Showing posts with label New York Mets. Show all posts
Showing posts with label New York Mets. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Yoenis Cespedes returning to Mets; Edinson Volquez to Marlins; Jon Jay to Cubs

Yoenis Cespedes
Finally, a few free-agent signings to talk about.

The biggest bat on the market is no longer available. Yoenis Cespedes on Tuesday agreed to return to the New York Mets on a four-year, $110 million contract, pending a physical.

This is a good move for both player and team. The contract is worth $27.5 million a year on average, which is the highest ever for an outfielder in MLB history. Cespedes has to be happy with that, and he also has to be pleased by the full no-trade clause included in the deal.

It's a good move for the Mets because the commitment is four years to a 31-year-old player, not five or six years. That's palatable, especially since New York is 106-74 with Cespedes in the lineup and 18-23 without him since the Cuban slugger joined the team in a midseason trade in 2015.

Cespedes finished eighth in the NL MVP balloting in 2016. He hit .280/.354/.530 with 31 home runs, 86 RBIs and 25 doubles.

Volquez to Marlins

The Miami Marlins signed veteran right-hander Edinson Volquez to a two-year deal worth $22 million.

Volquez, 33, had a good season in 2015 for the Kansas City Royals, recording a 3.55 ERA over 200.1 innings and helping the team to its first World Series title in 30 years. But he regressed in 2016, posting a 5.37 ERA while allowing a league-high 113 earned runs.

You can't blame the Royals for moving on. Kansas City has Jason Vargas coming back from arm surgery, and he'll be their No. 4 starter behind Danny Duffy, Yordano Ventura and Ian Kennedy. The Royals still have one spot open in their rotation, and I'm sure they believe they can do better than the declining Volquez.

The Marlins? They need pitching help of any sort after the shocking death of Jose Fernandez in late September. They'll be hoping Volquez can return to his 2015 form with a return to the National League.

Jay to Cubs

I'll call it right now: If the Cubs want to repeat as World Series champions in 2017, they need to re-sign center fielder Dexter Fowler, who ignited their offense in 2016 with a .393 on-base percentage, 84 runs scored and 45 extra-base hits in 125 games.

Apparently, the Cubs are thinking of moving on, however, since they signed veteran Jon Jay to a one-year, $8 million deal. Perhaps the Cubs consider Jay a stopgap measure until prospect Albert Almora is ready for a full-time role.

Jay is capable of playing all three outfield spots, and as a left-handed hitter, he hangs in there nicely against left-handed pitching - .288 lifetime vs. righties, .284 vs. lefties. In 2016, Jay hit .311 against lefties and .282 against righties, so the Cubs don't need to platoon him.

This is a player who will do a decent job for the Cubs, but if Fowler leaves as expected, the North Siders will almost certainly have a lesser offensive player batting leadoff next season.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

'You don't use your closer in a non-save situation'? Nonsense

Buck Showalter (left) and Terry Collins
Biggest takeaway from the wild-card playoff games this week: One manager lost because he failed to use his closer in a non-save situation; another manager lost because he did use his closer in a non-save situation.

Countless times through the years, I've heard fans and even some media members remark that you're not supposed to use your closer in non-save situations. The argument for this is the idea that closers are successful only because of the adrenaline rush that goes along with a save situation, so they can't pitch effectively if that carrot isn't dangling in front of them.

Nonsense.

I'm of the school of thought that it's never a bad play to bring your closer, who is presumably your best or second-best reliever, into a tie game. Does it make sense to save your closer for a save situation that might never present itself? I don't believe so.

That means I will join the chorus of people who have criticized Baltimore manager Buck Showalter for bringing in Ubaldo Jimenez to face the top of the Toronto batting order with one out in the bottom of the 11th inning in a 2-2 tie Tuesday in the AL wild-card game.

Jimenez, he of the 5.44 ERA, needed just five pitches to blow the Orioles' season. Devon Travis and Josh Donaldson singled for Toronto, setting the table for Edwin Encarnacion to hit a three-run homer and send the Blue Jays to the ALDS with a 5-2 win.

Meanwhile, Zach Britton sat unused in the Baltimore bullpen. Britton is the best reliever in baseball this year, and he's a legitimate candidate for the AL Cy Young award. He was 47 for 47 in save opportunities, has a ridiculous 0.54 ERA, and has held right-handed batters to a .155 average this season. Travis, Donaldson and Encarnacion are all right-handed.

In the face of these facts, does anyone want to argue that Jimenez was the right choice? Does anyone want to argue that you don't use your closer in a non-save situation? I wouldn't think so.

Incredibly, Showalter's move is now conventional wisdom in the game. MLB Network's Brian Kenny had a useful discussion on the air Wednesday, where his research showed that managers used their closer in situations such as Baltimore's on Tuesday just 27 percent of the time in 2016. We're talking about spots where you're on the road, the game is tied in the ninth inning or later, and you need your pitcher to put a zero up in the bottom of the inning to force an extra inning.

So, 73 percent of the time, managers are using non-closers in those spots. That seems like a very high number, and to me, that's not smart baseball.

In contrast, I cannot blame New York Mets manager Terry Collins for his club's 3-0 loss to the San Francisco Giants in Wednesday's NL wild-card game.

The situation was a little bit different, of course, because the Mets were playing at home. The game was scoreless into the ninth inning, and there was no chance at that point for a save situation to arise for New York closer Jeurys Familia.

With everything on the line in the ninth, Collins wisely went to his best reliever, Familia, who screwed the pooch. Familia gave up a double to Brandon Crawford, a walk to Joe Panik and a three-run homer to former White Sox third baseman Conor Gillaspie.

That was all San Francisco ace Madison Bumgarner needed, as the left-hander continued his postseason mastery by throwing a complete-game, four-hit shutout.

From the Giants' perspective, credit goes to Bumgarner and Gillaspie, and from the Mets' perspective, Familia is wearing the goat horns. Collins made the right move. It didn't work.

You see, I like to judge a manager's moves on the philosophy and logic behind the decision more than the result. Baseball is a game where the right move still can lead to a bad result, and sometimes a move that makes no sense comes up aces.

Philosophically, from my perspective, it's never wrong to use your best reliever with the game on the line. If that reliever fails, it's on him. However, it is wrong to leave your best reliever sitting in the bullpen while a lesser pitcher flushes your season down the toilet.


Monday, January 25, 2016

Yoenis Cespedes signs three-year deal to stay with Mets

Yoenis Cespedes
Yoenis Cespedes was the last of the impact free-agent outfielders on the board this offseason, and he had to wait until late January to sign a contract.

But, what a player-friendly contract it is.

Cespedes will stay with the New York Mets, after agreeing Friday on a three-year deal worth $75 million. The Mets front-loaded the deal -- Cespedes will make $27.5 million for the 2016 season, and the contract includes an opt-out after one year.

Given next offseason's weak crop of free agents, Cespedes is in position to go back on the market next year and cash in with an even bigger contract -- if he performs at a high level this season in New York.

Cespedes was acquired by the Mets midseason last year, and he hit .287 with 17 home runs and 44 RBIs in 57 games. During that stretch, New York went 36-21 and transformed itself from a middling team into NL East Division champions. They went on to make the World Series before losing to the Kansas City Royals.

Give the Mets credit. This move solidifies them as one of the top teams in the National League. Quite possibly, they are the favorite to make it back to the World Series. It's hard to bet against them with the pitching staff they have in place. Their rotation includes Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and one of Bartolo Colon or Zack Wheeler.

Find me another team in baseball that can match that kind of quality and depth in starting pitching. I don't think there is one.

There's every reason to believe Cespedes, 30, will continue to be productive as a cleanup hitter. The only real problem for the Mets here will be their outfield defense. Cespedes is a plus defender in left field, but on the Mets, he'll need to play center field in between Michael Conforto and Curtis Granderson. As a center fielder, Cespedes is adequate at best. That could hurt New York at times, but I think the benefits of this signing far outweigh the drawbacks for them. They are one of the teams that has a shot to win it all in 2016.

What does this mean for the White Sox? Well, back to the drawing board. I'm not sure the Sox were ever serious contenders for Cespedes, and certainly, they were not going to hand out a contract like the one Cespedes signed.

The Sox got caught a little bit here, slow-playing the outfield market, believing somebody's price would eventually come down into their range. That never happened, and for now, they are stuck with the status quo in their outfield. We'll find out in the next few weeks how much they really believe in Avisail Garcia. Will they give him another year in right field, or will they make a trade to replace him?

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Mets complete NLCS sweep of Cubs

Daniel Murphy is the first player in baseball history with at least four total bases in six consecutive postseason games. That's probably because he's first player to hit a home run in six consecutive playoff games. The New York second baseman took Cubs reliever Fernando Rodney deep in the top of the eighth inning Wednesday night to set that record, as the Mets beat the Cubs, 8-3, to complete a four-game sweep of the National League Championship Series.

New York will face the Kansas City-Toronto winner in the World Series.

It's getting late, so I'll just offer a few bullet points from this game:

  • Why on earth did Cubs manager Joe Maddon start Jason Hammel in a do-or-die game? Granted, Jon Lester on short rest is no sure bet, but nobody should be surprised that Hammel got pummeled. He gave up five runs, all earned, in just 1.1 innings. The Cubs were behind 4-0 just six batters into the game, and the crowd at Wrigley Field was full of long, ashen faces. That was a nightmarish start for the Cubs, and a dream come true for anyone cheering for the Mets. Maddon is considered a genius by many in the Chicago media, but starting Hammel is this game was a terrible move, an indefensible decision.
  • Power pitching will always beat power hitting. The Cubs have a lineup full of dangerous hitters, but they can't score if they don't hit home runs. The Mets outhomered the Cubs, 3-1, on Wednesday and 7-4 in the series. The Mets have four quality pitchers in Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz. Those power arms in the New York rotation gave up a grand total of six runs to Cubs hitters in four games. For the most part, they kept the Cubs in the park and off the scoreboard. As a team, the Cubs hit just .164 in the four-game series.
  • Enough with the silly Cubs narratives, man. A lot of people ask me why so many White Sox fans (such as myself) refuse to cheer for the Cubs. Well, there are a couple reasons, but most of all, I'm weary of the storylines that seem to follow the Cubs. I'm tired of hearing about omens and curses and black cats and "Maddon magic" and various other hocus-pocus. Movie scripts that were written decades ago should not be taken as prophecy. The Red Sox rallying from 3-0 down in the 2004 ALCS has nothing to do with the 2015 NLCS. Nothing. There are no dead people looking down from heaven to make a ball disappear in the ivy. None of these extraneous factors have any impact on the outcome of ballgames.
Remember, the Cubs did not lose to the Mets because they are cursed. They lost because New York is a better team than they are. In fact, the Cubs are not cursed at all. They haven't won the World Series in 107 years because they've never fielded a good enough team to get the job done. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Yoenis Cespedes' steal of third base: Most overlooked important play in NLCS Game 3

The Cubs played a lousy defensive game Tuesday night in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series. The New York Mets took advantage of most of their opportunities and got strong pitching from Jacob deGrom to earn a 5-2 victory at Wrigley Field. The Mets now have a 3-0 stranglehold on the best-of-seven series.

Here in Chicago, some of the postgame laments are focusing on a couple misplays in left field by Kyle Schwarber, and a wild pitch by Trevor Cahill in the top of the sixth inning that allowed New York's Yoenis Cespedes to score the go-ahead and eventual winning run. Cubs shortstop Javier Baez made an error on the first play of the game, and right fielder Jorge Soler also had a horrible misplay in the sixth inning, so there were no shortage of defensive gaffes by the Cubs.

But the most overlooked important play in the game proceeded Cahill's wild pitch. With Cespedes on second base and one out in a 2-2 game, the Cubs' middle infielders, Baez and Starlin Castro, fell asleep. They were not holding Cespedes close, and he got a huge jump on Cahill and stole third base with ease.

The Mets successfully stole third base just five times during the regular season, but this is the fourth time one of their baserunners has swiped third in the postseason. New York is being more aggressive in the playoffs. The Cubs should have caught on to that by now, but apparently not.

That stolen base put Cespedes at third with just one out, which is always crucial. As it turns out, Cahill made the big pitch he needed to get the second out. Travis d'Arnaud grounded out to third base, and Cespedes could not advance. Michael Conforto then struck out swinging on a pitch in the dirt, but the ball skipped past Cubs catcher Miguel Montero all the way to the screen. Conforto reached first safely on the dropped third strike, while Cespedes raced down the line to put the Mets up 3-2.

They tacked on two more in the seventh, with help from a Schwarber misplay, but do you think that steal of third base was crucial? You bet it was. That wild pitch means nothing if Cespedes is still standing on second base.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Ernie Banks makes an interesting comment about Ron Santo

While I was on vacation, I had a chance to read Sports Illustrated's annual "Where Are They Now?" issue. It's always a great read, full of interesting stories about sports figures of the past.

The cover story this year was about perhaps the greatest player in Cubs history, Ernie Banks, who hit 512 career home runs and earned consecutive National League MVP awards (1958-59) despite playing on mostly terrible teams throughout his 19-year career.

Banks was nearing the end of his career in 1969, when the Cubs had a nine-game lead as late as Aug. 16, only to spit it out and lose the NL pennant to the New York Mets. Naturally, Banks was asked about what happened for the SI article, and his answer was quite revealing. He pointed the finger right at fellow Hall of Famer Ron Santo.

"They say one apple can spoil the whole barrel, and I saw that," Banks told SI's Rich Cohen. "Before going to New York to play the big series against the Mets, I went to different players on our team and told them, 'We're going to New York, and when the game is over, there's going to be more media than you've ever seen in the clubhouse, so watch what you say.'

"So we get to New York, and lose the first game. Don Young dropped a fly ball, and that was it. We came into the locker room. I was next to Santo, and he just went crazy [blaming Young]. Young was so upset, he ran out. Pete [Reiser] had to bring him back. I had never seen something so hurtful."

Santo's comments ended up in the paper, and Banks said it caused a split in the locker room. The Cubs crumbled and lost the pennant by eight games.

For so many years in Chicago, we heard a lot of moral outrage about Santo being excluded from the Hall of Fame for so long. After his playing days were over, he became a beloved radio broadcaster -- mostly because he was an unapologetic homer for the Cubs -- and he was put on a pedestal because he raised a lot of money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

How could someone so great not be inducted into the Hall, people wondered? I would say comments like the one Santo made about Young that day in 1969 would be on the list of reasons why.

I always had the feeling that Santo was hated and despised by everyone who is not a Cubs fan, between his obnoxious heel-clicking after victories as a player, and some of the disrespectful comments he made about others at different points during his baseball career.

I'm not going to belabor the point, but if you were ever wondering why Santo wasn't inducted into the Hall until 2012 -- two years after his death -- now you know. He made his fair share of enemies in the game. You don't have to take it from me, you can take it from Ernie Banks, whose comment targets Santo as a central figure in the collapse of '69.

That's a take on 1969 that I don't think I had ever heard or read previously.

Friday, April 4, 2014

If you're hurt and can't pitch, well, then don't pitch

The White Sox bullpen had a bad day on Thursday. The South Siders had an 8-5 lead after six innings and couldn't hold it. They took a 9-8 lead into the ninth inning and had the Minnesota Twins down to their final strike, but Matt Lindstrom couldn't close. The Twins rallied for a 10-9 victory at chilly U.S. Cellular Field.

I imagine most Sox fans are angry at Lindstrom. I am not. Stuff happens, and Lindstrom is hardly the only guy around baseball to blow a ninth-inning lead during this opening week.

No, the Sox reliever on my bad side right now is Nate Jones, and it has nothing to do with the outcome of Thursday's game. I'd still be pissed at Jones even if the Sox had won. When it comes to pitchers, there are two things I have little tolerance for: 1) Relief pitchers who refuse to throw strikes and 2) Guys who try to be heroes and pitch through injury. Jones committed both those sins on Thursday.

Jones entered the game in the top of the seventh inning with the Sox up three runs and promptly walked the only two Minnesota hitters he saw -- Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer. At one point, Jones threw seven consecutive pitches out of the zone. His final pitch of the day almost hit Mauer and went all the way back to the screen. It wasn't even close. Those back-to-back leadoff walks eventually came around to score, and the Twins got back in the game.

Afterward, Jones said the glute strain that affected him during spring training had resurfaced. It bothered him in the bullpen while he was warming up and continued to bother him after he entered the game.

“I felt a little discomfort out there today,” Jones told Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago. “It's kinda just in the back of your head. When you're thinking about something else besides hitting the mitt, then you see what happens. It's not good for the team.”

No, it's not good for the team. That's the one thing Jones got right today. Here's a tip, Nate: If you're hurt and don't think you can pitch effectively, tell the bullpen coach. Tell somebody, anybody. That way, the team can get somebody else warming up.

If a player says, "Hey, I'm hurt and I can't go," I can deal with that. What I don't care for is a pitcher throwing up all over the mound, costing the team, then saying "I'm hurt" after the fact. 

If you can't pitch, then don't pitch. Simple as that.

New York talking heads out of line, as usual

New York Mets infielder Daniel Murphy missed the first two games of the season because his wife had a baby. Murphy went on paternity leave for three days, which is his right under major league rules.

You would think nobody would have a problem with that, but a couple of blabbermouths on sports talk radio in New York City took Murphy to task.

''One day I understand. And in the old days they didn't do that,'' WFAN broadcaster Mike Francesa said. ''But one day, go see the baby be born and come back. You're a Major League Baseball player. You can hire a nurse to take care of the baby if your wife needs help.''

Former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason also chimed in on WFAN.

''Quite frankly, I would have said C-section before the season starts. I need to be at opening day, I'm sorry,'' he said. ''This is what makes our money. This is how we're going to live our life. This is going to give my child every opportunity to be a success in life. I'll be able to afford any college I want to send my kid to because I'm a baseball player.''

Two points about this: First, if this had happened in July would anyone have noticed? I don't believe so. This whole tempest in a teapot is a prime example of how Opening Day games and games during the first week of the season in general are overanalyzed. The Mets didn't play well in their first series of the year. They got swept by the Washington Nationals, and in the small minds of some, dammit, someone must be blamed. Murphy is a convenient and easy target, but I really doubt his absence during those two games will have any impact on the outcome of the Mets' season. There's 159 games to go, you know?

And, second, as for Mr. Esiason, "quite frankly" he should stick to NFL talk. I firmly believe Murphy will be able to send his newborn child to college, despite missing the first two games of the season. I'm sure Murphy appreciates Esiason's concern. I know every game and every snap in the arrogant, self-important, bloated, overanalyzed NFL is treated as a matter of life and death, but that's not the way it should be.

No matter what your line of work, family should always come first. That shouldn't be a hard concept to grasp, unless you're an NFL meathead.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Free agent shocker: Robinson Cano snubs Yankees, agrees to terms with Mariners

Pat yourself on the back if you thought the Seattle Mariners would be the team to land the most sought-after free agent this offseason.

I didn't see this one coming: Robinson Cano has snubbed the New York Yankees and agreed to a 10-year, $240 million deal with the Mariners. The contract reportedly includes a full no-trade clause.

As expected, the Yankees have been on a spending spree after missing the playoffs in 2013. They signed catcher Brian McCann to a five-year, $85 million contract. They also gave center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury $153 million over seven years. I just assumed they would open up the pocketbook and retain Cano, too.

They were denied because the Mariners, of all teams, blew them out of the water by making Cano an offer he couldn't refuse. The Yankees reportedly did not want to invest more than $175 million on Cano. If that's the case, then Seattle beat New York's best offer by $65 million.

I don't know that this signing makes the Mariners immediate contenders in the AL West, but it surely weakens the Yankees' quest to get back in the mix in the AL East. Not matter how you spin it, they aren't as good without their cornerstone second baseman and No. 3 hitter.

I never thought Cano would play in a smaller city. When he hired Jay Z at his agent, I assumed it was because he wanted more opportunities to market himself, perhaps even in a realm outside of baseball. Typically, a player wants to be in New York or Los Angeles to pursue those kinds of possibilities.

Instead, Cano is going to Seattle. I'm stunned.

Curtis Granderson signs with Mets

Free agent outfielder Curtis Granderson and the New York Mets have agreed to a four-year deal worth $60 million, reports say.

Earlier this offseason, there were rumors that the White Sox were interested in Granderson. For those years and those dollars, I'm glad the South Siders took a pass -- if indeed they were interested.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Matt Harvey was near perfect against the White Sox

Matt Harvey accomplished something that hasn't been done in a long time Tuesday night against the White Sox.

The New York Mets right-hander is the only player in the modern era (since 1900) to pitch nine innings with at least 12 strikeouts allowing no walks and only one hit with no-decision, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

The Mets won the game 1-0 in 10 innings. If you watched this contest, you know the Sox are damn lucky they didn't fall victim to a perfect game. The South Siders managed only one hit over the 10 innings, an infield single by Alex Rios in the seventh inning.

How dominant was Harvey? He retired 27 of the 28 batters he faced. He began the outing by retiring 20 in a row, throwing first-pitch strike to 16 of them. He did not have a 2-0 count on any batter until the seventh inning.

When Harvey gets ahead in the count, he usually wins the battle. Hitters have a .088 batting average (9-for-102) against Harvey this season when he throws first-pitch strike. Rios did come up with his scratch single after an 0-1 count, but you get the point. The Sox didn't have much chance at all against this guy.

I know what you're thinking. You're saying, "The White Sox are a terrible offensive team. Doesn't everybody dominate them?"

The point is not without merit. The Sox have the lowest team batting average in the league (.223). They have the lowest on-base percentage in the league (.276). They have drawn the fewest walks in the league (70). They have scored the fewest runs in the league (104), and the next closest team (Seattle) is a good 14 runs ahead of them.

Forget about Matt Harvey. Right about now, Sox fans are feeling like PJ Harvey could dominate this group of hitters, assuming she has a halfway decent changeup. Heck, maybe even Paul Harvey could shut down the Sox, and he's been dead for over four years.

When you watch the Sox, it's getting harder and harder to judge whether the opposing pitcher is really that good, or if the Sox hitters are just that bad. Fans are tired of "tipping their cap" to every guy who takes the mound, and justifiably so.

However, in this particular case, I'm afraid there is no choice but to give Harvey his props. He was really impressive. You may not see a better game pitched against the Sox all season. I'll predict that this was one of the better games you'll see pitched all year by anyone, against any team. It was that good. You have to give credit where credit is due.

For the Sox, there is no shame in getting shut down by Matt Harvey. The problem with this team is they are also getting shut down by the Vance Worleys and Zach McAllisters of the world. The mediocre guys, those are the pitchers you need to hit. Beat those guys, and it makes "tipping your cap" to the likes of Matt Harvey a lot less painful.