Tuesday, December 4, 2007

In Order To Be a Sportswriter Who Covers a Team From New York, You Must Be At Least This Lazy

It's a tough winter to be Omar Minaya. His team is coming off an epic collapse. But they're also not getting any younger, and have several holes that need to be filled before opening day. You can guess exactly how the always idiotic New York sports media is going to react to pretty much anything he does. Let's just say he probably won't be getting a whole lot of slack.

Exhibit A: The New York Post's Joel Sherman (via FoxSports.com) weighs in on Minaya's somewhat risky, but extremely likely to make the team better in 2008, swap of Lastings Milledge for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider.

In fact, the Mets sound now about Church as they did about Victor Zambrano at the time of the Kazmir deal — as if they have the magic to tap abilities not shown previously. For Church, that means hitting lefties and being a base stealer.

You want Ryan Church. To steal bases. Here's an idea- maybe instead, you should just rely on Jose Reyes, Luis Castillo, and David Wright to steal like 350 between them, and let Church keep his career totals of 12 steals in 17 attempts pretty much exactly where they are. I love this fallback criticism of players, which pretty much betrays any sportswriter who uses it as an idiot. "Sure, [player] is alright. But can he steal bases?" As if everyone on a team needs to be capable of swiping 2nd and 3rd on consecutive pitches at any time.

But Church is 29. He probably is what he is, a 'tweener, too good for the bench, not good enough to start.

Anyone who OPSes .813 in 500+ plate appearances while playing half his games in RFK can start for my team. Is he an All-Star? No. Is he a starter? As long as he sits against lefties from time to time (making him a platoon starter, I guess, but still a most-of-the-time starter), yes. Meanwhile, the Mets' 2007 starter in right, the 35 year old Shawn Green, managed to OPS 30 points lower than Church in roughly the same number of PAs.

Schneider, 31, was only available because the Minaya administration horribly lost Jesus Flores to Washington for nothing in last year's Rule 5 draft.

So that's a knock on Schneider? Brian Schneider: so shitty, his team was only willing to trade him because they somehow stumbled onto a better alternative in the Rule 5. Had this unlikely event not happened, they would probably still be holding onto him. That's how much he sucks. What about the guy the Mets gave up for these two scrubs?

Milledge is fearless. He was not afraid of the majors or New York.

I would venture a guess that 95% of the highly touted prospects in baseball history who haven't lived up to their potential did not fail because of fear. They failed because they were not as good at baseball as everyone expected them to be.

He tends to give too many at-bats away.

At least he's not pissing himself with anxiety while doing so.

But not in pressure spots. He loved the big stage. As a former teammate of Milledge said, "he'll win games for you. The better the pitcher, the bigger the moment, the better the player."

This is all tiny tiny sample size stuff. But still,

Milledge's career: .257/.326/.414
"Close/late" situations: .275/.315/.431
During innings 7-9: .238/.293/.385
vs. Jake Peavy, Brandon Webb, Brad Penny, Josh Beckett, John Smoltz, Erik Bedard, Aaron Harang, Roy Halladay, and Dontrelle Willis (not in the class of these other guys, but let me cherry pick every once in a while, would ya?): .108/.195/.220

So yeah. Pretty huge cherry pick. And he's faced most of them for no more than 6 PAs. And he's had good games against other good pitchers like Cole Hamels. And he's only 22. I'm just saying... so far, in about 400 PAs, he hasn't exactly stepped up and dominated. Particularly in "big moments" against "big pitchers." Does this mean he never will? Of course not. It means that Minaya, who has a team that needs to win now, was not stupid to trade him and his questionable ability to contribute in 2008 (plus attitude problems, for what that's worth) for two guys who definitely are ready to contribute in 2008.

That is the biggest problem with this deal by Minaya. In 2007, Milledge was beset by injury and more bad behavior that the NL talent evaluator said has "turned people off since high school." So Minaya sold Milledge at a low value. My gut says that even if Milledge had another dubious year in 2008, he would still fetch a Schneider/Church level deal.

My brain says that if this happened, it would hurt the Mets in 2008 compared to what they can expect now. And Pedro Martinez, Carlos Delgado, and Billy Wagner would all be a year older.

But what if he were entrusted with 500-600 plate appearances and was the .300 hitter with extra-base punch and complete comfort in the clutch that his talent suggests?

That would be really nice, wouldn't it? It's also very unlikely to happen in 2008, given what he's done in the majors so far. 2009 or 2010? Maybe. But Minaya doesn't want to wait to see if this happens. I'm not saying I know that's the right thing to do, but can you blame him for taking his team in this direction? Is it a stupid move? Definitely not. Church and Schneider are unspectacularly solid. Together they will do more for the Mets next year than Milledge would have, it's a near certainty. This doesn't rule out the possibility that Milledge will eventually turn into Alfonso Soriano. But the Mets were a game away from the World Series in 2006. They were on pace to win 95 games in 2007 until mid September. The window is closing. It it worth trying to make something big happen in 2008 by trading one volatile player for two relatively known quantities? The answer is definitely not "no." (That is the worst sentence I've ever written.) In fact, it's probably "yes."

I've taken forever to get to my point, but now seems like a good time to do so. Articles like this are the ultimate in lazy journalism. "Hey, [team] better be right about [trade involving a prospect]! They'd better hope [prospect] doesn't become a hall of famer somewhere else!" Or as Sherman puts it in the first paragraph of the article,

The Mets better be right about Lastings Milledge. They better know that he will max out, at best, as a good player and not a star because he has character issues — not just immaturity — and those character issues are going to blunt his full talent from blossoming.

No shit. Really? You think? Writers pen this kind of stuff because it's a no-lose for them. If the trade ends up bombing and turns into the second coming of that infamous "Jeff Bagwell for a pack of Upper Deck baseball cards" deal between the Red Sox and Astros, they can tell everyone they saw it coming. If it works out, and the low risk/low ceiling guys the team acquires become part of a World Series winner while the prospect goes on to be a 4th outfielder, they can tell everyone that they just wanted to point out it was risky. Of course it's risky! That's what happens when you trade things (such as people) that change over time. I hope Joel Sherman talks to his financial planner in the same tone in which this article is written.

You'd better be right about that stock you're buying for me. *pause* You'd better be right. *pause* I'm just saying is all.

That would be awesome.


dan-bob said...

LB -

I think Sherman's point in the first paragraph is that Church *can't* steal bases or hit lefties, but since the Mets traded their once-stud prospect for him, Omar must see something hidden in him.

Tonus said...

Joel Sherman, re: Ryan Church-- the Mets act as if they can tap abilities he hasn't shown previously.

Joel Sherman, re: Lastings Milledge-- what if, given 500-600 plate appearances, he reaches his star potential next season?

I'm not sure I understand this idea that you either trade or keep a guy because he might suddenly outperform his expectations. As opposed to trading or keeping people based on more reasonable expectations. Plus there is the point that larry made- yeah, Milledge may become a star in three or four years, which doesn't help the Mets win in 2008.

Then again, this is par for the course in New York. The same sportswriters that chastised the Yankees for keeping A-Rod.

larry b said...

You mean Pay-Rod? Stray-Rod? Make Monay-Rod? Buffet-Rod? Fish Fillet-Rod? That money grubbing jerk is nothing but dead weight.

Ken Tremendous said...

Everytime I see your Ballhype ranking plummet, I throw myself a small party. Get your own name.

larry b said...

Every time you log into our site to check it, you stop it from plummeting. Catch-22, huh? Also, please use your real name. I doubt the almighty and brilliant Ken Tremendous would appreciate you impersonating him.

Tone Loc said...

Explain to me again why the Mets HAVE to win now???

David Wright (age 24)
Jose Reyes (age 24)
Carlos Beltran (age 30)

Is Pedro old? Yes. Does it matter? No. The guy's already a nonfactor - in the last two seasons combined Pedro has only started 28 games and thrown for just 160.2 innings.

larry b said...

Tone- I should have explained myself better. Sure, the Mets' future is very bright. But with as close as they were in 2006 and 2007, why not try to win now? Pedro isn't critical to their success, but he's not a non-factor either. If he's healthy he's still great. Delgado is old. Alou (is he even coming back in 2008?) is very old. Everyone in the bullpen save for Heilman and Smith who threw significant innings in 2007 is 30 or older. Sure, this doesn't mean they should trade Reyes and Wright for Santana or something insane like that. But dealing one guy who probably won't do much in 2008 for two who will makes a lot of sense to me. It's just a reflection of my personal belief that teams should strike while the iron is hot. Don't over-mortgage the future... but don't be afraid to take a risk or two with it, either.

And all of this is unrelated to the fact that this article's premise is boring/lazy as shit.

tone loc said...

I know I agree that the article sucked, but I just don't agree with your take neccessarily... They essentially traded away a guy that has potential to be a perennial All-Star for a backup catcher (newly acquired Johnny Estrada will start), and Ryan Church... I just think that's weak, and it is no way to win a championship.

larry b said...

I respect your disagreement, but I'm sticking to my guns. Estrada definitely won't start if they deal him away for someone else, which they have been trying to do since a couple days after they got him. (That deal was more about unloading Guillermo Mota than acquirinig him.) Church is underrated and kills righties, OPSing .866 against them last year. The list of good lefty starters in the NL East more or less includes Hamels.... and that's it. Church will be an asset for sure. I really can't see Milledge matching his performance.

Furthermore, I'm not a Mets fan, but Milledge's name seemed to be coming up in trade rumors surrounding the Mets almost nonstop since the 2006 deadline. Is there a reason for this? Granted, sometimes it was teams that wanted him, but other times (especially this offseason) the Mets seemed to be actively shopping him. If that's the case, maybe the Mets know something about him that we don't...