Saturday, October 2, 2010

Is This A Shock?

  • Big changes for the Mets----no kidding!!!!

I understand that it's a large market club that's been through the ringer in the past four years due to drastic mistakes, injuries, collapses, along with on and off-field embarrassments (many of which are no fault of the club itself), but why is there such a reaction from the leaked story that the Mets are replacing both manager Jerry Manuel and GM Omar Minaya as soon as the season is over?

Was anyone expecting either man to survive the rapid descent of a very expensive and underperforming team?

Of course not. Nor should they.

The Mets need to make fundamental structural changes with the way they do business. This is not a direct indictment of Minaya and Manuel----both of whom have admirable attributes----but it's time to go in a new direction. Nor is it to imply that the team has to be torn down from top-to-bottom and rebuilt from the ground up; they have plenty of talent permeating the entire organization and can be scotch-taped together to contend very quickly.

Anyone who suggests that any team can't be turned around need only look as the 2003 Tigers. That team lost 119 games and three years later were in the World Series. It's happened quicker with other teams. In today's game, a turnaround happens fast with intelligence and a little luck; and the Mets aren't in the same situation as those Tigers were.

Assertions that the Mets weren't going to do something substantial to alter the club's course stem from the perceived ineptitude of Jeff Wilpon. Fred Wilpon didn't help in August by suggesting that Minaya was staying. But this eventuality has been known; and it's been known for awhile.

Minaya may stay with the club or he may depart. It depends one whom is hired to take over for him and whether they have the self-confidence to deal with the former GM still being part of the organization. Minaya, for all his mistakes----mostly due to an inability to handle crises and difficulty with the English language----is still a keen eye for baseball talent; his charm and affability would be an asset to any organization. I do not believe that Minaya would undermine any new baseball boss. That said, it's natural if the new GM wanted to distance himself from the former GM and preferred that Minaya leave; Minaya would be well within his rights to go to another club and function as an assistant to try and rebuild his reputation.

Manuel will get a coaching job somewhere. Presumably, if Willie Randolph gets one of the managerial job openings after the season, that's a viable landing spot for Manuel.

So where are the Mets going from here?

Until a successor is named, we'll hear speculation from everywhere. Some will be based on factions; some on reality; some on tossing stuff at the wall. The names have been mentioned frequently----Sandy Alderson, Rick Hahn, John Hart, Jon Daniels, Billy Beane, Josh Byrnes, Joe Garagiola Jr, Logan White----all have their positives and negatives.

As decision time comes closer (and we know that it'll be leaked days in advance so the Mets get a gauge on the public reaction), I'll have more to say on the subject. It sounds as if the Mets intend to do their due diligence on their next hiring. The idea that Wilpon doesn't have the right to have his most important employee----the head of baseball operations----run his trades, signings and hirings past his boss is ridiculous. He owns the club and by definition can and should have a voice in what's done.

In the past, the Mets most important employees haven't been the head of baseball operations, but their medical staff and the PR man. This has to change and if that means bringing in an outsider to do the job correctly and giving him free rein to explore the heretofore unthinkable such as trading David Wright, then so be it.

Before the season started, both Minaya and Manuel knew that if things didn't improve greatly, they were out. Things didn't improve greatly. And they're going to be out. We knew. So did they.

  • Viewer Mail 10.2.2010:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE the Padres:

I wouldn't consider the Padres' situation a collapse for the simple reason that no one thought they'd be a contender in the first place.

I'd tend to agree. It was more of a stumble that happens with a young team. Collapses are sometimes more about perception than reality; if a team can overcome the late season nervousness that does them in, that's how repeated championship teams are sometimes built because they have the frame of reference to say, "hey, we won it before, we can do it again". That was one of the things that truly helped the Yankees during their dynasty.

Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE the Padres:

I'm with Jane on this one. I'm pulling for the Padres to go on a roll and at least make it interesting after this weekend, but Hoyer & Co. gotta be happy about Year One whether they make it or not.

Remember 2008? 99 losses is a lot to overcome, even if given two years.

I was considering the 2008 disaster as part of the entire episode. Going from where they were in 2007 to that nightmare and then rising again only to falter early in September is all one larger narrative. I'm hoping they make it interesting as well----and it looks like they might.

Gabriel (Capo) writes RE the Padres:

I do consider it a collapse, since no one expected them to contend, but then they were in contention. What's important is as Jeff said, even if they do not qualify to the playoffs, it has been a good year, in which they surpassed expectations.

It's going to be a fight to the death. Great games to watch this weekend.

Like I said to Jane, if they can fight their way through this----something the Mets couldn't do in 2007-2008----they'll be the better team in the future because of it.

Macw writes RE Ichiro:

The idea that Ichiro could hit 25 to 30 homers if he chose to is the worst kind of conjecture. Ichiro's lifetime batting average on fly balls is something like .184. Compare that to a home run hitter like Ryan Howard who hits .450 on fly balls with most of them going for home runs (you can find this info in Bill James' 2009 edition of his Gold Mine). Ichiro has never hit a home run to dead center or to left center field, a classic indication of a player who doesn't have the power to consistently swing for the fences. To argue that Ichiro chooses not to hit more home runs because he's selfish is just fallacious character assassination, just like your argument that Ichiro was giving less than his best effort in Center field or that he drove Hargrove out of Seattle even though both parties deny it. To resort to innuendo and assumption to belittle a player is to give yourself away. You are not a reliable judge of Ichiro's character or his contributions on the field.

No one is saying he should "consistently swing for the fences"; what I'm saying is that he should get himself into more advantageous counts and try to manipulate the situation to get a pitch to pull and hit it out of the park. With his bat control, there's no reason he should not be able to do this.

Pitchers and opponents know that he's a hacker who isn't looking to drive the ball out of the park. The fear factor with Ichiro is non-existent specifically because of this fact.

In Jay Johnstone's book Temporary Insanity, he related a letter he received from Ted Williams. In part, the letter discussed an approach at the plate that any good hitter----regardless of ability----should take. One thing Williams said was the following:

Do not try to pull the ball. If you have figured the pitch properly, you are going to get enough pitches that it should be just like batting practice. I'm sure you pull a reasonable amount of balls in practice, so you should never make an effort to do it. It should come naturally.

Ichiro gets so many of his hits early in the count and walks so infrequently, that he's not waiting for a good pitch to drive; a pitch to pull.

How is it character assassination when I'm judging him based on his results and crediting him for having the talent to do more than he does to help the team win? I didn't say he was giving less than best effort in center field; I said he was unhappy about playing the position and let everyone know that with his attitude. The issues with Hargrove were known and the timing was strangely convenient for Ichiro's contract extension coinciding directly with Hargrove's departure. It's been denied by all parties that this was anything more than accidental timing, but considering Ichiro's importance to the Mariners, what other conclusion could be drawn?

PairFace writes RE me and the Phillies:

Sorry Paul, you don't get to have it both ways here. You don't get to trash Amaro for his dealing away of Lee, and say on the other hand that Oswalt fell into Amaro's lap by some divine intervention. Other teams had shots at Oswalt. (Yankees could use a starter right about now), but it was Amaro who landed him. Like it or not, Amaro has now produced TWO aces at the trading deadline for the Phillies - Lee last year, and Oswalt this year.

Also, I never claimed trading Lee was the "right" move. But your claim of Lee for Halladay being a lateral move turned out to be indeed inaccurate. Halladay out-pitched Lee this year, and is under club control for 3 more years. Lee is a pending free agent who will be asking for a 6 or 7 year deal (Mets should offer 8, LOL!). My point is this. If it was "wrong" for Amaro to trade Lee away, then it was "right" to pick up Oswalt. Don't come up with a laundry list of excuses. Just be a man and give Amaro his due.

To answer your question about if I was worried about the Phillies in July, my answer is an honest no. Two reasons - 1. The season doesn't end in July, and 2. The Braves needed to put a lot more distance between themselves and the Phillies than they did when they had the chance. As many injuries that the Phils dealt with through July (more than NYM, btw), they were never more than 7 back. The Braves had a chance to pull away, and they failed to do so. Once the trigger was pulled on the Oswalt deal, and Howard and Utley were back in the lineup, it wasn't a matter of "if" they were going to catch the Braves, only "when".

Bringing up your WS picks were just a harmless dig. But are you really hanging your hat on your predictions for the Diamondbacks, Marlins and Indians??? Man, you are really reaching.

One final point to correct: Hamels struggled through April, not "mid-season". Tough to deny that 2nd-half though. Not very Steve Avery-like, that's for sure.

You can't control yourself with the barroom shots: "Just be a man..."; that stuff has no affect on me. It's like in the Back to the Future movies when Michael J. Fox would go insane when someone called him a chicken----who cares? Lose that stuff.

It's not having it both ways if they're two different issues. I said at the time that the trade of Lee to replenish the prospects and get Halladay was a mistake. Teams cannot rebuild on the fly in such a way. The only way for a team to rebuild on the fly is to replenish the current core with free agents, trades for veterans and smart drafts; to try and do it by trading a star pitcher for another star pitcher while simultaneously maintaining the prospect base is walking a tightrope over the Grand Canyon----it's very, very hard to do.

What am I giving Amaro credit for and why are you so obsessed with it? I don't feel he's a top-tier GM; the Ryan Howard contract is going to haunt that team for years. It wasn't divine intervention that led Roy Oswalt to the Phillies unless you consider David Montgomery and Drayton McLane deities. You're absolutely right about the Yankees----you nailed that one----they should've gone after Oswalt, but they're conscious of their finances and couldn't have known that Oswalt would've been willing to make the concessions he did; nor that the Astros would agree to pay the amount of cash to supplement his contract----and a giant part of that was due to the owners' involvement.

I am giving Amaro credit for tacitly acknowledging the mistake in letting Lee go by getting another starter. Had they kept Lee, they could've also kept J.A. Happ; made the conscious decision to go for it this year with Halladay, Lee and Hamels; and let Lee leave as a free agent to take the draft picks which undoubtedly would've been better prospects than that which they got for Lee from the Mariners.

My argument for it being a lateral move was based on the pitchers----both are aces and Halladay had drastically outpitched Lee this year; if you remember, I also brought up Halladay having thrown 1000 more innings than Lee; given his work ethic and durability, that may or may not catch up to him. I did say he'd be terrific this year at least and probably next year as well, but it's not something to dismiss when you have a pitcher in his mid-30s who's been worked hard.

I don't know whether you were or weren't worried at mid-season, but they were swooning with both Utley and Howard in the lineup; the injuries came in the middle of their team slump.

Regarding Hamels-Avery, Hamels had been used heavily at a young age and his velocity dwindled into the mid-high-80s. This should've been a grave concern to everyone; he was inconsistent up until mid-season when they acquired Oswalt; Hamels did not pitch well last year. The if-when thing of catching the Braves was highly presumptuous.

With my predictions, I'm not getting into a back-and-forth about that; my point was that I got many things right and wrong. It's easy for the stat zombies to go with projections based on calculations and come to a conclusion----with a ready made excuse of "underperformers"----and present them. To me, that is not analysis. I could go through the book line-by-line and find certain aspects like Javier Vazquez that I nailed. I don't consider the Diamondbacks prediction to be "reaching" especially since so many had them as serious contenders.

That's neither here nor there.

The point is that you picked on my questioning of the Phillies as a basis for ridicule when it wasn't, as you first said, partisanship. I wouldn't betray my credibility for the Mets or to criticize the Phillies.

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.

Two more days of promotion!!!

  • The Prince on the Podcast:

I'm scheduled to appear with Sal at SportsFan Buzz on Monday talking about the playoffs; Ichiro; and the Mets changes; among other things.


PairFace said...

Well Paul, you begrudgingly gave Amaro some credit, so I guess I can live with that. But you went out of your way to rip Amaro at length on several occasions, and only credit him when someone calls you on the carpet for it. I would think it would be to your benefit, as someone trying to sell objective baseball analysis, to handle your non-favorite teams with a little more objectivity (and not so much favoritism for your team).

I never said Amaro was a "top-tier" GM. He will have to prove that over time. But he has done a good job to this point, and has brought big pieces in at the last 2 trading deadlines. No other GM in MLB can make the same claim. Not even Cashman, with his endless reserves. (BTW, did you really call the Yankees "conscious of their finances"??? That would be the first time I've ever heard that term associated with that organization. Just saying.)

I agree that getting Oswalt was at least a partial admission of a mistake in dealing Lee away. But as it stands, the Phils will have Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels under control next year, and perhaps 2012. That's as close to guaranteed pennant contention as there is in baseball. Lee pitching out the year in Philly, and then leaving, would not have left the Phils in as good a position as they are right now.

Which is why the talk of prospects and/or draft picks is moot right now. The Phils are built for the here and now. I think every rational Phils' fan realizes the window for this group closes sometime after the 2012 season. Whether the window closes quickly or gradually is irrelevant to me. This is the time for this group to collect all the hardware it can. I am with you in that I would gladly trade some down years in the future for pennants and championships now. That's why Howard's contract doesn't bother me so much, because there are no more uncertain arbitration years to deal with, and Amaro will know exactly how much wiggle room he will have at next year's trading deadline.

She-Fan said...

Billy Beane to the Mets? Did I actually read those words? Now that would be a fun trip for you to write about.

Macw said...

Prince, once again the assumption that Ichiro could hit 25 to 30 homers a year if he simply chose to is completely unfair. In Japan Ichiro hit as many as 25 homers in 130 games, and his slugging percentage in his seven years there was around .530. But in the U.S. where the parks are bigger, most of his fly balls die short of the fence. Gerald Perry, the Mariners hitting coach in 2001, encouraged Ichiro to hit the ball on the ground and use his speed, which Ichiro did. Was Ichiro selfish to do so? Perry seems to have had the right idea. Ichiro's lifetime average on fly balls is .163 and .305 on ground balls (you can find the info on -- click on splits). Chone Figgins, who is ten pounds heavier than Ichiro, is hitting second in the order this year and has hit only one homer. Is Figgins selfish for not trying to hit more home runs? Over the last eight years of his career Pete Rose only hit 8 homers, which is almost inexcusable for a corner infielder. Is it fair to assume that Rose was intentionally refusing to hit home runs rather than suffering a real decline in his ability to hit them? In Bill James' Historical Abstract he has this anecdote about Willie Wilson: "...Worse yet, in the mid-1980s the Royals hired Lee May as a hitting coach. Lee May legitimized Wilson's fantasies about being a real hitter, taught him to drive the ball hard to the outfield, so that somebody could run under it and catch it. His batting average dropped 50 points overnight, but Wilson thought it was cool because he was hitting the ball so much harder than he used to. Whitey Herzog says in 'You're Missin' a Great Game' that he discovered in the late 1990s that Wilson was still angry at him because Herzog made him slap singles (and hit .320), rather than allowing him to be a real hitter (and hit .265, but with 5 homers a year)." It takes an intelligent hitter to understand his limitations. Perhaps Perry did Ichiro a disservice, perhaps he would have been better off with a coach like Lee May who could have tried to transform Ichiro into another version of Lee May. But I doubt it. Why in the world would you think that Ichiro could hit more home runs in the U.S. where the parks a bigger than he did in Japan? Do you really think he changed his approach in the U.S. to be selfish?

Macw said...
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Macw said...
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Macw said...

And Prince, you're saying that Ichiro was giving his best effort in center field but showed everyone he was unhappy about it with his attitude? I personally couldn't see it. How could I with him giving his best effort. And is the only conclusion we can draw in Hargrove's departure was that Ichiro was personally involved? How about we take Hargrove at his word. How about that? Look, it's clear you're not coming off your point that Ichiro is selfish. As you say, it gives you pleasure. But please, deal in facts, not conjecture.

Macw said...

One more for the road, Prince. I decided to do two minutes of research to show you the following: Kaz Matsui's Japanese league HR high is 36, his U.S. high is 9. Akinori Iwamura hit 44 homers one year in Japan, his U.S. HR high is a paltry 7. Kosuke Fukodome once hit 34 homers in Japan, for the Cubs the best he's been able to do is 11. Hideki Matsui's Japan HR high is 50, his best year for the Yankees was 31 (his home runs per at bat over his last seven years in Japan was about one every 12.6 at bats, in the U.S. it's been one every 23.9). Do you see a pattern? Are Iwamura, the two Matsui's, and Fukodome all deliberitely curtailing their power here in the U.S.? All of the them had more power than Ichiro in Japan, yet you expect Ichiro to be able to show more power than they have here in the states. How? Ichiro is the one Japanese player who has adapted his style of play in order to flourish in a tougher competitive environment and you hammer him for it.