Monday, June 21, 2010

Thunderbolts, Lightning Storms And Devastation

  • Reading between the lines on the transaction wire:

Surprisingly in contention for the first time in forever, the 1984 Mets made a late season move for the stretch run in acquiring Ray Knight from the Houston Astros. When it was announced, there was slight wonderment of what they were going to do with Knight; he had been playing both first and third base for the Astros, but the Mets seemingly had both of those positions covered.

First base was manned by a guy named Hernandez, first name Keith; third base belonged to Hubie Brooks who, at age 27 was blossoming into his massive potential with the best year of his career including a 24-game hitting streak; 16 homers; 73 RBI; a .283 batting average; solid defense and clutch hitting.

What to do?

Manager Davey Johnson solved the issue by shifting Brooks to shortstop.

The Mets had been using light-hitting Jose Oquendo; Rafael Santana; and Ron Gardenhire at the position prior to the acquisition of Knight, but always looking to upgrade the offense, Johnson was willing to run the risk of moving Brooks and possibly sacrificing some defense with Brooks's inexperience at the position.

In the short-term, the switch didn't affect their final standing one way or the other as they finished in second place in the NL East behind the Cubs; but that one deal set in motion the other maneuvers that made the Mets champions.

That December, the Mets made a curious trade as they sent solid starter Walt Terrell to the world champion Detroit Tigers for a young third baseman who was ensconced in Tigers manager Sparky Anderson's doghouse; his name was Howard Johnson. More bewilderment ensued. Another third baseman? For what? And why trade the durable Terrell?

Back then, the Expos were one of those teams that was annually picked to win the World Series but never did. The Mets, looking for that last piece to the puzzle had told the Expos that if they were ever looking to move their catcher----Gary Carter----they'd have great interest. After the 1984 season in which the Expos finished at 78-83 and decided to make some major changes.

Days after the Terrell-Johnson trade, Mets GM Frank Cashen acquired All Star and MVP candidate Carter for four players----Hubie Brooks among them----thus explaining why the prior series of trades were made.

On the surface and examined individually, the Knight/Johnson deals were odd; in the grand scheme, they were all part of a brilliantly executed plan. Carter was the missing piece at the plate and in the field; Knight was the clubhouse leader and on-field muscle who was feared and respected throughout baseball (he invited Dave Parker AKA The Cobra, to step into the ring during batting practice the day after the Mets-Reds brawl in July of 1986----Parker backed down); and Johnson became an All Star and MVP candidate in his own right.

The sequence began when the Mets shifted Brooks to shortstop. Since they already had a young third baseman in Tim Wallach, the Expos saw enough of Brooks at the position to believe they could live with him playing the position for an entire season and trade Carter to get him.

One move led to another and the reasoning behind it wasn't as simple as an immediate upgrade.

Could a similar machination be in place now as the Mets sent 20-year-old pitcher Jenrry Mejia down to Double A to begin the process of returning to the starting rotation? As they recalled flamethrowing righty Bobby Parnell to replace Mejia in the bullpen?

Are the Mets preparing for a future of their own with Mejia in the starting rotation and Parnell in the bullpen? Or do they have something else in mind? Are they giving Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik some basis to accept a trade centered around Mejia and Parnell (and presumably Fernando Martinez)...for Cliff Lee? The Mets are steadfastly and smartly refusing to trade the blossoming Jonathon Niese in a deal for a starter; but Mejia may be in play.

Let's say the Mets put that package together for Lee and Ryan Rowland-Smith, would it be worth it? Would Mejia and Martinez and all their developing abilities be an acceptable trade-off for the chance to put together a rotation of Johan Santana; Lee; Mike Pelfrey; and Niese? That rotation along with the return of Carlos Beltran to the lineup would create a championship-quality team.

Ancillary factors such as Lee's signability have to be taken into account; but I guarantee you if the Mets get Lee, they'll do the equivalent of shutting the door behind him, locking it and tell him that he's not leaving now or ever.

I'd hate to lose Mejia's arm, but as we've seen with other young phenoms such as Joba Chamberlain, you never know what's going to happen with a celebrated prospect; never know how long it's going to take for them to develop if they develop at all.

You have to give in order to get and getting Cliff Lee would create thunderbolts and a lightning storm across the New York City skyline that would elicit terror across the entire National League.

It might win the Mets the World Series.

  • Carl....Pavano?!?

The scourge of Brian Cashman's tenure as Yankees GM outdueled Roy Halladay yesterday.

That's right. Carl Pavano, now of the Twins, went into Philadelphia and pitched a complete game 4-hitter against a Phillies team that appeared to have shaken themselves out of the month-long slumber at the plate with 32 runs in the prior four games.

Who can explain it?

Who can say why Pavano was such an ambivalent $40 million nightmare for everyone with whom he had any dealings whatsoever during his tenure with the Yankees?

And who can say why he was able, on 105 pitches, to efficiently dispatch that Phillies team while only striking out 2 batters?

Not only is Pavano pitching well, he's been durable and determined looking like an entirely different person than the guy wearing the Yankees uniform who wanted to go to the beach and chase girls rather than earn his paycheck.

The only person to blame for Carl Pavano's lost years as a Yankee is Carl Pavano; no one quibbled with the Yankees signing him and those that chortled at the way he fell apart, the Red Sox, Tigers and Mariners were prepared to offer him as much if not more money than the Yankees did----they got lucky that he spurned them.

It's sickening when a big name acquisition fails in a certain venue then turns around and regains elsewhere that which made him a sought after commodity to begin with, but all you can do is shrug it off. Pavano's become an integral part of the Twins starting rotation and he pitched a masterpiece yesterday. It's part of baseball.

My podcast appearance from last Saturday with Jeff at Red State Blue State is up and now, so is Thursday's appearance with Sal at SportsFan Buzz. Click on the site link or click 2010BaseballGuideCover.gifhere.

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...

From what I can tell, Yankees fans (whom always seem to be bitter about something, even as they hoist the WS trophy high above their winning heads) LOVE to expound their disgust with Pavano. Can't say I blame them, but I'm glad Pavano has found glimpses of his former self.

She-Fan said...

Yankee fans are bitter about Pavano, Jeff, because he never worked a day in his pinstriped life. Even the other players hated him, so it wasn't just a fan thing. He took the money and sat on his ass.