Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sunday Lightning 11.7.2010

  • Some predictions are easy:

Amid all the speculation as to new Mets GM Sandy Alderson's interviews and possible choice as manager, there's an easy call that's going to be made the second he's legally able to do it----firing clubhouse manager Charlie Samuels.

Samuels has been scooped up in a gambling investigation in which it's been said he admitted to betting on baseball games. I'm not a reporter; I don't break stories; you can read about the growing mess here----NY Daily News Story----but it's clear what has to be done once the dust has settled.

Samuels has to go.

The most naive would believe that this doesn't go on; that there aren't players who are so wealthy and moderately bored that they need an increased rush that they haven't been able to replicate elsewhere through diversions such as women, cars, traveling and whatever; gambling is a rush.

I used to gamble. I was never out of control, but it had the potential head in that direction.

Players go to casinos; they bet legally on horseracing and dogracing; they play cards for money amongst themselves; they also bet on football, basketball----college and pro----and presumably a certain segment bet on themselves and their peers.

This isn't due to any inside information I have on anyone, but based on human nature and history.

Players bet.

Club employees bet.

There's not much that can be done about it aside from dismissing those that are caught up in and revealed to have been involved.

Like Charlie Samuels.

The Mets players have universally loved Samuels; the stories I've read and heard the likes of Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling tell on-air during Mets games indicate an affection for him that's admirable. He's been there for 27 years and also functions as the traveling secretary. Jeff Francoeur apparently gave Samuels a $50,000 tip; Francisco Rodriguez stayed with Samuels after he was served with a restraining order for his altercation with his common-law wife's father; and Mike Piazza gave him a Lexus---- Daily News Story.

Any good coach, manager or veteran player with a sense of decorum will tell you that one of the most important things they can do is tip the clubhouse people. Vince Lombardi explicitly encouraged his players to take care of the clubhouse personnel at home and on the road to make sure they were treated professionally and developed good reputations. Hernandez was known as one of MLB's best clubhouse tippers in his playing days.

It's a lucrative job which makes me wonder why Samuels was this stupid.

There will undoubtedly be issues with which I will have cause to question what Alderson is doing as he begins the task of overhauling the Mets on and off the field. But Alderson and I are both of the same school of not putting up with baseline crap. Gambling falls into the category of unforgivable baseline crap.

You cannot have gambling on baseball in the clubhouse.


You can't have it.

Let's say, hypothetically, that Samuels got into serious trouble with whomever he was placing his bets; what was to stop him from looking at the Mets upcoming matchups, seeing Johan Santana scheduled to pitch against the Pirates Daniel McCutchen or some other subpar pitcher with a stratospheric ERA and doing something to help himself? Could he slip something into Santana's drink? Could he do something to sabotage the game for the Mets to save himself?

This is an extreme, but not unreasonable, sequence of events. Is it that far-fetched? People are capable of anything when they're sufficiently pressured; and if things spiraled to a point of no return, anything is possible.

Given the Mets history of disconnect and outright ineptitude, I can't help but wonder if this was known in the organization; if they ignored it and hoped it went away or never came to light. Unlike the extreme scenario above, it would be a typical "Mets" thing to do to let such an act go without appropriate response or addressing of the issue.

One big positive with Alderson is that he's not beholden to the "Mets way" of doing things; members of the club "family" like Samuels won't be given the benefit of the doubt and over-the-top niceness and generosity that, as much as anything, has been a hallmark of the team under the Wilpons. Many times, their gaffes haven't been due to idiocy, but because they're too kind.

There are times to be gentle to try and salvage; and there are times to do what must be done coldly and without remorse.

It's not going to any great lengths to know that Samuels is going to be out of a job once Alderson is able to fire him; and I'd fire him too.

  • Another bit of business on Alderson's plate----hiring a manager:

An increasing number of people are expressing skepticism that Alderson is going to hire Wally Backman as the new Mets manager. Although there are factions openly promoting him while simultaneously trying to keep their agendas hidden with subterfuge, I said as soon as Alderson got the job that he wouldn't hire Backman.

It's not due to anything off the field (although Backman's inexperience as a big league manager; loose cannon mouth; and personal issues certainly don't help), but because his and Alderson's strategic beliefs are on opposite ends of the spectrum. Backman's aggressive to the point of being reckless; Alderson wants patience, steadiness and playing the percentages. Alderson's also said he'd like some Tony La Russa style "going from the gut" in his manager, which is a major deviation from the way he was portrayed in Moneyball. We'll see if that actually comes to pass.

He's not hiring Backman.

As for the other candidates, the flavor of the day is former Astros and Angels manager, current Mets minor league field coordinator Terry Collins.

Much like his clumsy and obvious lust for Alderson----exhibited during the Mets GM interviews----Joel Sherman makes his similarly maladroit case for Collins. In this NY Post column, Sherman goes into his familiar self-indulgence to bring pure Moneyball to the Mets in the form of a manager whose near rise to the throne as Dodgers manager in 2005 was one of the reasons Paul DePodesta got fired as Dodgers GM. (Well, in addition to him wrecking the team in 20 months.)

I'm neither here nor there on Collins. If you look at his history, he has favorable attributes along with his negatives. He's an experienced baseball man with a breadth of knowledge of all aspects of the Mets organization from the minor league system on up; he handled young players, the pitchers and bullpen well (although they chafed at his intensity) with the Astros from 1994-1996; then he went to the Angels and had two seasons over .500 before being fired in his third season.

Like Joe Torre, Collins might be a manager who isn't seen in a good light because of his past. With Torre, it was that he never won anything and was considered a retread. With Collins, there's this column, 10/28/2005 from LA Times columnist Bill Plaschke as DePodesta was set to hire Collins; the relevant bit follows:

Those of us who were around the Angels in the late 1990s know it's all about Collins' temper, a hot streak that angers veterans, scares kids and stains the image of an otherwise pleasant guy.

Two teams, two mutinies, two firings.

Plaschke also goes into the main attribute that Collins had for DePodesta: he'd do as he was told and was "on the same page" (a DePodesta prerequisite) as the architect of the organization.

I'm willing to give a bit (to a finite point) on the prospect of DePodesta joining Alderson's staff with the Mets; but don't you dare compare Terry Collins to the man DePodesta fired as Dodgers manager, Jim Tracy, on or off the field. Tracy is one of the best managers in baseball strategically and his players love him. He was fired in Los Angeles unfairly because he resisted being told what to do.

There's healthy disagreement and insubordination----I want healthy disagreement within a structure. Of course, you can't tolerate being openly challenged. I find it hard to believe that Tracy was disregarding his GM, DePodesta.

I'm not entirely sure what Sherman's trying to imply in his column as he discusses Collins's failure to lead a team to the playoffs. Here's the clip:

The downside with Collins includes never managing a team to the playoffs. After he left the Astros, Larry Dierker became manager and led Houston to three straight NL Central titles. He was 51-82 in his final year with the Angels before resigning amid acknowledgement that he had lost the clubhouse. Collins' reputation is for being hard-charging and demanding, and wearing poorly on players. He was replaced after the 1999 season by Mike Scioscia, who has gone on to become the most successful manager in Angels history.

With the Astros, Collins was replaced by the laid-back Larry Dierker and Dierker led the Astros to the playoffs in four of his five years as manager; they lost in the first round each time and Dierker was fired. For the Angels, he was replaced by Mike Scioscia who's a players' manager as long as the players fall in line and know who's boss.

Is the idea that the Mets are going to develop under Collins and wait for the next manager who "knows" how to win? The playoff aspect is relatively irrelevant; the past doesn't dictate the future as long as Collins has learned from his mistakes.

Collins's style and a series of insolent veterans with the Angels (Mo Vaughn, Cecil Fielder, Tony Phillips) were destined to clash. The argument could be made that the Astros were nurtured under Art Howe; taken to the precipice of the playoffs under Collins; and led to the playoffs under Dierker. Three different personalities, three different results.

Howe was a manager whom you could trust not to frighten youngsters into mistakes, but was so laid back that he'd be taken advantage of by a player who had interest in exerting his will; Collins was in-your-face and grating; Dierker was laid back and trusted his veterans to police the clubhouse.

Is this what the Mets are looking to do? Have someone ready the players for the next guy? Are they looking for a man on the "same page" as the front office? Or do they look past Collins's prior meltdowns and believe he's the right man for the job?

I have no problem with Collins. The Mets are loaded with young players who are going to need someone to teach them to play the game properly; the veterans they have could also do with a good swift kick. A manager with a "scary" reputation shouldn't be a consideration for the Mets after they allowed Tony Bernazard to spend 5 years running roughshod over the entire team without restraint.

That said, it's a bit too soon in the interview process to be declaring anyone the frontrunner...unless there's an underlying reason for said status.

You can decide on your own whether you believe that to be the case here.

With both the Yankees and Derek Jeter ratcheting up the rhetoric from their respective positions and preparing for the forthcoming negotiations, both sides have a case for their points-of-view.

Jeter has done what Jeter always does----he's kept his mouth shut and let his representatives/flunkies do the dirty work with as much distance and plausible deniability between the image-conscious shortstop and the wallowing in the muck that has to happen to get the money and respect he wants.

For their part, the Yankees are cognizant of Jeter's age and perceived decline (although if he were 30 rather than 36, 2010 would be seen as an off-year----no more, no less).

Saving face is as important as the dollars and years on both ends. There won't be any hardball negotiations between the two parties along the lines of the Red Sox with Jason Varitek in which they refused to budge on their stance and anointed him captain as an, "oh, here you go" type of device for him to explain away not being given the no-trade clause he demanded.

Let's take a look at why a deal will get done and how it behooves Jeter and the Yankees to make it as painless as possible.

Jeter is different than just any player:

This isn't a Scott Boras ploy of "intangibles" that pop up in one of his glossy books of accomplishments that he has printed up for his clients. Jeter really is different.

Despite certain segments of Yankees fandom disrespecting him openly with their moniker of "Captain DP" (which got to a point where I had to take them to the woodshed in a posting for their rampant selfishness and taking for granted of their team's leader), they can't replace him on the field or in the clubhouse with a reasonable facsimile who could do what Jeter does.

Having won five championships and accumulating Hall of Fame numbers on an individual and team basis aren't the only aspects of Jeter that have to be accounted for. For a young player who came to New York and almost immediately was thrust into the spotlight as the focal point of a championship team and dating Mariah Carey, everything was open to Jeter and there were the millions of pitfalls that accompany a handsome star athlete in New York.

Look at the careers of Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden and you know what could have become of Jeter had he been unable to resist the temptations inherent in the big city.

While he's been a behind-the-scenes dictator of clubhouse decorum (Jeter directs his enforcer, Jorge Posada, to handle whatever needs handling), he's the imperative conduit between manager Joe Girardi down to the players. Girardi is seen as aloof and it was only when he forged a bond with Jeter as both grew accustomed to the other in their current positions that the manager was able to relax (a bit).

There are leaders on the Yankees without Jeter, but no one can replicate the simple force of word from Jeter. When he says something, it goes without question or debate.

He can still play:

Was Jeter that bad this year?

In comparison to his prior years (especially 2009), there was a large decline; but 179 hits, 30 doubles, 3 triples and 10 homers; along with 67 RBI, 18 stolen bases, 111 runs scored, a .270 average and .340 on base are mediocre whenyou examine what he was, but where are they going to find someone to replace those numbers? His range at shortstop is diminishing, but logically who's replacing him?

Forget the off-field stuff. Jeter isn't David Wells or even David Cone in that a wild off-field lifestyle could be seen as a detriment to longevity. Jeter's name pops up as being at the hot nightclubs, restaurants and parties, but he never embarrasses himself or the club; more importantly, he's in shape to play.

So he's 36? So what?

Who's replacing him for the Yankees?

Here's the list of available shortstops via free agency: Geoff Blum; Orlando Cabrera; Juan Castro; Craig Counsell; Adam Everett; Jerry Hairston; Cesar Izturis; Edgar Renteria; Miguel Tejada; Juan Uribe; and Chris Woodward.


Okay, how about the trade market?

Stephen Drew of the Diamondbacks can be had, is a good fielder and can hit; but do you want to replace Jeter with Stephen Drew? Would Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenners have the sheer and utter fearlessness and audacity to break off negotiations with Jeter and move on?

Perhaps the cost-slashing Rays would be willing to trade Ben Zobrist, but is that realistic?

"Allow me to introduce the new shortstop of the New York Yankees (insert name from above here)."

Can you see this happening?

They have no in-house youngster to take over and only an utter fool would put a kid in the position as the man who replaced Derek Jeter as Yankees shortstop after Jeter's been told he's no longer wanted; forget that.

Another idea is they could move Alex Rodriguez back to shortstop and find a third baseman. Adrian Beltre's a free agent; presumably Mark Reynolds is available; maybe Sandy Alderson would talk about David Wright. The free agent names for third base are about as yawn-inspiring (or nauseating) as the shortstops listed.

When I broached the idea of A-Rod moving back to short, I got this comment from Joe:

I don't know that AROD could even handle short at this point. Seems like his range would be sub-par now. We always suggest that Kevin Youkilis could move back to third too, but really that is only known by scouts that see these two play a lot. It is tough to move to a tougher position in your 30's, and this applies to Rodriguez even more so, as he is in his mid-30's, and would be moving to SS, rather than 3rd.

Two things: A-Rod's range couldn't be much worse than Jeter's is now; and if the Yankees gave him fair warning early enough into the winter, A-Rod could adjust his workout routine to slim down and be able to play the position again.

But would they have the nerve? The nerve to tell Jeter to leave and give his position to A-Rod?

Where's Jeter going?

On the other side, where's Jeter going? And how many teams will waste their time chasing Derek Jeter knowing----as any idiot would----that the chances of Jeter leaving the Yankees are the impure percentage of Ivory Soap.

I mentioned some possibilities the other day under the circumstances----the Dodgers, Tigers, Giants, Padres----but seriously, do you think Jeter's envisioning putting on a different uniform? The one place that makes sense on the field is the Braves. But even if the Yankees lowball Jeter, the Braves can't come close to matching an offer to get him. If they wanted him, the only hope they'd have is if the Yankees-Jeter relationship somehow grows toxic and they split completely.

That's not happening.

They need each other:

Unlike (it seems) everyone else, I don't think the negotiations will grow contentious; they need each other. Jeter needs the Yankees; the Yankees need Jeter and they know it. And I don't mean now as a player, I mean for the rest of Jeter's life. Who knows how a separation would destroy the relationship after his playing days are done?

Jeter won't want to lose face by taking a drastic paycut; the Yankees don't want to be paying him $20 million when he's 41-years-old.

Having finished a 10-year, $189 million contract, the Yankees haven't disclosed how far they're willing to go; Jeter's people have floated the 5-6 year contract rumor. If the Yankees were going by what Jeter's on-field value is, presumably, they'd prefer a 2-year, $24 million deal with an option for another $12 million.

Realistically, Jeter and the Yankees have to meet somewhere in the middle. I say they will and Jeter will get a 3-year, $42-45 million contract with a mutual option for another $13-15 million.

Jeter has the cachet to be the Yankees clubhouse boss; the Yankees need him to stay. Both would maintain sanity with this type of deal and it's going to get done. Fast.

  • Viewer Mail 11.7.2010:

The Brooklyn Trolley Blogger (Brooklyn Capo) writes RE yesterday's free agent list and the stat zombies:

There's not a player on the list the Mets should be interested in. They should continue purging what they can, continue developing the kids in hand and NOT complain the Mets won't be looking to sign free agents this winter. We all knew 2011 was going to be a problem with Omar or Sandy. So I just don't want my fellow Met fans to say something really stupid this winter. The Mets have enacted change...Mets fan should check themselves also.

As far as "commenters" addressing you on your turf...Don't worry, every so often these visitors get too close to the cage thinking the animal inside is docile. "Oh...Take a picture of me!" and then....SWATH!! Claws down the back of the unsuspecting!
Pay attention folks and do not feed the animals. The sign is there for a reason! LOL

With the players, I'd look at a few of them for the Mets, but wouldn't get into a bidding war over any of them.

"Here's the offer, take it or leave it."

As for the zombies, come on Mike, you know how gentle I am; people can pet me anytime they want. It's perfectly safe....

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE my rant about ESPN's horrific writing:

Don't even get me started on the grammar of "journalists." Every night I watch the news on TV and my ears bleed when a commentator says, "Between you and I." Aaaargh.

There are understandable mistakes----typos for example; everyone makes them----but to put out such atrocious content and leave it out all day long indicates that they don't care at all. I can tolerate bad writing more than I can mailing it in or playing their audience for fools. Maybe it's simple ineptitude, which would be par for the course with them too.

Jeff (Acting Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE Jeter and the stat zombies:

The most interesting thing to me this offseason is the Jeter drama. Does Cashman really believe that he's gonna play hardball with a living legend?


Meanwhile, passing this out to the Zombie Annihilation Army (aka ZAA).

I said it earlier, Jeter's different; they'll get it worked out.

The zombies are proving themselves not to be worth our energy. Until they take a direct approach, why even respond to their empty guns?

Gabriel (Acting Underboss) writes RE the Blue Jays:

Anthopoulos (finally I learned to write his last name properly!) made some out-of-the-box moves yesterday. I think Miguel Olivo is the Jay with the shortest tenure ever. I think Kevin Gregg pitched much better than I thought he would at the beginning of the season, however Anthopoulos thought he was a little expensive. The draft picks are nice, but upgrades to the lineup would be nice too.

The Olivo thing was done to get a draft pick; why not?

Gregg wasn't that bad, but the Blue Jays have in-house candidates better and cheaper than him. I wouldn't push my luck too far with him if the team wants to improve quickly----and they can.

I was on with Sal at the Sportsfan Buzz on Wednesday talking about all this stuff. You can listen directly here; or download it from I-Tunes on Sal's site here.

1 comment:

Brooklyn Trolley Blogger said...

Jeter ~ he doesn't share anything out loud...But what I think preoccupies Jeter is his .300 lifetime Batting Average. I don't think he wants to jeopardize that like Mickey Mantle did. I don't think he will risk his avg. dipping below the 'magic number'. If he does it will haunt him and fill him with regret. He won't allow himself to deteriorate before our eyes like Mickey did. Jeter is too aware of his place in NYY history. He's getting married, he wants kids, and the rest of his life is already planned out; as a legend to boot. The 3000 hits are a lock. He won't compromise his .300 average. His agent might fight that fight at first, and use ARod as leverage, but Jeter and the Yankees understand they both need eachother. Me personally, I think he can maximize a series of one year deals; get his 3000th hit; save his .300 avg. and ride off into the sunset in Jeterian fashion...with class.