Thursday, January 29, 2004

Talks between Shane Spencer and the Mets are said to be progressing, and a deal appears to be imminent As i discussed a couple of days ago, Spencer should provide a capable right handed half of a platoon in RF.

Jamie Cerda was traded to the Royals for RHP Shawn Sedlacek, a player whose numbers are so un impressive i'm not even going to bother discussing them. This deal was made to free up a spot on the roster for Todd Zeile. And in classic Mets fashion, the Mets gave away a young player of some value, for nothing in return. In this case, a 25 year old left hander with a career minor league ERA of 0.81 That right, 0.81, in 210 innings. That's lowered somewhat by his absolute dominance of the New York Penn League (47 innings, zero earned runs), but he was exceptional through out his minor league career. His highest ERA was 2.27 in hitter friendly Binghamton, and in two stints at AAA he had ERA's of 0.43 and 1.67. Cerda's 25, tore through the minors, and is a real good bet to be an above average major league reliever, if not an ace. And this is the guy who we drop off the roster to create room for Zeile? Even if management won't let us outright release Cedeno, were there no better options? How about Joe McEwing, or Timo Perez? They're more deserving of roster spots then Cerda? *sigh*

Some thoughts from around the hockey world...

Eric Lindros is blessed with all the skills a hockey player could wish for. When he's on he's one of the few skaters who can dominate an NHL game. However, one thing that he was not blessed with was a strong skull, at least as hockey players go. Lindros suffered his eigth (official) concussion last night in the Rangers 2-1 loss to the Capitals. Half way through the second period, Lindros was carrying the puck along the left wing boards. He put his head down for a moment and was hit hard by Caps defenseman Jason Doig. By all accounts, including mine, it was a clean, legal hit. Lindros played two shifts after the shot, seperated by a fighting major incurred when he went after Doig. He then reported to coach/GM Glen Sather that he was seeing stars and white flashes, before heading to the locker room. It is not known how long he'll be out. Though the concussion was said to be "mild" that's a very relative term when dealing with head injuries, especially for a player with a long track record of them. Though i have little doubt Lindros will return to the ice again, you have to start wondering if all the concussions have him pondering retirement. After eight concussions, every time Lindros heads into the boards with his head down, he's risking a head injury that could linger the rest of his life.

After being robbed of a win and the two points that come with it by two badly blown calls at the end of tuesday's matchup vs the Bruins, the Isles head into Boston tonight hungry for a victory. A win would put the Islanders just three points back of the Bruins for 6th in the eastern conference, with a game in hand. It could also put the Islanders into a tie with the Montreal Canadiens for 7th, if the Candiens lose to Minnesota. The Isles hold a game in hand over the Habs as well.

Speaking of my Islanders, it's time to start taking notice of Trent Hunter. First among rookies in goals(18), and second in points(34), Hunter is a serious candidate for the Calder Trophy. He is on pace for 30 goals, and 54 points in his first full season, and is a very strong +14 right now. Hunter has been, without a doubt, the Islanders best player since December. Besides his obvious offensive skill, Hunter works exceptionally hard, is becoming better and better on defense, and finishes his checks all over the ice. he is an absolute mountain when soemone is trying to move him off the puck, and to quote someone from the Islanders list-serv i belong to, it's gotten to the point that when an Islander blocks a shot, i just assume it's Hunter. The best part is that at only 23 years of age, and still adjusting to the NHL, Hunter only stands to get better. He could be a force on the Island for years to come.

Dany Heatley returned to the ice yesterday for the first time since the car accident that tragically claimed the life of friend and teammate Daniel Snyder and left Heatley seriously injured. What's so amazing about this is that Heatley had surgery to repair two torn knee ligaments, both his ACL and MCL , less then four months ago. Four months! Players in other sports typically miss an entire year with injuries of this nature.

The Atlanta Thrashers will be serious contenders within two years. Coming into the season, the Thrasher's had perhaps the most promising young skater in hockey. The afore mentioned Dany Heatley, fresh off a 41 goal, 89 point season at age 22. Then the tragic car accident, and Atlanta was without it's young superstar. No longer the team with the most prized young skater in the NHL. Right? Meet Ilya Kovalchuk. At 20 years old, Kovalchuk is in his third NHL season. At age 18 he scored 29 goals and 51 points, and last year at age 19 he put up 38 goals and 67 points. This year, he is third in the league in goals (26) and fifth in points (56). Once 26 year old center Marc Savard (15 goals, 41 points in 32 games) is healthy, Atlanta will have one of, if not the most dangerous line in hockey. And the old man of the three will be first entering his prime.

Another guy who needs to be mentioned in any discussion of the most talented young skater in hockey is Columbus's Rick Nash. Absorb this one for a second. At 19 years of age, Rick Nash currently leads the NHL in goals scored with 31, 4 more then Markus Naslund. Most nineteen year olds are still adjusting to life in college. Rick Nash is playing with the elite hockey players in the world, and outscoring all of them.

The fight for the top playoff spot in the east is particularly furious this year with big four, Toronto, New Jersey, Ottawa, and Toronto all within 3 points of each other. While we're on the topic of the Eastern Conference playoffs, the best spot ( excluding division winners) is once again shaping up to be #6. Toronto and Ottawa, and Philadelphia and New Jersey play in the same divisions. The winners of those two battles for division titles will in all likelihood be the top two seeds, and play the 7th and 8th seeds, respectively. Then will come the winner of the Southeast Division, likely Tampa Bay, with the no 3 seed, who will open against no 6. If one of the lower teams ( Isles, Montreal, Boston) manages to slip into the fifth spot, it would leave them in the very unhappy position of playing one of the big four who lost their division race. It doesn't really matter how any of it shakes out. Barring any dramatic turn around the winner of the southeast will be the no 3 seed. So no matter how else the rest of the top 4 teams fall, team 6 is going to get a considerably weaker opponent then the fifth seed.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

It occurs to me that even though there isn't much baseball news, there is a ton of hockey news with the season in full gear, and the push for the playoffs beginning to intensify. I mentioned yesterday that hockey is actually my favorite sport. Baseball holds something of a special place in my heart, because it played a significant part in my childhood. The first thing in life I remember having a true love for was baseball and the New York Mets. It's probably for this reason, as well as the fact that baseball best lends itself to daily discussion that I run a Mets Blog, and not an Islanders Blog. By 13 though, I had given up playing baseball in favor of hockey, and it remains my favorite sport to this day. What is the point of this you ask? I've come to the decision that in the interest of keeping this blog frequently updated till baseball begins again, I'm going to start talking about hockey. Have no fear, this is a Mets bloc and will continue to be so. But for the next few weeks, most of my content will probably focus on hockey, and the Islanders. I invite those of you who enjoy the sport as much as I do to drop by and here my take on the happenings in hockey land. For those of you aren't fond of the frozen sport, don't worry, I'll be sure to get the Mets in here and there, and of course once spring training begins, I'll be back to full time baseball postings

So let's talk about hockey.

See here how everything
Lead up to this day
And it's just like any other day
That's ever been

"Black Peter" Rober Hunter / Jerry Garcia

After years of trying, the Rangers have finally aquired there Holy Grail. Jaromir Jagr is in Manhattan. Unfortunately for the Rangers and their fans, they aren't going to get any better. As usual, the Rangers could not resist going for the big name, instead of addressing, get this, their team's needs. As of this writing the Rangers average 2.66 goal per game asnd fifth best in the eastern conference behind ( in order) Ottawa, NY Islanders, Toronto, and Philadelphia. The blueshirts score plenty of goals, they just give up even more. At 2.88 goals against, the Rangers rank 26th out of the 30 NHL teams. They lack any sense of team defense and discipline, don't play with enough of a physical presence, and with the collapse of Mike Dunham don't have a playoff, or even near playoff caliber goaltender. The Rangers just keep adding talent without any concept of building a team. Not to mention that Jagr, good as he is, is clearly in decline.

Jaromir Jagr Point per Game

98-99 1.568
99-00 1.524
00-01 1.074
01-02 1.144
02-03 1.026
03-04 1.000

Goal per Game

99-00 .666
00-01 .641
01-02 .449
02-03 .480
03-04 .354

Yes, I'm an Islanders fan, and i hate the Rangers. Hate actually isn't a strong enough word. I despise the Rangers. My hate for the Braves and the Yankees is a fond admiration compared to my feeling on the Rangers. But this really is just getting sad. With the addition of Jagr, the Rangers estimated payroll this year is an astonishing 91 million dollars. For some reference the rest of the top 5 are Detroit at ~ 77 million, Dallas at ~67 million, the Flyers at ~ 65 million, and Toronto which spends ~ 62 million on it's players. The average NHL team payroll is ~44 million, with about half the league betwwen 30-45 million. The Rangers are the Yankees of hockey, except they suck. They outspend everyone, aquire big name after big name, but haven't made the playoffs in 7 years.

The future isn't looking particularly bright either, with a new CBA looming that will likely set a very restrictive soft cap somewhere between 35-40 million. Good luck to the rangers try to build a team. With Jagr figuring in at 11 million aav (annual average value) the rangers now have commitments to eight players for next season totaling over 38 million dollars. They're basically at the expected new cap, and they've got 1/3 of a team.

A 50-1 shot

Aaron Gleeman wrote recently about the San Diego Padres at 50-1 to win the world series being a real good 50-1 shot. Keeping in mind of course, that 50 to 1 shots are exactly that, longshots. To quote Aaron "When you're looking for a sleeper team to come out of nowhere and win the World Series and you're looking for 50-to-1 odds, you're not going to find many great teams to pick from."

That got me wondering to what the odds were for this years Stanley Cup.

I don't know what the official Vegas odds are, but I ran a metacrawler search for "stanley cup odds" and browsing through the first few matches I got from major sports betting sites, two things caught my attention.

San Jose Sharks 40-1
New York Islanders 50-1

Odds differed from site to site, and the one listing San Jose at 40-1 claimed to be official Vegas odds.

I gotta tell you folks, if you're looking for a good long shot, this is as about as good as your going to find. Maybe I'm a bit biased with the Islanders pick, but the fact is that no team in the NHL playoffs should ever be a 50-1 shot. Are the Islanders assured of a playoff spot yet? Far from it. But as of this moment the Islanders have a 5 point lead for the final playoff spot, and are just 5 points behind 6th place Boston, with a game in hand and one upcoming vs the Bruins. Especially in the NHL, any team in the big dance has a shot. Beyond that, there's the talent factor. Despite their lackluster effort so far this year (and yes, I know I'm biased) the Islanders rank as among the more talented teams in the east when Yashin and Parrish return to the ice. Ok, this is hockey, and not all these guys are house hold names, but for those who don't closely follow the sport, bear with me.

Line 1: Oleg Kvasha / Alexi Yashin / Mariusz Czerkawski
Line 2: Jason Blake / Michael Peca / Mark Parrish
Line 3: Shaun Bates / Dave Scatchard / Trent Hunter
Line 4: Three of Arron Asham / Justin Papineu / Cliff Ronning / Mattias Weinhandl

Are any of those lines truly scary? No, unless Yashin and Czerkawski start lighting it up again. But the top three are all very good, and the fourth is solid. Both the second and third line are solid two way lines. With Eric Manlow, and prospects Justin Mapletoft and Sean Bergenheim also able to step in capably, plus enforcer Eric Godard available when the need arises, the Islanders can roll four lines very effectively once Yashin and Parrish return.


Adrian Aucion
Janne Niinimaa
Roman Hamrlik
Kenny Jonsson
Radek Martinek
Eric Cairns
Sven Butenschon

Using the top four in any combination, the Isles boast two all star level defensive pairings. Martinek is a talented prospect, and Eric Cairns and Sven Butenschon provide good depth as 6th and 7th defenders. This is perhaps the deepest and most talented defensive corps in the league. Adrian Aucoin has emerged as a candidate for the Norris Trophy, given to the NHL's best defenseman. He is 5th in the NHL in average ice time, at 26:15, though he may as well be tied for fourth, just one second behind Sergei Gonchar with 26:16. And Aucoin is tied for 1st in the NHL in +/- rating, with an exceptional +25.

Rick DiPietro is emerging as a No. 1 goalie, capable of shutting down opponents, and Garth Snow is a capable veteran back up, who played very well down the stretch last year, and has a great deal of playoff experience.

None of this is to say that the Islanders are likely to win the Cup. Merely that they are capable of it,as any team that gets into the NHL playoffs are, and that their performance to this point has set the odds disproportionately high to the Islanders talent level.

Then there's San Jose. I don't know how this team is listed at 40-1, and i suspect that will change very soon. As of this writing, the Sharks are 23-12-11-4 for 61 points, 4th best in the Wester Conference, and best in their division by 6 points. That makes them the 3rd seed as of right now, and they are well within striking distance of the first and second spots. 40-1 for a team that's likely to have home ice for at least the first round. Again, not in the NHL, no matter how much more talnted Colorado and Detroit may seem. Especially when the Sharks have Evgeni Nabakok in goal. Last year's Stanley Cup teams, as is common in hockey, were both carried by exceptional goaltending.

Do i think that either the Islanders or Sharks will win the Cup? No, if i had to choose right now, I'd probably pick Ottawa. But these are long shots, and you've got two real good teams listed at 40-1 and 50-1. Your chances of returning $800-$-1000 on a $20 bet are a hell of a lot higher then they usually are.


Sunday, January 25, 2004

I promise, i'm alive. There's just not a whole lot to talk about right now. Too far from the Series for anything truly interesting (unless you consider Karim Garcia interesting), too far from the season's start to start writing about next year. If this blog were focused on all the major leagues, i'm sure i could come up with at least 3-4 stories a week, even now. But it's not, it's a Mets Blog, and while i obviously love baseball, and maintain an interest in what every other team is doing, i honestly don't care enough whether Pudge signs with the Tigers to start writing lengthy articles about it. And if i'm not going to write anything of substance, i don't see the point in bothering, since noone reading this site needs me to tell them the Tigers offered Pudge a deal for 4yrs/40m. And to be perfectly honest, my free time available to devote to sports right now is mostly focused on hockey, which is actually my favorite sport, and my beloved Islanders. Once spring training begins, which is actually pretty soon, my plan is to return to daily/semi-daily posting about the Amazins. My plan is to start with a season preview when pitchers and catchers report. Until then, i'll try and get something up at least once a week.

So in the interest of keeping up though, i'll try to make an article of what little is going on with the Mets.

Mets lose out on Guerrero, sign Karim Garcia for 1yr/800k.

After the failed pursuit of Guerrero, Karim Garcia is something of a letdown, to say the least. 5 yrs/70m seems like something of a bargain for Vlad given some of the contracts handed out in recent years. That said, i suppose i understand the apprehension at giving a player who missed 3 months with back problems last year 70 million in guarenteed money. There wasn't much of a market for Guerrero, and i think that says something, given how little money he wound up signing for. Obviously we weren't the only ones concerned. I think the chances are pretty good that Vlad will stay relatively healthy in his Angels contract, and will continue to put up monster numbers. If the back problem re occur however, the Angels are stuck with what's still a very large contract. Maybe i'm letting the Mets take an easy excuse here because of the injury. Because except for that one stint on the DL, Vlad is exactly the type of player that you do break the bank on. But the fact is that stint on the DL happened, and it was three months long. Everybody assumed Junior Griffey would be a force for years to come after he returned from the first of his injuries. It hasn't worked out that way, and Cincinatti has spent two years in the very un pleasent situation of trying to trade him, while still keeping him happy, on the chance he ever returns to his former greatness. Is it a cop out? Well, maybe, but i'm willing to give the Mets a pass on this one, because the risk level is a bit on the high side for 14 million a year. Even with Vlad our chances of making a run at the playoffs this year were pretty slim unless everything went right. I'm as dissapointed as everyone else about not having him in right field next year, but there will be plenty of stars available in the next couple of years that we can use that money on at a time when we are ready to compete.

So i give the Mets a pass on the failed pursuit of Guerrero. I'm not sure Vlad ever had any interest or intention of playing in New York anyway. But please excuse me if i don't cover up my yawn in regards to the Karim Garcia signing. Sure, it's 1 yr/800k, so who cares right? And i suppose that's true, but Karim Garcia? He of the career .282 OBP?

Karim Garcia

Career: 243/282/432 with 67/280 BB/K and 104 xbh (56 HR) in 1205 AB

Three Year Splits:

237/270/466 with 6/37 and 14 xbh (8 HR) in 131 AB vs LHP
297/327/528 with 17/69 and 35 xbh (24 HR) in 360 ab vs RHP

He actually hits righties pretty well. Or he has in limited at bats over a three year span. His career split vs RHP of 241/279/425 is somewhat less impressive. If he can duplicate the last three years in a platoon role, he'd actually be a pretty effective player, despite the low OBP. Problem is, he strikes me as veryunlikely to actually duplicate that power playing semi-daily. Which will make him pretty similar to this player,

290/325/420 with 47/76 BB/K and 77 xbh (17 HR) in 910 AB vs RHP (2001-2003

but with a little extra pop. And that player is Timo Perez. And not signifigantly better then this player,

281/335/370 with 89/162 and 66 xbh (11 HR) in 1112 AB vs RHP (2001-2003)

That player is Rorger Cedeno. Not that i'm trying to say that either Cedeno or Timo is a good option for right field, but it seems to me that if the Mets were trying to find a platoon partner, they went looking for the wrong half first.

Thankfully, it seems like they realize this.

Mets make offer to Shane Spencer

If we were looking for an ex Yankee to platoon in right, this was, and still is our guy.

282/345/456 with 32/54 and 29 xbh (12 HR) in 305 AB vs LHP (2001-2003)

Spencer's numbers hold up to scrutiny over the course of his career. (Granted, it's not a drastically larger sample size).

303/351/520 with 42/97 and 56 xbh (27 HR) in 508 AB vs LHP

And as opposed to say, Karim Garcia, we don't already have two guys on the team who can fill the role he would. I haven't heard what we offered him, or any rumors as to whether he'll accept it, but i'd assume it's 1 yr and less then a million. At that price, i'd welcome Spencer as a capable half of a right field platoon.

Mets mull fifth starter options

To which i ask, why exactly? Aaron Heilman, Jeremy Griffiths, and Grant Roberts, just to name a few. There are plenty of options in the organization already that could fill this whole. I wouldn't have been so opposed to the signing of "Ravishing" Rick Reed, who up until last year was still a very effective pitcher, mostly because he always pitched extremely well at Shea, and so was a pretty good bet to give us at least 90-100 real effective innings. Even that wouldn't have made a whole lot of sense though. Why are we busy trying to add an extra win or two to this team when we have very little chance to compete this year anyway? If Mike Piazza and Cliff Floyd remain healthy for the entire year, Phillips and Reyes maintain last year's level of production, or improve, Kaz Matsui makes a succesful adjustment to the majors, Tom Glavine rebounds, Senator Al pitches like he did in the second half, Steve Traschel continues to defy declining indicators, and Jae Weong Seo pitches effectively, then yes, you find an effective fifth starter and maybe the team makes a run at the playoffs. But let's be realistic, even if most of those things happen, .500 is a succesful year for this team. So why not use the time letting Peterson work with whoever he thinks is the best option for the fifth starter amongst the young players in our organization.

That's my take on what's going on right now. Stay tuned for further updates as news comes along, and back to regular postings as spring training gets under way.


Saturday, January 10, 2004

Dare to Dream

The Mets have officially made an offer to Vlad. They would not comment on the numbers, but reports have state that after negotiating with Guerrero's agent Fern Cuza last night, the Mets have increased there initial 3yr / 30 million dollar offer to 3 yrs / 30 million guarenteed, with the possibility for 5 yrs / 70 million, based on easily reachable playing time based incentives. If Vlad reaches the incentive mark, reportedly 400 AB, in any season he triggers a 4 million dollar bonus, bringing the total possible value of the 3 year offer to 42 million. If he reaches the incentive mark in the final year, 2006, then Vlad can exercise a ten million dollar option for 2007. If he reaches the mark in 2007, it triggers another 4 million dollar bonus, and an option for a fifth year at another 10 million guarenteed, plus 4 for playing time.

Since it's hard to know specifics, and none of this information is official, let's call it 3 for 30 guarenteed with the potential of 5 for 70 based on very reachable playing time bonuses. I think it might take a bit more guarenteed money, but that's a real good starting point.

It certainly makes sense for us. Vlad was extremely durable before the back problem (161,159,154,160,159 games the previous five years), and he's an elite player. 3 yrs and around 30 million guarenteed is extremely low risk given someone of his talents. If he's healthy, he's a real good bet to be one of the handful of best all around players in the majors, and one of the five or ten best hitters. For that i'll be more then happy to pay him 3/42 or 5/70.

Of course, it only makes sense for Vlad if staying in the NL in a city with a dominican population is really as important as he says. He'd be passing up 30 or more million in guarenteed money from Baltimore. But hey, it does happen. He apparently is less then thrilled with the idea of playing in Baltimore, or he would've signed there by now, being clearly the best offer on the table. 30 million dollars is a hell of a lot of money, and the incentives for 5/70 will presumably be very reachable, and based on nothing but his health. It's actually pretty likely that Vlad, if he exercised the final two years, would collect all, or nearly all of the 70 million possible. If the levels are really as low as rumored, he could go on the DL for a month and sitll reach them in any given season. He missed 7 weeks last year and still totaled just under 400 AB. And if he's healthy, he can always play the 3 years for 42 million, and then re enter the market at 30 to seek a bigger deal.

If nothing else, it makes us real players. 3 for 30 by itself is almost insulting given the 5/65 offer from the orioles. but 3/30 which can very easily become 3/42 and free agency at 30, or 5/70 is a very real, very competitive offer given that we seem to hold all the intangibles over Baltimore.We're in the National League. I've actually seen some questions as to why this would matter to him. The pitchers of course. I'm not sure how big of a deal that really is, i suppose it depends on the player. Any good hitter can make the adjustment of course, but Vlad strikes me as a "comfort" guy. He knows the NL pitchers, and style of play, he's thrived in the NL, and doesn't want to rock the boat. You do hear this out of lots of players, sometimes even to the point of a guy taking less money because he was intent on staying in one league or another. So apparently it's real. Second, New York's Dominican population is considerably larger then Baltimore's. Baltimore does have more everyday players from Latin America with Javy Lopez, Melvin Mora, and Luis Matos, but no Dominican players. The Mets of course, have rising Dominican star Jose Reyes. Timo Perez is also from the Dominican Republic. So it seems like we suit Vlad's preferences a great deal better then Baltimore does. Forget about changing league's, he wouldn't even have to change divisions. And he'd be playing in the city with the largest Dominican population in the country. That's understating it actually. (Yes, i actually looked this up) It's not just the largest Dominican population in the country. As of the 2000 census, 59.5% of all Dominicans in the country lived in New York. The second largest population? New Jersey, at 13.4%. that's 64% of the Dominican population in this country, or about 560,000 people. That's roughly 6.5% of the population of the Dominican Republic itself. Vlad's not going to get any closer to home then New York. Is Baltimore's offer better? Of course. But if you were a 27 yr old from the Dominican Republic, who speaks limited English, and who is already rich, wouldn't you consider risking the extra guarenteed money to play in the city with the largest Dominican population outside of the Dominican Republic? It's not like he can't live on the 30 million.

I'm really trying not to get my hopes up, but it's proving difficult, since we seem like real players in this now. And because it seems like Vlad is less then thrilled with the idea of playing in Maryland. Chances are this will wind up in all of us being dissapointed, but it's hard not to dream.

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