Brian Costa on K-Rod’s Expensive 2012 Option

Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal writes an excellent piece on how Francisco Rodriguez’s current contract could affect management’s use of him as the closer. Here are the details in a nutshell: if K-Rod finishes 55 games this season, his $17.5M option will automatically kick in. If the Mets try to prevent this relatively easy stipulation from happening, they will most certainly hear it from the players’ union.

Costa offers a solution, writing:

But there is one way the Mets could keep Rodriguez from finishing 55 games while plausibly arguing it is for baseball reasons. They could essentially redefine the role of a closer, from a pitcher who is used almost exclusively in save situations to one that is used in the most important situations in a game.

This strategy is risky because of the aforementioned players’ union, but I think it does make sense. How many times has a game been blown in the 7th or 8th inning by a mediocre pitcher while the best reliever is sitting on the bench? It happens all the time in baseball.

Some closers believe that the 9th inning (or a save opportunity) is a different animal and pitching any other inning doesn’t rev the engine quite the same way. See: Wagner, Billy. However this does not mean that there aren’t more important opportunities in a particular game to use your best relief option.

If Terry Collins is pressured by upper management to use Rodriguez in more important late inning situations, it would be very interesting to see how this affects not only the outcomes of games, but the players’ union as well.

In a time where the Mets are in such financial trouble, wouldn’t it be prudent to investigate an idea like Costa’s? The 2012 buyout clause is $3.5M, which is a small chunk of change compared to the $17.5M owed to him if he finishes 55 games. It would be silly not to entertain the idea.

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Thoughts from Today’s Game vs. Red Sox

Here are some random thoughts:

  • Daniel Murphy looks awkward at second base.
  • Ike Davis has ridiculous power…the fact that Baseball Prospectus thinks he will hit 16 home runs is ridiculous.
  • Jonathon Niese looked pretty good.
  • Josh Thole sounded cerebral during his in-game interview.
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Nick Evans to Start at 3B Today

Courtesy of Adam Rubin’s outstanding Mets Blog at ESPN NY, here is today’s lineup against the Florida Marlins:

Luis Castillo, dh
Angel Pagan, cf
Jason Bay, lf
Nick Evans, 3b
Scott Hairston, rf
Lucas Duda, 1b
Dusty Ryan, c
Justin Turner, 2b
Chin-lung Hu, ss

As you can see, Nick Evans is getting the nod at third base. This may mean that TC is seriously weighing his bench options by checking in on the versatility of Evans. If he can show he has some glove at 3B, that would definitely improve his chances of making this team. (That is not to say that this one game is the deciding factor) I think it is fair to say that Evans is the best power option off the bench, and so having the ability to stick at corner positions could make him the 25th man coming out of Spring Training.

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Carlos Beltran Defers to Angel Pagan in Centerfield

I’ve heard just about every negative thing that has been said about Carlos Beltran. He’s selfish. He’s overrated. He doesn’t care. He doesn’t want to be there. He isn’t clutch.

From my point of view, I don’t think any one of these statements are even close to being true. In yet another way of showing how he is a team player, Carlos Beltran has announced that he will play right field and let the younger Angel Pagan play center.  This early announcement will give both players ample time to prepare for the long season.

That sounds like a selfless, important and great teammate to me. He could have waited until Terry Collins said they were going with Pagan, but he took the decision into his own hands and did what was best for the ball club.

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Nick Evans, the Forgotten Man

Nick Evans burst on the scene a few years ago in memorable fashion, lining three doubles against the Colorado Rockies. It seems he is now a forgotten player. Is he a valuable asset to this team? The answer is yes, if the Mets use Spring Training to hone certain skills.

Currently the Mets starters seem pretty set outside of second base. I am going out on a limb and assuming that Castillo will be gone, and Emaus/Murphy will platoon at second base. That leaves four bench spots (if the Mets carry 12 pitchers). One goes to the backup catcher. One should go to Hu, who can backup both middle infield positions.  That leaves two spots to Harris, Hairston, and Evans. Out of the three, Harris is the most dependable defensive player and the only lefty. He would backup all three outfield positions. Hairston is more versatile than Evans, but Evans has a better bat.

Ideally the Mets would be giving Evans many reps in the corner outfield spots this spring. He would be able to backup all four corner spots and be a big power threat off the bench. Unfortunately he is out of minor league options, and therefore must pass through waivers in order to be sent to the minor leagues. I am guessing he would be claimed by another team. This is why it is important to familiarize Evans with a Mark DeRosa-type role right now, in Spring Training.

If Evans can become comfortable with the corner outfield spots, he could be a very valuable asset to the team. He could give Beltran a day of rest without having to downgrade nearly as much offensively to Harris. David Wright almost never needs a day off, but when he does, Evans could spell him. Against a tough lefty, Ike Davis could take a breather and the Mets could go to battle with a righty heavy lineup.

The power potential off the bench is too great to ignore. Late in a game, the opposing manager knows that a dangerous bat lurks in the other dugout. Having someone like Evans, who tore up AA and AAA last year, would be a great asset to the team’s bench.

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Spring Training Has Arrived

Warm sunshine. Fresh cut grass. Baseballs clapping into gloves. Players fielding grounders and pop flies.

And yet, it is only 40 degrees in New York. Spring Training in Port St. Lucie has finally arrived, and soon enough everything will be under the microscope, if it isn’t already.

Personally, I can’t wait. The story lines of Spring Training are always fascinating. Put aside the financial woes and think about what fans really want to hear about. Take these stories for example, all before the first game.

  • Oliver Perez looks sharp.
  • Brad Emaus, Daniel Murphy, and Luis Castillo battle for second base.
  • Jason Isringhausen returns to his roots.
  • Terry Collins and his intensity.
  • Chris Capuano and Chris Young.
  • Angel Pagan vs. Carlos Beltran in center.
  • Jason Bay’s recovery.
  • Johan Santana – when will he return?
  • The maturation of last year’s rookies – Thole, Davis, and Niese.
  • R.A. Dickey – can he repeat last year’s success?

And more.

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Mike Piazza and Angel Pagan to be Honored Feb. 1st at Thurman Munson Awards

Mike Piazza and Angel Pagan will be in NYC on February 1st to accept Thurman Munson Awards for the charitable contributions to society. Darryl Strawberry was honored last year. Congrats to them, as both are not only great ballplayers, but great people.

Press Release from the Thurman Munson Awards team:

New York, January 11—In the span of just one year, New York Mets outfielder Angel Pagan has achieved great heights both on and off the field. Enjoying a career year in 2010, the native of Puerto Rico will join the likes of Mets iconic catcher Mike Piazza, immortal NBA Hall of Famer Julius Erving, and Yankees All-Star rightfielder Nick Swisher as a Thurman Munson Award honoree at the 31st annual Thurman Munson Awards Dinner on Tuesday night, February 1, at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City.

That’s not to mention Nets all-star point guard Devin Harris and Olympic gold medal-winning figure skater Evan Lysacek, who will round out  this year’s Munson recipients honored by the AHRC New York City Foundation in memory of late, great Yankees catcher and captain.  Yes, Pagan, the Mets Roberto Clemente nominee for community service, is truly keeping great company.

For tickets and information on the Munson Awards Dinner contact 212-249-6188.

Diana Munson, Thurman’s widow, will attend the gala, and has been involved in the benefit since its inception, raising nearly $10 million to assist children and adults who have intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The AHRC New York City Foundation is a not-for-profit organization that supports programs enabling children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to lead richer, more productive lives, including programs of AHRC New York City.  AHRC New York City is one of the largest organizations of its kind, serving 11,000 children and adults who have intellectual and developmental disabilities, including autism, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injuries and other disabilities.

Pagan, 29, is a rising star with the New York Mets, with the 2010 season rating as his strongest to date during a five-year career. An outstanding fielder, Pagan made strides with the bat last season, setting  career highs in hits (168), runs scored (80), home runs (11), RBI (69),and stolen bases (37). The native of Puerto Rico was originally drafted by the Mets in 1999, but reached the majors for the first time in 2006 with the Chicago Cubs. Pagan made an impact off the field for the Mets in 2010, and was the Mets nominee for the 2010 Roberto Clemente Award. He was one of the first Mets to participate in the June “Teammates in the Community Week,” planting new trees in community gardens in Spanish Harlem. Pagan also proudly supports City Harvest, food and rescue organization dedicated to feeding New York City’s hungry men, women and children. He hit the streets of Manhattan this year to raise awareness for City Harvest’s Skip Lunch Fight Hunger campaign and has visited Hour Children Food Pantry in Long Island City to help distribute more than 1,000 pounds of food to needy families during the busy holiday season.

A great catcher in Mets history will receive an honor remembering an iconic backstop in Yankees lore when Mike Piazza accepts the Thurman Munson Award on February 1 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City. Piazza, 42, may have been the top offensive catcher of all time. A .308 career hitter with 427 home runs and 1,335 RBIs, Piazza played for 16 seasons, including an eight-year stretch with the New York Mets following a three-team trade from the Dodgers via the Marlins. The 1993 Rookie of the Year, and a 12-time National League All Star selection, Piazza was peerless amongst catchers with the bat during his career, and the Norristown, Pennsylvania native is the all-time leader in homers for a backstop. In a career filled with big home runs, Piazza’s most memorable long-ball was a go-ahead two-run shot off of Atlanta Braves’ reliever Steve Karsay in the first game back in New York following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The popular Met also contributed to the team’s 2000 World Series appearance by hitting 2 key homers in wins over the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS. Piazza participates in Michael Jordan’s Make-A-Wish charity golf and softball events, and has worked closely with Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.)

Swisher, 30, who helped lead the Yankees to the 2009 World Series title, enjoyed his first All-Star season in 2010, hitting .288 with 29 home runs and 89 RBI as the club’s primary right fielder.  Among his many charitable endeavors, he established the Nick Swisher Foundation “Swish’s Wishes” in 2007 to assist children with life-threatening illnesses and to help lift the spirits of kids going through difficult times.  In 2009, Swisher provided Christmas dinner for the families of children battling cancer at the Ronald McDonald House in New York and was the co-Ambassador to the Entertainment Industry Foundation’s Lee Denim Day to help raise money for breast cancer research.

Harris, 27, has become the Nets’ on court and off the court leader since his arrival to New Jersey in a blockbuster trade during the 2007-08 season. During his first full year with the team, Harris established new career highs in points-per-game (21.3) and assists-per-game (6.9) en route to his first All Star selection. The former University of Wisconsin star was drafted in the 1st round by the Dallas Mavericks, and came to the Nets in the Jason Kidd trade.  The 2009 NBA All-Star will be cited for his on court excellence and community service, which include his and the Nets donation to the “Eric LeGrand Believe Fund” in an effort to raise funds and awareness of the injured Rutgers football player’s injury, through Devin’s “34 Ways to Assist Foundation.”

Lysacek, 25, became the USA’s surprise star of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, winning a gold medal in the men’s singles figure skating competition, upending the favored Evgeni Plushenko of Russia. The Illinois native became the USA’s first man to win in this category since Brian Boitano in 1988. Also placing first in the 2008-09 World Championships, as well as winning back-to-back US World Titles in 2006-07 and 2008-09, Lysacek holds the #1 ranking in the world by the International Skating Union. He is a member of the board of Figure Skating in Harlem, which teaches girls academic and life skills through ice skating, and serves on the celebrity board of Ronald McDonald House Charities, which aims to improve the health and well-being of children.

The  list of notable athletes to previously receive the Munson Award reads like a sports “Who’s Who,” and includes: Yankees – Yogi Berra, Don Mattingly, Mariano Rivera, Willie Randolph, Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, Robby Cano,  Bernie Williams, Bobby Murcer,  Joe Torre and Joe Girardi; Mets – Tom Seaver, John Franco, Darryl Strawberry, Ron Darling, David Wright, Carlos Beltran,  Keith Hernandez, Rusty Staub and Gary Carter; Basketball – Willis Reed, Oscar Robertson, Jason Kidd, Dave DeBusschere,  Patrick Ewing, Walt Frazier, Earl Monroe, Mark Jackson, Charles Oakley, Allan Houston and John Starks; Olympians – Donna de Varona (swimming), Dorothy Hamill (figure-skating), Paul Hamm (gymnast), Kristi Yamaguchi (figure skating), Nancy Kerrigan (figure skating), Carl Lewis (track and field), Carly Patterson (gymnast), and Dwight Stones (men’s high jump).

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