New York Yankees

The New York Mets Can Take Over This Town

Nuudzbqeegyh2w4vef9q6025sThere is a plethora of bold talk coming from the New York Mets these days and sports in this town needs it. Aside from the fact that the NY Rangers and NY Islanders seemed to have revived an old rivalry this year, NY Sports has been as unexciting as I can ever remember it being.

Even the New York Yankees who seem to always get the headlines are having trouble appearing in our line of vision unless we are reading a handwritten apology or perhaps retiring every uniform number in their history. And then there are the New York Mets who have been down for so long that twitter followers have developed an art form criticizing them for everything from snowy weather to original sin.

But make no mistake--The New York Mets are the best chance New York has right now of reclaiming the national sports spotlight. That's right I said the Mets. Why? Pitching, Pitching, Pitching combined with the fact that 2 Wild Card teams gain entrance into the MLB's 2015 post-season party makes them a team that could win the hearts of New Yorkers in a time where NY sports fans have plenty of room in their hearts to adopt a team.

In the past weeks, the Mets have not run from the fact they have a chance to win NY. In fact they have boldly spoken that this is their time. Young pitchers like Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Zack Wheeler along with a bullpen that brings out hard throwers by the handful with no fear and a winning attitude have been very clear with their message to Met fans that meaningful games in September are not enough for them--they want games in mid to late October.

Even though I believe pitching is 75% of this game, you have to have offense too and the team did add Michael Cuddyer who along with Lucas Duda, a healthy David Wright, and a Curtis Granderson who is hell bent on being the old Curtis Granderson form the middle of the lineup. Daniel Murphy, Travis d'Arnaud, Wilmer Flores, and Juan Lagares round out a lineup that will never be confused with the '27 Yankees. But I will say this--it is better than it has been in the last 4 years.

You can debate the Mets should have done more or spent more but this team as presently constituted is a playoff caliber team. I can't say that about the team in the Bronx and we all know in this town if Met fans get a small taste of success they will hop on the bandwagon.

A bandwagon that currently only has the Rangers and Islanders on it and a vehicle that always has room for baseball fans. It is a great opportunity for a franchise that has sit in the shadows of the Yankees for quite a few years. If you don't think it could happen, you don't know NY baseball history. Twice in my life (late 60's to early 70's and 84-90) the Mets owned this town and that team that plays in the Bronx played second fiddle.

They had personalities that people gravitated to like Gooden, Seaver, Strawberry, Carter, and Hernandez. Matt Harvey fits that personality mold as he backs down from nobody and takes on everybody much in the way the Mets I just mentioned did. Think about this--those 80's Yankee teams had stars like Don Mattingly, Dave Winfield, Ricky Henderson, and Dave Righetti and nobody put them ahead of the guys who worked at Shea Stadium.

History in baseball repeats itself more than you think--Sandy Alderson's plans may have taken longer than he wanted them to but the time is now and the players inside that Met locker room know it. You can say the Mets need this or need that but recent baseball history has proven you could find offense to get to the playoffs but pitching is precious which was never better illustrated than in MLB's 2014 post-season.

It was also illustrated that division winners and wild card winners can flip report cards in a NY second. Ask the Dodgers about that one. Or more importantly ask the World Champion Giants or the pennant winning Kansas City Royals.

Assessing The Market For Jose Reyes

Jose reyesI hear from Met fans a lot via texting and Twitter and they all ask me the same thing--will Jose Reyes be back? I have never wavered in my viewpoint from early in the year and my sense is he will be back. That being said, the process has barely begun and as with any business deal, a myriad of factors can either catalyze the process or slow it down. For example, does the Ryan Howard injury make it more or less likely the Phillies might take a run at Jose? From everything I am hearing, the Phillies desperately want to keep Ryan Madsen who is a free agent and have to deal with Jimmy Rollins as well. Those talks with Rollins and Madsen could have a big impact on any pursuit of Reyes especially if, for instance, Rollins might cost less than they thought or Madsen cost more than they expected.

Then there is the CC Factor--if he opts out of his Yankee contract, I would expect the Red Sox to enter the sweepstakes which could preclude them from getting serious with Reyes. My hunch is they will look for pitching first even if CC is not on the open market and the Crawford 7 year deal might make them reticent to tip their toes into the Reyes sweepstakes. As far as the San Francisco Giants are concerned, my sources tell me that they would rather re-sign Beltran than go for Reyes for a few reasons. First of all, they traded one of the top pitching prospects out there for Beltran and secondly on the heels of that trade, to then lose 2 draft picks to the Mets might make them skiddish. In addition, they have to think about re-upping Matt Cain at some point whom I believe is a more important piece for them considering their team is built around pitching.

So, I consider the Red Sox, Phils, and Giants as long shots but I do think the Mets will get competition from both the Nationals and Brewers and I expect both teams to be serious bidders. In the case of the Nationals, they have some good young pitching both in the rotation and in the bullpen and could use another bat at the top of the order. Reyes could enhance their OBP which was really poor last year. The only fly in the ointment here is the Jayson Werth contract was criticized heavily and he did not really perform up to expectations and so if they do commit to huge dollars, it might be for a big RBI bat like Prince Fielder. Which brings us to the Brewers.

Milwaukee had a great season getting to the sport's Final Four with improved pitching and 2 absolute superstars in Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun. Their payroll was around $93 million last year and I get the sense they might increase it to a little over $100 million this year. The big question is will they commit that money to Prince Fielder or more properly do they have enough to foot the bill? If not, they might enter the Reyes sweepstakes especially if Fielder goes to the Nats. Now, in Fielder's case there is always the chance a team like the Cubs might swoop in which case keeps Reyes in play for both the Nats and the Brewers. The problem for guys like Fielder and even Pujols to a certain extent, is first base is a position that most of the high spending teams like the Phils, Red Sox, and Yankees have great first basemen on the roster already committed to heavy dollars.

I do see this as a game between the Brewers, Mets, and Nationals with the Red Sox, Giants, and Phils as long shots. However,I do firmly believe that the Mets are the favorites at this early stage but I must warn you it is still very early and things in the off-season can move as fast as a Jose Reyes triple.

Why Doesn't Anyone Care About The World Series?

BaseballI walk around the streets of New York and nobody cares about the World Series.
It is sad to see, because if you love baseball, you have to love this series. I know the Mets had a rotten year and the Yankees made a quick exit in the first round but this Texas/St. Louis series has some juice. It is a shame New Yorkers don't see it.
You know we all say the New York baseball fan is smarter and more perceptive than any other fans in the country, but if the truth be told we're as provincial as any of those other fans. When our baseball teams are out, we shut down and I guess what that means is we are really not baseball fans. The NY football fan still had interest in the Super Bowl after the Jets were bumped by the Steelers and the NY NBA fans were certainly mesmerized by Heat/Mavericks last year, but if we don't see Yanks, Mets or Phils or Red Sox (only because we hate those last two teams) we shut down.
But this is an interesting series and one that will go the distance. It features a team that had to inch their way into the post-season party and one who is returning to the Fall Classic in a year most thought the Yanks, Red Sox, Rays, and even the Verlander-led Tigers were better bets than then they were. The Texas Rangers are an interesting case because Nolan Ryan had to endure losing Cliff Lee to the Phillies and instead of brooding about it, they went out and signed Adrian Beltre - making an awesome lineup deeper. When you consider that the core bats of Beltre, Cruz, Hamilton, Young, and Kinsler are tough enough, try pitching against a lineup that features a sixth bat in Mike Napoli that crushed 30 homers. Quite simply, it is the most potent lineup in baseball and has the Rangers on the brink of their first-ever World Championship. Texas could actually get by with less starting pitching because of their high-octane offense coupled with a very efficient bullpen that was heavily reinforced with the addition of Mike Adams at the trading deadline.
Standing in their way is the St. Louis Cardinals who also endured losing their ace when Adam Wainwright got hurt in spring training. Couple that with a bullpen that stumbled through most of the summer, the Cardinals were put to bed by the experts in early August, but a slumping Braves team left the door open a crack which the Redbirds kicked in during the season's final week. And oh by the way, they had to beat Cliff Lee in Game 2 and then Roy Halladay in a Game 5 do or die matchup in Philly and then proceeded to take 2-of-3 in Milwaukee where the Brewers were nearly unbeatable this year. And like the Rangers, the Cardinals made some under the radar moves at the deadline obtaining both Rafael Furcal (who saved Game 5 with a defensive gem) and Octavio Dotel who got some real big outs for Tony LaRussa in the ALCS.
A series like this is good for baseball -- it is nice to see different teams in the mix who really had to fight to get here. So why the indifference by fans? What they tell me is it has no juice -- there is no yapping by the players, no wild predictions, these teams respect each other too much.
Is that the world we live in?
The game is not enough anymore -- the back story complete with nasty tweeting is what sells. For me, the game has always been enough and this series is a great matchup of 2 teams that have struggled to get here and that is what sports is all about -- the games that have everything on the line. Not how many twitter followers you have.

The Bay Day For Yankee Fans--Oh What A Shame!

Ny_yankees_logo031908071053 I know...I know...The last person a Yankee fan wants to hear from is Rich Coutinho...noted Yankeehater but a lot of my friends are Yankee fans and as a follower of the Mets, I feel their pain today. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm elated the Yanks lost but I did feel compelled to write something about the Evil Empire's season coming to an abrupt end last night.

This is the thing about the high payroll teams in baseball--it generally gets you through the regular season grind but the short series is the great equalizer and a 5 game series is the ultimate equalizer. For the New York Yankees whose payroll is off the charts, the ALDS has been a very painful experience since 2002. When you consider the Yankees have been in 9 ALDS series since the 2001 season and have only gone 4-5 in those series and that all of those 4 series wins came against the Minnesota Twins, you really scratch your head because certainly the Yankees were better than most of those teams.
In fact, since Game #3 of the 2004 ALCS the Yankees are a very ordinary 22-23 in post-season and that includes an 11-4 post season record in their World Championship year of 2009. People will point to many factors when breaking down the latest Yankee playoff meltdown but I really believe it is a complex issue. On first glance, the hitters will get much of the blame but the bottom line here is a simple one. The one year the Yankees won the World Series their pitchers performed at a high level and although the team got creditable performances from their bullpen and a shocking lights out night from AJ Burnett, the team was relying on a rookie pitcher to get them to the finish line in a deciding Game 5. Nova should have been a #3 starter behind CC Sabathia and a second banana in the rotation. That "second guy" was supposed to be Cliff Lee and the team got real lucky with Bartolo Colon and Freddie Garcia in the regular season but the inherent problem is guys like that are generally exposed in the post-season and on a team with a payroll in the stratosphere they should not be starting any game in October.
I firmly believe this series was lost in Game #2 when the Yankees (because of a rain out) went with Freddie Garcia and instead of dropping the hammer on the Tigers, that game opened the door for them. Verlander outpitched CC in Game 3 and despite a gift from Burnett, it was too much to overcome. CC was not exactly CC in this series but that had as much to do with circumstances rather than talent--he never pitched with the proper rest but that is even more the reason to have a #2 behind CC and in front of Nova. I still think that guy could be Phillip Hughes.
Ok that is enough Yankee talk for me on this day--I must know go back to my real job of covering the Mets.

Major League Players Go To Bat For The Game

New York, New York-- It was a star studded guest list that could fill any room in America and beyond with fans who just wanted to take a picture or get an autograph but on this night it was all about major league players giving time and money for a very worthy cause, The 21st Annual BAT (Baseball Assistance Team) Dinner. And 1050's Met beat reporter Rich Coutinho was there.

You know I go to my share of these type of events but this one just felt different as you could feel the passion and commitment in the room from players both current and retired, MLB corporate executives, sponsors and members of the media for this most deserving charity.

The first thought you generally get about major league baseball players is that they make a boatload of money and enjoy lives that only few of us can dream of living. But it was not always this way as players in the 50's, 60's, and 70's did not reap the rewards that the players have today--at least not until MLBPA President Marvin Miller paved the road. And despite Miller's best efforts many of the players were left behind that played prior to the labor renaissance of the 1980's.

But the Baseball Assistance Team (BAT) is not just about major league players--it has helped minor league players and coaches, scouts, clubhouse attendants, trainers, and just about every conceivable person that belongs to the "baseball family." I remember the 1960's vividly and recall many players working in the off-season just to make ends meet which I realize is an impossible concept to grasp today. I remember going to a men's store with my dad surprised to see that Ed Kranepool was there to assist us in the purchase. Unbelievable but true.

The numbers that BAT has on its resume are staggering--since 1986 they have handed out over $19 million in grants to over 2,400 needy individuals who had no retirement money, could not afford health care, or were unable to keep up with the slippery slope of inflation. And when you talk to players like Orlando Cepeda, Andre Dawson, Jim Palmer, former Met manager Davey Johnson, or Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield, you get the feeling that have benefited far more from BAT than the people who have received assistance because it has allowed them to give back something to the game they love so much.

BAT needs you so it can continue to get the help to people that are in most need of it. The following link on MLB.com can guide you through the donation process: https://secure.mlb.com/mlb/official_info/community/bat.jsp

We will be running podcasts all week so you can learn more about BAT and at the same time start to warm you up for Pitchers and Catchers which is about 25 days away.

Vazquez To Yanks - How Will That Affect Mets?

With Javier Vazquez going to the Bronx, it will have a domino effect on the market for both free agent starting pitchers and the left field duo of Jason Bay/Matt Holliday. For the Mets, its is a like a good news-bad news day because it could help them land a starting pitcher while it might re-define the market for Jason Bay.

First the good news--Getting Vazquez effectively takes the Yankees out of the market for a starting pitcher and when you consider high payroll teams like the Red Sox, Phillies, and Cubs are not looking for pitching and add in the fact the Dodgers are not looking to add a dollar to their budget you get the sense the Mets might be able to grab a Joel Pinhiero for far less than the market price had escalated to during the Winter Meetings. It might also bring the price down for a guy like Ben Sheets who might finally realize a pitcher coming off an injury is in no position to ask for the moon. Even a skilled hurler like Sheets.

Now the not so good news--We have all been desperately trying to figure out who this mystery team is that is pursuing Jason Bay. Up until today, I firmly believed that was pure fiction orchestrated by his agent to drive up the price on the Mets. But losing $11 million dollars off their payroll makes the Braves a player for another bat plus with Cabrera likely in right and McClouth in center, there is a spot for Bay in the Braves outfield. If history has taught us anything about the Braves, they act quickly once they dump payroll.

This might also help Matt Holliday and Johnny Damon whom it seemed had limited options just 24 hours ago as Damon may now be in play in the Bronx while Holliday may get a sniff from the Braves. It is not out of the realm of possibility that Holliday may also get a call from Brian Cashman or even Bay.

Things just got a little trickier for Omar Minaya thanks to his friends across the river but he must still proceed with caution. I feel the same about Bay and Holliday as I have all off-season--they are very good players but not difference makers and neither is worthy of more than a 4 year contract. You may be able to re-sign Carlos Delgado and get the same RBI production for less dollars and less committed years. And you can put that money into pitching which is the primary need of this team.

Not the Christmas present Met fans are looking for but it would be the right course of action for the Mets.