Archives for posts with tag: 2010 Season

I posted more recently than twenty-eight days ago, but talking about Chip Caray doesn’t count.

So what’d I miss?  Plenty.  And nothing.

Luis Castillo is gone.  No, he isn’t.  Yes, he is.  No, he isn’t.  Roy Halladay will be a Met.  No, he won’t.  Yes, he will.  Not unless the Mets pick up and move to the West Coast, and take their Dodger-esque ball park with them.  John Lackey’s a bigger wild card than It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’s Charlie Kelly. (The preceding link is intended only for mature audiences.  Viewer discretion is advised.)

Alex Cora signed and Elmer Dessens either has or will very soon.  Brian Schneider, who was not on the radar, is completely off the radar, and Chris Coste is a Met, but he barely registered when he wasn’t, and I’m fine with keeping our relationship at that level.

So there.  That’s what’s transpired, it seems.  And a lot of maybes, coulds, and possiblies.  Enough to make me glad I’m not a sports journalist.  Not enough to make me stop daydreaming about it when I’m trying to calculate a company’s overhead, but enough nonetheless.

There’s vitriol, here.  Not seething; not yet.  But looking at my notes for the free agent starting pitchers posts that I either bailed on or got shanghaied away from (you choose your perspective), I’m dismayed by the prospects.  Todd Wellemeyer?  I was going to try and make a case for Todd Wellemeyer?

There’s more.  Oh, believe me, there’s more.

Ben Sheets’ only definitive, demonstrable use at this point would be as a prognosticator of rain delays.  Pay the man a token for his elbow, stick that by the home run apple in center, and designate the $10MM or $12MM that would’ve gone for the rest of him, for something else.

Hey, you know who’s a bajillion million trillion years old?  Bartolo Colon.

If Braden “Blooper” Looper, a former Met reliever, is considered for a spot in the team’s rotation, then I imagine Aaron Heilman’s head will explode.  And that might be reason alone to do it.  In an odd bit of confluence, Looper told Sporting News (you’ll click here for the report via Yahoo! Sports) that he’d be cool with signing with the Cubs.

And speaking of Cubs both potential and former, word is the Texas Rangers just paid $7.5 million for a year of Rich Harden.  Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times‘s Mariners Blog shows a northwesterner’s measured equanimity
in discussing the Mariners’ fortunes, in light of their NOT getting
their man.  I have a friend who called me up as the news was breaking. 
She sounded ready to throw a chair. 

I don’t know.  I’m with Baker.  Name a season in which Rich Harden’s thrown more than two hundred innings one hundred fifty innings.  …

An out below one hundred ninety in 2004.  He gave up five runs in one inning to the 2004 Reds, and Griffey had nothing to do with it.  Positively Perez-ish.

And speaking of that game? Justin Duchscherer replaced Harden during that inning.  Jerry Crasnick’s report from back in August may jog your memory re: Duchscherer.  I’m not pointing that out to say the guy couldn’t take the heat in New York or should have a strike against him as a result of his condition–far from it.  He’s either a competitor and should want to play where he can show he’s the best, or he should stop playing the game and do something else, which would be fine and great.  But he can’t come to the Mets after the Mets’ 2009 season, unless he’s literally made of steel.  Heavy-gauge steel.  Non-corrosive… you get the point.  A hip injury will lead to some kind of metal eventually, but certainly not now, and not in time to be a reasonable and inexpensive option.

And while I’m complaining about people with extended stays on the DL, I remain unconvinced that paying Erik Bedard anything more than a year, a plane ticket, and room and board is a good idea.  Bringing us back to the Seattle Times and Geoff Baker: word is he’ll already miss part of 2010.

Joel Piniero seems like a trap.  And Jayson Stark (as I read from Matt Cerrone’s redesigned Metsblog) is saying Piniero’s agent is worth more than a three-year, $10 million deal.  Expensive trap for a guy that just recently seemed to figure things out, at the Mets’ expense.

Noah Lowry hasn’t been right since 2007, and recently had a rib removed to help relieve a syndrome I’ve never even heard of.  And I once spent sixteen hours with Wikipedia, the complete Talking Heads discography, and a bottle of whiskey (a blizzard knocked out my cable).

Jarrod Washburn?  Uninspiring. 

And the only good thing about Brett Tomko, since at least 2005, has been Julia Schultz.

I can see Jon Garland as that aforementioned reasonable option in a typical off-season, but the dearth of real, electric talent means an inflated market for guys like Garland.  You don’t need me to tell you this; everyone’s shouting about it and, in this rare instance, it bears the rasp of scrutiny.  So Jon Garland’s $6.25 million in 2009 becomes 2010’s $10 million, or $6.25MM a year for multiple years, because the guy’s gotten tired of seeing his reaction to bad news caught by game cameras.

And that’s the thing.  There are two free agents out there who I’d hate to say anything bad about.  And I’ve had a rough four weeks, so I’m looking to say a bad word about any- and everyone I can.  And they will cost scads of cash.  SCADS, I tells ya.

First guy is Jason Marquis.  He’ll ask for A.J. Burnett numbers in cash if not years, and if you look at his 2009 quick line and Burnett’s 2009 quick line, they’re nearly identical (Marquis’s BAA is twenty points higher and his WHIP is two points lower).  So I think he’d have a solid case. 

Mostly, though, whenever I watch Jason Marquis pitch, I don’t get that knot in my stomach like I do when I watch A.J. Burnett.  Marquis doesn’t worry me.  I know his stats show a Romo-esque knack for fading down the stretch, but he doesn’t worry me.

So much of the conversation surrounding the 2010 Mets is going to be about peace of mind.  In the rotation, whoever follows Johan Santana has to inspire confidence.  That guy’s going to have to be a master craftsman, or a bulldog.

Or both, as the case may be.

I’ve made my feelings on John Lackey plain, at one point using the phrase “out of your gourd” to explain the mess that the 2010 rotation would look like given the numbers that were, then, kicking around about the man.  Five years, $80 million.  Six years, $100 million?  Who’s to say, besides his agent?

I forgot to mention that I’m writing not from the Winter Meetings in Indianapolis, but from my exceedingly cold bedroom.  I have no idea what Garland, Marquis, or Lackey are asking for, cash or years-wise.  The trend appears to be richer contracts for lesser talent.

Brinkmanship is another trend, one that’s come together as I’ve read snippets of, and heard on the radio, and watched while putting up my Christmas tree and repainting walls has been alarming.  Seems as though everybody’s screwed, and have pushed their clubs to the limit in fear of being caught as last guy screwed. 

Despite talk of restraint prior to the meetings, there’s been no restraint. (Picking through Ken Rosenthal’s reports here.) Three years and $15 million for Brandon Lyon does not constitute restraint.  Neither does the aforementioned Harden deal, some $9 million for the wisdom of Kevin Millwood, nearly $12 million for Andy Pettitte (that’s just galling), or three years and $30 million for Randy Wolf.  This, good people, is King Midas in reverse.

Does not bode well.  Maybe I’ve had my nose in projected budgets and vendors’ insurance quotes for too long recently to see any sign of brightness in people throwing money, like confetti, out the figurative window, but I don’t think so.  I’m quite concerned that those three guys–Garland, Marquis, and Lackey–will slip to a team with a GM even battier than Omar Minaya, and we’ll be watching a Spring Training full of Kelvim Escobars and Lenny DiNardo retreads.

On that unhappy note, I’m going to bed.

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The WiFi network my hosts have here in Boston is named “Cracker bangs.”  I’ve asked them not to elaborate.

I’m on a short vacation, celebrating some good news a friend has received, and doing it with steakhouses and episodes of Mad Men I’ve missed.  There’s a cat here who plays fetch.  I’m more of a dog person, and I think she (the cat) can sense it, as my right hand has been scratched in a number of places.

I’ve also been thinking about pitchers.  I suppose I should be thinking more about left fielders, or even catchers.  But no one need is greater than the other.  The objective is to build a team here, chumlies.  Chumleys?

I have more to that point.  As has been my trademark excuse over the past few hideous weeks: later.

If you recall:

The exercise was to visit Cot’s Baseball Contracts
website, take a look at each position need, and determine who’s worth
spending time and energy on.  The assumption here is that
everyone who’s on the Mets’ case for having deep pockets and a shallow
farm pool are correct, and that it would be better to spend money than
trade prospects.

What I came to while talking first basemen is that I can find odd justifications for spending time and energy.  Chad Tracy?  Yes.  Nomar Garciaparra?  No.  Broad and moody, like a female weightlifter on steroids.

The Cot’s list for potential free-agent starting pitchers is as long as my arm (not realistically; for a true comparison, see Joe Buck’s remarkably short arms).  And as I said, I’m on vacation.  So instead of detailing EVERYONE whom the Mets shouldn’t call, I’ll pull out the most terrifying of possibilities. 

With apologies to Whitney Houston and the remarkable way she’s come back from her substance abuse problem: if any one of these guys finds himself in a Mets uniform next year, someone in the front office was smoking crack.

Brandon Backe (HOU): Not even as a reliever, which is how he was used this year, with the exception of a start against the Rangers in mid-June.

Daniel Cabrera (ARZ): Thought he was kickin’ it with the Natinals.

Jose Contreras (COL):
I’d say the bloom is off the rose, but I was never on the Contreras bandwagon, even when it was chuggin’ hard in 2005.  Don’t believe me?  Go back in time and check.  

Oh, that’s right: entropy makes time travel to the past highly unlikely, if not impossible.  Thanks, Brian Greene.

Doug Davis (ARZ):
I was calling for him in early July.  Took it back in early August, I think.

Tom Glavine (ATL): Isn’t he retired?  Can’t we do something to force that particular issue?

Mike Hampton (HOU):
It’s not the year 2000.  Ask the gentleman directly above.

Livan Hernandez (WAS):
Remember that scene in Pi where Sean Gullette trepans himself?  Exactly.

Brett Myers (PHI): James Kannengieser of Amazin’ Avenue is all over this one.

Carl Pavano (MIN): Monkey’s Paw!  He’s a Monkey’s Paw!

Odalis Perez (WAS): One O. Perez on the Mets is quite enough.

Sidney Ponson (KC): Bats right, throws right, punches with both hands.  Next.

Jason Schmidt (LAD):
When Joe “Uno Mas” Torre thinks your career may be over, your career is probably over.  Shame.

John Smoltz (STL): I’d rather have a stroke. 

I’m kidding of course.  But I’d rather the baseball equivalent of a stroke.  Which might be Tom Glavine.

…There.  I’ve just explained September 30, 2007.

Ah, single-sentence snarkiness and borrowed humor.  I am a blogger again.

As I mentioned, I’m on a short vacation, so my posting regularity will run inverse to the availability of steak and beer.  But just to show you all that it’s not all been fun and games, here are a couple of photos showing where I was yesterday afternoon:

security council 2.jpg
security council 1.jpg
We passed a measure sanctioning the American League for use of the DH.

The exercise was to visit Cot’s Baseball Contracts
website, take a look at each position need, and determine who’s worth
spending time and energy on.  The assumption here is that
everyone who’s on the Mets’ case for having deep pockets and a shallow
farm pool are correct, and that it would be better to spend money than
trade prospects.

Better Know A First Baseman: Chad Tracy

There should be a term of art for guys like Tracy in the off-season.  Something like “ripcord.”

Tracy has been regressing since 2006, when he was off his career high for homers but managed an slight increase in doubles and, as one thing follows the other, RBIs.

How bad was Chad Tracy last year?  He managed a .695 OPS: that’s a .306 OBP and a heart-stopping .389 SLG.  He was part of a merry go-round last year that included Josh Whitesell and Tony Clark–and I lost track of Tony Clark when I started making my own lunches (that includes his stint with the Mets in 2003).  He stole one base in 2009, upping his career total to ELEVEN.  Delgado managed to steal three when he was 29.

The Mets have no business picking up this Chad Tracy.

However, Tracy’s three years removed from a full year’s workload.  He’s spent his entire playing career in Arizona.  And at his worst, he’s still good for more runs than Nomar Garciaparra.

He’s a ripcord guy.  If the Mets lock in a star left-fielder and manage to pick up another stud pitcher, yet botch the first-base need and find Daniel Murphy’s decided to drop baseball for champion figure skating (there’s an image), you see about what it would take to give Tracy a shot.

He’s younger than most.  He’ll definitely be cheaper than most, not just because it’ll only cost cash to get him, but because he screwed the pooch so magnificently on $4.75 million this year.  Additionally, he’s been what I’m sure can be more craftily described as “not injury-averse”; most recently, he was hampered by a right oblique strain.  Fan-tastic.  I’ve heard that before.

Maybe he needs a change of scenery.  Maybe he needs a wee dose of the HoJo.  Maybe he needs a team to need him. 

Maybe none of these things should matter to a team with a giant payroll, abused fan base, and tortured expectations.

But the man plays third and left, and once upon a time, he was more than serviceable.  If the above ripcord scenario happens, and if he plays any sort of winter ball or is willing to come in for just a look in February and March, I say the Mets check to see if payment due exceeds accounts received.

Yes, I’m closing with a Janis Ian reference.  I’m married; I don’t gotta prove nothin’.

The exercise was to visit Cot’s Baseball Contracts
website, take a look at each position need, and determine who’s worth
spending time and energy on.  The assumption here is that
everyone who’s on the Mets’ case for having deep pockets and a shallow
farm pool are correct, and that it would be better to spend money than
trade prospects.

Better Know A First Baseman: Adam LaRoche

You know, here at Sports Night, we get a lot of mail. Most of it goes something like this: ‘Casey, Dan, you two obviously know a lot about sports. But what can you tell us about legendary Italian song stylist Tony Orlando?’ Well, you should know that Tony Orlando is not Italian, and if you guessed that the man was of Latin decent, you’d be incorrect as well. Mr Tony Orlando hails from Greece, and we thought you should know that.”

Dan Rydell, Sports Night, “The Head Coach, Dinner And The Morning Mail”


David Adam LaRoche is Mexican.  I did not know that.

LaRoche played for three teams last year: the Pirates, the Red Sox, and the Braves, and in a spot of misfortune for the Sox, went 5-for-19 in Boston, prompting Paperbacknovel.com to sponsor Adam’s Baseball Reference page by writing the following:

“Only a pawn in the Red Sox game. What a screw up by Boy Genius Theo Epstein — trading LaRoche for Casey Kotchman. LaRoche finishes with a bang-up end of season for Atlanta — one of their key hitters down the stretch, while Kotchman was a dud.”

(Odd thing about LaRoche’s year: he had twelve home runs, forty RBIs, and a triple for Pittsburgh.  Upon returning to Atlanta, he notched twelve home runs, forty RBIs, and a triple.

No, it doesn’t mean much.  It’s just weird, is all.)

I gotta think LaRoche wouldn’t be too happy to note the vitriol on a page bearing his stats, even if it’s not directed at him.  Comments captured by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Dejan Kovacevic, after Carlos Beltran got his Jimmy Rollins-on, show that LaRoche will call a man out for disrespecting him.

Of course, Beltran rarely says things he doesn’t mean, so he doubled down the following day (as captured by the Adam Rubin of the Daily News).

As unnecessary as the dust-up was, Rodriguez-Bruney it wasn’t.  And if Adam LaRoche could manage to work as a Met, I’m sure he and Beltran would have their talk and that’d be the end of that.  Would it make sense to even bother? 

LaRoche’s fielding is defense was above reproach in 2009, after a less-than-exemplary 2008 that saw six ground- or fly-ball errors out of eight total (between Luis Castillo and The Ole! Kid Daniel Murphy, such things cannot be ignored).

But this is about production.  And without trying to predict a trend, LaRoche has consistently performed better than the league average in OPS.  After a breakout 2006, the lefty’s found some consistency in home run hitting, naturally slamming right-handed pitching at a rate of three-to-one.  Assuming the sky doesn’t fall on the man or he doesn’t hit Renaissance II: Electric Boogaloo, one can assume a 25-home run, 85-RBI season.  For comparison, joyous days were when Beltran and David Wright were pushing for 30/100 seasons.  That happened, if you recall.  Two men on the Mets combined for more than a handful of home runs.

LaRoche’s value would be more apparent on a team looking to “get ’em on, get ’em over, get ’em in,” as is so annoyingly presented as the Mets’ bread-and-butter.  Last year, he drove in the runner from third with less than two out fifty-three percent of the time in 34 opportunities.  By comparison, Russell Branyan did it forty-six percent of the time in 2009 in a similar number (35) of opportunities.  Carlos Delgado did it fifty-eight percent of the time in 2008, with 43 chances.

By the way, feel me on this annoyance with “get ’em on, get ’em over, get ’em in,” I plead with you.  It’s remarkable, exciting baseball, but holding it up as a recipe for success is like me declaring I’ll come out on top this year because I’ve decided to wear pants full-time.  It’s the same thing with the curveball drill held at Mets 2009 Spring Training.  Of course they should be able to hit curveballs.  Of course they should be able to drive runners in.  That’s the job description.  They should also be able to knock tomato cans out of the game by taking meatballs served and whacking the bean out of the house.

(As of this writing, it’s 3a and I find my dinner left me wanting.)

So he’s gotta crush it.  He’s gotta crush it against the Braves and Marlins (who are righty-heavy), the Phillies (who are not), and the Nationals (who knows at this point).

My question is whether he’ll do it at less than $7 million a year, which is what he earned in 2009 as he bounced about.  My guess is no, seeing as how he’s a competent thirty year-old first-baseman who’s had all of a slight hamstring issue and a sore back in five years of service.  He’s not setting the world on fire, but players have signed for more and brought less.

Any multi-year deal for LaRoche at $7 million or more per is where I get off the bus.  Daniel Murphy reached somewhat near LaRoche’s RBI total in a hideous year for him and the Mets in general, and managed to drive runners in at about the same (two points higher) percentage.  And I get the idea that Murphy will spend at least some of the peanuts he’ll earn next year upgrading the stereo on his ’02 Honda Civic.

The above might all sound schizophrenic, but here it is in abstract: Adam LaRoche is not a bad guy.  He speaks his mind and goes where he’s told, and seems to be settling into a good life as a slightly above-average producer and defender at first base.  He’ll make some team looking for a solid citizen very happy someday soon. 

If he should happen to fall to the Mets, and be somewhat desperate, and that power production is supplemented elsewhere in the Mets line-up, AND the Mets decide to rid themselves of Murphy or don’t think he’s ready, worse things could happen than signing him.  But not for years and years, as looks like might happen elsewhere, and not at money that could be spent on trying to cash in on Delgado one last time, or roll the dice with Branyan.

He’s also not Greek, like Tony Orlando is (actually just of Greek descent).  But that’s beside the point.

The exercise was to visit Cot’s Baseball Contracts
website, take a look at each position need, and determine who’s worth
spending time and energy on.  The assumption here is that
everyone who’s on the Mets’ case for having deep pockets and a shallow
farm pool are correct, and that it would be better to spend money than
trade prospects.

Better Know A First Baseman: Nomar Garciaparra

Nomar Garciaparra?  There must be some mistake.

Oh, indeed there is. 

I’d intended to place Garciaparra on the list of “first baseman” who’d have to ship me to Abu Dhabi before I’d accept them as a productive member of the Mets.  I jotted the list down last Sunday night, and I suppose in my addled state missed Garciaparra.  I didn’t think about it on Monday; I was too busy trying–and failing–to reconstruct the Ross Gload trade from memory, while being jostled by my subway seatmate with the large bags and bad perfume. 

When I took my usual ten-minute bagel break at work, I wrapped up the Gload business, formatted the post, and threw it up.

Speaking of ten minutes and throwing up: I attempted just now to talk myself into Nomar Garciaparra the way I successfully talked myself into Carlos Delgado and, to a somewhat lesser extent, talked myself into Russell Branyan.

Not happening.

Garciaparra’s not had more than two hundred plate appearances in two seasons.  He’s three full seasons removed from his renaissance in Los Angeles.  He shows no home run consistency–and if you flash back to the Branyan discussion, home runs are really the point here.  He didn’t record an error last year… in the sixteen games he played at first base.

Yes.

Here are some things I’d rather see happen than Nomar Garciaparra signing with the Mets:

  • Oliver Perez signing a contract extension;
  • an executive order declaring my name be changed to Stacy McGillicutty;
  • the network television return of Stacked;
  • Republican-style health care reform.

I think that’s about all the time I’ll waste on that.  I’m hungry, and Nomar’s gotta start looking for next-phase baseball jobs: coaching; scouting; lawn trimming.

The exercise was to visit Cot’s Baseball Contracts
website, take a look at each position need, and determine who’s worth
spending time and energy on.  The assumption here is that
everyone who’s on the Mets’ case for having deep pockets and a shallow
farm pool are correct, and that it would be better to spend money than
trade prospects.

Better Know A First Baseman: Carlos Delgado

The clock’s ticking on Carlos Delgado and the Mets to talk exclusively.  He filed for free agency on November 5th, and the Mets alone can talk to him until the 20th, after which it’s open season.

Carlos Delgado on the Mets is really only a matter for discussion the way I think bringing back Cliff Floyd should be a matter for discussion.  There’s a heartfelt desire to see the man succeed in a Mets uniform before passing him on to others. 

I recall watching Delgado smack a home run into right in one of my first games of 2009 and shouting something about how he’d hit his five hundredth homer as a Met before Gary Sheffield ever did.  Of course, Gary Sheffield then hit his 500th homer and everyone (myself included) jumped around like maniacs.

Medical science and Delgado’s determination could be two reasons to trust that he’d come back and be a beast of a hitter.  Getting jobbed by one’s own relentless pursuit of work, then getting jobbed by one’s desire to get back to relentlessly pursuing work, isn’t a disqualifier in many fields.  This country’s simultaneously raised a generation of workaholics and a generation of slackers.  It’s significantly more difficult for athletes, but the system’s set up such that a man like Delgado can tear a labrum on Tuesday, have it surgically repaired Thursday, be home by Saturday and rehabbing by Monday.  All while earning a guaranteed paycheck.  The system’s built for speed.  If he looks good, if he says he’s good, if he’s willing to play and willing to kill it, then by all means, let him try.

Rarely does the “grit” or “passion” (or, as I’ve happily had to reference previously,”grission“) argument come with some tangible measure of the quality.  The success of rehab from injury is one such tangible measure.  Duaner Sanchez arrives at Mets camp with more rolls than a bakery dumpster at midnight: he didn’t work hard enough.  Angel Pagan fires a bullet from left-center right on the heels from a return after shoulder surgery, or throws his body into the wall to make a well-timed grab: that guy’s got guts.

Science has provided the tools with which one can determine the amount of scar tissue surrounding an injury, and the muscle lost and regained; we can measure a man’s capacity to run and jump and throw. The rest we leave to their mental state. Can they still throw on target?  Can they still see the ball?  How fast are their reflexes, really, when the chips are down?

It would take me months to recover from hip surgery, and even when I had my full physical capacity I wouldn’t be capable of hitting the broad side of a barn, and being without my glasses for a full week now has proved that I am just absolutely blind.  Until he pulled that oblique, Delgado was still looking to come back to the Mets in 2009.  That’s surgery in May, return in late August.  Three months?  The man is a god.

A god who pulls muscles, but still a god.

The difference between Delgado at this stage and Cliff Floyd at this stage is straight-up production.  Delgado’s been a consistent home run hitter throughout his career, discounting the portion of 2007 that was Willie Randolph-ized.  He rakes and he walks a decent amount, to boot.

And his off-field problems are not, in fact, problems: he’s got opinions regarding the world he’s asked to interact with.  Good.  Before and after baseball, there’s a world going on, and if he can be unconscious on the field, he can be conscious off it.  The man’s a stellar humanitarian and philanthropist.

This is a man to whom giving money to produce should not be a hardship.  He’s not turning the cash into Champagne and pouring it slowly on buxom women in bikinis, who are fresh from a lap in his middle-finger shaped pool; he’s giving toys to kids and supplying equipment to help doctors in Puerto Rico make effective diagnoses.

I have to think he understands the level at which baseball is a business, and a supremely cutthroat one at that.  To continue doing what he feels he has an obligation to do, he’s traded on his body, and in 2009, his body crapped out on him.  The last thing I would ever question is the man’s resolve. 

It must be a simple logic path in his head: come back, prove I’m healthy, prove I can still produce, make more money next year, consistently produce, repeat until my body just can’t anymore.

Any reasonable effort should be made to accommodate a man this determined and this accomplished.  I’m not saying the Mets should finance Carlos Delgado’s slate of causes for the sake of doing so.  But if he’s okay with coming back on an Abreu-’09-style deal: one year at $5 million, I take a real hard look at it, because even if he’s half the man he was, he’s an upgrade over the failsafe option. 

Add incentives: $500,000 bonus if he remains healthy through the trading deadline; $1.25 million if he hits his 500th home run as a Met–again, before the trading deadline.  He can succeed as a Met, move on to be a DH for a team on the bubble, and set himself up to be a high-priced assassin in 2011.  Good for everybody.

Daniel Murphy, as fun and gifted a guy as he is and could be, has a half-year in the tank to give to Carlos Delgado, in the event it all falls to that.  Re-signing Delgado means the pressure would be on to find a young star left-fielder, but that should be Job One anyway.

I think there’s still something there, and yes, I’m making the grission argument.  But it’s grission somewhat quantified, and grission for a purpose.

…I think I just talked myself into Carlos Delgado for 2010, which I wasn’t really expecting I’d do.  At the least, I think I’ve added another person to The Jim Plummer List; anything I read that dismissed Delgado as an option out-of-hand will now probably make me quite angry. 

But when does anything NOT make me angry these days?  I woke up with my pillows thrown across the room, for no other reason than at 2a, I’d decided there were too many pillows on the damn bed.

(I originally had first baseman in quotes.)

Where the hell have I been?

Been working.  Long days at my straight job, which pushed everything back.  Pushed back my screenwriting projects; pushed back my research for a freelance video project that’ll get going in about two months; pushed back the normal housework I have to do to keep from feeling like I’m in some Bohumil Hrabal-esque construct of eventual doom

It’s not that this blog is a low priority; it’s that making money, both in the short and long term, is a high priority.

The goal for the day is to try and catch up on the half-baked analyses I promised last week, now that my P.A. equipment is back where it belongs, and all my pay stubs are filed, and my spreadsheet workbook consistently calculates OTPS costs over a three-year period.  And now that I’ve wrapped up the first draft of Screenplay #3 in my ten-month plan to retire my debt.  If anyone out there is willing or knows anyone who’s willing to purchase a No Exit-style murder mystery set in wintry rural Massachusetts, drop me a line.

But that’s neither here nor there.  Grab your vegetables.

The exercise was to visit Cot’s Baseball Contracts
website, take a look at each position need, and determine who’s worth
spending time and energy on.  The assumption here is that
everyone who’s on the Mets’ case for having deep pockets and a shallow
farm pool are correct, and that it would be better to spend money than
trade prospects.

Better Know A First Baseman: Russell “3TO” Branyan

So, would you prefer a thirty-three year-old first baseman with a herniated disc, who made $1.4 million last season, or a thirty-seven year-old first baseman whose recovery from hip surgery and subsequent conditioning caused him to strain (if memory serves) an oblique muscle? 

Keep in mind that the latter option wasn’t all that big on the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

Russell Branyan is not the most flashy of options, no.  But for a team rumored to be profoundly cost-conscious, and perhaps waffling on the value of still-somewhat-unknown quality known as Daniel Murphy, a Russell Branyan looking to prove himself before a return to the land of the DH might make for a decent bet.

His age reminds one of Fernando “Let’s Turn Two” Tatis, and lately (the past three years), Tatis has had the distinction of seeming impervious to pain, either to himself or those subjected to his performances.  But the last time Tatis managed over thirty home runs, I was in high school.  Branyan did it this past injury-shortened season.  And the meta-story behind the Mets’ talent search in 2010 is home run production.

I’ll deconstruct that argument via hyperbolic hypothetical, and some rote.  Rote is important, however. A series of assumptions is worth squat if you don’t know how you arrived at those assumptions.  It’s time-consuming and tedious, but you’ll thank me in the end for showing my work.

Now, then: take a guy who destroys the baseball, like Albert Pujols (ignore 2009’s postseason; he was chippy).  Now surround him in the order with the infirm, the inept, and the inexperienced.  Give him some major-league caliber pitching to face.  He’s getting walked if there’s a base free, because chances are decent that the guy behind him will have a tougher time knocking the bean around.  Hell, if I’m batting behind him, then walk him even if the bases are loaded.  No way I’m scoring a run.  It’s too much pressure.

David Wright is not quite on Albert Pujols’s plane of existence when it comes to crushing home runs; neither is Carlos Beltran, nor Carlos Delgado.  Nor Russell Branyan.  They’re each legitimate run-producers, but any one of those guys ALONE in an order comprised otherwise of the aforementioned infirm, inept, and inexperienced, will find little protection and thus little opportunity to produce.  Protection is the name of the game.  And much like walking down Starr Street in Bushwick at night, protection comes in the form of a guy with a bat, who knows how to use it.

…I recently had to spend quite a bit of time in Bushwick.  My last visit was without my now-broken glasses.  Look at me on the right, there, in my profile picture.  I’m not scared of that punk, and I live with my demented self every day.

With Wright and Beltran back, and a year of Citi Field’s juju out of their systems, the Mets will be a quarter of their way toward presenting a solid batting order.  Assume Jose Reyes.  Assume Luis Castillo (because I doubt anyone else will).  Assume Chowdah and the pitcher’s spot, and we’re left with three holes in which to slot some protection.

So a guy coming off a shortened career year, and something to prove, might be worthwhile.  Fernando Tatis had something to prove in 2008, and didn’t do too bad for himself.  Dropping Russell Branyan into an everyday first baseman role proves to teams his range of motion and his ability to hit in a place that’s inaccurately rumored as death valley to power hitters.  Note: Ted Berg is not spreading said inaccuracy; he’s arguing against it.

(The video script for Marketing Citi Field To Power Hitters:

Liev Schrieber (V.O.): “This is Adam Dunn.”

INSERT: image of ADAM DUNN chowing down on a foot-high stack of funnel cakes, paper plates included.

LS (V.O.)(Cont’d): He’s thirty years old and his walk-on music is “In The Air Tonight,” by Phil Collins.

INSERT: ten-second clip of Adam Dunn hitting that 465-foot blast off JOHAN SANTANA on May 27th, 2009; include SNY BOOTH FEED.  REPEAT FOOTAGE FOUR TIMES.

LS (V.O.) “When considering your options for the 2010 baseball season, ask yourself: are you better or worse than Adam Dunn?”

RE-INSERT: image of Adam Dunn chowing down on a foot-high stack of funnel cakes, paper plates included.

FADE OUT.)

Delgado has the same things to prove, but given the years he has on most first-basemen, he can’t waste a year of power playing for the Mets and attempting to shag balls.  Russell Branyan can.

However, it seems as thought Russell Branyan probably won’t, as this post by Jim Street of MLB.com states.  Without knowing much about the Mariners, I’d say the reason they’d want him is the same reason the Mets would want him, and the only way they don’t get him is if he feels the money they offer doesn’t constitute fair treatment. 

The fine thing about the Mets is that they have that kind of fair treatment coming out the wazoo, and have shown a propensity for taking over-market flyers on redemption-seeking types with “experience.”  If all the stars align, I wouldn’t so much mind Russell Branyan on the Mets, as long as similar money isn’t spent on the same archetype elsewhere.

And as long as he’s not signed for three years and $36 million, or something similarly obnoxious.

If you go to Keith Olbermann’s Baseball Nerd (linked on the right sidebar, or click here), you’ll find some pictures he took last night at Yankee Stadium.  One he took was of Sean Hannity taking a photograph of him.

There is an object lesson here.

Anyone who watches Olbermann or Hannity (or both, if you can somehow manage to do so without your brain exploding from the convergence of matter and anti-matter) knows that they’re not much for each other’s company.

At the ball park, however, they are civil.  Civil enough to take photographs of each other, in a way that by no means seems to signal a truce, but rather an understanding of rivalry and where its place is, and how it’s to be conducted.

Rivalry in baseball takes place in the ball park.  It takes place on the field.  For fans, the players we cheer are our weapons with which we attempt to achieve superiority.  That’s why we go. That’s why we do our best to show our colors and fill to capacity the place we know as our second home.

Fans can get caught up in thinking that cheering is not enough, and that energy turns into something harsher, and unwelcome.  While cheering and jeering is perfectly acceptable, fistfights aren’t.  Battery isn’t.  THROWING batteries isn’t.

Again, I’d like to point out this photo, of a Phillies 2008 championship flag being set on fire at Citi Field this past season.

burn.jpgSmeared and blurry as it may be, this is the image that sticks in my head as fandom gone horribly wrong.  It’s fandom pushed to this place by rowdy idiots, but not to be condoned no matter who’s responsible.

I’m pleased the Yankees won the World Series in part because I do believe it’s perfectly acceptable to root for a team based in New York if you live in New York.  That debate’s been had, and it seems that over the past week that rather than eat our young, Mets fans on any side of the issue have agreed to disagree.

I’m pleased the Yankees won the World Series because they beat the Phillies.  I think Jimmy Rollins has some thinking to do about his freelance gig as a prognosticator.  I think Cole Hamels needs some time to burnish his image with the team’s fans.  I’m pleased as all get-out that Shane Victorino grounded out to end the game.  That guy’s a jerk.  Empirical study has proven it to be so.

I’m pleased the Yankees won the World Series because it means Philadelphia today doesn’t look like a smoking hulk out of some Roland Emmerich movie.

But mostly I’m pleased because it provides me with the opportunity to make this extended announcement, to any fan of the Phillies who may have engaged in the kind of near-criminal abuse of other people who happen to come from elsewhere, and who may be reading:

“Fan”: there’s a time and a place to be a degenerate. 

New York has been home to MILLIONS of degenerates over the years.  They’ve burned parts of this city down over the course of decades.  They’ve been part of a culture of violence and decay that threatened to ruin it.

Yet while some today moan and complain about how no one in Times Square knows how to mug them right anymore, most of us are glad to have the pleasure of being concerned with how many Starbucks franchises constitutes the correct number for a five-block radius.  These are concerns of adjustment.  They’re not concerns of crisis.

The Yankees conducted themselves in a straightforward, business-like manner, and believe me, that’s infuriating to a lot of New Yorkers as much as it’s pleasing to others.  They did their talking on the field. 

They did their talking with their wallets ($201M in 2009), as the Mets tried to ($149M in 2009), and as the Phillies tried to ($113M in 2009), and as the Twins barely could ($65M in 2009).

When the Yankees won, their fans went as crazy as t.p.ing a tree a few blocks from my house, and dropping half-full beer bottles on the street.  I’ve not one report of a torched car, nor one report of some clown standing on top of a car that then takes off, leaving him prone and concussed on the asphalt.

Just because there’s no destruction of physical property doesn’t mean people didn’t drink so much they puked, or blared their horns as they drove down the street heading home, or conceived a child.  Or–sweet Jesus–all three.

(Section Five Twenty-Eight does not condone drinking and driving, or drinking, then driving.  Driving, then drinking, is the appropriate order.)

There’s a time and a place to be a degenerate, I say to those who’ve ever thrown a punch or urinated on a cap or verbally assaulted a minor while wearing the red and white. 

New York is not that place.

This is not a plea for you to change your way of life at home, though I’d certainly appreciate any further destruction attempted be kept away from our country’s national treasures.  This is a strong damn warning to refrain from acting like an animal when you come to the home of the Mets. 

Come in as many numbers as you want, or you feel you need.  Spend your money. Do your worst in jeering the players on the field if you think they’re overrated showoffs.  The Mets have a laundry list of problems to fix for 2010, but that doesn’t make them any less capable of stomping the Phillies at Citi Field, or Citizen’s Bank Park.  THAT is the fight that I and Mets fans like me–and there are thousands like me–are looking forward to. 

We’re NOT looking forward to telling you to shut your mouth when you start berating US and not the players on the field, and having to do so to the point where only a fist to the face will shut you up or keep our children from crying.  Our past is not so far from our minds that we’ve forgotten how to defend ourselves, and we will.  But fights are not why we go to the ball park.  If that’s why YOU go to the ball park, then DON’T come to our ball park.

My overarching hope with a Yankees victory was that people like you, the degenerate, will have gotten out of bed today, stared into the mirror, and found some humility.  There’s no one–not even Yankees fans–who can’t find their humility. 

As one who’s been humbled many, many times, I can say with certainty that THIS lesson in humility is one you deserve.  Not the Phillies fan down the street who goes to New York and cheers the Phillies and boos the Mets, but talks baseball, not pure obscenity.  Not the Phillies fans who celebrated 2008 by cheering Ryan Howard’s power or Jimmy Rollins’s skill.  Not those guys.

You, the guy who in 2008 thought it was great fun climbing up a lamppost and chucking beer cans at the world.  You, the guy who was looking forward to doing it again this year.  You, the guy that clapped as Jose Reyes took Chase Utley’s knee in his head, then cheered as he lay there.

You, guy.  There’s a time and a place to be a degenerate.  That you can’t even be one in the privacy of your own home is what I’d hoped would be taken from you, at the unfortunate expense of fans who deserved a championship a hell of a lot more than you or your ilk.  Look in that mirror, and think about what you’ve done in the past. 

Understand that, karmically, YOU caused this.  The team you proclaimed homegrown and gritty lost to superior numbers and superior dollars.  That, in my book, reads as success spoiled.

I don’t state this case cheerfully.&
nbsp; There is no tone of gloat, here.  I have no real problem with the Yankees or the fans I’ve met and are friends with.  But they’re not my team, so I can’t really share in the celebration.  Your loss this year is only the means to what I hope will be a more civil end.

Next year, Phillies fan, for both our teams.  Come correct, or don’t come at all.

**Someone please pass this along to the genius who wanted one put in Jose Reyes’s neck.

**Editor’s note: Updated November 9th, because I can’t tell the difference between Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity.

For those who’ve taken a look at my Twitter feed, you know Halloween was a rough time for Old Man Vargas.  Ten straight hours of work starting at 7p, and settling for (an admittedly excellent) cheeseburger for breakfast the following morning.  I’m still feeling sluggish on the ride in, and the eight thousand calories I consumed over the course of the past 60 hours may have something to do with that.

All my talk of productivity yesterday went down the crapper, as well.  That’s why the site looks much the same as it did Friday.

Difficult still is all the pain-in-the-neck stuff which always accompanies big A/V events.  Two days later and I still have to pick up gear.  This will interrupt my Game Five watching (I have comment on Game Four, but I’ll wait), just as attempting to do a pick up destroyed my day yesterday.

Really, when it comes down to it, my estimates of time it’ll take to do something are far too conservative.  Deejay a party?  Five days.  Strike the set?  Seven.  Cook a sumptuous meal for dinner guests, including Mr. Wallingford?  Don’t even ask.  Just mix me a drink and stop complaining for ONCE in your life, Maude.  Stop complaining, or pack a bag and go to your mother’s.  Hell, I’ll DRIVE you.

But we’re at least still on track to talk free agents.

If you recall, the exercise was to visit Cot’s Baseball Contracts website, take a look at each position need, and determine who’s worth spending time and energy on.  The assumption with this exercise is that everyone who’s on the Mets’ case for having deep pockets and a shallow farm pool are correct, and that it would be better to spend money than trade prospects.

Today, we review the free agents who’ve played first base, at least on occasion, that the Mets shouldn’t touch with a ten-foot clown pole.

Hank Blalock (TEX): Slipping into DH land.  Methinks an unorthodox option, but after Duaner Sanchez and John Maine, anyone who’s had shoulder surgery (like Blalock in ’06) to end their season is no one I want to think about.

Jason Giambi (COL)
: Surely, you jest.   Hey, you know who’s almost eighteen months younger and I still trust to field a ball every now and again?  Carlos Delgado.

Ross Gload (FLA): Brooklyn-born Ross Gload has never hit more than seven home runs in the majors, and was part of a Grade-A cluster… bomb.  Clusterbomb… of a trade in 2002.  Check it out (from Baseball Reference):

January 21, 2002: Traded as part of a 3-team trade by the Colorado Rockies with Craig House to the New York Mets. The New York Mets sent Lenny Harris and Glendon Rusch to the Milwaukee Brewers. The New York Mets sent Benny Agbayani, Todd Zeile and cash to the Colorado Rockies. The Colorado Rockies sent Alex Ochoa to the Milwaukee Brewers. The Milwaukee Brewers sent Jeromy Burnitz, Lou Collier, Jeff D’Amico, Mark Sweeney and cash to the New York Mets.

January 26, 2002: Purchased by the Colorado Rockies from the New York Mets.

Catch all that?  Because I’m still stuck on how he’s never hit home runs in the double digits.  Christ, I trust Daniel Murphy to hit more than ten next year, and hopefully from the bench.

Aubrey Huff (DET) (B): The dark-horse darling of the “Why-Don’t-We-Just”ers of the class of 2009.  Never proved to be an offensive powerhouse in same said year.

Nick Johnson (WAS) (B): For no real reason, Nick Johnson reminds me of a story told to me by a couple of friends who are Knicks fans:

Mike and Nick are riding up an escalator into Madison Square Garden, a couple of years back when the Knicks were running their “Experience The…” campaign.  They pass a banner with a close-up image of Eddy Curry; the text reads: “Experience The Emotion.”

Mike turns to Nick and asks: “Is hunger an emotion?”

Kevin Millar (TOR): Riding out the twilight in Toronto.  Fewer than three hundred plate appearances last year.

Robb Quinlan (LAA): Yeah… just ’cause he’s listed as a first baseman doesn’t mean he actually played first base full time.  That goes for most of you, in fact.

Matt Stairs (PHI): See above.  Anyway, as I said last week: over my dead and violated body.  Matt Stairs is a University of Phoenix course and car wash ownership stint short of selling his 2008 ring, anyway.  See you in twenty-three years, Matt.  Don’t take any calls from Jim Cramer.

Mike Sweeney (SEA): He, too, has slid into DH-dom, and not regularly, either.  I think I’d take a flyer on Hank Blalock before Mike Sweeney.  But when you get to players over 35, the Carlos Delgado clouds begin to gather again.  Pay attention, as he’ll necessarily capture a lot of later discussion about the position.

Jim Thome (LAD): No, hunger is not an emotion.

That’s not a fair joke to end on; I’m sure Eddy Curry could devour Jim Thome, if given the chance.  But that guy’s been through enough, anyway.

Curry, not Thome.

Tomorrow, Russell Branyan and Carlos Delgado, in a “Good God, Just Eliminate The Position” Steel Cage Match.

Later tonight, some World Series thoughts, provided I don’t get trapped in a web of XLR cables and packing tape.

Greg Prince over at Faith And Fear In Flushing marks the anniversary of Mets ’86, which occurred twelve days after the anniversary of Mets ’69.  Somewhere around here I’ve got the start of a none-too-positive “Twelve Days Of Metsmas” song; I’ll refrain from finishing it.  Last time I came up with a Mets song parody, I mailed it to a friend in hopes of executing some reverse karma.  Then most of the team went down with injuries and fourth place was clinched shortly before a playoff berth in the NL East.  YOU do the work this time.

**

Slim, slim pickins when it comes to Mets baseball news.  I was emailed an article by a friend who’s not a baseball fan, asking who I’ll be rooting for.  I sent back my posts on the WWTwo.  Got to thinking about other teams that are making news this week, in one form or another.  Padres hired a new GM: Jed “Don’t Call Me Steny” Hoyer.  Indians hired a new manager: Manny “At Least I Do My Homework” Acta. 

Hell, even Mark McGwire’s pulling a Cardinals paycheck again.  (Everyone say it with me: dingers!) 

Really, in these stories there’s barely even a segue into Metsville.  These guys are all retreads in one way or another.  Jed Hoyer worked for the Red Sox.  Manny Acta (who yes, was a coach for the Mets, but so long ago the neurons have gathered dust) tried really hard with the Washington Nationals.  Mark McGwire’s going the HoJo route. 

There’s a bit of an incestuous quality to baseball, necessitated by history and difficulty, and an odd kind of pride and haught that excludes, on the whole, those who might seek to make a lateral move into the job market.  To wit: the Padres weren’t about to hire a floor manager from Goldman Sachs to be their GM. 

Players are bought from other clubs, signed as free agents, or traded.  But there’s absolutely no guarantee that the second baseman on the Tuscaloosa Barn Rats was the straw that stirred the drink, and will stir your team’s drink.  John Lackey’s past performance is not indicative of his future results.  I don’t care how much he declares something is his.  I suppose my point is: nobody knows nothin’. 

That stated, let’s play a game.

Use Cot’s Baseball Contracts list of 2010’s free agents, and see if you can spot desirable free agents in the consensus fields of need. 

What the hell do I mean by that?  I mean that consensus seems to be that the Mets need some combination of one or all: first baseman; left fielder; catcher; pitcher.  Go to the free agent list, and see if you can spot guys you like. 

This’ll be tons easier than trying to target a player for trade, as consensus also seems to be that the Mets don’t have much to trade, and what they do have they should hang on to.  Besides, rabid trade talk is the stuff of winter, and we’re not quite there yet.

Keep your list, and we’ll run through them all, Colbert Report “Better Know A…” style.  Management reserves the right to Bobby V. his homework if a person on any of the lists is a laughable option (Matt Stairs, for example, will be the Mets starting first baseman over my dead and violated body).  But the homework that I DO do should help when the time comes to put one’s hand on the hot stove.  Because no one likes second-degree burns.

We’ll start next Monday. Should give me enough time to come up with more Matt Stairs jokes.