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The Backstop

Articles Focused on the New York Mets. Opinions on the players, the rivalries, the standings and anything else that comes to mind.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


Crash 3:16 share if you still believe this team can weave straw into gold.. Remember in the gloomy years when the Yankees always won & we could never even crack .500? I sat through some lean years.        -You qualify if you remember players like Karim Garcia (as the Right fielder we got instead of Vlad Guerrero,) his buddy & fencing partner Shane Spencer soon to follow. Ricky Gutierrez as our opening day 2b. A guy that was billed as an awesome #5 starter, who they later tried to sell us as a #2 or 3 starter, Steve Tracsel. 2 fun facts about him: 1) He remains 10th on the all time Wins for the Mets with 66. Bartolo Colon his closest competition on the active roster, Jon Neise on the DL is closest among present Mets. (Will be happy in 2-3 years when names like Thor, Harvey, Degrom, Matz & co flood the top of this list leaving only the Doc & Tommy the Terrific Marine remaining.) & 2) He was an active member of the team in 2006 & on full rest when the playoffs started. Yet when the postseason began we found ourselves in dire need for a game 1 starter. Pedro was hurt, Glavine was on way short rest & El Duque was a last minute scratch due to a gluteal injury. Nobody said why but Tracsel was not even on the possession roster. Jon Maine got the ball & stepped up & took game 1 and the clincher.  No reason to my knowledge has ever been given to why he was not available. Nor was he ever part of the team or Baseball again. A secret kept from the great NY Media that remains buried to this day... Boy did I just digress. 

Do the names Kevin Apier, Pat MaHolmes, Braden Looper, Ricco Bronia, Darren Reed, Bobby Jones from the Left, Bobby Jones from the Right, Pat O'Brian, Mike Marshall, Jorge Toca, Tommy Herr (as a Met) Lenny Harris, Lance Johnson (& I am alarmed by how many more I can name.) mean anything to you? Me neither, but I routed for them. Because I believed in my team. Thanks to Men in Black & the 90 subsequent trivia games that asked for Bernard Gilkey's name you likely remember him. Of course if you share my thinking you are still scratching your head asking "How do you have a name like Butch Husky & suck at anything?" 

Those were the lean years that's prominent feature was taking place behind closed doors where a deal was being struck to change the names on the stationary from Doubleday to Wilpon. We suffered for that too. 

If you have read this far you likely have asked yourself this question several times: What if the Wildcard system as presently constituted had been like this for 30 years? 

2015's subtitle was declared "Tears of Joy" Subtitled Until We Saw #33 come up the steps to pitch the 9th... then it was tears of blind "Bring it On Rage" then... just tears. But I would never trade the memory. We were that close but fell short to the team with 7 more games of World Series experience.  Moral victories still ours. 

This year... "The Uniforms that Made a Playoff Run with Outcome Pending" Guys like Seth Lugo or Robert GSelman would be as obscure as names listed above had it not been for this system & the diamonds hidden in the rough of our system. "Noah's Arc" if we make it back to the last dance. & Who knows? 

I always force myself to believe. Last year was impossible even by my most optimistic standards. Yet it happened. 

Next year will be the return of the Beasts, The Horses & The Warriors. For now let's enjoy whatever we get because in the end this is only the second year in a row where we aren't checking next year's free agent class & making pipe dreams for what likely won't happen. At the very least they took us to the end of September again. Did so with a MASH unit. (Mattz now officially done for the year.)  We will remember this season fondly no matter when the clock strikes midnight.  And I ask again... Who knows? Maybe the chariots turn back into pumpkins at the exact time when we start to pick pumpkins.. Mid to late October... I Still Believe. 


Crash 3:16 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Backstop Back At Ya:

I can remember when the trade deadline was like a Mets fans' holiday.

When we could speculate about how much we needed the best player on a small market team and hope we would get him. Sometimes we even did. Mike Bordick & Oliver Perez come to mind a lot sooner than "Mike" who only needs a first name in this circle as far as I am concerned, or Kenny Rogers, who aside from handing the Championship series to Atlanta, did okay I suppose.
I admit to being as guilty as anybody else when I often made the arrogant assumption that as a big market club, it was our right to perform baseball's version of a hostile takeover on the small market teams based on the old "They're not going to be able to afford to sign him long term so they will take what they can get from us mentality."
The natural side effect that came with this mentality is what I like to call "If we keep on stacking the old newspapers until they touch the ceiling, it surely must be worth more then your measly little diamond." Type of rational. Such brilliant thinking had me thinking that a package that included Reese Havens, Francisco Péna, Brad Holt, 2 knock-knock jokes & a song that sang directions to Buffalo should be more than enough to bring back Evan Longoria (who would play first base with neither complaint nor difficulty) and David Pryce... After all, long term they won't be able to...
An extreme example I grant but we all have our imaginary trade scenarios that we secretly think should be able to land us a super hero or 2.

Let's also not forget that the "Small Market" Rays have been to the playoffs 4 times since 2008. The same year we ended the season with our second consecutive last day "impossible" collapse. Now known as the good old days. (I would consider this season a tremendous success if we got to and remained in the playoff picture until September 29th)

Needless to say a lot has changed in Flushing.

Last few years I look at the rumor mills & can't see much of relevance with the Mets involved. Of course a very big reason for that is that we haven't been relevant for a while. The reasons are what they are. I refused to write about baseball for a long time because of the situations not related to baseball that poisoned my team and disgraced my field with the news more worthy of the financial section then sports pages. -See earlier post. I like to read the Wall Street Journal and I like to read WWE magazine. So if I wanted to read about the main event at this year's Summer Slam and got 50 pages on how smart it is to buy Verizon & Comcast in this bullish market based on their long term growth and dividend security I would feel cheated and confused. But I digress. (I do that sometimes)

With that ugly part of our history finally over: Or so we hope and will proceed as such. The Mets are a baseball team again. Making lemonade out of lemons we also no longer have the thinnest farm systems in the country. Since we have pledged to always try to see the positive side of New York's current National League team I would like to point out a historical similarity with the other NY baseball team.

What made the Yankees 1990's-2000's dynasty what it was? Was it team chemistry? Perhaps. All the money they spent? It was definitely a factor. Rivera doing what he does as well as he does for as long as he did? Without a doubt a huge factor. But most people don't remember the #1 reason they were positioned as well as they were. They had an owner that was banned from baseball for more than a year. Fair or not right or wrong is a discussion for another forum. In his absence all employees that had to wear a tie to work were given strict orders. Spend as little as possible. Get rid of as much salary as possible and basically stink up the place until the boss returns. When he did the team had drafted players who would go on to become Jeter, Williams, Posada, Rivera and others. This made the money they eventually went back to spending on a whole lot of icing for a team full of cake.

See the connection? Good. Enough about them and back to Amazin Lane.

So what should the Mets do at the trading deadline this year?
Put it this way. I have heard they have interest in going after Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins and/or Carlos Gonzales of the Rockies. Because (you guessed it) They won't be able to afford to keep them. I am not saying I am against them going after either player by any means.

The NL East is looking like the team that gets the hottest down the stretch could be the team that makes it past 9/29. So there is a chance that despite the awful start they had the surge to be over .500 could land them close to a playoff spot in spite of themselves. (I said possible. I will leave the opinion of likely hood to Crazy Uncle Rich)

Should they trade Marlon Byrd for a prospect or two? This is a tougher question to answer. I have heard from people that are not given "press room" information that he is an amazing teammate and mentor to the younger players. That's hard to replace. His salary makes this decision much more pressing as he will not clear waivers. Only answer I have is that his value should be more than Beltran's was when he was traded to the Giants for Wheeler. Disagree? Look at his stat line compared to Beltran's at this time 2 years ago. Now add about $9 million for the remainder of the season. Then add another wild card team that did not exist then. Still disagree?

-Some will point out a suspension served when he played for another team. I have no opinion other than he has taken responsibility for it and still performed. I am also the last person qualified to cast the first stone. I have never gotten involved in PED's because I was never in the company of anybody in the performance enhancing business. So those shoes don't fit.
If Stanton or Cargo Can Be Got:
Then do it. They are amazing talents that could be tremendous parts of the future. (Like... Oh let's say Paul O'Neil for example.)
But having stayed the course for this long don't deal from weakness. I am not saying to offer nothing more than that aforementioned stack of WallStreet Journals & WWE Magazines. Just don't trade the future Goodens or Strawberry's or Dykstras either. Ironically there is a present Dykstra in Binghamton who I think may be a topic this time next year.

PS: Is this how tagging works?
I think the next Apple IPhone will be cool but I wish I knew it's release date. Sometimes I drink Pepsi, sometimes Arizona Iced Tea. I don't know who Bruno Mars is and I can't wait for the new Star Wars movie now that Disney is making it

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Backstop Back At Ya:First things first. It is easy to think that baseball players or not human beings. We have almost become desensitized living in the fantasy sports era. When Amanda's hurt we are a little too quick to see it as a free roster move and a little too slow to see that athletes are not TV characters.  24 was one of my favorite shows of all-time. I knew that during the finale they were not going to kill off Jack Bauer's character. What would be the point? He had already died four times. So here is hoping that Dillon Gee gets healthy and returns to form first as a person who has to live his life like the rest of us. Only secondarily as a baseball player so he can continue to give good innings.  With that said and my conscience clear I want to talk baseball and reality. As a Met fan I must always assume that if the 2 are ever one in the same, it is likely a stroke of luck, accident, accidental genius or a mild stroke.  But the reality as I see it remains. Our biggest weakness is in the bullpen. So using hour 41-year-old long man to fill the vacancy in the starting rotation seems unwise. (from everything I understand about Miguel Batista, he is quite the multitalented when Renaissance Man who can play the flute, discover the solution to the Energy crisis   By drawing an eight part formula the turns peanut shells into biodegradable Earth friendly gasoline that will only require us to fill our tanks once every hundred thousand miles, while juggling a soccer ball and leaving the Turkish carpet. Which is all great stuff... But we need a starting pitcher who doesn't make are already troubled bullpen weaker.) Now do me one favor. Have a look at Matt Harvey's AAA stats game by game. I understand they don't want to bring him up until they are sure he is ready. But what more can he do in Buffalo without becoming complacent. It is absolutely no secret that the Mets have no intention of treating any blue-chip prospects this year. How would you like to be him and know that there is an open spot in the rotation that he is definitely earned an opportunity to get only to find out that he still has to wait? Worst case scenario finds that he is not ready and returns to AAA with a better idea of what he has to strive for with the experience he gets at the show.  This situation is very time sensitive however. The trade deadline is less than a month away. It's better to know what you have soon than learn what you don't to late. Should a decent #5 starter become available at the right price we don't want to find ourselves wondering if Harvey was the best option all along.  The Backstop says its time open the Matt Harvey book. If it turns out to be a preface or the first of many chapters  we should learn now. Besides, we already have an idea of the best and worst Bautista will give us. How big of a disparity could it be?  At least this way we keep our long man for what he is here for. Mop up duty and the occasional quality start that to me would seem more the exception that proves the rule.  The one thing I would hate to hear is that they would step on Harvey's tail to prevent the arbitration clock from starting to tick. If that is the case then they forfeit the right to ever say "We are right in the thick of the race.  Why isn't anybody coming to see Miguel Bautista start against Steven Stratsburg." They will already have the answer whether they choose to see it or not. Backstop Believes....

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Backstop Back At Ya:  This does not officially end the old Back-Stop's boycott... Yet.  The fact is that I was committed to not writing about the Mets in a negative way.  Good or bad they are my team.  You never quit on your team.   EVER.  (Apply that to wherever it may fit.)
Fact is that I consider the baseball feild sacred.  Hell, I am 38 years old and I still play in the LI Ammeter leagues as a catcher because it has always been a place where I went to figure out my life.  A baseball game is a test run to see what kind of person you are, where, and perhaps most importantly aren't any more regardless of how hard you try to pretend Father Time and Mother Nature aren't telling you that it is time to move on and give somebody else their chance.
There are not too many areas in my life where I think I am qualified to judge what or who belongs anywhere.  I am almost always wrong and I am almost always surprised.  So it is not for me to say who or what does or doesn't belong on, in or around baseball.  A painful reminder of this presented itself to me 3 weeks ago when a 65 year old pitcher struck me out swinging on a low and away slider that just disappeared  the instant before I pulled the trigger.  (The guy was wearing a Yankee uniform too.  Good lord this game will humble you the very second you think you have the upper hand...So is life)
All that said I have been silent in my thoughts about the big league team that I love because I saw things that no matter how I tried to angle my head and pretend I was seeing something other than than what I saw.  So this is just my opinion.  I am sure you will find more critical and more lenient opinions.  I am only qualified to issue mine.
Did I Really See These Things On The Baseball Field?
-If they were not physically on the actual field down in Flushing were they not manifested in some way that found itself to the field?
I think I saw lawyers,  accountants, some guy named Picard, owners of what I am under no illusion to the contrary is at the end of the day, a business declare themselves "Underdogs" going as far as to have T-Shirts made up.  I saw that the word victim which should never ever ever be associated with baseball was almost synonymous with the team I hold the dearest.  I saw a funny name and could not help but apply some of what I like to call Karma's Deductive Reasoning. -If you add the letter "E' to the name Madoff what do you get?  A guy that Made Off with a lot of peoples money.  (These people truly were victims an a terrible injustice was committed.  No disputing that.  I will save my sense of morallity for another blog.  But please don't mistake baseball talk for insensitivity.)
I saw that no matter how much of the time I covered one eye and one ear that there was no way to ignore that these things had found there way onto the field.  Our field.  I could not pretend it hadn't  come to this.
I saw that depending on who you believe the owners of Our Team could have been on the beneficial  end of these dealings or could have been victims themselves.  I saw all these things before anybody took batting practice.  Before anybody hopped on the 7 train before fantasy owners were wondering what Mets could be considered this years sleepers.  I saw all this before I saw a ball, bat or glove.  And I saw as I never wanted to see.  That these things never should have found their way to the park and I felt like the great American sanctuary that is baseball now had real life victims in their path.
Crazy Uncle Rich always says that this team will never be legitimate until their are new owners.  I found myself wondering which one of us was crazy.
Then I saw something that in the grand scheme of life matters little.  Especially with how complicated everything has become.  But it burned all the same.
I saw the most exciting player I ever saw wear a Mets uniform basically forced to take his talents to South Beach.
I am not going to argue with anybody who has opinions of who Jose Reyes is as a citizen.  Or what kind of "human being" he is.  I am only saying what I saw.  On the field I saw a kid who though had occasional ADD lapses simple enjoyed the game he played for a living.  Some called that arrogant, some say he was a showboat, some even went as far as to call him a selfish player and even farther, a selfish person.  I will only issue my opinion.  As an old catcher I know for a fact that the game has a way of policing itself against "showboats".  I will not break the code.  I will just say that there is a rarely used one finger signal that I use if, for example, a batter hits the ball and takes too much time to admire his work.  He would be wise to hope he does not get another at bat.  I will not let anybody  show up my pitchers. (Usually their egos are fragile enough). I won't tolerate a head hunter.  But we know where to put it where it stings just enough to make you second guess you arrogance the next time.
In all the years Reyes was a Met I can't remember a single time where an apposing pitcher even went high & tight to back him off the plate. A show off with no respect for the game could not maintain such safety....Believe me.
The other part which I am not going to get into too much detail about concerns Reyes the human being.
Because of a family tragedy, the discussion of which also has no place on the field, I found myself spending a lot of time at a local hospital for sick children.  Every NY athlete  makes at lease one visit to this hospital a year.  There I heard all I needed to know about Reyes the person.  (Giving credit where it is due I learned the same thing about Carlos Beltran)  I was left with the understanding that the difference between Jose and all the other athletes is found in frequency and genuine heart.  It is my belief based on what I heard (or I grant, perhaps what I wanted to hear) is that he made regular visits to see the kids and did not find it necessary to notify all of the press when he was going.  For that I will always be grateful. Thank You Jose.
But He Is A Marlin Now.  Which means that the money we invested over the years found us in need of a shortstop with the best free agent available already familiar with our team.  I saw that too.  This will be the last I speak of it.
The Mets are now 2 games out of first place in one of the toughest divisions in the game.  The young players (Duda, Thole, Ike-> Eventiually I hope and so on with more to come) are fun to watch. David Wright has regained his status as on of the games elite players (In his walk year. Hmmm.  That is what everybody said about our former Shortstop yet I have yet to hear it yet about Mr. Wright.  Who I love, I am just saying)  So it looks like we will are slowly turning the corner.  Which will leave ownership in good standing to remain owners.  Because I am a sucker for this team I will learn to forgive.  I will be happy enough to see all those ugly complicated things off of my field.
We now enter a new chapter in our history.  Which may not be the Yankees' but at least its ours.  I am 100% on board in support of my team.
I am about to hit "Publish" which will mark the end of the "Dark Days of 2007-2011" as far as I am concerned.  I am not tagging anybody.  I am not committing to going back to wrighting weekly.  I am just ready to turn the page and let it be about baseball again.  May the "complicated stuff"stay outside of the white foul lines once and for all and forever.
Play Ball Already.
The Backstop

Monday, October 4, 2010

I Believed. They Failed. Time to Believe Again.

Okay, at the risk of sounding blasphemous by using a spiritual metaphor, now that we are all true Mets fans, LET US REBUILD.

I suspect that Manuel & Minaya's fate has been decided and likely being handed to them in the form of pink slips or in Omar's case, maybe a re-assignment, as I am writing this.

Jerry is in my opinion a victim of baseball's biggest decision maker. Hard luck. Last year nobody could stay on the field without a death pool on their kneed elbows or lower backs.

This year it was similar but I think we all knew that everything had to go perfect for them to have a shot. So we are clear; Perfect meant that Niese Maine and Pelfrey were competing with Johan Santana for the Cy-Young and the offensive 8 had 2 legitimate MVP candidates with a out performing supporting cast.

None of that happened. Santana didn't even finish the season.

I refused to see that until it was over and stand by my decision for denial. So nothing personal towards Jerry. It is just time for a change.  Nice Guy. Fun Interview. Skin thick enough for New York. These are all Mr. Manuel's assets.  I may question his handling of a pitching staff but if I was on line waiting to buy playoff tickets right now I would be thinking that his precision in dealing with the arms was genius. Again that is not the case. I wish MT. Giggles nothing but the best in his next endeavours.

As to his replacement there should be little speculation as to whom the Backstop's endorsement goes to. I have been calling for the return of Bobby Valentine since the day after they let him go.

My Reasons Why Valentine is the Guy:

1) On the horizon, I see 4 or 5 players, that will likely attempt to play in the states within the next 3 years.  For those who don't have cable, Bobby Valentine is to Japanese baseball what David Hasselhoff is to whatever weird hypnosis has on all of Germany. Baseball's very own Elvis in the far east.

He can not only attract the right players. More importantly perhaps, he can advise the organization on which players to Stratsburg away from.

*Remember that there is precedence for this. At least as far as the stories were shared around the diamond shaped campfire over the years. The story as I understand it suggested that Mr. Valentine, manager of the Mets at the time, went to ownership and told them to sign the then unheard of Ichiro Suzuki. His promise upon retention of his request was a world championship. Days passed. The Wilpons,who had a name bearer in Japan at the time, returned to their manager excited.  They had their guy. They just didn't have their names or talent evaluation in tact.  What I wouldn't give to see the look on Bobby's face when he heard: "We have a surprise for you. Remember when you said that you wanted us to go and get this Ichiro guy? Well we did you one better. We signed Tjyosi Sinjo. They say he is Japan's Derek Jeter... Ha...Now in all fairness, this a valuation was not entirely inaccurate. Sinjo Was there Derek Jeterbut it has nothing to do with his performance on the  baseball field. It had everything to do with his persona off of the field. Like Jeter was at the time he was the sport's version of a matinee idol. I had nothing against him.  He was an okay role player. Good defensive outfielder. Got the occasional big hit. But like so many that we have seen, and been sold on, he was guilty of who he wasn't. He was a far cry from who was requested. Ichiro consequently went on to likely become the only player to make it to the Hall of Fame for both countries. Zambrano was not Kazmir. (Or any of the other aces we could have traded him for in any other deal. Tim Hudson, Roy Oswalt et al) Karin Garcia/Shane Spencer (i.e. The Pee on the Pizza Place Pals) were not Vladimir Guerrero. Here is a good one: Kaz Matzui was not Loui Castillo when he deserved the contract that we eventually gave him when he was no longer worth it and subsequently guilty himself for not being Orlando Hudson. And on And on. Bobby knows the players from wherever they are from.

-He took Mike Piazza and 24 players to be named later to the World Series.

-Finally, there is not a free agent player on the market this year that would bring more to the gate than signing this One Particular Manager.

Breaking News, The Wilpons have just held a press conference. As suspected Jerry Manuel is herby unemployed. Omar Minaya is at minimum no longer in charge of baseball operations.

All I know is that when they brought back Omar after the Phillips/Duquette regime had failed so miserably I would have thought it was palm Sunday. He came as a saviour he is leaving as the goat. Not entirely fair in my opinion. Considering that I can isolate the day that I believe Omar's so called full autonomy was taken from him. The day of the trade deadline in 2007. The first time I have heard of that Mr. Minaya has done nothing at that deadline. By some coincidence that was the same year that they were one player with a deep breath would have put us into the playoffs. That was collapse #1. He has been virtually silent on deadline day ever since.

Nevertheless it is time to move on.

Lets find a way to believe again.

Backstop Believes.