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Inside Mr. Met's Head


July 19, 2010 5:33 PM

If You Wanted to Read About Jeff Francoeur's DNA Click Here

I've noticed that recently baseball reporters really love to analyze things they don't understand. Like baseball. The qualities that make someone a good sports reporter don't necessarily make a reporter intelligent enough to analyze the game of baseball. Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated loves to do it, especially in the cases when he can goat fans of sabermetrics into calling him a moron on twitter. Peter Gammons, the famous baseball reporter/gigantic Red Sox homer and apologist, has decided to weigh in on the Mets situation pre-All Star Break.

I respect Peter Gammons: the reporter. Peter Gammons: the analyst? Not so much.

It wasn't enough that the Phillies had lost 15 out of their past 22 games after Jamie Moyer was shellacked in Boston on Friday night. No, as one Phillies fan lamented on Saturday morning, "We have fallen below the Mets ... the Mets."

The Mets... The horror.... the horror....

Obviously, Philadelphia's issues are not intractable. But, the fan's despair was based upon perception. Look, the Mets' season turned into a nightmare last year as they lost 92 games. Then, for two winter months, they had a public-relations issue, after an offseason of signing Jason Bay and not signing a veteran pitcher or big-name catcher. The season opened, and there were the pitching melodramas of Oliver Perez and John Maine. Then, Jose Reyes' thyroid trouble, which was coupled with Carlos Beltran's operation, rehabilitation and communication issues.

The Mets issue last season was historical bad luck. Seriously, any team would have lost 92 games if they lost their entire core for the entire season. If the Yankees lost something like 9 or 10 WAR like the Mets did last season they would lose 92 games. The same team that dominated the East in 2006 and competed in 2007 and 2008 suddenly fell off the map. That was because of injury and depth, not lack of talent.

I'm glad to see that Gammons is still beating the anti-Jason Bay drum. Before Bay rejected a $60 million contract from the Sox, Gammons posted on twitter numerous times how amazing Bay was. Then when Bay signed with the Mets Gammons suddenly started complaining about Bay, talking about how he is an "injury waiting to happen" and other random things he wasn't whining about when Bay was a Red Sox. This just confirms the "when a guy plays on my team he's good but when he's not -- [forget] him.

The only major public relations nightmare the Mets had was the injury to Beltran and that's because the front office is full of idiots who feed false information making believe that the problem will go away. Okay, the Mets definitely needed a starting pitcher. But the pitching market wasn't that great. Let's say that the Mets ended up overpaying for Jarrod Washburn or Jon Garland. It wouldn't have worked out. And a big name catcher? Like Bengie Molina? Who has the exact same wOBA and 20 points lower OPS as Rod Barajas? And millions cheaper?

Good work Gammons.

Since the middle of the 2009 season, when the Tony Bernazard situation singed much of the organization, it seems most of the conversation about the Mets has been about who should get dismissed and when. General manager Omar Minaya has been on the media's firing line since the fiasco of the post-Bernazard press conference. Last summer, Minaya's ill-advised tiff with a journalist hurt his media standing.

Then, when they were struggling earlier this season, president Jeff Wilpon flew to Atlanta for a much-publicized meeting with Minaya and manager Jerry Manuel that turned Manuel's job into a day-to-day condition on the back pages, as well as bringing back the win-or-else status of Minaya's job.

Please don't give Minaya and Jerry credit for the team playing way over their heads. Just don't. I'll cry.

And yet, when the sun rose on Saturday, the Mets were a game ahead of the Phillies and just a game-and-a-half behind the Braves.

Goddamn it Peter.

While Perez and Maine are a combined 1-6, Mike Pelfrey stands at 8-1, likely headed for the All-Star Game. R.A. Dickey, whom Minaya signed this past offseason after three years of pursuit, went 4-0 in his first five starts. Jon Niese, out of their farm system, threw a one-hitter Thursday and is 3-2, with a 3.61 ERA. International signee Hisanori Takahashi has a 3.69 ERA entering play on Saturday.

All of whom were pitching over their peripherals and were getting insanely lucky. Takahashi's ERA was skewed by small sample sizes and a couple of nice starts but now that he's pitched more he's started to fall back to league average. Whoops.

Ike Davis, who was playing in the Class A Advanced Florida State League at this time last year, is hitting cleanup, and with 20-year-old Ruben Tejada at second base, the Mets' entire infield is homegrown, add that with Reese Havens running up a 1.062 OPS for Double-A Binghamton. The two veteran catchers the team signed when the Bengie Molina sweepstakes fell apart -- Rod Barajas and Henry Blanco -- have 13 homers between them.

Ike Davis is pretty sweet but he's cooled off greatly since his hot start. He's started to heat up again (.905 OPS so far in July), he's been having issues keeping his OBP around .350. Ruben Tejada is the new Rey Ordonez. Reese Havens is nowhere near major league ready and shouldn't even be brought up in this discussion.

Barajas and Blanco are pretty okay I guess. Much better than overpaying for Molina. So Peter, I'm cool with something you said in this article.

Jeff Francoeur, acquired last season for Ryan Church -- whom the Braves have since released -- has brought energy, a positive clubhouse presence and a .735 OPS/.325 OBP that is part of his DNA.

Jeff Francoeur's DNA is made up of adenine, thymine, guanine, cytosine. It is not made up of swinging at pitches like this:

JeffFrancoeurIsBlind.jpg

Angel Pagan has been an adequate fill-in for Beltran, the Mets' best player.

This is the understatement of the freaking century. Pagan has been the Mets' second most valuable (or most valuable, depending which metrics you use) behind David Wright. It was a minor miracle that Jerry, the bumbling village idiot, didn't bench Pagan instead of Francoeur. But, I suppose every once in a while a blind squirrel finds a nut. Or in this case, an above league average outfielder who can actually get on base and live up to potential.

"We have a long way to go, we all know that," said Minaya, who remembers that one year ago today the Mets were four games over .500 but 26 under the rest of the season. "But this season is different. I've said all along that if we can stay close, we will get better as the season moves on. I think we are starting to see that."

This season is plenty different. The team no longer is worrying about the absolutely miserable minor league depth because the team is actually healthy.

Sometime, somewhere, Beltran will get back. Reyes is a lot better than a .308 on-base-percentage leadoff hitter. Bay is going to start hitting home runs, and has a .780 OPS that will only improve. Soon, 20-year-old Jenrry Mejia, signed as a kid for $16,500, could go back to the Minors, where he'd build up his innings to come back for the last two months as a starter. Oh yes. For weeks, David Wright's worth was tied to his strikeouts, but his .884 OPS among NL third basemen is surpassed only by Ryan Zimmerman and Scott Rolen.

Beltran is back. I'm pumped about that. Reyes is still hurt. Bay has been improving.

Gammons makes the same pants-on-head retarded blanket "David Wright strikes out too much" statement that causes my blood to boil. He's the most valuable 3B in the National League according to WAR. 3rd most valuable of all batters in the NL. 7th overall. "Value tied to his strikeouts" indeed.

Also, any analyst who watched Jenrry Mejia and thinks in all honesty that he's anywhere near Major League ready needs to stop analyzing immediately.

"Once we get our lineup in place, we should be a much better offensive team," says Minaya. Indeed, they are currently tied for ninth in the National League in runs, 13th in OPS, 13th in on-base percentage.

"If it's cloudy, it might rain." -Omar Minaya, former Mets GM and current Meteorologist. 

No one is suggesting that this is a 100-win team, but it is not the 1962 Mets, as some suggested. The farm system isn't the best, but it isn't a laughingstock, and there have been limited resources due to ownership's loyalty to the Draft-slotting system. Yet there are more prospects on the way: Outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis is hitting .284 at Double-A Binghamton, and second baseman Jordanny Valdespin is hitting .309 at Class A St. Lucie. Ownership, meanwhile, signed off on using their first Draft pick this year on North Carolina pitcher Matt Harvey, despite the fact that inking the Scott Boras client will likely force the club to go beyond the Commissioner Bud Selig's slotting parameters for signing draftees.

The problem with the Mets is that everyone who follows them is bi-polar. They're either the greatest or worst team ever -- perhaps a result of "being in the shadow of the Yankees" syndrome. The farm system is still pretty awful -- their chips are still a long ways away. I don't think anyone seriously thought that the Mets system was the worst in baseball outside of terrible analysts who don't understand how the minors work or fans who also do not understand how the minors work.

Don't get me started on slotting as the Mets did do severe damage to their system by sqandering their draft picks by drafting well under slot. Matt Harvey is an okay pick but still a cheap one -- there were other, better options available. They might go slightly over slot which is still a remarkably cheap move for the sixth overall pick.

The Mets need Mejia to get innings, and ownership has signed off on trading for a veteran starter, more likely a Jake Westbrook than a Cliff Lee. But if Reyes and Beltran are healthy, mixed in with Wright and Bay, then they can be competitive in what is shaping up to be a very competitive NL East.

I will never understand this concept of acquiring a worse pitcher in any situation. Now Lee isn't available anymore but guys like Oswalt and Lilly are. How can anyone say that it's okay to go after a worse "veteran" than someone who is amazing? It makes zero sense other than being cheap as hell. It's also a huge logical fallacy but yet again, I'm not sure any of these reporters have any understanding of the Socratic Method.

If they are going to be competitive, then Mets ownership needs to learn that when things go wrong, do not listen to the talk shows or read the back pages. Stick with the people you hired, the people with whom you share decisions. When the Mets win, there are general managers and scouts across the game who cheer for Minaya, who in turn only wants due respect for "the scouting and development people who have worked their tails off and deserve respect."

THEY WERE STILL WRONG. ALL BECAUSE THEY HAVE HAD SUCCESS DOESN'T MEAN THAT THEY'RE SUDDENLY GENIUSES.

The talk shows and back pages are full of idiots. But the informed fan understands where Jerry and Minaya have screwed up in the past. All of a sudden the Mets are good (which they should have been last year, without injuries) in a small sample and everyone's gone from "fire everyone, salt the earth" to "they're geniuses, Mets are great." No. It doesn't work that way. Jerry's lineups and bullpen management are both awful. 

People up and down the Mets' organization are fiercely loyal to Minaya, because he accepts the heat and deflects it from those who work for him. The blame game is the first sign of dysfunctional leadership. Loyalty is a sign of real leadership, and as the Mets woke up a game in front of the Phillies this weekend, it, not all the injuries that devastated last summer, is a reflection of the core reality of Omar Minaya's organization.

People suck up to their boss. Omar is their boss! Surprise! If the Mets weren't successful, you'd probably be hearing the same rumors about the mismanagement of the organization everyone heard about last year. There's still stores of dysfunctional leadership because no one actually likes Jerry Manuel. Hell, even the organization is waiting until the end of the season before making a decision -- something surprisingly intelligent for the Mets.

The core reality is that the Mets were playing over their heads the first half of the season. Without another good starting pitcher, the Mets will not win. Without the luck that has carried them thus far, the Mets will not win. But because the Mets tread water the first half of the season, suddenly everyone's job security is safe and they all need extensions.

Please kill me.

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