Monday, March 31, 2014

Opening Day and already waiting for next year

I've been looking forward to the Mets' Opening Day for some time. Opening Day 2015, that is.

While the Mets have written off 2014 with their small-market payroll and inability to solve their problems at shortstop and first base, at least we can look forward to the first full season of Zack Wheeler and the eventual debut of Noah Syndergaard. But I can't get too excited about trying to reach .500.

Maybe there will be an unexpected pleasant surprise, which the Mets have had each of the last three seasons. In 2011, Jose Reyes won the batting title. In 2012, R.A. Dickey won the Cy Young Award. In 2013, Matt Harvey had a breakout season and started the All-Star Game.

Naturally, all three stars were not on the team the following year. At least Harvey will be back next season. And while I hated to see Dickey go, the trade for Travis D'Arnaud and Syndergaard looks very promising as of now. But considering that the Mets are in dire need of a shortstop and leadoff hitter, it's hard not to wonder what this team would be like if it still had Reyes.

One of my main hopes for 2014 is for Curtis Granderson to succeed, or at least not be Jason Bay 2.0. It would be good for the Mets and a tweak to the Yankees, who let him go while giving Brett Gardner a four-year deal that was almost as much. But perhaps most importantly, it would show the Mets that spending money can help a team. The Mets have conveniently forgotten that the 2006-08 contenders were built largely on high-priced acquisitions.

It would also be great to get a full season out of David Wright after he missed 50 games two of the last three seasons.

Though the notion that Bartolo Colon can replace Harvey at the top of the rotation kind of sums up what it is to be a Met fan, at least the front office made a reasonable effort to patch up the rotation. While I want the Mets to spend money, I don't envy a team like the Twins throwing multiyear deals at the likes of Phil Hughes and Mike Pelfrey.

I'm looking for a 79-83 season. Not quite .500, but a step in the right direction while we wait for next year.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Get some great baseball reading material with the Baseball Reads promotion

Quick note: If you are interested in picking up some great baseball books, including Robert W. Creamer's "Babe" or classics by David Halberstam and Roger Angell, visit the "Baseball Reads" site. All these books are available right now for just $2.99 as ebooks. But act fast -- the promotion ends soon.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

ESPN's "The Deal" looks back at the A-Rod trade, 10 years later

Recently, ESPN ran a "30 for 30" short about the ten-year anniversary of Alex Rodiguez's trade to the New York Yankees. Nick and Colin Barnicle were the filmmakers behind "The Deal," and Colin, the director of the film, graciously agreed to answer a few questions I had on the documentary. (You can watch the movie for yourself by clicking here.) Without further ado, here is the interview:

* First off, I remember that time very well (full disclosure: I am a Yankee fan!) and where I was when I heard that A-Rod was going to be a Yankee (I was at a New Jersey Devils game.) And you captured the details of those weeks, even mentioning the "We got him" announcement about Saddam Hussein (I remember a Red Sox fan friend joking that they thought the announcement was about A-Rod!) What in particular gave you the idea to do "The Deal"?

My brother and I are big Red Sox fans and, as such, we were well aware of the fact that A-Rod had been - for a brief moment in time - a Red Sox. Back then, it was so devastating for Red Sox nation to lose out on the best and most marketable player in the league that it almost felt like the second coming of the Babe Ruth trade. It really did feel like fate. We wanted to capture that and let the irony of the situation speak for itself.

* What do you think would have happened if the A-Rod trade to the Boston Red Sox had gone through? Would the Red Sox have still won their rings? Would A-Rod have become a Manny Ramirez-esque weird but not despised character in Boston? 

Both Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer said that if hindsight wasn't 20/20 they would have done the deal again. Alex Rodriguez was the face of baseball and by far the best player in a keystone position to boot. I think they certainly would have won a World Championship with him. Three championships? I don't know. But, they would have been a really, really good if not better team with Alex in his prime and he would have been the face of the Red Sox revival. As for Manny, I'm not sure anyone can or will approach the strange place he holds in Boston fans' hearts.

* Ten years later, I still don't understand why the Red Sox just didn't ask for the Rangers to pay a portion of A-Rod's salary, something that the Yankees got from them. Was that ever discussed in their negotiations? 

Yes. But, Manny Ramirez and his gigantic contract were headed to the Rangers so they didn't want to eat any of Alex's contract if they had to take on Manny's deal. Soriano wasn't being paid a tenth of what Manny was at the time so the Rangers had to take on some of the remaining money from Rodriguez's contract in order to facilitate the trade with the Yankees. In essence, taking Manny Ramirez's contract was the financial relief given to the Red Sox by the Rangers much in the same way paying down Alex's deal was to the Yankees.

* I have already heard why you didn't want to interview A-Rod for the show, but what about Scott Boras? It seemed to me that having some voice from the A-Rod camp would have added more to the documentary. Or even Joe Torre or somebody else from the Yankee camp besides Brian Cashman. Any reason that didn't happen?

They didn't truly have any insight into it. Scott Boras wasn't involved at any level with Alex going to the Red Sox. It's important to note that Alex did it all himself. He set up all the meetings and did the negotiating himself. Boras just wasn't in the loop. When it came to the Yankees, the whole deal was done really secretively. Not even Steinbrenner knew about it until a week before it went down. It was entirely Cashman and Hart. Boras and Torre, like Steinbrenner, weren't key players.  

* I wish "The Deal" had been longer, to explore questions like what Manny Ramirez and Nomar Garciaparra were thinking when all of the trade talk was swirling around. For example, did they forgive Kevin Millar for saying he'd rather have A-Rod as a teammate? Another thing I wish you had had the time to explore more was the relationship with Derek Jeter. I remember him mumbling in a monotone when introducing A-Rod at the press conference, with a look on his face then like he would rather be anywhere else! Anyhow, did you try to interview any of these people, or just not have the running space to talk to them?

This is a really complex story, but we always knew we wanted to end it with Alex signing with the Yankees and keep it within the confines of the off-season. We felt it was more ironic that way and we didn't have to flesh out any of the later controversy since Alex has done a good job of keeping that in the papers all his own. 

That said, there were definitely stories we wish we could've included in the piece. One such story was that when Brian Cashman learned about the Boone injury he was on vacation on the island of Anguilla at this very small resort and coincidentally, staying at the same exact place, at the same exact time, was the New York Times baseball reporter, Tyler Kepner. So, the whole time Cashman is trying to keep a poker face and not let Kepner know that they have a serious problem at third base. 

You can watch "The Deal" for yourself here.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Contest: Win an entry to the Spartan Race of your choice!

I mentioned recently that I was going to be competing in the Spartan Sprint obstacle race at Citi Field on Saturday, April 12, and I am very excited over it. Here is a 15% discount code for the race, if you would like to also participate. In addition, thanks to the folks who run the Spartan Races, I  am going to run a contest offering free entry to the Spartan Race event of your choice.

Here's how you can enter: please send me an email with the subject line "Spartan Race" to Please include your name, address, and phone number.  We will only use that information to inform you if you win. Please send in your entry by Monday, March 31 at 5 p.m. One entry per person, please.

In addition, there is also an upcoming book by Spartan Race founder Joseph De Sena, called
Spartan Up!: A Take-No-Prisoners Guide to Overcoming Obstacles and Achieving Peak Performance in Life. You can pre-order the book at that link -- it comes out in May.

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