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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Squawker Media Alert: I'm going to be on the radio today

I'm going to be squawking about the Yankees hot stove moves today on Albany's Soundoff With Sinkoff. The show is on WTTM - 104.5 FM The Team. It's also online (click the first "listen live" button on the site to listen.) I will be on around 4:20 p.m. today - please check it out!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Not 'Stoked' about Mets' deal for Gary Matthews Jr.

For the second straight year, the Mets have acquired an aging malcontent OF named Gary who has been linked to PEDs and whose former team was willing to eat eight figures in salary.

Last year, the Tigers still owed Gary Sheffield $14 million when they gave him the boot. This year, the Angels are reported to be eating $21 million of Gary Matthews Jr.'s contract. But they are also getting back reliever Brian Stokes.

Last season, Matthews had closed-door meetings with both manager Mike Scioscia and GM Tony Reagins over playing time and staged a one-day walkout in spring training. After the season, he asked to be traded. But Scioscia called Matthews a "terrific teammate" and said that calling Matthews a"disruptive influence or … unhappy in our clubhouse was 180 degrees" from the actual situation.

In February 2007, SI.com reported that in 2004, Matthews had been sent HGH. Matthews denied the allegations and MLB found that there was insufficient evidence to discipline him.

I was opposed to the Sheffield move at the time, but he ended up helping the Mets more than I expected. He was able to play the field and remain healthy enough to get 312 plate appearances, as well as not causing any clubhouse problems for much of the year. But by the end of the season, Sheffield was both disgruntled and injured.

At 35, Matthews is five years younger than Sheffield was last year. Matthews has also been an outfielder when he plays, unlike Sheffield, who had not played much outfield since 2005 when the Mets acquired him.

Unlike Sheffield, however, who has put up Hall of Fame numbers throughout his career, Matthews has had one good season. Last year, Matthews' numbers were not even as good as Sheffield's:

Matthews: PA 360; HR 4; RBI 50; BA .250; OBP .336; SLG .361; OPS .697

Sheffield: PA 268; HR 10; RBI 43; BA .276; OBP .372; SLG 451; OPS .823

In his 11-year career, Matthews has had an OPS over .800 only twice, both times playing in Texas' great hitting park. Now he gets to try his luck in Citi Field.

It is late January, and while the Mets did sign Jason Bay, the projected lineup might well include Matthews and Henry Blanco. And possibly Fernando Tatis in a first base platoon.

Meanwhile, the rotation after Johan Santana continues to be subpar. And the bullpen loses a potentially valuable arm. Not to mention that going into 2010, Stokes was one of the few Mets not coming off an injury.

Both Bengie Molina and Joel Pineiro had a lot of question marks, but acquiring one of them would had given at least some reason for hope in 2010. Instead, the Mets, who now seem to be a place where nobody wants to play, take on a player whose team was willing to eat $21 million to see him go.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

If Mets sign Yorvit Torrealba, it will be Festivus in January

Festivus features the "Airing of Grievances," and what better way for the Mets to stay in the "Seinfeld" holiday spirit than by pursuing a player with a pending grievance against them?

Now that Benjie Molina has signed with the Giants, some reports have the Mets turning their attention to free agent catcher Yorvit Torrealba. Two years ago, Torrealba signed a three-year deal with the Mets, but after he took his physical, the team backed out of the agreement.

Torrealba then filed his grievance, claiming that the Mets hurt his value by creating the impression that he was an injury risk, which Torrealba says is untrue. A hearing on the grievance was scheduled to be held last month.

It is understandable that Torrealba is upset - since when have the Mets been concerned about whether or not someone is an injury risk? (No, I haven't gotten over J.J. Putz, Victor Zambrano and Mo Vaughn, just to name three.)

The Mets filed their own grievance of a sort last week when they sent a letter to Scott Boras complaining that they did not have a chance to get a third opinion before Carlos Beltran underwent knee surgery.

So signing Torrealba would mean that 25% of the Mets' starting eight position players would be involved in the recent airing of grievances. Happy belated Festivus!

But the Wilpons would probably put a stop to a Mets midwinter Festivus before it reached the final tradition - the Feats of Strength - in which the head of the household must be pinned in a wrestling match. Then again, SNY does have a lot of hours to fill in the offseason.

Curt Schilling, Martha Coakley, and the Massachusetts election

I wrote a piece for The Faster Times about Democratic Senate candidate Martha Coakley's calling Curt Schilling a Yankee fan. Check it out here.

If Scott Brown wins the race, will Curt Schilling throw out the first pitch at the swearing-in? Just wondering!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Yes, I'm rooting for the Sanchize, Cryin' Ryan, and the rest of the Jets

I haven't had much to squawk about as of late - there hasn't exactly been a lot going on in Yankeeland these days - but I have been watching football. And yes, I'm still recovering from my Texas Longhorns' National Championship Game debacle, where Colt McCoy getting injured in the first series of the game stymied my team's chances. To see the Longhorns lose the game was hard to take.

I also watched some NFL games this weekend. I rooted for the Dallas Cowboys (!) to beat the insufferable Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings. Unfortunately, it didn't happen, and we're stuck with his arrogance for at least another week.

And unlike Squawker Jon, who always mananges to take the side of whatever team is facing the Yankees and the Longhorns, I actually am very excited over the Jets. Congrats to Squawker Jon and all the Mets/Jets fans out there. That was one heck of a game their team played against the Chargers yesterday. And now the Sanchize, Cryin' Ryan, and the rest of the Jets are just one game away from the Super Bowl!

Considering that they did beat the Indianapolis Colts once already this year, you can't count the Jets out. (Yes, yes, I know that the Colts took Peyton Manning out early. But still!) It also warms my heart that the Jets are still playing, while Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and the New England Patriots are sitting at home.

And I find coach Rex Ryan endlessly entertaining, with his emotions and his theatrics. I like that he's not one of the no-personality, cliche-filled coaches in the NFL. Here's his postgame speech:



Anyhow, I'm not going to claim to be a diehard Jets fan. But I am rooting for the Jets to win it all this year. Especially if it's against Brett Favre in the Super Bowl!

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Need for 'third opinion' on Carlos Beltran shows what is wrong with Mets' organization

In 2004, the Mets' medical staff signed off on trading for damaged goods Victor Zambrano allowed Mike DeJean to pitch with a broken leg and had numerous injury issues with players ranging from Mike Piazza to Jose Reyes. After the 2004 season, the Mets, realizing they needed to make major changes, brought in a new GM, Omar Minaya, switched to a new set of doctors led by Dr. David Altcheck and replaced their trainer with Ray Ramirez. But over the last year, similar medical issues have arisen with the current regime.

Maybe the problem goes beyond changing the medical staff or improving communication between the medical staff and the front office. Maybe it has something to do with an organization that seems eager to minimize injuries to the point where their failure to deal with them in a timely fashion only increases the time the injured player is out.

Johan Santana and J.J. Putz were allowed to pitch with elbows that will require surgery. Jon Niese was allowed to throw warmup pitches after tearing his hamstring. Jose Reyes and now Carlos Beltran underwent surgery after already missing several months. In 2008, Ryan Church was allowed to fly to Colorado just after his second concussion.

The Beltran situation is still developing, and it is unclear whom, if anyone, is to blame. The Mets did not feel Beltran needed surgery, but neither did his doctor from outside the organization, Dr. Richard Steadman. At least until a couple of days ago.

The Mets have a right to be "disappointed" that Beltran did not explicitly get their approval for the surgery, if that is the case. But what is truly disappointing is that the Mets have turned the situation into yet another public relations debacle.

Even if Beltran did deliberately defy the Mets by having the surgery, the Mets should have kept any complaints they had private, rather than publicly air their concerns, which make both Beltran and the team look bad.

Even if it turns out that Beltran's agent Scott Boras encouraged him to have the surgery now to make sure Beltran would be healthy for his contract year of 2011, Boras ultimately wants the same thing the Mets want - a healthy and productive Beltran.

I am not used to defending Boras and would not be surprised if it turns out he got Beltran to have the experimental microfracture surgery that could sideline him for a year, sacrificing 2010 for 2011. If that is the case, my support for Beltran vanishes.

But based on what has currently been made public, it is hard to criticize Beltran for bypassing the troubled Mets' medical staff and doing what he feels he needs to do to get back to full strength as soon as possible.

Especially when the Mets' big complaint in Thursday's conference call was that they wanted to seek a "third opinion."

Some say the Mets' medical staff is incompetent. Others blame lack of communication between the team and the medical staff, and between the team and the public when it comes to medical matters.

But what if the process is flawed because Met management only wants to hear good news when it comes to injuries? No need for the DL. No need for surgery. And if someone brings bad news, seek out a second opinion. And if necessary, a third opinion.

Considering how often the Mets have denied the necessity for surgery, only to have a player eventually go under the knife much later than he could have, it is better for Beltran to have the surgery on January 13 than to continue a debate that might only end up pushing Beltran's return date further back.

***

The Mets' organization has done at least one thing right this offseason - signing Jason Bay. The need for power hitting turned out to be a lot greater than people knew.

And if Beltran had his surgery before the Bay signing was finished, Jason's demands might have suddenly gone up and the Mets would had either lost him or been forced to give him more money and years. Or they might have thought twice about having another over-30 outfielder with a big contract.

At least when it came to signing Bay, the Mets did not hold out for a third opinion.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Jonathan Papelbon: Still no Rhodes Scholar

While Squawker Lisa recovers from last week's Texas Longhorns' loss to Alabama, she is consoling herself with the latest gems from the mouth of Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon, who has apparently been oblivious to all of Boston's offseason moves, all the way up to signing John Lackey.

Lisa weighs in on the player she likes to call Cinco Dopo in her latest piece for The Faster Times: Shocker! Jonathan Papelbon Says Something Stupid.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Did Omar Minaya outsmart Theo Epstein by landing Jason Bay?

Theo Epstein has two rings, while Omar Minaya's job is on the line this year. So if Theo is willing to let Jason Bay go, it must be because Theo knows what he's doing and Omar is throwing money away, right?

Five years ago, the Red Sox allowed another over-30, potentially injury-prone star, Pedro Martinez, to leave Boston for the Mets. Pedro only gave the Mets 1 1/2 good seasons out of a four-year contract. Theo turned out to be justified for refusing to offer a similar long-term deal.

But I would argue that Omar was also justified in signing Pedro. The move revitalized the franchise and made the Mets an attractive destination for players such as Carlos Beltran. Pedro made the All-Star team in each of his first two seasons with the Mets. With his help, a team that had won 71 games in 2004 won 83 in 2005 and 97 in 2006.

Still, in terms of evaluating Pedro's long-term value, Theo was a lot more accurate than Omar.

We will not know for a few years which GM has more accurately valued Jason Bay. But despite their track records, Omar might come out ahead this time. After all, Theo has underestimated a departing star before. Johnny Damon was still going strong at the conclusion of his four-year Yankee deal, helping the Bombers win the title.

Letting Damon go worked out for the Red Sox, who were able to get younger and cheaper with Jacoby Ellsbury and won another title.

But as of now, the Red Sox look a lot weaker without Bay in their lineup.

After the 2003 season, Vladimir Guerrero was a free agent. But the Mets failed to sign him, even though he was available at a comparative discount, Instead, the Mets went for a much cheaper alternative - Mike Cameron.

This time, it's the Red Sox who have turned to Cameron as the cheaper alternative. And the Mets have the run producer they needed.