Saturday, November 06, 2010

Chavez Saga Finally Over in Oakland

To call Eric Chavez a sunk cost doesn't come close to describing how bad the long-term contract Chavez signed with Oakland worked out for the A's. Consider if you will that Chavez earned $44 million of the A's money for the last four years and was able to contribute 292 plate appearances in that time span. Long gone were the days where he was an All Star and perennial in the top 20 in MVP voting. This wasn't exactly like the Barry Zito deal with the Giants. At least Zito was contributing somewhere close to league average on a regular basis. Chavez was able to provide nothing. The nightmare for the A's (and the Fan supposes, for Chavez) was more similar to the Carl Pavano deal the Yankees made several years ago.

This Fan took to calling the player's sunk cost, "The Real Chavez Ravine." Every year, there would be some sort of hope that Chavez would be able to get on the field for the team. But the sad reality is that they were better off when he didn't play. His combined slash line for the last three seasons was .212/.265/.317. But there is more to this story than just the past three years of nothingness. The three seasons prior the last three featured a player who barely mustered league average in his plate appearances and tailed off dramatically in the field. So if you add all that up, that is three years of league average and three years of nothingness (a total of six years) at a cost of $67 million dollars.

From 2001 to 2004, Chavez was a very good player playing on a very good team. He averaged 32 homers a year. Over that span he averaged a 128 OPS+. His best season was 2004 when he finished with a 134 OPS+ and walked 95 times. It was right after that season that his salary went from $5.5 million to $8.5 million and his salary has risen every year since. But he was never again better than league average after 2004.

Many will speculate over the reasons for the timing of his swoon and for the nagging quality of his injuries since. But this Fan won't go there.  But one fact is evidently clear: The A's got hosed on this deal.

But it's finally over. In one of the most overlooked stories of month, the A's declined the 2011 option on Chavez. The A's are finally free and can move on with their strategies without the anchor the contract placed on the team. And finally, the Oakland A's fans have to find something else to gnash their teeth about (not that this writer could blame them).

Don't Write Off Montero as a Catcher

Everybody loves Jesus Montero's bat. But nearly everybody is concerned about how well he can catch. This writer just read a few scouting reports yesterday that stated that Montero will never be good enough to catch in the major leagues. Those of us that have been following this great game for a long time have heard that before.

Just last year, scouting reports also said that Buster Posey will never be a good enough major league catcher. It seems to the Fan that he did pretty darn well after he got called up by the Giants. But there is another and more poignant example. His name was Lawrence "Yogi" Berra. If you read his wonderful biography, no one gave him a chance to be a big league catcher either. He was considered awful. Really awful. But Berra worked with Bill Dickey and others and he worked hard and he became one of the best all around catchers that ever played the game.

It's not like Montero has a dearth of help around the Yankees brass. Tony Pena was one of the best and most underrated catchers that ever played the position. He is the Yankees' bench coach. Joe Girardi himself is a former catcher. The one wild card is how hard Montero is willing to work to make it happen. Berra threw himself at the process and that turned out great. Posey threw himself at the process and that turned out well too. If Montero has enough talent to tattoo a baseball with a bat, he has enough talent to play adequately behind the plate. And if scouting reports can be believed, this guy is going to tattoo the baseball.

And besides, how much worse can he be behind the plate than Posada? Come had to know THAT was coming!

What Will Happen With Prince Fielder?

This writer was going to start this post by asking where Prince Fielder was going to end up. But the question is slightly more complex than that. The bigger question is what will happen with Fielder. The Brewers control him for one more season before he hits free agency in 2012. What will happen in the short term will depend a lot on how the Brewers start the season. If they start out hot and in contention, they will have no choice but to hold on to him similar to what happened in San Diego with Adrian Gonzalez--a name, by the way, that will figure a lot into Fielder's future.

If the Brewers contend this season, then Fielder's free agency candidacy will take a hit if he and Gonzalez hit the market at the same time. Gonzalez is more athletic and a better fielder and gives you the same power package. Fielder walks more but more teams will covet Gonzalez than Fielder because of perception and frankly, because of Fielder's size.

And we might as well talk about Fielder's size. It's a no win topic for a writer as it makes us look like we are biased against overweight people. But the fact is right there in front of us that Fielder looked even bigger this past year than in the year before. Like it or not, that will cause a lot of teams to have concerns on Fielder's long term viability.

Okay, we've determined that if the Brewers are in contention, they are much better with him on board. His 137 OPS+ this past season was below his standards and he has a history of having really great seasons every other year (in other words, he's due this year). His 113 walks are probably even more desirable and productive than his massive power. The Brewers would take a very serious hit to their hopes if they traded him unless they got some real stud in return (which will never happen). But what if the Brewers don't contend?

If the Brewers don't contend, then Fielder will be gone by the trading deadline. Several teams are weak at first base (the Rangers come to mind) and several are weak at DH. If a team needs a big bat to get over the hump and into the playoffs and beyond, Fielder will make a very attractive rental. He's hit for good power in interleague match ups (his batting average is low due to bad luck and a low BABIP) so changing leagues shouldn't be a problem for him.

And that's the big problem for Fielder. Everyone would want him for a season. But very few are going to want to commit to him for three, four or five seasons. His physical presence is simply too scary. The one thing working in his favor is that he will only be 27 after next season and a team would have to figure he would have three or four more years in him anyway.

His position hurts him too. Most teams now defer in large part to baseball analysts who help GMs determine a player's value. A first baseman is considered less valuable than a shortstop or other positions, so a first baseman has to generate all his value with what he can do at the plate. If Fielder has a season like 2009, then he at least is earning a $20 to $25 million season. But if he has a season like 2010 (which was still pretty darn good), his value goes all the way down to about $12-14 million. That's a big swing and 2009 makes inking Fielder a good deal while 2010 other makes it a terrible deal. Fielder isn't much of a first baseman, so...again...he adds no value with his position.

The other problem with his position is that there are so many top ranking sluggers already playing first base around the league. There is Pujols, Adam Dunn, Mark Teixeira, Kevin Youkilis, Ryan Howard, Adrian Gonzalez, Justin Morneau and on and on it goes. It doesn't seem possible that any team will give Fielder and Boras the kind of money they will be seeking.

But there are also teams that crave the kind of OBP that Fielder gives you. He truly is fantastic at walking. A large number of teams now covet On Base Percentage above all else. That is helpful to Fielder. Either way, Fielder is going to sweat it out in 2012 to see if someone will bite the apple and give him the kind of money and time that he will be seeking.

It seems certain that he will not be a Brewer after 2011. As to how long he will be a Brewer in 2011 will all depend on how the Brewers do coming out of the gate.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Another Icon Passes

If you were to ask his writer to construct a mind image of what a manager looks like, sounds like and acts like, this writer would immediately think of Sparky Anderson. Of all the managers that the Fan has witnessed in a lifetime of watching ballgames, Anderson and Ralph Houk came closest to the ideal of what a manager is supposed to be. Managers are supposed to be tough and at times gruff. They are to be feared. But at the same time, there was a pathos that a player felt that made them want to bust their tail for the two men. Both were warm and easy going with the press. Both seemed like the kind of man you'd want for a father.

And to be sure, whenever there is a large family, there will be some of the children who think the dad is an SOB. Just ask David Wells about Joe Torre. But a manager like Anderson goes beyond just being a father figure to his players. He becomes the adopted dad of an entire fan body. He will always be loved as such in Cincinnati and in Detroit. A man like that becomes a signpost that we hang our lives on. And it goes beyond simply the two towns he managed in. Can any serious fan in this country who loves the game of baseball really say they didn't like Sparky Anderson? His life became an extension far beyond his local construct.

Losing Anderson is difficult for some reason. It hurts. Sparky Anderson started his career at the age of 36. Yeah, he was a really young MLB manager. Which seems absurd now because he always seemed sort of gray and wrinkled. But he was just starting out with the Reds when this Fan was in high school. We both had our entire lives ahead of us. With youth comes possibility and an endless tomorrow. But now Anderson is gone and this writer feels that much older. Our baseball father died yesterday. And not only does that sadden this writer to know his crinkly smile will no longer appear on this earth, but it also feels like another blow to the time-marching race life sometimes becomes. See ya, Sparky. Thanks for everything.

Lesson Learned: Don't Be Good in the World Series

sAs the Fan predicted right after the World Series, the Giants declined to pick up the option of Edgar Renteria. In that previous post, Renteria's lack of production the last two years cost the Giants about $16 million of value (he made $18 million and was worth about $2 million). So despite Bruce Bochy's emotional tribute to Renteria being a leader and a great man to be next to in the clubhouse and dugout, the Giants effectively have shown that they don't want Renteria any more. At least not at that price.

Renteria now has something in common with Hideki Matsui. Matsui, you'll remember, was 2009's World Series MVP after single-handedly destroying the Phillies to end that series. A few days later, Brian Cashman cut ties with the DH/LF from Japan. And now a year later, Renteria (often called, "Rent-a-rear" in this Fan's house), the 2010 World Series MVP has felt the same fate. There are no tears in baseball. There is no sentiment. If anyone forgets that baseball is a business, these last two years should cure you of that for life.

So let's peak into 2011's crystal ball. Who will it be next year? The Fan already sees the answer. David Ortiz will have a so-so campaign for the Red Sox but then the Red Sox get to the World Series. David Ortiz hits two homers and a double and drives in six runs in the World Series. A few days later, Epstein will announce that the Red Sox have no interest in David Ortiz for 2012. Book it.

What Was That All About?

The old baseball ticker has been humming with teams either declining to pick up player options for next year or picking them up. David Ortiz got his extension but not a contract. Edgar Renteria became the second straight World Series MVP to be sent packing right after getting the hardware. Adrian Beltre declined his option to become a free agent. And on an on the wheel spins. Just about the strangest story though comes out of Toronto.

This Fan has been quite complimentary so far of the Blue Jays' new general manager.* It seems the new guy has a lot on the ball and he made a fine managerial selection among many of the other moves he has made. But the story today was a little reminder that nobody is perfect.

*(Posnanski asterisk): You will probably notice that this Fan never types the Blue Jays' general manager's name. That's because it's impossible to remember and even if you could remember it, you can't spell it. So, he is either AA or that Blue Jays GM.

It seems that the Rockies traded catcher, Miguel Olivo, to the Blue Jays for the old player to be named later. The Rockies didn't want to pick up Olivo's $2.5 million option. It seems that the market for catchers is pretty soft these days with not a whole lot of money to be made. The only problem with this deal was that the Blue Jays had to pick up Olivo's option before a time deadline. At the last minute, they decided to decline the option and just pay Olivo his $500,000 buyout. Whuh?

So the Blue Jays will lose a player and now they are out $500,000 and ended up with nothing? Do they get a compensation pick? Perhaps. This Fan would imagine that Olivo is a Type B or something which will net the Jays a pick. Okay. The Fan feels a lot better now. So, then. If you boil it all down, the Blue Jays gave up a player and paid $500,000 for a draft pick. Better be a heck of a pick, eh?

**Update: Mr. Neyer wrote today that this was a brilliant move. Well...okay...we'll go with that then.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Twins Like Continuity

Yesterday, the Fan posted on how Mike Scioscia and the Angels keep churning out managerial proteges that end up having success on other teams. It is sort of a present day situation much like Earl Weaver proteges of the past. Perhaps the Red Sox will join that situation as the great Terry Francona has lost a coach to lead the Blue Jays. After posting those thoughts, one of the Fan's favorite commenters (which is probably not a real word) asked why the Twins don't have the same brain drain. It was an excellent question.

Ron Gardenhire has had the same coaching staff for his entire tenure as manager of the Twins. It is truly a remarkable run. Gardy himself succeeded the legendary Tom Kelly. Gardenhire was Kelly's third base coach. And yet, few outside of Minnesota would even know who the Twins' coaches are. They are: Nick Anderson (pitching coach), Joe Vavra (hitting coach), Jerry White (first base coach), Scott Ullger (third base coach), Steve Liddle (bench coach) and Rick Stelmaszek (bullpen coach). Not exactly household names, eh? Only Jerry White had a lengthy playing career and he is the only one of the group without some managing experience in either the minors or in college. The Fan can remember when Gardenhire got the managing job and thought at the time, "Who?" It's no different today.

To this observer, it appears that the Twins value continuity above all else. They are famous for having a solid and consistent value set that is set in place all through their system including the minor leagues. Their instruction and mindset as an organization is legendary. And that seems to be modeled at the major league level. The Fan would also assume that the Twins reward their instructors and their coaches well enough to keep them happy in their places. Plus, they probably build a team mentality above all else and that kind of loyalty is hard to leave when a family is built that all moves together.

No, the Twins are not like the Angels or the Patriots in the NFL who do a fantastic job of turning over their coaching staff regularly and bring in equally competent people. The Twins are all about doing things the Twins way and who can argue with their success. The only knock on the Twins is that they haven't taken their success to the next level to win a championship.

Thanks for the comment, my friend, and it is hoped this somewhat answers your question.

Edwin Rodriguez Retained by the Marlins

Ha! This Fan just loves being right. The Marlins decided to save on the budget (big surprise there, eh?) and retained manager Edwin Rodriguez for the year as their manager. A post here a while back predicted that the Marlins would wait out their current situation until they get in their new ballpark and would retain Rodriguez because he is cost effective. And make no mistake about it, this is a financial and business decision and not a baseball decision.

The thing is, it may work out anyway. This Fan has no disrespect for Rodriguez. He seems like a class act and his players like him. Of course, there was that little problem of leading off Hanley Ramirez for a month and playing Bonifacio far too often down the stretch, but still, he seems like a good guy. But that isn't why it may just work out.

It may work out because the Marlins have quietly been putting more and more talent on the field. Mike Stanton is going to be a monster. Logan Morrison could be a talented and consistent bat. Gaby Sanchez is competent in a Mark Grace kind of way. Coghlin should be back and don't be surprised if Hanley Ramirez doesn't come back and have a monster season.

Say all you want about Hanley Ramirez, but how many of us know how hampered he was in 2010 because of lingering leg issues? Sure, some of his issue is a lack of maturity, but he was immature when he had a monster season in 2009. This observer really feels that his sub par season in 2010 was more about injury than it was about anything else. It said a lot to this Fan that the first call Rodriguez got after the announcement was from Hanley Ramirez who told Rodriguez that both were going to have a great season. Book it.

The Fish will have to figure out their bullpen and will have to decide if Uggla is going to get some money (and hopefully where he should play). But despite Loria's going on the cheap with his manager, this all could work out nicely and this Fan wouldn't be a bit surprised if the Marlins were right in contention in the NL East in 2011

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Boston Red Sox Are Just Plain Smart

While the Yankees made inking Joe Girardi for a multi-year deal (what was the rush?) a priority and Jeter their number two priority, and while the Tampa Bay Rays are figuring out how to stay competitive while slashing payroll, the Boston Red Sox made one of the wisest moves of the off season by signing Curt Young as their new pitching coach. Young will replace John Farrell, who left the Red Sox organization to manage the Toronto Blue Jays.

Both the Yankees and the Red Sox needed pitching coaches. The Yankees have fired Dave Eiland. Curt Young was the best candidate on the market after Oakland inexplicably allowed Young to walk by not increasing their offer to him beyond a year. The Red Sox and Terry Francona knew what they wanted and Young was the top of their list. While the Yankees were splitting attention on other things, the Red Sox pounced and got their man.

Curt Young should be perfect for the Red Sox, a team that will sink or swim with its home grown pitching talent. Lester, Bard, Buchholtz and others will benefit from Young's resume, which can be summed up with Anderson, Braden and the young Oakland A's pitching staff. Young would also be a good guy to get Beckett back on track and would have the type of resume that could make Lackey even better.

Francona is thrilled of course, and who could blame him. He himself alludes to the smartness of the Red Sox' move: “We really caught a break here. We got a really good pitching coach. I’m excited for that. I’m pleased because our expectations are always high, and we got a really good guy for the job.”

It really is no break when the Red Sox management has their heads in the game more than anybody else. Love them or hate them, the Red Sox are really, really smart.

Brewers Make a Bold Move

The Milwaukee Brewers look very smart today. While spurning the chance to sign a big time manager like Bobby Valentine, the Brewers went to the deep well of California Angels' coaches by signing Ron Roenicke as their next manager. While unlike the choice of a team like the Mariners (who signed Wedge as their manager), baseball teams all over seem to be making very clear and logical choices in new field leaders. Farrell was a great hire by the Blue Jays. Fredi Gonzalez is a good choice for the Braves. Mike Quade seems like the right choice for the Cubs and now the Brewers. Why Roenicke, you ask?

Mike Scoscia has become one of the standard bearers for managers in Major League Baseball. He has taken teams with arguably less talent than some of his rivals to the playoffs numerous times in the last decade. Along the way, he has provided his coaches with a solid foundation to go and lead other clubs. Need convincing? Okay, how about Bud Black, who coached for Scioscia and came whisker close to getting to the playoffs in 2010. How about Joe Maddon, the Tampa Bay Rays' manager, who used to coach for Scioscia? Maddon has only become one of the most creative and brilliant managers in baseball right now. And Roenicke has worked more closely with Scioscia than any of them.

Ron Roenicke started as the Angels' third base coach and for the last few years has been their bench coach. As a result, he's been Scioscia's right hand man. Of course, that is no guarantee that Roenicke will succeed. Success as a manager depends on talent, communication and motivational skills times, luck. Players need to stay healthy and others have to perform at their talent level, etc. But if the Fan were a rooter for the Milwaukee Brewers, today would be a pretty exciting day.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

A Word About NFL Ratings Beating the World Series

A lot of people are talking about the regular season NFL games beating the World Series rating head to head on Sunday and Monday night. A syndicated radio program the Fan listens to in the morning called the Bob and Sheri Show (out of North Carolina?) were having a field day with it and saying how boring a World Series it was and who cared. New York fans and blogs were saying that it was because their Yankees weren't in the World Series to draw the attention. To be sure, Boston fans felt the same way. As you have gathered from what the Fan has been hearing for the last couple of days, most of the conversation is far from rational.

So, okay, let's be rational for a minute. Why is it then that MLB can't beat the NFL's ratings even when it is a World Series? Personally, this observer thought the World Series was full of drama, amazing moments, stupendous pitching and breathtakingly clutch performances. The series involved two different teams which added extra interest. Why wouldn't anyone want to watch that? Perhaps the Fan can offer a few hypotheses.

  • If it's not mine, I don't want it. The Fan makes books for a living. Seven of the books this Fan have authored involve showcasing the oldest houses in a town and giving a history of the house and its occupants. The books are beautiful, well researched and mostly well received. But often, one of those town's residents will pick up the book, leaf through it briefly and say, "How come my house isn't in there?" "Well," the Fan stammers, "I did mail out questionnaires to all the house prospects and put an ad in the paper looking for nominations." The book flipper will shrug and say he/she didn't see anything. The big finishing line is: "If my house isn't in there, I don't want the book." Don't they have any pride in their town? Don't they find the history of their neighbors' houses to be interesting? Isn't that what the WS ratings show us? "If MY team isn't playing, I don't care." The networks show different college teams every Saturday. They can't always be the home team right? Anyway, that's one reason.
  • The Networks and MLB have shot themselves in the foot by insisting on prime time games that start at eight in the east. Those games do not get over until midnight or later. People have to work for a living. They aren't going to stay up that late if the previous reason applies. The Fan can remember people skipping out on work and school to gather around the radio or the black and white television to watch the World Series. Televisions were brought into the schools and we watched in assemblies. None of that is possible with how late the games are. Add to that the added length of advertising in between innings and you have a marathon on your hands.
  • The NFL could have been polite and not had any night games the week of the World Series. That would have been a nice gesture. But the NFL isn't nice. Never has been. Plus, if weekend games were played during the day, then you wouldn't have to worry about that. Fox could have put the WS on at 4:00 ET instead of a second football game.
  • The constant changing of networks each year and inferior networks winning rights loses continuity, foists lousy announcers on us and puts the games on stations not everyone in the country frequents. TBS actually did a pretty fair job of covering the playoffs, but how many households don't get TBS? How many people would actually think to find a game on TBS? Fox has had the World Series for a while now. The broadcasts are awful. Simply awful. Even a semi-conscious John Madden was better than Tim McCarver.
  • The gaining perception that baseball games are long and boring. It's bad enough that the print media says that kind of thing all the time, but when the television announcers focus on it, then the perception gets embedded in people's minds. Yeah, games are longer than they used to be. Put commercial breaks back to a minute and that would help. Take away some of the pomp. That would help. But focus on the fact that for all of the hype about the NFL, those games get pretty darn boring too. Touchdown, extra point, commercial, kickoff, commercial. NFL games needlessly drag on for longer than three hours too. And that doesn't include overtime games. Baseball is a beautiful game. Explain it. Celebrate it. Stop knocking it, Media!
  • Lingering doubt about the players due to the PED issues. A lot of people still feel duped and the media has taken delight at tearing those giants that helped bring baseball fans back. Those guys became heroes and brought new fans. Then those fans found out that it nobody liked their heroes anymore. Okay, let's move on to something else.
  • The pace of baseball simply doesn't reflect our society anymore. We are the McDonalds, one-hour drama generation. We want instant gratification and instant results. Baseball no longer fits the way we live.
  • There is a media bias towards largely hyped teams like the Yankees and others. If the media did a better job of hyping all teams, there wouldn't be such a drop of interest.

Those are the rational reasons this Fan can think of. Have we missed any? Either way, it's sad that the MLB and the World Series can't even out rate a regular season football game. But it's the sport the Fan loves. And it's the only game in town.

The Twisted Career of Edgar Renteria

Edgar Renteria has had one of the weirdest careers in history. He's played for six different teams. He's won two gold gloves, had one or two other good fielding years and has not been very good all the other years. He has finished a season over 100 OPS+ five times and has finished under 85 five times. He was one of the best shortstops the Cardinals ever had and is the worst shortstop the Red Sox ever had. He has finished in the top 20 twice for MVP and been an All Star five times. There have been other years where you would never, ever write his name on an All Star ballot. He's led the league in being thrown out stealing (1998) and he's led the league in sacrifice bunts (1997). Both of those distinctions are a baseball analyst's nightmare. But now, eighteen years after he was signed by the Marlins as a 16 year old kid from Columbia and in his fifteenth season--a season to forget mostly--he is now the World Series MVP.

The Giants have paid Edgar Renteria $18 million for the last two years of his services. During the two seasons, he's probably been worth about $2.5 million combined. Up until now, it's probably been their worst deal this side of Barry Zito. But in light of the World Series he just had against the Texas Rangers with a slash line of .412/.444/.765 including two game winning homers and six RBIs and six Runs Scored in just five games, it would be pretty safe to say that the Giants are happy with their investment. But make no mistake about it, no matter how much Bruce Bochy gushed over him at the press conference, Renteria will probably be looking for work next season and he may not get the $8-10 million he's been making for the last six seasons.

But judging by his history, someone will take a chance on him. He'll be playing somewhere. He was a part of the glories of the Florida Marlins' franchise and now the gloriest moment of San Francisco Giants' history. He's created a legend in that city that will never die as long as there are baseball fans. All of which is probably the most improbable of all of the things that have happened this 2010 baseball season.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Game Picks - Finale!

It's over! It turns out there was only one game to be played in November and the Giants won it. Congratulations, San Fran Fans! And congratulations to the Rangers who had a great season.

It seemed fitting that the Fan's final pick was incorrect. Nobody gave the Giants enough credit and they showed us all wrong. What an amazing team they turned out to be.

So now that it's over, the Fan can put this blog feature to bed for the winter and resurrect it when the baseball season starts anew in the spring. It's kind of sad, really. The Fifth Dimension song comes to mind with the lyrics slightly altered:

One less game to ponder
One less pick to try.
One less man to stick up for
and all I do is...cry.

It's been fun, folks. But the horizontally challenged lady has sung at last.

Final Season Tally: 1379-1050 56.8%

Mets' New GM Inherits a Promising Team

Now that the Mets have themselves a new general manager in place, they need a manager. The type of manager they decide to hire will depend on how they intend to rebuild the ball club. If the Mets intend to build from within, then they need a manager who has a history of developing stars out of young players. If they intend to get stronger from without the organization, that would mean a different type of manager. Let's look at where the Mets currently are and make a few observations..

The left side of the infield is seemingly all set. Reyes had a decent bounce back season and held his own. To miss as much time as he did and still hit above league average is a really good sign. He also held his own in the field. With a dearth of good shortstops in the game right now, Reyes is the least of their troubles. The Fan really doesn't like him as a lead off man though. He just doesn't get on base enough. The Mets fared much better in games that Pagan leads off. But we'll get to him in a minute.

David Wright is not a good third baseman. He made 20 errors over there and his defensive metrics don't rate that as a fluke. But his offense certainly came back in a big way in 2010. So there is not much you can do about his defense and just keep plugging him in the line up at third the same way that the Braves put Chipper Jones over there all those years despite his defense. It was great to see Wright bounce back from his initial Citi Field swoon.

The right side of the infield is only half set. Ike Davis had a decent rookie season and should improve upon that with time. He's a really slick fielding first baseman and his power will improve as he gains experience. His On Base Percentage will also improve as he learns the league. An 111 OPS+ for a rookie is a lot better than people realize.

That leaves second base and it's a real problem. Castillo has another year left on his horrible contract. He is not the answer any more, especially since he'll be 35 in 2011. And Joey Cora was even worse filling in for Castillo. If the Mets were smart, neither would play a single game this season for the Mets. But then what? Well, they are going to have to find somebody. Isn't that what Alderson is supposed to do?

The outifield is a puzzle the Mets will need to figure out. Pagan has had a nice couple of years despite not being thought of to be that good a player. He did start to fade in 2010 as the season wore on. Angel Pagan, who has one of the best oxymornic names in baseball history, did play fantastic in the field though. So maybe you do start him in center. Which means that if Carlos Beltran is healthy, he should be moved to right field. Beltran, in his prime, was one of the best center fielders in the game. But he hasn't been in his prime for a couple of years now. If Torii Hunter can move to right, so can Beltran.

Left field was a waste land last year as Jason Bay was a huge bust for the Mets. But what can they do? Bay is signed for multiple years at too much money and nobody will want to take him off the Mets' hands. All the Mets can do is hope that he bounces back offensively and cringe a little inside whenever a ball is hit in his direction. Bay's signing is one of the real albatross fiascoes of the previous regime.

There is great news behind the plate. Josh Thole is terrific! It should excite Mets' fans that they will have a full year of Thole with his excellent defensive peripherals and the fact that he knows what to do with a bat in his hand too. He only struck out once more than he walked in his brief time with the Mets. Thole is a big reason for optimism in 2011.

This Fan is kind of excited about the Mets' rotation with or without Santana. Pelfrey is streaky, but he's growing into a good starter. Jonathan Niese showed flashes of brilliance and should continue to get better. R. A. Dickey seems poised to be the next Niekro/Wakefield. Dillon Gee pitched well despite his K/BB ratios not being anywhere near his minor league numbers. If he can approach the splits that he did in the minors, he could be really good.

To round out the rotation, stick Jenrry Meija in the rotation and leave him there. He looked like he pitched a bit scared last year. But tell him to trust his stuff and throw strikes and he can be fantastic. He's got the best pure stuff in the Mets' organization and he's still growing. He can be an ace if the Mets just show him that he is allowed to fail in the strike zone.

The bullpen was decent in 2010. Parnell was a nice surprise as well as Dessens. And this Fan believes that Fransisco Rodriguez will come back with renewed appreciation for baseball. The Fan fully expects that if K-Rod comes back with renewed fire and better perspective, he can be terrific still. Plus, he will have a manager that won't abuse him the way that Manuel did.

Alderson inherits a situation that wasn't about bad talent. It was just a bad atmosphere. If he hires the right manager, this team has the talent to contend in 2011 and beyond. Oh, and besides that, get rid of Oliver Perez at any cost. Dump him if you can't trade him. He has no business being near this team. But other than that, the New York Mets aren't in bad shape.

Game Picks - Monday: November 1, 2010

November baseball. Yuck. It still doesn't sound right. Yankee fans may be gloating that the WS ratings are way down because they aren't playing, but it doesn't help when the WS has to go head to head with football. It also doesn't help when those of us in the northern half of the country are all bundled up and freezing. All we can think about is the oil bill, never mind the World Series.

But, that was quite a game Bumgarner threw at the Rangers last night. Totally wasn't expecting that. The Fan did expect Hunter to finish early, which did happen. But it was figured that Bumgarner would finish early too and give up a few runs. He most certainly did neither.

Tonight we have a rematch of Lee versus Lincecum. There really are only three outcomes. 1. Lee pitches brilliantly and the Rangers scratch out a run or two off of Lincecum. 2. Lincecum pitches brilliantly and the Giants scratch out a couple of runs off of Lee or, finally, 3. Both pitchers pitch brilliantly and it becomes a bullpen game. The first favors the Rangers, the latter two favors the Giants. So, two out of three should send the pick to the Giants. The Fan's pick?

- The Rangers over the Giants: This is what the Rangers got Lee for. They are home. They are desperate. The Series is going back to the Bay.

Month: 43-34
Season: 1379-1049

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Game Picks - Sunday: October 31, 2010

This picker is still perfect for the World Series. Colby Lewis was terrific and rookie, Mike Moreland, got the thrill of his life by hitting a three-run homer. Superman, Josh Hamilton, also hit one out. Now it is up to Hunter to keep the Rangers in the series. He faces Bumgarner, a very good pitcher in his own right.

And so, to keep the perfect World Series record alive, the pick goes to:

- The Rangers over the Giants: The home team has won every game. Like the right-hander match up against the Giants. The Rangers' bullpen will have to be solid though as this figures to be a bullpen game early.

Month: 43-33
Season: 1379-1048