Another Failure In Journalistic Integrity

This goes beyond the simple act of freely casting aspersions about. It also manages to deal with the difference in reaction to a measured, considerate, and lightly philosophical read from a blogger to that of a journalist who bandies about steroid accusations while even contradicting himself.

Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk brings these issues up in his reaction to Yahoo! Sports’ Steve Henson and his attack on Nomar Garciaparra. Recently retired, Nomar Garciaparra.

So we learn that the world of journalism is hypocritical. In summary, Calcaterra bemoans the fact that Henson gets off being called a journalist while bloggers get reamed by the mainstream media…bringing us the case of Jerrod Morris.

Raul Ibanez got off to a ridiculously hot start in 2009. Morris, a blogger, had Ibanez in his fantasy league and a leaguemate called Ibanez out citing HR per AB and so on as a case for steroid use. Morris decided to investigate before making his counter argument and this is what he came up with for his blog post.

So let’s do a quick rundown of the differences between these two articles:

Henson: Garciaparra mysteriously broke down into injury problems following his 29th year of existence. Speculation abound without much proof or investigation. Look at this picture! Mention of a genetic condition that affects muscular contractions (which would explain repeated injuries) and then completely disregard it for further steroid speculation.

Morris: Mounting a defense against a fantasy baseball colleague over Ibanez’s power surge (19 HR in first 55 games of ’09 vs 23 in 162 in ’08). Use statistics (HR/AB, lineup, career splits) and ballpark dimensions (CBP-hitter’s park vs Safeco-pitcher’s park) and pitcher match-ups (punishing ppor Nat and Padre pitchers) to try to account for uptick. Even mentions that Ibanez could slow down and projects him to finish with 30-35 HR (ding-ding! 34 HR in ’09). Points made: Ibanez is great fantasy pick (and sell-high candidate), 55 games is still a small sample size, we are in a different era of baseball and the change of league and home park doesn’t fully account for power surge of a 37 year old. Shane Monahan used steroids as a Mariner and Ibanez denied using them, but all players deny use even if they’ve used them.

Which one seems like more of a credible journalist?

My beef isn’t so much that Henson is raising the possibilty of Garciaparra using steroids(hey, why not, with his retirement he just became newsworthy again…ah, easy way out for a story), but the fact that he plows into it headfirst claiming that Nomar has this big secret. The “proof” he gives is flimsy and insubstantial…the most important thing mentioned is something which gives light to Nomar’s injury troubles and detracts from his insane attack. It’s a pathetic attempt at an article.

What happened next for Jerrod Morris is something bordering along the lines of lunacy. Journalists from all outlets and hosts of ESPN shows glazed over it and never seemed to get it’s point (or origin). Unfortunately this led to Morris getting severely reamed by the MSM and when he appeared on ESPN’s “Outside The Lines” he was presented in a poor light (pale, no makeup, no suit) and since he doesn’t appear TV was torn to shreds by these drooling, illiterate dickheads.

John Gonzalez of the Philly Inquirer tore into Morris without getting the gist of the article (you can search for it on philly.com “A Cheap Shot At Ibanez) as does Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times. Baker hops up on his high horse to point out the differences between journalism and blogging (there’s a difference? no way!) and spends a good time stroking his ego instead of getting to the point (real journalists are narcissists). Another difference between journalists and bloggers? Bloggers don’t get to go to baseball games for free, much less meet the players for free. So we can’t really “look the players in the eye.”

Of course when one of their own releases a weaker version of the same thing they probably assume it’s a work of art in the realm of their craft.

Luckily there were some guys defending Morris against this excessive and unwarranted backlash. Progressive thinkers/writers such as Joe Posnanski and Rob Neyer. Posnanski brings to light Ibanez’s tendency to go on hot streaks in his SI article and it makes an excellent case for Ibanez just being like he is every other season. Neyer defends Morris even further and says that bloggers can be maniacal at times (even if Morris wasn’t, but it’s true, WAHAHAHA!) Both bring up Ibanez defending himself, which is good for him, he should, but he brings up that annoying “mother’s basement” stereotype…so Raul Ibanez, maybe you were caught up being pissed, but that was still a dick move. Even more important: We are in a different era were everyone is a suspect and regardless of innocence will refute allegations until scientifically proven true (and even then, continue). So how can we believe that we’re always told the truth?

Even further: Baseball players are overpaid. They make millions for a game and we have a right to be skeptical because they are grown men and can deal with it and their Player’s Association had held up testing for a long time because so many of them were cheating and now so many of them are lying.

If Steve Henson had managed to touch on any of these points I would have respected his article more, but since he appears to have thrown spaghetti at a wall and called it work I have absolutely no qualm about calling him unprofessional, lazy, and an utter douche (maniacal blogging!).

Expect more of your professionals. Request that journalists display the “journalistic integrity” they always harp on about especially in relation to blogging. We bloggers have integrity, but we don’ always have to display it because we’re doing this for fun and usually just for our friends…AND FOR FREE. Suck it up and write something decent to read.

This Apparently Still Passes For Journalism

Jerry Thornton is a “columnist” for WEEI, a New England sports radio network. So he writes an online column, which reads more like an inane op-ed piece from a delusional wacko, for a radio station. Good gig.

This is his most recent offering that WEEI pays him (with money) to write: The Geeks Will Inherit The Earth

There already has been a response at TedQuarters by Ted Berg, a senior editorial producer for SNY.tv where he also writes a column…so a step up from a column for a radio station…right? Have you even seen my beautiful head of hair, Jerry Thornton of WEEI.com? Also, check out that ridiculous picture Berg’s article links to at the end.

Anyway, as all sports bloggers aspire to recreate the success of FireJoeMorgan (since there is no other way to be successful as a sports blog) I will run through through the litany of baseless assertions that Thornton makes.

He begins rather tamely, building excitement as he rounds out the intro with the claim that the Red Sox will be winning the World Series. But that comes with a horror story:

I’m afraid that if … when … the Sox win it all this year, it will mean total victory has been achieved by that odd, creepy little subculture that lives among us: the Stat Geeks.

Later he will mention Theo Epstein being the poster boy for the stat geeks. Epstein is a “stat geek” and he apparently had nothing to do with 2004 and 2007. I am a stat geek. I’m not odd and creepy…well, not creepy anyway.

They’re like the Communist Party plotting to take over Hollywood in the 1950s before Ronald Reagan got wise to them and kicked their pinko butts all the way back to Moscow and Harvard Square. Only, instead of trying to write screenplays full of anti-capitalists rants, the Stat Geeks have succeeded in making otherwise normal, decent, God-fearin’ Americans start talking about VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) ratings and UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) numbers like they really believe in this nonsense.

When did Sarah Palin get a column on WEEI?
But seriously, this is only the beginning of Thornton’s ability to create a piece where he provides no story, no plot, no facts, no evidence…nothing really, by just stringing together segments of a hate speech against “stat geeks” whose only crime is that they have found one more (in depth) way to love the game of baseball.

And call me overly paranoid, but part of me is afraid Theo Epstein is their prize project. The one they’ve brainwashed into bringing their message of Sabremetric supremacy to the world. The Staturian Candidate.

How is being incredibly successful at your job, finding a way to succeed when one team has an unfair payroll advantage, wearing a Gorilla costume, rejuvenating the faith that a fanbase has in their team…how is all that “brainwashing”? It’s a ridiculous theory, because Thornton has no other explanation for the fact that he should actually hate Epstein, a man who operates under stats geekitude and employs like minded individuals (yeah, we’ll get to Bill James in a bit).

Look at the Red Sox roster as it’s currently constituted: While there’s still a core of blue chip, proven, battle-tested baseball lifers who’d be winners in any era … the Pedroias, Becketts, Lesters, Papelbons and Youkili … it seems like this offseason, the rest of the roster was supplanted with Stat Geek favorites.

Ok, the Red Sox have an unfair advantage now…they apparently have at least two Pedroias, Becketts..etc. Youkilis was called The Greek God of Walks. He was coveted by Billy Beane. HE IS A STAT GEEK FAVORITE. Players that were drafted by Epstein and his brain trust are in this group. Thornton is essentially blind…or he just halfheartedly wrote this in 10 minutes without much thought.

Agents who were trained in a basement at the Baseball Prospectus HQ to infiltrate the Sox and destroy them from within.

Ah, I see, people who can actively and concretely help in creating a great baseball team are actually “agents” who want to destroy it…because that’s good for business. Most teams employ stat-minded people in some shape or form. Some teams don’t do it enough (METS!) so try following them and see how you like not winning two WS and failing to consistently reach the post-season.

And suddenly, a legit All-Star like Jason Bay is body-snatched away and replaced with Mike Cameron with his 70 RBI but his to-die-for Rtzhm (total fielding runs above average at home) numbers. I don’t know Cameron and maybe he’ll be a great addition to the club.

Jason Bay is a bad defensive OF. He can be a demon at bat, but he was too costly for the risk factor the Sox thought they would be dealing with. Mike Cameron, who costs less than half of Jason Bay, can produce at least half of Bay’s production, while being a huge upgrade defensively. In fact, by him taking over CF and moving Jacoby Ellsbury to LF the Sox are defensively upgraded in two positions.

But I also won’t be surprised to find out he talks in a robot voice and repeats “I am Mike. I play center field. Would you care to discuss my lgRF9 (league range factor for 9 innings) numbers?” over and over again all year.

I didn’t realize that Thornton was so up on robotics (that haven’t been developed yet).

If he says pitching and defense are the keys to victory, who am I to argue? Even if the defense is judged on obscure, impossible-to-understand and largely subjective stats that some pale virgin made up in his mom’s basement, I’ll trust Epstein.

Michael Lichtman is the creator of the previously mentioned UZR, but the Red Sox have already stated that they use their own defensive metrics to judge players. I’m guessing Bill James has a lot of say in there. I am fairly sure that neither of these guys live in their mom’s basement and from this interview with The Hardball Times we learn that he is married and has three offspring…so there goes the virgin thing. James is a little pale, but he is a white guy who lives in New England, what do you expect?

Thornton then needlessly reiterates his paranoia about nerds and talks about them taking over baseball. People are always going to look for ways to streamline their operation so that they can achieve more for less. Every single play has at least one number attached to it. The game takes place within a confined space that can be turned into a grid. It’s a simple step to employ numbers-minded professionals to find a capable player for cheaper than some expensive guy everyone thinks you should have.
Operations Research is a field of mathematics that involves finding the most effective way(s) to reach the solution you want with maximum profit or minimum loss. Businesses, governments, the military use this field because it makes sense to do so. If you can save money and increase your capabilities at the same time why the hell wouldn’t you. Baseball is a business and teams have to find new ways to get ahead of other teams. For a while the Yankees were just throwing money at players and they were winning, but they weren’t as successful as they should have been. Now they have changed their ways and while still being the largest payroll by a large percentage they aren’t overpaying players. The Tampa Bay Rays have created a system that builds their team from within and the Red Sox have managed to build a team stronger than that of the Yankees a couple times and remain competitive all the time. I don’t know how Thornton would like to create a team, but it apparently involves throwing wads of money at players who can hit or who have those “intangibles” and needless to say he would make a horrible GM.

At this point you might be saying “Gee, Jer. How do you know so much about Stat Geeks anyway?” Glad you asked because the answer will surprise you. Because I, for a very brief time in my life, was one. Yes, it’s true. Looks like mine and brains, too? As implausible as it sounds, I Was A Teenage Stats Geek. I read the backs of guys’ baseball cards. I studied the day’s box scores. I committed to memory the tops of the all time career statistical rankings in dozens of categories.

When I was a kid the backs of my baseball cards had the simplest of stats AB, H, 2B, 3B, HR, SB, AVG; W, L, IP, SV, K, BB, ERA. I didn’t realize that enshrines you into the world of stats geekery. Here is the truth, the box score will give someone a rudimentary explanation of how the game went for someone who wasn’t able to watch it. The new stats that have been created give you a better valuation of a player, because someone who hits .280 for a season with 20 HR isn’t nearly as valuable because he OBPs .305 and it shows with his 50 runs. People decried OBP when it first made the steps into baseball journalism and guess what, it was proven to be useful and it now has it’s place next to AVG on the backs of all those baseball cards. It’s a process that is involved with every change that takes place. People want to keep their traditional values and shy away from the change would remove them from their comfort zone. It happens with everything in the world and you know what…there are studies pointing to the ability to try something new and go the non-traditional route is a sign of intelligence and possibly higher evolution.

But then, I made an amazing discovery. Something that the Stat Geek population doesn’t know and never will. Women.

What the hell is a women?

Suddenly Butch Hobson’s RBI total didn’t mean quite as much. Jim Rice’s total bases faded from my mind. And for me that mean putting away the Baseball Encyclopedia, getting outside and living an actual life. It also led to other discoveries like jobs, cars, activities, beer and sunlight.

I have no life, I have never had a job, I don’t know a thing about cars, activities?, never had a beer, and sunlight is the devil.
None of those things is true.
Also…he discovered activities? Researching stats is an activity. Walking to the door is an activity. Pooping is an activity. ANYTHING IS AN ACTIVITY.

But not everyone has evolved the same way.

Remember that link from NatGeo? Thornton is non-evolved.

There is a growing subculture of stats-crunching troglodytes among us, and I for one am frightened that these mouth-breathing, greased[sic] stained Gollums might actually be influencing something vital to our national interest.

Troglodytes and Gollums? Influencing…I hate to break it to you, Thornton, but the game has already been influenced.

I mean, consider Bill James, who is like a god to these Sabremetric trolls. He’s made an industry out of making up silly, useless formulae to prove things like Alex Gonzalez should be bussing tables in the Fort Myers Waffle House, and yet Theo has given him a position of power and influence in his inner circle. It’s the equivalent of my old Missle Command skills getting me a job with NORAD or my Bill Belichick building a gameplan around my Coleco electric football offense.

Your hyperbole is useless on me. The equivalent of someone using mathematics to not only make money, but also get a job with your Red Sox, is using video game skills for a profession? What we have here is a false analogy.

So as a public service to all like-minded fans, concerned Red Sox citizens worried about the direction the Nation is headed, I’d like to put my ex-Stat Geek skills to us and offer my own formula for judging all statisticians. Let’s call it the NSGR/MMUSRI (Nerdy Stat Geek Ridiculous/Meaningless Made Up Statistic Rating Index).

Take a guess as to the direction this is going to go.

You take any new, obscure baseball evaluation stat and you start with the weight of the guy who invented it, times how many days he’s been wearing the same “Han Solo Shot First” T-shirt, divided by how many times he’s had sex in his life, multiplied by how often his mom cooks his meals add how many days a month he sees the sun times the percentage by which he throws like a girl.

Sigh. I hate to relate this to sexism or racism, but it has similar elements. False stereotypes, unthinking and discriminatory hate-speech. There are way too many instances of supposed journalists, columnists, talking heads, etc. making the same picture of a single, nerdy, male living in his parents’ basement with an irrational fear of sunlight. Stop it already, it lost it’s laugh factor after the first guy did it (possibly before).
Oh right, sexism: “throws like a girl.” Good one.

Then you throw them all out and go with what your eyes tell you. And stop wasting our time with this Sabremetrics foolishness.

My eyes tell me to stop reading your lame attempts at journalism. Columnism? Writing? Typing.
I understand writers wanting to come off as being funny and maybe that was the primary force driving Thornton here, but the end result is just so poor and it’s been done so many times before, there is nothing new here. So good job earning that paycheck.

Anyway, if all few of you who read this would refrain from listening to WEEI or at least send them an email condemning them for their insistence to employ Jerry Thornton, that would be greatly appreciated across the blogohedron.

The Mets Are Losing

I saw the second to last game ever at Shea Stadium, where Johan Santana pitched a complete game in the drizzle.  Thanks to that purchase, which had everything to do with Shea Stadium and nothing to do with my affinity for the Mets, this weekend I received a glossy flier advertising the 2010 Mets season.  The slogan?

It's only March, but the Mets are already losing, apparently.

I’m no one to judge, rooting for a team whose motto last season sounded like the slogan of a losing political candidate (“A New Day, A New Way” – Seattle Mariners 2009).  But as my housemate pointed out, “Boy, the Mets seem to be admitting that they’re already losing.”

Baseball in the Olympics

Yesterday Jayson Stark at ESPN posted an Insider article about Major League Baseball’s chance of rejoining the Olympics.  The seed for the article is the fact that more Americans watched the Canada-United States gold medal hockey game than watched the World Series (apparently).  He asks if baseball could replicate that kind of attention with Olympic participation.  He decides that baseball will not and should not, and his reasoning, backed up with quotes from Bud Selig, falls into these points:

  • You can’t suspend the baseball season the way the NHL suspended its season for the Olympics.  The summer games happen in August or September, which is too critical of a time for baseball.
  • You can’t suspend the baseball season because fitting in 162 games while keeping the playoffs from going into November would then be impossible.
  • You cannot shorten the baseball season because of the hit that would deal to baseball’s finances.
  • America understands and enjoys the Summer Games more, and baseball would not stand out in the Summer Games the way hockey stands out in the Winter Games.

Fair points, all.  He goes on to advocate for the WBC to be concluded during the All-Star break, which is a fun idea.  I’ve written about the WBC here before, but a couple of thoughts about an approach to letting professional players participate in the Olympics (should baseball be readmitted, of course).

The crux of the idea: let major league players leave their teams in order to play in the Olympics.

The cons:

  • Teams would lose their best players for a critical stretch of the season.
  • The impact on teams would be uneven (some might lose 5 best players, others might lose none).
  • Teams lose revenue, theoretically, from loss of star players.
  • Tension created between a country wanting a specific player, that player’s desire, and an owner not wanting the player to leave the team.
  • Team tension between a player wanting to leave for the Olympics, and teammates who view it as a selfish decision.
  • Taxing a pitcher mid-season, increasing chance of injury or fatigue for the playoffs.

(Notice how I started each ‘con’ with the letter T?  That’s the mark of a good, coherent thesis.)

Here are some thoughts for doing this anyway:

  • First, the Olympics are every four years, so this would not be a frequent problem.
  • Baseball currently has an image problem.  The Olympic spirit of selfless patriotism could inject baseball with story lines and personalities the game could use to counter its money-and-steroids image.
  • I think we underestimate both fans and teammates’ respect for a player being selected to, and playing for, their national team.  Evidence of this can be found in the Penguins-Sabers game yesterday, when the Pittsburgh crowd gave Ryan Miller a bigger standing ovation than it gave Sidney Crosby.
  • Nobody wants to tax an athlete into injury, but at some point you have to just let them play.  These are world-class athletes, and there is a chance of injury whether they play in Pittsburgh or Perth.  Pitcher coddling can be taken too far.
  • A fundamental part of sports is its ability to generate inspiring stories of courage and respect amidst competition.  For every fan who respects Pete Rose barreling over Ray Fosse in the 1970 All-Star game, there is a fan who respects Sandy Koufax for not pitching on Yom Kippur.  Allowing MLB players to leave their teams to play in the Olympics has the potential to generate defining moments in the history of the sport.
  • Example: Imagine if the Phillies and the Mets are tied for first place on August 1st.  Johan Santana, David Wright, Roy Halladay and Chase Utley all leave for 2 weeks to play in the Olympics, with an unspoken nod to each other that they will have unfinished business when they return.  That story would linger beyond whatever transpired that summer, and be a moment both those players and baseball can point to with pride.

Sadly, I don’t think it will happen, and the WBC is probably hurting baseball’s chance of even being reinstated into the Olympics.  But it is nice to daydream about great acts of national pride in which millionaires forsake money to play their favorite sport in the most heralded athletic competition in the history of homo sapiens.

Mets 2010 Depth Chart: Beyond Ridiculous

Over the off-season the Mets have managed to vaguely address several needs that were exploited in the previous season and/or opened by players leaving. Jason Bay was signed for 4 years to watch Citifield gobble up his HR opportunities and waddle around in the OF. So LF was addressed. Beyond that the Mets signed a plethora of other players (mainly catchers) to Major and Minor contracts, none of which surpassed $1.25 million for the 2010 season (although some do have incentives). Let’s check out the bizarre madhouse that is the Mets’ depth chart:

Catcher

What a GIS for 'six headed monster' yields.

Brian Schneider left to become a back-up and the enormo-faced Ramon Castro was traded during the season because the much-worse Omir Santos was deemed better (he also had that one HR off Papelbon, which is the only thing people remember). So, returnees are Omir Santos and Josh Thole (TOE-lee, but I prefer the pronunciation that sounds like ‘soul’ with a lithp…much like Chone /= Shawn). Additions are Henry Blanco, Chris Coste, Shawn Riggans, and Rod Barajas. It should be noted that none of these six catchers are currently starter worthy. There are rumors of Omir Santos being traded since there is apparently a short list of teams dumb enough to desire him (probably for not much in return, but at least we get rid of a catcher). Henry Blanco is pretty much locked in for the backup catcher role since he is capable defensively and his career OBP is higher than that of Rod Barajas, who is the favorite to win the starting job. The consensus is for Coste to mentor Thole down in AAA leaving Santos and Riggans to…? So if Santos is indeed traded then Shawn Riggans gets to enjoy limited appearances at competitive levels. And hope that the training staff sucks as much as it did last year.

First Base
Another problem spot plague by a lack of hitting prowess at a position where it is really damn easy to get a feared hitter. Daniel Murphy is almost a lock to take most of the starts here and despite a down year at the plate he has displayed a beyond average range at the bag (with some mental lapses). He just received some training with the mustachioed Keith Hernandez (MLB’s greatest defensive 1b?) and if he can do a tad better than last season’s offensive numbers he’ll be the Mets’ version of Casey Kotchman (not ideal, but better than the no improvement). Behind Murphy there appears to be another backlog of MLB back-ups. Fernando Tatis is a great bench bat and can fill in at a number of fielding positions, but could nab some starts vs certain types of pitchers (lefties). Of course some seem to think that Mike Jacobs will challenge for the position, which is a bit concerning, because besides power he offers way below average defense and even worse splits against LHPs. Then, in no particular order, there is Nick Evans, who can fill in in the OF also, but is at best a bench player; Chris Carter, the prototypical quad-A guy (power, average), also an OF fill in, but has the fielding prowess of a amputated rhino; Ike Davis, the prospect for 2011, who is still sanding down the edges to perfect his game; and finally Mike Hessman, a career minors masher, who will likely see no time in the Majors with the Mets (once again, pending injuries). Every Met fan and their mother wanted the Mets to go after Russell Branyan (who was magnetized to Cleveland for the 4th time).
An interesting thought is that if the Mets falter too much and Ike Davis breaks out, the Mets will have a variety of serviceable backups to trade to postseason hopefuls. Daniel Murphy could bring a decent return.

Second Base
Who wants Luis Castillo? This was the theme of the off-season. Unfortunately nobody was biting and once again the Mets go into a season with a less than satisfactory 2B. Castillo has steadily gotten slower both on running the bases and guarding them, but he managed to be something of a surprise at the plate (good average, great OBP, still no power). Next in line are Alex Cora and Anderson Hernandez. Cora has better power (marginally, but no starter) and Hernandez is a slightly worse version of Castillo. Alex Cintron was just signed to a minor league contract and is also pretty much useless. There are a variety of minor league utility guys and prospects that could get a sniff of action because I can almost guarantee that one or more of these guys will miss significant time due to injury (oddly, Castillo was one of the healthier Mets in 2009).
A problem with Castillo is his undesirable contract which gives him $6 million the next two years, which presented major issues with the Mets seeking Orlando Hudson. Felipe Lopez is still available (nope, he was just signed in the middle of my writing this to a deal worth less than Cora’s, but incentivized) and at this point his wage demands should have dropped quite a bit and he is an upgrade over Castillo on defense and power (plate discipline is a slight downgrade) not to mention he can take up SS, 3B, and OF. A shrewd deal to bring him in (the Mets have been strangely shrewd lately with small contracts for players seeking more) would make moving Castillo not as urgent and the Mets’ gain in depth is a win for a future trade (plenty of teams have question marks at 2B, even the Phillies who have no set backup for Utley).

Unfortunately the Mets new uniforms were rejected by MLB.

Shortstop
This is an easy one. Jose! Reyes! And his tricky hamstrings! The line of backups is the same as it is for 2B. I should point out that Alex Cora is no where near as bad as he appeared to be last year. Cora suffered from torn ligaments in one of his thumbs, but played through it before he tore ligaments in the other thumb (seriously…freaking training staff). Granted, he isn’t worth the $2 million per year the Mets like to have him for, but it isn’t the worst deal (Castillo!). If Jose remains healthy for the entire season that offers the Mets a full 2-4 WAR over anyone else the Mets currently have.

Third Base
David Wright. He has yet to miss a large chunk of a season during his career, so there is a chance that that could happen (David is slow to pick up on what the rest of the team does). Fernando Tatis actually filled in following Wright’s beaning in the head, but beyond him there are few options providing MLB experience. Russ Adams, Shane Bowman, Andy Green, and Mike Cervenak are the next names in line, but barring a renaissance in offensive abilities, are less than desirable.

Outfield
The easiest segment of the Mets to plot with Jason Bay in left, Jeff Francoeur in right, and Carlos Beltran in center. Well, a month into the season Beltran should be back. Angel Pagan should be the starter in his place and can actually do quite a good job of it as he showed last season. For some strange reason, Pagan’s appearance in the future lineup has Jerry Manuel contemplating Pagan leading off and Reyes hitting second. Chances are this isn’t the greatest idea. Gary Matthews Jr. was picked up with the Angels so desirous of removing him that they agreed to pay for a little more than 90% of his salary. Unfortunately he had only one good season that was coupled with one phenomenal catch and it translated into the worst contract in recent history. That all means that the Mets have a below average fielder and hitter and will likely give him too much opportunity to show how bad he is. Frank Catalanotto was signed to provide extra depth and can field at a variety of positions, but his best years are behind him and I really wish the Mets had tried to sign him 7 ago. Fernando Martinez should get more seasoning in AAA, but will probably see some time in the MLB before the season ends. At some point in the next couple years he should progress far enough that Bay, Francoeur, or Beltran will be seen as expendable. Nick Evans and Chris Carter can also pop up for appearances along with Jason Pridie and Val Pascucci.

Starting Rotation
Johan Santana is the ace and then it kind of drops off. John Maine and Mike Pelfrey make up the next two spots in no particular order, but they’re more like good options for back end starters on a good team. Oliver Perez can be a #2 when he is on, but that happens less and less and he is more likely to completely blow a game than keep the Mets in it. Jonathan Niese and Fernando Nieve are the favorites to claim the 5th spot and Nieve, in my mind, has the stuff and experience to start the season there. Niese can do with a little more time in AAA and he has the ability to be a very good mid-rotation pitcher. Other hopefuls for that last spot and first call-up when Ollie blows out are Hisanori Takahashi, Pat Misch, Bobby Parnell, Nelson Figueroa, Josh Fogg, and R.A. Dickey. Takahashi came over from Japan and is seen as a bullpen addition, but if he makes the rotation then that points to him succeeding during the pre-season against MLBers. Misch had some success last year, but is more likely slated for long relief. Parnell is better off in the bullpen as he was beyond awful as a starter (in the more than necessary opportunities he was given). Figueroa is another dark horse with decent stuff to get the job done and should be the next option behind Nieve and Niese. I have no idea why the Mets signed Fogg, he has been terrible ever since I can remember. Dickey is a knuckleballer who will likely be called upon if only to confuse an opposing team.

Bullpen
Francisco Rodriguez has the closer role safely taken care of, but the Mets have made a variety of signings that have given them the experience and depth to bridge the gap between starters and F-Rod-o to a more successful degree than last year. Kelvim Escobar has some shoulder issues, but if and when he returns he can be a great 8th inning guy with experience as a starter and a closer. Ryota Igarashi is also an excellent choice for late inning work and appears to be free of Escobar’s injury troubles. Pedro Feliciano is under-appreciated and is a lefty specialist who can turn the most capable of hitters (assuming they bat left) into a worse version of a Mets backup catcher. Bobby Parnell is a good bet to make the pen along with Sean Green who lowered his point of delivery and while neither of them were overly impressive they certainly aren’t the worst options. Hisanori Takahashi, Pat Misch, and Elmer Dessens will hope to gain the long reliever spot. Waiver claim Jay Marshall was a contender for a spot, but due to a pre-existing condition (injury!) the Mets are seeking to void that. Other arms are Jack Egbert, Clint Everts, Travis Blackley, Bobby Livingston, and prospect Eric Niesen.

Manager
Jerry Manuel is on thin ice for this season. There are a few guys below him who could step in. Ken Oberkfell manages the AAA Buffalo Bisons and Tim Teufel manages the AA Binghampton Mets. The most appealing in-house candidate is Wally Backman who manages the short season A Brooklyn Cyclones. Backman was in line for the Diamondbacks job in 2004, but a string of financial and legal troubles caused Arizona to push him out. With any luck he’s been able to put all that behind him and fixed all his previous troubles, but if Manuel does go the Mets will probably use one of the coaches (Howard Johnson, David Jauss) as an interim manager before hiring some outside candidate. Bob Melvin, former manager of the Diamondbacks and Mariners, is currently a scout with the Mets.
Incidentally, I just found out that Julio Franco is still with the Mets as he manages their rookie level team in the Gulf Coast League.

General Manager

A Nerd with a Francoeur fetish

Omar Minaya also happens to be on thin ice this season (big surprise). There aren’t too many impressive in-house options should (when?) Minaya be told to go, but Wayne Krivsky, former two year Reds GM, is currently a special assistant to Minaya and no doubt had some influence in the bullpen retooling. The one real up-and-comer is John Ricco, the Assistant GM, and mouth of the team when the whole Beltran knee incident occurred and Minaya was hiding in a closet somewhere. He is apparently a stats and financials guy (yet pushed for the Francoeur trade, weird) and also looks like a nerd. Ricco is the likely option as the Mets won’t want to go through firing a GM and having to eat his salary and refill the front office. There are even rumors of promoting Ricco to GM and “promoting” Minaya to a personnel or player evaluation position.

And there you have it. Muddled? Yes. Deep? More than most. Full of talent? Meh.
Their AAA affiliate, Buffalo Bisons, are going to be loaded though. So winning baseball in Buffalo! Hooray!
How does the rest of the NL East compare? Somewhat better:
The Phillies depth chart is set at each position and there should be a couple worthy candidates for the 5th starter, but you can basically see how the bullpen will pan out. Their weakest hitter is the pitcher and then Carlos Ruiz (unless you face him in the postseason where he becomes other-worldly). Depth could become an issue if they suffer too many injuries, but when has that ever happened?
The Braves are more or less set in the field, but have a few guys who could run through the OF including Baseball America’s #1 prospect, Jason Heyward. Chipper is likely to miss some time and the best bet behind him is Eric Hinske. The starters are more or less set even if Jair Jurrjens misses some time, but the real weak point could be the bullpen. Don’t get me wrong, the Wagner, Saito, Moylan back end is enviable, but the first two are in their late 30s and after those three the skill an/or experience level drops off…severely.
The Marlins have an opening for 1B that will be resolved during the pre-season, but that could mean some growing pains during the season that could hinder them (then again, it’s the Marlins, when has a rookie not succeeded). The rotation can be spotty after ace Josh Johnson, but the ace may be the one to worry about. Last season saw a massive uptick in innings pitched (almost 100 more than the season before in the minors and majors) and could point to a burn-out or injury. The bullpen isn’t completely set and that includes the closer, but there are a variety of options here that they can switch out easily and should they find the right mix it could be dangerous.
Poor Washington. It just doesn’t look good for the Nationals. They have a couple feared hitters (Zimmerman, Dunn) and a few other good ones (Morgan, Willingham, Dukes), but their catching situation is just awful (Pudge has been way past his prime for some time now) and their depth is almost non-existent. Meanwhile, they seem set to go into the season with a group of pitchers who are unable to get many strikeouts (a lot of balls in play points to hoping for good defense) and Stephen Strasburg might be asked to start the season in AAA (until they realize that he is way better than anyone they have). The bullpen has Matt Capps at closer, who I can tell you from last year’s fantasy team, was less than decent the previous year. Beyond Capps there are a few serviceable guys and there are plenty of options, but none of the upside comparable to the Marlins ‘pen.

Necessary Big Lebowski References

Jayson Werth is apparently more awesome than his over-productive 2009.

That rug really tied the room together.
“That rug really tied the room together.”

Snark In Brief: Cole Hamels

The Inquirer today ran an article by Matt Gelb about Hamels’ off-season preparation.  It’s the standard spring training stuff, about what Hamels learned from last season’s frustrations and how everybody is expecting great things from him.

One line stuck out to me which I can’t help but mock:

On the suggestion of Mark Prior, the former Cubs pitcher and a close family friend, Hamels began a long-tossing program right after the 2009 season ended.

Isn’t asking Mark Prior for arm conditioning tips sort of like asking Al Gore for presidential election tips?  This is, of course, ignoring the fact that it’s mostly Dusty Baker’s fault Prior’s arm fell off.