Demons, Pivot and Believing

We were all on the same page last night… and it was great.

Payroll arguments, legal debates, conspiracy theories, nitpicky reporting, it all took a backseat as every fan, every reporter and every skeptic let go of thinking about tomorrow and simply enjoyed the moment… together. That hasn’t happened around here in quite some time.

“This felt like more than a no-hitter. It felt more like an exorcism,” Randy Media said perfectly on his blog today. “Johan and company were exorcising the demons of a rough few years.”

He’s right. That is what it felt like.

To cap it off, in the clubhouse, immediately after the game, Santana told his teammates, “Believe it,” which he later repeated in a post to Mets fans on Twitter, adding:

I love this statement, “Believe it,” because it’s not just about tomorrow. It’s not “Ya Gotta Believe,” a phrase I will always cherish, but which has taken a hit the last few years. Instead, Santana’s statement is about believing what just happened. It’s not aspirational, it’s simply definitive… and that’s refreshing.

The question is: Is last night’s no-hitter just a special moment in team history, just one amazing game? Or, is it a turning point that adds confidence to an already-confident team, with young players, who want to shock baseball, and believe they can in a flawed division?

Sandy Alderson is thinking long term, he’s thinking big picture. I try to do the same. But, when I see the standings, when I see how excited the players were last night, how awesome it was, I get hopeful and jacked up about this season and all its possibilities. Yes, I know it’s an uphill battle. It’s not likely to end well. And there are all sorts of reasons, some of which I mentioned the other day, to be skeptical of this year’s end game. However, I had also been conditioned to believe a no-hitter could never happen to the Mets… and that finally happened. The point is, thanks to last night’s game, I have a new sense of belief in what’s happening here, and the possibilities seem endless. And, based on last night’s enthusiasm, I’m not alone… Believe it!!

Matthew Cerrone: I can't wait to get down to PSL

Matthew Cerrone: I will be getting to Port St. Lucie on Feb. 27 (for the team’s first official workout) and staying through March 9. Michael Baron will be representing MetsBlog from Feb. 24 to 27. Vinny Cartiglia will be with me in late February, and Ted Berg will be in town through mid March. It’s my favorite time of year. My plan is to basically do what I did last year, which is to hustle from field to field, taking pictures, talking to people, and quickly posting and relaying to you the general look and feel of life on field in St. Lucie. … I can’t wait to get down there.

It ain't easy being green, or blue and orange!

I’m truly happy for my Giants fan friends, who got to see their favorite football team win a Super Bowl last night. I mean that, I’m glad they’re happy.

That said, as a Jets fan and a Mets fan, I’m getting real tired of watching the Giants and Yankees celebrate, while I have to duck and cover.

My sports-watching career started in 1985 with the Mets and Jets. In that time, the Mets have won once (when I was 10 years old), while the Jets have won nothing. And, though the Mets have been in the playoffs five times and the Jets have been there 10 times, the Giants have won three Super Bowls (out of 13 playoff appearances) and the Yankees have won the Word Series five times (out of 16 playoff appearances).

That’s 26 playoff appearances to 15, and 8 rings to 1.

I have no point. I’m just complaining, and this seemed worth pointing out.

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eMail Q&A: Will the Mets hold a minicamp this winter?

Michael in Hoboken sent in an e-mail, asking:

[jbox color="white"]“Will the Mets do a mini-camp this winter, like they’ve done in the past? I think for a team this weak, it will be important for them to get in as much pre-season work as possible.[/jbox]

In the past, the Mets held organized, voluntary, three-day mini-camps in mid- to late-January for players to workout and get ready for spring training. They’re never considered official, teams rarely know who is attending until players show up, and they’re hardly mandatory. The Mets were one of the few teams to hold them, and I don’t think they are doing anything official this year.

That said, from what I can gather, Terry Collins will be in camp in Port St. Lucie starting soon (when he and the organizations scouting department, front office and coaching staff will huddle up to preview the season). As such, he’s  told his players they are more than welcome to report as early as they’d like, starting from the day he turns the key to up through when they’re required to be there by the team’s official reporting dates in mid- to late-February.

1986 Mets T-Shirt from eBay

I just won this t-shirt in an auction on eBay:

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It’s kind of goofy looking, since this isn’t the real logo and it’s tight and on more of an angle. But, since I have an obnoxious obsession with the 80s, specifically the 1986 Mets and the racing stripe uniform so I had to get it.

I hope Shannon from Mets Police approves.

eMail Q&A, pres. by Citi: Is this rebuilding?

Ryan G from Long Island: Why does Sandy refuse to say, ‘Rebuilding’? Everyone knows he’s in a Rebuilding Phase, yet he won’t say so.

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Matthew Cerrone: In these cases, I’m a believer in action not words. So, I’m far less concerned with what he calls what he’s doing and more interested in what he’s actually doing. However, from a public relations stand point, I bet the team could gain more fans than they’re turning away by simply calling it what it is…

I suspect they feel otherwise, and that by saying, ‘Rebuilding,’ they think they’ll be perceived as giving up, which will mean no one buys tickets and the ballpark will be empty. However, it seems to me that large-scale ticket sales are always based on what is happening on field. In other words, if the Mets are playing well and it looks like a fun time, regardless of how the team characterizes it in words, people will go watch; and if the team is losing, they won’t. But, by making fans more aware of what is happening, I bet the team’s core fans would embrace the process. From what I can tell talking to season-ticket holders, they’re almost insulted that they’re being asked to pay a lot of money to watch a mystery unfold. Instead, I think with a price break and total honesty about where things are headed, those same season ticket holders would likely stick around feeling included (especially if they knew there would be something extra in it for them when the good times return).

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Will the Mets trade David Wright?

Look, at this point, it’s fairly obvious that Jose Reyes did not get traded last summer because he and his batting title were the team’s only chance of selling tickets in September. Similarly, there is no way the Mets can deal David Wright now (nor should they). Sure, if they get blown away by an offer from another team, I guess it could happen; but obviously no such offer is coming their way. Plus, if Alderson’s immediate goal is ticket sales and revenue – as he keeps saying – to help bring in cash for tomorrow – trading Wright for prospects would be counter productive.

JerseyThis summer could be a whole other story, though. Wright has a team option for $16 million in 2013, and if he returns to even his 2009 or 2010 season (let alone his 2007 or 2008) he will be worth the money. However, if Alderson has a longer-term plan that is focusing on 2014 and beyond, one built on Ike Davis, Lucas Duda and young pitching, and Wright can leave on his own before that, the team will have to explore moving him. I wrote earlier today that the Angels and Cubs have already contacted the Mets to express interest, and multiple reports suggest the Rockies have been eyeing Wright since last summer.

Personally, I’d like to see the Mets sign Wright to an extension sooner than later. I mean, if they want to keep him, why put him or us or the franchise through what Reyes went through this past year? The thing is, I’m not sure he’d sign it just yet…

Wright is almost certainly watching Ryan Zimmerman’s situation with the Nationals. Zimmerman can be a free agent at the end of 2013, like Wright. However, unlike Wright, he is seeking a contract extension before that season begins. The buzz in DC is that Zimmerman is asking for a deal that locks him in through at least 2018. If he was on the open market this winter, that request would be a seven-year deal worth around $100 million. In the last few years, Zimmerman has been a more productive player than Wright, despite also playing in a pitcher’s park. Similarly, Zimmerman is also referred to as the ‘face of the franchise,’ they both play third base, in the same division, and are roughly the same age. So, it would seem Wright could end up seeking a similar deal.

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By the way, though I could not get a straight answer from people involved, I am pretty sure the Mets cannot pick up Wright’s option until after next season. In other words, they can’t pick it up now or mid year and then trade him (figuring he’d be more valuable with an additional year on his current deal).

Mets, Yankees, Marlins and Reyes

Matthew Cerrone: I talked to a player’s agent yesterday who ruined my night by saying, ‘How much do you want to bet me that the Marlins trade Jose Reyes to the Yankees in two years, when the Yankees can buy out Derek Jeter’s contract?” He wasn’t basing this on any inside information. It was simply an opinion, and clearly designed to get a rise out of me. It worked, because I hadn’t thought about that scenario before. At that point, Reyes would have four years and $75 million left on his deal and Jeter will be 39 and with a $3 million buyout. It’s fairly plausible, which makes it all that much worse.

The Mets are better today than they were yesterday!

No, this is not Jose Reyes. This is not Albert Pujols. But, this was still a good night for the Mets, as they are a better team today than yesterday. In total, Sandy Alderson spent what will likely be $10 million by adding Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch and Ramon Ramirez to his bullpen, while swapping Andres Torres for Angel Pagan in the outfield.

Let’s start in the bullpen…

The Mets acquired two guys who can strike people out (in Ramirez and Francisco), which is something they sorely missed last season. In the last year, I have heard from people in baseball who told me Alderson and his staff would always be looking for pitchers with power arms. Well, now they have at least two people who can get swings and misses and that will help out this current bullpen, no question. The Mets put too many runners on base last season with walks and bloop hits. Ramirez and Francisco, and Rauch to a lesser extent, should help keep people off the bases.

In regards to Pagan for Torres…

They are very, very similar players. Torres is older, but has more pop and patience at the plate. However, Pagan is probably a better contact hitter. Both players are rather injury prone, but capable of stealing 20 bases. They also have nearly identical facial hair.

The difference? Defense, hustle and attitude. In the last six months, I’ve lost count of how many people told me about how disappointed Terry was with Pagan’s demeanor last season. From what I can gather, Collins and Sandy Alderson have told people Pagan cracked under the pressure of taking over for Beltran, he got down on himself early in the year and never rebounded from it. “He quit on himself,” a person in the clubhouse once told me. They all seem to take particular issue him claiming to be dehydrated and missing multiple games in July.

Torres, on the other hand, gets high praise from people in San Francisco for his hustle and leadership. I’ve been told by Giants fans that he often gets credit for guiding his team through the 2010 pennant race. He’s older, and a bit banged up, and he will never be a strong hitter, but he’s still a fantastic defensive outfielder who can play all three positions.

So, how is this team better?

The Mets were sixth in the National League in runs scored last season, despite missing Ike Davis and Daniel Murphy, getting a half year from Carlos Beltran and David Wright, a poor year from Angel Pagan, and with Jose Reyes on and off the disabled list, and with Jason Bay still missing in action. Yet, they scored more runs than every other team in their division. At the same time, the Mets were sixth in the league with 24 blown saves. Adding Rauch, Ramirez and Francisco will help reduce that number, when added on top of Tim Byrdak, Manny Acosta and Bobby Parnell among others.

Lastly, while the team is shrinking the ballpark a bit, in Torres, they just added a better defensive center fielder than they had in Pagan, which will be necessary if Lucas Duda is lumbering around in right. What’s more, in Torres, Terry gets a guy who will always play hard and who carry out his message about preparation and effort.

What’s next, or is the off-season over?

The Mets still have roughly $5 million to spend and need to acquire a backup outfielder or two (maybe Endy Chavez), as well as another middle infielder (perhaps Jack Wilson) and at least one or two starting pitchers (I’m thinking a Jason Marquis or Chris Young).

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To read our Brian Erni’s take on last night’s acquisitions, click here.

How Jose ended up on the Marlins, and why this sucks.

I’m disappointed that I will never get to root for him again. Jose Reyes was my favorite player since Mike Piazza … and my third favorite player of all time. Also, I freaking hate the Marlins, and so this is that much worse.

According to people aware of the situation, for the Mets, the question always came down to this: Is Reyes the type of player we want to be paying $20 million to when he’s 33, 34 years old, at the same time other players (say Ike Davis, maybe Zach Wheeler, maybe Brandon Nimmo, or some
other prospect we don’t know about yet) are looking for contract extensions and big-time raises? Obviously, Alderson’s answer is, ‘No.’

He’s probably right. That is the probably the smart approach. It doesn’t matter, though, because I’m just not happy about it. Right now, I don’t really care about what’s most prudent, and what helps this team long-term, or what will get them to increase revenue and be more consistent down the road. Maybe when Spring Training comes, when I’m full of hope, sunshine and optimism, I can be more measured about this and know it’s for the best. Maybe. However, right now, all I can think about is how the Marlins just ran off with my favorite player … and that sucks.

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This past summer, before his first hamstring injury, Jose’s family and friends encouraged him to engage in contract talks with the Mets. However, he refused; he insisted on testing the open market in search of at least a $100 million deal and the best opportunity to win. The way I understand it, back in June, Reyes would have rejected any deal put in front of him. Remember he was flying high, he was the talk of the town, hitting .350, and probably still dreaming of the infamous Carl-Crawford deal. And so, he was set on being a free agent.

My best educated guess is that the Mets might have discussed a five-year extension in June, though I am not convinced either side would have inked it. However, after Jose’s hamstring injury in August, the way I understand it, more than one front office person started questioning whether it was wise to bring back Reyes at all (and certainly for no more than a four-year commitment). The point is, knowing what he ended up signing for, I think there was always too wide of a gap for this to ever work out with the Mets.

In the end, in talking to people on all sides of this deal, I get the impression that – while the Mets would have welcomed back Reyes – they’re not going to lose sleep over seeing him sign a six-year deal with another team.

Basically, from what I can gather, Jose’s representatives let the Mets know early Sunday that Miami was upping their offer, though terms of a deal were not discussed. Obviously, Sandy Alderson did not match it. In fact, the Mets never submitted an official offer, he told reporters in Dallas on Sunday. However, I’m not sure he ever had to…

It seems the Marlins submitted a $80 million contract not long after the two sides met face-to-face in Miami. Though Reyes was instantly intrigued by life in Miami, I’ve been told he never viewed the first offer as enough since he was adamant from day one that the contract top $100 million.

As far as the Mets go, I’m pretty confident Sunday was the first day they were ever made aware of what Miami was offering. So, talks sat idle for a while, during which I think Jose’s people were hoping Alderson would eventually make a move; but he never actually did. Instead, as was the case early on, and as was the case late this past week, Alderson let it be known he would never exceed a ‘particular range.’ I’ve never been able to fully learn what that range was, but I believe it was either four or five years and probably around $16 million a season with vesting options. For what it’s worth, I believe the same thing was signaled to Jose’s people by other interested teams as well, like the Brewers.

However, yesterday it was reported (i.e., ‘leaked,’ I assume by the Marlins) that Miami was getting antsy and wanted to wrap things up before the Meetings started on Monday. Then, not coincidentally I am sure, a report surfaced that the Brewers would be meeting with Jose’s representatives this week in Dallas. I’m told it was at this point that the Marlins contacted Jose’s people to up the offer to six years and over the $100 million mark. I suspect they framed it as a ‘final offer,’ ‘take it or leave it,’ so to speak. Naturally, the Mets were contacted this morning and asked to state their final position. However, Alderson would not exceed his ‘threshold,’ or Miami’s, and so (knowing other teams might also do the same) Reyes quickly accepted the six-year deal to join Miami.