Adios 2006, Adios Barry Zito

2006 ends with much more uncertainty than it began.

STILL a free agent...

Last New Year's Eve already saw gifts of Billy Wagner, Carlos Delgado and Paul Lo Duca although there was the lingering uncertainty of Pedro's toe to keep hopes slightly dampened.

This year with an impact starter at the height of their list of off season imperatives, there are no more impact starters available now that Barry Zito has signed for an absurd sum with the Giants, ending all speculation of the Mets having anything but an absurdly mediocre and agèd rotation to open 2007.

Like any other fan, I'd have liked to have seen Zito pitching at Shea for the Mets next season but like any other reasonable fan, a 7 year contract at 126 million American dollars (not, as I thought at first glance, Canadian Dollars...) is alot of dosh for any one man who won't play every day and for a man who is in all likelihood, scheduled for his first major injury any day now having logged a massive 1,430 innings pitched and having escaped such cruel fates for so long.

So I won't bemoan Omar sitting on his hands and refusing to scratch out the line in dirt at 5 years to a pitcher, regardless of his age and upsides.

(This is what we tell ourselves in reasonable moments and of course, the irrational side screams about what a pathetic starting rotation we will muster and didn't care if it took a 100 year contract to sign Zito, it had to get done.)

We now have to rely upon the rich combination of really auld bastids and poorly seasoned kids to get us through the muck and mire of the first 6 innings of every game next season and if I bemoan anything it is that the Phillies, not Omar, worked a trade for Freddy Garcia and that The D Train has been pointedly unavailable.

But we've got plenty of time to worry about 2007 in the boring off season to come praying on the sidelines that Omar has a little magic left to work out another deal.

In the interim, thanks to the Mets for putting on a great 2006, getting us to within a squeak of the World Series and yes, let's admit, exceeding all our expectations.

Perhaps this time next year we will be bemoaning a season lost or grateful for another unexpectedly strong season, who knows but for the minute anyway, that we had this one season after many looooong seasons with hopes dashed by the All Star break, well, that is enough for me.

To see off the year, one more piece of eye candy and a political message for all you bird lovers out there:

Thanks to all of you who have been reading and commenting when you do. I appreciate your kind words and stout observations.


The Enemy Has Reloaded


Newest Philly OR,

Baba Sheikh Farid Shakarganj?

There we were debating the merits of underbidding the Texas Rangers for Barry Zito, there we were discussing selling New York and the Mets rather than the greenbacks in some inexplicable dialogue of economic theory in the sky.

There we were debasing the Zito Chase by listening to the hints and whispers about trading for his soon-to-be former teammates, guys Omar classified as “Some guys have emerged who I didn’t know were available until I got here.” (hint: the injury-prone flame thrower Rich Harden and Joe Blanton) and there we were listening to the encouragement of Beaneball who nods willingly at the rumours and asks, like a corner street hooker to be approached about both.

And all the while, in the smoking rooms of Philly steak and cheese sweatshops all around the City of Brotherly Love, a sneaking little satori was taking place.

The Phillies done stole Freddy Garcia from the White Sox. The unofficial rumour of only a day ago was that it would take Gavin Floyd AND Aaron Rowand to pry Garcia from the clammy hands of the White Sox management.

Well, "stole" is a bit of hyperbolic nonsense considering they still coughed up their boy band Cy Young hopeful, Gavin Floyd in return but let's face it - was anyone really going to hang their pennant-hoping hats on a kid with potential and verve but no concrete results? Personally, I wasn't going to worry myself about Gavin Floyd this season. I didn't even have that penciled in as a concern.

But Freddy Garcia, well, that makes one sit up and take notice.

These means the Phillies aren't looking to wait for the future but are ready to party now.

This comes on the heels of the not-so-scary Adam Eaton signing and gives the Phillies six potential starters which means one of the duds might become expendable in a pitching-starved market for some decent bullpen help in return or a bat to slap behind the monsterous MVP, Ryan Howard.

Oh, they're yucking it up in Philly at the moment, you can be sure. Ambiorix Burgos, you can hear them chortle. By god, what will those Mets think of next?

The interesting sidebar to the winter meetings: two heralded GMs going mano a mano: the wiley youth of Hermano Omar v. the age and guile of auld Pat Gillick. Mothra v. Godzilla.


I am officially unconcerned that Julio Lugo signed with the Red Sox for an absurd sum and will be playing the position he wants rather than out of position for the Mets. Perhaps I am still concerned about the prospects of a drearily played second base next season but c'mon, 4 years and $36 million? The guy who hit .219 with no homers for Los Angeles in the final two months of the season? You go girl. That Theo Epstein must have contracted mad cash cow disease from the Red Sox disappointing season. What else would explain the absurdist show of $50 million plus for the bidding rights to an unproven Japanese pitcher and the $70 million, five-year contract for the sure-to-spend-the-majority-of-his-career-on-the-DL superstar, J.D. Drew.

Congratulations for Mike Piazza finally getting the gig his limp-armed two-hop-to-second-base lifestyle deserved: a stint as a DH. This is where this guy can finally make his mark.

What concerns me more is that the A's also signed left-handed reliever Alan Embree for a paltry two years at $5.5 million. Is there something about his 4-3 record with a 3.27 ERA in a career-high 73 outings for the NL West champion Padres in 2006, that Omar didn't like?

No, I'd rather take my chances on Señor Burgos, the man Omar fumes about when he's called the reincarnation of Jorge Julio.

"...and her radiator's steaming
and her teeth are in a wreck
now she won't let you kiss her
but what the hell do you expect
and the Gypsies are tragic and if you
wanna to buy perfume, well
they'll bark you down like
carneys... sell you Christmas cards in June

from Tom Waits' Small Change



Winter Meetings Outhouse

I couldn't help but think upon the rumours of Milledge for lefty starter Mark Buehrle going sour how much Buehrle looks like Derek Jeter. Perhaps these photos don't capture the resemblance as accurately as the caffeinated imagination at 6:30 in the morning but there you go.

SO do the Mets now have Señor Ambiorix Burgos in their clammy paws?

I would be a tad sad to see Brian Bannister go after the promised hammies went south but this new guy's name alone is worth a few words, forget about the potential of, as Metsradamus aptly notes the 2007 version of Jorge Julio joining our side...

Briefly, Abriorix was
"the leader of the Eburones, a Belgian tribe. In the winter of 54/53 BCE, he destroyed of one of the legions of Julius Caesar, which resulted in the annihilation of his tribe."

Sounds like the sort of up and down season Burgos had with the Royals in 2006.


The Lastings Milledge for Joe Blanton rumour is a very intriguing back up plan to not signing Zito. Blanton would be a middle of the rotation sort of fit with his Zitoesque curve and a fastball reaching into the low 90s. So-so slider and average change up. The Zito Lite of the A's pitching staff, so to speak, for the moment but under the right tutelage, could develope into something even more promising, plus he's only soon-to-be 26. Barry big upside even if he doesn't necessarily solve the problem of ACE, in which case, the Mets will need at least one more big middle innings reliever, someone to set up the set up man, Duaner Sanchez. We might come away happy with this sort of steal deal and let Lastings flower elsewhere. If little else, Blanton is an innings-eater a la Trachsel with a stronger upside.


Lastly, let's address the rumour of Mark Mulder signing as a free agent, another cheaper alternative to Zito but one who wouldn't be available to start the season which makes him even cheaper, perhaps a bargain even. And now that Glavine is a Met again, he's out on the recruiting trail:

"I'll try to put in a good word with him," Glavine said. "To me, he'd be an intriguing pickup. I don't know him much; just a couple of hellos. But from what I hear from Gregg and Rick, he's a good guy and good teammate."

"Intriguing" pickup.

At least he's not a John Cougar Mellencamp, this is my America sort-of-pick up.


Havin Glavine Means A Little If Not Alot

We can all breathe a little more freely now that Tom Glavine has decided to return to the Mets next season.

No amount of money can live down that top...

One less gaping hole in the rotation although considering the Braves didn't even offer a contract to their former employee, how difficult could the decision for Mr Glavine really have been to begin with?

There were minor outpourings of indignation from a few sources considering the latitude Glavine was given to decide but frankly all one has to do is to consider where the Mets would have been had Glavine decided on their division rivals instead.

Forget about where another "name" starter might have come from, another time-worn hurler with nearly impecable standards so vulnerable to the haphazard nature of an umpire's strike zone. The important issue here, underneath the headline, is that Tom Glavine won't win victory 300 in a Braves uniform. Take that, you heathens. Another blow struck against the auld empire. It doesn't clinch a second NL East title on the trot but it certainly eases a bit of the worry about who will be pitching for the Mets next season.

*****No Big News On The Horizan*****

Reading the tea leaves of newspaper backpages, trying to decipher what all the hidden messages are between the lines I still can't figure out what the Mets intend on doing about the bullpen and starting rotation.

It would appear that the Marlins have stated unequivocably that the coveted D Train is not available (unless of course...)which makes one consider the endless possibilities of conditions under which such bold and unequivocable statements could be broken. How many times have we heard such blather only to see so and so fired or so and so traded just under the deadline? Still, the Marlins have little reason to get rid of a cheap meal ticket like Dontrelle without something important waved under their noses so the question is really how willing would they be for Heilman, Milledge and Humber/Pelfrey? Would you take that deal? Would you take two potential middle-of-the-road starters and a potential five tool head-case outfielder for one solid and brilliant yearly Cy Young candidate starter? Omar fleeced the Marlins once or twice already so it isn't a question of ability but desire.

If not, that leaves the Mets to go for broke with Barry Zito which in every day parlance would appear on its face to be a bad decision. Are the Mets merely playing games by pretending they aren't going to jump into a Boras-incited bidding war with the likes of the Texas Rangers who have shown time and again they are quite capable of paying scads more millions than their most idiotic competitors for the same pound of flesh?

On the one hand, since Citibank has been so keen on flooding the Mets coffers, there's no reason NOT to pay the man what his agent can gouge out of the Mets. They need a front line starter and Zito is a front line starter who will cost them nothing in the personnel department.

On the other hand, for some strange reason it just doesn't feel comfortable to satisfy oneself with having outbid the Rangers for a guy who might wilt under the pressure of a the NYC hype machine. And then there's that omni-fearful idea that this guy has never had a serious injury. Does that mean he's a sure bet to avoid serious injury in the future or a sure bet to blow out his arm in Spring Training should the Mets sign him to some massive 6 or 7 year deal?

If the papers are to be believed, Dontrelle and Ben Sheets are both unavailable which would leave us, sans Zito, in the hunt of the likes of Freddy Garcia, Javier Vazquez or Jason Jennings.

Of the trio, we can nip any thoughts of the big righty Jennings right in the bud. He's not a front end starter, he's more in the mould of Steve Trachsel, albeit perhaps with a little bigger, more durable and a few more guts. Take away his Coors Field stats (which admittedly, are impressive) and he's 12-18 with a 4.50 ERA over the last three seasons.

Garcia, another big righty, has the pedigree of a welsh cob. He's certainly better than Jennings but let's face it, he's fattened up his stats over the last several years against the likes of the Tigers, against whom he is 11-2 since 2003. However, he's good and he averages around 30 starts so he wouldn't be a bad addition if for no other reason than unlike Jennings, his ERA is bound to improve moving from AL to NL. 44-28 over the last three years and 30 years old. Listed at 250 pounds he would certainly be the Mets heaviest starter.

Vasquez is a smaller version of Garcia and his numbers in late season reflect that. Watch the nose dive over the last three seasons, pre and post All Star game: Pre All Star Game: 26-17 4.37 and Post All Star Game: 10-20 5.16.

Of these three, I'd shoot for Garcia and hope for the best.

Zito AND Garcia, now that's something to sit up and take notice for. If they managed that we could all breath easier, we could all go through the rest of the off season thinking we've got every chance at winning the NL East again.

But will that happen? Not likely. Still, Zito, Garcia, Glavine, Duque and a few Mets young'uns getting more experience in the #5 role would be nice to fill in whilst Pedro is away. And think about this: it would also give the Mets some latitude for next July's trading deadline if we could afford to dump a few healthy young Met arms for whomever might come available to help in that postseason push.

And of the bullpen, we say sorry to see Chad Bradford go but no worries that he had to follow the money. He deserved it after last season. Happy to see Duaner Sanchez appears to be recovering on schedule.