As the internet reaches maturity, it does seem as though it has had a truly unexpected effectâ€”there are now literally tens of thousands of peopleâ€”if not moreâ€”who are more qualified to run baseball teams than the executives who actually run them.
The Mets cannot make a proposal or have a public thought on a player without the Nattering Nabobs of Negativity rearing their heads in disapproval. Everyone Omar considers, or makes an offer to, is greeted by the Cassandra Chorus warming up their pipes for another song of lamentations.
So many people seem to instantly focus only on a playerâ€™s negatives.
The Jason Bay situation is especially illuminating. For the last two years, Met fans have seemingly been unified in their opinion that the team needs another big bat. Well, there is Jason Bay. 31 years old, and has had fine, if not Pujolsian, seasons in the hittersâ€™ park of Fenway, and the pitchersâ€™ park of Pittsburgh. Unlike Holliday, whose stats are largelyâ€”if not mostlyâ€”a product of the aberrational Coors Field, Bay hits lefties and righties, hits at home and away, and hits all season long. But suddenly this is all dwarfed by the internet experts and their definitive defensive stats.
Bay is not Beltran in the outfield, and never will be. But he has played 199 games in left at Fenwayâ€”not exactly the easiest outfield spot to play in baseballâ€”and has made one error, and had 20 assists. No, this does not take into consideration his range, and how many balls fall in front of him or go over his head. But with one error and 20 assists in 1 1/3 seasons, can he really be this bad? Does this show a precipitous decline? If he will be playing in an outfield otherwise manned by Beltran and Francoeur, would not his offense more than compensate for his defensive liabilities? Might we not lead the league in outfield assists?
Omarâ€™s offer to Bay was questioned by a leader of the anti-Met faction in a mainstream â€œnewspaperâ€ called the New York Post. This writer suggested that the offer to Bayâ€”a 4 year deal 10% higher than the Red Sox offerâ€”was a non-offer; i.e., an offer designed to be refused by Bay, and an offer which was to serve the purpose of making fans think that the Mets are going after big game, when they are not.
This mentality suggests that the Wilpons, or Omar on his own, offered Bay a nice premium over the previous high offer (10% more is actually a pretty significant amount, even when we are talking deals in the tens of millions), betting he would turn it down. Thatâ€™s a big bet.
One of everyoneâ€™s favorite people on here suggested that this is analogous to the situations with ARod and Vlad Guerrero. I would have to very respectfully disagree with my esteemed Blues Brother Rusty on this issue. In the intervening years from then until now, ARod has shown himself to be a first ballot HOFer, but also to be a dishonest, insincere, non-leader, poor teammate, drug user, and someone who openly cheats on his wife and does who knows what else. Not wanting to give this apparently character-free man the richest deal in the history of the sport does not seem like a bad choice, however disingenuously it may have been handled by Met brass at the time.
The Guerrero matter was totally different, and it did indeed seem as though the team used somewhat bogus excuses regarding Vladâ€™s back issues in order to justify not signing him.
Omar Minaya had less than nothing to do with either of these situations, and the key point here is that serious offers were not madeâ€”the team gave excuses as to why they did not make serious offers. There were not offers given to ARod and Vlad of 10% more than their other options. How can this be viewed the same way as the Bay situation?
When we move to the catcher position, the last couple of weeks have seen a constant, high-pitched whine from the Met Peanut Gallery.
Henry Blanco has been a very widely regarded catcher when it comes to defense, pitch-calling, and overall strategy. Greg Maddux greatly preferred him, Johan liked him in MN, and apparently the pitching staff in San Diego was very sorry to see him go. Isnâ€™t signing a player like this precisely what a big-market team should do when a smaller-market team lets him go over a million bucks?
Bengie Molina is aging and has a lot of mileage on him, no doubt about that. But he has also been a tremendously respected Gold Glove catcher, who has won a ring, seen several postseasons, still cranks out plenty of HR and 2B for a catcher, and has caught really good pitchers all over the map. He apparently is not being re-signed as the Giants have a top prospect named Buster Posey ready to take over behind the plate; it is not because Molina is not valued in the Bay Area. A quick look around the internet shows Giant writers and fans calling Molina clutch, a leader, tough, a catcher who frames pitches fantastically, etc.
Isnâ€™t this the type of player that we have been moaning for for years? A veteran leader, a winner, a tough guy, and a clubhouse presence?
But no, he is too fat, too slow, and will clog up the bases batting seventh or eighth.
To this space, a catching platoon of Molina and Blanco has the potential to greatly increase the effectiveness of our trio of hugely talented headcase pitchers, Pelf, Ollie, and Maine. Perhaps the new backstops will prod and challenge these guys as the ineffectual Schneider never did. Schneider came with a reputation as a defensive whiz, but what great pitchers did he ever catch? When will he play his first postseason game? When one looks at HR, RBI, and K, Molina is also in a different league than Schneider.
Overall, it is becoming tiresome to some fans to try to patiently and optimistically watch the offseason unfold. It is the second week of December, Holliday, Lackey, and Bay remain unsigned, Halladay remains untraded, and many Met fans have given up already.
Bay is the worst outfielder since Timmy Lupus. Molina is slower and fatter than Mike Engleberg. And Councilman Whitewood surely would be a better executive than Omar can ever be.
Despite his alcoholism, Morris Buttermaker was indeed a far superior manager to Jerry Manuel; we can all definitely agree on that.
There is in fact much reason to believe that the Bay offer is for real, and actually might be a much better bet than signing Holliday for more years and tens of millions more dollars. Regardless of the drivel spewed by his comedian of an agent, at this point Matt Holliday is, other than one good 63-game stretch in St. Louis, a slightly better version of Dante Bichette. Go and look up their numbers and splits before disagreeing. You might be surprised. There is little in Hollidayâ€™s career to show that he will be the same performer playing 81 games a year at Citi that he was playing 81 games a year at Coors. His splits have greatly improved over the last five years, which does show that he will probably ultimately be a much better player than Bichette once all is said and done, but they remain the stats of a very good player whose time in Coors made him look like a great one. There is nothing like this in Jason Bayâ€™s history.
A catching tandem of Molina and Blanco could very well greatly improve the situation behind the plate in many ways. Improvements in overall defense, pitch selection, pitch economy, and the intangible of leadership might come with these two men.
This space respectfully submits that it may be time for all of us to stop pretending that we have better solutions than Omar does. Omar took over a team in the doldrums, and very quickly returned it to relevance and to the postseason. We desperately need to see the postseason again in 2010, and obtaining Bay and Molina, while we wait for Omar to improve the starting rotation, could very well be outstanding first moves in this effort.