3/31/17

2017 Fireflies Opening Week Schedule

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2017 Fireflies Opening Week Schedule


Please note the following schedule is subject to change. Contact Fireflies Broadcasting & Media Relations Director Kevin Fitzgerald with any questions by email, kfitzgerald@columbiafireflies.com, or by phone at (803) 888-3040. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to confirm details. If needed, media can pick up their credentials at Spirit Communications Park on Saturday in advance of Sunday’s Fan Fest.

Sunday, April 2
  • Team arrives at Spirit Communications Park between 10:30-11:00 a.m. (approximately). Media are invited to film and take photos of team’s arrival, but no interviews will be permitted.
  • Fireflies Fan Fest begins at 1:00 p.m.
  • Team works out on field from approximately 1:30-3:45 p.m. Media are welcome to film and take photos; players and coaches will not be available for interviews.
  • Team autograph session for fans on the concourse from approximately 4:00-5:00 p.m. (again, media welcome to film, but players and coaches will not be available for interviews).
  • At 4:30 p.m.Manager Jose Leger and Tim Tebow will be available to media for roughly 20 minutes in the auxiliary locker room (located between the Fireflies and visitors' clubhouses on the field level).
  • At 4:50 p.m., former University of South Carolina / All-SEC outfielder Gene Cone and 2016 Coastal Carolina College World Series Champion Michael Paez will be available to media for roughly 10 minutes also in the auxiliary locker room.
Monday, April 3
  • Team works out on field from approximately 4:00-6:00 p.m., with batting practice scheduled for approximately 5:15 p.m. (media are welcome to film and take photos of practice, but players and coaches will not be available for interviews).
Tuesday, April 4
  • Media Day held from approximately 1:15-2:30 p.m. at Spirit Communications Park. Manager Jose Leger will be available from 1:15-1:30 p.m. Players will be available from 1:30-2:30 p.m.
  • Team works out on field from approximately 2:45-4:45 p.m. (media are welcome to film and take photos of practice).
Wednesday, April 5
  • Team works out on field from approximately 3:15-5:15 p.m., with batting practice scheduled for approximately 4:45 p.m. (media are welcome to film and take photos of practice, but players and coaches will not be available for interviews).
Thursday, April 6
  • 2016 season opener against the Augusta GreenJackets (San Francisco Giants), 7:05 p.m. at Spirit Communications Park. Gates open to the public at 5:30 p.m.
  • Team takes batting practice from approximately 4:15-5:00 p.m.
  • Player’s and coach’s availability will be limited; contact Kevin Fitzgerald for scheduling inquiries. 
  • Manager Jose Leger, Tim Tebow and a player(s) of the game will be available to the media 20 minutes after the conclusion of the game in the auxiliary locker room.
*TV outlets that need parking for their station trucks on opening day can park in Suite Parking at the end of Freed Drive, as indicated on the attached Spirit Communications Park parking map.

*Media should also contact Kevin Fitzgerald to request headshots of Fireflies players and coaches.

The Fireflies open the 2017 season with seven games at Spirit Communications Park – four against Augusta (4/6-4/9) and three against the Hickory Crawdads (4/10-4/12).

The 2017 Spirit Communications Park Media Information Guide is also attached for your reference.


Opening Night 2017
Opening Night at Spirit Communications Park is April 6 at 7:05 p.m. against the Augusta GreenJackets (San Francisco Giants). Individual game tickets for the 2017 season, including the 2017 South Atlantic League All-Star Game on June 20 and the Total Eclipse of the Park onAugust 21, are on sale now and begin at $5 for the Bojangles’ Berm, $9 for reserved seats, and $10 for Palmetto Citizens Federal Credit Union All-Star seats. The Fireflies are currently taking reservations for season ticket packages, including full-season (70 games), half-season (35 games), quarter-season (17 games) and mini-season packages (12 games). For more information on season tickets and to reserve your seats for the 2017 season, visit ColumbiaFireflies.com, or call 803-726-4487.

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About the Columbia Fireflies
The Columbia Fireflies are the South Atlantic League affiliate of the New York Mets. Winners of Ballpark Digest’s Best New Branding and Logo Award in 2016, the Fireflies play games across the southeast and mid-Atlantic regions, including against in-state rivals in Charleston and Greenville. The team partnered with the city of Columbia and Hughes Development to construct Spirit Communications Park, a multi-use outdoor sports and entertainment venue at the center of the BullStreet development. The Columbia Fireflies are owned by Hardball Capital, owners of the Fort Wayne TinCaps of the Midwest League and the Chattanooga Lookouts of the Southern League. For more information, visit ColumbiaFireflies.com, or follow the Fireflies on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

About Spirit Communications Park
Spirit Communications Park, the 2016 Ballpark Digest Ballpark of the Year, is a 365-day per year multi-use sports and entertainment venue located in the heart of downtown Columbia, SC. Spirit Communications Park is the home ballpark for the Columbia Fireflies, the South Atlantic League affiliate of the New York Mets. Designed for baseball, concerts, football, soccer and a host of other activities, the venue seats approximately 9,000 for sporting events and up to 15,000 for major outdoor concerts. With 16 luxury suites and a 7,000 square-foot Club Level Lounge, Spirit Communications Park can also host everything from business meetings to wedding receptions, and everything in between. The venue is open 365 days a year and serves as a public park with the wrap-around concourse representing 1/3 of a mile for walkers and joggers. For more information, visit SpiritCommunicationsPark.com.
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NHSI Top Propects – Hagen Danner, Nick Pratto, Brady McConnell, Garrett Mitchell, Austin Martin

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From  Baseball America - USA Baseball’s National High School Invitational, now in its sixth year, has become the top high school regular-season event in the country. This year’s event features 16 of the country’s top teams, populated with 11 members of Baseball America’s Top 100 High School Prospects. Records and rankings are through games of March 19.


 Huntington Beach (Calif.) HS - Seniors Hagen Danner and Nick Pratto both could be selected on the first day of the draft. Both starred—along with many Huntington Beach players—in California’s 2011 Little League World Series victory and both went on to become decorated players for the 18U national teams that dominated international competition in 2015 and 2016. The righthanded Danner throws a mid-90s fastball and tight breaking ball, while also showing consistent game power and advanced feel for hitting. Some scouts believe the lefthanded Pratto to be the best pure hitter in this year’s high school class. He pitches in the upper 80s to low 90s and has an outstanding changeup

When The Giants Come To Town - Hagen Danner is a 6'2", 185 lbs. RHP out of Huntington Beach, CA.  Hit and pitched for a team that won the Little League World Series when he was 12 years old.  He's a 2-way player for Huntington Beach HS piching and catching, but most scouting reports emphasize his pitching.  He has a conventional windup and delivery with a high 3/4 release point.  The FB gets up to 94 MPH and he has a nice curveball and a developing changeup to go with it.  He is listed as a top 10 2017 draft talent on most early boards, but is committed to UCLA.  Honestly, if I didn't know he was listed that high, I would say he should go to school.  I know you can't turn down top 10 money, but he just looks like a college pitcher to me, someone who might be a top 10 pick in 3 years if he gains some strength and velocity and polishes his game.

           


PG – Nick Pratto can really hit and Upper 80's with more to come. Very projectable.
                  


Merritt Island (Fla.) HS - Lead by All-American shortstop Brady McConnell, the Mustangs are poised for a run in 2017 as they look to build off a strong 20-8 campaign last season. McConnell, a Florida recruit, offers a blend of speed, defense and pure hitting ability. He has the potential to be a first-round draft pick in June.

PG - Brady McConnell is a 2017 SS/2B with a 6-2 175 lb. frame from Merritt Island, FL who attends Merritt Island HS. Very projectable athletic body, lots of quick twitch athleticism at present with more strength to come. 6.42 runner, quick actions at shortstop with big range, plus raw arm strength, accuracy can improve but gets big carry from the hole, graceful actions on the move. Right handed hitter, has explosive hand speed to contact, ball jumps hard with power and leverage, big stride into contact will create occasional timing issues but has high end offensive potential. Has all the physical tools. Good student, verbal commitment to Florida. Selected for the Perfect Game All-American Classic.

           


Orange (Calif.) Lutheran HS - Orange Lutheran has a storied tradition, having been ranked in Baseball America’s Top 25 in six of the past eight years. Coming off a 22-9 season in 2016, the Lancers have seven returners in their lineup for 2017, led by senior All-American outfielder Garrett Mitchell. The UCLA recruit is a five-tool talent with an elite combination of power and speed.

PG - Garrett Mitchell is a 2017 OF with a 6-2 200 lb. frame from Orange, CA who attends Orange Lutheran HS. Very athletic build with plenty of present strength and room for more. Outstanding runner, 6.35 in the sixty, consistently runs sub-4.00 home to first base from the left side, gets out of the box quickly and runs hard. Shows very good raw arm strength from the outfield with carry and accuracy from a compact arm action and release. Left handed hitter, hits from a spread straight stance with good balance in his approach, simple load and shift, has the strength to generate very good bat speed and can turn on balls and drive them, ball comes off the barrel hard, will occasionally drop his back shoulder. High ceiling athletic talent. Good student, verbal commitment to UCLA. Selected for the Perfect Game All-American Classic.

           


Trinity Christian HS, Jacksonville, Fla. - the Conquerors return prominent 2017 prospect shortstop Austin Martin. Martin, a Vanderbilt recruit, has quick feet and excellent infield actions

            PG - Really impressed in Jupiter both in the field and with the bat

                       


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Tom Brennan - HOW ARE EX METS DOING THIS SPRING

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Tom Brennan: HOW ARE EX METS DOING THIS SPRING

The following is not an exhaustive listing, but here goes:

Bartolo Colon - getting tattooed.  So, for that matter, is RA Rickey. 36 runs in 36 innings pitched for the two.  The nursing home needs starters, boys.

Akeel Morris - 4 great innings, 7 Ks,  but an early Braves send down.  Old guys getting tattooed can stay, though.

Dilson Herrera - started hot, went 1 for his last 12, sent by Reds to AAA in mid-March.  Still not major league ready, it seems.  Jay Bruce, however, is.

Dario Alvarez - a great 11 innings with Texas.  Success story.

Gabe Ynoa - 1.98 ERA in 14 innings with the Orioles.  Making his being traded to the Os for cash even more puzzling.

Logan Verrett - tattooed with the Os.  No surprise to this writer.

Matt Koch - 4 good innings, sent down by the D Backs.

Jack Leathersich - 1 good inning, 2 Ks for Cubbies. That's it.

Brad Wieck - 5 wild innings for the SD Pods. Needs more work.

Luis Cessa - bad Yankee spring.  

Michael Fulmer?  Did not look.  He's great, but we got Yo, so I like our half of that deal.

John Gant and Matt Bowman - 12 innings each for the Cardinals this spring. Only 2 measly total earned runs.  Can we have them back, please?

That's my happy recap, in case you were wondering.  Any of the other alumni?  Look them up yourselves, don't be lazy!
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Tom Brennan: - Scouting The Enemy - Chicago Cubs

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The long drought is over.  Mountaintop achieved; the view is breathless.  The World Series victors' banner will fly in the Lake Michigan breeze at Wrigley Field.

A young, highly talented squad, and likely a chief contender to keep the Mets out of the World Series: the Chicago Cubs.

The young Cubbies emerged explosively in 2016, with masterful pitching and brimming offensive talent, won like mad in April and never looked back, winning 103 regular season games, roaring to the World Series, and then winning it all, repelling the very tough Cleveland Indians, who were trying hard to break their own decades-old World Series drought but came up just short.

So let's get down to it.  Are the 2017 Cubs good?  Are they formidable opponents for the Mets?  Oh, yeah!

First, can the Cubs get even better in 2017 than 2016? Sure.

Here's why:

2016 NL MVP Kris Bryant will just be 25 this year and, after hitting 39 homers in 2016, can 50 be so hard?

Javier Baez and Addison Russell?  Two young, budding superstar infielders.  First baseman Anthony Rizzo? Another budding star with great power, hitting 32 taters last year.  The Cubs no doubt have the best starting infield in baseball. And having Jorge Soler as a back up is not shabby, folks.

And, scarily enough, despite having surrendered big prospects (like Gleyber friggin' Torres!) to rent Aroldis Chapman from the Yanks, the Cubs have a 1st round prospect, 2B Ian Happ, who has torched spring training to the tune of .417/.473/.813...Babe Ruth said, "hey, I want numbers like that".  He isn't on the roster, but will show up with the Cubs during 2017, most likely.

Kyle Schwarber?  A 2016 playoffs hero coming back in record time from an ACL surgery, the big bopper could certainly hit 40 this year.  HUGE power.  Besides Schwarber, who will be one of heir outfielders and occasional catcher, Dexter Fowler, who played a big role in 2016, has departed.  And Jason Hayward and his $184 million contract remain an albatross after a miserable 2016 offensive season and equally miserable spring. 

But super valuable Ben Zobrist is a key and versatile cog for this team, as the Mets discovered in the World Series of 2015; lots of quality outfield from this very productive asset.  (I still think his name sounds like a menu item - "yes, I think I'll order the Zobrist, medium well"). And big things are expected from Albert Almora, Jr., a 22 year old CF who hit .277 in 112 at bats for the Cubsters last year.

Catching? Wilfredo Contreras gives them a great young blossoming catcher, and Miggy Montero and/or others should give them a solid contingent there.

Pitching? What can one say?  Their 5 starters in 2016 were an amazing 79-39...Arrieta, Lackey, Hendricks, Hammels, and Lester got it done big time.  Hammels (15-10) is gone to KC, replaced by a #5 quality starter in Mike Montgomery and/or lefty Brett Anderson.  The latter had a 10-9, 3.69 season in 2015 but a very poor, little-pitched-in 2016.  Eddie Butler may be a 2018 starter, and went 5-0 this spring (likely a lot of luck there for a guy who has pitched poorly in his time in the bigs in 2016 and prior).

Strop, Cahill, Wood, Grimm, and Rondon all pitched well from their pen, and the added-in-midseason Chapman was....well, Aroldis "Haley's Comet" Chapman during his awesome rental.  But Chapman is gone...but so what? They pick up mighty Wade Davis in his stead (lousy spring for him so far, though, with 13 runners and 8 runs in 4 IP).  That looks like a superior pen to me.

Simply put, this Cubs team is built to win 100+.

The Mets have a decent offense, to be sure, but not of the Cubs' caliber.  The Mets' starters could be better, but Mets' health (which I think will be OK) is a factor.  I would give the Mets the bullpen edge with Familia, Reed, Robles, Smoker, Blevins, Montero, and one or two of the starters who fall out of the rotation.  

The Cubs are the better of the two teams for the long haul of the season (I'd say 100 wins, give or take a few, vs. Mets' 94 wins).  Chicago is also better equipped, in my opinion, for a NL championship series, but short seasons can go to the underdog...just ask the 1973 mini-me-Mets and Cincy Red Machine Reds. 

The Mets, after all, do have Thor and Jake, two of the very best starters anywhere.  And Wheeler, Gsellman, and Harvey are shaping up nicely, and I think Mr. Elbow, Steve Matz, will be fine and pitch very well.

Play ball, and let's make the Cubs wait another 108 years.
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3/30/17

Mack – Scouting The Enemy – Atlanta Braves

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I’m surprised that Tom Brennan didn’t take the Braves when we were deciding which Mack’s Mets writer would preview which team in baseball. Tom has taken over here as the leader of the minor league weenies on MM’s and Baseball America did name the Braves as the top minor league currently in baseball.

No one has a more talented pipeline right now. John Sickles of Minor League Ball has nine Braves guppies ranked a t a B+ of better level. Three, SS Dansby Swanson, 2B Ozzie Albies, and LHP Sean Newcomb are ready to hit Atlanta at some time this season.

First, some housework -

The Braves have been dumping off some dead wood lately… RHP Blaine Boyer, LHP Matt Marksberry, and LHP John Danks were let go this month. 

Major League Signings were SP Bartolo Colon (1-yr, $12.5mil), IF Sean Rodriguez (2-yrs, $$11mil), SP R.A. Dickey (1-yr, $8mil), and C Kurt Suzuki (1-yr, $1.5mil). Extensions were given to OF Ender Inciarte (6-yrs, $30.525mil) and RP Jim Johnson (2-yrs, $10mil).

The 25-man looks to be almost complete, but could change if there is a last minute deal LHP Jose Quintana, OF Matt Szczur, or UT Kelly Johnson.

1B – Freddie Freeman
Freeman has five years left on a $135mil contract that ends at the ends with a team option in 2022. He’s only going to be 27 this season so there’s a good chance he could be around for the length of this contract.

2B – Brandon Phillips (acquired from Reds in exchange for RP Andrew McKirahan,          and RP Carlos Portuondo)
The future here is 20-yr. old Ozzie Albies, who John Sickles has graded out at the A- level. He will be ready for the 2018 season. Phillips becomes a free agent at the end of tis season which will make way for Albies.

SS – Dansby Swanson –
Swanson is odds on favorite for National League Rookie Of The Year and should be the Braves shortstop for many years to come, but of course that’s what we said about Andrelton Simmons a few years ago. The Braves do have a way of moving their chess pieces around, but I think Swanson is the real thing and will stick with the Braves.

3B – Adonis Garcia –
The Cuba born, 5-9 Garcia was a pleasant surprise last season (.273, 14-HR) for the Braves, but he will play this season at the age of 32. Austin Riley might be the future here, but he won’t be ready until 2020. For now, 2017, Garcia will do. He will be under team control until he’s 37.

UTIF – Chase d’Arnaud, Jace Peterson
D’Arnaud is your perfect utility player since he plays all outfield and infield positions, but he could be a late scratch if the Braves re-sign Kelly Johnson. Peterson came to the Braves, with pitcher Max Fried, for outfielder Justin Upton, and he was supposed to be the everyday second baseman for a long time, but that was before Phillips was traded for. He was an ex-1st round pick who, like d’Arnaud. Can play a lot of positions. His weakness has turned out to be his bat (2015: .239, 2016: .254).

LF – Matt Kemp
You have to wonder if the Braves still want this guy around at this point of his career. The 32-year old Kemp has three more years (2017-2019) on his  $21.75mil per year contract and, though he is still producing at a competitive level (2016: 35-HR, 108-RBI combined with the Braves and San Diego), this is usually the time the Braves get itchy and start rebuilding for the sixth time this decade.

The future here is probably speedster Ronald Acuna, who has an ETA of 2020.

CF – Ender Inciarte –
Inciarte is one of the guys that the Braves consider as part of the future, which is why they signed him to a 5-year contract through 2021 (plus 2022 team option). He will play 2017 as a 26-year old.       

RF – Nick Markakis
Markakis came from the Orioles after the 2014 season and signed a team friendly four year (2015-2018) $44mil deal. Pulled his weight in 2016 (.269, 13-HR, 89-RBI), as I’m sure he will do this season.

Future wise, there really is only one B+ prospect (Acuna) in the outfield and both corner positions will be aging over the next two seasons. No rush here because they have much bigger (pitching) fish to fry.        

UTOF – Emilio Bonifacio

C – Tyler Flowers, Kurt Suzuki 
The Braves are going to attempt to play a Flowers-Suzuki combo behind the plate this season. All attempts, if any, to bring in a heavy weight like Wilson Ramos or Matt Wieters simply didn’t happen. There’s no one in the pipeline… at all… so, this is a weakness for the team, both presently and in the future.

Rotation - Julio Teheran, Bartolo Colon, Jaime Garcia, R.A. Dickey and Mike Foltynewicz
The Braves projected rotation is formidable. The future here, Sean Newcomb, will play most of the 2017 season at the AAA level. The wild card is LHP Max Fried, who returned last year from TJS surgery. I don’t expect Fried to be seen in Atlanta until late 2018.

Bullpen – Jim Johnson, Arodys Vizcaino, Ian Krol, Paco Rodrigues, Jose Ramirez
            Mauricio Cabrera (right elbow discomfort) and Armondo Rivera (right shoulder discomfort) will start the season on the disabled list.

Overall –
The Braves are still rebuilding, while, at the same time, bringing in short term veterans like Dickey and Colon to fill 2017 needs until the guppies mature. I like the direction this team is going and they could be a real factor in 2018 or 2019, but you always have to be ready for them to trade off half the team each year.

I’ve got them finishing 4th in 2017 in the NL East, ahead of the hapless Phillies.


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FLASH: Terry Collins to Carry 3 Lefties in Bullpen, Josh Edgin Makes Team, Montero's Spot at Risk

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     The Mets have announced that the team will carry 3 left handed relievers in the bullpen to start the both LHP Josh Edgin AND LHP Josh Smoker on the Opening Day Roster in addition to LHP Jerry Blevins. The reason for this decision is the fact the team views Smoker as a dual handed weapon because he did not have wide split difference between facing lefties or righties in the minor leagues. This leaves Edgin to be the true 2nd left handed specialist.

     This leaves only 1 spot remaining in the bullpen that the team has not decided on. After seemingly winning a spot after Sewald's re-assignment, RHP Rafael Montero is now competing with RHP Seth Lugo for that spot. Both guys will head up north with the team but only 1 of them will be added to the roster to be the swingman in the bullpen.

(There was talk about carrying 3 lefties in the pen early in the year....but after Lugo's impressive WBC performance and Montero's resurgence as a RP in camp...I figured that idea would be squashed in favor of carrying both guys. Instead now 1 of them will face a seemingly unfair demotion to AAA Las Vegas to be the club's first arm called up in case of injury to anyone in the rotation.)
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FLASH - Michael Conforto Makes The Team

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Per TC - 

Conforto and Ty Kelly going north.

Brandon Nimmo, Juan Lagares, and Steven Matz being placed on DL

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FLASH: Zack Wheeler Makes Opening Day Roster, named 4th SP in Rotation

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     The Mets have announced that RHP Zack Wheeler will open the season on the MLB roster as a SP and will be 4th in the rotation. The Wheeler announcement comes after the Mets learned that while an MRI for LHP Steven Matz came back clean, team doctors did recommend he be shut down from throwing activities for 3 weeks.

     Without the option to use a backdated 10 day DL to get Matz to pitch Game 6 of the season, the club re-visited their initial plans in regards to a proposed 100-125 Innings limit for Wheeler in 2017. Per assistant GM John Ricco yesterday, “There’s going to be some number but we don’t exactly know what that is. There’s no sleep chamber that you can put him in and then wake up in Mars. No matter what you do, there’s stuff that’s going to happen in the interim.”  Ricco followed up by saying the team will let Wheeler perform to the best of his abilities and revisit the topic with team doctors as the season progresses to re-evaluate Wheeler’s workload.

     The biggest reason the club felt confident with this decision is due to Wheeler's excellent progress this spring. Wheeler started the spring with a fastball between 91-93 mph but has since over the past 4 weeks strengthen it back to his pre-surgery range of 95-97 mph. According to scouts at his last game, "He had life on the fastball and his breaking balls had a nice edge. The ball really came out of his hand today. Good rotation on his breaking ball. Had a good changeup. He’s coming along real fast.”

(In my opinion, this has been quite the unexpected but pleasant development. It wasn't too long ago where scouts believed Wheeler could be the best #2 SP in the MLB so if he's 90% right now and can get to 100% as the season moves along....this is a HUGE boost for the Mets rotation. This also allows them to carry Seth Lugo in the bullpen to possibly limit Wheeler to go only 5-6 IP which (if the 125 IP were still valid) could get him all the way to August.)
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Richard Herr - Updating a Quote

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Updating a Quote
Way back when, in a time when they had a major league baseball team in Brooklyn, that team’s General Manager made the statement, “Always trade a player a year too soon rather than a year too late.” I’m quoting Branch Rickey.

(Note to all you other older guys out there. Be careful about making historic references. There’s a bunch of people out there who don’t understand what you’re referring to. They’re called “younger,” and the number of them seems to be increasing a whole lot. If you refer to something, and it just raises a blank stare out of these people, use the code phrase “Google it.” They seem to understand what that means.)

(Note to younger people in reference to the name Branch Rickey. Google it.)

Mr. Rickey’s quote is somewhat outdated, since he said those words back in the time before baseball players had free agency. At that time players signed consecutive one-year contracts with the only team that had his rights. Unless they were traded. Trading away a player was a good idea if it seemed that he had peaked and was headed into the twilight of his career. The Goldilocks Zone for trading a player away was to swap him right after he’d had his last good year, and just before his numbers started to fade. However, as Mr. Rickey said, it was better to trade him before that last good year rather than after he started to succumb to the drag of time.

Nowadays, unless the player is under club control, there are no more of those year-to-year decision opportunities.  If a player’s contract has lapsed, he’s a free agent.

There’s a wider range of decisions that can be made during the tenure of a long-term contract. If you feel the last year or two of the contract are a loss, you can try to trade the guy a year before his numbers go south, but moving a deal that size is pretty hard to do unless you get back a guy who is also about to give reduced numbers on a large contract. The best way to handle a too-long contract is to frontload it. The last years of reduced output is compensated with reduced remuneration. (If you don’t believe me, ask Hal Steinbrenner about A-Rod.)

(If you’re about eight years old, Google A-Rod and Hal Steinbrenner.)

Most of the contracts, particularly the Mets, are short term or arbitration years, heading into free agency. The short term contracts are easy to figure out. Management decides if they want to re-sign the player and negotiates an extension. It’s the last-year-of-arbitration players that remind one of Mr. Rickey’s quote. This is where things take on a “year too soon” quality. Players can be traded a year before--or even a half-year before--they walk to free agency.

There are some interesting examples in the case of the Mets.

The first, chronologically, is Lucas Duda. He’s a free agent at the end of this year. The heir-apparent to his job is Dominic Smith, who looks to be at least a year away. Do they let Lucas walk? Do they send him off at the trade deadline and move someone over to cover first, like Walker? What if Lucas looks like he’s having a forty-dinger year?

A year too soon, or a year too late?

The other big one is Matt Harvey. Next year is his walk year. I’m sure there’ll be some talks about a long-term contract. If that falls through, do you try to trade him in the off-season? Or do you see if you can ship him at the trade deadline next year? Or do you even kiss him off at the trade deadline this year, even though this is a win-now year?

A year too soon, or a year too late?
There’s another player who’s heading toward free agency after next season: Jeurys Familia. Nobody’s talking much about what to do with him. I have a strong feeling the club needs to start looking to extend his contract or he could walk.

A year too soon, or a year too late?

Another thing I hear Mets fans and media saying is “Trade him!” with a great sweep of the arm. Kind of like the Queen of Hearts saying, “off with their heads!” We have to remember that trading someone involves getting someone back from the other team. If all they’re offering is a bucket of balls, you don’t want to trade someone. “Trade him!” is not a sure thing.

One year too soon, or one year too late?

I wonder if that Google thing could help figure that out?

Whenever Richard Herr isn’t solving all the Mets’ problems, he spends his time writing humorous science fiction novels.



You can see his books at https://www.amazon.com/Richard-Herr/e/B00J5XBKX4.
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Talkin’ Baseball – Question 4: Where do you think the Mets will finish this season, why, and any predictions for the playoffs?

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Casey Wentworth -

Second Place behind the Nationals, which are still a more balanced team with a whole lot less of the annual injury type issue concerns. But right on these NY Mets heels should be the Miami Marlins, it just depends if Miami can keep their pencil thin starting rotation healthy and then on the field all season.

Gary McDonald -

I'm taking the Mets to go all the way this season.  I'm not in love with the moves the Nationals made.  Their lack of depth in the pitching department, no set closer, and questions throughout the lineup makes them vulnerable. The Mets have to have the odds in their favor  to stay healthy this year, after last year’s rash of injuries.  The Mets also are deeper in pitching and position players then I can remember in a long time. The Marlins are thin pitching wise will have a good start but fade, the Braves are young but not there yet, same with the Phillies. Mets take division in a close one, take NLDS,NLCS, and the Series.

Thomas Brennan -

Yoenis Cespedes will win the MVP, Jake deGrom will win the Cy Young, Rob Gsellman will win Rookie of the Year, and the Mets will Win the World Series.  And we will all be smiling.  Jennry Mejia will not pitch.


Jack Flynn -

There is the known, there is the unknown, and in between there are the predictions.
In one universe, the Mets have built a 110-win team that steamrolls to a World Series crown. Syndergaard and deGrom are 20-game winners, Matz and Harvey win 15 of their own. Gsellman, Lugo, Wheeler and Montero shuttle between the the fifth starter's spot, the bullpen and Las Vegas at the whim of Terry Collins, who deftly handles this embarrassment of riches and earns a Manager of the Year award. There are no rest stops in a lineup that sees at least 20 home runs from every position player except third base - and that guy somehow gets on base enough to score 110 runs and steal 35 bases (hint: it's not David Wright).

In another universe, the Mets have built an 75-win team that frustrates us all and starts making the Red Bulls look like interesting late-summer viewing. Syndergaard dominates, but walks too many batters. deGrom and Matz battle injuries. Harvey realizes that having 24 ribs is essential to being a viable starter in the National League. Gsellman and Lugo prove to be Quad-A starters, Wheeler never makes it all the way back and Montero gets released. Cespedes has 70 extra-base hits, but the position players strike out too much and too many balls get past them on defense. Reyes pulls a hammy, Duda and Walker grab their backs and D'Arnaud only throws out the pitchers bold enough to try to steal on him. It's a disaster.
So what will happen? Some combination of the two, of course. I suspect that the established longhairs in the starting rotation will combine for 35 wins, and Gsellman joins the Hair Club for Men by chipping in 13 to 15 of his own. The outlook is not so rosy for Matz, Harvey and Wheeler, none of whom reach the heights we've dreamed up for them. That makes Seth Lugo the difference between a division winner and a wild card berth - and do you want to bet that heavily on Seth Lugo?

The lineup is talented and younger than people realize, but they are going to strike out too much and too many unearned runs are going to artificially deflate the pitcher ERAs. Jay Bruce will be at first base sooner rather than later, but not because his bat has earned him the role. Rene Rivera will be the starting catcher by the All-Star Break, and the Blue Jays can breathe a sigh of relief in knowing that they only traded one franchise corner stone for RA Dickey.


Final verdict: 89 wins and a single bad night in the office means that Citi Field will not see a home playoff game in 2017.

Reese Kaplan -

Despite the injury issues, the puzzling lineup decisions by the manager and the lack of any external resources added to improve the roster, I do believe the Mets are well positioned to win the division.  The Nationals are the primary competition but they are slightly thin in the starting rotation and very thin in the bullpen.  Furthermore, the depth that helped last year -- Trea Turner -- now is part of the starting lineup, thus watering down a suspect bench.  Oddly, as much as I've criticized the Skipper over the years, I feel if he suffers any health issues that keep him away from the club for any extended period of time (2 weeks or more) then the Mets may indeed crumble as they have not prepared a succession plan for his inevitable replacement. 
Many feel the Marlins are poised to take the next step forward but there is no pitching there to sustain a long run even if the bats remain healthy and productive.  The Atlanta Braves are the surprising team that's going to sneak up on people with a very impressive pitching staff, some key offensive players and an attitude of bringing in the resources necessary to improve.  The Phillies have also got some interesting offensive players but they do not have the pitching yet to compete beyond the first and second starters. 

Christopher Soto

The Mets will return to the promise land and retake the NL East title from the Nationals in 2017. While both teams have very similar quality rotations…the Mets have the required depth on both the pitching and hitting side to survive any injuries to pretty much any spot on the team that is not the C position. Should an injury occur in the Nationals rotation….they have nothing behind their front 5. In fact, there is only 1 other SP on the 40 man roster….and that’s AJ Cole who was recently shut down due to an arm injury. Not to mention, the Nationals lost 50% of their bullpen which ranked 2nd in the MLB. The new group of young upside arms + aging veterans look like a SEVERE downgrade from last year’s group.

David Rubin

Waking up on Sunday morning, I felt like 2016 all over again, being greeted with the news that Steve Matz was going to skip his start on Monday due to "elbow tenderness." And yet, I know that it is NOT 2016 all over again- it's 2017, and I truly feel that the injury-bug won't bite as hard for a team that showed its' resilience last year where others would've simply crumbled under the weight of losing 3/5 of your starting rotation. A truly motivated Yoenis Cespedes; the most devastating hurler not named Clayton Kershaw; a logjam in the outfield of 30+ homer-hitters; and a number of top level prospects ready, willing and able to step up when and if needed! I really think that most writers have under-sold just how great this collection of ballplayers really is. One reason? Sabermetricians continually under-value or simply dispute the role that team chemistry has on an organization. Granted, it's not a quantifiable statistic, but it IS completely visible to anyone who follows the team. Cabrera waiting to take the helmet off of the teammate who just homered! Starting pitchers creating a pool where the winner is the one with the best offensive stats! Teammates who speak about each other in glowing terms!!! It's something special to be a part of, and it's not simply Mets fans wishing that the "Magic is Back"  - it IS! Every time Thor brings it at 100mph; every time deGrom runs one up at the shoulders and the hitter can't help swinging; every time YO hits one so hard, so fast, that you haven't even finished a breath before the ball is over the wall; every time Walker hits a homer to win a game; and every time we look at the depth of the minor leaguers waiting for their chance to join a team that REALLY feels like a team!!! 1992 never felt so far away, and 1969 & 1986 never felt so close! Mets win the division, and beat the Cubs in 5 games to face the Indians in the World Series!!!!! And then it's Mets in 6!!! That's my story, and I'm sticking with it!!! Now pass that Rum, I've got a hot cuppa Joe waiting!!!!

Mack


I’ve been saying all off season that the Mets are going to come in third in the NL East. My early prediction was based on a combination of what felt was superior talent in Washington verses the ongoing Mets health problems that always keeps a high percentage of their primary talent on the disabled list. I was just about ready to move my prediction up to second when I got news about the Steven Matz setback. Add that to Juan Lagares and David Wright and here we go again. Still, the Mets pitching depth (with the bonus addition of Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman) and the eventual mid-season arrival of Michael Conforto should keep them in the race until the end. I now have them finishing second around five or six games behind the Nats. I do expect them to win their wild card game (Syndergaard pitching) and moving on to the World Series after they beat the Cubs in six, but, in my opinion, it stops there with a loss in the World Series.
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