Tag Archives: Jose Reyes

Three Strikes: Joba Chamberlain, Omar Minaya, and the Mets’ Offensive History

It’s an all-New York edition of “Three Strikes,” as I cover Joba Chamberlain’s season-ending injury, Omar Minaya’s stamp on the 2011 New York Mets, and the Mets’ lackluster offensive history.

Joba Rules, Not Meant to be Broken

Joba Chamberlain never felt a “pop;” he didn’t leave the pitcher’s mound in pain fearing his season was over. But the 25-year-old New York Yankees relief pitcher will undergo Tommy John surgery today for a torn ligament in his right elbow. The news broke last week and came as a shock to Chamberlain and many baseball fans aware of the “Joba Rules.”

“Joba Rules” were restrictions put in place to prevent Chamberlain from getting injured or wearing out his arm early in his career. As a promising prospect, the Yankees were extra cautious with Chamberlain, initially not allowing him to pitch on consecutive days (and making him rest an extra day for every extra inning he pitched).

The Yanks could never make up their minds on whether they viewed Chamberlain as a starter or reliever, but they certainly valued him as an important piece of their pitching staff for years to come.

Of course all of that extra care didn’t do much good, unless you believe that Chamberlain would’ve been injured earlier had the Yanks not coddled him. The point is: injuries can happen at any time. The Washington Nationals tried to protect Stephen Strasburg but it didn’t work, as Strasburg needed Tommy John surgery after just 12 starts last season.

In football or basketball, whenever a player gets hurt in the final minutes of a lopsided contest the fans cry that he shouldn’t have been in the game. This is true to a certain extent—more so in football—but a player could get hurt in the first quarter, or in practice, also.

Teams should not be reckless with their usage of players, particularly young pitchers, but a baseball diamond can’t be baby-proofed. Once a player steps on the field you just have to hope for the best.

Omar Minaya’s 2011 New York Mets

Andy Martino of the New York Daily News recently pointed out the influence of former Mets’ general manager Omar Minaya on this year’s Mets team. Minaya was in charge from 2005-2010, when the Mets acquired Justin Turner, a potential Rookie of the Year candidate; Daniel Murphy (hitting .300); Ruben Tejada, who is hitting .310 and playing an excellent second base; Dillon Gee, who is 7-0; promising young left-handed starter Jonathon Niese; injured slugger Ike Davis; and R.A. Dickey, a steadying force in the rotation. There are others of course, but those are some of the unheralded signings Minaya was responsible for.

I know from experience that Omar Minaya did not like to be looked at while he was the Mets’ GM. (Credit: Wknight94)

Acquiring under-the-radar players was never Minaya’s problem. While in Montreal and later with New York, Minaya had an eye for talent. He was great at signing the Endy Chavezes and Jose Valentins of the world. It was when he was given a blank check by Mets ownership that he showed his weaknesses.

The Red Sox and Yankees spend a lot, but they still aim to spend wisely. Minaya was like a kid in a candy store once he was given seemingly unlimited financial resources, signing one high-priced free agent after another.

Obviously this was never going to happen, but it’s too bad Minaya couldn’t be kept on as a scout of some sort. This is how I felt when Michigan fired Rich Rodriguez as its football coach—it was too bad he couldn’t stay on as the offensive coordinator.

Mets Lackluster Offensive History

Among the all-time Mets offensive records, shortstop Jose Reyes ranks fifth in plate appearances, second in hits, and first in runs scored, triples, and stolen bases. It’s very impressive considering Reyes just celebrated his 28th birthday and hasn’t even played 1,000 games yet.

Reyes’s partner on the left side of the infield, David Wright, is also 28. He ranks seventh in plate appearances, sixth in stolen bases, fourth in home runs and hits, second in runs, and first in doubles.

This speaks to the amazing production of these young stars, but also the unimpressive offensive history of the franchise. Of the seven franchises that started closest to the Mets (all within seven years), all except the San Diego Padres have had more offensive production (the Mets and Padres are also the only two franchises without a no-hitter).

The chart below shows seven franchises, the year of their inaugural season, their career leader in plate appearances (and, in parentheses, the number of players with at least 6,000 plate appearances), their career leader in hits (in parentheses, players with at least 1,000 hits), and their leader in home runs (in parentheses, players with at least 200 home runs).

Team* Inaugural Season Plate Appearances         Hits Home Runs
Angels 1961 8,480 (3) 2,368 (8) 299 (3)
Rangers 1961 6,992 (3) 1,928 (10) 372 (4)
Astros 1962 12,503 (6) 3,060 (12) 449 (4)
Mets 1962 5,997 1,418 (9) 252 (2)
Brewers 1969 12,249 (4) 3,142 (10) 251 (5)
Nationals 1969 7,174 (4) 1,694 (7) 234 (4)
Padres 1969 10,232 3,141 (3) 163
Royals 1969 11,624 (5) 3,154 (8) 317

*Texas Rangers formerly Washington Senators; Houston Astros formerly Houston Colt .45’s; Milwaukee Brewers formerly Seattle Pilots; Washington Nationals formerly Montreal Expos

Until recently, with the emergence of Reyes and Wright, the Mets have not had star hitters in their primes. Mike Piazza, Carlos Beltran, and Carlos Delgado, to name three, had great seasons in New York but had already established themselves as All Stars for other teams. Darryl Strawberry, near the top of the leaderboard in many of the franchise’s offensive categories, had his Mets career cut short. Roberto Alomar and even Willie Mays once called Shea Stadium home but neither wears a Mets hat on their Hall of Fame plaques.

If the Mets re-sign Reyes and Wright, as they certainly should, and these two continue to produce as expected, the Mets’ history books will look a lot better in 10 years.

New York Mets Owner Fred Wilpon Blasts Team

A man shares his thoughts about the Mets during an April 20th game against the Houston Astros at Citi Field. The Mets lost, 4-3, to fall to 5-13 on the season, the franchise’s worst start since 1964. It was their ninth loss in their past 10 games and seventh straight home defeat, the unquestioned low point of the season (so far).

The guy calls the Mets “shitty,” said David Wright—who was in an 0-for-19 slump—is a “very good player” but “not a superstar,” and labeled Carlos Beltran an overpaid shell of his former self.

But this was not Tony from Astoria calling WFAN for a late-night rant. This was not an orange-and-blue-clad loudmouth in section 522. This was not even a Post columnist putting an underachieving team in its place in Thursday’s paper. This was Fred Wilpon, the owner of the New York Mets.

It’s easy to see what Wilpon’s intentions were when he agreed to give Jeffrey Toobin of The New Yorker access for a feature on his financial troubles: the public would be impressed by his rags-to-riches story; it would show he did care about the on-field results; he would gain sympathy regarding the Bernie Madoff situation.

On those fronts, the article was a success. But Wilpon revealed too much of his inner fan, ripping the team that just this past weekend had climbed back to .500 by beating the Yankees, a franchise whose deceased former owner made a habit of calling out his players.

(image: discouraged Mr. Met)
I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of this photo.

That is not to say Wilpon’s comments were out of touch. Many fans would agree with his assessments. Wright is a career .300 hitter capable of 30 home runs and 20 steals, but even if “superstar,” a subjective term, is applied generously it probably excludes the streaky Wright. As I’ve written before, many fans associate Beltran with his Game 7 strikeout, as Wilpon does.

As for Jose Reyes, who Wilpon said has “had everything wrong with him” and therefore won’t be getting a Carl Crawford-esque contract, I have to disagree. Reyes will get a huge contract if he stays healthy this season—it just won’t be from the Mets, apparently.

Will Wilpon’s interview negatively affect the Mets going forward? It can’t help, but anyone who thinks it will make it harder to sign free agents is misinformed (baseball players, 99 percent of the time, care about one thing: money). It’s possible the Mets did lose bargaining power should they explore a trade for Reyes or Beltran, though we’ll likely never know for sure.

The New Yorker article confirmed some of the unflattering beliefs of Mets fans the past few years: Wilpon loves the Dodgers (“All the Dodger stuff [in Citi Field]—that was an error of judgment on my part,” Wilpon said); the Mets are clueless when it comes to media and public relations. But is also portrayed the owner as just another disgruntled fan—albeit a rich one who has more control over the team than he seems to realize.

During that April game against Houston, the Mets trailed by one heading into the ninth when Reyes led off with a single. “I’d have him steal,” Wilpon told Toobin. “We’ve had three blown bunts already tonight. I don’t like bunt here.” Mets manager Terry Collins called for a bunt, which was popped up just in front of the pitcher’s mound and turned into a double play that killed any potential rally.

Like the rest of us watching that game, the Mets owner just wanted to see Reyes steal a base. He knows better than most that he won’t get to see it for much longer.

Mets Should Re-sign Jose Reyes

It’s one of the best things you’ll find at Citi Field. No, I’m not talking about Shake Shack. I’m referring to the moment Jose Reyes rounds first base as an outfielder chases the baseball rolling to the wall. The crowd, just like Reyes, gains momentum as he turns second, where it seems the base propels him forward like a spaceship orbiting the moon. A second later he is diving head first into third, the throw way too late. He gets up on one knee and claps his hands hard and points to the dugout. The crowd sings: Jo-se, Jo-se Jo-se Jo-se, Jooo-seee, Jooo-seee! Long home runs and smooth double plays are fun but this is undoubtedly the most exciting thing that can happen during a Mets game.

The question on a lot of Mets fans’ minds these days is: Will they be able to witness it next season?

It’s a strange thought, and one that would have been laughable just a few years ago. Reyes made his debut in 2003 and showed why he was a highly-regarded prospect, though he was injury prone. In 2005, his first full season in the big leagues, he hit .273, stole 60 bases, and scored 99 runs. The next year he and the Mets blew up. Reyes improved across the board (he hit .300 with 19 homers) and was the catalyst for the best offense in the league. He started the All Star Game and was a legitimate MVP candidate. He signed a contract that kept him in Queens through 2011, and Mets fans figured he and third baseman David Wright would wear blue and orange forever.

The injury concerns that surrounded Reyes at the very start of his career returned the last two years, and the Mets plummeted in the standings. Through 31 games this season (including today’s win over the Giants), Reyes looks like his old self. He is hitting .313 with 11 steals and 19 runs scored. He has thrilled fans with three triples, the most in the league.

But the man who signed Reyes no longer works for the team. Moneyballer Sandy Alderson is the new general manager, a man against the type of long-term contract Reyes will demand. With a history of injuries and a less-than-ideal on-base percentage, will Alderson give the 27-year-old shortstop the $100-million salary he’d likely garner on the free agent market?

I hope so.

For starters, Reyes would be difficult to replace. You could get an average shortstop and a big bat somewhere else to make up the difference in the lineup, but that’s easier said than done. There’s more to it than that, though.

Reyes is a homegrown talent, which means something to fans. They watched him come up, witnessed the highs and lows of his career, and want to see him finish his prime in a Mets uniform. He’s also the most exciting player on the roster and it’s not even close. Wright is a stud, but there’s nothing flashy about his game. Carlos Beltran, who is a near certainty to be with a new team next year (if not this summer), was once a five-tool player, but his bad knee has robbed him of everything but his bat. With Johan Santana on the disabled list indefinitely, no Mets starter is worth the price of admission.

The dirty jersey, perhaps from a dive into third. (Credit: alpineinc)

If the Mets (13-18), currently in last in the National League East, continue to falter and deal Reyes this summer, what reason will fans have to show up at Citi Field?

I was at the ballpark on Tuesday, in the same section as Alderson’s luxury box. I saw Reyes go 3-3 with three walks and a stolen base. I saw him drill one to right field and make the turn at first. This time, he had simply hit the ball too hard, and the outfielder, who was playing deep to begin with, got a great jump and played it off the wall. Reyes eased up and coasted into second with a stand-up double, but just the thought of the triple got the crowd excited.

I turned back, as I did after every Reyes at bat that night, to look at Alderson. I hoped he saw what I see.

Update, 5/27/11: Since Mets owner Fred Wilpon has apparently lost 65-70 percent of both his marbles and money in the past year or so, it doesn’t seem very likely the Mets will re-sign Reyes. Simply put, the cash-strapped Mets don’t appear to have the funds necessary to spend big money on a free agent this offseason. Sadly, Reyes will likely be dealt before the trade deadline.