It was only an hour or so after the news that the Mets had swapped for Alex Torres that it was announced they’d traded Matt den Dekker to Washington for a true lefty specialist, Jerry Blevins. This appeared to put the Torres acquisition in perspective as a more general bullpen depth addition which given the shaky health of Bobby Parnell and Vic Black — not to mention the performance of Jennry Mejia over the last six months (you could look it up, but don’t) — seemed to make sense.
Despite it reminding me more of Billy Wagner than I want to be reminded, Blevins can step right into the No. 13 jersey which has been unissued since Josh Satin took it off a year ago. Just as significantly, the trade reopens No. 6, to which den Dekker brought relative stability, having held it down since July of 2013. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see No. 6 next on the back of Daniel Muno, the presumptive middle infielder if Daniel Murphy can’t make the squad.
From a baseball point of view I liked den Dekker but it was obvious his opportunity to be significant in New York was receding as Juan Lagares’s star was rising and other than the luxury of a decent reserve in AAA, he’s better off getting a chance to play. As for Blevins, the numbers suggest he’s a terrific lefty-killer and will be called to demonstrate as much vs. Bryce Harper and Freddy Freeman. His arrival makes me wonder how the Nats will manage to retire Granderson or Duda when they need to.
Rarely in Met history has a player gone from promising prospect to yesterday’s news faster than Eddie Kunz. If only his fastball had such velocity.
You might recall Kunz was the Mets’ first draft pick in 2007, No. 42 overall, back when Omar Minaya’s draft strategy was about gathering in relievers who’d make quick ascension to the big leagues: Chad Cordero and Joe Smith, for example. Kunz was a hulking dude with a big chin and a hard slider, and everything looked quite promising for him as he settled in a closer for Class AA Binghamton in his first year as a pro. His arrival on the Mets came in August of 2008, just as the bullpen crisis that eventually would ruin them began with Billy Wagner’s unavailability. Kunz was up for a little more than two weeks, then reassigned to AAA New Orleans after his first big-league 9th inning — protecting a 7-1 lead against Pittsburgh, turned hairy.
Had the Mets soured on Kunz already? They issued his uniform number (44) less than two weeks later to Brandon Knight. They didn’t bother to ask him back in September, even as they tried just about anyone with an arm to pitch in. The offseason saw Tim Redding get 44. Kunz toiled in the minors ever since, eventually losing his spot on the 40-man roster and yesterday, was traded to San Diego for Allan Dykstra, a first baseman who like Kunz, was a former high draft choice languishing in the minors.
As mentioned previously, 44 has lately become something of a cursed number for the Mets: Just when I was getting some confidence to go to war with this group, down went Jason Bay. He hadn’t yet surrendered the number to Jason Isringhausen, who on Wednesday said he’d agree to a two-week stay in extended spring training but may never make it up.
Amazin Tuesday Returns: On Tuesday, April 5 — that’s next Tuesday — I’ll be getting together with Matthew Silverman and other writers and Mets fans for a game-viewing party and gathering at the Pine Restaurant at the Holiday Inn LaGuardia in Corona: That’s the former Bobby Vee’s on 114th Street. We’ll have the Mets-Braves game on TV from Atlanta along with food, drinks, readings and more.
Billy Wagner is back again with the Mets but hopefully only long enough to make a deal to get him out of my sight for good. I’m especially hoping that Omar manages to swap him to the Yankees or Phillies, both of which need a lefty in the pen and deserve the kind of rotten fate a jerk like Wagner seems to bring along with his fiery fastball.
Activating Wagner meant the Mets today released Livan Hernandez, who certainly seemed to have lost a grip on things lately but still seems a curious choice for unemployment with Tim Redding getting another astonishing stay of execution.
Has any Met free agent pitcher in their history performed as badly as Redding this year and gotten so little credit for it? It’s taken season-ending injuries to three different starting pitchers to save him thus far, and he’s still not been reinserted to the rotation. (Turns out, he has: He’s going to take Livan’s start on Saturday).
Anyway, so long No. 61. I thought you were OK. Hello, Billy. Don’t unpack too much.
It should come as no surprise to regular readers that I’m rather indifferent to the news that Billy Wagner will miss the remainder of this season, and all of next, with elbow surgery. You needn’t twist my arm to convince me that having a healthy Wagner is better than not, especially as we reach the homestretch with a 1.5 game lead, but I certainly have enjoyed seeing the team rally around this supposed weakness and the results (22-11 since his assignment to the disabled list Aug. 2) say we’ll be just fine. To be perfectly honest I dreaded the alternative of Wagner’s return this week every bit as much as I bemoan the fact that he’s not coming back. It’s forced everyone to sack up a little and revealed potential heroes like Luis Ayala and Brian Stokes. Even Pedro Feliciano has performed in ways that don’t make me want to strangle him lately.
I’m less convinced this event teaches the Mets anything, even if it would be cool if it did. They blamed the strategy, not the injury, when Braden Looper didn’t work out: Wagner wouldn’t have been here otherwise. As for Wagner, while I respect his ability and will to win, I always felt he was here for Wagner more than he was for me. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But by the point in his career he arrived in New York, he was as much about burnishing his stats and Q rating for what looked to be shaping up as an interesting Hall of Fame debate, than he was about being a Met. A big contract with an ironclad no-trade clause took that worry off his mind and allowed him to speak maybe too freely of his teammates and management.
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One thing I forgot to mention while recounting the new arrivals and their uni numbers was this weird factoid: Gustavo Molina‘s return represents a fifth issue of the No. 29 jersey this year. It started on the back of Jorge Sosa who was released in May. In June, it went to Chris Aguila, then to Andy Phillips as he flipped in and flopped out. Aguila took it back again in July for a second visit, and here it is back with Molina.
Wanna see a Mets game before they tear down Big Shea? Matt Silverman says he still has a few leftover tixx for the Sept.24 game in the Picnic Area. Contact Matt and join a distinguished group of diehards. Who knows? We could clinch that day. Maybe.
Yesterday it was Dan Murphy, indeed subing for injured Marlon Anderson and slipping in the No. 28 jersey that just came out of Brandon Knight‘s wash. Now today, following a shameful performance from Billy Wagner, it’s Class AA reliever Eddie Kunz set to make his Mets debut.
Kunz, according to the roster posted at Mets.com, will wear No. 44 and take the roster slot of John Maine, who, not surprisingly, has been placed on the disabled list (in Mets Medicalese, “strain” means “tear,” “slight” means “life-threatening” and “day-to-day” means “Hospital for Special Surgery.”) Word is Wagner in the meantime is to have an MRI to explore the left arm that’s been killing the season. This all could mean “Crazy Eddie” (I just made up that nickname but for a 6-foot-5, 265-pound closer-to-be in New York, it’s poifict) is the closer for today, I don’t know. In accordance with the post below, looks like Jon Niese is next.
I don’t want to pretend I saw this day coming years ago but I always thought the Mets took the coward’s way out when, faced with the task of choosing a new closer they simply threw the most money at the biggest name out there and considered it done.
It was after all the most defensible position they could have taken. Having a Brand Name out there in the bullpen takes a lot of pressure off the manager by avoiding the kind of Quarterback Controversy the so-called bullpen-by-committee invites; and it certainly fits the bill for a Win Now team, which the Mets are forever convinced they are.
With that said, in a matter of taste I’d have preferred to see them try something a little more creative. They certainly could have handed the closer’s role to Aaron Heilman and saw what happened. Braden Looper should have taught them that anyone with a decent arm can fake it as a closer, as he did in 2004; instead they got spooked by Looper’s rotten 2005 – injury related of course – and went out and gave way too much job security to Billy Wagner, who, it should be noted wore out his welcome with two previous employers and continues to talk like a player confident he’ll outlast his manager.
And he will!
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I’ve tried to be modest about begging you to buy the book based on the website but I shouldn’t turn down the opportunity to let you know you can get a free one.
That said if you haven’t picked up a copy of MBTN for your Dad yet what are you waiting for. Do what Neil Best tells you to do!
The sudden and shattering unavailability of Billy Wagner 13 the other night, not to mention weeks of white-knuckle performance from the other guys in the bullpen, prompted the club to reach down and call up Carlos Muniz, who’d been most recently closing games for Class AA Binghamton. Muniz, likely to be tucked deeper in the drawer than even Phillip Humber 49, was issued No. 38, according to the roster at Mets.com. If he gets into a game he’ll be the 28th 38 in team history and the first since Victor Zambrano. Bullpen candidate Steve Schmoll wore 38 during spring training this season but he seems to have gone missing.
Muniz whiffed 66 guys in 64+ innings in AA and AAA this season, posting 23 saves and a 2.24 ERA. “If we need him, we’ll use him,” sez Willie. Just might.
Just great to see former Met Edgardo Alfonzo rescued from the indignities of independent league ball and given another shot by the Mets at AAA Norfolk, isn’t it? While a minor league contract for the (alleged) 32-year-old infielder, released by two other organizations already this year, may not amount to much, we can’t help but get ahead of ourselves and recall the warm fuzzies of Lee Mazzilli’sheartwarming return to the organization he gave the best years of his life to, and just in time for the postseason he might have deserved but never smelled. While Fonzie knows from playoffs, his departure from New York after the 2002 season never sat well with good fans like us, even if we’ll admit under torture that it might have come at the right moment considering the direction his career — and the Met fortunes — would go since then. But as a right-handed bat on the bench? We’ll sign up for that, if and when the need arises.
And let’s suppose it does. Would Billy Wagner surrender No. 13? Or is he the jerk his former teammates say he is? Ironically, the Mets faced a similar quandary when Mazzilli returned 20 years ago: His familiar No. 16 at that point of course belonged to Dwight Gooden, so he foretold the future glories of Edgardo Alfonzo and suited up in 13. Wagner of course is no Doc.
Saturday’s disaster in Chicago resulted in a quick demotion for hard-throwing reliever Henry Owens 36. Taking his place in the bullpen is Heath Bell 19, recalled from Norfolk for the third time this season.
Hours after introducing new Met first baseman Carlos Delgado the Mets rolled out the podium to introduce new closer Billy Wagner, reeled in on a four-year contract by free-spending Met GM Omar Minaya. Wagner will wear his customary No. 13 jersey, most recently worn by Brian Daubach and more famously by infielder Edgardo Alfonzo and early-80s closer Neil Allen.
Delgado suiting up in 21, by the way, is actually a return to his original Blue Jays uniform and proves he’s a bigger man than Roger Clemens or Paul O’Neill, which granted, aren’t hard things to do. But as pointed out by MBTN reader Steve, Delgado took 25 only after Clemens arrived in Toronto in 1997. By contrast, O’Neill refused to surrender 21 when his jerkoff teammate arrived at Yankee Stadium in ’99. We sure like Delgado so far.