October 2011

New Citi Field dimensions

—–Follow along on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

Mets (still) have not paid back MLB loan

In his state of the league address prior to Game 7 of the World Series, Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig revealed that the Mets have not paid back the $25 million loan they received from MLB in the wake of their Bernard Madoff litigation late last year. That remains unchanged from when Selig addressed the situation earlier this month.

Regardless, Selig said that “an alternative financing plan” is in place and that the Mets are “not one of” his worries. A Mets official said last month that the team has enough capital to cover all of its financial obligations for the 2011 fiscal year.

—–Follow along on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

Another Mets playoff connection

The name A.J. Burnett may incite all sorts of feelings in New York, Toronto and points between, but rarely does it elicit thoughts of the Mets. Perhaps it should. It was the Mets who originally drafted Burnett in the eighth round of the 1995 First-Year Player Draft, and it was with the Mets that he first forged his reputation of wildness.

Over three seasons pitching for Mets affiliates, Burnett walked 120 batters and struck out 157 over 147 innings, before the Mets traded him, Minor Leaguer Robert Stratton and pitcher Jesus Sanchez to the Marlins for Al Leiter and Ralph Milliard. Burnett went on to enjoy a rocky career with the Marlins, Blue Jays and Yankees, pitching a no-hitter, struggling mightily at other times and taking the mound for Game 4 of tonight’s American League Division Series. Stratton, Sanchez and Milliard all did little of note in their new organizations, while Leiter established himself as a rock in New York’s rotation for seven seasons, going 95-67 with a 3.42 ERA and 1,106 strikeouts with the Mets.

Compare that to Burnett, who went 37-38 with a 3.83 ERA and 555 strikeouts over the same span. He earned just over $6 million from the Marlins over that span, while Leiter took in more than $53 million from the Mets. But Leiter won 16 games with a 3.20 ERA in 2000, leading the Mets to the National League pennant in one of his best professional seasons, while Burnett was still just establishing himself in the league.

In sum? It was one of those rare trades that turned out to be a win-win.

—–Follow along on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

From Verlander to Humber, a missed opportunity

With Tigers starter (and heavy Cy Young favorite) Justin Verlander taking the mound for Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Yankees this evening, it is noteworthy to look back on a potentially franchise-altering draft that did not pan out quite as planned.

Heading into the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, the Mets’ scouting department was extremely high on Verlander, who was — and still is — capable of pitching in the triple digits. They even had a chance to nab Verlander with the top overall pick. Though the Tigers finished with the league’s worst record, at 43-119, Major League rules at that time alternated picks between the American and National Leagues. It was the NL’s turn to pick first, meaning the Mets, at 66-95, fell three losses shy of the top overall pick (the Padres finished 64-98).

With the first selection, San Diego took Matt Bush, a high school shortstop who never panned out in the big leagues. With the second pick, the Tigers nabbed Verlander, and the rest is history. The Mets settled for Phil Humber — a so-called “safe” selection — at No. 3 overall, losing out on their chance at a franchise-changing pitcher.

Of course, it goes without saying that Verlander’s career — and Humber’s, for that matter — might have turned out far differently had he come up through the Mets organization. But given what we know about both pitchers, it seems like an opportunity lost. (Imagine, for a moment, what the 2007 Mets would have been with Verlander in the rotation.)

—–Follow along on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

Misch, O’Connor declare free agency

Mets left-handers Pat Misch and Mike O’Connor have officially declared Minor League free agency. Misch and O’Connor, each of whom spent time on the active roster this season, were eligible for free agency due to having six years of Minor League service time and not being on the team’s 40-man roster.

Misch, 30, posted a 10.29 ERA over six appearances with the Mets in April and May. O’Connor, who competed in spring for the lefty specialist job that ultimately went to Tim Byrdak, posted a 2.70 ERA in nine games.

—–Follow along on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

Jimmy Rollins takes shots at Reyes

The Phillies and Mets may be on different planes of existence this postseason, but that did not stop shortstop Jimmy Rollins from criticizing his counterpart, Jose Reyes, prior to a National League Division Series workout at Citizens Bank Park. Rollins critiqued Reyes’ decision to bunt for a hit and then leave Wednesday’s season finale at Citi Field to all but assure himself the NL batting title.

“I would have bunted, too,” Rollins told reporters in Philadelphia. “I probably wouldn’t have come out of the game, though.

“Me, personally, I’m going to ride it out. I would have played the whole game. That’s me, though.”

Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun made it a moot point later that night, going 0-for-4 to finish at .332, five points behind Reyes for the batting title.

Rollins also suggested that Reyes put forth more effort this season given his impending free agency at age 28. The Phillies shortstop will also become a free agent after this season, and his value on the open market will be directly linked to that of Reyes.

“In previous years, you just didn’t quite get that feeling from him, being in the other dugout,” Rollins said of Reyes giving maximum effort.  “This year you really did. It was like, ‘This man is doing everything he can.’ ”

—–Follow along on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.