The New York Mets are the Worst Debate – A Tough Mets Season Does Not Make Them The Worst Franchise in Baseball

August 13, 2009

Read the debate intro and Loyal Homer’s argument that the New York Mets are the worst franchise in baseball.

Image your team’s staff ace is Mark Maroth, the league leader in losses (21), earned runs allowed (123), and home runs allowed (34). Image your team’s number two starter is Jeremy Bonderman, second in the major leagues in losses (19), and second in the American League in wild pitches (12). Imagine your team’s first baseman/cleanup hitter is Carlos Pena who leads the American League in errors at his position (13), hit a robust .248 with an impressive 50 RBI. Image your team’s number three hitter – the player who gets the most at bats during a season, outfielder Dmitri Young, is fifth in the American League in strikeouts (130).

If your team was the 2003 Detroit Tigers, you do not have to use your imagination. They lost an epically bad 119 games that season. They managed to break their old record of losing 104 games in a season in 1952. A tough year all around and terrible top to bottom. An ideal example of the worst franchise of a particular season.

If the Detroit Tigers are the poster team for bad franchises, the 2009 New York Mets are not the worst franchise in the 2009 season.

It is nice is that I do not have to rehash the litany of injuries the New York Mets have suffered this season. Loyal Homer did that accurately. The amount of hitting the Mets have lost is extremely high. They lost their table setting speedster in shortstop Jose Reyes, their cleanup hitting slugger in center fielder Carlos Beltran, and their RBI/home run producer in first baseman Carlos Delgado. They lost their prize offseason acquisition, closer Francisco Rodriguez, for nearly a month, too.

Sure, the Mets stink this year, but injuries have the most to do with that. Losing that kind of production will cripple any team. Injuries have nothing to do with how the organization is run either on the field or in the front office. It is a reflection of bad luck… bad luck on a grand scale for these hapless Mets.

It is impossible to argue that general manager Omar Minaya has avoided controversy this season. The tumult within the upper echelons of the organization is obvious when Tony Bernazard, Vice President of Development, was recently fired for what amounts to conduct detrimental to the organization. If the public is hearing about an issue in the front office, it is easy to say that the front office is out of control. However, Minaya apologized for his own actions, and promptly fired the individual who also made the organization look bad (in his own unique style). Is it the best front office in baseball, in performance or organization? Clearly it is not. But, it is not the worst, either.

In fact, it is possible to make an argument for the San Diego Padres, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the Washington Nationals as the worst franchise in baseball. The Mets have managed 53 wins this season – 13 better than Washington, seven better than Pittsburgh (who traded away every good player they have any may not win another game this year), and four better than San Diego who constantly invent new ways to stink (and should have more losses if their division was not so bad).

It is easy to blame the manager, the players, and the front office. But a keen look reveals the real issue – injuries. The Mets do not have the worst record in baseball (there are nine worse teams than them). They did not trade away every good player to hamstring them for the coming seasons, either. Sure, the Mets stink. But the worst? No way.

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The New York Mets are the Worst Debate – The Mets are in Shambles!

August 13, 2009

Read the debate intro and Sport’s Geek’s argument that the Mets are not the most poorly run franchise in baseball.

Ahhh, those New York Mets. Have things really been the same in Queens since the 2006 NLCS? The Cardinals knocked off the Mets in Game seven that year. While it is true that the Mets got off to good starts in 2007 and 2008, the feel good thoughts were quickly vanquished by the epic collapses. Mets fans will never forget the unforgettable collapse of 2007 when they blew a seven game lead with seventeen to go. I will give them credit, though: they did their best to top that in 2008, but they only blew a 3.5 game lead. With that choke, Shea Stadium was torn down. A new year, 2009, brought new feel good thoughts with a spacious new stadium and a rebuilt bullpen. The collapse did not happen in September, this time. It happened before the All-Star break. They have no one to blame but Omar “I’m no longer the chosen one” Minaya. Why he was considered such a golden boy after coming over from Montreal, I’ll never know!

Minaya has built the team to win now and he built it largely with either older stars or with guys who may have their best years behind. Look at the starting lineup on opening day this season. Shortstop Jose Reyes has been battling a calf injury for most of the season. Daniel Murphy, once viewed as a promising young outfielder with the Mets, has played four different positions and you have to wonder where his head is at this point. Third baseman David Wright, a proven All-Star, has had a statistically decent season, but his power has suffered in Citi Field (think he wishes he got to hit in Yankee Stadium 81 times a year?). First baseman Carlos Delgado and center fielder Carlos Beltran have both been down with injuries. Outfielder Ryan Church now plays for Atlanta, but on his way out of town, he decided to miss third base. Catcher Brian Schneider has underachieved since coming over from Washington. Second baseman Luis Castillo used to be an All-Star earlier this decade, but now he is dropping pop ups. On paper, that team is decent when they are all in their prime. But, you can make an argument that only two of those eight guys are in their prime. What you cannot argue is proven fact. Only one of those eight guys mentioned was in the starting lineup yesterday.

That is just what is happened on the field. The instability is also going on in the front office. Earlier this summer, Vice President of Development Tony Bernazard actually challenged several minor league players to a fight. This is after getting into a verbal altercation with closer Francisco Rodriguez on a team bus last month. Bernazard was later dismissed.

But wait, the madness does not end there, folks!!

In announcing the firing of Bernazard, Minaya gets into a dispute with New York Daily News reporter Adam Rubin during the press conference. This was not behind closed doors and was not in the dugout. This was in the middle of a press conference with media members getting a front row seat. Way to drum up that good publicity, Omar! This is how you run an organization! Ha! What a joke! Somewhere, former Mets general manager and current ESPN broadcaster Steve Phillips is laughing at this mess!

The Mets are in complete disarray right now. They have an aging team with many players locked into long term deals. Everyone is looking over their shoulder in the front office, even Minaya, who does not necessarily have the backing of Mets top officials. It is utter chaos in Queens, with no signs of stability approaching!

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The What Makes A Better In-Game Analyst Debate – The Verdict

August 6, 2009

Read the debate intro, Sports Geek’s argument that a trained broadcaster with no playing experience is better, and Loyal Homer’s argument that a former player with no formal broadcasting experience is better.

History can often serve as the best teacher.

In a question like the one discussed by Sports Geek and Loyal Homer, where separate qualities are compared to evaluate which makes for a better result, there will be both positive and negative examples for each side. While those examples serve as evidence for specific incidents of success or failure, it is also important not to lose sight of the larger picture.

There is no set formula for steps which must be followed in order to become a successful broadcaster. The traits that make one person a successful broadcaster could very well ruin another broadcaster’s career. The most important factor that makes a broadcaster “successful” – regardless of their background – is that they sound comfortable and intelligent when they speak. I contest that whenever a broadcaster is perceived as being poor in their role, it is because they lack the appearance of comfort or intelligence with regard to the topic.

As I read the arguments by both Loyal Homer and Sports Geek, the question I kept asking myself was… “What background type would generally make someone appear to be more comfortable and knowledgeable in what they were discussing?”

To put it differently, I approached this as one of those ‘Street-Smarts’ vs. ‘Book-Smarts’ debates.

In order to answer that question, I looked again at the examples provided on both sides of the debate.

Sports Geek provided several examples of in-game analysts who have failed for BOTH sides (citing Joe Theismann and Joe Morgan as former players, and Dennis Miller and Steve Phillips as non-athletes). When the pressure was on to highlight the non-players who were successful in their role, though, the only example provided was Tony Kornheiser. Even Kornheiser as a positive example can be challenged to some degree because he has not sustained that success. He spent two years in the booth and has since been replaced. Regardless of the reason for his replacement, there is no long term evidence of success.

Loyal Homer, on the other hand, brought up Don Sutton and Troy Aikman – both of whom have made successful transitions into broadcasting as in-game analysts. Other names, like Bob Griese and Phil Simms, also come to mind as former athletes who became very successful and well-regarded as in-game analysts.

To quote Sports Geek (who gave us that permission), “The traits of a good sports analyst are not exclusive to those with playing experience.” That is a very true statement. However, history has proven that those with previous playing experience seem to have a greater likelihood for success as in-game analysts for broadcasting. After reading Loyal Homer’s argument, I am led to believe that the former athlete’s ability to speak from a perspective of “been there, done that” when providing in-game analysis gives credibility to their statements, making them appear more comfortable and knowledgeable (on average) than their non-playing counterparts.

Winner – Loyal Homer

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The What Makes a Better In-Game Analyst Debate – Analyze This!

August 5, 2009

Read the debate intro and read Sport’s Geek’s argument that someone with no playing experience makes a better in-game analyst.

This is sure to be an interesting and unique debate, and it is appropriate that Sports Geek and I debate it. We both have backgrounds in various types of media, both on-air broadcast and print. Plus, we are both fascinated with sports media. Heck, we read the same TV media columns, including our favorite written by USA Today columnist Michael Hiestand.

Bleacher Fan asks us what qualification makes for a better in-game sports analyst. And to me, a better analyst is someone who has played the game. A better analyst is someone who can break down the X’s and O’s and the nuances of the game he is analyzing. In his intro, Bleacher Fan asks Sports Geek to argue that the better analyst possesses “an ability to communicate in a manner that makes the sport compelling to watch.” The onus should fall on the play-by-play commentator to do that.

Let’s use a couple of examples. I will hopefully prove that this is an excellent way to get the point across and it is something that only someone who has played the game can talk about.

Don Sutton, a Hall of Fame pitcher who won 324 games, is currently a commentator for the Atlanta Braves radio network and very underrated as an analyst. He was and still is a student of the game. What he does better than most is go inside the head of a pitcher. When a situation comes up in a game he will often talk about what is in the head of a pitcher from a psychological perspective. He’ll break down scouting reports of not only pitchers, but also hitters. He often breaks down what a pitcher does – or should do – on his non-throwing days. It really does vary from pitcher to pitcher. He can talk about this and have instant credibility because of his background as a Hall of Fame pitcher. He is someone listeners trust. His words mean more than someone like Steve Phillips when he says something to about a pitcher. I respect Phillips and his front office background. He did, after all, build a team that made it to the World Series (2000 New York Mets). But, what does he know about pitching? If Sutton was not in the broadcast booth, he could be in the dugout as a pitching coach. Having met the guy in person, he is a heckuva nice guy… and even comes across that way on air.

Another analyst and former player I like is Troy Aikman. When Aikman was first hired by FOX in 2001, I thought it was a match made in hell. Aikman never came across to me as someone who could break down a game the way an analyst should. Folks, I was wrong. He has quickly shot up the FOX chain of command and is now the analyst on the lead crew with Joe Buck on FOX. Aikman’s dry wit and smooth persona go along with his deep knowledge of the game. He is able to see things in the coverage of defenses that Tony Kornheiser can’t see (to be fair, that was not Tony’s role on Monday Night Football). Perhaps Aikman keeps his eye on linebacker or a safety from the booth – much the same way he did on the field – and is able to express how Peyton Manning was able to hit Dallas Clark over the middle. These are little things that make a broadcast more effective… these are little things that Kornheiser might study film and be able to say that, but he is not a Hall of Fame quarterback. He is not Troy Aikman. Whose opinion do you value more when discussing football? It is nothing against Kornhesier. I absolutely love him on Pardon the Interruption. But again, he is not Troy Aikman and would probably tell you so.

Imagine you are at a doctor’s office awaiting a consultation with your cardiologist. You are talking to the nurse and she says, “What they usually do is go in and…” Now, ten minutes later, you talk to your doctor and he tells you, “Loyal Homer, I have done hundreds of surgeries like this. What I will do is connect this valve to this valve and…” Now, who makes you feel better there?

Analysts analyze. Just ask yourself… can you really effectively analyze if you have not been in that position yourself? No you cannot!

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