Friday, January 29, 2010

How Can We Fix the Mets, Part I

If you're a Met fan, it's hard to take away anything positive out of last year's trainwreck of a season. And you'd be justified: they finished fourth in the NL East with only 70 wins, while missing the postseason for the third straight year. And somehow, they managed to fritter away over 149 million dollars that year, good for the second highest payroll in Major League Baseball.

Oh, the blame. Where do we place it? Where do we even start? Here's the breakdown:

a) Omar Minaya: It's pretty difficult to spend that much cash and not field a team that's at least respectable. Since becoming the general manager at the start of the 2005 season, he's failed in not only evaluating the talents and prices of free agents (e.g. Moises Alou), but also in replenishing the farm system, which during the last several seasons has ranked in the lower half of systems. Even in trades, Minaya has failed. Mets fans, do you remember how he acquired Oliver Perez? And in the same year traded away closer Heath Bell? But the key here is his prominent history of trade incompetence; as the GM of the now-defunct Expos, he managed to trade away prospects Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore, and Brandon Phillips. Is it any wonder why they folded? No, fans: Minaya must go. No more of this. Weed the organization from the top; this is the road to recapturing success.

b) Injuries: Even taking Minaya's acquisition of injury-ridden players into account, it's clear that the Mets suffered a disproportionate number of major injuries last year. First it was Reyes, out for a large part of the season with two setbacks during rehab for his hamstring. Then it was Delgado, whose season ended due to a hip injury at around the same time Alex Rodriguez returned from his. And the pitchers! Two-fifths of their fragile starting rotation went down with Perez and Maine, and they lost set-up man and trade acquisition JJ Putz. The blame here goes to both the front office, and the Mets' medical staff. Seriously? When you can't bring your all-star shortstop from the DL after an injury that was supposed to be minor, what can you do?

c)Lack of Major-League Talent: The combination of the organization's incompetence and the number of injuries combined in 2009 to expose one of the Mets' biggest flaws: a lack of backup. Starting with the upper levels of the minor leagues, the Mets simply lack adequate fodder to fill holes. Now no one's expecting the farm to produce carbon copies of Reyes and Beltran, but it's still necessary to get a decent body. Let's face it, when you're signing Angel Berroa mid-season because he's the best you've got, something needs to improve.

What They Can Do

1. Redo the Front Office

Getting rid of Tony Bernazard was a start. Now it's time to oust Minaya. If you fix the heart of the ballclub, you're getting better decisions and fielding a better team.

2. Next Offseason is Key

Signing Bay was a good start, for sure. But the man doesn't pitch, and that's what the Mets need most. I'd look for them to target Brandon Webb, especially if he rebounds from injury. Cliff Lee is another option; they'd have to battle the Yanks and Sox for him, but they've won out before. Either way, the Mets can't afford to sign a mid-rotation guy. They need to win, and win big in the offseason of 2010/2011.

3. Get a Backstop

Yeah, if you follow the Mets you're pretty dismayed they lost out on Bengie Molina, who re-upped with San Francisco. But not all hope is lost: catching is always a big commodity, especially at the deadline. It will cost something, for sure, but the Mets must target a catcher now and work towards a trade, possibly for D'Backs catcher Miguel Montero or, if they prefer to pony up more for a younger guy, Texas backstop Taylor Teagarden.

4. The Draft

Last year's selections for the Mets in the amateur draft appear, at least early, to be less than satisfying. The Mets have the money, even after the Madoff incident. They need to scout better, put more money into making the right picks, and getting good domestic (and therefore well-profiled) players back into the system. It is important to note, however, that their international signings have been more successful of late.

And finally....

5. Be Creative

The front office, headed by Minaya or otherwise, needs to get working. Look for projects, players who had an outlier year in 2009, etc. Don't go for the same old "over the hill" type, go for players who are likely to make a contribution in 2010. Someone here needs to step it up, make moves, and help this team get back on track.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Johnny vs. Randy: Mistake?

The Yankees' recent signing of switch-hitting outfielder Randy Winn is controversial among Bombers fans, to say the least. It proves, above all, that the Yanks under Hal (at least after last year's shopping spree) are operating under a hard budget. That's right: the Yankees can't spend more than a certain amount, albeit a very high amount to start with.

It begs the question: is it really worth it to play hardball? It can't be argued that Damon hasn't given enough to the team in the last few years; statistically, he possessed a .854 OPS last year (On-base Plus Slugging), putting him solidly in the upper class of players. CHONE, a reliable projection system, pegs him at an OPS of .789 for next season, not quite as good but still worth approximately between 2 and 3 wins. On the other side of the ball, he's been lackluster, and his age and condition will only continue to depreciate his glovework. Both the eye and modern fielding metrics will tell the observer that he can no longer patrol the large outfield in NYS; he brings to the table his ugly UZR of -9.5 in 2009. But perhaps his value lies beneath the threshold of measurable statistics. Is it really so ludicrous to suggest that he was one of the cornerstones of the 2009 title? While it's often discounted by sabermetricians, emotional impact often has a large effect on the team as a whole. An outfield trio of Damon, Granderson, and Swisher could easily keep the team loose for 2010, even disregarding the massive run production they would give. It sounds like 5 or 6 million wouldn't be such a bad deal for Johnny D......

Then you've got Winn. Many say he's cooked: a sharp decrease in HRs, OPS, and other crucial offensive stats in 2009 show that he probably doesn't have much left in the tank. Yankee fans demanded a fourth OF who, due to Granderson's large splits, would be at least half-competent against southpaws; Winn doesn't fill this bill no matter how you slice it. What he does bring, is mainly fielding ability. Even at an advanced age for baseball, he continues to play a mean right field and will likely be able to commandeer other positions for the Bombers. Speed, too: he stole 16 bases in 2009 while being caught only twice. Does he really stack up? Offensively, the answer is no.

But something tells most Yankee fans that when Damon left, he created a hole. A hole that could very well prove to sink them. While the offseason was excellent overall, it seems that the final piece never truly joined the puzzle.