Mar 30, 2012, 9:30 PM EDT
Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2012 season. Up next: The New York Mets.
The Big Question: How long will the Mets spend in baseball purgatory?
How much hope can there be for a team who is coming off three straight losing seasons, slashed payroll by a record amount and let their best player, Jose Reyes, sign with a division rival? Not a whole lot. The Marlins and Nationals are on the rise while the Braves are bringing back most of the same players and the Phillies still have “The Big Three.” Realistically, finishing in fourth place would be both a surprise and a significant accomplishment.
Most Mets fans have resigned themselves to this gloomy short-term fate, but this month’s settlement with Irving Picard in the Madoff case has at least changed the tone a little. The Mets’ owners were also able to close sales of 12 minority shares in the team, repaying loans to MLB and Bank of America in the process. The focus is back on the players on the field for the most part. However, this infusion of cash doesn’t mean the Mets will sign Cole Hamels or Matt Cain next winter. The intention was to cover team debt and operating expenses (or losses). And with expectations pretty low, attendance is likely to suffer once again. There’s also the team’s annual interest bond payments on Citi Field. I’ll admit there’s a lot we don’t know about their situation — for instance, what impact will the Dodgers’ sale have on their ability to refinance? — but it doesn’t look like the Mets’ owners are out of the woods yet.
I don’t think that the Mets need a mega payroll to contend again, but Sandy Alderson’s flexibility figures to be limited in the short-term. Johan Santana and Jason Bay are still owed a total of $90 million on their contracts. That’s a tremendous amount of payroll dedicated to just two players, so it’s unlikely they will make any major signings until those players are officially off the books. Of course, doling out massive long-term contracts is what got them into this mess in the first place.
The Mets will probably remain in this weird state of baseball purgatory until around 2014, but this is still a very important period of evaluation for the on-field product. This is the time to find out whether homegrown players like Lucas Duda, Ike Davis, Ruben Tejada, Daniel Murphy, Jon Niese and Josh Thole will play significant roles on the next contending team in Queens. With top prospects like Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Jeurys Familia inching closer to the big leagues, the Mets may actually have a pretty good (and cheap) core for the future.
What else is going on?
- The Mets altered the dimensions and heights of the fences at Citi Field over the winter in an effort to make the park play more neutral. David Wright‘s old sweet spot in right-center field was moved in by 17 feet while Jason Bay will no longer have to put up with the 16-foot high “Great Wall of Flushing” in left field. I’ve heard the argument that Mets’ hitters will get a psychological lift with the changes and I suppose that’s true to a certain degree, but I’m not sure that gives them any real advantage. If the Mets’ pitching is bad and the opposing hitters are better, well, it doesn’t matter where the fences are.
- I wouldn’t have believed this if you had told me even a month ago, but it appears Johan Santana will take the ball on Opening Day. While his velocity was down in his most recent outing, the rehabbing southpaw has a 3.44 ERA and 13/7 K/BB ratio over 18 1/3 inning this spring and hasn’t had any setbacks with his surgically repaired shoulder. He probably isn’t anything more than a six- or seven-inning pitcher right now, but it would be a huge boost if he could make even 20-25 starts.
- You know how Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez were discussed as trade possibilities last year? Now it’s David Wright’s turn. The only difference is that it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to deal him. At least right now. Wright can void his $16 million option for 2013 in the event of a trade while the new CBA stipulates that the acquiring team would not be able to offer him arbitration as a free agent. However, if the Mets pick up the option and trade him next offseason, the acquiring team would be able to offer him arbitration since he would spend the full season with his new club. In other words, don’t look for a trade unless the Mets are blown away by a desperate contender. I still think there’s a chance the Mets will keep him for the long haul, though.
- The bullpen was the only area of the team that was improved over the winter. Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch were added as free agents while Ramon Ramirez was acquired from the Giants in the Angel Pagan deal. Francisco has looked terrible this spring and Rauch is on the decline, but they should be better than a group which was 28th in the majors last year with a 4.33 ERA and was a complete disaster after the All-Star break.
- R.A. Dickey. That’s all.
How are they gonna do?
Oddly, for a team that is projected to finish last by nearly every baseball writer out there, the Mets entered camp with every spot in the lineup and rotation pretty much settled. The big issue, aside from a very shaky defense, is that they have little-to-no depth beyond those projected starters, especially in regard to the rotation. The Mets actually look like a pretty respectable team at the moment, but injuries at key positions could set them back in a big way. And I don’t think they have the reinforcements to compete in an improved division. I’m predicting 70-74 wins and a last-place finish.
Mar 13, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
Ken Rosenthal has an exclusive interview with Manny Ramirez. As we saw last week, Manny wants back in baseball. That may be a pipe dream, but it’s not anything new. What is new is Manny speaking openly about his two PED suspensions: He received a 50-game suspension in ’09 and was on the verge of…
Mar 13, 2014, 12:20 PM EDT
Doug Fister isn’t out of the woods yet with his inflamed elbow, as the Nationals right-hander felt soreness after playing catch this morning for the third straight day. James Wagner of the Washington Post reports that Fister is still tentatively scheduled to throw a bullpen session Friday and the Nationals are hoping that it’s just…
Mar 13, 2014, 11:45 AM EDT
As a nice companion piece to my thing about reporting what one sees in the clubhouse, here’s our friend Eno Sarris writing over at the Hardball Times about being an inexperienced reporter in the clubhouse. Eno’s particular challenge, apart from simply being a new BBWAA member and still learning the ropes of how one operates…
Mar 13, 2014, 11:19 AM EDT
Toronto missed out on Ervin Santana after apparently thinking he was all but signed, with general manager Alex Anthopoulos saying the free agent right-hander joined the Braves instead because he didn’t want to pitch in the American League. Now that the dust has settled on that situation Blue Jays manager John Gibbons indicated during a…
Mar 13, 2014, 11:03 AM EDT
Keith Olbermann, you may or may not know, has some strong opinions from time to time. His opinion on Barry Bonds showing up to Giants camp as a guest hitting instructor has inspired one. Check out his rant below. Olbermann obviously feels strongly about Bonds, as is his right. But I feel like he vastly…
Mar 13, 2014, 10:47 AM EDT
Shoulder surgery ended Jeff Keppinger‘s 2013 season in July and now it looks like it will also cause the White Sox infielder to begin this season on the disabled list. Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com reports that Keppinger “has been restricted by tightness in his surgically repaired shoulder” throughout spring training and will spend Opening Day…
Mar 13, 2014, 10:32 AM EDT
Don’t expect Scott Boras to admit this — or for him to allow Stephen Drew to publicly do so — but Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe has the inside scoop: Red Sox players say Stephen Drew now regrets not taking the qualifying offer when he had the chance. But the veteran players have turned…
Mar 13, 2014, 10:15 AM EDT
Josh Beckett is trying to make a comeback from thoracic outlet syndrome, the surgery for which ended his 2013 season in July, but now the Dodgers right-hander is dealing with a sprained thumb. Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times described Beckett as frustratedly shaking his head while saying “this is what I’m dealing with”…
Mar 13, 2014, 9:49 AM EDT
I usually have super strong and certain opinions about things. Especially when they concern the media. But this situation has me waffling and wondering all over the place, and I feel like just talking through it. Cool? Cool. Yesterday a story by Stu Woo of the Wall Street Journal was published in which he described…
Jimmy Rollins on Ryne Sandberg: “Everyone is allowed to have their opinion. That doesn’t make it right.”
Mar 13, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
Phillies spring training as off to a spectacular start. The offense is pretty awful. Pitchers are getting hurt. Jimmy Rollins is having one of his occasional spats with his manager about his perceived effort. Rollins, despite being healthy, has been out of the lineup for three straight days, with Freddy Galvis taking his place. When…
Mar 13, 2014, 8:41 AM EDT
Most teams make a series of commercials around this time of year to promote the upcoming season. Most of them are just some version of one of the team’s stars saying “hey, come on out to [Corporate Name] Park and see [Team] in 2014!” followed by a season slogan and a screen with the URL…
Mar 13, 2014, 7:52 AM EDT
The Mets shortstop situation is still in flux. Or a mess. Or a tire fire. Or is being overly-focused upon because nothing else is going on. Take your pick. Just know that it’s what everyone who goes to Port St. Lucie is talking about. The latest being John Harper of the Daily News. Who, after noting…
Mar 12, 2014, 10:39 PM EDT
You’ll want to read the entire story from Stu Woo of the Wall Street Journal, but here’s an excerpt: In the New York Mets locker room Monday morning, I was talking with Jeff Cutler, a 30-year old Japanese American from suburban Boston who serves as the interpreter for Japanese-born pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka. We were talking…
Mar 12, 2014, 9:45 PM EDT
Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro was able to take batting practice on the field Wednesday in camp, but it was his first time doing so this spring and he remains questionable for the beginning of the 2014 regular season because of back problems that have become a chronic source of discomfort. Scutaro told Andrew Baggarly…
Mar 12, 2014, 8:41 PM EDT
Dodgers starter Zack Greinke was on a Cactus League mound Wednesday in Glendale, Arizona for the first time since straining his left calf in late February and the return went smoothly enough. Greinke allowed three earned runs on six hits in just two innings against a Diamondbacks split-squad, but his calf survived the outing and…
Mar 12, 2014, 7:38 PM EDT
Freddy Galvis started at shortstop over Jimmy Rollins in Wednesday’s Grapefruit League game at the Orioles’ spring training complex in Sarasota, Florida and Galvis will be getting the start again in Thursday’s home game versus the Yankees. Rollins is considered to be fully healthy and the Phillies typically play all of their projected starters in…
Mar 12, 2014, 6:42 PM EDT
As speculated last week by Troy Renck of the Denver Post and then confirmed Wednesday, left-hander Jorge De La Rosa will start for the Rockies on Opening Day, March 31, against the Marlins. It’s the beginning of a four-game series at Marlins Park. Jhoulys Chacin would have been given the honor, but he suffered a…
Mar 12, 2014, 5:55 PM EDT
Bovada released its player prop bets for the 2014 season on Wednesday, providing odds on the AL and NL MVP and Cy Young races, as well as MLB’s home run leader. Here’s a look at what I consider to be the best bets in each category. Please do note, though, all information here is for…
Mar 12, 2014, 5:35 PM EDT
I sorta came to like casino/memorabilia shop Pete Rose. Church Pete Rose is going to take some getting used to: Pete Rose, Major League Baseball’s all-time career hit leader, will return to Philadelphia and appear at Christ’s Church of the Valley on Sunday, March 30, 2014. Rose will appear live and be interviewed by Senior…
Mar 12, 2014, 4:39 PM EDT
Matt Kemp took his first turn in the field this spring when he played an inning in center field in a minor league game today. The verdict? #Dodgers‘ Matt Kemp played an inning in center at the end of his minor-league game and got a couple chances. Said it felt “a little weird.” — J.P.…
- Jon Niese bristles at the media reporting Dan Warthen’s racial slur — and I sorta understand why 18
- Jimmy Rollins on Ryne Sandberg: “Everyone is allowed to have their opinion. That doesn’t make it right.” 60
- Smart money on Hanley Ramirez, Jay Bruce in prop bets 24
- 2014 Preview: Kansas City Royals 15
- Kris Medlen expects to have another Tommy John surgery 13
- Albert Pujols was insulted when someone asked him if he can put up Mike Trout numbers (104)
- Is Barry Bonds really getting a “fair hearing?” (102)
- Manny Machado calls $519K salary for 2014 “disappointing” (90)
- Giants players love having Barry Bonds at spring training (89)
- Ryan Braun calls himself an “artist,” doesn’t care what fans on the road will shout at him (84)