October 2012

Did David Wright deserve to win the Gold Glove?

Chase Headley of the Padres beat out David Wright for the National League Gold Glove at third base. But did he deserve it? A quick look at the numbers reveals that:

  • Both players committed only 10 errors on the year. Headley’s .977 fielding percentage was slightly better than Wright’s .974. No other NL third baseman with at least 1,300 innings in the field had fewer errors or a higher fielding percentage.
  • Wright’s Ultimate Zone rating of 15.4 more than doubled Headley’s 6.0 mark, according to Fangraphs calculations.
  • Wright (2.1) accumulated more than two more defensive Wins Above Replacement than Headley (0.0), according to Baseball Reference calculations.

Advanced metrics such as UZR and dWAR are notoriously unreliable in samples as small as a single season, but they do gain value in context. No NL third baseman, Headley included, could compare to Wright in the major defensive metrics this season.

Then again, Wright lagged well behind multiple peers in 2007, when he beat out a much deeper field for the Gold Glove. So perhaps we’ll call it even.

Follow me on Twitter: @AnthonyDiComo

Shannon Forde dinner postponed

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the dinner to benefit Mets staffer Shannon Forde’s fight against Stage IV breast cancer has been postponed until Thursday, November 29 at 7 p.m. at the Westmount Country Club in Woodland Park, NJ.

To re-confirm dinner tickets for the fundraiser, please email durantedebbie@hotmail.com. To re-confirm reservations for the meet and greet with former Mets stars, email Danielle.Heuer@optimum.net or call her at 732-241-1917.

In conjunction with the dinner, an online auction at www.charitybuzz.com/auctions/shannon will also run through November 7. Fans can bid on such items as a 30-minute pitching session with R.A. Dickey, a 30-minute pitching session with Johan Santana and a 30-minute hitting session with David Wright.

All information regarding the dinner is still available at http://www.hopeshinesforshannon.com.

Auction items available to benefit Shannon Forde

Hope Shines for Shannon, the organization raising funds to assist longtime Mets staffer Shannon Forde’s medical expenses in her fight against Stage IV breast cancer, has opened an online auction featuring some pretty cool items and experiences.

You can access the auction page here: http://www.charitybuzz.com/auctions/Shannon.

Auction items include:

  • Meet Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan at a Taping of Live! With Kelly & Michael in New York
  • Learn from the Best with a Pitching Lesson from Mets Star R.A. Dickey at Citi Field and Watch Batting Practice From The Field
  • Enjoy 2 Tickets to Saturday Night Live Including a Backstage Tour of the Set
  • Mets Star David Wright Will Give You a Hitting Lesson at Citi Field!
  • Meet Jon Stewart & Get 2 Tickets to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart in NYC

And many, many more. Please consider supporting this cause, and remember that tickets for Shannon’s Nov. 1 fundraising dinner/auction are available at http://www.hopeshinesforshannon.com.

Beltran credits New York City for success under fire

As you may have noticed, Carlos Beltran has been pretty darn good so far in his return to the postseason with the Cardinals. He credited some of that to playing in New York for six-and-a-half-seasons, where the stakes are always high.

“There’s pressure everywhere,” Beltran said Tuesday at Nationals Park. “When you play baseball, there’s the pressure of going out there and doing the job. But as players, I guess playing in New York, I just learned how to handle it a little bit better.”

As for his failure to reach the playoffs more than once — and that one did not end well for him — during his time with the Mets, Beltran said: “In the years that I played there, I did the best I could to try to be in this type of situation. It just didn’t happen.”

Follow me on Twitter: @AnthonyDiComo

New guests announced for Shannon dinner

Pitcher Matt Harvey, former Mets manager Willie Randolph and Joe McEwing, a member of New York’s 2000 National League championship team, are the latest additions to the Nov. 1 dinner honoring Shannon Forde. Forde, who has been with the Mets for 18 years in the media relations department, was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.

“When I read about Shannon I just knew I had to be there for her,” said Randolph. “She just made things so much easier for me when I was with the Mets.”

The fundraiser will be held at the Westmount Country Club in Woodland Park, NJ.  Admission to the dinner is $100, while there is a meet and greet with Daniel Murphy, Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, John Franco, Bob Ojeda, Al Leiter, Edgardo Alfonzo, Ed Kranepool, Ed Charles and New York Giants Super Bowl punter Sean Landeta for an additional $250.

Guests at the dinner, which runs from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., will be able to bid on such unique items as:

  • Dinner with Darryl Strawberry at his restaurant.
  • A 30 minute pitching lesson with Dwight Gooden.
  • A visit to the SNY booth to meet announcers Keith Hernandez, Gary Cohen and Ron Darling.
  • A private meeting with Mets manager Terry Collins, plus the chance to sit in on is pre and post game press conferences at Citi Field.

To purchase tickets to this event please visit the website at http://www.hopeshinesforshannon.com or contact Debbie Durante at durantedebbie@hotmail.com or Cindy Santos at tripletmomof3@hotmail.com.

To make a monetary donation, checks should be made payable to “Hope Shines for Shannon” and can be mailed to P.O. Box 3145, Point Pleasant, NJ 08742.

Alderson’s State of the Mets address

Mets general manager Sandy Alderson addressed the state of the Mets for nearly 25 minutes Wednesday afternoon. In addition to the news story on Mets.com, you can ready the full transcript of Alderson’s Q&A here:

Opening statement:
“Overall, a disappointing season. We had some positive things, I think, but overall inconsistency. Certainly disappointed with the won-loss record. Lots of inconsistencies, first half/second half, home/road, individual performances. All of which I think led to the record that we will have after today’s game.

“So the first half was of course positive. I think we exceeded many expectations. I thought that we played as well as we had expected coming out of spring training. For a variety of reasons, some of which are only hypotheses at this point — they’re not actual explanations — we did not play well in the second half. There were a variety of things that happened. I’ll go back and probably point to four or five things. But ultimately, the second half was similar to the second half we’ve had over the last several years. I think if there’s one consistency among those four that we’ve been able to determine it’s that we really did not see significant contributions from additional players over the second half of any of those season.

“Inevitably, you have injuries and other things that happen, maybe sub-par performance. It’s nice to have somebody come in and take up the slack. And we had a couple people who had good second halves. We saw the emergence of Matt Harvey. Ike Davis played well in the second half. But overall, that wasn’t the case.

“Lots of positive things did happen. I think we’ll start with R.A. Dickey, I guess, and David Wright. Jon Niese had an excellent season for us. [Bobby] Parnell out of the ‘pen was good. Chris Young finished well. We saw Harvey emerge, some other young players emerge. So I think there’s some positives from the season, certainly. I take all of those as positives.

“The thing we’re trying to do here is three-fold: One is build through our farm system. The second is to retain our core players. And the third, really, is to add free agents and trade acquisitions on a fairly judicious basis. I would say over the first couple years, we’ve certainly looked to the farm system. Obviously not totally successful. We really have not, until now, been in a position to retain our core players. Which is the second prong of this approach. I think we’re in that place now. Then the third, we really have not been able to be involved significantly in the free-agent market. We certainly have brought in players on a free-agent basis. But in terms of significant acquisitions, it’s somewhat limited. But I can see that changing, perhaps not immediately, but somewhere in the near-term. So from my standpoint, many positives. But overall, a disappointing year.”

Are you looking to make a more significant number of trade and free agent acquisitions than in years past?
“Well, I think that it’s possible, given what we have, that we’ll be more active in the trade market. But that’s not a given necessarily. I mean, I really do believe that some of our players are on the verge of making bigger contributions. But it’s been two years. We have a better idea now of who we have at the major-league level, who’s coming from our player-development system, and the places where we need to look outside.

“There are a couple of obvious needs that we have. So it’s very possible that we’ll be more active in the trade market, as well as potentially in the free-agent market. But I don’t want to give the impression that we’ll be out in the free-agent market, looking for significant additions. We have lots of payroll tied up in a handful of players. That’s a situation that gradually has to resolve itself. We’re not really at that point.”

Who are the core players?
“The two that are popularly referenced are David Wright and R.A. Dickey. What we said over the last couple of months is we’re going to make every effort to retain those two guys. And I think we are in a position to be able to do that. Whether we are successful or not, time will tell. But I think we’re in a position to make a bona fide effort to do it. So I’m happy about that.”

Is Dickey a high priority to retain long-term?
“Those are the two big issues. Retaining our own players is, as I said, one of the key tenets of the approach we’re trying to take. Those two would be the most obvious. They’re free agents at the end of 2013. Those are the two situations we need to address and expect to address.”

Is the organization in a stronger place financially than it was a season ago?
“Yeah, I think that’s unquestionably the case. The Madoff situation was resolved. The investments were made in the team. And I think that overall, just with those two issues behind us, the team is in a better position. That’s progress.”

How much money do you project to lose this year?
“No. But unlike last year, I don’t intend to get involved in that discussion.”

How will the better financial situation affect your future spending?
“The first indication will be what happens with David and R.A. Because while those situations may not significantly increase our payroll this year, they will represent commitments on out years. Which I think is a fundamental shift in our situation. If you have the uncertainty that existed last spring, it would be difficult to make those long-term commitments. So I think that’s a fundamental shift. And I think that would be a good indication. I think the fact that we’re talking about it, and talking about retaining our players in a different tone than we were last year, should be a positive signal.”

Do you feel an urgency to get the Wright and Dickey deals done before Spring Training?
“I think not only would we like to see these two situations resolved by the beginning of spring training, Opening Day, I think we’d like to see them resolved much sooner rather than later.”

When will you open the dialogue?
“How long does [this] game last?”

Have you had any discussions yet?
“With the agents? No.”

Or with David?
“There have been some informal conversations with David. I wouldn’t say that they have been negotiations. That wouldn’t be our approach. That would be something that would be done with his representatives. But we’ve had some informal conversations.”

How soon could this be done? By the World Series? Winter Meetings?
“I don’t see why it couldn’t happen quickly. Now whether it will or not, I don’t know. I don’t have any indication that it would get done quickly. But as you look at it from our standpoint, the sooner the better.”

Is there a certain point where you need to sign them to extensions or else consider trading them?
“I think that there’s a preferred time frame from a baseball standpoint. As you get further into the offseason, with the uncertainty of the contract situation, then you do have to start thinking about other possibilities. That’s something we’re contemplating right now. but there’s that inevitability. But from a non-baseball standpoint, getting these resolved earlier, and if we were able to do it positively, that would have a salutary effect on everything else in the offseason. So there are lots of reasons why it would be great, if things got resolved soon. Whether they will or not, I have no idea.”

How will you sell Wright and Dickey on the future outlook here?
“I guess that’s going to be hard for me to assess. But what I intend to be, in any conversation that relates to the future of the Mets overall, is as honest as I can possibly be. I expect that that’s what they’ll want. I also think that there are factors that relate to New York that go beyond winning. That’s clearly the most important thing for any of us. But I think there are some other important factors, too, that don’t relate to salary or money, that may have an impact. I’ll try to be as honest in that regard as well.”

What would your message be?
“My message would be ‘Look, I think we’re very definitely headed in the right direction. But at the same time, we will not in the near-future have unlimited funds. So recognize what our immediate situation is, what we expect to be our mid and long-term situations, and evaluate us on that basis.'”

Must you prove your commitment to acquiring talent before they sign?
“As a practical matter, that’s probably not going to happen between now and the time that these conversations take place. But I think it will be important for them to hear from me, and again, to some extent, we’ve had these conversations. So I expect there will be further discussions about it.”

Wright wants this to be the final contract of his career. Can that kind of deal work here?
“Yeah. Would I rule that kind of contract out? No. I don’t know how long he expects to play. Presumably beyond 31 or 32.”

Would Baltimore or Oakland winning the World Series help prove that payroll increases are unnecessary?
“Yeah, to some extent. But look, the expectations in Baltimore this year, or the expectations in Oakland this year, or any year in some of these cities are very different than they are in New York. And I think we just have to recognize that.”

You don’t like second-generation free-agent deals. Is Wright an exception to that philosophy?
“I still hold a philosophy. But I think there are always exceptions to any rule. In my career, I’ve made exceptions in the past. I’m sure I’ll make exceptions in the future.”

Is Wright an exception?
“Well, look, we wouldn’t have had the last 15 minutes of conversation if that weren’t the case.”

What was the final 2012 payroll?
“The one that I use? We’re going to come in right around $100 million.”

Does that include salaries added during the year?
“Now it also includes 40-man roster guys at the minor-league level. It includes say a buyout on previous contracts. So I think we had a buyout of about $3 million or so on Frankie Rodriguez. So all in, right around $100 million.”

Could the payroll go maybe 10-percent higher next year?
“We’re having those conversations now. I met with Fred [Wilpon] and Saul [Katz] and Jeff [Wilpon], presented a number of different scenarios. We haven’t locked in to anything yet. There will be another meeting or two before we do that. So I can’t really give you an answer that.”

What factors will influence the payroll?
“What we can reasonably expect with whatever payroll we decide. So there are a lot of different factors. The players that we have going into next season, versus the players we have now or the players that we’ll have in 2014. There are different factors. It’s not all about one in particular.”

In next year’s payroll, will the 2014 buyouts on Bay and Santana be included?
“The buyouts typically are in the current-year budget.”

How willing would you be to trade starting pitching, particularly from your projected starting five?
“I think you’ve got to be real careful about dipping into your starting pitching. If you look at what happened to us, the five guys that started the season? We lost three of the five. So the depth there can be very important. And not just depth that you have at your Triple-A club with somebody who’s just coming up. Ideally, you’d like to have depth like maybe a Chris Young gave us this year. Which is under his special circumstances. You’ve got to be careful about our starting pitching, which is certainly our strength at the moment. And was certainly our strength, more or less, most of this year.”

If you deal Major League players from your roster, do you need Major League-ready players in return?
“Yes, we need some major-league ready players. There are some positions where we are not strong. Either the quality at the major-league level or in our system. And we need major-league ready players. Now that doesn’t mean to exclusion of a prospect. But we’d be looking for players that are close.”

Did you ever consider blowing up the roster completely?
“It’s a strategy that we’ve discussed. Again, I think every team is different. Every market is different. I’m not prepared to blow up the team and start over again. I don’t think we need to do that. so it’s unlikely that we’ll see any major explosions.”

Could you get away with that in New York?
“Look, with regard to probably 70 percent of any team’s roster, that can be done without any real negative reaction from fans. My attitude, if you think about it conceptually, is there are core players that fans identify with. It might be two players, it might be five, it might be six. Depends on how much success you’ve had, how many have come through the system. But there’s a core group. But it’s probably not that large in number. Everybody else? It’s all about succeeding. It’s all about bringing in better players. It’s all about making the team better. So I don’t think you sever any sort of relationship with fans if those players are interchanged.”

Could you conceivably still deal your core guys?
“It’s conceivable. And it would be something that we’d have to evaluate at the time.”

How do you evaluate Terry Collins heading into the final year of his contract?
“I think Terry’s done a fine job. As you know, we’re having the coaches back. Terry’s signed for next year. There are going to be questions about whether we’re going to extend him or not. That’s not something we’re doing yet. We haven’t had those discussions. We may not for a while. But I’m very pleased with the job that Terry did. The first half, second half situation has more to do with the players than it does with the manager or the coaching staff.”

Will the future payroll flexibility be based solely on money coming off the books, or will the bottom-line number expand?
“I hope both things happen. If you look at payroll, for me, there are really two components. There’s this core group of quality that most teams have. And then there’s the balance of the payroll. And right now, we have a lot of money tied up in a handful of players. So what I hope is that we do end up with more flexibility over the next couple of years. But also that we can grow the payroll to some extent.”

Would you back-load deals for free agents this winter?
“It’s a possible strategy, given the nut we have for 2013. But generally speaking, I don’t like to pay for today with deferrals tomorrow.”

Follow me on Twitter: @AnthonyDiComo

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