Friday, December 25, 2009

A Second Thought On Bay And The Mets

  • Maybe Jason Bay needs to get his head around it:

A year ago, almost to the day, the Yankees were avidly pursuing C.C. Sabathia who appeared to have little-to-no interest in either the Yankees or New York. Had they not been the club that would pay him the most money, he wouldn't have even considered them. It was well-known that Sabathia preferred playing closer to home on the West Coast; and if Northern California wasn't an option, then Southern California was suitable.

Story-after-story came out regarding Sabathia's reluctance with the Yankees and seemed to get worse with each passing day. There was a realistic implication that Sabathia did not want to play on the East Coast and definitely didn't want to deal with the circus to which the Yankees had slowly reverted in the intervening years since their last championship. Gone were the days of feistiness and team-oriented play that was the hallmark of the Joe Torre-era; the selflessness that was epitomized by Paul O'Neill; Tino Martinez; Derek Jeter; Mariano Rivera; Bernie Williams, et al.

Replaced by gifted players who neither had the wherewithal nor the mental toughness to thrive under the microscope of the big stage, the Alex Rodriguezes, Robinson Canos and Carl Pavanos were poisoning what it was that made those Yankees championship teams more than the sum of their statistical parts. ARod would put up the numbers to win you your fantasy league, but that fantasy would turn into a fatal attraction by October.

Torre was gone too. As the steadying hand that guided those Yankee teams, the Frank Sinatra of the Baseball World could charm anyone and everyone; a simple phone call uttering the words, "we want you" could turn the tide for any player who was unsure of playing in New York, reluctant to deal with the whole thing from the newspapers, to the media, to the fans, to the traffic.

People don't want to hear this now, but Joe Girardi's reputation as being a micromanaging pain went back to his days with the Marlins and followed him through 2008. A manager who'd been teammates with his stars and was totally inexperienced with every aspect of what the job entailed was experiencing growing pains under the same microscope that awaits anyone entering the three ring circus that is New York.

Did Sabathia need to subject himself to that? Did he want to enter a toxic clubhouse on the opposite coast from his home and sign up for seven years of hell? The question was never whether Sabathia could handle New York mentally or physically; the question was whether he needed the aggravation. In the end, it was the Yankees money and Brian Cashman's relentless (and desperate) hustle that assuaged Sabathia's fears about New York after a long, drawn-out negotiation that had more to do with the state of the club than dollars.

Not only did Sabathia agree to come to New York, but he made the area his home year-round. He was all in; and it paid off as he was the durable ace----even in the playoffs and World Series----that the Yankees paid all that money for.

Now, there's similar speculation going on with Jason Bay and the Mets.

This is not to imply that Bay is a star of the magnitude of C.C. Sabathia; but he's still fine hitter and carried the Red Sox for chunks of 2009 as he proved that he could not only perform under pressure, but thrive in the middle of the gathering storm.

The Mets want Bay and, according to most accounts, currently have the only viable offer on the table that comes anywhere close to the years and dollars that Bay wants. It's also believed that Bay would prefer not to play for the Mets or in Citi Field. Day-by-day another story appears at the desperation the Bay camp is feeling not just because of the prospect of going to the Mets; but because the market is still saturated with options for a bat if the Mets do an about face and tell Bay to make a decision or take a hike.

The Red Sox would have to be very creative with their payroll and outfield configuration if they jumped back in with Bay, and Bay would have to concede in his demands to remain in Boston. The Mariners aren't going to pay Bay especially now that they have Milton Bradley and Chone Figgins and have to worry about the possibility of keeping both Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez. The Giants need Bay's bat, but he's said to not want to go to San Francisco at all. The Cardinals? Maybe. The Angels? They lurk and strike, so if the Mets have a competitor for Bay's services, it's them. None of these teams seem inclined to surpass the Mets offer for Bay.

So now what?

The Mets must do what the Yankees did with Sabathia. Cashman, while aggressive and smart, can't even carry Mets GM Omar Minaya's briefcase when it comes to charisma. What Minaya must do is get a face-to-face with Bay and lay out exactly what went wrong with the Mets on and off the field and why those things won't happen again in 2010; and also a deliver a detailed plan of why things will go right with Bay as an integral part of the turnaround.

Objectively, the number of things that collapsed for the Mets in 2009 won't happen again because short of a meteor hitting Citi Field on team picture day, what went wrong for the Mets in 2009 couldn't happen again. Jose Reyes will be back; they'll find a catcher, be it Bengie Molina or Ryan Doumit; the injuries that descended into the absurd are impossible to repeat. Even with their current roster, a healthy Mets team is right back around .500 without doing one thing. If they bring in Bay and the other improvements needed, they're right back in playoff contention no matter what Bill Madden, John Harper, Mike Lupica, Michael Kay and anyone else says or writes.

The Yankees faced similar naysayers last winter. The Red Sox were smarter and deeper; the Rays were young and hungry; but they turned things around and won a title a year after enduring the ridicule and embarrassment of missing the playoffs with a $200+ million payroll. The Mets could make a similar leap. The Phillies are vulnerable and overconfident; the Braves may have taken a wrecking ball to their hopes in the span of 24-hours with two blockheaded maneuvers; the Marlins are due for a fallback; and the Mets a little luck after everything that's happened from October 2006 until now.

It took two years for Minaya to transform a club that was a rudderless laughingstock in 2004 and bring them one game away from the World Series two years later; a World Series they would've won had it not been for Duaner Sanchez's yen for a midnight snack and a Cardinals team playing with magic on their side. With a healthy Johan Santana, Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes and John Maine; Francisco Rodriguez closing; and a full year of the feisty and infectious attitude of Jeff Francoeur; the Mets could be right back in the thick of things and more. Once they lock up Bay, the other dominos would start to fall.

If he's the player they want, they should go get him and convince him just as the Yankees convinced Sabathia that things were different. Money's a factor, but not the only factor; and the state of the club and clubhouse isn't as bad as it's portrayed in the media. All they have to do is convince the players of that. Who better to do that than the likable and charming GM?

They can't let these fortuitous openings slip away because they're being handed to them on a platter; the worst thing to do is slap it away in a fit of pique.

  • Strangling the zombies:

The chat I had with a stat zombie on Twitter the other day exemplified what it is that annoys people like me with those that are so immersed in numbers that they haven't the faintest idea what a human being is anymore.

Truth be told, he wasn't as bad nor as pompous and condescending as the majority of them, but that still didn't stop him from reverting to the old and patently ridiculous argument of: if you were right, you were lucky; and if we were wrong, it's because the players didn't live up to their numbers.

Do you finally start to realize what I'm dealing with? How infuriating it can be talking with someone who has this attitude of dismissal that a 264 page book I wrote consisting of dozens of accurate predictions varying from the rise of the Marlins and Giants to Roy Halladay quietly asking for a trade is little more than a byproduct of luck? That their projections were brilliant when hindsight proves that they didn't know what they were talking about? And what's worse is that they are physically and psychologically incapable of uttering the words "I was wrong" about anything. There's always some caveat, alibi or excuse to explain it away.

Pardon me, there is something worse. It's when they simply ignore that about which they were wrong. You don't here the experts along the lines of Dave Cameron and Nate Silver admit to being wrong about anything. It's fine when Silver is the toast of the world for his political numbers crunching or being right about the 2008 Rays, but when they're wrong? Well, just ignore it like it never happened for expediency; for moneymaking; for the artifice of expertise and hope others are afraid to challenge them and ignore it.

No matter how it's twisted, the crunching of numbers is not analysis. Regardless of the myriad of ways in which they try to boil human beings down to what pops from their calculators, building a team is not the same as building a rocket ship.

Short of strangulation, I don't know how to respond to arguments such as that.

Yeah. I was wrong about certain things in my book. I picked the Indians to win the AL Central; I picked the Cubs to go to the World Series; among many other things. But I have no problem facing my errors and admitting them as being wrong. There's no shame in being wrong. It's not a sign of weakness to make that admission; in fact, it's a sign of strength. But I'm not trying to sell a school of thought or start a revolution. I'm focused on reality unlike the zombies.

It never ends.

Billy Beane is running for his life from the towering inferno of Moneyball; the hard-core stat zombies still inexplicably defend Paul DePodesta's tenure as Dodgers GM; they advocate Sandy Alderson for jobs as the CEO of numerous clubs despite his destruction of the Padres.

Will they ever get it?


You tell me.

  • Viewer Mail 12.25.2009:

Gabriel (Capo) writes RE the Blue Jays:

I know the Blue Jays someday will be good. They have a pretty good young team, and we are always praying for Vernon Wells.

Merry Xmas to all your dearest from the Gutierrez family.

The Blue Jays aren't that far away especially if Shaun Marcum, Dustin McGowan and Jesse Litsch come back quickly. That rotation is young and talented with the addition of Brandon Morrow. Considering what J.P. Ricciardi did to the club during his tenure, it could be much, much worse.

Christmas? Bah, humbug.

Just kidding. Merry Christmas.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE the Angels and Mariners:

The Angels will have their hands full with the Mariners this year. Matsui will be a great addition to their lineup but after losing Lackey, I wonder about their pitching.

Tell you what, if I had to make my predictions today, I'd have both the Angels and the Mariners in the playoffs with the Mariners edging out the Red Sox for the Wild Card. The Angels will be there. Trust me.

Joe at Statistician Magician writes RE Troy Glaus:

The Glaus signing is a good move. I know that he may get hurt or be ineffective, but it is only $2 million. If they don't make another move, then I question what they are doing, as Vazquez probably should have landed them a solid hitter. But Glaus, for cheap, who can play two positions--and that means fill in for Chipper when he misses time, if of course Glaus isn't missing time as well--is a good move to me.

So for a team that needed a proven basher who would be guaranteed to produce, Troy Glaus is a good move?

I don't care about money; I care about results. This was a cheapskate move because the Braves have either blown all their remaining payroll on the likes of Kenshin Kawakami, Derek Lowe and Tim Hudson, or simply don't know what they're doing; and if (when) Chipper and Glaus get hurt, who's playing first? And what if both get hurt? Then what?

Troy Glaus is not the bat the Braves needed. The needed the available Miguel Cabrera and got Melky Cabrera. The Braves have made their own mess for what was a title contender a week ago. Now they're back amongst the rabble with two stupid deals in a 24-hour period and it's their own fault.


Joe said...

The Braves do need another bat, but taking on Glaus for very little money is not a "stupid" deal. I must disagree. Worst case scenario, they have a good option off the bench. But you are right when you say they need someone more reliable, and that they do...

Jeff said...

Signing Glaus, to me, tells Braves fans that Wren is just sorta half assing it. And Bay? Holliday? What happens when the big teams just move on without them? They get even LESS money. Holding out ain't gonna get em more money this off-season.

Joe said...

Who is "fuckbrain?"