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

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Underdogs No More

Fighting the good fight? Possibly not.

Congratulations, Boston fans. Your Red Sox are the new Yankees.

Oh, I'm not saying that one World Series championship in the past 88 years is on par with the Yankees winning 26 championships and 39 American League pennants in the same period (I already get enough hate mail from New York fans to suggest such a ludicrous thing). But when the Red Sox signed J.D. (the Iron Man) Drew to a $70 million contract and invested $103 million in Daisuke Matsuzaka, they officially became everything Boston fans used to loathe about the Yankees. A team that fills out its roster by opening up a Costanza-thick wallet.

When your team adds $1,111,111.11 to a bid just because it looks cool, you're no longer entitled to complain about the Yankees' spending habits. While Boston's projected 2007 payroll (perhaps $140 million) is still substantially south of New York's, it still will likely be more than all the other teams in baseball. If the Red Sox aren't the new Evil Empire or co-Evil Empire, they at least are Wal-Mart to New York's Halliburton.

My hatred for the Yankees, which incidentally has significantly decreased this past off-season, has clouded my vision. I always thought of the Red Sox as the poor little ‘ole Red Sox who were fighting evil in the name of all that is scared and holy taking on the most maniacal franchise in creation. Guess what? It turns out the Red Sox are pretty much in the same boat with the exception that they have a cast of more likeable characters. It is pretty interesting how I’ve justified the Red Sox insane payrolls that dwarfed just about every other team’s payrolls with the exception of the Yankees’ payroll because they were the best team suited for taken down the Yankees. In reality, they are just as bad as the Yankees.

Of course my favorite team could be pushing into the $120 million+ stratosphere in terms of overall salary if they land Zito and while I want the Mets have swellicious team, it almost makes me feel a little funny inside to be throwing that type of money around while other teams are hindered by geographical impotence. I’ve kind of said to myself that $105 million is the benchmark for reasonable spending. It’s within reach of a lot of teams to hit that number and not far off of the majority of all teams. If you can win with that type of payroll and field a perennial playoff team, you’ve demonstrated the skills as a front office to get to that point with a solid mix of intelligent spending, good drafts, and solid trades. The Mets in 2006 were a shining example of this. The 2007 Mets are kind of poised to blow that out of the water, but the only saving grace for me is that it would be a temporary one year push while some more Mets youngsters get up to snuff.

Either way, it is certainly funny how your point of view changes when teams you do like and don’t like operate by identical business practices and the same business practices that you also happen to loathe them for. However, with the Yankees shifting back towards player development, as the Mets have, and their huge coffers of US currency, it seems they could very well be on the brink of another ten years of domination. Small market teams biggest fears should have always been large market teams getting 'it'. Spending big bucks on a Kevin Appier out of desperation rather than showing some restraint was how big market teams had big time payrolls without big time results. These days, big market teams seem to have had a change in organizational philosophies and operate with a blend of big time cash and some serious players being developed on the farm and not trading them for veterans. Small market teams jobs may have just gotten harder in lieu of this. Top notch player development combined with financial muscle is not exactly what the Terry Ryans and Billy Beanes of the world are looking forward to dealing with.

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  • You have to love it.

    "I feel like I did when I was a rookie," Sosa told The Associated Press. "I have a lot of spirit and a desire to return. I think I can play three or four more years in the form I am now."

    Sosa hit the ball out of the park 15 times while training at a field in San Pedro de Macoris that is operated by the Japanese Central League's Hiroshima Carp.

    The 38-year-old slugger said he had received calls from teams interested in signing him but declined to reveal their names.

    Why is it that old people feel the need to say they feel like they did twenty years ago when that is impossible. There is no way a 38 year old athlete feels like they did when they were 21. The only way this is even possible is if someone gained 100 pounds in their 20’s and lost it all twenty years later. Otherwise? Not happening. So can everyone just stop it already?

    As for five teams being interested? He’s be LUCKY to get a minor league invite.

  • As Farva pointed out, the Rangers are seemingly pretty damn interested in Mulder. While Zito would be a sure thing to be healthy and Mulder obviously is not a sure thing to be healthy, as I stated before, Mulder's 2.00 G/F ratio for his career would be much better suited for Texas. Lower risk in terms of money and higher reward in terms of production. Seems like Hicks should know where to focus all of his attention.

  • Offers, offers, and more offers.

    One person familiar with the meeting between the Mets and Zito, along with Zito's agent, Scott Boras, said the Mets were moving slowly. But that source also said five teams had made offers. While he did not detail them, Boras told The Associated Press: "We've gotten offers from every team we've dealt with. We're past the preliminary meet-and-greet stages."

  • Who hasn't pissed outside of their Bentley?

  • Prices? Up. Mikey no likey. They have crept up every year. Yes, my ticket package only went up by $70 or so, but they've done that every season. They made tons more money last year, you would think they would cut a brother a break. Not so much.

  • The Yankees lead the league in luxury tax.

  • Tim Marchman's glass is half fucking full and I like it.

    Zito's rates of line drives, fly balls, and home runs allowed have all been fairly stable over the years, but his walk rate did rise a bit this year to around four walks per nine innings, and his strikeout rate did drop a bit, to around six a game. This doesn't mean he's about to implode. What it does mean is that he's likelier to decline next year than he is to improve.

    This is where you have to judge him against what he's done. If Zito puts up a season in line with the worst he's ever had, he'll still be one of the 50 best pitchers in baseball, or a solid no. 2 starter. That's not a bad downside. . That's not a bad downside. Pitchers whose absolute upside is as a no. 3 starter are getting $11 million a year these days.

    I 100% agree and what he says next pretty much encapsulates what all of us think his downside is.

    ...he'll be a solid, Glavine-type starter for the life of his deal, a Cy Young candidate in seasons where everything goes just right and a quality no. 2 starter in his lesser years.

  • Dayton Moore just keeps on going. David Riske only helps their bullpen get better and this team is going to be annoying in 2007. The AL Central may very well be the most competitive division with the Indians due to rebound, the Tigers coming fresh off the World Series, the White Sox still being a very good team, and the Twins are in it every year. They Royals have no shot at not finishing last, but they'll look infinitely better doing it.

  • Dayn Perry gives us a nice little article to read this holiday weekend.
  • Wednesday, December 20, 2006

    Talky Talky....Mets Talky

    Rob Neyer? Not fond of the Mets. However, I do like Mr. Neyer and I will not hold it against him.

    JB (Kutztown, PA): Don't you think Endy Chavez has earned the right to be a starter? He's the best defensive OF the Mets have and Alou played 99 games last year. Oh yea he's also 41. What's the deal?

    SportsNation Rob Neyer: I do not. Chavez's career stats suggest that he's a fourth outfielder. At best.

    I do agree with Neyer here, but did he have to throw in that 'at best' business? I think Endy finally came into a situation conducive to letting him relax and play the role that he is supposed to play and was certainly the right age to break out. While he may not be as good as his 2006 form, I do think he will be a productive player for the duration of his career if he plays within himself and sticks the roles he should be in.

    Chris(NY): If the Mets sign Zito, will Oliver Perez still be assured a rotation spot? I dont think it is well remembered, but before his dominant 2004 year, he almost didnt make the Pirates rotation out of spring training, but then he made the most of his chance. Maybe the Mets just need to apply some pressure to him. No better place for pressure than NY.

    SportsNation Rob Neyer: I wish Oliver Perez a long and successful career, but his performance in that last game will likely be his legacy. He's still got a good arm and he'll get more chances, but a championship contender really doesn't have the luxury of blowing a dozen starts on a guy who can't pitch.

    Can't pitch? I certainly have to disagree with that and that is not me just being a homer. He has a good arm and all the tools you need to be an extremely successful big league pitcher. Mid 90's fastball? Check. Biting slider that makes professional players look stupid? Check. Competitive edge? Check. At the every worst, he should be an very good set-up man or even closer. At best, he can be a #1 or #2 starter in this league. Realistically, I think he'll be a very good starter capable of tossing out gems but settling in as a mid-rotation guy overall.

    Jason (NY): Why are the Mets reluctant to put Heilman in the rotation?

    SportsNation Rob Neyer: Probably because in 25 career starts he's 5-13 with a 5.93 ERA. I'd give him another shot, too, but it's not hard to understand why the Mets aren't so eager.

    Well, that's not fair since we all know he was more successful in the bigs after dropping his arm, but that's neither here nor there. It does seem clear the Mets do not have the utmost confidence in him as a starter or they might not be looking to deal for one at the cost of losing him. If the Mets fail to get Zito and cannot pull of a trade, it certainly merits giving him a look.

    Overall, not many good things to say about the Mets in the chat by Mr. Neyer and I do think he was being a bit hard on them. Perhaps it's jealousy and perhaps it is just some New York bias.

    While on the topic of people Mr. Neyer is not a fan of....

    Before trying to put him in some sort of context, let's split Zito's six full seasons in half: 2001-2003 (Part 1), and 2004-2006 (Part 2, so far) …
            Starts Innings  BB   SO  HR   ERA  RSAA
    Part 1 105 675 246 533 61 3.17 92
    Part 2 103 662 269 485 81 4.05 34
    Through the 2003 season, Zito was a special pitcher (by the way, RSAA stands for Runs Saved Above Average, courtesy of the Complete Baseball Encyclopedia). Since 2003, though? Not so much. The walks and homers and ERA are up ( i.e. bad), the strikeouts and Runs Saved Above Average are down (ditto).

    How does Zito compare to some of the other top young starters in the game? Considering only 2004 through 2006, here are some of our special pitchers:
            Starts Innings  ERA  RSAA
    Santana 101 693 2.75 137
    Oswalt 102 699 3.14 93
    B. Webb 101 672 3.40 87
    C'penter 93 645 3.10 85
    Halladay 72 495 3.24 80
    Zito 103 662 4.05 34
    That is not an exhaustive list, by any means. Over the last three seasons, Zito ranks just 27th among starters in Runs Saved Above Average. With 34, he's behind not only those luminaries listed above, but also (among others) fellow left-handers Buehrle (58 RSAA), Pettitte (56), Dontrelle Willis (48), Rogers (46), Glavine (40) and C.C. Sabathia (36). We might be charitable, and bump Zito up a few spots because he's been pitching in the tougher league. Still pretty hard to argue that he's one of the 20 best starters in the majors (especially if we give Oakland's defense as much credit for his recent success as it probably deserves).

    Ouch. We already went over the other day how much Zito actually compares with Glavine through the same ages in their respective careers in a more offensively charged era and he is very quick to take a look at those last three years when one season is especially out of line with the rest. Zito posted his lowest win total, highest ERA, and highest h/9 in one of those years and averaged a 7.93 h/9, 1.30 WHIP, 6.45 k/9, and won thirty games to twenty three losses in the other two.

    Furthermore, I'm not allergic to stats like RSAA or anything, but sometimes fancy baseball stats aren't the end all be all. I do not care what RSAA says, but Rogers, Buehrle, Pettitte, Glavine, and possibly even Dontrelle Willis are not better than Barry Zito and will not outperform him if Zito is in Queens next season.

    From DG in the comments last night...

    "During his career, Zito has won an astounding 95.5 percent of the games in which Oakland scored at least four runs for him and was 15-0 last year in such games for the light-hitting A's (and 16-0 when they scored three or more runs)."

    Someone want to send this to Marty Noble?

    Swellicious. Sign me for five years of that with an easily attainable sixth year option.

    * * *

  • The Mets signed five minor league free agents. It's good to see WillieCollazo back in '07.

  • If I hear any more Melky to the Pirates for Mike Gonzalez rumors, I might crap my pants. Really, he will be a league average player at the zenith of his career and more likely a borderline starter. Yes, he is 22 and hit .280 last season, but that does not change the fact he is in a lineup that could make Mario Mendoza look like a decent player. The Pirates may be targeting Melky so they can use him to acquire LaRoche, but why would the Braves go for that? Please, just make these Gonzo to the Yankees deals go away.

  • Dare to dream...

    Look, they both want it so it can be worked out amicably and they could end this soon. We all know that each side will have to make some concessions if a deal is to get done, but they should be able to wrap this thing up sooner rather than later. It remains to be seen what is actually true as no one else is saying much, but it certainly would not surprise me. Hopefully this should be wrapped up before the New Year.
  • Tuesday, December 19, 2006


    Well, not yet. But hopefully this all gets wrapped up before I go incommunicado for New Year's weekend. We know that the Angels have said they are out of the Zito bidding, but we also know that anything can happen and Moreno could fish into his deep pockets for cash. The Dodgers seem set with pitching, the Cubbies should be tapped out after signing Jason Marquis, the Giants suck, and the Padres are assuredly out of the running. What really concerns me now is that fact that the Rangers have put out an offer, but no one knows what it really is. Hell, do we even know if an offer was actually placed?

    This is where Scott Boras excels. The Mets could very well be bidding against themselves and a phantom bid. I said that even though the Daisuke signing was a different circumstance, there are things to be learned by the way the Red Sox handled themselves. Omar is going to be tough in regards to these negotiations. I do think that the Mets truly believe Barry is a vital part to the 2007 Mets, but I also believe they will not do whatever it takes to get him and they will not let Boras get them to bid against themselves.

    Now the Mets are taking the show on the road in an attempt to ensure Barry sees the painfully obvious benefits of him being on the Mets. What they need to do is find that sweet spot that will make him come to New York for less money than Hicks may or may not have offered him.

    * * *

  • Plant Zito? Believe it.

  • Let's all take a moment and pray for Calvin D.

    What is the status of Steve Trachsel? I really like him, but I'm concerned that he's not listed as a pitcher on the Mets' roster.
    -- Calvin D., Hurricane, W.Va.

    Trachsel no longer is on the Mets' roster. He is a free agent, and the Mets have decided not to pursue him.

  • I'd love to make fun of Steve Phillips for being wrong, but I never though he would actually sign either.

  • The Alex Rios on the block rumors are certainly interesting.

    An intriguing possibility would be a Mets-Jays swap for Rios. The Mets were ready to swoop in and make a pitch for Wells if his negotiations fell apart, and threads of those conversations might be picked up in a Rios deal. As Barry Zito and his agent know, the Mets don't have much in the way of established, front line starting pitching, but they do have depth in young, inexperienced starters, like Aaron Heilman.

    Now, I do not think that Heilman would get a deal done and I do not think the Mets really have much of a match since the Blue Jays would be looking for more of a sure thing, but you never know. The Mets also have Lastings Milledge for an expanded deal, but where does that really get the Mets? I've liked Rios as a prospect for a long time, but the power was just never there....except for two months in the beginning of 2006. Other than that? Not so much. Not before that and not when he returned after injury.

    The Blue Jays might be highly advised to move Rios for the simple fact his trade value might be as high as it is going to get...or he could really be a five tool stud. I think it is a toss up right now. I do not think it's a question of if Alex will be good, but more of how good. A .300 hitter with 10-12 homers annually and great defense at a corner outfield spot or a .300 hitter with 25 or so homers? The former is not worth what it might take to pry him loose and the latter certainly would be. There would be too much risk in acquiring Alex Rios for a top young arm especially since the Mets are more in need of an arm than a bat. Lastings Milledge may very well end up being better than Alex Rios at this point while Rios will cost significantly more over the next few years and it cannot be ignored that Rios will turn 26 this February and has 28 homers in 385 big league games.

    Unless the Mets can pull of a deal of the Heilman for Rios ilk, which makes little sense for the Blue Jays, it simply is not worth it. He's an intriguing player, the Mets are sufficiently deep with toolsy outfielders and might be better advised to dish some off rather than stockpile more while losing pitching depth.

  • Jeremy Bonderman gets extended for four years at $38 million and it's a good deal for both sides.

    Bonderman gets $4.5 million next year, $8.5 million in 2008 and $12.5 million in each of the following two seasons.

  • The Mets are guaranteed to have four of the top 100 picks.

  • Huh?

    "Pittsburgh's not ready yet," the official said. "(The Yankees) have an interest, but I don't know if (they) would do Cabrera for him."

    See the above Buster Olney link for stats on Gonzalez in regards to him being 7th in the bigs in 1-2-3 innings with .389% of his innings having three guys come up and three guys get out. He might have his control issues, but he is certainly worth more than Melky Cabrera. The Pirates getting LaRoche who hit 32 homers makes a bit more sense, but I still think Cabrera is getting over valued in the deal for LaRoche. I wouldn't mind the Braves getting a lesser player, but the Yankees would pull off another coup in the end if this deal goes down.