The routine mantra of most GMs is, “never give a starting pitcher more than a five year deal”. The thinking being that the proclivity for injury in that time span is just too high. But, if there’s one exception to that rule, it is probably Johan Santana– the best pitcher in baseball.
SI.com and FoxSports.com have just confirmed a deal between the Twins and Mets for Johan Santana. The Mets now have a 72-hour window to come to terms with Santana on a contract extension. It’s believed that the Mets would like to sign the left handed 28-year old pitcher to a five-year deal, while Santana is seeking a six or seven year deal. If you consider that Barry Zito, who is ten months older than Santana, received a seven year deal from the Giants last season, Santana is almost a lock to receive the same length of contract. It is also highly unlikely that the Mets would agree to this deal if they weren’t willing to meet Santana’s contract demands.
While the nuts and bolts are being fastened, Mets’ fans should expect to pop the champagne cork by this Friday at the latest. While the names of the players going from the Mets to the Twins hasn’t been confirmed, USA Today is reporting that the quartet heading to Minnesota will be, OF Carlos Gomez, SP Deolis Guerra, SP Kevin Mulvey, and SP Philip Humber. Jon Heyman of SI.com mentions that there has been talk of substituting swing pitcher Jorge Sosa for Humber, and there have been rumors that the the Mets’ top prospect, OF Fernando Martinez could still replace Gomez. However,giving more clout to the USA Today report is the news that the Mets did call Gomez back to the states the other day even though his winter ball team was in the midst of the Caribbean World Series.
If the Mets indeed have dealt Guerra, Gomez, Mulvey, and Humber and we were to use the Baseball America’s 2008 Top Prospects list as a barometer, then the Mets would be dealing their # 2 (Guerra), # 3 (Gomez), # 4 (Mulvey), and # 7 (Humber) prospects for the right to sign the best pitcher in baseball to a deal that should be the richest contract ever signed by a pitcher. The contract will probably end up looking something like 7-years/$150 Million.
Once the deal is finalized, the Mets will enter the 2008 season with a rotation that will be hard for the rest of the AL East to compete with:
# 1- Johan Santana
# 2- Pedro Martinez
# 3- John Maine
# 4- Oliver Perez
# 5- Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez
So, rejoice Mets’ fans, it’s almost time to celebrate. Get ready to don your # 57 jerseys, break out your “You Gotta Believe” signs, the Mets just got a WHOLE lot better, and Santana-Mania is about to hit the Big Apple!
Carl the Cabbie
Grab your coffee Met-lo-maniacs! Here is the quick & dirty guide to making the 2008 edition of the Mets better. So, sit back, relax, and enjoy my Cabbie three-course meal, specifically prepared for your Mets’ 2008 dining pleasure.
Both Paul Lo Duca & Ramon Castro are free agents, so the Mets need a catcher. Sure the easy thing to do would be to re-sign both guys and maintain the status quo. This would be fine if there was nothing better out there. And if your looking for something better in the free agent pool you certainly won’t find it, unless your fond of a guy who likes to punch out his pitchers (Michael Barrett), or you honestly think that Jorge Posada will jump ship (Not!). No, to find the pearl, sometimes you have to go diving.
My first Cabbie tip for Omar Minaya is for him to use some of those free weekend cell minutes he’s been saving up to say "Hey" to Bill Bavasi in Seattle. Start with a little schmooze, "Hey Bill it’s Omar, how’s it going?… How is old Buzzie doing?… Yeah, I’m sure he misses Montreal as much as I do. Wish ’em my best huh!… Listen, I heard you might be looking for a young starter and maybe some fresh guns to help Putz out in the pen. And with the success you guys have had with that Johjima kid at catcher, I was wondering if you’d figured out what you were going to do with Jeff Clement yet?…" Yada, yada, yada. You get the drift.
So, let’s assume Bill decides to play ball. The Mets get their catcher of the future, a young power hitting lefty. A guy who might only be average defensively, but has the potential to hit a good 30-35 home runs a year with a .280 average. Think the next Todd Hundley. The only question now is, what’s the final fare? Hmmm, well considering the guy was the # 3 pick in the 2005 draft and he plays a high-need position, you’re not gonna just get him for some sandwich meat. But, I’ll bet a young set-up guy with plenty of arbitration eligible years left, plus a former 1st round starter could do it.
Mets get C Jeff Clement
Mariners get RP Aaron Heilman and SP Philip Humber
What do the Mets need more than anything else? How about a couple of RELIABLE relievers. Yes, yes. But, let’s be more specific. Well, it seems that the only good relievers we do have, pitch from the left side. And if we trade Heilman, we’ll need at least two good right handed relievers. Some might say we even need three, but I’m an optimist. I’m going to count on either Duaner Sanchez or Ambiorix Burgos staying healthy next year. However, since I’m no longer an idealist, forget about Guillermo Mota or Joe Smith being anything more than extra-inning fodder.
What to do? Ah, I got it! Terry Ryan just left for the president’s lounge. That means new GM Bill Smith is probably chomping at the bit to make his mark in Minnesota. Omar, call Bill immediately! He’ll probably just be impressed that you know his number. Since he’s been in their organization forever, I’m sure you’ve run into him at a GM meeting or a Rule 5 draft. So, start out like he’s your long lost buddy, "Hey Billy boy how’s it goin’? Congrats on the job, no one deserved it more than you! Hey listen, I know Pohlad’s accountant must be driving you crazy. My hat goes off to you. Figuring out how to keep Johan and Morneau is hard enough, let alone dealing with Joe Nathan and maybe losing Tori this year. But, that’s why I’m calling Bill. I think I can help." Yada, yada, yada.
Now, before you get ahead of yourselves Met-lo-maniacs, I’m not even dreaming of trying to trade for Johan Santana. Remember, I’m not an idealist anymore. No, we want Joe Nathan, the perfect right handed compliment to Billy Wagner in our pen. And I think I know just how to get him. When Tori Hunter officially leaves, the Twins will have a gaping hole in center. Perfect! We can offer them either Carlos Gomez or Fernando Martinez, two of the best CF prospects in the game. As the old adage goes, ‘you can never have enough pitching’, so we toss them a 6′ 10" 2nd round lefty stud from last year’s draft and WHALLA Nathan is a our new set-up man.
Mets get RP Joe Nathan
Twins get CF Carlos Gomez and SP Scott Moviel
This one is simple. It’s just about cost and risk. With Nathan aboard we have a dominant set-up guy, but we still need a solid seventh inning guy. Now, before you all jump on me about his injury history, I want to point out five reasons the Mets should sign RP Kerry Wood.
1. He’s still only 30 years old
2. He’s an incredibly dedicated and hard worker
3. He had a 3.33 ERA with 24 K’s in 24 IP after his long awaited return
4. He was clocked at 98 mph by the end of the season
5. He would cost you less than what you pay Guillermo Mota
Let’s recap. After this fine Cabbie dining delight, the Mets end up with Jeff Clement as their new catcher, and Joe Nathan and Kerry Wood as their new right handed set-up men. And all this can be ours Met-lo-maniacs for the modest fare of outfielder Carlos Gomez, and pitchers Aaron Heilman, Philip Humber, and Scott Moviel (2007 2nd round pick).
Now Go Chew On That!
Cabbie’s Prescription For Mets’ Fans
My suggestion to all Mets’ fans is to take off tomorrow and
sleep the day away. If you’re musically inclined, a little blues harp
under the light of the moon would probably being soothing to the soul.
And if you really find yourself unable to function, I would suggest a
swift and sudden tirade. Throw a chair, break a glass, pick up your
dog’s droppings with a Tommy Glavine
card. The long and short of it is to take the day and let yourself
express the agony of the worst September collapse in New York baseball
If you follow my advice I promise you’ll feel less worse on Tuesday.
And hopefully by Wednesday you’ll feel well enough to watch what should
be one heckuva postseason.
A Couple Of Playoff Notes For Non-Mets’ Fans
If you’re a Philly-fanatic, you’ve got to be ecstatic that the Padres and Rockies are playing a one game playoff tomorrow (Jake Peavy vs Josh Fogg).
Not only will the winner only have one day of rest before they travel
to Philly, but if the Padres win, the Phillies will only have to face
Jake Peavy ONCE! That’s a huge advantage for Philadelphia.
Padres’ fans might need to coalesce with Mets’ fans by the end of the
week. Besides blowing a nice wild card lead over the Rockies over the
past two weeks, they have to travel to Colorado tomorrow with the most
injury ravaged team that’s still alive for the playoffs. Their have
been plenty of signs in the past couple of weeks that karma might not
be on their side.
First, Mike Cameron gets a viral infection and misses a bunch
of games. When he finally returns last Sunday, he tears a ligament in
his thumb. His availability for the playoffs is now in doubt. Next,
they lose their best hitter, Milton Bradley, to a torn ACL when Bud Black, the Pads manager, throws a ballistic Bradley to the ground while trying to prevent
Bradley from ripping the first base umpire’s head off.
If those two major injuries weren’t enough to make Pads’ fans doubt their
team’s destiny, the Rockies win 13 of their final 14 games, including a
three game sweep of the Padres in San Diego.
Mr Padre’s Son Beats Padres—Ouch!
But, the omen of all omens that would really make me shutter if I were a Pads’ fan happened in the
bottom of the ninth on Saturday. With Corey Hart on second and the Pads one out away from clinching a playoff berth, all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman faced off against Tony Gwynn Jr.,
the son of the greatest Padre ever. Hoffman tossed eight straight
changeups at Gwynn Jr. before Gwynn hooked one into the rightfield
corner for a game tying triple. As karma would have it, the Pads would
go on to lose the game a couple of innings later.
AL Playoff Notes
Angels’ fans have to be delighted with how Kelvim Escobar pitched on Saturday. He looks good to go for Game 2 of the ALDS.
Since the Red Sox won home field advantage, they will get an extra
day off during their series with the Halos. That means they can use
just three starters if they want should the series go five games. Both Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka would be available to pitch twice on normal rest.
The Yankees on the other hand will now have to use four starters should their series go four games. That leaves Joe Torre with a big decision. Does he start veteran Mike Mussina if there’s a Game 4 or young phenom Philip Hughes? Who ever doesn’t get the Game 4 start would be up early in the bullpen for Game 3 in case Roger Clemens‘ bum hammy is still giving him problems next Sunday.
The postseason starts Wednesday, so get your rally caps ready fans,
the first round match-ups look to be the most competitive they’ve been
in quite a while.
Wed. October 3rd
Angels @ Red Sox (John Lackey vs Josh Beckett)
Cubs @ Diamondbacks (Carlos Zambrano vs Brandon Webb)
Padres or Rockies @ Phillies (Greg Maddux or Jeff Francis vs Cole Hamels)
Thurs. October 4th
Yankees @ Indians (Chien Ming Wang vs C.C. Sabathia)
My good karma gestures of the week go to the Washington Nationals. Matt Chico, you can ride in my cab for free anytime. Jason Bergmann, I will wear a "Jason Bergmann is the best pitcher in baseball t-shirt" for an entire week if you beat the Phils tomorrow. And a big Cabbie shout-out to John Maine, you were fan-FREAKIN-tastic today! Same goes for you Lastings Milledge. O’k, now back to work.
Coach Cabbie’s Pre-Game Speech To The Mets (Game 162)
I offer you nothing but tough love. I’m glad to finally see some fire in the old gut. Mets’ fans have been waiting. A matter of fact, I think Mets’ fans have shown a tremendous amount of faith and support this entire month, even through the late September slide. As players and coaches, we now need to show the same effort and heart as we’ve gotten from the fans all year long.
So, make sure you run out every ball tomorrow Reyes… Don’t leave the bat on your shoulder this time Beltran… Delgado, pay attention to that shift like you did today and keep going the other way… Watch the uppercutting Wright, we just need a bunch of base hits… Moises, lay off the inside pitch… Tommy G, do your thang… Bullpen, forget the past and throw STRIKES… And Willie, everybody but Maine should be available, including Ron Darling up in the booth if you need him. It’s now up to every single player and coach to man-up and get the job done!
Stay focused, get a good night’s rest, and let’s show some patience with Dontrelle tomorrow. No more tightness, we’ve already blown it, and thanks to Matt Chico and the Nationals we still have a shot.
So, play with all you got and stay loose as a goose. Loose as a goose, one pitch at a time… those are my Cabbie words of wisdom for ya.
So, it comes down to this— Three home games against the club with the second worse record in the NL. Three home games against a team the Mets are 10-5 against this year. Three home games against the highly dubitable troika- Byung-Hyun Kim, Chris Seddon, and Dontrelle Willis, and their combined 5.59 ERA. The Mets, they throw their three best- Oliver Perez, John Maine, and Tom "300 Wins" Glavine.
A Message From George Steinbrenner
For any Mets’ fans who are disgusted or are losing sleep over the
fact that the Phillies are now tied for first with the Mets, think of
it this way— If the Mets don’t win the division, not only don’t they
deserve to be in the playoffs, Willie Randolph and Omar Minaya need to
A Message From Cabbie
Here, Here! I hope you are listening Mets’ players, because you’ve
all played like a bunch of scared headless chickens these past two
weeks. Do you want to be the first team ever to blow a 7 game lead with
17 to play? I hope you feel the pressure, cause it might be the only
thing to wake your arses up. Enough coddling, enough wishing, enough "waiting to lose"
(as Paul lo Duca said yesterday). Enough is enough! Play like your life
depends on it, and just win the darn thing already. Mets’ fans deserve
OUCH! Watching the Mets is becoming more painful than a nightly root canal. A week ago Willie Randolphand Mets’ fans were thinking about who we should rest down the stretch
and here we are five days later crossing our nail bitten fingers, and
praying to the baseball gods that we’ll even make the playoffs. So what
the heck has gone so wrong?
A. Willie Randolph’s brain has gone numb
B. The Mets are playing the field like the Keystone Cops
C. The Mets bullpen STINKS!
D. All of the above
Auditioning For The Part Of The Scarecrow In The Wizard Of Oz
Message to Willie, STOP using Jorge Sosa, Scott Schoeneweis, Aaron Sele and
There’s a reason all four of them were still free agents a month before
the season began. Next time the Mets need a reliever before the 7th
inning, I call on all Mets’ fans to yell the name Philip Humber
at the top of their lungs. ****, we only drafted this guy in the 1st
round a couple of years ago. You’d think Willie would want to find out
if he could help the weakest part of this team. Look how it panned out
for Joe Torre when he gave Joba Chamberlain and Edwar Ramirez a shot.
6 errors in one game! 12 errors in 4 games! Willie, make this team
play Pepper every day for the next two weeks. If that doesn’t tighten
things up, hire a Lasik surgeon as your team doctor and petition the
commissoner for an extra fielder.
Firemen or Arsonists?
The four aformentioned arsonists have pitched a combined 262.1 innings this year to the tune of a 5.11 ERA and a 1.51 WHIP. If you subtract the 80 IP
Sosa threw as a starter, these four account for 48% of the Mets’
bullpen innings this season. Willie needs to watch more basketball. In
the NBA, there’s an old strategy teams employ during the stretch run,
it’s called "shortening the rotation".
Time to face the hard facts Willie- You have two pretty good relievers, Aaron
Heilman and Pedro Feliciano, and a lights out closer, Billy Wagner. You
need at least two more reliable guys for the playoffs. You have 12
games to find out who they are.
The time has come to make bold moves. With Pedro "Maestro" Martinez
back in the fold, the Mets have five starters. That means one of them
is going to end up in the bullpen SHOULD we make the playoffs. Tom Glavine and Martinez are the top two starters, and Oliver Perez is way too wild to count on to enter a game with men on base. So, there are only two choices- Orlando Hernandez and John Maine. While El Duque has pitched in relief before, his body is just too finicky at his age to
be counted on to pitch every two or three days. That leaves the young and fresh arm of John Maine.
While Maine has been god-awful the past two months, most of his
troubles have come the third time through a lineup. And for good
reason, he lacks a solid third pitch. But, the two good pitches he does
have are more than enough for him to be successful for an inning or
two. His fastball/slider combination is a deadly duo that could work
perfectly in a seventh or eight inning role.
Unfortunately, Omar Minaya made some bad decisions after the
All-Star break. Not adding an arm before the trade deadline could prove
to be the Mets’ downfall. Not adding Humber or Kevin Mulvey
(the Mets’ minor league pitcher of the year) before September has
limited the Mets’ options even further come playoff time, since neither
would be eligible for the playoff roster.
Cabbie Recipe For Success
The good news is that all is not lost, and the Mets are still
leading the Phillies in this race to the ribbon. Remember Mets’ fans,
the Cardinals were stumbling to the finish line in similar fashion last
year. But, it is time for Willie and his crew to wake up. So, here’s my
Cabbie recipe for repairing this train wreck of a bullpen:
1. Get John Maine prepared for a late inning role NOW!
2. Use Philip Humber and Mike Pelfrey as much as needed over the next two weeks.
3. Soak El Duque’s foot in Epson-salt.
For many fans the St. Louis Cardinals’ victory in this year’s World
Series marked the end of the baseball season. But for the hardcore fan,
the season never ends. The games on the field might have stopped for
the moment, but the games off the field have just begun. Here at INSIDE
PITCH we continue our look into the future as the New York Mets’ hot
stove heats up! In our last post we wrote about GM Omar Minaya’s
main offseason priority, beefing up an aging and fragile starting
rotation. Today, we will focus on one of Minaya’s ancillary
priorities— fortifying the bullpen.
The pen was not only the anchor of the pitching staff in 2006, it
was the best bullpen in the NL and possibly the majors (Though I’m sure
Twins’ fans might take umbrage with that statement). The Mets’
relievers provided all the ingredients that go into a great
bullpen—consistency, strikeouts, innings, different looks, effective
lefties, and a dominant closer. They led the majors in wins (32) and
BAA (.239); led the NL in ERA (3.25) and fewest blown saves (15); were
2nd in the NL in saves (43); 2nd in the majors in K’s (485); And only
the putrid Royals’, Cubs’ and Nationals’ threw more relief innings
(542.2 IP). Most importantly, this gutsy group of specialists carried
the entire team to within one game of the World Series with their
stellar postseason performances.
So, it is understandable that when it comes to the 2007 bullpen, the Mets will basically adopt the "don’t fix what isn’t broken"
philosophy. However, that doesn’t mean they won’t tinker a bit. The one
major change that fans can expect next season is the probable trading
away of elite set-up man Aaron Heilman.
There are many flags pointing in Heilman’s direction as the odd-man
out. For one, Minaya will need to deal from the team’s strength if he
decides to land a legitimate starting pitcher through trade. Secondly,
Heilman sees himself in a starting role, the Mets do not. And thirdly,
with Duaner Sanchez (photo on right) returning from his taxi-inflicted dislocated shoulder the Mets’ need for Heilman has diminished.
In 2005 Rick Peterson helped reinvent 40-old Roberto Hernandez with glorious results. This past season Peterson took aim at lefty retread Darrin Oliver.
After a career of scraping by on relief scraps and as a bottom of the
barrel fifth starter, Oliver at age 35 and in his 12th big league
campaign, finally showed the promise that once inspired the Texas
Rangers to draft him in the third round (1988). For the first time
since his rookie season, Oliver had an ERA (3.44) under 4.00. His WHIP
was a career best 1.12 and hitters batted a paltry .231 against him.
Best of all, Oliver actually became an effective lefty specialist for
the first time in his career. In his first 11 seasons, Oliver could
never be trusted to get a good lefthanded hitter out- they batted a
robust .284 against him. In 2006, Oliver finally realized that as long
as he could get his curveball in the strikezone, there was no reason
to feed lefthanded hitters’ a steady diet of his not-so-fast fastball.
The more he relied on his curve, the better his control became. With
the new found confidence in his best pitch, Oliver posted the best K/BB
ratio (2.86) of his career. So, it was no coincidence that lefties hit
only .208 against him.
Unfortunately for Mets’ fans Oliver won’t be back with the Mets in
2007. But, fortunately the reason he won’t be back is because of a very
talented young lefty named Royce Ring (photo on left).
Ring was a 1st round draft pick of the Chicago White Sox in 2002. The
Mets obtained him as the centerpiece of their deal with the ChiSox when
they traded away Roberto Alomar in 2003. Besides being ten years
younger than Oliver and throwing 8-9 mph harder, Ring possesses an
hellacious curveball that he finally mastered after three years in the
Mets’ farm system. With Billy Wagner as a mentor, Ring has the
potential to be a solid closer one day, but for the time being he will
support Wagner and Pedro Feliciano as the Mets will continue to holster the most dominating lefthanded relief corps in the majors.
Darrin Oliver’s departure will also open up another need for the
Mets— a solid long relief man. My best guess is that control atrist Brian Bannister (photo on right) will
be given first shot at this role. Bannister showed promise as an early
season starter before being derailed by an injured hamstring. His
greatest asset is his cool headed composure on the mound. Even though
he his only 25-years old, Bannister pitches with the guile of a
veteran, and relies on the solid command of a wide array of pitches. He
throws a two-seam (for groundballs) and four-seam fastball, mixes in a
changeup and a curve, and will even throw the occasional slider. Since
he is young and doesn’t rely on searing velocity, his recovery time in
between appearances should be minimal. This is an added benefit for any
long reliever. His ability to spot a starter in case of an ailment is
another caveat that makes him a very suitable replacement for Oliver.
Minaya has done a solid job of locking up his key players with longterm
contracts and recent contract extensions, but there are still a few
Mets’ free-agents that he must make sure don’t slip away. One of those
free-agents was crucial to the Mets’ bullpen success. After spending an
injury plagued 2005 in Beantown USA, Chad Bradford (photo on left)
was reunited with Peterson (his pitching coach form his Oakland days)
when he signed a one-year contract for $1.4 million at the beginning of
2006. Bradford, because of his submarine style, provided Willie Randolph
with a great change of pace option out of the pen. While Bradford has
always been death on righthanded hitters, he learned how to control
lefties this season by commanding the outside corner. Entering 2005
lefthanders had a .309 career Avg against him. In 2006 they hit only
.256, allowing Bradford to be more than a one or two batter pitcher.
Bradford also added to his resume as a clutch performer. In the 2006
postseason Bradford was the Mets most effective reliever going 5.2 IP
without allowing a run. In 17 career postseason games Bradford has
never allowed a run. For Minaya to lock Bradford up, he will most
likely have to offer him a two-year deal in the neighborhood of $4 or
$5 million dollars.
In August, after the Sanchez injury, Minaya had seemingly found gold when he saved Guiilermo Mota
from the Cleveland Indians’ dog house. Unfortunately, it now appears
that Mota was nothing more than fools gold. Mets’ fans wanted to
believe that Rick Peterson had pulled off another miracle by helping
Mota rediscover the missing 5 mph that his fastball had lacked for most
of the season. As it turns out, steroids had more to do with Mota’s
turn around than any of Peterson’s tutorials. Because of Mota’s
deceptive violation of MLB’s new performance enhancing policy, he will
be suspended for the first 50 games of the 2007 season. While Mota
could possibly be back for the second half of the season, there will
most likely be an open spot in the pen come spring if the Mets decide
to carry seven relievers as they did most of 2006. While it’s possible
the Mets will bring in a free agent to compete, flame thrower Henry Owens (photo on right)
seems primed to have first crack at the open slot. Owens blew away
Double-A hitters while pitching for the Binghamton Mets most of the
season. Thanks to a fastball that ranges from 95-98 mph, Owens went 2-2
with 20 Saves, a 1.58 ERA, a 0.73 WHIP, and 74 K’s in 40 IP as the
B-Mets’ closer. In his brief stint with the big club in 2006, Owens
showed that if he can gain control of his slider he could be a force
for major league hitters to reckon with.
Hard to believe that Billy Wagner (photo on left)
was the Mets’ least effective reliever in the postseason, but hopefully
he will have the chance to avenge his ill-pitching in the 2007
postseason. Despite his hiccup in the playoffs, the fact remains that
Wags is still the most dominant lefthanded closer in the NL. And along
with B.J. Ryan, is one of the two most dominating lefthanded
closers in the majors. In 2006, Wagner reached the 40 Save mark for
only the second time in his career. He ended the season with a
spectacular 2.24 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP, 94 K’s in 72.1 IP and held hitters
to a .219 Avg (lefties batting only .161 against him).
Mets’ Potential 2007 Bullpen:
Closer- Billy Wagner (L)
Setup- Duaner Sanchez (R)
Setup- Aaron Heilman (R)
Middle- Chad Bradford (R)
Middle- Pedro Feliciano (L)
Middle- Royce Ring (L)
Long- Brian Bannister (R)
* Guillermo Mota possibly in second half of season
Middle- Henry Owens (R)
Sorry I haven’t blogged for the past six days, but ever since the Cardinals eliminated the Mets, I have been sitting Shiva
in honor of their great and honorable, but nonetheless, painful loss in
Game 7 of the NLCS. For those unfamiliar with the Jewish culture, after
the death of a loved one there is a customary period of mourning for
the surviving members of the family to allow them to adjust to the loss
suffered. This period is called Shiva. In Hebrew the word Shiva
actually means "seven", so the standard grieving period lasts seven
days. Since I am a fairly quick healer and a dutiful journalist, and
even though I still feels pangs of pain every now and then when I think
of Carlos Beltran standing stoically at the plate as he helplessly
looks at Adam Wainwright’s knee-buckling strike three, I have decided
to end my mourning a day early. My final prayer is, "let the death of the Mets’ 2006 season not be for naught, but rather a great boon for the 2007 Mets".
A Salute To St. Louis
we look ahead to our exciting Mets’ future, I want to tip my cap to the
Cardinals. They played with courage and flair and I wish manager Tony Larussa’s club the greatest success in this year’s World Series. With New York Mets’ conquerer Jeff Suppan pitching at home in Game 4 and the Cardinals up 2-1 against the Tigers, the Redbirds look to be in great position to win their first World Series in 24 years. If they succeed, Mets’ fans can at least take solace in knowing that we lost to the eventual 2006 World Champions.
While we fell just short in 2006, there is a lot to look forward to
in the coming years. As much as this past season was about a run for
the Ring, it was also a great learning experience. So, what did we
learn? Well for one, the Mets have a great pair of leaders in Omar Minaya and Willie Randolph.
Minaya proved to be a skillful evaluator and a talented architect in
building an effective roster on the field. Randolph showed he is a
great motivator of men and an instinctual on-field general who has the
guts to pull the necessary strings to win any given ballgame. As for
the roster, the Mets are brimming with talented ballplayers, a fine mix
of veteran quality and exciting potential. This club is positioned to
be a playoff juggernaut for the near and far future.
While Pedro Martinez had much to do with bringing
respectability back to Flushing, the Mets are well prepared to enter a
post-Pedro period. Not that "the Maestro" is completely finished. He
might well still lead the charge into the postseason in 2007. As of
now, the Mets expect him to return after the All-Star break next year.
The fact remains though that we can no longer count on his greatness
the way we did the past two seasons. And that’s o’k, because there is
enough pitching talent on the horizon to imbue great expectations in
this team— Pedro or no Pedro.
Bolstering and devising a healthy Starting Rotation will be the main
focus of the Mets’ offseason. The greatest benefit the Mets gained from
the untimely injuries to pitchers Orlando Hernandez and Pedro Martinez at the end of 2006 was the emergence of rookie John Maine and the reclaimation of Oliver Perez.
These two youngsters showed that beyond the lively talent in their
arms, they possessed the moxie and spitfire of big game pitchers.
From all indications, it appears that Omar Minaya might have finally made up for the Mets’ disasterous trading away of Scott Kazmir a couple of years ago. Getting Oliver Perez in a deal for Xavier Nady at the Trade Deadline might prove to be the greatest deal the Mets have pulled off since 1983 when they traded Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey for a fella named Keith Hernandez.
Perez is only 25-years old, a lefty with an upper register fastball, a
deadly curve ball and a serviceable changeup. In 2004, he showed what
he could do when he is right! Perez pitched 196 innings that year and
was the second best lefthanded starter in the NL behind only Randy Johnson.
Combining a 95-mph fastball with a 12-to-6 curve and a solid changeup,
Perez was fourth in the league in strikeouts with 239. He led all
pitchers by averaging 10.97 K’s / per 9 IP, was fifth in the league
with a 2.98 ERA, seventh in the league with a 1.15 WHIP and ninth in
K/BB ratio with a 2.95 mark. And though he encountered major control
problems over the next year and a half, it seems that pitching coach Rick Peterson
and crew have gotten young Oliver back on track. His improvement as a
Met was swift and one could see his confidence build as September wore
down. His final outing in Game 7 of the NLCS was an "ace" like performance that was excitingly reminiscient of his 2004 season.
Obtaining John Maine in the Kris Benson
trade at the beginning of 2006 might turn out to be the second best
deal the Mets have pulled off since the Keith Hernandez heist of ’83.
Like Perez, Maine is only 25-years old and his fastball is just as
delicious. The key to Maine’s future success will be honing his slider,
which has the potential to be a devastating out-pitch. The most
exciting Maine-moment for me was watching the confidence he showed when
he threw his best slider of the year to strike out Albert Pujols
in the fifth inning of Game 6. This game was an earmark for the
Virginian native. His 5.1 shutout innings in a "do-or-die" circumstance
was the most inspirational pitching performance by any Mets’ pitchers
in 2006. Based on his postseason perfomance, the fact that he was our
best pitcher in the second half of the season, and the allure of his
final overall numbers (6-5, 3.60 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and a .212 BAA), Mets’
fans should be very excited by his presence in the 2007 Starting
As for the remaining three spots in the 2007 rotation, expect Tom Glavine to work out an agreement to return as he climbs ever closer to the historical 300-win mark.
The Mets will most likely refuse his $14-million team option and
Glavine will most likely do the same with his $7.5-million player
option. The two will probably meet in the middle for what possibly
could be Tommy G’s final year. Glavine was as crafty as ever this past
season on his way to leading the Mets with 15 wins. He was nearly
unhittable in his first two postseason starts, and even though he
struggled in his final playoff start, we never would have even gotten
that far without him. As Kenny Rogers is presently proving,
40-years of age is not necessarily a liability to having mound success,
so expect Glavine to pitch with very similar results in 2007 as he had
Orlando Hernandez is in a similar contractual situation as Glavine.
The Mets would like to bring him back, but probably for only one year.
Considering the success El Duque had when healthy and the Mets’ brass
great respect for his big-game disposition, expect the two sides to
work out a one-year deal in the $5-$7 million range.
Mets’ fans should consider anything Pedro gives us in 2007 as gravy.
The time table is for him to return sometime in July or August of 2007.
If he is able to round in to form, Pedro could be a lethal addition to
the pitching staff just in time for the stretch run. If nothing else,
Pedro should give Mets’ fans something to remember in his first start
back as he is only 2 K’s shy of becoming only the 15th pitcher to join
the magical 3000-strikeout club.
The final spot in the rotation will be most interesting. Because of El
Duque’s precarious health and the youth of Maine and Perez, expect the
Mets to go after a big gun in the offseason. The Mets will probably
show major interest in all three of the best free agent pitchers on the
market, the Athletics’ Barry Zito, the Giants’ Jason Schmidt, and Japanese League star Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Schmidt has talked of his inclination to remain on the west coast, so
Zito and Matsuzaka seem to be better bets should the Mets add a major
arm via free-agency. However, there are major challenges that the Mets
will need to overcome if they are to obtain either of them. One of
those challenges is named the Yankees. If Georgie Porgie lets Brian Cashman
loose with the cash, Minaya could have a hard time outbidding his
crosstown rivals. The other major challenge is an agent named Scott Boras.
Boras represents both pitchers and is known for hijacking teams for
extra millions of dollars especially if their need is great enough. The
Mets do have a couple of things going for them though. Rick Peterson is
Zito’s mentor and former pitching coach. This bond is a strong one and
could help sway the talented lefty away from the Bronx or wherever else
he might negotiate.
The bidding process that will take place in order to obtain Matsuzaka
could also be helpful to the Mets. The team that gains the rights to
sign him will have to post a secret bid with the highest one winning.
This secret bidding is helpful in the sense that there will be no
counter-bidding allowed. If the Mets are bold enough, they have the
wherewithall to post the highest bid. Analysts have predicted that it
could cost as much as $30 million to gain the rights to sign Matsuzaka.
It would cost another $10-$12 million a year to sign him. And the early
rumblings are that the 26-year old will want at least a four-year deal.
If Minaya concludes that free-agency is not the way to go in filling
out his rotation, he will likely pursue the trade route. The amount of talent available in the trade market might provide Minaya with a greater pool of talent to choose from. With reliever Aaron Heilman yearning to be a starter (something the Mets will not allow him to do) and set-up man extraordinaire Duaner Sanchez
returning next season, Heilman becomes great bait for Minaya to use in
acquiring a starter. Omar has also seemed to have soured a bit on top
outfield prospect Lastings Milledge, so a package of Heilman
and Milledge could net the Mets the final solution to their rotation
puzzle. A few names Mets’ fans might want to keep track of once the
hot-stove warms up are, Chicago White Sox pitchers Freddy Garcia and Javier Vazquez, Orioles lefty Erik Bedard, and Marlins’ ace Dontrelle Willis.
The White Sox are committed to inserting Brandon McCarthy
into there rotation and have openly stated that they will look to
bolster their bullpen and strengthen their outfield by trading a
starter. The ChiSox have shown long term committments to Jose Contreras and Jon Garland
with recent contract extensions, plus Contreras has a complete no-trade
clause for 2007. That leaves Garcia and Vazquez as potential trade
bait. Both have one year left on their contracts— Garcia is owed $10
million for 2007 and Vasquez is owed $12.5 million. Both are 30-years
old and in the prime of their career. Of the two, Garcia has had more
success. In his 9-year career Garcia is 116-71 with a 4.01 ERA and a
1.29 WHIP. Vazquez, in his 9-year career is 100-105 with a 4.34 ERA and
a 1.27 WHIP. If Minaya obtains Vazquez, he would be acquiring a pitcher
he once traded away, but only for financial reasons (In 2004 as GM of
the Montreal Expos Minaya traded Vazquez to the New York Yankees for Nick Johnson, Juan Rivera and Randy Choate).
The Marlins who are endlessly cutting payroll are also in dire need
of bullpen help and seek a centerfielder. Willis will be due a nice
raise in arbitration that could cost the Marlins $7 or $8 million, which makes
him a very enticing trade candidate.
The Orioles need talent, period! While they will most likely hang
onto Bedard, their young lefty ace, a package including Milledge and
Heilman (who could step into a starting role for them) is a
possibililty that might be explored.
One last caveat that the Mets have for their future rotation is a
triumverate of youngsters that will provide great depth. The trio will
most likely begin the year at Triple-A. Mike Pelfrey will probably be the first call-up upon injury and could be their ace by 2008. Philip Humber their 2004 # 1 pick is not far behind Pelfrey, though he has had some arm troubles. And control artist Brian Bannister is a nice third option in case of major catastrophe.
Mets’ Potential 2007 Starting Rotation
1. Tom Glavine
2. Orlando Hernandez
3. Oliver Perez
4. John Maine
5. ? (But Someone Good)
*Pedro Martinez in second half of 2007
1. Mike Pelfrey
2. Philip Humber
3. Brian Bannister
Next Up: Mets’ 2007 Bullpen and Offense
O’k folks, this one is for all the marbles! Other than John Maine, every pitcher will be available to go tonight. Winning this game might not be easy, but it’s doable. Jeff Suppan has been darn good down the stretch for the Cardinals, but I guarantee the Mets are going to make him work a lot harder than he had to work in Game 3. We had a good long look at him four days ago and he’s going to have to change his pattern because you can bet your bottom dollar Carlos Delgado and company will be ready for him.
Why The Mets Can Win Game 7!
1. Fresh Arm—Even though he’s going on three days rest, Oliver Perez is fairly fresh having hardly pitched since late September.
2. Oliver Perez has been pretty darn good in his career at Shea Stadium:
4 GS 26 IP 14 H 9 ER 11 BB 25 K’s 3.12 ERA 0.96 WHIP .157 BAA
3. Inspiration—The Mets are playing on their home turf and the Shea Faithful will help to spur the Mets on when the going gets tough.
4. The Best Bullpen— The men in the pen are the best in the NL. Albeit Billy Wagner’s struggles, the relievers have shined in this series. If Oliver Perez can give us a solid 4 IP, there’s no reason the bullpen can’t continue to carry us to victory.
5. Jose Reyes is hot! If he gets on base tonight, watch out because the Mets offense could erupt.
6. Tony Larussa is not starting So Taguchi even though he is their hottest hitter- BIG MISTAKE!
8. Special Cabbie Prayer that will help boost the Mets’ Chances:
"We Play Tonight
We Win Tonight!"
Hold Onto your Seats Here We Go!
Are you ready for the ride of your life? Here we go Mets’ faithful, Game 7 of the NLCS at Shea Stadium! I’m sure if George Gershwin were alive to see this fateful game he would change the lyrics to his famous tune, "I Got Rhythm" into a fine baseball diddy,
I got rhythm,
I got music,
I got my Mets–
Who could ask for anything more?
One certainly couldn’t have asked for anything more than what rookie pitcher John Maine gave Mets’ fans last night— an inspired, gritty, fruitful night of well placed fastballs mixed with some of the best sliders of his young career. Maine’s 5 1/3 shutout innings was the perfect antedote for a beleaguered starting staff trying to recover from the disheartening failure of their "Ace", Tom Glavine, the day before. On a night when he outpitched reigning NL Cy Young award winner Chris Carpenter, on a night that can best be described as "Do or Die!", Maine was tremendous as he danced in and out of danger, making big pitch after big pitch
In the first inning, with men on second and third and one out, Maine struck out Jim Edmonds, showing a new found confidence in a slider that would bail him out time and time again. Then with two outs and the bases loaded, he whipped a fastball hard and high to get Scott Rolen to pop out to lrightfield.
Thanks to sparkplug Jose Reyes’ leadoff boomerang over the rightfield wall in the bottom of the first, the Mets had a lead Maine and the bullpen would never relinquish. After racing through the second, Maine had to dodge trouble again in the third inning. With two men on and one out, he fooled Jim Edmonds with a changeup and got him to fly to right. And then with two out, and men on first and third, he blew a high heater by Juan Encarnacion.
In the fourth inning, Maine worked around a walk while the Mets tacked on another run, thanks to a Shawn Green one-out single and Cardinals’ manager Tony Larussa’s defensive overshift.
Time and time again in this series the Cardinals had immediately answered the Mets scoring with runs of their own in the next inning, so it was crucial for Maine to shut them down in the fifth, especially with the top of the order coming up. And that’s exactly what he did. After getting David Eckstein on a tapper back to the mound, and Scott Spiezio on a pop up to center, up came the great Albert Pujols with the Mets clinging to a 2-0 lead. In the defining at bat of the night for Maine, he quickly got ahead in the count. With the Shea faithful on their feet doing their best impression of a blood thirsty crowd in the Roman Coliseum, Maine reared back and threw the best slider he’s thrown all season. All Pujols could do was wave his bat meekly over it for strike three as the crowd erupted.
A game but tiring Maine came out for the sixth. After issuing a leadoff walk to Jim Edmonds, he let loose with everything he had left in a battle with Juan Encarnacion that resulted in a fly out to left. That would be his final batter, as Willie Randolph strolled slowly to the mound. The infield surrounded Maine, the crowd roared and rose in honor of their conquering hero, and as Chad Bradford jogged in from the bullpen, Maine gave a humble wave of his hand and waltzed back to the dugout to the thunderous applause. John Maine had done his job. In fact, he had exceeded expectations. Coming into the game, even the most optimistic Mets’ fan was just hoping Maine could hold the Cards in check. But he did more than that, he shut them down. His final line— 5.1 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 5 K’s and the Mets go on to win 4-2.
So, now the Mets live! The main event is tonight, winner takes all. Each team has played for over six months and 170 plus games to reach this climax, this lyrical one game that will decide the NL Pennant. Wherever you are Mr. Gershwin, I hope you’re watching for "Who could ask for anything