Reese Kaplan - How's my GPA?

 A lot of folks sit around talking about the deals that should have been made, the players who should be starting, the people who should be released and the decisions made by the ballclub.  I’m as guilty as anyone in this regard and recently was called to task over my track record in this regard.  I decided to go back to the beginning of this decade and see how I’ve fared as an armchair GM/Manager with regard to who should stay, who should go and who should play.  In no particular order I present:

Fernando Martinez – His minor league numbers never screamed “star” at me and I felt that he should become the centerpiece of any decent deal offered.  Thus far he’s proven to be a major bust.  The Mets blew this one.

Trade Jose Reyes – No one can be wrong on this front except Sandy Alderson.  I was in the “Trade him” camp and others were in the sign him.  No one but our illustrious GM was in the “sit on your hands and watch him walk away” camp.

Scott Hairston – Again, I was in the “trade him” camp but, like Reyes, Mr. Alderson felt for the sake of what – staying out of the cellar – it was better to keep him on the roster and have him walk away?  Now the difference here is he was a 20 HR guy who could have been peddled for ANYTHING.  His career has tanked since leaving the Mets, but they got nothing in return.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis – I was off his bandwagon in a huge hurry and this K machine has proven to be barely adequate as a 25th man on the roster. 

Ike Davis – After his 32 HR comeback I was willing to give him a LITTLE benefit of doubt but I was calling for the manager to bench him in favor of Lucas Duda back in early 2013.  I guess I was ahead of the curve on this one.

Mike Baxter – He was the left handed version of Nick Evans.  Just as Evans didn’t contribute much, Baxter followed suit from the other side of the plate. 

Justin Hampson – He pitched very well in AAA and his short stint in the majors.  I thought the team had found another unlikely success story.  Where has he gone, anyway?  I was wrong. 

Collin McHugh – A lot of us got this one wrong. 

Jeremy Hefner – He seemed at best a warm body but for awhile last year he was pitching neck and neck for effectiveness with Matt Harvey.  Then the injuries came.  I gave him too little credit. 

David Wright – At times it seemed like I was the lone voice saying, “Be honest about the rebuilding effort, get yourself 2 or more Zack Wheelers and save the money!”  Unfortunately it appears I was right about Wright.  Imagine having that $18 million or so to spend right now on LF or SS. 

Andres Torres/Ramon Ramirez – I was in the “Cut him loose” camp on Andres Torres even before the season started.  His track record was awful and you’d save the money.  I got that one right.  However, I felt the saving grace of this odd deal running Angel Pagan out of town might have been the previously successful Ramon Ramirez who was an injured shell of his former self in a Mets uniform.  They both stunk up the joint.  

Ronny Cedeño – Why would you spend over $1 million on a negative WAR backup shortstop?  It made absolutely no sense when you could have just as easily gotten a minimum wage guy like Wilfredo Tovar for that role.  Good riddance.

Ruben Tejada – He’s Ronny Cedeño Lite.  The batting average is on a 162 game average 8 points higher but the power and RBIs are reduced.

Zach Lutz – He never got a chance to show what he could do.  During all that time they were clamoring for a RH platoon partner for 1B he got a piddling 31 big league plate appearances.  His minor league numbers suggest he was capable of doing more.  He’s now gone to the land of the rising sun to do his Cecil Fielder best.   I call this one an incomplete. 

Darrin Gorski – Most of the time he’s sported stellar numbers and was doing so again this year before breaking his foot, yet he was booted off the 40-man roster.  Not all pitchers hit the upper 90s but can still be effective.  He’s another incomplete.

Mike Pelfrey – I was off this guy’s bandwagon before it was cool to do so.  Thankfully Minnesota and not the Mets were stuck with his FA contract.  We should have non-tendered him when we had the chance. 

Jordany Valdespin – Terry Collins went way overboard in minimizing any chance this guy had for success.  He was hitting in the .280s with power and couldn’t sniff a start.  Now how much was talent and how much was chemistry is looking like the syringe won as he’s only hitting .218 with the Marlins.  I was wrong. 

Anthony Recker – He’s an embarrassment with a bat.  He shouldn’t be on a big league roster.

Frank Francisco – I screamed “WHY?” when I read they signed him.  I still don’t know. 

Kelly Shoppach – I had longed for this defensive-oriented guy with power but his output in a Mets  uniform was Recker-like.  I was wrong. 

Aaron Laffey – His acquisition was a big, “Why?” and he never answered the question. 

Kyle Farnsworth – Another famous lightning-in-a-bottle approach to building a bullpen, it soon became clear there was a reason why he was available. 

Jose Valverde – See Kyle Farnsworth

Jose Abreu – I screamed from the rooftops to sign this guy, but instead we went after Curtis Granderson for more money. 

Bobby Abreu – Another HUGE, “WHY?????????????????????????” and he demonstrated that he was done.

Rick Ankiel – He’d been cut from every team, so naturally the Mets felt he was worth a shot.  I didn’t.  I was right.

Collin Cowgill – A lot in his background suggested he might be undervalued and he cost a fringe prospect so I thought it was a good acquisition.  After naming him the starter, Terry Collins reversed himself a few days later and buried him like he does most younger ballplayers.  He’s currently on the Angels as a reserve outfielder, hitting .267 which would trump 2 of our 3 current outfielders. 
Justin Turner – This one had to be about money because he performed well in his reserve role.  He was unceremoniously dumped which caught most everyone by surprise and he’s prospering in Los Angeles to the tune of a .321 average.

LaTroy Hawkins – He became the closer by default, and although he would not necessarily have that role in 2014 assuming a healthy Parnell (which didn’t happen, of course), he was a guy who proved he could handle NY and thrive.  Yet somehow his $2.25 million contract was deemed too rich for the Mets’ blood.  (They needed that to help pay for Chris Young, of course.)  He’s got an ERA well under 3.00 and running like a well-oiled machine in Colorado.  The Mets were wrong once again.

Marlon Byrd – I eat major crow on this one. I didn’t know why they were “wasting their time” with a washed up steroid abuser.  I am very happy to admit my mistake.  I’m even happier knowing he and John Buck were turned into Dilson Herrera and Vic Black. 

Chris Young – I was not alone in the derision for throwing away money on a guy who had not been good in several years.  We were all proven right.  The Mets were wrong once again.

Eric Young, Jr. – I was an early convert to the “Young is at best a 4th outfielder” mantra, yet day after day they would start him while I demanded he be benched.  Nearly a year later they finally saw the error of their ways. 

Curtis Granderson – At the time they invested in him, I kept asking yet again, “Why?”  He is the wrong side of 30, coming off injury, was a strikeout machine (an odd choice for a team that worshipped at the church of OBP).  He’s much worse this year than feared.

Wilmer Flores – While I think the jury is still out on him, it’s beginning to look as if he is not translating his minor league success to the major league level.  He started out well in 2013 with 9 RBIs in his first 27 Abs, then injured his ankles and tried to play through it for the remainder of the year.  I can understand the slow start in 2014 when Terry Collins kept trotting out Ruben Tejada to fail regularly while Flores collected splinters on the bench, but he’s had nearly a month of steady play now and is not taking advantage.  This one may go down as a bad call by me, but I also wonder if he, like Lucas Duda before him, is focusing so much on the negative publicity about his defense out of position that it’s affecting his hitting?  He's another incomplete.

Terry Collins – While he had the credentials as a major league manager to get the job, he quickly proved unable to motivate anyone, he was death to rookies and he routinely burned out the bullpen.  As his contract mercifully came to an end, I thought, they will never pick up his option…but they did!  And the record got worse.  Then I thought, there’s no way they will extend his contract.  But they did!  And the record has not improved.  That’s another huge loss on the part of the Mets decision making. 

So let’s take a score here and see how many I got right and how many I got wrong.  By my count that’s 26 right, 5 wrong and 3 incompletes, not a grade point average at all -- a solid B.  It’s more impressive when you consider the wrong ones included four guys earning minimum wage and Marlon Byrd at just $700K.   

Now I’m not sitting here trying to say that I know more than the baseball professionals do.  However, if you pick up any newspaper, magazine or read any blog you’ll find the sentiments are remarkably similar.  How is it possible for people who are not lifelong employees in this professional to see things that people within the Metropolitan Baseball Club cannot?  How disconnected are they with the fans? 

Everyone has seen the progression of the pitching staff.  They’ve seen the hitting of Lucas Duda and Daniel Murphy.  Most are willing to cut both Curtis Granderson and David Wright some slack for their terrible years.  Travis d’Arnaud looks like the real deal.  Juan Lagares makes it a pleasure to see the games. 

However, what is being done to address the glaring holes on the team?  The next Ronny Cedéno won’t cut it.  The next Bobby Abreu won’t cut it.  Sitting on players who other teams covet in the hopes of landing another Zack Wheeler but coming up empty won't cut it.  Staying out of the international free agent pool won't cut it. 

2015 is the year the team has a chance to be competitive.  They may not win it all, but they might actually finish above .500.  That’s major progress.  The question is will the Mets finally do what’s necessary to get there?


Mack Ade said...

Reese -

You spent an awful lot of time on this one... thanks.

I learned over the years to stop looking back... it was like when I got out of the Air Force and got a part time job driving cab for the Katz brothers out of Long Island City.

One of the old guys was assigned to fill me in on 'da rules' before I set out for my first fair (25 cents for the click of the meter back then...)

The old timer reached inside the front seat and turned the center mirror all the way to the side so the driver could not see anything when they were in the drivers seat. He did the same with the side mirrors.

He then turned to me and said...

"you don't wanna see what's going on out there behind you..."

Reese, I'm not sure what the future of this team is sometimes nor am I sure how long I am going to get 'inside the cab', but I'm sure as hell not using the mirrors.

Reese Kaplan said...

The analysis of the past was a prescription for what to do and what not to do in the future. As they say, those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Thus far we've seen 3.75 years of them being very slow learners, but the recent promotion of Dilson Herrera and the decision to try some new players since the old ones weren't working indicates they FINALLY might be waking up. Of course, putting younger players in a position to succeed in the batting order and dropping down those people who are not performing would make sense, but there have been some baby steps in the right direction.

Mack Ade said...

Reese -

I understand where you are coming from but I'm not that concerned with lineup positioning in the last two weeks of August and the month of September.

I look upon this period as just an early look at the 2015 spring traing, plus time spent trying to determine who to keep around next year.

Case in point... Wilmer Flores. I love his play at second base, but his bat just hasn't translated into what we all expected if he played every day.

Adam Smith said...

Thanks, Reese for doing this. I won't bore you with a case by case, but suffice to say that I was with you more often than not, an have spent a lot of the Alderson era scratching my head. A couple of observations:

For a team short of cash, they seem to have a real bias against their available in-house options.

There is a disturbing trend toward moves that everyone, or everyone but the FO, see as obvious disasters. It's like they see seeds of hope in the rubble (which is understandable and not a bad instinct), but that they get caught up in the inevitability of their own hunches, and need to prove that they're the smartest people in the room (or the league.) This leads not so much to the minor league deal and small money flyers, which at least make some sense for small market teams, which we are these days, but to spending $7 million on Chris Young and $60 million on Curtis Granderson.

One last point. You mention that Terry went way overboard in making sure that Valdespin was never put in a position to succeed, and I think that's pretty obvious. Leaving aside the competence of a FO that would allow their manager to do that to a young player on the big league roster - do you get the same sense about Flores? The guy talked him down in the media on multiple occasions, mis-used him, and hit him 8th when he did. It seemingly took an edict from the front office (where have you been, guys?) to get Terry to play him at all.

Were Flores and Valdespin friends? Did Wilmer disrespect Terry in some way back when Terry was minor league coordinator and Flores was 18? Terry is clearly very thin-skinned, is it possible that Flores embarrassed him on a back field somewhere? I really think that this - along with a mortal fear of his veterans - is Terry's MO.

Alright, enough from me. Thanks for this Reese. It clearly took some research, and it codifies a lot of what has been wrong with this FO's decision making at the big league level, even as they've built the farm.

Reese Kaplan said...

I'm not sure why Flores would be singled out for this treatment any more than other rookies (who were benched, batted 8th, etc.) I do know that despite his lackluster production that given a choice in a key spot in the game to have Tejada or Flores come to bat, 10 out of 10 times I go with Flores. The extra base potential is there. I really think it's more of him being so hostilely criticized for his SS play that it's affecting his hitting. If they DL'd Wright and he could play at 3B then perhaps he would relax.

Adam Smith said...

I remember, I'm pretty sure it was after his 6 RBI/Grand slam game, Terry basically saying "well, he didn't exactly hit it off Chris Lee" or some such. That game was one to build off for an offensive prospect getting his feet wet in the bigs. A confidence boost. In 40 years as a baseball fan, I've never heard a manager basically tear down a young player like that.

What kind of thinking goes into a statement like that? That alone, to me, was a fireable offense, simply for what it said about Collins' total lack of support for his young players, or understanding of managing people. I really do think he hates the kid, he just can't be that clueless.

Reese Kaplan said...

@ Adam Smith You're my brother from another mother. I couldn't believe what I'd heard that day, though uncharacteristically Collins did let Flores play exactly one more day before returning him to the bench.

Steve from Norfolk said...

Reese, Thanks for the hard work and passionate writing. I may not agree with you all the time, but no one can say you're not passionate about this team!

This article is one I can really agree with. I personally think 3B is Wilmer's best position. He's always performed well there when fillin in for DW, and it sure couldn't hurt anything but David's work ethic to sit him for the rest of the season to heal up and let Wilmer play 3B and relax. You can see that he's got the power to be a valuable asset, he just needs to have the chance to settle in. He is also playing a decent 2B, better than I thought he would.

Thomas Brennan said...

Hey Reese

(I have to say I always enjoy reading Reese's Pieces)

Curious if Dickey was an intentional miss, or one year too early. He was a big win for Mets.

My brother Steve screamed "trade him!" when Pelfrey got off to that great first half start one season - was Stevie ever right about that one!

Keep playing Flores - he will hit in Sept. Good to see Dekker hitting reasonably well - looking for a big Sept from him and Dilson too.

Mack's Mets © 2012