of the South Atlantic League and the USA Today Minor League Player of the Year in 2000. He ate Linda's cooking every night and got tips from Tony after every game, and didn't care what anybody thought.

    The legend grew. At Class-A Bakersfield (Calif.), in 2002, he threw a runner out at the plate after catching a fly ball on the warning track. He hit a 549-foot homer that splashed into the Kern River on the other side of the fence. "Five-forty-nine," Hamilton says, his Piedmont drawl stretching each syllable like taffy.

    Hamilton is asked if the number is correct. He nods. Someone at the table points out that Mickey Mantle hit one 565. "Yeah, well?" Hamilton says. He bends his left arm 90 degrees, then flexes the wrist outward. A muscle the size of a ham hock bulges from below his elbow. "I bet Mantle had forearms like this too," he says.

    *  *  *

    IF IT can happen to Josh Hamilton, say the parents and the friends and the baseball men, then it
    can happen to anybody. But how? How did Josh Hamilton go from can't miss to cautionary tale?

    It began with a sudden injury. On Feb. 28, 2001, a dump truck ran a red light near Bradenton, Fla., and collided with a Chevy Silverado pickup driven by Linda. Josh was in the passenger seat; Tony was in the back. Nobody was seriously hurt, but Josh suffered a lingering back problem that took nearly 18 months to diagnose. He played only 27 games in 2001. Which brings us to a tattoo parlor not far from the Bradenton house where Josh was living while the doctors tried to figure out what was wrong with his back. His folks had returned to North Carolina to care for Linda's own spinal condition, unrelated to the accident. For the first time in his life, Josh was without his parents or baseball. He felt marooned.

    Josh says his life to that point was "insulated," and with the insulation gone, his walls were flimsy and hollow. Any bad element was free to blow straight to his soul. "People say I was rebelling against my parents," Josh says. "That's not true. If my parents had been with me, none of this would have happened. I needed something, and I looked in the wrong place."

    The tattoo parlor became a hangout, and pretty soon his 6-foot-4, 230-pound body became a human canvas. When he got the first tattoo -- HAMMER -- his mother said, "Okay, it's just one." Next came a baseball, which also meant something. But then blue flames shot up his forearms, two devil heads sprouted on the inside of his elbows and a bunch of tribal signs materialized on his chest and legs. Before long there were 26 of them. His mother cried when she saw what her son had done to his beautiful body. "Just what tribe are you from, Josh?" she asked.

    He extends his arms and shows the devil heads. "I really regret these," he says. "They're a real hard reminder." It was one of the guys he met at the tattoo parlor who introduced him to cocaine. Soon he went from thinking, I can't do this, I'm Josh Hamilton, to thinking, I can do this because I'm Josh Hamilton. "At some point," he says, "I crossed a threshold."

    Maybe it's no surprise the tattoo parlor became his second home. Everyone wanted to be around Josh Hamilton, and why not? There is a resigned tone to Linda's voice when she says, "I know what he was doing in that tattoo place. He was trying to see the best in those people. He always did. A lot of people prey on someone like that."

    *  *  *

    SO HERE'S the hard part: how do you go from cautionary tale to can't miss? If you could see and hear 23-year-old Josh Hamilton, you'd swear it was happening right before your eyes.

    In early May, he walked alone into a Tampa restaurant and placed his order for dinner. He glanced around at all the smiling people, every one of them drinking. Soon it felt like they were coming at him, a kaleidoscopic procession of happy people mocking his addiction with their joy. He called the waitress over.

    "I need to change my order," he said calmly. "I need to get it to go."

    Who is he? He's finding out. He isn't a baseball player or a legend or a son, although he's all of those things. Right now he's recovering, hard day by hard night, and it doesn't matter what he's driving or what he's got in the bank or how absurdly the muscles in his forearms bulge in their casings. Sobriety comes first.

    Hamilton hasn't spoken publicly for about a year, unless you count the time the reporter from St. Pete showed up at his doorstep and Josh said some things he doesn't even remember. He wasn't sure he wanted to speak this time, either. Plenty of people advised against it. You're too fragile, they told him, a raw nerve. What if your picture and your story appear in a magazine, and then you relapse? "You know what I finally figured?" he says. "I can't live for the future. I can't think about what might happen. This way, maybe I can help someone. Maybe I can help myself."

    His life is reduced to its smallest particles. A day lasts 24 hours, a craving lasts eight seconds. He can live through the day. He can outlast the cravings. He can go to meetings and lean on the people who understand. Life's prescription? Get up in the morning, don't use, go to bed at night, repeat.

    To that end, he wrote a poem and titled it "We":

    We is more than one

    We are the people you can rely on

    We know who each other really are

    We are connected in mind and purpose

    We thrive on each other and each

        other's imperfections

    We are perfectly imperfect, and that's okay

    We together are one, and a solid recovering

        one we are

    We do not judge people on their pasts but

        their present

    We can tell each other things everyday

        people could not understand

    We are friendly, caring, loving individuals,

        combined as We to live a sober, clean life

    We can do it! We will do it!

    We can do this by leaning on and learning

        from one another

    We are addicts and alcoholics AND

    We are sober

    *  *  *

    HAMILTON'S PROGRAM required he get a part-time job. So one spring day, he drove up to a batting cage off one of Tampa's main drags and found one of the owners in the front, hosing down the sidewalk. Hamilton parked his white 2001 Jaguar XKR, walked up to the man and asked, "Y'all hiring now?" Stuart McKown looked at this chiseled, tattooed man with the tight blond curls and the $140,000 car, and stammered, "Well, no, not really."

    Hamilton took a breath and said, "Sir, can I explain my situation?"

    He introduced himself, which brought a smile of recognition to McKown's face. He told his story with no apologies. McKown found room on the payroll, and now Hamilton spends his afternoons unloading trucks and fetching cans of soda for 12-year-old boys whose parents pay $40 a half-hour for the chance to dream that their little Josh will be half as good as this one.

    Day by day, he's searching for himself, trying to recapture the time before his small, insulated life got big and drafty and hard to manage. There are rumblings that his suspension might be reduced if he completes the current program, which runs through June 14. That would give him several months of sobriety and, as Tony Hamilton says, "It's not in his best interest to sit around."

    So here he is, baseball, at your disposal. He's cut and fit and smiling, and right now he's jumping over a fence at Hillsborough High in Tampa, flipping his size 19s -- believed to be the biggest feet in the game -- over the chain-link because he can't wait for someone to show up with the keys. He's got four brand-new black maple bats in his hands, courtesy of Devil Rays centerfielder Carl Crawford, who sent them to Josh through their friend and financial adviser, Steve Reed. Along with the bats came a message: Get better and get back.

    He drops a bunt that skips down the third base line and dies a quick death halfway up the line. "Hoo-hoo!" he yells. "Base hit all day long." He drives a dozen mushy high school BP balls over the fence. Josh claims his bat speed has been clocked at 110 mph, faster than Mark McGwire's, and you can hear the baseball sizzle after it leaves his bat.

    These baseballs talk. They're saying this guy can't be forgotten, not with this talent. They're saying what Crawford said one day five years ago, when he and Josh were minor league teammates shagging balls in West Virginia: "Hammy, you're the best ballplayer I've ever seen. Ain't nobody can do all the things you can do."

    They're saying what his father tells him: "The real crime of the past two years is that you've denied people your talent."

    *  *  *

    THE BEST Josh Hamilton story may be the one about Ashley Pittman, a young man with Down syndrome who served as team mascot/bat boy at Athens Drive High. After the team lost a tournament game in Hamilton's senior year, he found Ashley sitting alone on the team bus, crying. For a reason only he knew, Ashley was convinced he'd lost the game. "You didn't lose the game, Ashley," Josh said. "No one person ever loses a game. We lost this game as a team."

    Suddenly, the tears stopped. Ashley looked up at Josh, maybe the greatest high school baseball player anybody had ever seen, a teenager weeks away from nearly $4 million, and swallowed back the sobs. The beginnings of a smile began to appear at the corners of his mouth.

    "Josh?" he asked.

    "Yes, Ashley?"

    "Does that mean I'm part of the team?"

    " 'Course you are, Ashley."

    Ashley leaned over and gave Josh a hug.

    At the end of that season, Athens Drive High awarded the first Ashley Pittman Award to honor the student-athlete who best exemplifies the qualities of compassion and sportsmanship. The recipient was Josh Hamilton.

    The journey back begins with hope, and hope can be found in a small apartment tucked away in strip-mall Tampa. What you were or what you could be has no place here. What counts is what you are today, and today, a bright Florida day in late May, Josh Hamilton is sober.

    Back home, a couple of times a month, Linda gets a call from a former special-education student from Athens Drive High. "How's Josh?" this young woman asks in her hopeful, eager tone. "When is he coming home?" She tells Linda the same stories every time. Linda listens politely, knowing the young woman will finish every call with the same innocent, heartbreaking sentence: "People were always so mean to me in high school, and I could never understand why Josh was always so nice."

    Linda sighs as she repeats the story. This is Josh's story. The slow kids, the popular kids, the stoners -- her boy saw the best in all of them. Still does, in fact. So. One question remains unanswered: will someone return the favor?

  • Thursday, June 10, 2004

    The Untouchables

    With all the talk around the Mets attempting to upgrade their team for a playoff push, I thought I would weigh in with my two cents and outline who should be on the block that actually has some trade value, and who is untouchable. Am I saying a deal should be done? No. However, if one is made, the below people are who we should keep as well as the people that should be put on the block in my opinion.

    Funny thing is, I started doing this during last night's game. After watching it I felt like the Mets should sell the entire lot of those losers. Then I turned on the cartoon network and watched Aqua Teen Hunger Force . After watching it, and laughing my ass off, I was able to come off the ledge (if you have not seen it , you are missing some funny crap). Then part of me was saying, "Mike, one more bat and we sweep these Twinkie bums". I am conflicted. The biggest issue out there is not if we can get a bat, but who the hell we can land that will be a significant upgrade without giving up one of the untouchables? Beltran seems like a far reach. Finley is old and just makes the damn team older, besides, he has veto power on any trade. The rest of the league is around .500. The Rumor Mill is cold as ice. There is not much out there. No Jose Guillen that could come at a bargain price, or anything like that.

    The Untouchables:

  • David Wright - Why? He was ranked in the top 25 by most amateur baseball accounts coming into this year, but has become a super stud prospect of epic proportions in 2004. He is on an absolutely torrid pace tearing up AA pitching and the object of many GMs desires (suck an egg, you can't have him). He is striking fear into pitchers hearts with a .362 average, 39 RBIS, 10 homeruns, 27 doubles, 19 stolen bases, and a .463 OBP. Oh, did I forget to mention he is gold glove caliber 3b? You cannot find anything wrong with this guy. He hits for average, hits for power, can field, can steal bases, and has a permanent smile on his face. He has as many RBIs as strikeouts and is not far behind in walks. He is a Moneyball GM's wet dream. The bottom line is, Wright's favorite baseball team growing up was the Mets. If he gets traded, it will be a horrific mistake and a tragedy. He projects to be .300 hitter with 20+ home run power and gold glove talent. Newsflash, he is a keeper.

  • Matthew Peterson - Why? He has a low 90's fastball with a devastating curveball. He got off to a hot start to his 2004 AA campaign, but has been getting knocked around of late. He may be further away from the majors than I would like, but may show up sometime in 2005. He needs to refine his control a bit as he averages walking .38 people per inning. That is too high to be effective in the upper levels of professional baseball. But I like this kid anyway. He has good stuff and has the possibility to be a frontline starter.

  • Lastings Milledge - Why? He is another one that should be permanently tagged as an untouchable. He is a five tool prospect and the only top tier outfield talent in our entire system. Milledge, who just turned 19, is more than holding his own in low A-ball. He made is first Prospect Hot Sheet this week and they pointed out, has an uncanny ability to drive in runs from the leadoff spot. In 21 games he has 26 RBIs. He also has 21 runs scored, four homeruns, seven doubles, one triple, .313 AVG, and a .360 OBP. At this point, he looks like the real deal. It is early, but everything you read about him is positive. He works hard, has a good attitude, and he is pretty damn young for his league. He is becoming a favorite of mine and fast.

  • Yusmeiro Pettit - Why? I think everyone has come to love this kid. What is there not too like? While he does not have overpowering stuff, he just flat out does his job. He won his seventh game last night to bring his record to 7-1 and is sporting a 2.34 ERA. He had an astounding 10 K's while walking nobody. HOLY CRAP! He is 19 years old and will not turn 20 until November. He has a 4.58 to 1 K/BB ratio, which is the biggest reason he is so successful. He throws strikes. He has allowed 57 base runners in 59.1 innings. Absolutely astounding for such a young pitcher, he is a keeper.

    There are plenty of guys in the Mets organization that have some usefulness in trades that do not necessarily fit into the long term plans.

  • Victor Diaz - Why? Two time batting champion in the minor leagues, he is currently very hot in AAA, and can play a corner outfield spot as well as second base (although fielding is not his strong point). On top of that, Victor is pretty much major league ready this year at some point, if not already. He also presents a plus to an American League team as he can be used as a DH and may actually project best to be a DH, and a good one at that. As for a future on this team? The Mets will be looking for an outfield bat next year, and he will have no roster spot in future. Might as well trade him.

  • Craig Brazell - Why? He is on his way to leading the Mets minor league system in homeruns for the third year in a row. He has plus power and projects as a .265 to .275 hitter with 20+ home runs in the majors. Craig has hit at every level of the minors, as dictated by his career .290 BA and has nothing left to prove in my opinion. He is a guy that you can plug into the Major Leagues right away. On top of that, with Piazza's move to first, he has no where to go. The Mets also have other quality first base prospects behind him.

  • Royce Ring - Why? He has a career ERA under 2.60 in the minors and has handled every stop along the way. He projects to be a solid set-up man and is close to being ready for the big show. Ring could prove to be a useful piece for a team that is looking to bolster their future bullpen. It does not hurt that he is a lefty either. We need him, but we also have a few other options for the pen in the future.

  • Tyler Yates - Why? He has plus fastball which can touch 95 miles per hour as well as three other pitches. In total, he throws a 4 seamer, a 2 seamer, a change-up, and a curveball. He can step into a major league roll immediately as a reliever and has a future as a possible closer. It certainly does not hurt that he got his cup 'o joe already. His BAA in the 1st inning is .167 in the majors, which certainly cannot be ignored. Like Ring, he would be nice to have, but there are other options within our organization.

  • Bobby Keppel - Why? Because it is his birthday today for one. Happy B-Day Bobby! But more importantly, it is because he is a solid, young talent. He is just turning 22 this year and is already in AAA. He is getting a little knocked up so far, but still getting into the swing of things since coming back from an injury in spring training. He threw a no-hitter in AA last year during a campaign where he went 7-4 with a 3.04 ERA. Any team that gets him could expect him to make a major league appearance in late 2004 or opening day 2005. He has the tools to be a quality middle of the rotation guy. I like him a lot, but with the addition of Humber and Peterson nearing major league readiness, he becomes a guy we can part with.

  • Danny Garcia - Why? Danny is a career .281 hitting coming into this year. He also has the distinction of being the first Brooklyn Cyclone to hit the majors. In his short stint with the Mets in '04 he proved that he has potential as well as being an intense player. He can be plugged into second base immediately in the majors if there is need. Garcia was also a center fielder in college so he serves some usefulness as being a possible super utility guy sometime down the line. Since our middle infield is solidified until he turns 27, give the guy a shot to stick somewhere else.

  • Ty Wigginton - Why? Ty is on track for 17 home runs this year and is currently hitting .280. He has also proved that he can hold his own at both the 2b and 3b position which gives whatever team picks him up some flexibility. Ty only knows how to give 100% at all times and works hard to continue to improve. He is a solid guy that can contribute to any team. Also, Ty has improved his propensity to strike out and is only on track for 67 K's. He has a bit of room to improve, and has the ability to be a .275-ish hitter that can poke 20 homers annually. He can help out any team that picks him up immediately. With supestuddd David Wright and that guy who is supposed to play second base, his days as a Met are numbered anyway.

  • Shane Spencer - Why? I'm sure he may be a shock to be on this list. But if a team is looking for an outfielder to bridge a gap to 2005 for that prized rookie to make his appearance or just a solid guy off the bench? Then you found your guy. He has that veteran presence that the Mets brass is enamored with, what's not too like?

  • Karim Garcia - Why? See Shane Spencer, but less valuable.

  • Jeremy Griffiths - Why? He has a great range of speed in his pitches. He can go from a 91 MPH fastball to high 60's curveball. In AAA in 2003 he finished the year with a 7-6 record and a 2.74 ERA. He got off to a slow start in 2004, but has caught on of late. He needs to improve on his K/BB ratio which is almost 1 to 1, which is way off this career mark 2.7 to 1. He is another guy that is close to major league service and could be a quality 4 or 5 guy in the long run and has virtually no use to the Mets.

  • Aaron Baldiris - Why? He is another horse for the stable for any team that would take him. One step behind Wright, he is on the St. Lucie club. A career .316 hitting coming into this year and is holding his own in high A-ball with a .282 average. His lack of power may ultimately mean a switch to 2b, but he is a good prospect nonetheless. His OBP coming into this year was .399 and has a solid glove. Wright and that future second baseman, whose name escapes me, are blocking his way to the big time.

  • Justin Huber - Why? Who does not like a catcher that projects to have 20+ home run power, with decent power, and solid OBP. He may not be the best defensive catcher, but that is something he can work on. He has also taken some games at first base, but is still projecting as a catcher down the line. For all the heat he takes in being a sub-par defensive catcher, he still had thrown out 24% of the base runners last year. With Jacobs and Aaron Hathaway now in the system, we do not need that many catchers. On top of that, another young catcher in Jason Phillips is on the major league roster. Someone needs to get their walking papers.

  • Mike Jacobs - Why? Although he is off to an atrocious year in AAA, his 2003 year cannot be ignored. He hit .329, banged 17 homeruns, and drove in 81 RBIs in Binghamton last year. He has a sweet left handed stroke and has taken some grounders at 1st. Like Huber he is sub-par defensively, but still is a good prospect. Huber is definitely the most desirable of the two catchers. He is expendable for the same reasons Huber is.

  • Kole Strayhorn - Why? He is strong armed right handed closer type. He can get his fastball into the mid to high 90's. He is holding his own in AA right now, and would be more of a throw in to any deal. He is more or less a forgotten man and would not be too missed.

  • Jose Diaz - Why? He has only been pitching since 2001. The converted catcher is a work in progress at this point. He can toss it close to 100 MPH and is virtually un-hittable when he gets the ball over the plate. Which leads me to his only negative, he walks too many people. He almost walks one guy per inning, and despite that, he has had success to date. While he is a project, he certainly has a huge upside and could be the icing on any proposed deal. The Mets could let him go and not really worry about it. He would be enticing for any team by his arm strength alone.

  • Aaron Heilman - Why? I'm not sure myself. However, someone might think he still has good tools and my want to take a chance at him. He may just need a change a scenery.

  • Wayne Lydon - Why? He possesses solid fielding skills and can run. Saying he can run may be an understatement, he burns up the basepaths. If he could hit for higher average, he could steal 100 bases in a year. He could be a real throw back leadoff hitter if he can manage another .020 points on his average, which people are starting to look for again.

  • Prentice Redman - Why? He is a solid defender that can destroy AA as dictated by his 2002 and 2004 numbers. He never excelled in AAA, but just needs more time. He can be a serviceable major leaguer with some more work in the minors. If Tike can do it, why can't he?

  • Scott Kazmir - Why? He was arguable the best left handed prospect in all of minor league baseball in 2003. He led the minors in K's per nine innings in 2003 with 11.9. Although he is not putting up Kazmir-like numbers this year, he still has a ton of potential. He has a terrific fastball, a plus slider, and a good changeup. The reason I add him to this list, is that you may need a blue chipper to get something done. Out of all of the Mets' blue chippers, he has the most question marks. Many baseball people are concerned about the future of his elbow, if he does not have elbow issues already. With the Mets depth of pitching prospects, compiled with the fact that he has not seen anything above high A-ball makes him expendable in my book. Now I am not saying I want to see him go, or I do not think he is good, but I am merely saying the Mets might need some extra umph to get a big deal done. For the record, he should not be included in a 1/2 year rental type deal, but only a Zito-like deal if one is made.

    Random Things:
  • Keith Hernandez, take note. It is Keith GINTER and not Keith GITNER. Enough already! Show some respect and say the guys name right.

  • Here no Reyes, see no Reyes, speak no Reyes. You will not hear me speak of him again (besides this time) until I see him at Shea, playing 2b. He has toyed with my emotions too many times.

  • Free Agent Chuckers for 2005

    It is time for me to be impatient again and look towards next year since the Mets very un-awe-inspiring play against the Twins has left me with no choice. This time I am going to key in on the 2005 starting rotation.

    On a side note, is anyone else just horrified when they come up with the bases loaded? Last night, with two K's in row (Cameron & Williams) to kill a would be rally is just terrible. At least put the ball in play and give us a chance. Choke up on the damn bat.

    Below are the major guys that will be available and their ages in 2005.

    Matt Clement, ChC, RHP, 31
    Odalis Perez, L.A., LHP, 27
    Pedro Martinez, Bos., RHP, 34
    Derek Lowe, Bos., RHP, 31
    Matt Morris, St. L., RHP, 31
    Kris Benson, Pit., RHP, 30
    Russ Ortiz, S.F., RHP, 31
    Eric Milton, Min., LHP, 30
    Brad Radke, Min., RHP, 32
    Freddy Garcia, Sea., RHP, 29
    Kevin Millwood, Phi, RHP, 30

    I used to be all about signing Matt Morris, but I am retracting that statement. He is now 6 - 5 with a 4.05 ERA. He just does not have the stuff he had in 2001 and 2002 and will be looking for #1 starter type money. Pedro "El Diva" Martinez and Derek Lowe should be taken off the list as their added ERAs top 10, which is not good to say the least and both should have considerable contract demands (Lowe is represented by Boras, which means he'll be looking for $12,000,000 per year no matter how bad he looks). I am crossing off Ortiz, Milton, and Radke off my list as they are just not who I would want on my team. Radke has a career of 4.28 and just think we can do better. Ortiz is sporting a 4.04 ERA and has a career ERA of 3.98. I believe he is overrated anyway, his 21 wins last year where pushed along by some serious offense. On top of that, he is a member of the Atlanta Braves organization, which is the equivalent of my girlfriend sleeping with my most hated enemy before we dated. Milton has never posted an ERA under 4.00 in any full season that he has played. Millwood, will be looking for too much and frankly is not as good as him and Boras think. That leaves the four players that should be up for the honor to wear the best looking uniform in the majors, which would the New York Metropolitans uniform. Perez is somewhat of a head case, but he still has a small 3.20 ERA and a very good K/BB ratio. Also working in his favor is the fact that he is a lefty. Benson may be considered a work in progress and is not the safest bet. He has #1 stuff, but just cannot seem to put it together. Freddy Garcia is certainly an option, he may cost close to $10,000,000, and he has been erratic over the last three years. He has a career ERA of 3.91 and just scares me because you are not sure which Freddy Garcia you are getting. Finally, that leaves Clement. He is a guy that intrigues me because he seems to have gotten better in the past three years, but still posted a 4.11 ERA in 2003. He has great stuff and should be a relative bargain.

    Choices, choices, choices. If it were up to me, I would step back from going after the higher priced option, which would leave Freddy Garcia out. The risk that you take with him is too much for the money he may command. That leaves Perez, Clement, and Benson. All of these guys should be in the cheaper than Garcia and have plenty of tools to let Peterson work with. All can get their heaters in the 90's although Clement & Benson have the best stuff out of the group. Benson is just an enigma of sorts. He has great stuff but his ERA over the last three years is 4.70, 4.97, and 5.37. That is a negative trend that I do not need to continue to see while he is on my team. I think he may prove to be too large of a project in the end and just not worth it. That leaves Clement and Perez. Perez is someone who is rumored to have a bad attitude. Also, it is not known if Leiter will be back or not. If he is not back, a lefty may be more enticing to pursue than a right-handed pitcher to balance out the rotation. However, Perez is someone that the Dodgers will most likely pursue after his contract is up. He will most likely be offered arbitration and cost the Mets a draft pick if he is signed. That leaves Matt Clement. Clement has looked like a different pitcher in the later years than he did in the beginning of his career. He just really looks like he has learned to pitch and his stuff can be flat out nasty. Also, he will most likely not be pursued by the Cubs to re-sign. With Zambrano, Maddux, Wood, and Prior and bevy of cheap, talented pitchers in their system (i.e. Angel Guzman, Sergio Beltre, Bobby Brownalie, Andy Sisco, etc.), they may not even offer him arbitration since they will be looking to cut costs in other areas to bolster their outfield (They will not pick up Alou's option, and Paterson is stinking up the joint). That makes him a guy that may not even cost any draft picks. Between the possibility of him not being offered arbitration, making the rotation younger, and his flat out nasty stuff, Clement is the person I would pursue in the free agent market next year to fill out the rotation.

    You think you have a better idea? Throw in your two cents in the comments section.

  • This article is chock full of information. It ranges from why Matsui blows in the field to Orber Moreno being DL'd. I guess that is why I have not seen him in games of late, he was apparently injured. Yates is coming up to replace him, it should be interesting. If Yates does well, Weathers or Franco needs to go when Moreno comes back. Yates can take Moreno's non-pressure situations and Moreno will assume more pressure situations, everyone is happy, which means I’ll be happy. That is all that matters. Also in the article, Rick Peterson speaks out on the Humber signing.

    An excerpt from the article:
    High on Humber: Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson made a specific recommendation after watching videotapes of the top college pitchers.

    Draft Old Dominion's Justin Verlander. And if you can't take him, grab Philip Humber of Rice. So Peterson was thrilled when Humber was available for the Mets at No. 3.

    "I loved him," Peterson said. "He's a grinder, a real fierce competitor. He has three quality pitches and commands his fastball well. His curveball is a real plus pitch."

    Peterson said Humber is close to being ready for the majors.

    "The gap is small," he said. "A few tweaks, a few minor things and he'll be ready. He's a strike-thrower."

    Peterson is anxious for the Mets to sign Humber. His plan is to have Humber report to Birmingham, Ala., to have his delivery analyzed at the American Sports Medicine Institute.

    "I want to get some data on him, then have him join us for a day so he can throw a bullpen," Peterson said. "I'm anxious to see him."

    The Mets have started talks with Humber's agent, Mike Moye. Humber will command a signing bonus of at least $3 million.

    I like the Humber pick more and more each day. I know it's early, but I need to be optimistic about something.

  • The Yankee deal that is being spun around has the Marlins trading for Beltran and then the Marlins will spin him for the suck-ass Jose Contreras if the Yankees were willing to pay most of what's left on Contreras' four-year, $32 million deal that includes a no-trade clause (was this a run-on sentence?). Am I the only one who thinks this deal is nuts? This helps Florida how? They lose prospects, and valuable ones at that, for two and 1/2 years of shitty pitching? C'mon. If you want shitting pitching to set up Benitez, I'm sure the Mets can spare some (cough, cough, Weathers & Franco, cough).

  • ESPN rumor central has now reported that the San Francisco Chronicle speculates that Zito's name could be bandied about as an "intriguing longshot" as this year's trade market takes shape. The A's have several needs, and Zito has become clear third of Oakland's Big Three of starting pitchers. Zito's off to a mediocre start this season, but still considered one of the top left-handed in the game. If the A's do decide to deal Zito, they could command a lot in return for him (this was verbatim).

    My take, with Harden, Hudson, Mulder, Redman, and Joe Blanton, who is at AAA and ready to step in, he sure is expendable. Question is how much would it take to get him. I think this at least warrants a call from Mr. Duquette to Mr. Bean to feel him out.

  • Baseball Players Need More Money

    Is he the poster boy for the union? I can hear Don Fehr now. "See, ballplayers are grossly underpaid. Scott Boras is a modern day Robin Hood. Zeile can't even afford a damn hair cut."

    Wednesday, June 09, 2004

    The Mets Manage to Get Older

    The Mets called up Gerald Williams, who is 37 years old, and sent down 24 year old Danny Garcia. I cannot complain with Garcia being sent down to get some more playing time, he ceratainly should be getting a chance everyday to get better. Him sitting on the bench does not do a whole lot of good. If calling up more ex-Yankee trash allows Redman to move up to AAA permanently so be it. I do not expect Gerald to see much playing time anyway, but the Mets front office insistance on keeping guys like Gerald around blows my mind. We can now field an outfield entirely of ex-Yankees. Am I the only one who finds that disturbing?

    Kaz Crap-sui

    Tom Glavine pitches eight innings and gives up one earned run, which was questionable in the first place, and still gets a no decision. At this point, Glavine has to be wondering what he has to do to actually record a victory. He has a 6-3 record, which is nice, but it should be a lot better than that. In my opinion, Tom Glavine is a hall of famer even if he does not win another game again. However, winning 300 games is something that is very important to him. Unless he gets traded to team that is willing to actually score runs when he pitches, he has virtually no shot to do it as New York Met. Maybe that is just my pessimism after a horrifying loss in which the Mets managed to lose it in glorious fashion getting the best of me.

    Kaz had one of his worst games in the field to date. He tallied another error, but should have had two errors easily. Hometown scoring to give a hit to the Twins spared him of extending his lead on errors over the rest of the league. Kaz also had a shot to put the game away in the fifth inning, but with two outs and two on, he did not come through. I am trying to cut him some slack, but he just is not a good fielding shortstop. Tonight’s play basically sealed his fate for moving to second base next year. He is just not a big league shortstop. When you have team that does not score runs, you have to find a way to not give them to the other team. It was simply and ugly, ugly game. Most pitchers that face the Mets come away looking like Cy Young candidates. By no means am I taking anything away from Brad Radke, but the Mets are not exactly terrorizing opposing pitchers.

    Howe still has not figured it out. I'm not saying if Moreno had been in we would not have lost, because Stanton did what he had to do last night. However, when there was two people warming up in the latter innings, it was the gruesome two-some Stanton and Weathers. Moreno was not even a remote option in his mind at this point. It would be nice to see that he is even considered when a game is on the line, but I have feeling my wishes are going to continue to be ignored.

    Now the Mets are below .500. This is something that is going to happen time and time again. A few wins to put you over, and loss to put you back. Two steps forward, three steps back. Until the Mets figure out how to put four runs a game across the plate, the fans are going to be relegated to games of this nature for the remainder of the year. Lucky us.

    Now that I am completely fed up the Mets inability to score runs, I cannot help but think about Carlos Beltran. I am not saying he will be the savior, but this current product and their lack of punch in the lineup is getting old really quick. With the lack of interest in Beltran, he may be able to get picked up for a relative bargain. Would the Mets be the favorites to win the NL East with him? Absolutely not, but it may make the games easier to watch and actually help Glavine chalk up a few victories. The main prospects in our system can remain intact with Duquette being able to build a solid package to send over to the Royals. Here is my half cocked idea. The Royals want to move Joe Randa and Carlos Beltran and get some major league ready talent back. That basically leaves three holes that the Royals want to get filled with these trades. They want to fill second base, third base, and center field. Ty Wigginton is guy who does not figure into the Mets plans for 2005. With Todd Zeile playing a good third base, and David Wright's ever looming presence, Ty is definitely expendable (as suggested by metsblog.com). The way he is playing right now, is basically as good as he will get. He will never be a .300 guy with 20+ homers, but he has the tools to be solid player all around. The fact that he now plays second base as well as third raises his stock. Trading Ty Wigginton should be an option right now. In addition to Wiggie, Duquette can throw in Victor Diaz. His recent resurgence with the bat makes him an attractive piece as well. While he may not be the best second baseman, he can play second base and a corner outfield spot. That gives the Royals some room to either get rid of Joe Randa for more pieces to their future and use Wiggie at third and Diaz at second base or keep Randa and use Wiggie at second and Diaz in left field. The Royals can them bring David DeJesus back up and use him in center for the time being, which would round out their position players. Diaz and Wiggie are just the start, I am by no means suggesting that will do it alone. The Royals bullpen is in a sad state of affairs, so Royce Ring or Tyler Yates may be a nice piece to add to the deal, or give them their choice of Redman, Duncan, Jacobs, Brazel, Keppel, Griffiths or Heilman. Remember, the Royals will trade Beltran, that is a foregone conclusion. They will have to accept some offer at some point. They want major league ready talent, Wiggie, Diaz, and Yates or Ring can step in right away with another B prospect thrown like Jacobs to possibly be their catcher by mid-2005 or they can take Keppel as another arm in the stable. You may be thinking I'm nuts, but the bidding war that the Royals had hoped for has not materialized. The best deal that is rumored to be on the table is Xavier Nady, Sean Burroughs, and Terrance long for Randa and Beltran. The deal that I proposed still leaves them with Randa to deal for some other talent so they will walk away with more players than the Padres will give them. I guess it depends on whether you think a third baseman that has not hit over 10 home runs in 260 major league games, combined with Xavier Nady, and Long is better than a package that has some potential upside. Maybe it is crazy talk, but right now, the Royals are not being inundated with options. It does not hurt to make a pitch that does not include one of your four top prospects and see what happens. Afterall, even if you give up a lot of mid-level talent, you still get to offer Beltran arbitration and get a 1st round pick and a sandwich pick to whomever signs him next year if he declines to accept it. Wright was a sandwich pick and if the Mets had one this year, they could have picked up Huston Street, so sandwich picks are potentially very useful. Trading a few minor leaguers for Beltran may not be the worst idea in the world, especially since he does not technically walk without the Mets getting anything in return.

    *David Wright continues to smash the cover of the ball. He went 2 for 5 with another homerun and three RBIs. He now has 10 homeruns, 38 RBIs, and a .352 average to top it all off. I think he has this level figured out. It just amazes me that the Mets continue to struggle offensively, and they refuse to bring him up to AAA to see if he can handle that level of competition. There is a remote possibility he can contribute to the major league club this year, but I am assuming that will not be explored. Things that make sense are always not in the forefront of Met management's minds.

    *Justin Huber hit his fifth homerun and drove home another three last night for Binghamton. He is now batting a respectable .274 and is officially on a tear.

    Monday, June 07, 2004

    Guess Who I Am

    I am a prospect for the New York Mets.

    I throw around a 92 MPH fastball.

    I am right handed.

    My bread and butter is a 12-6 curveball.

    Who Am I?

    A) Matthew Peterson
    B) Phillip Humber
    C) Gabriel Hernandez
    D) All of the above

    Alright, this was a bad joke. Besides Humber's curveball and Hernandez's curveball is 11-5, right? I liked Peterson the first time around, I sure like him the 2nd and 3rd time around. I think Humber was a good pick as well as Hernandez. Humber is someone that is said to be almost major league ready and his curveball looks nasty on film. On top of that, Humber is said to have three plus pitches by Baseball America, which would qualify as an indicator that he has future #1 or #2 starter projectability. I guess more importantly to the Mets, he had no injury history, which is refeshing after the past events of the last two years. Peterson and Humber should be ready for MLB action around the same time, and they basically have the same stuff, which should be interesting. I have no idea about all the rest of the players drafted, and would have loved Huston Street instead of Matt Durkin, but this draft was OK in my book. For a weak overall draft, I think we came away with some good players and potential gems. The guy Matt Durkin looked like he had an off year and put up great numbers his first two years in same conference as Rice.

    Humber was quoted on an article from mets.com:

    "I feel like I have the best curve in the country," said Humber, who grew up watching Nolan Ryan in Texas. "I haven't seen a better one. I feel like I have the stuff to get guys out anywhere. The curve, with the amount of break and sharpness, it's really hard and late.

    "A lot of times, guys will have a good curve but can't throw it over consistently. It makes it a challenge for the hitters."

    You have to like the confidence. If you play in New York it is certainly a pre-requisite to believe you belong there. Check out all the draft picks here.

  • On side note, I was at bar having a few beers. It was an off-night for local sports, but the bar I was at had the YES channel on. Now, I hate the YES channel as much as the next guy, but they had on the Trenton Thunder vs. the Portland Sea Dogs. It is great to able to watch your team’s minor league games. Too bad as Met fans, we cannot. If this Mets channel pans out, and we are able to see minor league games from the Mets farm system, life will be good.

  • David Wright is continuing to bitch slap AA pitchers. He went 2 for 4 with a double, a homerun, and three RBIs. He is now batting a healthy .351 and proving to be the most dominating AA player on the planet.

  • Justin Huber was 2 for 2 with a homer and two walks. He is now hitting .272 after slumping badly when he rejoined Binghamton after his injury. He is taking his spot back from Jacobs as the top catching prospect in the system.

  • Victor Diaz is continuing his torrid pace. He was 3 for 4 with two doubles and one RBI bringing his average up to .298. He should be over .300 very soon, which is more customary for the three time minor league batting champion.

  • The Mets are in Minnesota today and will be flashing the best DH in baseball in this trip to American League ballparks. Glavine is going against Brad Radke tonight. The turf is going to feel like home to Matsui. I'm going to keep an eye on him. I hate to state the obvious, but the Mets need to win three or four straight to put .500 behind them so they are not in danger of going under .500 with every damn game. Get over the hump and stay there.

  • The Rumor Mill is lukewarm, that is for sure. The whispers are that Freddy Garcia is going to end up with the White Sox. Although the Yankees are offering an attractive package centered around a 50 year old Cuban with an ERA over 7.00, it does not look like Seattle is going to bite.

    Joe Randa is drawing interest from the Red Sox, A's, and the Padres. According to the Star, the Royals and Padres are talking about a swap centered around Sean Burroughs and Xvaier Nady, and possibly Terrance Long for Beltran and Randa, who has a no trade clause.

    As for Carlos Beltran, the Padres look like the front runners here. There are only a few interested teams at this point. Not as much noise being made as there was originally thought to be. No bidding wars to this point, and Beltran will be traded, that is for sure. Beltran could be a steal since it does not look like Royals are going to get the bevy of talent that were once requesting. Sorry Yankee fans, Lofton, Dioner Navarro, and Bubby Crosby will not get it done much too popular belief. Even George cannot pull this one off.

    That wraps it up for the cold Rumor Mill.

  • The San Diego Union Tribune provides some insight as too why Towers drafted Matt Bush instead of the Boras Bunch.

  • Mets Second and Third Round Pick

    The Mets drafted Matt Durkin who is a 6-foot-4, 220-pound junior right-hander out of San Jose State with their third pick in the second round. He was a pre-season All-American selection by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper as well as ranked in the preseason by Baseball America as the nation's 18th-best junior professional prospect. At San Jose State he compiled a 4.49 ERA, while going 8-5, going 110.1 innings, giving up 101 hits, walking 49, and striking out 103 in 2004, which hurt his draft position. He only allowed four homers in those 110.1 innings. Matt was previously drafted in the 10th round by the Arizona Diamondbacks out of San Jose's Willow Glen High in 2001. He has a fastball that ranges between 92-94 mph.

    With their third pick, they drafted Gabriel Hernandez, a 6' 3", 230 pounder out of Belen Jesuit High School. He is a right hander that played short stop as well as pitcher. Not much info on him except that the Mets drafted him as a pitcher.

    I guess it is plain to see the Mets were drafting pitchers heavily. As Jason from Always' Amazin wrote, I too was hoping Huston Street would fall to the Mets. He only missed by few postions. Oakland drafted him four spots ahead of the Mets. Screw you Beane.

    2004 Draft - First Round

    The Mets made their choice, and it was Phillip Humber. Astoundingly, Rice had three pitchers in the top eight. Talk about talent on that team.

    Humber is 2.27 with a 13-4 record. He pitched 115 innings, gave up 87 hits, walked 37 and struck out 154. In his last start, he was roughed up against Texas A&M for huge upset in the College World Series, but that apparently did not deter the Mets from drafting him. He was widely considered the safest pick out of all the Rice pitchers. I thought Drew would have been the pick if he slipped, but they kept their eye pitching. Verlander would have most certainly been the pick had the Tigers passed him up.

    Arte Moreno has taught us he is not scared of spending dough. Angles fans have to be in love with him. He will do what it takes to win. He is a more like-able version of Steinbrenner that actually smiles. What is not to like about a guy that lowers beer prices, and gives you Vlad.

    Click here for an entire draft recap.

    Mission Accomplished

  • I usually do not like Bob Klapisch, but I must say, he hit the nail on the head in his recent article.

    He wrote:

    It's also apparent the Mets will spend the rest of the summer both thrilling and torturing their fans, as evidenced by the three-game sweep of the Phillies this week, followed by the thud of two straight losses to the Marlins, including Saturday's 7-6 bullpen-driven heartbreaker. The Mets aren't good enough to wrestle first place away from Florida, but they're not so overmatched that another run at the top spot is impossible.

    That is kind of how I feel. They sure have the tools to stack up and hang in there, but nothing devastating that will put teams away and create some separation. Of course, the Mets have a Reyes-less lineup which must be taken into consideration, but Zeile is not doing so bad in the two spot and holding down his starting job. It looks the NL East will be a dogfight all summer between New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Florida.

    I was fortunate enough to be at the Mets game on Sunday afternoon. The weather may not have been good, but the game was great. The Mets got the win against Florida, who had Brad Penny on mound, to bring them back to .500 and 3.5 games out by beating the Marlins 5-2. More importantly, they finished a critical stretch against two teams, who many believe to be the best two teams in the division, and went 6-6. While that might not seem great, the Mets were in just about every game and showed that they could keep pace with them. I was pushing for the shutout as the icing on the cake, but I'll take the win. The Mets have also regained the lead for the lowest team ERA in the majors, followed by Oakland and then Philadelphia.

    Leiter took the mound today and threw blanks up on the board and lowered his ERA to 1.98, but he struggled in his road to doing it. He only gave up two hits, but walked five in 5 2/3 innings with 114 pitches thrown. Like I have said before, I have never seen someone with such a dominant ERA work so hard. He sure does not look dominating when he is out there, but you cannot argue with the results. It seems like 80% of the innings Leiter throws, he is one hit from giving up a few runs, but the hit just does not come.

    Piazza slammed his 13th homerun, which is only four off of the major league lead. I have to say, I like the effect playing first has on his bat, but feel conflicted as I am less than enthusiastic about having him play there. Piazza is on track for 38 homeruns which is a number which he only topped twice. He is looking like the Piazza of old with that rejuvenated bat.

    On one of the more stranger notes, Rick Peterson got thrown out of the game while letting the home plate umpire have a piece of his mind. I have not seen a pitching coach get thrown out that I can remember. Personally, I thought that was great to see and it was appreciated by the few people that showed up to Shea. I hope the Mets keep Peterson around for a long, long time.

  • I've had my fill of managers and their match ups. There are times when you have to have some common sense take over. I already went over Saturday's game in which Howe pulled Bottalico with two runners on and one out. Bottalico was pulled in favor of creating a lefty/lefty match up with Stanton and the on deck pinch hitter Lenny Harris. It turned out that McKeon called back Harris and puts in Damion Easley. My only issue is that Bottalico is holding lefties to a .200 average and a righties to a .220 average while Stanton is holding lefites to a .214 average and righties to a .232 average. All those numbers are solid, but I just do not see an urgency or benefit to pull Bottalico, who seems to be more effective against left handed bats anyway. I think Bottalico being the veteran of 11 major league seasons deserves the chance to try and get himself out of the inning. It was not like he was getting pounded hard. One hit could have been an out with a good pick at first. To me, this is a classic case of over managing and thinking too much.

    The other move that has me aggravated with this match up madness is the failure of Howe to actually play Spencer more often instead of sticking to Karim Garcia in right field. They got the platoon of the two headed monster to have Garcia to play against right handed pitchers and Spencer to play against left handed pitchers. The bottom line is that the plan has not quite worked out as intended and it has to be revisited. Karim is batting .350 in 20 at-bats vs. lefties and .215 in 144 at-bats vs. righties. Spencer is batting .237 in 38 at-bats vs. lefties and .333 in 87 at-bats vs. righties. Just by the numbers alone, one would have to deduce that Spencer is more the capable of playing in a full time role against both righties and lefties. Sticking with this platoon the current way is useless in my opinion. The Mets need to get as much offense in the lineup as possible. Spencer's sample size is large enough that I feel comfortable with his success and he just is not simply lucky. If Spencer falters, and does not continue to hit as he is against righties, you can always go back to the Garcia/Spencer platoon. At this point, it is worth a shot.

  • Minor Notes:

    Lastings Milledge went 2 for 6 with his fourth homerun and five RBIs in the Capital City victory on Sunday. He is now batting .329 and has knocked in an astounding 24 runs in just 18 games. Not bad for a guy who just turned 19 about two months ago.

    Royce Ring went two innings of work on Sunday to lower his ERA to 2.52. He has caught on of late and has been really pitching well. I'd rather have Ring on the MLB roster than Franco if you must carry two lefties. He can take over Moreno's role and Moreno can be pressed into more important situations that Howe would usually turn to Franco for until he proves himself.

    The Mets hot young outfield prospect in AAA, Gerald Williams is now batting .303 after yesterday's 2 for 4 performance (please note the sarcasm). What type of message are you sending young players when you sign a 37 year old guy that will not contribute to the major league team and send down a 24 year old Prentice Redman who has already proved himself at AA? Redman is batting .309 with 11 homers and 42 RBIs. The Mets organization needs to let go of their love affair of has-beens and cut Williams and put Redman back at AAA.

    Aaron Heilman went six innings on Saturday en-route to his sixth loss on the season. He has still not registered a victory and his ERA is now 5.17. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. Time is running out for Aaron.

  • Draft Update:
    The draft is happening today, and things are heating up. Baseball America thinks that the Padres may turn away from Drew and draft local high school star Matt Bush. Some theories have surfaced that San Diego is merely doing this for show in an attempt to drive down the asking price for Drew or Weaver, but that seems unlikely at this point. Drew, who like Weaver, is falling from grace with his astronomical signing bonus demands. Coincidentally, both of them are represented by Scott Boras. Drew is looking for Rickie Weeks money and Weaver is looking for Mark Prior money. One hitch though, Weeks and Prior were much better. Weaver is only projected to be a #3 type starter, but is commonly considered a safe bet to make it to the majors and quickly. Is that worth $10,000,000? That is what teams need to figure out. If Drew is still on the board after the first pick, that changes everything. Drew and Weaver are certainly intriguing picks for all teams that may pose a temptation too large to pass up for teams with an opportunity to draft them.

    From what people are writing, Verlander and Drew are the Mets top two choices. It is looking as though they might get their wish if the Padres pass up on Drew, which would allow Verlander or Drew to fall into their lap depending upon who the Tigers pick. Although Baseball Prospectus thinks that drafting Verlander is a mistake, I just cannot help but think about that electric arm. He is a guy who was clocked at 99mph in the final inning of one of his games. You cannot teach that, but Rick Peterson has a knack for teaching pitchers a thing or two. There is no can't miss players in this draft outside of Jared Weaver, so the Mets taking a chance here is fine by me.

    The Mets are expected to draft Drew, Verlander, or Humber with their choice. The Mets' second pick is number 44 overall. They can go with a safe pitcher there. I think their top choice should be spent on a high ceiling player with all the tools. Verlander could always be converted to be a closer if he does not pan out as a starter and he certainly has the stuff to take that role. Besides that, Verlander is a guy who has two plus pitches, one of which is 99 mph fastball. Those are tools that do not come around often. Rick Peterson had looked at film on all the pitchers that the Mets are interested in. He weighed in with his opinions, so any choice that is made is most certainly something that he believes in as well, which is good enough for me. Kevin Towers had commented on the depth of pitching in this draft vs. the extreme lack of position players, which is why they were leaning towards a position player with their first pick. It was his contention that they can pick up a pitcher with their next pick who would be reasonably talented. I tend to agree with him in that respect. I had soured on Drew previously, but lately I've come around to think he is not as bad as a pick as I thought when it is phrased in the way Towers put it. I'd still rather see them take an arm, but will not be upset with the Drew pick, especially if it softens Boras up for Beltran talks this off season.

  • Sunday, June 06, 2004

    Three Stooges Strike Again

    Last time the Mets won four games in row, they lost four in a row right after that negating any positives that could have been taken out of such a nice stretch. With Brad Penny on the hill tomorrow, it seems as though the Mets are heading towards a four game losing streak with vengeance. The Mets managed to leave an astounding 24 men on base. Yeah, they got six runs, which was not bad, but they should have had double digits easily. This game should not have been even close. They seemingly had guys in scoring position in every inning and failed to get the big hit to bury the Marlins, who incidentally threw scrub pitchers at the Mets all day (including Benitez). Not surprisingly, my three least favorite Mets, Stanton, Weathers, and Franco (aka The Three Stooges) each gave up a run in the loss giving up the tying run, the go-ahead run, and an insurance run for good measure to make sure the Mets had NO chance in coming back. I thought Howe gave Bottalico the hook a bit fast, but hindsight is 20/20. He brought in Mike Stanton to face Lenny Harris, who is 0 for 1 against lefties, but it was obvious McKeon would not have let Harris face Stanton since he has not let him get two at-bats vs. lefties this year. So you have to choose your matchups. Bottalico vs. a guy hitting .226 or Stanton vs. a guy who was batting .294. Howe actually forced McKeon to put a better hitter up there. Damion Easley ended up coming in and tattooing Stanton's offering. Easy for me to criticize now, but when managers go too crazy with matchups, I get frustrated. Sometimes matchups are overrated. Stanton is not exactly a lefty specialist as lefties and righties are hitting just about the same off of him. Not to mention Bottalio actually has a lower BAA against lefties this year than Stanton.

    Check this out.


    You know what that is? The ERAs of the people Howe entrusts games with the most as well as the order they came into today’s game. Stanton with 4.11 ERA came in first, then he followed him up with Weathers and his 4.72 ERA, and finally topped it off with Franco who is sporting a nifty 5.24 ERA. After Franco got into trouble, he turns to Wheeler who had not seen action in four days and is not used to these types of closer situations. He was rested, but not necessarily sharp enough for this type of role. He has been used as the long man for the bulk of his workload. There is no reason that Moreno could not come in at some point to try and hold things together. Moreno needs to get in the game more when it matters. Give the kid a chance. Can he really do much worse? I can hardly see how. His 3.20 ERA is the best outside of Looper’s and he only pitched once in the last four days. They insist on going back to the aforementioned aging scrubs when the chips are down, which is very aggravating to say the least. I cannot get upset with Bottalico, he has been solid so for this year and did not get help from Piazza’s inexperience as first. In the seventh inning, Zeile made a spectacular stop, but bounced the throw over to Piazza, which is too be expected why you come up throwing after the stop he made. Piazza then committed too early, which has been his biggest problem with short hops, and did the 'Italian-American gymnast' split thing. If that damn split is so useful, how come he is the only first baseman that does it so often? That play turns out to be huge. The pick was by no means routine, but Piazza rarely makes any non routine play, which is at least required every once in while. Yeah, yeah, work in progress so he will get a pass, yet again. We do not have a team in which we can give runs away so these things are magnified to me. Lost in that horrendous, un-clutch hitting performance was the Mets first hit off Benitez. Piazza's homerun off Benitez, which was his second of the day, now makes the current Mets a collective 1 for 44 off of Armando. Also lost in that performance was Matt Ginter with yet another solid outing in which he went six innings only giving up two runs. He seems to have staved off any reason for Met management to bring up Erickson to replace him, which I know they must be dying to do. Such veteran presence at their disposal not being used must be eating them alive. Finally, the last thing lost in the performance was Ty's three hit performance. His average is now sitting at a very nice .277. I’ll use that last tidbit about Ty to go into my next thought.

    Norm from The Shea Hot Corner suggests that Floyd should be used to provide protection for Piazza in the batting order. Although it did not look like he needed the protection today, I could not agree more. I believe a shake up is needed to try and squeeze out more production from this lineup. When I see Wiggie batting sixth in the order, I just cannot help but scratch my head. He is the hottest guy in the Met clubhouse. Howe needs to take more advantage of that. He continually goes with the hot hand (i.e. when Valent lead off for a week or so) except in this instance. Piazza he hit too many solo homers because no one is on base in front of him. So why not put a guy who is getting on base more than any other Met lately in front of Mr. New York? My suggestion to Howe:


    Would it work? Maybe not, but how the heck could it hurt?