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The Mets, The Plan; Still Skeptical After All This Years

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HarazinTwo GMs in Mets history had a plan that evolved into a winning one; Bing Devine and Frank Cashen. Each inherited some of the worse baseball talent in the entire game and within a few years, saw their drafts, signings and trades result in a World Series winning team.

Some would put current Mets GM Sandy Alderson into that class. Alderson has turned two All-Star players making a lot of money (Carlos Beltran and R.A. Dickey) into highly touted prospects Zach Wheeler and Travis d’Arnaud. He and his staff, including J.P Ricciardi and Paul DePodesta, have also done a nice job in rebuilding and revamping the minoe league operations of the ballclub.

But as of yet, Alderson and Co. has had very little success in finding talent at the MLB level. Though Marlon Byrd has enjoyed some success, especially of late, the team’s complete lack of offensive firepower has turned this season into another irrelevant one.

With every passing day, the Mets fan base is growing more and more frustrated with the state of the team. Though the “Super Tuesday” debut of Wheeler and continued stellar work by Matt Harvey resulted in a sweep of the first place Atlanta Braves, the team imploded again on Wednesday night.

Fire Terry Collins! The Wilpons are cheap! What has Sandy Alderson and his front office really done in three years…we’re WORSE!

or

This is a plan that Alderson put in place from Day 1. We Mets fans need to be patient, they know what they are doing. Look at the teams that did spend money this offseason, like the Dodgers.

That’s a brief summary of some of the thoughts of a large portion of Mets fans on sports radio and social media, and to a certain extent they all have a point.

Despite the presence of Harvey and Wheeler, another solid season from David Wright and Daniel Murphy, there have been few standout moments from the rest of the roster. To a man, almost every player that Alderson has imported this offseason has been a failure.

It doesn’t mean Alderson is a failure, or that he’s a terrible GM, but the “Sandy is doing a fabulous job, he has a plan, and we just have to be patient” mantra is inaccurate.

Some folks like to say that any criticism of Alderson for this current roster is “hindsight” and unduly harsh, but aren’t GMs supposed to make teams progressively better, not worse? I am fully aware of Alderson’s money woes, but not sure I can say he’s always been:

http://network.yardbarker.com/mlb/article_external/aldersons_shrinking_payroll_in_quotes/8122600

Now as for value, let’s look at some of the OFs Alderson could have signed for similar to equal value for the 2013 Mets:

Endy Chavez – When in doubt, bring back and old favorite who will make the fans smile as Rome burns. The fact that he’s been been far better than the departed Colin Cowgill should be noted.

Ryan Raburn – Versatile veteran helping Indians battle for AL Central. Can also play the infield.

Nate Schierholtz – In some ways, the opposite of every player the Mets imported this offseason; productive and consistent.

Ryan Sweeney – Not a game-breaker, but a good defensive OF who doesn’t fall apart when he doesn’t get a ton of playing time.

Lets be real clear; methodology is secondary to performance. This is pro sports and GMs are graded on results. And given the fact that the Mets have had so little money to spend, and that Alderson has wasted 10.5 million this season on Shawn Marcum and Frank Francisco alone is cause enough to render his performance to date as incomplete.

Kool Aid is not served here, and pom-pom waving is for children and folks who follow college football. I have heard Al Harazin, Joe McIlvaine, Steve Phillips, Jim Duquette, Omar Minaya and now Alderson tell me about “The Plan”. I have heard Fred Wilpon promise “a new direction” many times, and to a certain extent with each of his GM hires, his family’s clumsy and catastrophic interference with said “Plan”.

Alderson still has to find some offense, and we are hearing that he plans to trade for a significant impact player in the coming months. He will likely have to deal some pieces from the improved minor league system he’s revamped. Money and prospects are short in supply for the “New Mets” with “The Plan”, so I’m hoping that Alderson plans on improving his ability to supply the talent at the MLB level that he’s been unable to provide at this point.

When that happens, you’ll see me start to believe in this current regime’s version of “The Plan”. Until then, it’s just another attempt to sell a flawed product to a miserable yet loyal fanbase.

Tim Leary: A Cautionary Tale

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Tim_Leary_(Mets)As the New York Mets get ready to begin the Zach Wheeler era, anyone who has followed the team as long as I have knows that the excitement of a young pitching prospect making his major league debut is tinged with more than a touch of fear.

I’m not talking about the “Generation K” debacle (though it certainly applies), but instead hearken back to another young hurler who was touted as the next great franchise pitcher; Tim Leary.

While doing research, I came across this New York Times article about the aftermath of the Leary injury, and found it fascinating.

As Leary progressed in his first spring as a Met, despite his statistics and raves from opponents, he says it became more and more obvious to him that he was uncomfortable. Nothing was wrong with his arm, but Leary was troubled by the way he thought he was being used.

In 1979, his junior year at U.C.L.A. and the year he became the Mets’ first selection in the draft, Leary struck out 111 batters in 148 innings. In his first professional season, with Jackson of the Class AA Texas League, Leary struck out 138 batters in 173 innings, and he was named the league’s most valuable player.

But Leary did not see himself as a strikeout pitcher. He preferred to rely on intelligence and a range of pitches. ”Play with the batters’ minds,” he says. That was not the Mets’ plan.

”I know he thinks that way,” Bill Monbouquette, the Met pitching coach and the organization’s minor league instructor last year, said recently. ”I’ve said, ‘Tim, you have a chance to be a power pitcher. A power pitcher doesn’t mean you’re going to go out and strike out 13, 14 or 15 a night. It means you’ll be hard to hit.’

”He’s said, often, ‘I’m a guy that gets ahead of the hitters, and gets everything over. I consider myself more of a ground-ball pitcher, making them hit the ball and making the guys catch the ball.’ ”

That was clearly not the style that made Leary the talk of the Mets’ camp. Leary had discussed his reservations about being a power pitcher with Monbouquette, but not with Joe Torre, the Mets’ manager last year, or Bob Gibson, the pitching coach. ”There were no lines of communication,” Leary said.

I’ll be watching Harvey / Wheeler Day with antiipation like everyone else, but forgive me if I will be sitting on my hands mos of the time.

Unforgiven: A Mets Gunslinger Returns

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sell-teamI don’t know if I’d call myself “a man of notoriously vicious and intemperate disposition” but I have to admit, I do feel a bit like William Munny out of Missouri today. Part of this feeling comes from being out of the loop for most of the last few months, and partly because I’m seeing and hearing things in the Mets blogosphere that irritate the living hell out of me.

As for my absence; I’m proud to announce that I’ve “graduated” from my Front End Web Development course at General Assembly and my project; a re-design and re-launch of Gotham Baseball is coming soon. As for the other, the list is long.

My pal Shannon over at MetsPolice (which awarded me the “Gunslinger of the Year” Mazzie award earlier this year) is calling Mets fans that didn’t show up to Banner Day “front runners”.

Here’s the problem. 99 Banners.

Last year the Mets had about 300. This year, 99.

I can do math, that’s down 66%.

What the hell am I supposed to do if the Mets decide not bring Banner Day back in 2014? What possible argument would I have?

I have never went to a Banner Day in my life. I have no problem with any fan that cherishes it, or puts an illogical level of importance on said event that is built for little kids (which is nice), or pom-pom fans to gush about their team even when its an embarrassment (which is pathetic). But “front runner”?

Seriously?

A Mets fan has ever right to refuse to attend games because the team, once again, is a joke. This is not 1984 with a slew of pitching (and positional) prospects just waiting for a Gary Carter or a Keith Hernandez to take it to the next level. This is a franchise still in the throes of a major financial armageddon with an ownership that keeps telling us that they have a plan, and a GM who sounds like Baghdad Bob every passing day.

Are Lee Child fans that refused to go see “Jack Reacher” because casting Tom Cruise as Reacher was akin to calling Colin Cowgill an MLB outfielder “front runners”? No. Because people have the right to determine that they’ll say no when they are asked to participate in a circle-jerk.

If the Wilpons refuse to have an “Oldtimer’s Day” or choose not to celebrate the 1973 Mets, or continue to ignore what a Fan Fest would mean to the fan base because “Banner Day’ was under-attended, then it is on THEM.

Some people can’t afford to drop 200 bucks to take their family to see a Mets game. Even on Banner Day. Maybe they want to wait and see what the next Tom Seaver looks like in person instead of watching Shawn Marcum make millions to throw 85 mph fastballs. Maybe, just maybe, thses fans feel like they are owed a decent ballclub after 30-plus years of mostly wasted, stupid baseball?

I have said it before, and I will say it again; until the Wilpons sell or put a team on the field that demonstrates the same financial commitment that they are asking of us, they can go screw. If they cancel Banner Day because fans are fed up and stayed home, it’s just another reason to demand the Wilpons to sell the damn team.

***

Another pal of mine, John Delcos, took Mets Triple-A manager Wally Backman to task the other day for answering a question honestly about prospect Zach Wheeler.

Yesterday, Las Vegas manager Wally Backman told a local radio station: “Personally, I think if he has a couple of more starts like his last start he’ll be headed to the big leagues, and rightfully so.’’

Huh? I don’t recall GM Sandy Alderson saying something like that.

I’m not saying Backman is right or wrong in his analysis or projection of Wheeler, just wrong in saying anything of that nature in the first place.

Backman manages Triple-A Las Vegas. He does not speak for the Mets’ organization, and his comments put undue pressure on everybody, from Backman, to Wheeler, to Terry Collins, to Alderson.

Once somebody from the organization, even Alderson, suggests a timetable, a clock starts ticking. So, what happens if Wheeler isn’t up in two starts? What then? Another timetable? You can’t keep teasing the fan base that way.

Backman is out of line in making such statements. But, could it be he spoke because the Mets don’t have a policy in place on how to publicly handle Wheeler?

John, I respect you, and enjoy your work, but c’mon.

Backman answered the question posed to him as honestly as he could. I prefer that to Alderson’s vague “There will come a time when his performance converges with our needs.” nonsense. As for teasing the fanbase, I’ll take Backman speaking honestly to Alderson make-believe “considering” players like Justin Upton as possibilities “that just didn’t work out” for the 2013 Mets.

I guess I will just keep my front-running ass at home hoping that one day the Wilpons’ ability to run a major-market baseball teams with higher aspirations than “having a chance” will “converge” before my 50th birthday.

Going 9 Fantasy Baseball Is Back!

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G9 FANTASY OVALVery happy to announce that my show “Going 9 Fantasy Baseball” is BACK on the SiriusXM airwaves tonight; 10pm-1am ET on Channel 210 (Sirius) and 87 (XM) … my new co-host is Dan Strafford and Fantasy Baseball experts Mike Gianella (Baseball Prospectus), Joe Pisapia (FantasyBlackBook,com), and Michael Salfino (Yahoo Sports) … hope you can listen in. All of your calls are welcome, 888-963-2682 is the #!

Race, Baseball and the New York Mets

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luis-castillo-pedro-martinez-and-johan-santanaMatters of race are never easy to discuss or write about. In today’s media landscape, where short blurbs and slideshows dominate content, the difficulty of writing about complicated things like race is especially hard.

In baseball, the number of African-Americans is dwindling and players from Latin American countries are on the rise. Add in ownership, media that covers the sport and a fanbase that remains predominately white, there is always potential for disconnects about race.

I’ve written about race before, trying to understand how during the 2011 offseason how there wasn’t a single African-American interviewed for any of the then-five managerial openings in baseball.

I wonder if Jackie Robinson — who was in the last days of his life during the 1972 World Series when he chided MLB for not yet having hired an African-American manager — would prefer everyone wearing “42″ on Jackie Robinson Day, or MLB making sure its teams were adhering to policies the sitting commish put on the books himself?

For weeks I have been asking current African-American coaches about this non-existent market for their services. Each one has declined to be interviewed, even off the record, for fear of potential blowback. The baseball beat writers I have contacted have each given a collective shrug at the question. One went even farther than that:

“Not sure I understand your point. should teams put on a show?’

I’m not telling anyone who to hire, but unless teams expand the talent pool and include African-Americans in their respective managerial searches, how can a qualified candidate get the exposure he needs to get to the next level?

Nationals GM Mike Rizzo is very high on his third base coach Bo Porter, but he hasn’t gotten a single call this offseason. Porter is a fantastic instructor and could be an asset to any club. Yet he sits and waits.

To the credit of the Houston Astros this offseason, they not only granted Bo Porter an interview, they were so impressed with his presentation, he got the job.

But let’s be clear; I’m not happy that Bo Porter got a job because he was black, I’m happy that an organization that is looking to change everything about how it has done business in the past has also embraced the responsibility of making sure it has crossed all of its T’s and dotted all of it’s i’s.

Ultimately, I am pleased because I think Bo Porter is going to be fantastic manager.

***

I took my share of heat for writing the article, folks accusing me of playing “a race card” and such. But facts supported my argument. I also made sure that I spoke to several people in baseball about the issue; a former GM, a broadcaster, several coaches, and a few players. For me, having multiple sources on board creates as close to a fail-safe position as any journalist can have, especially when discussing and asking such issue such as race.

It’s not as apparent, especially recently, that every writer takes those same measures, and the end result is accusations about agenda, faux controversy and tabloid directives.

Recently, both Andy Martino, former Mets beat writer now baseball columnist for the New York Daily News and Adam Rubin, the beat writer for ESPNNY reported an incident that recently occurred between Mets minor league proapects Zach Wheeler and Aderlin Rodriguez.

Martino:

Zack Wheeler, one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, was reprimanded last weekend along with teammate Aderlin Rodriguez for an on-field incident that led to ethnic tensions in the Mets’ minor league clubhouse, according to organizational sources.

Rubin:

In a recent intrasquad game, Wheeler drilled third base prospect Aderlin Rodriguez in the hand with a pitch, and Rodriguez feared his hand was broken. Sources said Rodriguez subsequently told Wheeler that if he missed Opening Day, Wheeler would too. (Not a good career move to allegedly threaten the top prospect in the organization, by the way.)

Rodriguez had pimped a home run off Wheeler during a previous intrasquad matchup. Some in the organization were glad Wheeler displayed a mean streak in retaliating with the suspected purpose pitch, although not thrilled about having an in-house plunking. (It’s still not officially established Wheeler hit Rodriguez on purpose. Wheeler has denied it.)

It turned out Rodriguez’s hand was not broken, and he actually homered again in a regular minor league game days later.

Rubin, who has covered the team far longer, is the only reporter who covers the team as an organization (often traveling on his off days to check in on the Mets’ top prospects during the course of the season) is no stranger to reporting controversial Mets issues. Yet, there’s no mention of any “ethnic tensions” in his article.

Where did the ethnic tension come from? Because Martino quoted a source saying that “The American guys and the Latino guys were yelling at each other”? Were there any punches thrown? Nope. Were there any racial epithets or slurs used in the argument? Apparently not because Martino didn’t report it. So why the “ethnic tensions” in the headline, in the subhead and in the body of the story? Because Wheeler is American and Rodriguez is Dominican?

Both Rubin and Martino say Rodriguez was “pimping” after he hit his home run. Using Martino’s logic, can’t I now accuse these writers of racial bias? Do Latino players ‘pimp’ and white players just “hot-dog” or “show-up” the pitcher? Sounds silly? Yes, because it is, and so is Martino’s “story”. If you have a racial slur being used, the you have a story. If not, you have zilch.

But then again, race and rabid speculation is a Martino staple.

There were a few players turned off by how the Dominican Republic team was celebrating during the WBC Martino asked David Wright about whether his old teamate Jose Reyes and his DR teammates were acting. Shockingly Wright had no problem with it. But some others did, and that, according to martino is clearly racist:

Guys like Willie Bloomquist instead decided to furrow their brows.

“I’m not saying what they’re doing is wrong,” the infielder said of the DR theatrics, according to Anthony McCarron. “They’re playing with emotion and that’s fine.

“How you show your emotions, I think, is another thing. It’s just a matter of your view on the game of baseball and what your view is on respecting opponents and the uniform.”

Oh stop. No, seriously, please lighten up. If Captain America does not think that the Dominicans “disrespected the game (and what a loaded and dreadful term that is)”, everyone else needs to chill, yes? And did Wright find all the dancing disrespectful?

“No,” he said, with an answer quick and firm. “It’s energy. It’s intensity. And different teams show it different ways. That’s what made the atmosphere so great — you had the contrast in styles. It really was awesome.”

And you know what would be even more awesome for Wright, the Mets, and fans of outer-borough baseball? A little more flair on the field and in the stands, like it was in the old Los Mets days.

Granted, his accusations were subtle in that doozy of “a story”, but Martino has q fep as a writer who inserts race in his work.

The headline is all you need for this doozy:

Mets fans have lost patience with second baseman Luis Castillo, and it is hard to ignore race factor

Mets fans have lost patience with second baseman Luis Castillo, and it is hard to ignore race factor

Luis Castillo got booed because he was not a very good baseball player. Yes, he played hurt, and yes, he hit hit .300 in 2009. But yes, he was a terrible signing. And given that his contract was immovable, many fans looked at Castillo ( and lefty Olkver Perez) as one of the reasons it was hard for Mets to improve during terrible seasons in 2009-11. But race? Aside from the fact that Martino doesn’t give any reason for his charges in the story — outside of his own speculation and that of a “friend” — it’s just another example of a writer pushing his own agenda.

I’ll go even further to point out some realities for Martino, who regularly provs he has as much of handle on Mets history as the team’s ownership group.

Pedro Martinez, Mookie Wilson, Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Jose Reyes, Cleon Jones, Tommy Agee, Ed Charles, Felix Milan, Edgardo Alfonzo, Al Jackson, Rafael Santana and Hubie Brooks number among some of the Mets fans’ favorite players over the 51-year history of the team. To accuse the fan base of racism because they didn’t cheer for Luis Castillo is appalling. Almost as appalling as Martino including the “Mets fans are racist” theme in the later chapters of “The Mets” the hardcover retrospective that the Daily News put out last season.

Yes, Andy, racism is a part of our society, baseball, the Mets and in the stands. But one of these days, it’d be nice of you could actually prove it when you choose to “report” it.

Ronnie & Me

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PopWhen I was a young boy growing up on E.39th Street in Flatbush, most of my days were spent on wondering if the Mets dealing Tom Seaver to the Reds was somehow my fault.  Perhaps if I had spoken directly to M Donald Grant, I could have told him that Doug Flynn would never hit a lick, Steve Henderson was simply not good enough, Dan Norman a suspect, not a prospect and that Pat Zachry was made of paper mache.

Why the passion?  Blame my dad. After his first two sons showed little interest in sports, let’s just say that when I started to mime swinging a bat at two years old, he knew he’d have someone to watch a game with. Not that he loves me any more than he does my brothers or sister (he doesn’t; he’s a great dad to all of us), he just knows that when he wants to know who the Mets are planning on using as their left-handed specialist, he knows who to call. Otherwise, I’m just one of his four kids. That’s fine with me.

Maybe one of the reasons that my father is such a good one is because he grew up with nothing at all.

Ron Healey spent most of his childhood at St. Vincent’s Home for Boys.  My siblings and I don’t know much about those days for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is that he likely doesn’t remember them too fondly.

Most of what I know about his times there are the good things; playing ball with his buddies like Hank, Sep and Sarge, and getting to – on the weekends – go to their houses from time to time for a taste of a real home.  I’ve often wondered what that must have been like, having to go back to the darkness after a glimpse of the light.  But to his credit, and my everlasting gratitude, he never complained about it, never was consumed with bitterness about it, and sure as hell never took it out on any of us.  He was adamant that his kids would have everything he didn’t.

For him, not being far from the shadows of Ebbets Field was an escape from loneliness.   Cheering for his Brooks was probably the greatest joy he experienced during those dark days.  It was during those rare afternoons of getting to go to a game that more than likely turned mere fandom into baseball fever.

He handed down that wonderful gift to me, the love of the Great Pastime, and it’s the main reason you’re reading these words right now.

Whether it was his story of running into a young, athletic “guy who looked like a ballplayer (Willie Mays) so we ran after him and got his autograph” or his taking me and my buddies (when he really couldn’t afford to do) in the 1974 Dodge Dart (Special Edition) to see the dreadful post-Seaver Mets of the late 70’s, I was hooked and hooked early.

My dad’s a Mets fan these days (and has been since the Dodgers left Brooklyn), and he still won’t read (or says he doesn’t) read anything I write about the Yankees.  “I hate the Yankees,” he says, quite matter-of-factly, as if it were a natural state.  “I want them to lose every game they play.”

It’s quite possible he might not read this, but I suspect that even if this piece was about the Bombers, he’d sneak a peak to see what his “Markito” has written.

We still talk as much baseball as we ever did.  He probably watches as many (if not more) games than I do, and given the fact that he’s a dead-ringer for Terry Collins, the Mets manager, I think he roots for the Mets just a little bit harder lately.

551842_10150928626202440_98954212_n

I don’t love my dad because we share a love for baseball. I love my dad because he went from being an orphan with nothing, to loving and supporting a family all of his life. He was a rough and tumble street kid that was never ashamed to hug his kids. Despite having a really good city job, still went to night school to get his degree from Brooklyn College, because he wanted to instill in his children the value of a college education.

I could go on and on. But all I really want to say is, Happy 75th birthday, Pop. You’re the best.

And thank you.

Changing Sports Radio: Going 9 Fantasy Baseball on SiriusXM

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I am always doing things I can’t do — that’s how I get to do them. ~ Pablo Picasso

Before you roll your eyes at the headline, just give me a few minutes of your time to explain.

I am the host of “Going 9 Fantasy Baseball”, which airs each Saturday at 10am-1PM ET on SiriusXM’s Fantasy Sports Radio channel (Sirius 210 / XM 87). And I think is the best show you haven’t listened to yet. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be doing it. If you know me, then you know this isn’t simple egoism. If you don’t, all I ask is your consideration.

I hear and read and of complaining about sports radio these days, and frankly, almost every time I do, I say, “Well, have you heard my show?” Almost nine time out of 10, I get the same reply, “Well, i’m really not into Fantasy Baseball.”

imagesCAWQZ9GFThat’s fair. But until you’ve actually heard the show, how can be sure that you wouldn’t be interested in listening to it? Because I have to tell you, if you are a baseball fa, you’d like it. A lot.

I’ve been doing the show from the SiriusXM studios in New York City for three years now, and with each new co-host and each new baseball season, I remain convinced that our product is as good — or better — than any all-baseball programming that’s out there.

If self-confidence doesn’t sway you, or the simple love of the American Pastime isn’t going to get you to listen, let me appeal to your sense of helping out a guy who’s worked his butt off trying to make it as an independent publisher, editor, writer and broadcaster since leaving Associated Press in 2006.

I’m a big believer in the marketplace determining the success of anyone in media, but I don’t have the deep pockets of a corporate entity to hire a PR firm to promote myself or my show. So I’m hoping you folks,  once you listen, will help promote the show for me.

If you’re a SiriusXM subscriber already, all I ask is that you give the show a shot.

If you’re not a current SiriusXM subscriber, please visit the Going 9 Baseball home page. If you click the “SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio” banner on the top, it will send you to the “Subscribe” page of SiriusXM. By using that banner, Going 9 will get the credit for a new subscriber, which gets the host and his show more exposure. It would be much appreciated.

I know it’s been a challenging time for a lot of people. many of us who are unemployed or underemployed and simply can’t afford another monthly bill. If that’s the case, try to sneak a listen on a friend or family member’s SiriusXM radio or mobile app. I would greatly appreciate it.

In the meantime, you can visit our website, our Facebook page or follow me on Twitter at @MHealeySports.com to keep updated. I also hope you’ll take the opportunity to give us your feedback on the show on the Facebook page as well.

Thanks so much. I really think you’ll enjoy the show.


PROGRAMMING NOTE
– This week, Going 9 Fantasy Baseball will air on Sat Feb, 23 from 11am-2pm ET. Also there will be an additional show on Sunday Feb. 24 from 4pm-7pm ET.

G9 FANTASY OVAL