For the fan in enemy territory

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Mets and Beltran May Get the Last Laugh

There are many unwritten rules in sports. For example, in baseball, a team's pitcher is never supposed to walk the opposing pitcher (though someone should that to the New York Mets pitching staff), or if a batter showboats after hitting a homerun, he should get hit by a pitch in his next at bat.

Another rule that is less known is that teams should not trade players within their own division. The New York
Mets are considering breaking this almost unforgivable rule.

Earlier this week the
Mets were rumored to be in talks with several teams for the services of outfielder Carlos Beltran. Among those teams were the San Francisco Giants, the Philadelphia Phillies and the Atlanta Braves.

The Giants were highly interested after their manager Bruce
Bochy saw Beltran up close in San Francisco just before the All Star break last week. Giants closer Brian Wilson then publicly stated that he wanted Beltran with him in the "City by the Bay".

Reports over the past few days have revealed that the two teams have reached a stalemate in their discussions. The main problem is that the Giants don't want to give up high prospects so they are willing to pay the remainder of Beltran's contract for the season (roughly over $6 M). The
Mets, on the other hand, want and need the prospects, so they are not only willing to eat the rest of his contract, they are making it a requirement.

That means that whoever wants to trade with them will have to trade major talent. This is making the Giants gun shy, but other teams seem to be more than willing to agree to those terms. One team, for example, is the
Mets main division rival, the Phillies that I previously mentioned. This according to Andy Martino of the NY Daily News.

Martino says,

"One of many other Beltran suitors, the Phillies, are in the opposite position. Close to the luxury tax threshold, Philadelphia cannot add significant payroll, and therefore must be open to dealing a prospect to acquire Beltran. Phillies scouts have followed the Mets intermittently for at least a month."

This will create a dilemma for the
Mets and their fans should the Phillies be the team that wins the Beltran sweepstakes. First, how painful would it be to see Beltran, a player that has struggled with injury and the spotlight for the past seven years in Queens despite his enormous contract and topsy-turby relationship with the fans and the local media, excel with a hated rival? It would be excruciating.

Secondly, the
Mets still have six more games against the Phillies (three at home and three in Philadelphia). How terrible would it be to see a player like Beltran, who despite his injuries and struggles still arguably could be one of the top outfielders in Mets team history, hurt them head to head in the uniform of a rival that has been so hated for so long?

Imagine Beltran hitting an upper deck, moon shot in Philly off of R.A. Dickey or Dillon Gee to break a scoreless tie late in a game and circling the bases wearing Phillies gear with a sea of red t-shirts as a backdrop. It would be enough to give some long-term fans heart attacks. Seriously. It's giving me a numbing sensation just typing it.

The other main option the
Mets are pursuing currently is the other contending team in their own division, the Atlanta Braves. This according to Adam Rubin of ESPN New York who writes,

"According to a source familiar with the pursuit of Beltran, the Mets may try to pry Randall Delgado or Arodys Vizcaino from the Braves, although obtaining either prospect appears overly ambitious."

How dreadful would it be for
Mets fans to see Carlos Beltran driving in Chipper Jones while being subjected to that stupid chop the fans do down there? It makes me physically sick to even consider this as an option. For any Mets fan who lived through the Braves' domination of the 1990's, such a sight would most certainly rattle their cage. There is one other option, however.

A recent rumor has come across the wire that could suggest something entirely different is afoot in Queens. According to the Wall Street Journal, the
Mets GM Sandy Alderson and Carlos Beltran have both stated they will be open to negotiating a free agent signing and thus a Beltran return to Queens next year.

This raises a question. Is Beltran simply a two month rental/
Mets spy? Is his sole purpose to weaken the divisional opposition and confess their secrets to the Mets in the offseason? Is this just one gigantic practical joke on the NL East or is it clearly an assignment in espionage?

Probably not. Most likely I am the only one who sees this as anything other than a team trying to get what they can for a red hot player before he hits the free agent market and then said team recognizes his talents and their glaring weakness at the position he leaves behind and pursues him in the winter.

I, however, am convinced that there are under-the-table, behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing in sports, and sometimes, teams try to get one over on a major rival when they can. Take the New England Patriots for example. They were caught a few times taping opponents practices so that they could perform better against that opponent in their next meeting.

It is the nature of sports. Players press each other for information. If a pitcher is tipping his pitches, everyone on the opposing team will know about it and eventually everyone on the league will too. That is a fact. So, why then, is it so hard to believe that there may be some small form of secret agent mischief going on behind the scenes?

Wouldn't it be fantastic if the
Mets broke this "no in division" trade rule this year and ended up having Beltran back next year with one or more of their rival's former top prospects? After all, if the rule isn't written, it doesn't always have to be followed. Unwritten rules were made to be broken sometimes.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The New York Toads? Three Reasons Why the Mets will Survive A Beltran Trade

In the jungle that is Major League Baseball, there are lions, tigers, antelope and toads. Allow me to explain. A lion is the king of the jungle. They rule the land. In baseball, they would be considered the elite teams (like the Phillies, Red Sox and Yankees).

Then, you have the tigers of the jungle. These are the teams in the hunt. The carnivores or hunters, so to speak. Those teams are just on the cusp of the top tier, but need something to push them over the top.

Such teams like this (like the Braves, Giants, Cardinals, etc) are the ones that are most likely to make trades and upgrade for the trade deadline and make a serious second half playoff push.

Next, we have the antelope. These are the victims. The teams that the upper echelon of the league beat up on (Cubs, Marlins, etc). These are definitely the sellers at the trade deadline.

Many would place the New York Mets in this category, but I beg to differ. They are not the helpless antelope feeding off the land waiting to be pounced on by a much stronger enemy on July 31st.

Instead, they are fighters, rather, they are survivors. In the jungle of baseball, they can only be compared to a toad. Here's why. Some species of toads have the uncanny ability to lose a limb and still function.

Then, in a few days, guess what happens. The limb grows back. Seriously. Like a salamander, a toad can regrow a limb. I believe this is closer to the Mets than any other example in that jungle scenario.

Think back to the beginning of the season. They started without Johan Santana and Jason Bay. They struggled out of the gate (5-13). Since the Mets went on that terrible losing spell in the first few weeks, they have lost Chris Young, Ike Davis, David Wright and Jose Reyes.

They just lost Francisco Rodriguez via the trade market and Carlos Beltran, most recently, to the flu. Beltran will most likely be lost on a more permanent basis to another team via the trade market, as well, in the next 13 days.

The Mets keep losing limbs. However, here they still stand right at the .500 mark (47-47) in the middle of July. It is simply just them living up to their nickname of being amazin'.

They lost Santana last year. Since then, the team has stepped up in the rotation. Dillon Gee (3.76 ERA) and Chris Capuano (4.12 ERA) have been pleasant surprises. They lost Ike Davis, but Daniel Murphy stepped into his cleanup role very nicely (.315 AVG).

David Wright went down and the Mets even replaced him with solid fielding and decent offense when they platooned Nick Evans (though his offense has only recently picked up) with Murphy on both corners.

When Reyes went down, we all collectively held our breath. Never fear Mets fans, the Mets placed Ruben Tejada in his place. Though his recent errors have been costly and surprising, his bat has been decent as of late. Beltran has come down with the flu (giving us a look at life without him in a few weeks).

The tandem of Scott Hairston and Willie Harris have filled in quite well. Add Lucas Duda into the mix and the Mets are playing like a complete team. This leads me to believe that the Mets will be fine without Beltran and I have three main reasons for this conclusion.

First, the Mets major stars will be coming back in the next few weeks. All signs point to Reyes returning in a few days with Wright returning in a few weeks, though Ike's season is still in doubt.

Santana may even return by the end of August. If at the very least Wright and Reyes returning healthy happens, the Mets can have their two best hitters. Mathematically speaking, two is better than one in this case.

Next, If the Mets have a good platoon in right field (most likely Duda and Hairston), combined with the healthy return of at least Wright and Reyes, they can see a significant boost in their offense even without Beltran's big bat in the mix.

Finally, manager Terry Collins will rally the troops. He will instill an "us against the world" type of mentality. This is perhaps the mindset they have that helps them play better on the road as opposed to home (27-23 on the road vs 20-24 at Citi Field). It will be extended to home games as well. If the players buy into that and unite, they will still be effective and competitive.

They can afford to lose another key piece like Carlos Beltran, but not many more. If there is an old fashioned fire sale in the next two weeks and the team gets rid of three or four players, then that would signify the end.

Until that happens, they can still field a winning ball club and the fans can still keep their faith. Like the late, great Tug McGraw once said, "you gotta believe".

If the next few weeks pan out the way I see it, the Mets will only trade Beltran, other players will return healthy and Collins will light another fire under them, the results will speak for themselves.

The team can and will still compete, even under those circumstances. They will regroup. They will rejuvenate their parts and continue to win. They will not be going anywhere. They may not be the lions, tigers or antelopes of this jungle we call the MLB, but Mets fans can live with being the toad.

After all, it's the toad (or was it a frog?) that gets the kiss from a princess in the storybook endings. That's exactly what the Mets and their fans are looking for through all of this strife and mess over the past few months and the next few weeks ahead: a storybook ending.