Monday, March 29, 2010

Another Vote for a Three-League Realignment

Evan Weiner over at the Daily Caller also ponders a realignment plan involving three divisions. His perspective is somewhat different than mine - an 8-8-14 split instead of 10-10-10 and no promotion/relegation aspect, but it's good to see someone else thinking along the same lines.

I will have three more parts to my realignment plan in the coming days. Opening Day is about two weeks away, so I'll try to get back into writing more.

EDIT: Didn't read closely enough. He does suggest some promotion/relegation aspects. Just read the whole article more closely than I did.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Realignment, Part 2

OK, so the Mets have been relegated and now they are the front-runners for the Federal League East division title in 2010. They'll make the playoffs if they finish ahead of the other also-rans, and they'll earn themselves a trip back to the National League in the process. First things first - who are they going to be playing this season?

As it turns out, the schedule for teams in the American League, the National League and the Federal League would all be the same. Get ready for multiple visits from Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Washington - you'll be seeing a lot of them at Citi Field this season. Teams would play 16 games against the teams in their own division (64 games) and 6 games against teams from the other division in their league (30 games).

Interleague play has become a staple of the modern game, so we are going to have to keep it on our schedule. The Mets will play 6 games against the National League East this year, and round out the schedule with 6 games against the American League West. The sad sacks in the Federal League West will play a reverse schedule, with 6 against the AL East and 6 against the NL West. The divisions will swap back and forth each year, ensuring that the Mets will play every team in baseball on at least a bi-annual basis.

16 games against Federal League East: 64 games
6 games against Federal League West: 30 games
6 games against National League East: 30 games
6 games against American League West: 30 games = 154 games

Yes, we're going back to the 154-game schedule, to make room for three full playoff series. (More on that next time.) The owners will have to give up four home dates and that silly rivalry series that unbalances the schedule each year. The payback will be in the modified revenue sharing plan that will keep the lion's share of money between the teams in the American and National League. The teams in the two top flights will stay richer and won't be sharing as much money with the weak sisters of the Federal League.

On October 4, 2010, eight teams will be left standing. These teams - three from the American League, three from the National League and two from the Federal League - will compete for the right to go to the World Series.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Realignment, Part 1

Angst turned me on to Tom Verducci's article about a radical realignment plan allegedly being considered by Major League Baseball to address some of the financial imbalances between the richest and poorest clubs.

"Floating realignment," as Verducci dubbed it, is a ridiculous idea. I am glad that MLB is thinking outside the box to address the current set-up, in part because it means that the commissioner's office isn't hellbent on instituting a salary cap. That said, floating realignment strikes me as a half-assed way of instituting a promotion/relegation system similar to professional soccer leagues around the world.

Promotion and relegation is simple in that it rewards the best teams and punishes the worst ones. In the current economic climate, where the richest clubs dwarf the earning power of nearly everyone else, it serves to separate the proverbial wheat from the chaff.

The top league generally houses the richest clubs and a few plucky underdogs who work their way up from a lower division to take on the big boys. Sometimes, those underdogs find sustained success against the big boys and turn into a giant themselves. (Pittsburgh Pirates fans, pick up a copy of Soccernomics and dream of the day where your club becomes the next Olympique Lyon or Nottingham Forest.)

Of course, you simply cannot faithfully replicate the soccer system in MLB, because minor league teams are feeder clubs and not aspiring top-level baseball organizations. However, if you can create a plan to shuffle the 30 clubs in a way that separates the most successful teams from the minnows - while still giving the poorest clubs a chance to make the playoffs every season - you can address the current imbalance without overly compromising traditional structures.

My basic plan: three 10-team leagues, separated into two divisions each, initially stocked based on regular-season records from the previous season. Both the American League and the National League would still exist and would consist of 10 "traditional" clubs, split into two five-team divisions with geographical considerations. (I am somewhat arbitrarily defining "traditional" as any team created before 1977 or any team that hasn't re-located since 1969.) The 10 highest finishers from the previous season get to start the subsequent season in the same league.

The third league (I like calling it the Federal League in honor of the short-lived circuit from approximately 100 years ago), would initially be populated by the worst 10 records in the league from the previous season. They, too, what be split into two five-team geographical divisions, without regard to their previous league affiliations.

If this plan were to be implemented in time for the 2010 season, this is what the leagues would look like:

American League East
Red Sox
White Sox
Blue Jays

American League West

National League East

National League West

Federal League East

Federal League West

That's right, fellow Mets fans - our team would be competing for the Federal League East title in 2010!

I expect that, after 5 to 10 years, the lower-revenue teams and the perennial losers would find themselves spending most of their time in the Federal League. They would be joined by a few big clubs stumbling on hard times or with incompetent ownership groups (read: the Mets).

The difference between this structure and a traditional promotion/relegation set-up is that two Federal League teams would make the playoffs every season and have a puncher's chance at winning the World Series. I don't know of any other system out there that gives the likes of the Pirates and the Royals a legitimate playoff shot every season.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Roster Moves: The First Cut Is The Deepest

Hat tip, Adam Rubin. No real surprises here - I thought Clint Everts might get more of a shot at the major-league bullpen, but everyone on this list belongs in the minor leagues right now.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Ruben Tejada

With Jose Reyes on the shelf because of a thyroid problem, the Mets are suddenly in the position of figuring out who the Opening Day shortstop is going to be. (Does the circus ever leave town when you are a Mets fan?)

Alex Cora was signed to be the backup middle infielder and would seem to be the logical candidate to hold down the fort, but he is not particularly good at the game of baseball. There has also been some talk about giving 20-year-old prospect Ruben Tejada the job, since Reyes is not expected to miss more than a month or so.

I don't mind giving Tejada a chance, mostly because I'm curious to see how overmatched he will be. That sounds counter-intuitive, of course - no one seriously wants to see a young prospect fail at the major league level. Tejada is a little different. He has been young for every level he's played at anyway, and with Reyes signed for two more years, no one is seriously looking at him as an option until 2012. It doesn't seem that his standing in the organization would be damaged if he stumbles in April.

There was an interesting take on Tejada in Baseball Prospectus, which suggests that he has already reached his ceiling as a professional and that his development wouldn't be harmed by early exposure to National League pitching. This seems curious - when do you ever see a 20-year-old prospect with little to no room for future development? - but it also suggests that Tejada won't perform significantly worse than Cora anyway.

Tejada held his own during his Age 19 season, with a .289/.351/.381 line and 19 steals in Double-A Binghamton. Ideally, he would spend this season there again in 2010, but I have a feeling that he will be ticketed for Buffalo instead. I don't think that he is ready to play regularly at the Major League level, but 100 at-bats there may give the organization an indication of whether or not he is ready to handle Triple-A.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Roster Projections - New York, Buffalo, Binghamton

Opening Day is still a month away, so I'm not ready to make any serious projections yet. My goal is to spend the upcoming weeks looking at the players who are assured of going north with the Mets when camp breaks. The last week or so will be dedicated to the players fighting for the few open spaces on the roster (SP5, RP 6 and 7, one or two bench spots).

For now, here's a basic breakdown of the players on the 40-man roster, as well as the non-roster invitees, who are at Port St. Lucie right now. This is my best guess as for who is going where, as well as the players who will open the season on the disabled list. One note: A lot of the NRIs are going to be released before the season starts and will not actually end up in Buffalo. I'm not going to speculate too much on that; you can assume that any NRI who I've placed in Buffalo is almost equally likely to be released (especially if they have previous MLB experience).

SP - Johan Santana
SP - Oliver Perez
SP - John Maine
SP - Mike Pelfrey
SP - Jon Niese
RP - Francisco Rodriguez
RP - Sean Green
RP - Pedro Feliciano
RP - Ryota Igarshi
RP - Hisanori Takahashi
RP - Kiko Calero
RP - Bobby Parnell
C- Rod Barajas
1B- Daniel Murphy
2B- Luis Castillo
3B- David Wright
SS- Jose Reyes
LF- Jason Bay
CF- Angel Pagan
RF- Jeff Francouer
C- Henry Blanco
BN- Alex Cora
BN- Fernando Tatis
BN- Mike Jacobs
BN- Gary Matthews

SP - Nelson Figueroa
SP - Pat Misch
SP - Fernando Nieve
SP - Josh Fogg
RP - Jack Egbert
RP - Clint Everts
RP - Eddie Kunz
RP - Tobi Stoner
RP - Elmer Dessens
RP - Travis Blackley
RP - Bobby Livingston
RP - Arturo Lopez
C- Omir Santos
1B- Ike Davis
2B- Russ Adams
3B- Shawn Bowman
SS- Ruben Tejada
LF- Frank Catalanotto
CF- Fernando Martinez
RF- Chris Carter
C- Chris Coste
C - Shawn Riggans
IF- Anderson Hernandez
IF- Jolbert Cabrera
IF - Luis Hernandez
IF - Mike Cervenak
IF - Mike Hessman
OF- Jesus Feliciano
OF- Nick Evans
OF - Jason Pridie

SP - Jenrry Mejia
RP - Eric Niesen
C- Josh Thole
C - Mike Nickeas
C - Francisco Pena
CF- Kirk Nieuwenhuis

Disabled List: Kelvim Escobar, Jay Marshall (if the Mets can't void their waiver claim on him), Carlos Beltran

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Readers Strike Back: A River in Egypt

(I really should call this "The Reader Strikes Back," since T-Bone is the only person who seems to contribute. Someone else must have an opinion, right?)

TW writes: Again, there you are in the middle of a forest complaining there aren't any trees around.

Even with Abraham, Martin and John, this team would still have to deal with the defending NL Champs down, and that in itself is a daunting prospect.

My man, if anyone is standing on Endor and looking past the Ewoks, it is you.

I just don't want to be lied to. I know the Mets are a .500 team - at best. So does anyone else who's paying attention. We can argue about whether or not the Mets could've and should've done more to improve, but I agree with you that there simply wasn't enough available talent to make the Mets serious contenders against the Phillies this year.

That said, the Mets cannot go into the camp and keep dropping the lame line about how this team was picked to win the World Series last year and since they're now healthy and bringing back the same starting rotation, there's no reason it can't be done this year.

The Mets' starting rotation might be the worst in the National League East. The Phillies, Braves and Marlins are clearly superior. The payroll is going to be some $20 million lighter, even though the Mets are coming off a 70-win season and a year in which they were handed $20 million from the federally-funded bank whose name adorns the cash cow that replaced Shea Stadium. Where did the money go, if not in Bernie Madoff's pockets?

Rather than be enraged by moves the front office has done or not done, I have taken a deep breath and looked at the bright side.

The Mets seem to be committed to allowing their minor league prospects, play in the minor leagues.

I have the benefit of watching spring training games and the names Tejada, Newenhuis, Mejia or Stoner may not mean anything to the untrained eye, but they are all budding major leaguers that will be on this team in two years tops.

Mejia has a true major-league arm and has top of the rotation potential. Jerry Manuel and Darryl Strawberry want to turn him into a closer right now. Dumber ideas have been posed, but they mostly involved Todd Hundley and left field. Stoner might be a useful middle reliever if everything breaks right for him. I suspect that Tejada is overrated and that Nieuenwhatever is too raw. Both will be exposed this year.

But good for the Mets. After years of rushing over-hyped prospects and allowing them to be exposed on the major league level before trading them away for pennies on the dollar, perhaps there is now a commitment to letting the young guys develop at the proper pace. Of course, the Mets are still short-sighted and cheap in the amateur draft, and as long as that continues the farm system will never be as deep as it could be.

Oh and next years free agency class is 10 times better than thispast winter's but you want to rant and rave about Felipe Lopez, who reportedly is a pox on every clubhouse he's walked into.

That's not the point. Alex Cora and Felipe Lopez are making the same amount of money this season. Alex Cora is injured and not very good when he's healthy; Felipe Lopez is pretty good and coming off perhaps the best year of his career. I don't give a damn which one is supposedly a pox on the clubhouses he walks into - I want the more talented player. Show me a team with 95-win talent and I'll show you a team that could win 95 games with Pol Pot as the batboy.