Matz All, Folks

After six seasons of occasionally brilliant and frequently frustrating work on the mound and the disabled list the Mets finally cut ties with Steven Matz, sending the Long Island lefty to Toronto for three prospects.

The move addresses what looks to be temporary crowding among would-be starting pitchers for the 2021 club but also presumably frees some roster space and cash should the Mets still wish to add another, like the still-available Trevor Bauer who could be different kind of headache.

Nothing against Steve personally here. It was always a lofty order to expect a lefty wearing 32 to perform with Matlackian precision–Matz falls about halfway to all of Matlack’s team records as a pitcher. But after a while it seemed that his local heritage–and ties to the first Omar Minaya regime that drafted him way back in 2009–provided him more opportunity than another guy with his spotty health and track record might get (like Zack Wheeler), and I suspect I wasn’t the only one scratching my head that this deal wasn’t considered any sooner. Matz was about the worst pitcher in the league last season. At any rate we get back three starting pitcher prospects, none of whom seem to have a lot of upside from what I’ve absorbed, but all presumably capable of one day inheriting the mop-up role that Matz appeared to pitched himself into, and they have minor-league options remaining: So Meet Sean Reid-Foley, Yennsy Diaz and Josh Winckowski, Zack Scott’s first gets as “acting” general manager.

Reid-Foley has made a handful of appearances in Toronto wearing 54; Diaz has worked two-thirds off an MLB inning 2 seasons ago (walking 4, wearing no 59); and Winckowski has yet to appear above A ball.

I’d look for 32 to be assigned to incoming lefty Joey Lucchesi.

Meantime, after swinging and missing on more bullpen help and trading an ill-fitted lefty option in Matz, the Mets scooped up journeyman southpaw Aaron Loup. The 33-year-old Loup has pitched for Toronto, Philadelphia, San Diego and last season, Tampa, fairly effectively in the dying age of lefty specialists. Loup, from what I read a laconic Louisiana Cajun, wore 15 last year, 38 in San Diego, 47 with the Phils and 62 with the Jays. Let’s slot him in at, uh, 16 or 18. Why not?

 

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Sprung

Can’t blame Jeff Wilpon for this one, but the Mets have another black eye and brain drain to deal with after it was revealed that the newly arrived and highly touted general manager Jared Porter was also a creepy cocktographer, a woman harrasser, and a media abuser.

Look there are only 30 MLB general manager jobs in the world, so it’s to the new leadership’s shame they didn’t manage to sniff out what was evidently something of a known secret–if not in the details, then perhaps in Porter’s character, interpersonal relationships or habits. I didn’t even know what Porter looked like till that Zoom call a few weeks back but I have to confess I was somewhat surprised to see he looked like a guy who probably had a lot of beer in his fridge. Then again, I’m not in HR. And to its credit, management didn’t waste time feeling out what the reaction would be before acting decisively to whack Porter.

Now the team that initially said it wanted two top-notch baseball brains to lead the organization under CEO Sandy Alderson has none, and it’s on Sandy to go sign or trade for a center fielder other than George Springer who’s apparently headed to the Blue Jays.

Fortunately for the Mets there are options still, and with Springer off the board and February approaching you have to figure the remaining job-seekers will find new offices shortly. Speculation is the club could sign free agents Jackie Bradley Jr., whose worn three different numbers over his seasons in Boston (44, 25 and 19, all of which are already assigned to Mets currently), or Albert Almora (No. 5 with the Cubs, out of circulation), and maybe even swing a deal for Lorenzo Cain (No. 6 on the Brewers, also unavailable). We also know Sandy has interest in free-agent reliever Brad Hand and that Porter until yesterday morning was investigating pitcher Trevor Williams, most recently No. 34 on the Pirates.

Porter also managed earlier this week to swing a deal with San Diego for lefty Joey Lucchesi, who will also shop for a new uni number having worn the retired 37 as a Friar, and could hasten the end of Steven Matz’ long run in Metville.

Finally on this day of new beginnings let’s give a shout-out to Ollie Perez, Brooks Pounders, Dallas Green, young Neil Allen and the rest of the 46 Club. Go Hens!

 

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65witching It Up

While the Mets are busy signing their arbitration-eligible guys and pursuing even more relief pitchers (keep your eyes peeled for that METS GIVE HAND JOB headline in the Post), some of their guys are trying on new uni numbers.

Some of the activity relates to new reliever Trevor May who evidently will retain the same No. 65 he wore in his previous job with the Twins. That means a switch for newly re-signed bullpenner Robert Gsellman, who rosters now list in 44. I’ve railed against offensive-line numbers for major leaguers for some time now but there was something appropriate to the 65 hanging beneath the broad shoulders of Gsellman, as the digits mimic the unique spelling on the name above them: 65ELLMAN, right? It’s a gshame. On the other hand, Gsellman could probably stand to switch his career up in a lot of ways. Gselly inherits 44 from two-time Met (and three-time ex-Met), Rene Rivera who wore 44 briefly last year, and before than in 2016. Rivera also hung around their minors in 2008 but never appeared.

In a downward move that makes more sense, David Peterson has dropped 54 digits from his ridiculous 77 he wore last season and is now listed as 23. We’ll have to check and see what that means for coach Brian Schneider, who wore it last year and appears currently numberless on the roster.

Catching up on additional 40-man roster stuff, the Mets.com roster lists James McCann as expected in No. 33; utilityman Robel Garcia in 00; and the curiously acquired slugger Jose Martinez as 53, while pitching candidates Jacob Barnes, Sam McWilliams and Stephen Tarpley along with catcher Patrick Mazeika, remain unassigned. If these seeming assignments hold, look for pitching coach Jeremy Hefner and Mascot Mr Met to have a new assignments. And Hefner joins Schneider, Jeremy Accardo (59 reassigned to Carlos Carrasco), Dave Jauss, and Tony Tarasco as coaches awaiting new assignments.

Also on the radar: some guys who had assignments last year (Corey Oswalt 55, Drew Smith 62, Ali Sanchez 70) appear unassigned. I do hope this means more deflation.

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Cleveland Steamer!

Jared Porter’s not screwing around. Today he swung a deal bringing Cleveland Indians’ stars Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco to Flushing, giving the tribe last year’s shortstop platoon (the disappointing Amed Rosario and the undisappointing Andres Gimenez– together, just they were just pointing) and two minor leaguers: Pitcher Josh Wolf and young outfielder Eliajah Isaiah Greene.

This is an obvious talent injection helped along by Steve Cohen’s gigantic wallet and may accompany a contract extension for Lindor, a gold-glove-winning, switch-hitting, 30-plus home-run-slugging shortstop who’s still just a youngun at 26. And Carrasco, presuming he’s recovered from his own health scares, is a fine addition to the rotation at a fair price.

I wanted very much for Rosario to succeed (and a few times, it looked like he might) but even a good Rosario wouldn’t be in Lindor’s class as a hitter or a fielder. Gimenez in the meantime had a magical arrival and looks to be a useful little player but (and I could be wrong here) I also got the feeling he was something of a souped-up Ruben Tejada who played about as good in a few months last season as he ever might.

So scratch No. 1s and 60 off your pre-preseason roster and pencil in 12 and 59 for the new guys. The former, Lindor’s digits in Cleveland, belonged most recently to Eduardo Nunez whom I’ve almost already forgotten was a Met and almost always incorrectly refer to as “Edwin Nunez”; 59 belonged to recently re-upped pitching instructor Jeremy Accordo, whom I predict here will slide into the No. 60 shirt that Gimenez should never have been wearing in the first place.

You may have seen in the meantime the Mets replaced Tony DeFrancesco with our our friend Tony Tarasco as a first base coach. Tarasco we last saw getting Grant Roberts high in 2002, wearing No. 40.

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Porterhouse

In the first high-profile signing of the second Sandy Alderson Era, the Mets have reportedly agreed with free-agent catcher James McCann to a 4-year, $40 million deal, which for whatever reason hasn’t been officially announced yet. McCann wore No. 33 with the White Sox, digits most recently belonging the the returned and since cashiered Todd Frazier late last year.

Perhaps worn most famously by disgraced former All-Star Matt Harvey, 33 has also previously belonged to Met catchers Barry Lyons, Charlie O’Brien, Kelly Stinnett, Tim Spehr and Mike DiFelice. None of these guys were legit first stringers and until recently it looked like McCann would have a career like those guys. Stinnett (along with fellow ex-Met backstops Todd Pratt, Rick Wilkins and Travis d’Arnaud) in fact appear on McCann’s “Similar Batters” scores over at Baseball Reference, so I’m keeping my expectations appropriately in check. Fills a need, hits lefthanders, reportedly solid defensively and presumably saves the big money to gather in other free agents.

So confident were the Mets in McCann they made the deal ahead of the arrival of the actual general manager who we learned yesterday is Jared Porter. Jared is 41, served World Series-winning teams in Boston and Chicago and most recently was an assistant with the Diamondbacks. Sounds good to me.

And just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water… it’s JAUSS 2.

Jauss was Jerry Manuel’s former top lieutenant in 2010, and will serve the same role for Luis Rojas in 2021, succeeding Hensely Muelens. Jauss wore No. 56 back then; it currently belongs to assistant hitting coach Tom Slater.

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Catching Up

Wow. So quite a bit has happened since we last caught up. As I’d mentioned I’d sort of involuntarily “opted out” of the fraudulent 2020 season that while deeply unsatisfying in so many ways, is already one of the most consequential for us in orange-and-blue (and in red-white-and-blue too, but that’s another regrettable nightmare that mercifully appears very close to an end as well).

Let’s recap a few things I missed real quick

Goodbye Fred and Jeff

Beat it. I mean, GTFO.

I’m not overstating it even a little bit when I say the Wilpons’ stunning incompetence and inability to learn despite making the same mistakes over and over and over again had so badly damaged my enthusiasm for the club I was losing interest in something as natural and enjoyable as this goofy little project. I understand that there’s no sure bets in life and financial realities interfere from time to time, but it was never too big an ask that an owner avoid actively making the process of rooting for a team you love an exercise in futility and self-hatred. How hard could it be to sell the Mets to Mets fans?

Don’t answer till you consider these guys not once but twice failed to execute a sale of the team (remember the Einhorn debacle?) mainly because they couldn’t NOT interfere. I’ve been re-reading THE WORST TEAM MONEY COULD BUY recently and reminded that Fred was screwing things up back then too, a pattern that would continue for nearly 30 years. Stunning! Most recently the stealth coup that landed the Mets most recently with a green chair-throwing general manager who promptly mortgaged the future for a steroid case, let a terrific starting pitcher walk to a division rival, screwed up his only chance to name a field manager, and leaves a worse team than he found.

Thank goodness Steve Cohen had the sense to give Sandy Alderson a chance to rescue the team once again. Did you notice Terry Collins and Omar Minaya are also out? What a turn of events. I’m not on the Cohen Crack like everyone else quite yet but his performance so far indicates he’s at least diagnosed many of the same problems we fans have (how hard could that be?) and I’m confident things cannot possibly get worse than they’ve been.

Other Comings and Goings

Sandy and his non-existent front-office team so far have signed a decent relief pitcher (Minnesota’s Trevor May, who seems like a swell guy and as mid-career bullpenners go, not a bad shot), invited a bunch of intriguing guys to Spring Training (OF Mallex Smith, SS Jose Peraza, RP Arodys Vizcaino) and picked up a lottery ticket or two including a 6-foot-7 minor league reliever called Sam McWilliams. The qualified offer to Marcus Stroman was accepted raising the possibility they’ll have a No. 0 after all. This week they got contracts done or offered to fringe 40-man guys that by now include the exasperating Omar-Era Holdover Steven Matz and outfielder Guillermo Heredia whose garbage-time arrival in September wasn’t even noted in our numerical rosters till just now. Sorry about that. He wears 15. Brian Dozier, whom I’d forgotten was ever a Met, no longer does. Chasen Shreve got whacked. So did Paul Sewald.

May by the way wore 65 in Minnesota, which belongs to the damaged Robert Gsellman.

And Now

The Mets have lots of possibilities again. Brodie didn’t necessarily screw up everything beyond what ought to have been decent chances this year and last, thanks mainly to the core assembled by his predecessor and successor.

Cohen has said he’d open up the checkbook so it seems likely they could add a pitcher like Trevor Bauer, reassembling a slate of strong starting pitching they had until Brodie interfered (and possibly interiting the No. 47 surrendered by Shreve). George Springer is available as is uni No. 4, uselessly occupied by Jed Lowrie for two friggin years. J.T. Realmuto (no. 10 in Philadelphia) might catch on, but someone new will at any rate.

We could see some new coaches (were the Wilpons so dumb that thinking did a hitting coach could work from home?) and front office personnel, a trade or two. I’ll try and pay attention.

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RIP Warren “Zvon” Fottrell

Hang around the “Metsophere” long enough and you’ll meet some characters. Warren Fottrell, better known as “Warren Zvon” was one of the good ones.

You’ve probably seen Warren’s work out there; he’s the creator of hundreds of custom virtual baseball cards showcased on a website he called “Baseball Cards Like They Oughta Be” and a terrific Mets fan who professed to be among the throngs who, as teenager, stormed the Shea Stadium grounds following their 1973 playoff victory over Cincinnati. His cards reflected the Topps styles of his youth but covered a wide range of ballplayers, eras and events, frequently bleeding into his other interests in music, history and pop culture, many of which we also shared (Todd Rundgren and the Beatles, for example). His work had a zany, colorful, DIY energy to it; you’d never mistake it for a product of a polished studio, it was far too passionate, personal and funny for that.

I’d come across Warren first as a participant at Crane Pool, where a bunch of us have been good-naturedly enduring the Mets virtually for close to 20 years (please join us!). He was quick with a graphic for any occasion there and though never asked to, invariably created thoughtful and personal cards commemorating events like birthdays. I’m not even scratching the surface of the kind of things he could do. Though I never met him personally– I didn’t even know his last name until today–he was a good kind, wildly creative guy who I found out only this morning passed away earlier this month at age 62. He’d evidently been battling health issues he never talked much about.

Here’s to Warren and the rest of us who find creative ways to turn an often pointless and unsatisfying passion of following a sports team into a way of expressing themselves and enriching the experience for others. Warren’s work said all that and more.

PS– Guillermo Heredia is here. He wears No. 15. Let’s leave the 2020 Mets obituary for another day.

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Bam Bam

Thanks to Faith & Fear’s Greg Prince for pointing out the other day that with Miguel Castro in town and wearing No. 50, the Mets had quietly assigned coach Jeremy Accardo with No. 59. Great, I thought, this solves another mystery–only to discover that seemingly revealed another conflict.

Only this conflict I apparently created on my own.

Apologies if you used my data to order your Hensley Muelens jerseys and shirseys, but the bench coach was and had been listed as 58 since his arrival and not the 59 I mistyped when entering into the database. This was even reflected in our previous posts on the topic, so sorry for overlooking that. We’re up to date!

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King Jeremy the Wicked

I confess not to like seeing Todd Frazier in any uniform with Mets on the front, never mind what’s on the back.  And I don’t mean it that way. What I mean is, I don’t like seeing Todd Frazier hit. His swing has to be the most aesthetically displeasing in the game, perhaps even, the ugliest swing in team history. Leaning over, one handed, I don’t even know how he does that. Can you think of one any worse?

Defensively, Frazier is perfectly easy to watch by the way. I’m surprised as many of you guys are that he’s wearing 33 but as we suspected below, Billy Hamilton was designated for assignment and so I’d expect Frazier to get back 21 soon (I spotted him in the dugout yesterday still wearing 33). Erasmo Ramirez, a journeyman reliever whom I believe was also hanging around in spring training, has been called up and issued No. 43. If and when he appears it Ramirez would be the first Nicaraguan ever to join the Mets.

In the meantime I’m still trying to figure out the implications of Miguel Castro’s issuance of No. 50. The Mets roster still lists pitching strategist Jeremy Accardo as wearing 50 but interestingly, sharp-eyed MBTN reader Chris points out the same roster now lists Jeremy Hefner in 93 and not 53. Did the Jeremys switch up and not tell anyone? Since I’ve rarely actually seen these guys in uniform (they wear, you know, uni pants and undershirts for the most part) I don’t know. For now it interferes with the data.

Robinson Chirinos was not issued 61 but 26, it turns out. You saw Ariel Jurado soil the No. 49 jersey the other day, he’s out now along with Hunter Strickland, again.

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Terrific

Tom Seaver, who led the Mets from laughingstocks to world champions and whose singular pride and in his excellence altered the franchise in profound and sometimes controversial ways, passed away Sept. 1 in California at age 75. No player in team history was as revered or influential as No. 41.

What strikes me about Seaver wasn’t just his remarkable ability but the dedication to that ability. He took a pride in craftsmanship and professionalism as few players did and was mindful and protective of what it meant to be excellent. No player took more pride in being among those selected as Hall of Famers. Seaver was better than most other ballplayers and knew it, worked hard to be sure it stayed that way, and wanted very much to be among others who shared that sentiment. That determination and pride would occasionally land him in controversy, clashing with two generations of club management inadequately prepared to deal with such a player and ultimately altering both the trajectory of Seaver’s career and the franchise’s very fortunes. I wrote about that unusual dynamic here.

So long, Tom Terrific.

 

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