Friday, June 11, 2010

All The News That's Fit To Twist

  • Second guessing of the highest order:

Were you aware that I thought it was a mistake for the Phillies to trade Cliff Lee for Roy Halladay?

If not you haven't been reading me for very long.

They should've gone after Halladay and kept Lee. I've said this so many times that it's bordering on sickening in its repetitiveness.

It is with this in mind----that I was so adamantly opposed to the trade that I thought it was a potential season-sabotaging/foundation-wrecking mistake----that I have to defend the Philadelphia Phillies from the barrage of misplaced criticism they're currently receiving for their current and long-lasting slump.

Amid all the quizzical glances and bewildered queries of "what's wrong with the Phillies?", their issues are being gathered into one large and inaccurate lump of problems that it's become the "kitchen sink" theory. Just blame everything and everyone----including the Lee trade----and you're guaranteed to be right. If you drop a bomb on a village attempting to eliminate one target, you're going to get it with a massive amount of collateral damage.

While the critical notes regarding Lee are sprinkled in, easy and bordering on cheap, the Phillies plainly and simply haven't hit. Cliff Lee would have had absolutely nothing to do with Ryan Howard having a .654 OPS vs lefties; that they have three black spots in the lineup with Juan Castro and Wilson Valdez playing shortstop in place of Jimmy Rollins; and that Raul Ibanez looks inert.

The Philadelphia Phillies are 11th in the National League in runs scored.


Pitching has had almost nothing to do with their problems and despite a shaky bullpen without Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson, pitchers from whom little was expected like Jose Contreras have held their own over the first two months of the season; Lidge is back and has looked to be in 2008 form.

The starting pitching has ranged from borderline unhittable (Roy Halladay); to very good (Cole Hamels); to serviceable (Jamie Moyer and Kyle Kendrick). What would Cliff Lee have added to this?

The team is getting close to having to do something, but it remains to be seen whether it will be something big, middling or small. A big move would be to bench Raul Ibanez and call up Domonic Brown; a middling maneuver would be to blame and fire hitting coach Milt Thompson; small would be designating Greg Dobbs for assignment.

Manager Charlie Manuel is notoriously loyal to his veteran players, but given the way Brown has been demolishing Double A and that Jason Heyward, Ike Davis and Stephen Strasburg have had such positive influences on the attitudes of their respective clubs, feelings must be put aside with an unproductive player like Ibanez. We're not talking brevity and expectation of correction with Ibanez anymore; this is almost a year's worth of poor play. Loyalty has its limits and the order to do it might come from above if Manuel resists.

Firing Thompson would placate the fans, but the hitting coach is a negligible aspect to a team's success/failure. Thompson was the hitting coach with the Phillies' offensive juggernauts over the past three years; all of a sudden he doesn't know what he's doing? That said, bringing in a different voice isn't a bad idea. Change for the sake of change occasionally works.

They can DFA Dobbs, but no one would notice much.

The Phillies aren't hitting. Period. Cliff Lee is a pitcher. Logic dictates that Lee has nothing to do with the Phillies current woes; but again we see after-the-fact finger wagging from non-experts attacking the Phillies because the prospects they got in the Lee deal aren't lighting the world on fire in the minors. Today's contestant in NY Times baseball columnist Tyler Kepner, who provides the following snippet from this offering:

Rollins will play for the Class A Clearwater Threshers, where a teammate will be Phillippe Aumont, the 21-year-old right-hander who was the centerpiece of the Lee trade. Aumont started the season with Class AA Reading, but was demoted after going 1-6 with a 7.43 E.R.A.

The stated goal of trading Lee was to restock the farm system, but the other prospects in the deal have also struggled. Outfielder Tyson Gillies has a .291 on-base percentage for Reading and is out with a hamstring injury. J. C. Ramirez has a 4.55 E.R.A. for Clearwater.

I hated the Lee trade for the Phillies.

I thought it was a humongous gaffe in which GM Ruben Amaro went for half-measures and self-protection. They should've kept Lee. My criticism of the move is known, measured and reasonable.

But this? To cite the statistics of three low-level minor leaguers as some form of justification to criticize the Phillies for dealing Lee? Especially when the Phillies struggles are due to something no one could've seen coming?

This is worse than second-guessing; it's out-of-context nitpicking as if to raise an eyebrow and imply that the evidence is all tied together like some baseball-related RICO case to snare everyone in their ill-conceived net.

Cliff Lee is a terrific pitcher; but he doesn't hit. To insinuate that the Phillies would be in better shape now with Lee is inaccurate and wrong.

  • Positive signs for the Mets:

Jon Niese pitched a masterpiece last night. A 1-hit shutout in which he allowed only a Chris Denorfia double and faced one batter over the minimum, Niese looked to be doing a fair imitation of Andy Pettitte and Jon Lester.

With Niese, Jenrry Mejia, Mike Pelfrey and Johan Santana, the Mets pitching future looks bright and it's looking increasingly like they'll want to hold their fire before giving up the house for a Dan Haren, Cliff Lee or Roy Oswalt. They're holding their own at 32-28, in the thick of the playoff race and have good reason to look forward and expect to contend all year long even if they do absolutely nothing to improve.

Because of the difficult early-season schedule, the Mets have yet to play the Pirates; the Diamondbacks or the Astros. On the upcoming inter-league road-trip, they have a chance to beat up on the AL punching bags the Orioles and Indians before coming back to New York for the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

There are plenty of games on the schedule in which they can expect to accumulate some wins.

Another aspect is Carlos Beltran.

How is Beltran going to look as a second-half addition if he's able to play at 75% of his normal production? The questioning has begun as to who's going to sit from the current starting outfield of Jason Bay, Angel Pagan and Jeff Francoeur, but it's a silly question. Beltran's not going to be able to play every day, so to expect him to walk in and handle the nightly pounding is absurd. All four players will get their at bats and Beltran's return will both strengthen the lineup and bench simultaneously.

It would be a "Mets thing" to do to have this great run against some good teams, then go to Baltimore and Cleveland and get embarrassed, but they need to maintain focus. After a winter full of ridicule and laughter, the Mets are in this thing. They're for real. And they have to be watched because of the schedule and they that they have a little well-earned karma working in their favor.

  • Viewer Mail 6.11.2010:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE the Yankees and Cliff Lee:

Not that I wouldn't love Lee for the Yanks, but we don't need another ace right now, as you point out. We need bullpen help and a bat off the bench. But who knows.

I don't see Brian Cashman giving up a huge chunk of the farm system and then signing Lee to a free agent contract; and given the way he's run the club since taking full command, history is on my side. If the Marlins fade, Cody Ross is a perfect fit for the Yankees; and there will be bullpen arms like David Aardsma available as well.

The Brooklyn Trolley Blogger writes RE Cliff Lee, the Mets and Kenny Williams:

yea...The pitchers seem to be getting lined up. I don't want the Mets making a pitch for Lee if we can't negotiate a deal with him. It's just a game of chicken now. Who's going to disturb the hive first? I think the Tigers and the Twins have already forced Kenny's hand. I think Kenny Williams strikes first and blows it up. Early bird gets the worm.

The Mets should monitor the situations of Lee, Haren and Oswalt, letting it be known for their clubs to keep in touch with them before doing anything. There's a chance of the market collapsing. It's going to be pretty saturated with arms and bargains will be there for the taking.

With the White Sox, Williams will have better success dealing Gavin Floyd than he will Peavy; Peavy waived the no-trade to go to the White Sox, but he's not going to do it again; he's pitching poorly and making a lot of money ($15 million this year; and then a guaranteed $37 million through 2012); he's going nowhere. The White Sox aren't far enough out of first place to make a housecleaning sensible. They should be patient for at least another few weeks.

  • Another podcast:

I'm going to be on with my Street Boss, Jeff at Red State Blue State and his crew's podcast tomorrow. It should be something to behold----the unfettered Prince.

My book is still available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and It's available for download as an E-book here. You can also now get it for less that five bucks on BN via download here.


Jeff said...

Niese looked fantastic. What a plus for Mets fans!

She-Fan said...

David Aardsma? No thanks!

Brooklyn Trolley Blogger said...

The 26th one-hitter in Met history. When is this organization finally going to get a no-no? Niese was Nice! Looks like Met fortunes ride with the kids. I'm cool with that. The next kid I have my eye on is Dylan Owen the former Cyclone. The team has to get better on the road though.