Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Mets spend money wisely for second consecutive offseason

The Mets have had a busy week, plugging superstars into two positions that were glaring weaknesses last year. They spent a lot of money in both cases, and gave up some good young players in one. But unlike the numerous bad deals that got the Mets into their recent mess, they're paying a premium price for premium players. Giving up your best pitching prospect is a lot less idiotic if the guy you're getting in return is Carlos Delgado rather than Victor Zambrano.

Delgado's qualifications require little interpretation. After a down year in 2004 which saw him hit .269/.372/.535 and miss some time due to injury for the Toronto Blue Jays, Delgado signed with the Marlins. He exploded upon the National League, hitting .301/.399/.582 with thirty-three home runs in a stadium that dampens offense similarly to Shea Stadium. Even accounting for the fact that he is thirty-three years old and not that great defensively, he is an enormous upgrade over the guys the Mets were sending out to play first last year. They hit .227/.303/.391, posting an OPS lower than the National League average at shortstop or catcher. A bat like Carlos Delgado's was a large part of the difference between the 2004 Mets and a playoff team.

The Mets did give up some valuable players in exchange for Delgado. Mike Jacobs was far from a proven major leaguer, let alone a star first baseman, boasting just one huge month in the bigs on the heels of a good year in AA. But he is a good young player with potential to be more and could provide real value to a team that doesn't have Carlos Delgado to play first base. Still, Yusmeiro Petit is the real prize of the package the Marlins received. Just twenty years old, he's already mastered AA, striking out more than a batter per inning with great command in each season of his three year minor league career. Scouts have always said he wouldn't be able to maintain that success at the major league level, but I was looking forward to seeing him try. I'm sorry to see him go, but I can't quibble with a deal that gets the Mets an elite player like Delgado.

And then there's Billy Wagner. First things first, the money is absurd. Paying a guy more than forty thousand dollars per out is just silly. But that's just the nature of the closer position these days. If you can prove yourself capable of getting people out in the ninth consistently, you can get a contract wildly out of proportion to your real value. If the Mets hadn't given him this deal, someone else would have. And, of course, they are the New York Mets, so ten million dollars isn't going to break their backs. At least they have a great closer.

And that is certainly what they have. When Billy Wagner steps on to the mound, he will strike out more than a batter per inning. He will walk about a quarter of the number of batters he strikes out. And he won't give up too many home runs. The only question is how often he'll step on the mound. He missed almost sixty games due to injury two years ago and will be at least thirty-seven when he finishes this contract. As crazy as BJ Ryan's contract with Toronto may be, he might have been a safer bet for the Mets. But if Wagner stays healthy, the Mets will have as good a chance at preserving a ninth inning lead as any team in baseball.

The Mets have spent this kind of money on players in their thirties before. Some of those contracts are just expiring now and some haven't yet. But Billy Wagner isn't Kevin Appier or Pedro Astacio. Carlos Delgado isn't Mo Vaughn or Jeromy Burnitz. And that Roberto Alomar deal really seemed like a good idea at the time. This time the Mets appear to have gotten a couple of great players with a few years left in them. They added twelve wins to their record in 2005. I think they just added a few more.

Konerko back to White Sox

And he said it was in large part to the team bringing in Jim Thome. So I guess that's a vote in Chicago in favor of that trade.

Meanwhile, since the Tigers are off the radar screen right now, we'll entertain with this quote from new skipper Jim Leyland: "It's not enough to play hard, you've also got to play smart. I played hard, too, and I never got out of Double-A."

Bye bye Billy

More on the Wags signing by the Mets: According to the NY Post, Wagner said the Phils made a mistake by trading Jim Thome and are going backwards. So, it sounds as though William probably wasn't returning to the Zen no matter what was offered.

Phillies appear to be hot on Tom Gordon as their closer. I hate this idea.

Pat Gillick looks to have made another solid move by signing Abraham Nunez, who might take the majority of ABs at third base, but can play just about anywhere and is a switch-hitter.

Has anyone heard from the Tigers?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Good times, bad times

Time to catch up on some wheeling and dealing. The Phils made an incredible deal in getting Aaron Rowand and a top pitching prospect in exchange for Jim Thome. White Sox fans seem to be devastated about losing Rowand, which might be a good sign for Phils fans.

On the downside, the Phils lost Billy Wagner to division rival New York. It will be interesting to hear Joe's take on this signing. Personally, I don't think it's a terrible thing for Philly -- did you really want Wags signed until 2009 at $10 million a season? New Phils GM Pat Gillick hates signing pitchers for more than two years.

"I'd almost rather pay two years at $10 million-$12 million [per year] than three years at $9 million," Gillick said. "I just want to have more flexibility, because you've got to be able to change your roster."

Which makes sense, if you can pull it off.

Anyway, the Phils can now focus on other relievers. They're pursuing Trevor Hoffman and Tom Gordon, from reports. They're not talking to Kyle Farnsworth, which makes no sense to me. He would seem a better option than Gordon, who has pitched a good many innings as a set-up man for Mariano Rivera in NY. The Indians, Orioles and Tigers also are chasing Hoffman. Bob Wickman and Todd Jones also are available.

I'd almost rather roll the dice with Octavio Dotel, who is a risk coming off surgery, but might be a great bargain. Especially when you consider Farnsworth is the only pitcher in the previously mentioned group who is under 37.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Nice call Sparky

The York Daily Record reports that the Orioles are in serious negotiations with Angels free agent Paul Byrd for a two year deal worth 10 - 13m.

FYI - Sparky had advised this move several months ago (in private conversations), but I did not realize he had Flanagan's ear.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Well armed

One would have to guess the Red Sox are nowhere near finished dealing, not even counting Manny.

Wells wants out and the team apparently will try to send him west, as he requested. Right now, they’ve got way too many starters – although most of them can’t stay healthy for a full year: Bronson Arroyo, Matt Clement, Wade Miller, Curt Schilling, Tim Wakefield and Wells, plus Josh Beckett.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Red Sox wonder, "Who needs a GM anyway?"

A potentially crazy offseason is underway in earnest as some big names find themselves in a glamorous new location while the 2003 World Series Champs really put their back into their latest rebuilding effort. Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell are apparently headed to Boston in exchange for prospects Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez as well as a player to be named later. Somewhere, George Steinbrenner is displeased.

Now, Josh Beckett may be the most unproven star athlete this side of Michael Vick, but that doesn't mean he's not a fine pitcher. The 178 2/3 innings he pitched in 2005 were a career high. But, as has been well documented, his problem has largely been blisters rather than arm trouble, meaning he's made it to his mid-twenties with a relatively healthy arm. He still needs to figure out how to stay on the field for 200 innings or so if he's going to turn into the ace so many have been predicting for years that he would be. But 160 innings of Josh Beckett is not a bad worst case scenario.

A full season of Mike Lowell, however, might be pretty scary. The three-time All-Star third baseman utterly collapsed in 2005, batting a laughable .236/.298/.360. The Red Sox have the sort of budget that allows that to gamble on his bouncing back, but that's far from a certainty. He will only be thirty-two years old, and if he does regain his old form this deal could look like grand larceny, but right now, Lowell is just the salary the Red Sox have to take to get Beckett.

As for the other side, the Marlins get a couple of interesting prospects. Ramirez is a highly touted shortstop whose appeal has always been more "tools" than stats. This year he hit .271/.335/.385 in 465 at bats for AA Portland. His defense gets good reviews, but he's still got some improving to do before he'll start looking like an impact player at the major league level. Sanchez, on the other hand, is rather intriguing. After losing the entire 2003 season to elbow surgery, he's spent the last two years striking out more than a batter per inning at three different minor league levels without walking too many batters. Even predicting that he'd have a major league career as good as Beckett's would be foolishly bold, but if the Marlins are going to seriously rebuild, this is the kind of guy they should be getting in exchange for their high-priced stars.

So the Red Sox made a good deal for themselves that could wind up looking okay for the Marlins in a few years with some luck. As a Mets fan, of course I'm happy to see Florida taking a year off from competing for a division title. Seeing them exchange one of their premier players for a less than exorbitant price gives me some hope about the Carlos Delgado trade negotiations, too. But one thing is for sure. Sportscenter is going to show some highlights from game six of the 2003 World Series tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The 2005 Mets: Season In Review

For the New York Mets, 2005 was a year that felt disappointing as it was happening. They seemed so close to returning to the playoffs for the first time. And then they just fell apart like they always do. But the September collapse obscures how far this team came in one year and all the obstacles they had to overcome to do it. This team had some glaring weaknesses, and some bad luck on top of that. And their manager didn't seem the type to make lemonade out of lemons so much as the type to send the lemons out to pitch to the opposing team's best hitter in the eighth inning of a close game. Still, this team improved its record by twelve wins to go 83-79 and did it in a way that it seems like something they can build upon rather than a fluke.

The Mets' offense scored the seventh most runs in the National League, up from twelfth in 2004. And they did it with just one truly extraordinary hitter in their lineup. And that guy was the least experienced hitter they had. With some holes that shouldn't be too hard to fill and several important hitters still on the right side of thirty years old, the Mets' offense is a good one with some room to grow. Here's what it looks like, position by position.

C: National League average: .250/.314/.388
Mets average: .245/.322/.436
Mike Piazza: .253/.329/.456 (371 at bats)
Ramon Castro: .240/.318/.428 (208)

The Mets have become accustomed to this position being a plus over the years and 2005 was no exception, though the gap between Met catchers and the average NL backstop has shrunk considerably in recent seasons. Piazza's numbers were similar to 2004 but for the startling drop in his OBP. Things aren't likely to get much better for him as time rolls on. I still think he could be a useful part-time catcher in 2006, but it seems he has other plans and the Mets will have to look elsewhere. If this is the end, it's been a great seven and a half years and worth every penny as far as I'm concerned. He has been the greatest offensive player in the history of the franchise and I look forward to his being the second Mets cap to adorn a plaque in Cooperstown.

Castro was an able backup and could fill the same role in 2006. He wouldn't be a great choice to start, but there isn't much on the free agent market this offseason. Putting bats at positions where bats are expected should be more of a priority for the Mets than furthering the Carter-Hundley-Piazza lineage of catchers who can hit. Giving guys like Castro and Mike Jacobs a shot may be the best they can do for now.

1B: NL: .280/.361/.483
Mets: .227/.303/.391
Doug Mientkiewicz: .245/.328/.416 (269)
Mike Jacobs: .296/.364/.673 (98)

Where have you gone John Olerud? A franchise turns its lonely eyes to you. It's been six years since the Mets have had a first baseman worthy of the title, and while they did reach one World Series after the man in the funny hat left town, filling this slot with guys who can't hit isn't a strategy likely to get them back there. Mientkiewicz missed almost half of the season, and that wasn't the bad news. Getting on base is the only thing he's ever been good at offensively and he couldn't even do that this year. Eleven home runs were a nice surprise, but not nearly enough to prevent this position from being an offensive anchor in the nautical sense.

Jacobs had a heck of a month after a late August callup, playing almost exclusively at first base despite his history of catching. Oddly, his profile lists him as a catcher despite the fact that he didn't register a single major league plate appearance as such. One hundred major league at bats aren't a lot to go on--just ask Shane Spencer and Benny Agbayani--but Jacobs could be a useful part for the Mets at catcher and/or first base in 2006, as they're unlikely to fill either position in a particularly exciting way this offseason.

2B: NL: .276/.338/.414
Mets: .251/.295/.338
Miguel Cairo: .254/.299/.334 (287)
Kazuo Matsui: .257/.305/.361 (249)

This did not work out quite like I hoped it would. Instead of adjusting to the major leagues and putting up a big second season like Hideki Matsui did, Japanese iron man Kazuo Matsui alternated between being injured and being awful in 2005. And Miguel Cairo provided Met fans with an example of the old adage about being careful what you wish for. Many called for Matsui to be benched in favor of Cairo, and Cairo eventually did take Matsui's spot even when Matsui was healthy. The only problem was that Cairo was even more useless with a bat in his hand than Matsui.

The Mets should approach the 2005 offseason as though they don't have a second baseman on the roster. Big contract or not, Matsui does not deserve anything more than a shot to compete for the starting spot in 2006, and even that would be generous. And Cairo should not be brought back under any circumstances, lest Willie Randolph decide it's a good idea for him to bat second for a couple more months. Both the free agent market and the Mets' minor league system are basically devoid of serious choices to play second base at the major league level next year, but this is a position where the team needs to upgrade. Finding a league average second baseman would put a significant number of runs on the board for the Mets in 2006.

3B: NL: .274/.344/.442
Mets: .307/.389/.520
David Wright: .306/.388/.523 (575)

At twenty-two years old, David Wright was one of the twenty best hitters in the major leagues in 2005. Only Morgan Ensberg even enters the conversation of who the most valuable third baseman in the National League was, and he's seven years older and had thirty-three fewer plate appearances. If it weren't for the guy who plays across town, Wright would be a legitimate choice for the best third baseman in the majors. He will show up at the bottom of some MVP ballots, and rightly so. He'll turn twenty-three in December.

This is the one position where the Mets have absolutely nothing to be concerned about aside from getting the man under contract for as long as possible. He could be a little more consistent defensively, but 24 errors certainly don't tell the whole story. The fact that 24 is the exact number of errors that a twenty-two year-old Scott Rolen made in his first full major league season is just an amusing coincidence. But while Wright could occasionally get sloppy on a routine play, he would also make the best play you've seen all year every once in a while. And then he'd top it.

Tom Seaver is the greatest home grown player in franchise history. Darryl Strawberry is the best hitter to come out of the Mets' farm system. Wright's got a long way to go to top the former, but I don't have much doubt that he's going to give the latter a run for his money before he's done. As long as he's got a uniform on, there will be at least one reason to watch the Mets.

SS: NL: .264/.313/.378
Mets: .273/.300/.385
Jose Reyes: .273/.299/.386 (696)

Of course, Wright isn't the only reason to watch. Jose Reyes is impossible to take your eyes off of when he's at the plate or on the bases, even if his stats don't look like those of a superstar. If you add in the sixty bases he stole (in seventy-five tries), things start looking a little better. But he still hasn't lived up to the promise of his rookie year, when he hit .307/.334/.434 in half a season.

That promise was derailed in large part by injuries, so perhaps Reyes's batting statistics aren't the most important numbers when describing his 2005. Six hundred and ninety-six at bats tell you more than just that he needs to draw more walks. They tell you that Reyes stayed healthy enough to play in all but one of his team's games this year. While he's still got a lot of work to do to solidify his place in the core of this team's future, staying on the field all year was a big step in the right direction.

LF: NL: .272/.348/.457
Mets: .272/.358/.497
Cliff Floyd: .279/.359/.507 (548)

Speaking of surprising bouts of health, here's Cliff Floyd. The Met left fielder played in more games than he has since 1998 and looked good with both the bat and the glove. He got off to an explosive start, posting OPSes over 1.000 in two of the season's first three months before settling into more pedestrian numbers in the second half. He also looked vastly improved with the glove. The difference between his defense this year and in his previous two years with the Mets looked to be night and day, and stats like those of Baseball Prospectus agree. All in all, Floyd was the second most valuable Met hitter.

Still, this is Cliff Floyd we're talking about. Expecting a repeat of this year's health at age thirty-three would be foolish. The outfield corners seem like the place the Mets are most likely to try to upgrade before the start of the season. With Brian Giles the premier free agent and Omar Minaya still dreaming of Manny, rumors are bound to swirl this offseason. Selling high on Cliff Floyd seems like the way to go. Hopefully the Mets trade wisely.

CF: NL: .275/.340/.437
Mets: .271/.334/.429
Carlos Beltran: .267/.331/.416 (580)

Seriously, what the hell? Beltran's OBP was twenty points lower than his career mark and his SLG was sixty-five points off. I don't want to make like a mindless New York beat writer and play the "big city pressure" card, but something unusual happened here. Maybe his early season leg injuries were more serious than we were led to believe, and certainly he deserves some slack for the period of the season after he and his right fielder cracked skulls in mid-air. But even taking into account those extenuating circumstances, this season has to rate as a colossal disappointment.

The only thing to do right now is expect him to bounce back. The only season comparable to this is 2000, when he hit .247/.309/.366 in 98 games after hitting .293/.337/.454 the previous year. After that, he started putting up the superstar numbers we've come to expect from him. We can't draw any conclusions about 2006 based on that. But we can't conclude that he's spending the offseason shopping for coats that will fit around the giant fork sticking out of his back based on one bad season either. Carlos Beltran will be one of the Mets' two best offensive players in 2006. Or they're in some serious trouble.

RF: NL: .269/.346/.456
Mets: .269/.338/.493
Mike Cameron: .261/.329/.456 (272)
Victor Diaz: .264/.333/.487 (261)

The Mets got decent production from right field, but this still seems like a position they're likely to try hard to upgrade in the offseason. Mike Cameron got off to a late hot start, but he cooled off considerably after May and then his season ended shockingly in August. Victor Diaz had a decent season in relief, but didn't really establish himself as an easy choice for a future starting role.

Cameron will likely be dealt to a team that can play him in center field while Diaz reprises his role as fourth outfielder. The aforementioned Brian Giles will probably receive serious consideration from the Mets. He bounced back somewhat in 2005 after a rough 2004 in San Diego's new offense-dampening stadium. At thirty-five years old, he's not going to be the player to put the Mets over the top, but at the right price, getting a solidly above average player who gets on base a lot to play right field could be a good addition.

So the Mets' offense is far from complete heading into this offseason, but there is a lot to make one optimistic. The three most important guys are young enough to improve, as hard as that is to believe in Wright's case. And given the awful production the Mets got out of the right side of their infield, finding average major leaguers to staff those spots would be a big upgrade. The Mets' everyday lineup could undergo a serious transformation before opening day. But as long as its got Reyes, Wright and Beltran at the top of it, there's reason to be excited.

The Mets' pitching also improved significantly in 2005. They allowed the third fewest runs in the league, up from eighth in 2004. The cut more than half a run off the team ERA and walked 101 fewer batters. Unlike the offense, there was no youngster driving this resurgence who can be expected to keep it up for years to come. But they should at least have all the guys who contributed to the 2005 success back. And, also unlike the offense, there could be some reinforcements from the minors on the way.

Pedro Martinez: 15-8, 2.82, 217 IP, 8.6 K/9, 1.9 BB/9

Well, at least one of the Mets' big investments paid off in 2005. Pedro Martinez stayed healthy enough to pitch as many innings as he has in seven years--oddly enough, it's the third season since 1998 in which he's pitched exactly 217 innings--and those innings couldn't have been of a higher quality. While his numbers did not compare with those of his best seasons, he still ranked as one of the ten best pitchers in baseball. I think the Mets will settle for that.

There can never be certainty about a pitcher's future health, and Pedro's health is more uncertain than most. But 2001 was the last time he failed to make at least twenty-nine starts and the Mets were careful with him at the end of this season. The fourth year of his contract is still far in the future, but 2006 looks quite promising.

Tom Glavine: 13-13, 3.53, 211.1, 4.5, 2.6

I have to say I did not see that coming. In a season when Met fans everywhere were hoping Glavine wouldn't pitch enough innings to trigger the 2006 option in his contract, he surprised everyone with another solid season. Much like his ultimately adequate 2004, 2005 was a tale of two halves, one excellent and one excrement. The thirty-nine year-old southpaw spent the first half of the season confirming fans' worst fears, posting a 4.94 ERA with a 46:41 K:BB ratio in 102 innings before the All Star break. But in the second half, he rediscovered his 2004 first half form, posting a 2.22 ERA with a 59:20 K:BB ratio in 109.1 innings. As if to illustrate the uselessness of a pitcher's win-loss record in describing his effectiveness, he went 6-7 before the break and 7-6 after.

So what's next? Does Glavine at forty have another half of an great season in him? Probably not. But the Mets are stuck with him. He'd still make a pretty good fifth starter, I think. SO all the Mets have to do to improve their rotation is make sure they've got four guys better than Glavine. Well, Pedro certainly counts as one.

Jae Seo: 8-2, 2.59, 90.1, 5.9, 1.6

This guy would certainly count as number two, if they let him. Despite spending half the season in Norfolk so that Kazuhisa Ishii could make Victor Zambrano look like he had good control by comparison, Seo was the third most valuable starting pitcher the Mets had. He was sent down after just three starts with a 2.00 ERA and when he got called back up in August, he didn't miss a beat. He started eleven games and went 6-1 with a 2.74 ERA. He had the lowest walk rate of any Met pitcher, starter or reliever. One can only wonder where the Mets might have finished had he been in the majors all season.

As big a fan of Seo as I am, even I never expected this kind of season out of him. It's hard to believe he can keep it up much longer, but that's the sort of thing I often thought before his starts down the stretch this season. Maybe it is just as simple as his developing a couple of new pitches. If so, he just may be able to sustain it for a little while longer. Regardless of the improbability of his sudden success, there is no way his name shouldn't already be written in ink on the 2006 Mets' opening day roster.

Kris Benson: 10-8, 4.13, 174.1, 4.9, 2.5

No, really. He's about to break out and become an elite pitcher. I can just feel it. The man with all the potential had another in a long line of mediocre seasons, earning an ERA within a tenth of a run of league average (4.22). Rick Peterson's magic powers did not turn him into one of the best pitchers in the league or even one of the three best pitchers on his own team.

Benson seems capable of being a reliable guy at the back of a good rotation. But usually you can find those guys for less than $7.5 million per season. As he dives headlong into his thirties, Benson will probably continue to be better than most of the guys in the Mets' minor league system. At least if he feels guilty about taking their jobs, he can afford to buy them a nice lunch to apologize.

Victor Zambrano: 7-12, 4.17, 166.1, 6.1, 4.2

And then there's this guy. He got booted to the bullpen before the season ended. Meanwhile, further south...

Scott Kazmir: 10-9, 3.77, 186, 8.4, 4.8


Aside from those five and Ishii, Aaron Heilman and Steve Trachsel each made a handful of starts. Heilman was solid and had a couple of really dominant starts before getting sent to the bullpen, where he excelled. Trachsel returned from injury in August and was inconsistent.

Martinez, Glavine, Benson, Trachsel and Seo will probably be the rotation come opening day. It would be nice if Zambrano were in another uniform by then, but I won't get my hopes up. The Mets could always explore trading possibilities, but there aren't a lot of options on the free agent market. AJ Burnett seems to be the man most likely to be overpaid by a large market team. Hopefully it's not the Mets.

In spite of Willie Randolph's baffling bullpen management, the Mets did get some good performances from their relievers. In addition to Heilman, Roberto Hernandez was excellent all year and Juan Padilla pitched very well after a midseason callup. Expecting a repeat performance from a forty-one year-old Hernandez seems to be asking too much, but he at least deserves a chance to show that he can be useful again. The Mets have some young arms who could prove useful in 2006, but aside from Heilman, there isn't a lot to be confident about here.

One position that the Mets will almost surely attempt to upgrade via free agent signing is that of closer. After a very good 2004, Braden Looper fell to earth hard. He pitched twenty-four fewer innings yet walked six more batters. And his strikeout total was less than half of what it was the year before. His ERA jumped more than a point. He will not be back.

The Mets will likely pursue Billy Wagner to fill this role, which doesn't sound like a bad idea at all. Like any big name closer, he'll get money out of proportion to his real value. But that doesn't mean he won't be one of the best closers money can buy. He still strikes out more than a batter per inning with a fairly low walk rate. At thirty-four with some recent injuries, his durability is a concern, but, aside from perhaps BJ Ryan, there isn't a comparable talent available to fill this position. And as ridiculous as either man's salary might turn out to be, it's not going to financially cripple the New York Mets.

The Mets' pitching success seems a bit more fragile than that of their offense, and not just due to the inherent unpredictability of pitchers. They're counting on some guys in their thirties and one guy with half a great season to maintain their performance or get better. Not being exceedingly patient with guys like Ishii and Zambrano could improve the bottom line a bit, but it doesn't look like the Mets will make any huge strides here. Yusmeiro Petit getting off to a hot start in AAA could be a big help later in the season.

Altogether, the Mets look like a solid team moving in the right direction. Another offseason full of big moves could always backfire, and Omar Minaya isn't one to shy away from headlines. The next few months will likely be sprinkled with tense moments when it seems like Minaya is about to trade away the whole farm system for Danys Baez. But until that happens, I remain cautiously optimistic.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Good news, bad news

On the bright side, Ryan Howard was voted NL Rookie of the Year. Howard hit .288 with 22 HR and 63 RBI in 312 AB after taking over 1B for injured Jim Thome. Those are some nice numbers, especially if you work them out over a full season. One word of caution, though. Howard struck out 100 times. That's a big number, too.

Scott Rolen was the last Phillie to win ROY, in 1997. Many on the list of recent winners have all gone on to further success, like Jason Bay, Dontrelle Willis, and Albert Pujols. So, hopefully, Howard will, too. If he remains with the Phils.

On the down side, Ugie Urbina will be charged with attempted murder for the bizarre incident at his home in Venzuela that involved a group of men allegedly attacking several people using machetes and trying to set them on fire. Urbina said he was sleeping at the time and not involved.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Polanco earns his stripes

Placido Polanco, acquired from the Phillies for Ugie Urbina and Ramon Martinez, was voted the Tiger of the Year by Detroit's media. Polanco hit .338 with 36 RBI in 86 games for the Tigers and batted .331 between Philly and Detroit combined, the second highest average in the majors.

He also led all second basemen with a .995 fielding average and was the toughest hitter in the majors to strike out, with one whiff every 22 at-bats.

In September, Polanco became the first Tiger since Ray Boone in 1957 to get four hits in back-to-back games. Ray, of course, was the father of former Phillies standout catcher Bob Boone.

Friday, November 04, 2005

The rumor mill

The Minnesota Twins reportedly have contacted the Phillies about Jim Thome. But the Phils would have to eat a lot of the remaining $$$ on Thome's contract. From what I've read, new Phils GM Pat Gillick might be more willing to trade Ryan Howard because of his greater value.

I don't know if the Phils will be able to improve their starting pitching much through free agency (Matt Morris, anyone?), but there are a few relievers that could help the squad. Bobby Howry made just $900,000 for the White Sox last year and would be great for the back end, as might Octavio Dotel, who is coming off Tommy John surgery, but is willing to play for an incentive-laden contract.

If the Phils lose Wagner and Urbina, B.J. Ryan ($2.6 million in 2005) and Kyle Farnsworth ($2 million) might be worthwhile, and cost-effective, solutions.

I think the Nationals made a great trade dealing 3B Vinny Castilla to SD for P Brian Lawrence. I think Lawrence should benefit greatly from pitching at RFK Stadium, and he's only 29.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

When I think defense, I think Abreu

My wife always said that Bobby Abreu looked kind of like one of those troll dolls, and I’m starting to think there might be a reason why. I’m starting to think Bobby has magic powers that none of us know about, and he used those powers to somehow win his first Gold Glove award.

Was the NL outfield really that weak out there? Maybe we’ve all under-valued the ability to let fly balls bounce in front of you?

I know Bobby has a great arm and he can cover a lot of ground out there, but this is a guy that uses his reputation as a bad fielder to try and trick people to think he can’t find a fly ball so he can try to throw them out.

When you think Gold Glove you think of guys who would provide web gem after web gem, like 8 time winners Andruw Jones and Jim Edmonds. I don’t know if I have ever seen Bobby make more than one or two plays that I would have thought to be a web gem that didn't involve him throwing someone out, thought he did dive for once or twice this year for a fly ball, which I pretty sure was a career high for him and that's worth mentioning.

Either way congratulations to Bobby.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Gillick takes over

Well, it became clear over the past few days that Pat Gillick was the Phils' man for the GM job and now it's officially his. While the media and others might have preferred Gerry Hunsicker, it's hard to argue with Gillick's record with success.

Let's face it, Gillick produced winners in Toronto, Baltimore and Seattle. He won back-to-back World Series titles with the Blue Jays in 1992 and 1993 (who could forget?), built the Orioles' last playoff teams in 1996 and 1997, and constructed a 116-game winner for the Mariners in 2001.

Hard to argue with that record. The man wins everywhere he goes. Of course, he's never been to Philly.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Still a Two Horse Race?

Even with Theo Epstein quitting his post as GM of the Boston Red Sox it still looks like the Phillies are picking between Pat Gillick or Gerry Hunsicker. Both are proven winners but would mean different things to the Phillies. Now it’s just up to Phillies president David Montgomery to pick which direction to go.

The front runner seems to be Gillick, with one rumor out there already that Montgomery has already made an offer, and that an announcement could come as soon as today. One line of thinking is that Gillick, who is 68, would only be on for a few years and then step aside for Ruben Amaro Jr., who some think is who Montgomery would have hired if it wouldn’t of caused a huge media and fan backlash. Under Gillick, Amaro’s duties would increase more with Gillick doing the job mostly from his home in Toronto. Given Montgomery’s loyalty to the members of the Phillies organization that seems to be the safe bet, but would it turn out to be more businesses as usual for the Phillies than the change in the organization’s approach that many want?

With Hunsicker it would be a different story. He lives in the area which in my book would be a plus since he would have a better feel for the fan base. Hunsicker would more likely provide the shake up and changes the Phillies the fans and media seem to crave. He’s a bit more aggressive in his style and wants things done his way, as seen in Houston. With Philly being his dream job as well you would think he wouldn’t just want to be a bridge to Amaro and he would want to stay around for a while.

I for one am still hoping for Hunsicker but unless the Dodgers some how swoop in for Gillick I think it’s only a matter of time before he’s named GM