baseball gods productions

Thoughts about baseball, from the perspective of sports psychology and the role of sports in society. It includes team and player analysis, predictions, and what I think needs to be changed in Major League Baseball. Brought to you from the heart of baseball, Brooklyn, by baseball gods productions.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Outlook for 2011: New York Mets

So far, the Mets have added Boof Bonser, DJ Carrasco, Ronny Paulino, and Cindy-Lou Who (I mean Chin-Lung Hu), and have lost at least half a season of Johan Santana, and full seasons of Hisanori Takahashi and Pedro Feliciano. They have also let go of John Maine, Sean Green, and my favorite, Chris Carter. They have neither added nor subtracted Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, or Doug Sisk (I'm dating myself).

There are two distinct camps of Met fans forming this off-season: the Same-Old-Mets camp and the new Sandy and His Pals Are Living Baseball Gods camp. I am much closer to the latter than the former, but I am waiting and watching very closely to see how things are different before I anoint Sandy Alderson's feet with oil.

Alderson and his pals seem to be exploiting the market inefficiency of overpriced, overlong contracts to overaged players, by exercising extreme fiscal restraint this off season. I am assuming, based on interviews with Alderson, that this is the plan for 2011 only, and that more money will be spent next off season, as long as the team looks fairly competitive. Money will be spent intelligently, though, and that's the real difference from past regimes.

In the future, financial flexibility will be the second most important characteristic of winning baseball teams. The first, of course, is a strong player development system, from drafting, scouting, training, and everything in between. Smart choices and smart spending will eventually lead to winning, as long as the players are handled properly from a medical (and mental) standpoint.

I believe the Mets are finally heading in the right direction, and that it will take a while before it becomes visible in the standings. This is much smarter than making a big, expensive splash with a deeply flawed organization, as they have done so often.

2011 looks like a transition year, and I'm okay with that. What I will be looking at closely is how effective Terry Collins will be in instilling a new attitude and a new way of playing the game, that is actually more like the old way of playing the game, before home runs and 7th inning specialists took over.

One request I have of the new brain trust is to focus the player acquisition process on increasing the baseball instinct of the organization as a whole. That should be counted as the 6th tool. It's hard to measure, which is why is doesn't get nearly the attention it deserves in the media.

I had the good fortune to watch MLB Network's countdown of the best defensive plays of 2010 the other day, and there was one play that stuck in my mind even though it was only in the 70s in their list. Rickie Weeks of the Milwaukee Brewers races into the hole between first and second, and lunges for a hard ground ball. Seeing that the pitcher was going to have to cover, he bounces the ball not once but twice, to slow it down enough for the pitcher to get to it just as he reached the first base bag. I've never seen an infielder do this in my very long career playing and watching softball and baseball.

There were the usual array of players diving, jumping, and tossing the ball with their gloves, which I love, of course. I've also seen plays just like them thousands of times, and have actually done them myself a long time ago. What Rickie Weeks did was a perfect example of baseball instinct, because there is no way he ever practiced that or even saw someone else do it. His instinct kicked in at just the right moment, and to me this play should have been much higher in the list.

I define baseball instinct as creating a spontaneous winning play using a deep understanding of the game in addition to, or sometimes instead of, great talent. Derek Jeter's famous flip to get that idiot, Jeremy Giambi, at home in the playoffs is another classic example. Who else would have been there at that moment? No one. Can you imagine Jose Reyes doing something like that? I sure can't.

In Memory Of . . .

The ranks of the baseball gods has increased to include Bob Feller and Robin Roberts, along with a slew of all-time greats announcers such as Ron Santo (all-time great player, too, of course), Ernie Harwell, Dave Niehaus, and the Yankee PA announcer extraordinaire, Bob Sheppard. George Steinbrenner joins them to offer some vinegar and perhaps, an increased budget.

The baseball gods' team grows ever stronger, and those of us left here have to rely on our memories more and more. RIP, great baseball men.

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope 2011 brings you a winning attitude and successful seasons for your favorite teams.

© Judy Kamilhor 2010


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