Thursday, June 01, 2006

An open letter to Stumped1

I'm reproducing here the full text of a comment [the second one] by regular reader Stumped1 on Thurday's post. Rather than confine the heated debate to the comments section, I've opted to give it the massive exposure that this space provides, along with my indulgently lengthy response.

As you can tell, it's not our first go-round, and now that I have to call attention to the thread, I'm embarrassed that I was as mean as I was in my initial response. He's one of a very few posters here (wonder why?) so I know he can take it. And in the spirit of Edward R. Murrow, I will grudgingly put any response he wishes to make in the main section of the blog.

The basic argument that we've been fighting on several fronts is whether Mets management is doing a good job. I'm usually on the "No" side, Stumpy on the "Yes" side. This thread is specifically about my criticism of the Benson-Seo deals and more recent Julio-Hernandez trade.

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Stumped1: "I need no moment of vindication [I had mocked him for claiming one]. It just seems to me you'd complain about any move that this team does before you see any results. Is this how you make yourself feel good? It's like you can't wait to be the 1st to say I told you so when something goes bad. But guess what, it hasn't been going bad. Julio was an asset, which you hate to admit. Benson would still be a liability, look at his line. I'll say it again, every move doesnt have to be a major upgrade. In fact there doesn't have to be an upgrade as long as a need is being filled. MDK [the third poster on the thread], if the Dbacks use Julio as their closer is not relevent here. He was pitching well since those 1st couple of outings which may be attributed to no spring training. What irks me is when fans hate a guy from the get-go. Like Doyle did with Julio. Then they turn around and [whine] when those guys they hate are traded for something other than a Cy Young winner. Fact is, the rotation was hurting and you aren't going to get major help there when so many teams are still in the race. This filled the need with a decent starting pitcher, not great, decent. The D-backs traded Vazquez for him, so they must have thought he still had something left as well. Who are you going to believe? Doyle, who complains about trading for a guy [Dave Williams] to fill a hole at AAA, or the heads of 2 playoff calibre teams?"

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Dear Stumpy,

On the charge that I'd complain about any move: I can see how it might seem that way, but remember I was very much in favor of the Pedro, Beltran, Delgado and Wagner acquisitions. I gave Omar full credit for those deals, and didn't scoff that they were rather obvious moves or whine at all about the size of the contracts (a little about the length, maybe). I wrote glowingly of the 2006 roster, and picked the Mets to win the division.

As for the deals which turned Benson and Seo into Sanchez, Hernandez and Maine, I wasn't a fan.

Sanchez has been lights out. His 12.3 VORP is better than such starters (the metric is playing-time dependent) as Maddux and Mulder. Meanwhile Seo has been less than a run better than replacement level. On that deal, so far, advantage Omar.

As for Julio. I have admitted that his K:BB had improved substantially, but it was only 21 innings, and he gave up four home runs and a 5.04 ERA. For all his apparent improvement, he was 1.4 runs worse than replacement level, and three runs worse than Heath Bell (whom you said needs to learn how to pitch) despite the fact that Bell has thrown a third as many innings.

In any case, his value to the Mets is now moot. It’s a question of whether Benson for Hernandez and Maine was an upgrade.

First of all, I want to point out that I do indeed pass judgment on transactions at the time they are made. It’s the best and really only appropriate time to do so. The advantage of hindsight is a big one, and I’ve never blamed Minaya or Phillips for unforseen injuries or bad performances (see: Beltran’s 2005). Plus, it’s very early in the season, and there’s a long way to go before the playoff run that I fully expect.

But as for giving the front office the benefit of the doubt, I’m sorry but I just can’t do that. Mets general management, going back well before Omar, has been incredibly inept. We regularly have the biggest payroll in the league, and yet we never, ever, win the division. I’ll spare you any further discussion of a certain recent high profile trade which has not helped matters in the least.

I don’t wish for them to screw up so I can call them on it. I want the Mets to win a championship. But the whole reason I write this blog is because I think I have an informed opinion about how best to accomplish that goal, and if I think a move was stupid, I’m going to write as much. As for the “He’s the GM and you’re not” angle, it’s quite true. He obviously wins because he has my dream job, but in this little corner of the internet, I get to critique his decisions. And don’t forget that there are equally qualified professional baseball executives on the other side of all these trades. He doesn’t just need to be smarter than me, he needs to be smarter than the guys in Arizona (not easy) and Baltimore (not hard).

So anyway back to the moves at hand… You’re right that Hernandez has been excellent away from Chase Field. 28 strikeouts against seven walks in 22 innings is nothing to sneeze at. But even though you can adjust his performance at home for the hitter-friendly environment, you can’t just ignore it. For one thing it was a comically bad 28 innings, including 16 walks and eight home runs. For another, it’s a lot harder to ignore stretches like that when they come from 36 year-old pitchers with a history of long ball issues. He hasn’t pitched a decent full season since 2002.

As for John Maine, one thing that’s hard to ignore about a 25 year-old pitcher is a lack of success above the Double-A level. Again, he may prove useful (nice rehab start) and I would be happy about that, but there’s not much evidence to suggest he’s ready to hold down a job.

So how bad has Benson been, really? I admit that his having been the ace of the Orioles staff says more about the Orioles than it does about Benson. But not only is his 7.7 VORP the best among Baltimore’s starters (remember when Bedard looked so good?), it would actually rank third behind Pedro and Glavine in the Mets rotation (not counting the injured Bannister who got off to what is widely considered an unsustainably good start). His peripherals have been poor, except for his decent home run rate, but given that he’s five years younger than Hernandez, and coming off a very respectable 2005 campaign, I would like his chances of being our number three starter, and would take him over El Duque and Maine.

As for Williams, I wrote a few words about him, just pointing out his acquisition as another example of activity without any progress.

In summation, I think in general the Mets are an excellent team which relies more heavily on its financial resources than in the executive talents of its front office. As long as they win, that's fine with me.

1 comment:

stumped1 said...

my name in lights, how cool is that? hey, maybe i came off a little strong as well. but ya, we do disagree a lot of the time and i love these heated exchanges. and no, you can hurt my feelings, im usually the minority in these things so im used to it. as far as all the moves go it seems you mostly get down on trades where the mets have to give up something. the nady deal, the loduca deal, benson, seo and these last ones. i know the argument about cameron bein a center fielder. but after fielding offers for 2 years on him dont you think omar knew what he could get, and just looked for some youth and potential? not to mention the money to get delgado, which you liked. while benson may have what would be the 3rd best vorp on the team, that is not sayin much with all those injuries. if he was here the rotation would still be weak, and we be waitin for that inevitable dead arm period. i can find the numbers to spin my feel on benson just as easily as you can using vorp. its just a matter of perspective. and when looking at this trade as well as many others, you have to take into account omar's scouting background. it seems to me he has more of an eye for potential than your average gm. that is why i think he goes after a guy like maine. take julio for example. he saw the stuff that guy had, and after a horrible start he has been doing very well. and remember he had almost no time in spring working with the coaches. its like people wanted him to be a lights out closer type, but imo, thats asking a little much for a benson.
i have no problem with people passing judgement when a trade happens. but, lets be realistic when its done. benson and seo were both mediocre starters, something the mets had plenty of. benson was ripped for 2 years on these boards because of inconsistancy and dead arm, but when he is traded he all of the sudden becomes quality and is worth so much more. i never look at it that way, at least i try not to. in the last 2 years i cannot find 1 trade that i disagree with. even the phillips-ishii thing was to fill a need. they just stuck with ishii way to long. and if seo or heilman had a bigtime spring that year it probably would never have happened.
i am first to admit that the kazmir deal was a botched trade. i originally didnt mind it that bad. i thought zambrano had a huge upside and i dont buy into every prospect panning out.(kazmir appears to 1 of the few that might) but it was by the prior front office. i dont fear every trade because of that one when its a totally different theme bein played by omar. to say that omar has to be smarter than other gms is hogwash. omar just has to be smart enough to know what his team needs. the idea of trading isnt to get the best of your trading partner, its to build your own team.
feel free to look at the mistakes of the past by a different batch of guys. the alomars, vaughns and cedenos were all bad moves, and i thought so from the get-go. i would have loved for them to surprise me and turn out, but as each deal wound up sucking i got more down on that regime. but i dont see how anyone can compare that with what omar has done. different guy, different approach. how you cant think they are doing a good job is beyond me. a last place team has been built into a 1st place team in less than 2 years. they are younger and deeper, and yet you cant accept that they know what they are doing.
you like the delgado thing. it wouldnt be possible if they hadnt traded cameron for nady, which in itself has been a good deal. loduca for gaby is a no-brainer as well. maybe omar the scout noticed that gaby was havin trouble in A ball too. id take hernandez and maine in a heartbeat for benson. id take hernandez alone for benson. benson has never had a stellar year and has never had to pitch under pressure. hernandez acually pitched well 2 years ago for the yanks and also came up big in the playoffs. i dont care what vorp says, that stuff matters. maine was guy a lot of teams were up on. he still has the potential which is what the minors are for. you seem to want norfolk to be loaded with 5 #3 types ready for the call. and then to call the williams trade acitivity without progress is insane. the guy is closer to being a help at the major league level than the no-name schmo that they gave up. the guy puts up great numbers against lefties(i think it was lefties) and could actually figure into a bullpen role. that my friend is progress.
i too think this is an excellent team. you point out that they rely on the financial resources more than smarts. tell me then how omar changed this team from a doormat to a contender in less than 2 years without increasing payrole. ya, the money is still up there, but its being spent a lot smater than before. give credit where credit is due.