Mets.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
George Steinbrenner loved to tweak the Mets, and folks who worked for him say he drew great pleasure out of the fact that his aggressive pursuit of great players put public pressure on the team in Queens. By the end of Steinbrenner's life, the perception was often that he was the owner who got the job done -- it certainly was more complicated than that, through his three-plus decades as the steward of the Yankees -- and Fred Wilpon was the cheapskate among the New York baseball owners.
Getty ImagesThe one thing people know about the Mets might be that Sandy Alderson can do his job. It keeps getting tougher.
But Wilpon benefited, too, by being naturally cast against Steinbrenner. While Steinbrenner was impetuous, and often a bully, the public image of Wilpon has been, by comparison, as something of a statesman. He is well-spoken, well-groomed, measured in what he says, almost always gracious.
For years, some of the folks who worked for him have chuckled about the image juxtaposition, because behind closed doors, they found his demeanor to be a lot like what Steinbrenner was: anxious, demanding, as easily frustrated as someone obsessed with the hour-to-hour results of a fantasy team. The Mets' front-office meetings have been legendarily long, with circular discussions about how a mediocre talent might be turned into a star.
That part of Wilpon's personality was revealed in Jeffrey Toobin's New Yorker profile -- a side that, right now, might represent the greatest threat to a Mets organization that should be very concerned about diminishing one of its most important assets: general manager Sandy Alderson.
We know, from Wilpon's words, that he isn't going to be investing in Jose Reyes. We know that Wilpon thinks David Wright is not a superstar. We know that Carlos Beltran is worth only 65-70 percent of what he's paid, in the eyes of the owner. It is now taken as a fait accompli in some other front offices that Reyes is going to be traded this summer, and presumably, Beltran will soon be out the door. Whether Wright will want to leave the Mets and find a more stable situation is an open question.
They need to let Sandy do his job. If he gets some space, there is a lot of potential for great things to happen.
" -- a Mets source
But the Mets need Alderson to stay, to demonstrate stability on behalf of an organization that badly needs it. And not only for the remaining Mets fans who still buy tickets to see the games -- in spite of the owner's denigration of the product -- but also for potential investors that Wilpon admits he so desperately needs.
Sources say that some millionaires who expressed interest in buying into the Mets have backed off, partly because their requests for some control over the franchise have been rebuffed. There is great concern, for some potential investors, that buying into the franchise could be like pouring paint down a hole. There is great concern that Fred Wilpon fosters a management structure that does not work.
There are no such doubts about Alderson. He is highly respected for his acumen, and so are the people he's brought into the organization.
But sources say the internal struggle that has gone on for years continues. "They need to let Sandy do his job," said a source. "If he gets some space, there is a lot of potential for great things to happen."
The worst thing that could happen, on the other hand, is for Alderson to be diminished or marginalized, and certainly Wilpon's published comments did not help Alderson or the organization. At the very least, the owner has already gnawed at some of the leverage Alderson has in shopping Reyes. Now nobody believes the Mets would actually consider keeping their shortstop.
What Wilpon should do now is make sure that Alderson is left alone to do his job, as he sees fit, within the budget the Mets give him.
All Wilpon needs to understand the wreckage of his own management of the team is to read Toobin's piece, again.
• By the way: It's interesting that Wilpon would say his shortstop is looking for a Carl Crawford-type of deal, because according to sources, the owner isn't really in a position to know what Reyes wants -- the Mets haven't even engaged him in contract talks.
The Mets' players responded to Wilpon's zingers, as David Waldstein writes. The best comment in the bunch came from Mike Pelfrey, to Waldstein:
"I think guys will be upset," pitcher Mike Pelfrey said. "But we're all a family: ownership, coaches and players. Sometimes people say things they regret. It's a mistake and you learn from it. Maybe next spring when we have our media workshop for the players, Fred can come and sit in on it."
Fred Wilpon passed the buck with his comments, writes Harvey Araton, failing to acknowledge management's failures. The owner just created another distraction, writes David Lennon.
Wilpon was tough on players, but someone else should have been his real target. Mike Vaccaro offers this plea to Fred Wilpon: Sell the team now. The Mets don't know PR, writes Joel Sherman. The Mets and the Madoff case trustee disagree on the definition of cooperation.
Bob Klapisch wonders if Wilpon unwittingly confirmed the player purge to come.
This is how his comments were being perceived in a lot of other front offices: Wilpon just showed the cards of general manager Sandy Alderson to the rest of the table.
• It has been a really awful week for the Oakland Athletics, who saw three of their six best starting pitchers officially go down -- Dallas Braden (surgery), Tyson Ross (oblique) and Brandon McCarthy (arm trouble). Oakland's offense continues to be a problem, and oh by the way, the Athletics apparently are no closer to a resolution on their ballpark issue than they were 26 months ago, when the commissioner's blue-ribbon committee was formed to help resolve the situation. For the record, that's almost a year-and-half longer than it took for the Warren Commission to complete its work.
The frustration that the Oakland relievers feel with how they're handled by manager Bob Geren spilled out of Brian Fuentes after Monday's loss to the Angels, as Joe Stiglich writes; Fuentes blasted Geren, writes John Shea.
As Oakland looks to move pieces, a player who would be in the shop window is Coco Crisp, the veteran outfielder who is in the last year of his deal with the team.
• Speaking of teams that could use an outfielder: The Braves called up Jordan Schafer, at a time when they've placed Nate McLouth and Jason Heyward on the disabled list. Schaefer was hitting .256 in Triple-A, as Carroll Rogers writes.
Total speculation: Crisp would be a natural fit for the Braves, because of his versatility and ability to hit at the top of the lineup.
This is not speculation: What Atlanta would love to do is to get a hitter who could bat leadoff -- like Crisp -- and then slide Martin Prado to the No. 2 or No. 3 spot in the batting order, to create depth.
• The hits just keep on coming for the Reds: Right after Edinson Volquez was shipped to the minors, Bronson Arroyo got hammered. The Reds are trying to figure out what to do with Volquez, as Paul Daugherty writes.
• A scout who saw the Indians' Josh Tomlin last month offered this assessment: "He doesn't have a single average pitch, from what I saw; everything is below average." What he does have, the scout says, is the ability to throw strikes, some moxie, and a great sense of pace.
The Indians again found a way to win, with a lot of help from Asdrubal Cabrera.
• Chase Utley was hitless, but the Phillies' lineup exploded with him back in the lineup. Phil Sheridan suggests that Phillies fans should have some patience.
• Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz both homered in their return to the lineup for the Rangers, but Alexi Ogando was "the man" for Texas. From Daniel Braunstein of ESPN Stats & Information, how Ogando shut out the White Sox:
A) Ogando pounded the zone with his mid-90s fastball. He threw 50 of his 78 (64.1 pct) fastballs in the zone, his highest percentage as a starter. He worked primarily up in the zone, throwing 57 of his 78 fastballs at the belt or above. Hitters were 2-for-18 on at bats ending on a fastball in that location.
B) Ogando stayed out of hitters' counts. He started 1-0 to 13 hitters but went 2-0 to just one of them (9 strikes, 3 balls in play). That's the fewest 2-0 counts he's gone to as a starter.
• Wrote here last week about how some teams believe Anthony Rendon, the Rice infielder, best projects as a second baseman, rather than a third baseman, because of his body type and because of questions about his throwing arm. I've heard similar observations in recent days from other teams -- but all agree that Rendon will be a good hitter in the majors. "He really knows how to hit; he's going to be a good hitter," said one executive. "I don't know if he'll have the pop he's had in college, but he's going to hit."
Dings and dents
1. Grady Sizemore
could be back this week
2. Stephen Strasburg threw off a mound.
3. Adam LaRoche landed on the disabled list.
4. Aaron Cook is making progress in his rehab.
5. Elliot Johnson sprained a knee.
6. Terry Francona dismissed talk of a possible surgery for Daisuke Matsuzaka.
7. Dustin Pedroia is apparently OK.
8. Michael Cuddyer is dealing with a hip strain.
Moves, deals and decision
Jim Crane has passed his latest test, after meeting with Bud Selig
, writes Richard Justice.
2. The Padres demoted Will Venable before their loss Monday, as Bill Center writes.
3. Mitchell Boggs, a closer candidate for the Cardinals earlier this year, has been sent to Triple-A. He will prepare for a possible return as a starting pitcher.
4. The D-Backs activated Melvin Mora.
5. The Braves signed Julio Lugo.
6. Nick Swisher was benched again.
7. Conor Jackson got a start at third base.
You can't stop the Mariners, you can only hope to contain them: They rallied for their sixth consecutive victory
. Eric Wedge's moves came up aces
2. Jose Bautista came up big in the Bronx, as John Lott writes.
3. The Tigers need a boost from the rookies, writes Michael Rosenberg -- and Andy Dirks helped in a big way on Monday.
4. Albert Pujols' homerless streak ended at 119 plate appearances.
5. John Danks remains winless.
6. The Nationals continue to be punchless.
7. The Rays are really struggling for runs these days; they've dropped seven of their last 10.
8. The Dodgers couldn't hold it together, writes Ben Bolch. Kenley Jansen had a meltdown.
9. The Yankees fell apart in a big inning, as Mark Feinsand writes.
10. The Astros won with some ninth-inning heroics.
11. Maybe the most stunning numbers I've seen this morning: The Twins are 15 1/2 games out of first place in the AL Central, and 10 games out in the wild-card standings, after their loss on Monday. Along the way, Jim Thome homered twice, on his march toward 600 for his career.
12. Corey Hart had a really big day.
Rumors.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Boston Red Sox apparently can breathe a sigh of relief after Dustin Pedroia suffered nothing worse than a twisted ankle after slipping on a west second base Monday night in Cleveland, reports ESPNBoston.com.
Manager Terry Francona already was planning on giving Pedroia the night off on Tuesday, so the second baseman is expected back in the lineup Wednesday night against the Indians.
The Red Sox have every reason to play it safe with Pedroia after he broke his left foot last June 25 and was limited to 75 games in 2010.
- Doug Mittler
UPDATE: An MRI on Slowey showed no damage, but manager Ron Gardenhire said Monday that the righthander will not pitch again until he is in a position to start. "We've got to find another way, whether it's Triple-A or whatever," Gardenhire said.
If Slowey is traded, the Twins will be looking to unload his $2.7 million salary for this season.
We speculated throughout spring training how Kevin Slowey, unable to land a job in the rotation, would end up as trade bait for the Minnesota Twins. That could finally happen, but only after a stint in the minor leagues.
Slowey has struggled as a reliever, posting a 4.91 ERA in six appearances, and manager Ron Gardenhire hinted on his radio show Sunday that the righthander could be headed to Triple-A Rochester, where the plan would be to stretch him out as a starter.
La Velle Neal of the Star Tribune writes Monday that if Slowey regains his form at Rochester, the Twins could get a decent player in return. Slowey said in a text message to Neal late Sunday that he believes there's a possibility he'll be traded.
There are no shortage of teams looking for a starter, even if Slowey is not necessarily a top-of-the-rotation guy. That list should include the Yankees and Red Sox, who could have the most to offer in return. Slowey would be a good fit in Boston if Daisuke Matsuzaka is out longer than expected.
- Doug Mittler
The Washington Nationals so far have little to show for their two-year, $16 million investment in free agent Adam LaRoche. Those dividends diminished even more Monday when the first baseman landed on the disabled list.
LaRoche, hitting a paltry .172, will undergo additional tests on his ailing shoulder.
Michael Morse started at first base Monday in Milwaukee and is manager Jim Riggleman's first choice to replace LaRoche, reports Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post.
Alex Cora and Matt Stairs could also see time at first, and Riggleman said Rick Ankiel will start taking groundballs at first base. Maybe a few extra at-bats will help Stairs, who is just 2-for-20 as a pinch hitter.
- Doug Mittler
UPDATE: Sizemore went through a productive workout Monday and manager Manny Acta doesn't think his center fielder will need to go on a rehab assignment, reports Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer. If all goes well, Sizemore could be activated later this week.
For the first time since injuring his knee sliding into third base on May 10, Grady Sizemore took batting practice, reports Dennis Manoloff of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer.
Sizemore will be reevaluated Thursday and could add some more baseball activities to his routine in the days ahead. It doesn't appears as if this injury will keep him out for the long term.
In the meantime, Ezequiel Carrera, called up Friday, can help out in center field and at the top of the order in a pinch, but will likely be sent down once Sizemore is activated, which could come as early as next Thursday, the day Sizemore is to be examined.
- Jason A. Churchill
The Oakland Athletics are doing their best to keep their heads above water after seeing three of their best six pitchers go down -- Dallas Braden, Tyson Ross and Brandon McCarthy.
GM Billy Beane may be looking to deal, and ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney writes in Tuesday's blog that a player who would be in the "shop window" is Coco Crisp, the veteran outfielder who is in the last year of his contract.
Olney speculates that Crisp would be a natural fit for the Braves, because of his versatility and ability to hit at the top of the lineup. With Nate McLouth on the DL, the Braves are expected to try Jordan Schafer in center field for a few weeks.
- Doug Mittler
New York Yankees infielder Eric Chavez, out with a broken toe since early May, tells the Daily News he could return in "two weeks, give or take."
Chavez, who has a history of injuries, was hitting a solid .303 in 17 games before landing on the disabled list. While Chavez can swing a bat, he will not be cleared to run until he undergoes another MRI.
With Jorge Posada continuing to struggle, Chavez could get some at-bats as a designated hitter when he returns.
- Doug Mittler
The San Diego Padres demoted struggling right fielder Will Venable to Triple-A Tucson in a bold move that could have some of his teammates looking over their shoulder.
The roster move was the result of a perfect storm - Venable was hitting .224, was showing few signs of coming around and he had options remaining. Bill Center of the Union Tribune says the decision to demote the franchise's poster boy for homegrown talent was meant as a wakeup call.
"If it can happen to Venable, it can happen to almost anyone on this under-achieving club," Center writes.
Chris Denorfia, who leads the Padres with a .330 batting average, should take over as the regular right fielder at least temporarily. Who could be next out of town? Maybe first baseman Brad Hawpe, who was signed to a one-year deal and is hitting just .233.
- Doug Mittler
A major rift has surfaced in the Oakland bullpen just as Andrew Bailey moves closer to his return from the disabled list.
Interim closer Brian Fuentes had some choice words for manager Bob Geren after Monday's loss to the Angels in which the lefthander faced two hitters in the eighth inning and took his fourth loss in his past four appearances.
Fuentes tells Joe Stiglich of the Bay Area News Group he has "zero" communication with his manager. When asked to describe how he is being used out of the bullpen, Fuentes responded "pretty poorly."
The offseason plan was for Fuentes to serve as a setup man and occasional closer, but those plans are unraveling. The closing opportunities for Fuentes will likely vanish when Bailey, currently on a rehab stint at Triple-A Sacramento, returns.
Fuentes signed a two-year, $12.5 million this past offseason, so it is highly unlikely he would be released this quickly.
- Doug Mittler
It is a question of when and not if the Mariners promote second base phenom Dustin Ackley.
Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com says the promotion "should happen soon," with the Mariners replacing him at Triple-A with his former teammate at North Carolina, Kyle Seager.
Until now, the Mariners, who could use an offensive boost, have been splitting the second base duties between Jack Wilson and Adam Kennedy.
Seager, currently at Double-A Jackson, could end up being stuck behind Ackley in the Seattle system. In his latest SweetSpot blog, ESPN.com's David Schoenfield suggests Seager would fit nicely in a trade that would bring Carlos Beltran to Seattle.
- Doug Mittler
There has been ample speculation that Mets shortstop Jose Reyes would be a nice fit in San Francisco, where veteran Miguel Tejada got off to a slow start at the plate.
Tejada, in case you didn't notice, may not be done after all. Currently playing third base while Pablo Sandoval is on the disabled list, Tejada has 10 hits in his last 28 bats to raise his average to .224. Tejada could be moved back to shortstop when Sandoval returns, replacing the slumping Mike Fontenot.
While Reyes would undoubtedly be a major upgrade at shortstop, Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com writes that the Giants are not about to quit on their $6 million investment in Tejada just six months into the season.
- Doug Mittler
When Carlos Beltran was a coveted prize on the free agent market six years ago, agent Scott Boras made every effort to land a monumental deal with the New York Yankees. That never materialized, and Beltran ended up across town with the New York Mets.
Beltran's contract expires after the season, and the overwhelming consensus gives him no chance of playing in Queens in 2012. Before the Mets and Yankees staged their Subway Series last weekend, Ebenezer Samuel of the Daily News asked if the Bronx could be the next stop for Beltran.
Beltran's value has only accelerated in recent weeks, and his recent three-homer performance against the Rockies turned some heads. The biggest concern has been with a surgically repaired knee, but he has been playing the outfield on a reglar basis in recent weeks.
David Schoenfield of ESPN.com suggests another destination for Beltran clear across the country. In his latest SweetSpot blog, Schoenfield suggests the Mets send Beltran and $5 million to the Mariners for minor league second baseman Kyle Seager. The Mets need a second baseman and Seager is stuck behind Dustin Ackley in the Seattle system.
ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney wrote last week that the Mets may be poised to cash in on Beltran's career revival:
- Doug Mittler
The market for Beltran
"Beltran, eligible for free agency this fall, is making a whopping $18.5 million this year, and it will be interesting to see how his salary plays into other teams' pursuit of him. Last year, only two teams -- the Rangers and the Yankees -- spent $5 million or more in midseason additions. If Beltran were to be traded at midseason without the Mets kicking in any money, then his next team would be on the hook for $9 million.Presumably, the Mets will wind up kicking in some money to offset the salary, but the better that Beltran plays, the better his trade value will be, as one of the very few available position players who could be a difference-maker. New York could wind up getting a decent prospect in return for him if he continues to play this well."
New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon has been remarkably candid over the last few days.
On Monday, a story in the New Yorker contained some brutally honest critiques of some of the Mets marquee players. That was a prelude to this week's Sports Illustrated in which Wilpon says the Mets are "bleeding cash" and could lose as much as $70 million this year. Wilpon adds that the $1 billion lawsuit filed by Irving Picard, the trustee who represents Ponzi scheme artist Bernie Madoff's victims, could cost him ownership of the team if Picard prevails.
The New Yorker article by Jeffrey Toobin chronicles Wilpon's rise to prominence as a baseball owner, but will be remembered more for the criticism of his players.
Wilpon, for example, says shortstop and free-agent-to-be Jose Reyes will not be getting a mega-contract from the Mets and calls third baseman David Wright: "Really good kid. A very good player. Not a superstar." The owner also was critical of the lucrative deal given to outfielder Carlos Beltran.
At the very least, the article could hamper the efforts of the Mets to re-sign Reyes, which already was a questionable proposition at best. Wilpon has a reputation of being a player-friendly owner, an image that could now take a serious hit.
ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney tweets that Wilpon "made a big mistake" by cooperating with the story.
- Doug Mittler
UPDATE: With McLouth still feeling significant discomfort in his left oblique Monday, the Braves placed him on the 15-day disabled list and recalled Jordan Schafer from Triple-A Gwinnett.
MLB.com's Mark Bowman says Schafer will likely serve as Atlanta's center fielder over the next two weeks. It will be another chance for Schafer, who was the starter for the first two months of the 2009 season before a wrist injury curtailed his production.
Right fielder Jayson Werth landed on the 15-day disabled list Sunday. The injury-plagued Atlanta Braves are hoping that center fielder Nate McLouth doesn't join him on the shelf.
McLouth strained his left oblique while checking his swing in the first inning Sunday in Anaheim. David O'Brien of the Atlanta JC says McLouth could land on the DL if his condition isn't improved before Tuesday.
Joe Mather is a possibility to replace McLouth in center, but Mather could be used in right field in place of Heyward. If both starters are sidelined, Mather could end up in center with Wilkin Ramirez or Eric Hinske starting in right.
- Doug Mittler
With Kevin Kouzmanoff on the shelf, Conor Jackson started at third base for the A's Monday, the first such as a pro for the veteran. He played third in college but moved immediately to the outfield upon signing a pro contract.
Jackson may or may not be an option for the A's long term, though leaning against that possibility is likely wise for fantasy players, but keeping an eye on the situation could pay off in the end. Jackson will have to hit to stay in the lineup either way.
Kouzmanoff may not be out too long, anyway, but there appear to be a lack of options in the Athletics' organization. Adrian Cardenas and Eric Sogard could be summoned if Kouz hits the DL.