Archive for the ‘Mets’ Category

The Yankees lost out on another potential trade target when Gio Gonzalez was traded to the Washington Nationals for a package of prospects. At the price the Nationals paid, the Yankees probably weren’t a player for Gonzalez anyway, so the trade really doesn’t alter the team’s offseason strategy. However, it does further an interesting development taking place around baseball, and particularly in the N.L. East.

Nationals' fans may get down on their knees after their team acquired widely coveted Gio Gonzalez. (Photo: Getty Images)

There are a variety of differing opinions on Gonzalez. Some believe he is gradually emerging as one of the best young arms in the game, while others suspect he may not be able to continue outperforming his relative inability to throw strikes. As with most young pitchers, it’s hard to predict what path Gonzalez will take in Washington, but regardless, the Nationals’ aggressive move speaks volumes about the internal view they have about their team as well as the economic boom taking place throughout the game.

When the Angels signed Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, we learned that Arte Moreno’s shopping spree was being funded by a new multi-billion television deal. Similarly, the Rangers aggressive spending since being sold to the ownership group fronted by Nolan Ryan has been linked to TV money. Now, it seems, we can also add the Nationals to that list.

According to a report in the Washington Examiner, the Nationals are in the process of negotiating a new payout from MASN that could be substantially higher than the $29 million fee they currently receive. With the expectation of increased revenue, the Nationals’ decision to accelerate their rebuilding strategy makes perfect sense. Even though Gonzalez, who is entering his first year of arbitration eligibility, won’t cost the Nationals much initially, the price in prospects was very steep. The team’s willingness to cash in so many future chips for instant gratification must mean the Nationals either think they are ready to contend now, or have the financial wherewithal to significantly expedite the process. When Washington broke the bank to sign Jayson Werth last year, many pundits scratched their heads, but clearly, the organization has adopted a very optimistic outlook. Even though GM Mike Rizzo probably already regrets the decision to sign Werth, it says a lot that he and owner Mark Lerner remain undeterred in their attempts to quickly improve the team.


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Recent times have not been kind to Fred Wilpon.

The last five seasons haven’t been very kind to the Mets. Whether on the field or in the board room, the team has been besieged by a myriad of unfortunate circumstances ever since Carlos Beltran was mesmerized by a Adam Wainwright curve ball to end the 2006 NLCS. Not surprisingly, the Mets’ hardship has led to much ridicule, particularly from the less compassionate segment of the Yankees’ fan base. Despite the dark days still ahead, however, there is every reason to think the Mets could still have the last laugh.

In the three years since Bernie Madoff’s massive securities fraud was uncovered, Fred Wilpon has been desperately trying to maintain his hold on the New York Mets. Despite insisting at the time that the scandal would have no impact on his ownership of the team, subsequent events have proven otherwise. Since that time, which, unfortunately for the Wilpons, coincided with poor play on the field and a corresponding decline in revenue, the current ownership group has relied on debt to remain afloat. According to a recent report in the Daily News, those loans are about to come due.

The team is not for sale, not a piece of it, not a part of it. We are not for sale. We have no reason to sell. We have other money. Just because you guys don’t know how much money we have, we have other money outside of this, from diversity.” – Fred Wilpon, quoted by the New York Times, December 17, 2008

Despite Fred Wilpon’s fervent desire to remain as majority owner of the Mets, the prospect of looming debt payments and even further deflated revenue in 2012 could soon force his hand (while creditors, and perhaps even the commissioner, slowly pry loose his fingers). As Frank McCourt has learned with the Dodgers, the weight of debt can become too much of a burden, especially when the alternative is selling out and making a handsome profit.


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Bobby Valentine is the new manager of the Boston Red Sox. For a franchise trying to overcome the perception of dysfunction, that might not have been the best decision. Valentine is alternately one of the most revered and hated managers in all of baseball, so his presence in the volatile powder keg of Red Sox Nation is sure to provide a spark. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is matter of wildly varying degrees of perspective.

Is Boston ready for the song and dance that usually accompanies Bobby Valentine? (Photo: AP)

During his long managerial career, Bobby Valentine has probably made as many enemies as he has won games. And, it hasn’t taken long for some of them to rear their heads. One former adversary, blogger-extraordinaire Murray Chass, recently suggested (with stats to back it up) the Red Sox hired themselves a bona fide loser. Of course, Chass’ post is dripping with personal dislike for Valentine, not to mention disdain for his former employer the New York Times, so his sentiments can be taken with a grain of salt. However, one element of Chass’ hit piece is based on truth: Valentine is a very unpopular figure because of his outspoken, often arrogant manner.

Even though a figure like Valentine in a media market like Boston could become a distraction, likability probably wasn’t item number one on the Red Sox’ wish list. Otherwise, there would have been no need to part company with Terry Francona. However, there is a strong indication of discord within the Red Sox’ organization. If GM Ben Cherington really did prefer Gene Lamont, but was overruled by Larry Lucchino, then the reports of dysfunction within the Red Sox hierarchy might actually be understated. With all the rumors swirling around the Nation, Valentine could turn out to be one of the least controversial figures in Boston over the next few months.


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Whenever a team is forced to play a doubleheader, the manager will usually express a universal lament about how difficult it is to win both games. No manager has been more vocal about this perceived dynamic than Joe Girardi, but is it really true?

Since the Yankees joined the American League as the Baltimore Orioles in 1901, the team has played 1,746 doubleheaders, although a vast majority took place before the modern expansion era. Nonetheless, of that total, the Yankees wound up splitting (including games ending in a tie) or being swept in 1,150 (66%), which seems to lend credence to the age-old concern. Or does it?

Yankees Performance in Doubleheaders, 1901 to 2011

Source: Baseball-reference.com

On the surface, earning a sweep in only one of every three doubleheaders seems like a disadvantage, but how often do the Yankees win two games in a row anyway? One way to answer that question is to compare the Yankees’ franchise record in doubleheaders to the winning percentage compiled in single games. (more…)

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With the trade deadline drawing near and the Mets headed on a road trip that will last until August, Carlos Beltran’s fly out in the ninth inning of this afternoon’s game could turn out to be his last home at bat with the team. Realizing this possibility, what was left of the Citi Field crowd gave Beltran a nice round of applause, but one wonders if Mets fans truly appreciate how good the outfielder has been during his seven years in Flushing?

Although hampered at times by injury, Beltran has enjoyed a mostly productive tenure with the Mets. Based on WAR, he already ranks among the top position players in franchise history, despite having nearly 1,000 fewer plate appearances than many of the other leaders. With playing time factored into the equation, it isn’t a stretch to suggest that Carlos Beltran is the best Mets’ position player of all time.

Top-10 Mets’ Position Players, Ranked by Average WAR*

Player PA bWAR fWAR AvgWAR
Darryl Strawberry 4549 37.7 36.6 37.2
David Wright 4507 31.9 37.8 34.9
Carlos Beltran 3612 32 31.3 31.7
Jose Reyes 4644 27.5 32.4 30.0
Edgardo Alfonzo 4449 29.1 30.7 29.9
Mike Piazza 3941 24.6 30.2 27.4
Keith Hernandez 3684 26.5 27 26.8
Howard Johnson 4591 24.7 24 24.4
Cleon Jones 4683 17.6 23 20.3
John Stearns 3080 18.5 20.1 19.3

*AvgWAR = (bWAR + fWAR)/2
Source: baseball-reference.com (bWAR) and fangraphs.com (fWAR)


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(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeAnalysts.)

Heading into the second half of the interleague schedule, the American League holds a 66-60 advantage over the National League. If that winning percentage holds, it will continue the senior circuit’s gradual improvement since losing over 60% of interleague contests in 2006.

Historical Interleague Records, By League

Note: Data as of June 23, 2011
Source: MLB.com

Most experts agree that the American League’s recent dominance of interleague matchups has been the result of having better players and stronger teams. Less clear, however, is whether one league or another enjoys an inherent interleague advantage, all else being equal.

For a recent article, I compiled aggregate data for all interleague-related plate appearances, which were defined as follows: DHs hitting in an AL park; pitchers hitting in a NL park; and pinch hitters batting in the ninth slot in a NL park. Not surprisingly, American League DHs posted an OPS that was 0.084 points higher, while National League pitchers outperformed by 0.070 OPS points.  What was interesting, however, is that when all of the relevant at bats were totaled, the combined performance was nearly identical. In other words, it seems as if neither league enjoys an overall advantage during interleague play.


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(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeAnalysts.)

Jose Reyes entered last night’s action as one of the hottest hitters in baseball, so naturally, the Atlanta Braves’ game plan centered on slowing the speedster down. Apparently, however, the team took that mandate just a bit too literally as even the grounds crew wound up getting in on the act.

The Braves were unsuccessful in their attempt to slow Jose Reyes down (Photo: AP).

There was nothing unusual about Jose Reyes’ infield single that led off yesterday’s game at Turner Field. It was not only the shortstop’s major league leading 95th hit, but also the 23rd time he started the first inning with a safety. In fact, Reyes’ early trip on the base paths was so far within the realm of reasonable expectations, the Braves had a surprise for the speedster lying in wait.

After reaching first base, Reyes barely avoided being nabbed on successive pickoff attempts by starter Jair Jurrjens. On both occasions, the Mets’ speedster spun out with his first step back to the bag, making it seem as if he was stuck in the mud. As things turned out, that’s exactly what happened.

Entering yesterday’s game, the Mets were second in the National League with 60 stolen bases, while the Braves were dead last with 19. Faced with such a significant speed gap, the Braves took a page out of gamesmanship 101 and instructed their groundskeeper to spend some extra time making sure the first base area was well lubricated for that evening’s game. Unfortunately for the Braves, however, first base umpire Bill Miller was not playing along.

After Reyes slipped for the second time, Miller halted the game and ordered that a drying agent be used to soak up some of the mud conveniently located just about where a base stealer would take his lead. After play resumed, Reyes promptly stole second base, providing justification for the Braves’ pre-game preparations. By the end of the night, the Mets had swiped four bags, including a second steal by Reyes.

I don’t know what’s going on, but I don’t care. If it’s wet, I’m going to try and steal anyway. They can do whatever they want to.” – Jose Reyes, quoted in the New York Post, June 15, 2011

Although perhaps guilty of overzealousness, the Atlanta Braves aren’t the first team to accentuate strengths and minimize weaknesses by altering their home field. Throughout baseball’s colorful history, tailored mounds, slanted baselines, thick infield grass, roving fences and various other tactics have been frequently used to gain an edge. In fact, one of the most famous, and infamous, examples of creative field maintenance involved the very same approach used by the Braves against the Mets. What’s more, some people contend that the tactic helped decide the 1962 pennant. (more…)

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Seattle isn’t the only city with streakers. A whole team of them just ran through Oakland.

Over the past three-plus seasons, the Yankees have had their way with the Athletics. Since 2008, the team has compiled a 24-4 (.857) record against the A’s, which, following the recent sweep at the Collisseum, now includes a current 10-game winning streak.

The last time the Yankees lost to the Athletics, a 4-2 defeat on April 22, 2010, the result was obscured by the on-field confrontation between Dallas Braden and Alex Rodriguez. However, ever since Braden showed New York how it was done “in the 209”, the Athletics haven’t even been in the same area code as the Yankees.

The Yankees’ dominance over the Athletics is not unlike the way the Bash Brother teams of the early 1990s used to manhandle the Bronx Bombers. At one point, Tony LaRussa’s powerhouse A’s reeled off 16 consecutive victories over the hapless Yankees, coming within one victory of the longest winning streak by one team against the franchise.

Yankees’ Longest Winning and Losing Streaks by Franchise

vs. W Strk Years vs. L Strk Years
Orioles 21 1927 Red Sox 17 1911-12
Athletics 16 1919 Athletics 16 1989-91
Indians 13 1976-77 Indians 13 1908
Twins 13 2002-03 Tigers 12 1908
Blue Jays 13 1995-96 Orioles 11 1907-08
Red Sox 12 1936, 1952-53 Blue Jays 10 1992
Royals 12 1997-98 Twins 9 1912
Tigers 11 1942 White Sox 8 1967, 1972-73
Rays 11 1998-1999 Brewers 7 1972-73
White Sox 10 1944-45, 1964 Rangers 7 1990
Rangers 10 1961-1962 Angels 5 Several
Mariners 8 1999, 2007-08 Royals 5 1978, 1990
Angels 7 1980-81 Mariners 5 Several
Brewers 7 1971-72 Rays 4 2005
Mets 7 2002-03 Mets 3 Several

Note: Only includes teams against which the Yankees have played at least 25 games.
Source: Baseball-reference.com


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The last three years haven’t been very kind to Mets’ owner Fred Wilpon, so what’s one more bad day?

Fred Wilpon has seen better days, but the firestorm following recently published comments was not one of them.

In a recent profile in The New Yorker, Wilpon’s rise and (at least temporary) fall as a self-made millionaire were chronicled in impressive detail by staff writer Jeffrey Toobin. However, what gained most notoriety were a handful of unflattering remarks that Wilpon made about his own team and several of its players. Although it is a shame that the enlightening profile was overshadowed by a few off-the-cuff remarks, the reality is, if not for his position as owner of the Mets, there likely would not have been a profile in the first place.

In addition to lamenting the overall poor play of his team, Wilpon also had pointed criticisms about several star players. “He won’t get it,” was Wilpon’s assessment of Jose Reyes’ chances at signing a Carl Crawford-like contract, while David Wright was described as “a really good kid; a very good player; not a superstar”. Not exactly the high praise you’d expect from an organization about its homegrown talent.

Perhaps the greatest criticism, however, was reserved for Carlos Beltran, who also happens to be most Mets’ fans favorite whipping boy. After miming Beltran’s flinching strikeout that ended the 2006 NLCS in response to a question about the Mets being cursed, Wilpon went on to call himself a “schmuck” for signing the centerfielder “based on that one series” (a reference to Beltran’s playoff performance in 2004).

The resultant firestorm stemming from the comments was predictable, if not ironic. Anyone who listens to sports talk or reads the tabloids in New York has likely heard all of Wilpon’s statements repeated countless times. Of course, the people spouting them aren’t the owners of the team.

Instead of debating whether Wilpon should have been so forthright, or even whether his assessments were correct (I happen to think he was wrong on all three: Reyes will get Crawford money; Wright is a superstar; and the Beltran signing wasn’t a bad one), I am more intrigued by the suggestion that the Mets are cursed, particularly as it pertains to free agents.  After all, Wilpon’s sentiments seem to be shared by the entire fan base, which frequently laments the team’s perceived misfortune in free agency.

So, just how poorly have the Mets done in free agency? In order to address that question, let’s first take a look at the Mets major signings since the advent of free agency in 1976. With a few noted exceptions, this list only contains prominent players who signed as a domestic free agent and had previously spent less than a year with the team. In other words, players re-signing after a longer tenure (e.g., Oliver Perez) or before filing for free agency (e.g., Mike Piazza and John Franco) are excluded. (more…)

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The Yankees and Mets just completed the most recent edition of the Subway Series, but if past events had transpired differently, train travel wouldn’t have been needed to host the rivalry.

Bill Shea throws out the first pitch on Opening Day 1964, christening the stadium that bared his name.

When the Dodgers and Giants left town after the 1957 season, there was an immediate push to return National League baseball to New York City. Although the Yankees had emerged as the dominant team in town, the senior circuit’s roots in the Big Apple were long and deep. So, even while the Bronx Bombers battled the Milwaukee Braves in the World Series, Mayor Robert Wagner commissioned a task force to find an immediate replacement for its two departing teams. In a sense, it was the city’s way of telling the Dodgers and Giants to not let the door hit them on their way out west.

Mayor Wagner’s Special Committee on Major League Baseball, which included four prominent members of the city’s business community, was charged simply with getting a National League team by any means necessary. Chaired by a well-connected lawyer named William A. Shea, the committee’s first course of action was to explore the possibility of poaching an existing team. In order to entice potential candidates, Shea and Wagner revealed plans to build a state-of-the-art ballpark on a city-owned plot of land in Flushing, Queens (ironically, it was the city’s insistence that Walter O’Malley use this site for his proposed new ballpark that forced the Dodgers to leave town in the first place). Meanwhile, the committee lobbied hard to have the territorial rules governing relocation amended so the Yankees couldn’t veto the arrival of a new neighbor. With the groundwork laid, attempts were then made to convince the Cubs, Reds, Phillies and Pirates to relocate to New York, but despite Shea’s best efforts, there were no takers.

When the relocation efforts stalled, Shea shifted the committee’s attention toward winning an expansion franchise. However, despite professing support for a new team in New York, Commissioner Ford Frick and the existing owners in the National League continued to drag their feet on the issue. So, Shea decided to take matters into his own hands. If organized baseball wouldn’t readmit New York, Shea reasoned, then the city might as well spearhead the creation of a brand new major league.

Shea’s brainchild was the Continental League. On July 27, 1959, the ambitious attorney revealed plans for a new circuit with founding franchises in New York, Houston, Minneapolis, Denver and Toronto, all cities that felt neglected by the current baseball structure. Because only New York had an existing major league team, Shea expected his Continental League to play alongside the NL and AL, not compete against it. Perhaps he was being naïve, or maybe he thought the threat of a lawsuit would force the hands of the existing 16 owners, but Shea fully expected his new venture to gain full acceptance and recognition as a third league that would eventually compete in the World Series.

We anticipate the cooperation of organized baseball, but we are all in this to stay and we are not going to back out no matter what happens.” – William A. Shea, quoted by UPI, July 27, 1959


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