Thursday, July 30, 2015

July Fools Day, Gomez to Mets deal Blows Up

Only the Mets can turn a trade into a total back-page farce.

Last night word got out that the Mets and Milwaukee Brewers had a trade in place that would have sent Wilmur Flores and Zach Wheeler to the Brew Crew for outfielder Carlos Gomez. The Mets had been rumored for a while in this trade market to be in search of a "big bat" and they believed that Gomez was their guy.

Gomez was told by his teammates that the deal was done. Flores found out and started crying on the field -- then the rug was pulled out from underneath everyone thanks in part to the Mets unwillingness to let the deal go through.

Initially there was a belief that the Brewers had concerns about Wheeler who is coming off Tommy Johns Surgery and is out for the entire 2015 season. Wheelers isn't even expected back until mid-season of next year. However reports have contradicted that notion, and the Brewers had no concerns with Wheeler whatsoever.

The Mets themselves are the ones who pulled the plug on the deal and in embarrassing fashion too. The Mets got out of the deal because they had concerns about Gomez's hip. However both Gomez's agent Scott Boras, and Brewers General Manager Doug melvin reiterated that Gomez is healthy and had no hip injury. The Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentential later reported that the Mets backed out because of finances --- what else is new regarding the Mets.

The Sentential said "The Mets wanted the Brewers to take centerfielder Juan Lagares in the trade. The Brewers said no, in part because Lagares has an elbow issue but also because he has a four-year, $23 million contract extension that kicks in next year and they didn't want to pick up the money.

"So, after further talks, it was decided that the Brewers would take Flores in addition to Wheeler, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery and won't be able to pitch before next June. The source said the Mets then asked the Brewers to throw in the 2016 Competitive Balance Round B pick they were recently awarded and the Brewers said no.

"The source said the Brewers then were asked to put some money in the trade to cover part of what's remaining on Gomez's contract, including a $9 million salary next year. Considering the talent level of Gomez and his reasonable contract, the Brewers understandably declined to put any cash into the deal." (MWJS 7/29/15)

So the Mets were basically trying to get rid of Lagares -- a horrific signing the Mets made before the season, when they agreed to shell out $23 million to a guy who hadn't proved he could be an everyday center fielder to be just that, buying into the ridiculous hype machine they created around the kid.

So the Mets low-balled and asked for money in return and the Brewers said no. Good for them.

What makes matters worse is the fact the Mets embarassed Flores. The kid was on the field when he found out from fans and teammates that something had gone down, and the poor guy started crying on the field. Even manager Terry Collins didn't even know what was going on, and admitted that it was the most bizarre thing he ever saw in a ball park.

"Someone came to me: 'Wilmer's crying,'" Collins said. "There was nothing I knew about. Why would I take him out of the game?"

Alderson reportedly apologized to Flores, but the damage is done. This kid is going to be lost mentally. Howe is Flores expected to play for this franchise now after they botched a deal to get him out of town? Flores trade value is now dwindled and anyone wanting to deal with the Mets now, might be hesitant after this PR disaster. Not to mention why would the Mets even think that Carlos Gomez was an upgrade to begin with?

Gomez was a Met several years ago, and was dealt to Minnesota in the Johan Santana deal. Hhe's had a mediocre career ever since with only a couple big years in Milwaukee the past two years. This year Gomez has come crashing back to earth with a .262 batting average, eight home runs and 43 RBI. He's not the "Big Bat" that would make a difference for the Mets slim playoff chances to begin with.

Also, if you are the Brewers, why would you take on the contract of a pitcher who isn't going to pitch until mid-season of next year? Talk about ridiculous. The fact the Brewers were willing to take Wheeler off an injury is silly to being with.

This is a total PR farce for the Mets. They have succeeded in making a mockery of the trade deadline all because they and the Brewers allowed word to get out before anything was complete. Blame social media all you want, I blame the teams themselves.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Mets acquire Clippard from Oakland A's

The suddenly wheeling and dealing New York Mets have made another move, four days before the non-waiver trade deadline. The Mets acquired right handed reliever Tyler Clippard from the Oakland A's for minor leaguer Casey Meisner.

Clippard is another cost saving acquisition for the Mets, since he will be a free agent after this season, and is due to make $3.1 million the rest of this year. Clippard is 1-3 with a 2.79 ERA and 17 saves this year. He automatically becomes the Mets set-up man behind closer Jeurys Familia.  Currently the Mets back-end of the bullpen comprises of Jenrry Mejia who is ineligible for the postseason, and unreliable Bobby Parnell, who had a typical Parnell implosion in a big spot a couple outings ago.

Clippard gives the Mets that veteran reliever they hoped to have when they acquired Jerry Blevins from Washington, only to see Blevins hit the DL. He has not returned since the start of the year. As a former National, Clippard might find some added motivation to beat his old team, since the Mets are only two back of Washington for first place in the NL East.

This is the same Tyler Clippard who began his career with the Yankees and never caught on with the Bombers before they dealt him to Washington in 2008.

The Mets will be Clippard's fourth team at age 30.

Now the question will be whether the Mets can get a big outfield bat to get the team over the hump.

NFL Training Camp Begins, Top Headlines

While Major League Baseball is grabbing plenty of headlines, rumors and Twitter space, the NFL is slowly kicking off the 2015 season in training camp this week. All 32 teams are reporting to their respective camps as you read this, and with it, renewed excitement comes with the dawn of a new season.

The 2015 NFL season begins with plenty of headlines that are sure to soak up all the summer sunlight as two-a-days and pre-season games get closer. Let's look at some of the major topics.

1) Tom Brady vs. the NFL: In what has to be the biggest example of "dragging your feet," the NFL, Players Association and Brady's representatives have been talking about a potential settlement on the quarterback's appeal of a four-game ban for deflating footballs in last winter's AFC Championship game with little to no success. There are a lot of moving pieces in this case, from Commissioner Roger Goodell hearing the appeal in spite of backlash from the NFLPA and a few NFL folks that he had a conflict of interest, to the fear that Brady will take "Deflate-Gate" to Federal Court.

Several news sources have confirmed that a reduction in the suspension could still come down, although it is unlikely. Many believe that Goodell will stand firm on the four game suspension that was levied on Brady in April. Brady's people might be willing to admit to failure to comply in the investigation for a fine, but with no suspension.

If Brady does take this to Federal Court it could open up the possibility that the quarterback plays opening night against the Steelers, while a Federal Judge reviews the case. If a judge were to uphold the suspension, Brady would have to serve that suspension at some point this season.

2) New Deflate-Gate Rule: In lite of this ongoing legal battle between the Patriots quarterback and the NFL, the league released a new rules regarding the inflation of footballs.

"According to FOX Sports’ Mike Pereira — a former NFL vice president of officiating — some of the rule changes include two officials designated “to conduct a pregame inspection to make sure all footballs meet the required specifications,” number all 24 balls, and take and record a PSI measurement of every ball. The legal range of pressure in NFL footballs is 12.5 PSI to 13.5 PSI." (NESN). If there are any footballs below the specifications, they are to be inflated to 13 PSI. In addition, officials appointed by the referee will inspect 48 football (24 for each team) more than two hours before kickoff. 

Just before kickoff a member of each officiating crew and a security official will take 24 of those balls (12 from each team) and bring them to the field. The remaining 24 balls will be left in the officials locker room, and used in the second half. 

3) JPP and his missing finger: In what had to be the most bizarre story of the offseason, Giants defensive end Jason Pierre Paul had his index finger amputated after an accident with a fire cracker on the Fourth of July. As a result, the Giants pulled a $60 million contract offer from the table that would have been offered had JPP played by the rules before teams signed franchise tagged players to contracts.  When the deadline for signing players who are franchised passed on July 15, without any traction in negotiations it signaled the nearing of the end of Pierre-Paul and the Giants. The only way he gets a long term deal is if he plays this season and gets a deal after the 2015 season ends.

The Giants are still waiting for JPP to sign a $14.83 million franchise tender. Without that signature, he's not on the roster. Not to mention that before he had his finger amputated, JPP refused to meet with Giants medical staff and ex-Giant linebacker Jessie Armstead. The Giants clearly don't trust him anymore -- why should they. The guy is a total moron. Linemen need to have full strength in their hands in order to make plays, and without an index finger a person could lose up to 35% of their strength. 

It remains to be seen when and how this issue will resolve itself as camp begins.  

4) Rex Ryan's big mouth: Nothing new here, in fact Rex and his big mouth are an annual headline. But what makes this one unique is that the bombastic head coach is now in Buffalo instead of New York City. Ryan will coach the Bills this year after a messy ending with the Jets. He has already vowed that the Bills will go to the playoffs, and has launched a public tirade against Jets tight end Jace Amaro. Oh, and he still won't kiss Bill Belichick's rings. Should be interesting to see how quickly Buffalo gets tired of this act. The Bills play the Colts and Patriots in the first two weeks of the season. 

5) To start Geno Smith or not start Geno Smith: While the Jets went through an entire face-lift this offseason they are still stuck with the same question: move forward and start troubled quarterback Geno Smith or move on without him. The Jets new regime of Todd Bowles and Mike McCagnan plan on giving Smith the keys to the car, but if he screws up look for more heated debate about Ryan Fitzpatrick and Bryce Petty. It is fair to say that the one thing that may hold the Jets back this year from being even a wild card contender this year is the fact that Smith will be the teams quarterback in 2015. 

6) Can the 49ers have success in the Post-Harbaugh era? It was a wild offseason for the 49ers. Out is Jim Harbaugh, now the head coach at Michigan. Out is Greg Roman, now the Offensive Coordinator in Buffalo. Out is Patrick Willis who retired. Out is Justin Smith who also retired. It appears that the Harbaugh era took its tool on the Niners who are retooling with a new head coach in Jim Tomsula and several new pieces on defense. It remains to be seen how this group buys into Tomsula, and whether or not Colin Kaepernick can resurrect his once promising career at quarterback.

7) Last of Peyton Manning? Until Manning decides to hang it up officially, we will be asking this question all season long. Manning was pretty close to making the BIG move after last years' disheartening loss to the Colts in the playoffs. With a new coach in Gary Kubiak, a lot of people thought it was certain would call it a career. Instead, number 18 will return for the 2015 season. Is this Manning's last go-round in the NFL? We will see. 

8) Los Angeles. The city of LA is getting ready to be the home to a potential NFL franchise, possibly as soon as 2016. There has been a lot of rumors and traction that either the Rams, Raiders or Chargers, or any combination of the three would move to Los Angeles. The Rams have a proposed $400 million stadium in Southern Cal. in the works, but the city of St. Louis is going to put up a fight to keep an NFL franchise this time around. Missouri's governor has proposed a $985 million stadium for the Rams to stay in the Show Me State. Meanwhile the Chargers and Raiders are still in talks of joining together to host a stadium in Carson, California, which would mean either team would jump to the NFC. 

Mets finally making moves with Uribe and Johnson, is it enough?

The New York Mets have been the butt of jokes for a number of years now when it comes to making moves to improve the ball club. A sense of reluctance and ongoing stubbornness from both General Manager Sandy Alderson and ownership has soured things in Flushing for far too long.

Then this weekend things began to change -- believe it or not. The Mets made a rare deal with division rival, Atlanta to acquire aging veterans Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson for two low level minor league prospects in John Gant and Rob Whalen. The move is both a smart one and cost saving for a team obsessed with pinching pennies.

Uribe, 36, is owed only $6.5 million in the final year of his contract, which is this year. Johnson, 33, is owned only $1.5 million.

For Uribe the Mets are the third team he will play for this year, as he came onto his new team hitting .272 with eight homers and 23 RBI. Johnson, who is mostly a utility guy at this point in his career is hitting .275 with nine home runs and 34 RBI.

Those are numbers that normally wouldn't jump off the page, but with the Mets they are. The moves allowed New York to dumb John Mayb
erry Jr. who was a total bust this season, and they sent struggling Danny Muno back to the minors where he belongs.

The Mets have been an awful baseball team to watch this season, ranked last or near last in most offensive categories, so a move, even like this one, is a good one.

Already both Uribe and Johnson are paying dividends with their new team. Uribe had a game winning RBI hit against the Dodgers on Sunday. He's hitting .500 (2-for-4) since the trade. Johnson is hitting .222, but in nine at bats, Johnson does have a home run for the Mets.

But here is the question the Mets have to ask themselves, is it enough? Most certainly not. When Uribe and Johnson are two veteran major league hitters, neither one is a savior. Uribe is 36. His best days are long, long, long behind him. He hasn't driven in 60 in a season since 2010, and has been a part time player for a better part of the past four years.

Johnson is as light hitting as they come with a career .251 batting average. There is a reason why he has been on seven different teams, including the Yankees, and hasn't stuck anywhere he has been. When given the chance to play everyday, Johnson does have some power. He hit 26 home runs in 2010 with the Braves, and 18 homers in 2011 with the Diamondbacks, but that's about it. He's a part time player himself.

The Mets cannot rest. There are rumors the team is interested in reliever Tyler Clipard of the A's and Yoneis Cespedis of the Tigers. Interest is great, getting it done is even better. It's nice that the Mets are in the thick of July 31 trade rumors, but if this organization is going to be taken seriously down the stretch they need to complete a truly major splash before the deadline comes and goes.

NJ Jackals @ Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown

On July 17, I had the honor of joining the New Jersey Jackals on their trip to Cooperstown to play the Rockland Boulders in the first ever Can-Am League classic.

We toured the hallowed halls of the Baseball Hall of Fame; eyeing the jerseys, caps and bats of yesteryear before getting ready for baseball later that afternoon. In the game, the Jackals defeated the Boulders by a score of 9-1 behind a grand slam homer by A.J. Kirby Jones and a bases clearing double by Matt Helms in the win.

Below is the highlight package I put together of the trip.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Ed Ott Jersey Retirement Ceremony

As most know I have been very busy covering the New Jersey Jackals this season, providing play-by-play coverage for their radio and TV coverage on . Below are some highlights from an interview I did with Ed Ott, former Jackals pitching coach. Ott returned to Yogi Berra Stadium to have his number 14 jersey retired on June 20.

Here is the full radio interview myself and Nick Delahanty did with Ed during the fifth and sixth innings of the ball game.

Wilpon's and Front Office are to blame for hideous Mets season

The Mets are have been mired in mediocrity all season long. After a terrific 13-3 start that was highlighted by an 11-game winning streak it has been downhill ever since.

The Mets are 28-38 since their 11-game winning streak ended on April 24 against the New York Yankees. Everything that could go wrong has gone wrong for the Mets. David Wright has missed most of the season with Spinal Stenosis; Daniel Murphy spent a chunk of time on the DL; catcher Travis D'Arnaud has been on the DL twice; the Mets still don't have a short stop; Dillion Gee is no longer a Met; Jon Niese is on his way out, eventually, and the Mets have one of the worst lineups in baseball that is ranked 27th in runs scored, and 29th in baseball in team batting average.

In short: they stink. 
The future of the Mets depends on these two guys.

Yet, here the Mets are still somewhat alive in the NL East (er, should I say NL Least) as the Washington Nationals have yet to pull away from the competition, while the Braves, Marlins and Phillies are all awful. 

It is easy for the desperate Met fan, who bought into the hype and believed that this group had what it took to be a serious playoff contender, to still believe this team is for real. 

But let's be honest the Mets are going nowhere.

Rumors are flying rampant that Terry Collins is going to get fired. The fans have have wanted him gone since the very beginning, hoping that the franchise would tap the fiery Wally Backman instead. But let me ask the Met fan this: Really? Firing Terry Collins is really going to be the difference? 

Reports are that Collins is safe ... for now. GM Sandy Alderson has made a trip out to LA to be with the ball club during its 6-game California track to LA and San Francisco, but he emphasized that Collins is indeed safe. This coming off an embarrassing sweep at the hands of the Chicago Cubs, where the Mets scored only one run in three games. 

Fact is Collins is going to get fired -- eventually. It's not his fault either. This is a man who has been forced to work with a patch-work baseball club since he took the job in 2010. At that time the Mets were in financial hell with the Bernie Madoff scandal weighing heavily on ownership. The scandal prevented the Mets from spending much money, as the focus for the club was to "trim the fat" of bad contracts. 

However for the past two seasons (2014 and this year) the Mets front office and ownership has tried to make the fans believe that the time is now for the Mets to turn it around. Yet they do so half-heartidly. The Mets still do not spend big money on players who can have an immediate impact. They still refuse to make trades to improve the club, and still behave as if they are trapped under the financial weight of Bernie Madoff. 

Sure, some will point out that the club spent money on Curtis Grandson, 4-years and $60 million; spent money on Michael Cuddyer, 2-years $21 million, and gave Wright a 8-year $138 million deal that runs through 2021. Yet, outside of the David Wright contract the Mets moves are all small moves. One can even say that the signings of Cuddyer and Granderson are virtually identical moves. Both signings felt like they were made just to appease the fan base and get the team through some tough years. There was no sense of urgency by the front office to make a move to get a big time player here. 

Now Mets fans want this same front office led by Sandy Alderson, which is under instruction from the Wilpon's to go out and trade for some big time bats a la Todd Fraizer from Cincinnati? Really? Come on fans, you're smarter than that. 

Give me the number of July 31 trade deadline moves that Alderson has made that proved to be a big difference for the Mets since he's been GM? There are none. Alderson has a history of doing nothing, and word on the street is that the Mets are leery of acquiring a big contract in exchange for the franchises starting pitching. 

The Mets love Matt Harvey, Steve Matz, Jacob DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Zach Wheeler. Throw in Rafael Montero into the mix, too. The Mets are hesitant to trade any of them, especially Matz and Syndergaard, who are both expendable. 

Logic would dictate that the Mets SHOULD trade one of their young studs for a hitter. It would make sense. The core of starting pitching this team has now will never be together at one time ever again. Eventually guys like Harvey and DeGrom will want to get paid. Harvey who is represented by Scott Boras has 2018 circled on his calendar, his first year of free agency. That would mean that the need to win now with this core is paramount. 

Yet, don't tell that to the Wilpon's. The Wilpon's don't like to spend. Whether they are still haunted by bad contracts of the past, Bernie Madoff, a bad real estate market, or all of the above, they are the one's who have to give Alderson the green light to make a deal. So far it doesn't look like that will happen.

Now the Mets new motto will be "2016 is our year," just like 2015 was supposed to be the year and just like 2014 was supposed to be the year.

Until the Wilpon's either give in to the demands of the fan base, you better get used to seeing Juan Lagares' .254 batting average being the best BA on the team. Get used to seeing Lucas Duda return to being a below average major league first baseman. Get used to seeing Wilmur Flores lead the team in RBI with 35. Get used to seeing this team continue to sign aging former All Stars like Cuddyer and Granderson, who are just there to pick up a check.

 In short get used to the same ole, same ole Mets.