So long, Jason Bay, and sorry it didn't work out. I'm not so certain the agreement to tear up Bay's contract and all its associated evils will necessarily garner the team any more flexibility with regards to the payroll -- he shouldn't settle for a nickel less than his moronic bosses agreed to pay him -- but in the sense it means Someone Else will play left field for the Mets next year, I'm delighted.
And so ends yet another Omar Minaya Free Agent debacle, guys who signed back when the Wilpons were awash in free money and absolutely convinced of the wisdom of paying full retail for Brand-Name Stars. I will always associate Bay with Johan Santana, Francisco Rodriguez, and a lesser extent with Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez, as foreseeable wastes of good money who played their way off the team despite money on the table. (Yeah, Santana earned some of his and still belongs to the organization, but I'm convinced if Sandy Alderson only could, he'd have sent him packing already).
We pointed out numerous times that Bay was a poor fit in the No. 44 jersey, not only because the number itself tends to be a poor one on Mets, but because the whole assignment reeked of forced equity from the start. Bay was not a 44: He was just a guy. We should have paid and treated him like one.
Yes, guys, I know, it's my first post in months, and I apologize for the lengthy funk. Part of the delay had to do with my struggling with a redesign of the site, which remains in need of some engine and bodywork, and part was my running out of ways to make the end of another disappointing season fun and interesting. During the time off I made some progress toward a solution which hopefully will make the site better looking, easier to read (and from my perspective, manage) but it may take some time to get together so be patient. I will endeavor to update when I can and as always am happy to engage in the comments section or via email. I also twitter sometimes at @springer66 but that too tends to come in bursts.
Hope everyone survived the storm, by the way. MBTN Headquarters stayed dry and with power/Internet almost throughout although I know lots of friends and neighbors who didn't.
I'm no more panicy or distressed today than I was weeks ago over this team, just a little disappointed now that it looks like they're headed for another last place finish when 3rd place once looked so attainable. Some insist this demands the end of the Terry Collins Era; I'm of the feeling that Terry would be around until the team is ready to be passed along to the next guy, but it's getting harder to imagine when that day is coming. This team needs a lot of help. So does Terry.
He presided over another bad loss yesterday, as the bullpen, poor defense and a punchless offense wasted a fine debut effort from Collin McHugh, the new No. 36. You might have noticed Robert Carson was back for a spell too.
And you might also have seen this article the other day by hardworking blogger Brian Joura, reviewing the failures of the Mets and Collins as they idiotically pursue "a second lefty" the same way Jerry Manuel wasted so much time and energy on the "8th inning guy" while the rest of the team grew increasingly tight and unable to give the bullpen much of anything to work with in the first place. Why, Joura asked, should a team value narrow platoon advantages over versatility? Where have you gone, Bob Myrick?
As it turned out, Bob Myrick died yesterday of a heart attack at age 59. Myrick, who wore No. 44 for the late-70s Mets, was a lefty who could start or relieve. His splits were radical only in the sense that they basically didn't exist: Joe Torre never once needed to tie his roster in knots in order to shoehorn him into a game. He more or less was an average reliever who happened to throw with his left arm, an almost unheard-of concept today.
Myrick's obituary mentioned first not that he was a former Mets pitcher, but that he was general manager of a family-run building supply business in Hattiesburg, Miss. — his hometown, and also Robert Carson's hometown. It's entirely possible Robert Carson grew up in a home built with lumber Bob Myrick provided.
Never real encouraging when Alex Cora and Washington Nationals manage to win 2 of 3 on your opening homestand. I don't want to kill Terry Collins yet, but seemed it was just common sense in a game you prepared to put away as tidily as possible to be sure the good hands people were on the field in the 8th. Instead, we saw Lucas Duda misjudge a fly ball to contribute to a rally to tie, and a worn-out bullpen eventually give it away in the 11th inning in a disheartening rubber-game loss.
We won't even have the culprits around to boo tomorrow. The conspicuous ones anyway. Duda was optioned to Buffalo after the game and Blaine Boyer, whose relief work and ginger beard have been extremely shaggy since an inspired drive to make the squad this spring, was designated for assignment. Will someone claim him? He's leading his team in saves after all. In their place are two returning relief pitchers: Ryota Igarashi and Jason Isringhausen. This arrangement will give the Mets 13 pitchers and is expected to last until Jason Bay returns.
Let's hope Bay brings some offense with him, because despite a few high-scoring games the Met offense has been largely dysfunctional and could use some more power. In the meantime it will be interesting to see whether Isringhausen arrives wearing 44 or 45. As discussed below, the former has more equity for Izzy than for Bay although it belongs to Bay. Considering his rotten luck, this looks like a great opportunity for Bay to garner some goodwill and change his luck.
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.
Just as we suspected: The Times' David Waldstein with a story we imagined here (sans attribution or access) days before. Jason Bay indeed says he'll surrender No. 44 should Jason Isringhausen makes the squad, acknowledging the digits have more meaning for Izzy than for him. And not for nothing, but doesn't it seem like Bay, beyond his enthusiasm for Isringhusen's chances to make the squad, is practically begging for a good reason to cash in 44 and start fresh? After a year like he had, I would. And no shame: He'd only be another casualty of the No. 44 jersey, which has brought little luck to its Mets' wearers, particularly its outfielders.
Bay, according to the Times "said he would see what other numbers were available if he relinquished No. 44." Let me help you out, Jason: There'd be 45 if you agree to swap with Izzy and 58 (we think) and several of the following group likely to become available as attrition and options play out in coming weeks: 4, 11, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 26, 27, 35, 36, 48 and more. I associate Bay as 38 -- his number with the Pirates -- and as long as guys are swapping I'm sure Chris Capuano wouldn't mind sliding along. I could also see Bay paying tribute to a fellow Canadian athlete with concussion issues, Eric Lindros in No. 88.
Here by the way is the updated Spring Roster.
1 Luis Castillo, 2B
2 Justin Turner, 2B
3 Luis Hernandez, INF
4 Russ Adams, INF
5 David Wright, 3B
6 Nick Evans, OF
7 Jose Reyes, SS
9 Ronny Paulino, C
10 Terry Collins, manager
11 Ruben Tejada, INF
12 Scott Hairston, OF
13 Mike Nickeas, C
15 Carlos Beltran, OF
16 Angel Pagan, OF
18 Ryota Igarashi, P
19 Raul Chavez, C
20 Jason Pridie, OF
21 Lucas Duda, OF
22 Willie Harris, OF
23 Blaine Boyer, P
25 Chin-lung Hu
26 Fernando Martinez, OF
27 Boof Bonser, P
28 Daniel Murphy, 1B-2B-OF
29 Ike Davis, 1B
30 Josh Thole, C
32 Jenrry Mejia, P
33 Taylor Buchholz, P
34 Mike Pelfrey, P
35 Dillon Gee, P
36 Manny Acosta, P
38 Chris Capuano, P
39 Bobby Parnell, P
40 Tim Byrdak, P
43 R.A. Dickey, P
44 Jason Bay, OF
45 Jason Isringhausen, P
46 Oliver Perez, P
47 Taylor Tankersley, P
48 Pat Misch, P
49 Jon Niese, P
50 Mike O'Connor, P
51 Chip Hale, 3rd base Coach
52 Dave Hudgens, hitting coach
53 Mookie Wilson, first base coach
54 Dave Racaniello, Bullpen Catcher
55 Ken Oberkfell, bench coach*
55 Chris Young, P
56 Jon Debus, bullpen coach
57 Johan Santana, P
59 Dan Warthen, pitching coach
61 Tobi Stoner, P
62 Dusty Ryan, C
63 Jordanny Valdespin, INF
64 Josh Stinson, P
65 Zach Lutz, INF
66 Armando Rodriguez, P
67 Manny Alvarez, P
68 Brad Emaus, 2B
69 John Lujan, P
70 Pedro Beato, P
71 Kai Gronauer, C
72 Kirk Nieuwenhuis, OF
75 Francisco Rodriguez, P
77 DJ Carrasco, P
* - Has anyone seen Ken Oberkfell in a jersey?
As if the Mets needed more proof that $15 million and an easy looming option clause aren't necessary requirements to furnish a bullpen this year or next, Jason Isringhausen this week walked in off the street and landed a minor-league contract with the Mets. I'm happy to see Izzy back, even if he's a long shot, because it never hurt anyone to have a Plan B or C with a little experience hanging around, especially one with Met heritage. With No. 44 assigned to Jason Bay, Izzy slipped on a No. 45 jersey and said all the right things about John Franco, but in the event he breaks camp, as unlikely as it seems, it might be best for all parties involved if some jersey swapping occurs.
Let's start with the fact that Izzy's had only one other number in his career -- 29 -- but he gave it up for 44 before he ever appeared in a Mets game. He wore 44 so as to remind himself -- and show others -- that he was a 44th round draft pick. And it's the only number he's worn ever since. Bay on the other hand had zero equity in 44 until traded to the Red Sox -- that episode of his career will look like a blip on his baseball card when it's all over -- and he left that team for the Mets. And if anyone could use a change of fortune it's Bay.
(See Matt's comments below for a counterpoint on Bay).
The Mets don't have a rich history with No. 44: Mike Cameron broke his face. Lastings Milledge didn't know his place. Jason Bay had a terrible year then had a concussion (let's not forget it went in that order). Ron Darling and David Cone and Ryan Thompson and Howard Johnson all switched to wearing something else. It's indicated the very height of pointlessness (Harry Chiti, who was traded for himself, and Jay Bell, who should have been). Four different stiffs wore 44 in 2008 and I've already forgotten each one: Brady Clark, Tony Armas Jr., Eddie Kunz and Brandon Knight. These guys were Mets? Not for nothing but the whole thing Schmelz.
But this June, 44 is going to mean something to us. That's the numerical order of the draft pick the Mets will receive for having lost Pedro Felicano to the Yankees. The Mets have twice picked No. 44 overall in the draft and have yet to have any luck there: They selected outfielder Gary Myers in 1967 and in 2004 took righthander Matthew Durkin, neither of whom ever made the majors. But 44's not a bad spot, having produced stars like Cincinnati's Joey Votto and in 1992, Jon
Leiber Lieber, whom the Royals selected as a compensatory pick for having lost Danny Tartabull to the Yankees.
If the Mets accomplish nothing else in 2011, save for what could be a liquidation sale by the Wilpons, let's vow to make the 44th pick in the draft the kind of player who dominates for a generation. Let's make the Yankee offseason even worse than its already been. Let's claw back at the Yankees. Could we?
The No. 44 pick by the way, will be the second for the Mets in next year's draft: Our first selection will be No. 13 overall. The Mets have had even less success at 13, having had shots at it in 1972, 1976 and 1996 but failing to produce a major leaguer all three times (Richard Bengston, Tom Thurberg and Robert Stratton, respectively). The Mets will also pick 72nd, 102nd, 132nd and so on. To put it some perspective, 2009's first Mets pick was Steven Matz with No. 72 overall, and he's considered at least to have a shot sometime.
Henry Aaron pioneered No. 44 as a number reserved for sluggers, and fellow Hall of Famers Willie McCovey and Reggie Jackson solidified the trend. For the Mets, the 44 jersey has often found its way onto the backs of guys who only think they're power hitters.
There was Jay Payton, who had all the muscle of a power hitter but a delicate frame and a line-drive bat. Ryan Thompson could hit it out of the park in interviews but was never as ferocious at game time. Lastings Milledge and his similarly powerful mouth wore out his welcome in less than two years (and only 11 Met home runs). Mike Cameron slammed 30 home runs in 2004 but his hardest hit as a Met was a gruesome collison with teammate Carlos Beltran in 2005.
What's a Met 44? It's Howard Johnson in May of 1991 switching to No. 44 in an attempt to jump-start his game, only to scurry back to his familiar No. 20 in less than a week when his wife reminded him her jewelry all included the No. 20. It was reserve catcher Harry Chiti, acquired from the Cleveland Indians in 1962 for a player to be named later -- Harry Chiti, and the Mets would get fleeced. It was four different players as recently as 2008, and I can barely remember any of them: Brady Clark, Tony Armas, Eddie Kunz and Brandon Knight. They threaten to join Kevin Lomon and Tom Filer and Bob Rauch, to name three Met pitchers who wore 44 in my fan lifetime and of whom I retain no specific memory whatsoever.
Like everything in Mets history, 44 was good for a stretch in the mid-1980s -- Ron Darling and David Cone each wore it before switching to other unis -- but it wasn't long before 44 was again the domain of guys like Tim Burke and John Cangelosi and Jay Bell, who I still can't believe chose sticking out to the bitter end of the 2003 campaign over retirement, or the Mets for allowing him .
It's into this dysfuctional family that Jason Bay officially arrived in a Met press event today. Bonne chance, Jason! Ya gotta believe!
Today's the day the Mets finally hold their first grip-and-grin session of the off-season, welcoming Jason Bay to Flushing Bay. We'll try to update you on the number he's issued at our first opportunity but I'll bet you a date with Suzyn Waldman he gets 44, which is already being pushed by the merchandisers at Met$.com and happens to be available.
More interesting news may be what else the Mets say at the event today, regarding the catching situation (dare we court Yorvit Torrealba again?) and manuevers to acquire another starting pitcher -- I've long suspected the latter could come via the trade market. But we'll see.
EDIT: 44 it is, or "two times Bobby Orr," as Rod Gilbert said. Whew. No date with Suzyn.
I'd be very surprised if at next week's press conference the Mets don't present Jason Bay with the No. 44 jersey most recently surrendered by Tim Redding. And it looks also like 45 will be distributed to Kelvim Escobar, the Ex-Jay and former Angel whom the Mets signed to a make-good deal after missing most of the last two years with injuries.
Bay to me seems like a solid addition in an otherwise underwhelming field of available players but it's entirely possible that his contract could be a burden over the longer term. He's no Matt Holliday, but Matt Holliday isn't that much better, I don't think. I like the risk on Escobar, who before the arm troubles was a strikeout guy who could start or relieve and who desperately needs a new start.
I'm also okay that these moves have been largely pooh-poohed by the mainstream media who seem to want to punish the Mets for failing to compete behind the moves and roster they advocated last year. I agree with MBTN reader 9th-string catcher who in a below post commented that the theme for 2010 is "no stupid moves" as the Mets rebound from a hugely disappointing 2009 marked not only by a massive rash of injury, but by a smug overestimation of their own ability to compete.