Monday, June 6, 2011

Stars and Scrubs

Over the last week I've started to pay attention to a few of the "bottom-feeder" teams in the MLB for no other reason than fantasy baseball. I've been streaming starters, and wanted to see how guys like Dillon Gee and Josh Collmenter actually pitch.

On Sunday night, I watched most of the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball broadcast which featured the Atlanta Braves and the New York Mets. The Mets have been in the news a lot lately because of an inflated payroll with minimal results...and an owner that doesn't know how to keep his mouth shut. As a daily listener of Baseball Today, I get quite a bit of Mets news from Mark Simon and the crew, but this was the first time I'd ever sat down to watch them play.

You know, as a Jays fan, I feel for Mets fans. These two teams are remarkably similar (on the field). Both teams are plagued with injuries with some positions being filled by guys that have no place on a roster that is expected to compete. I'm looking at you Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner and Willie Harris. Yep, I'm also looking at you Edwin Encarnacion, Jayson Nix and John McDonald.

Both teams each have star players that are greatly under-performing. Jason Bay and Aaron Hill were both given big money (Bay more than Hill) to continue to produce at an elite level. Both have failed to produce and stay healthy.

Both teams have significant health questions with the Jays having a revolving door to the DL while the Mets have seen significant playing time lost for David Wright, Carlos Beltran, Jason Bay, Johan Santana and now Ike Davis.

The Jays and Mets both have some serious star power though with Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran comparing to Adam Lind and Jose Bautista.

Sandy Alderson and Alex Anthopoulous both have their work cut out for them. Anthopoulous is stuck in a division with three powerhouses ahead of them. Boston and New York are both ahead in payroll, and Tampa is ahead of the rest of baseball in scouting. Alderson, similarly has the Phillies, Marlins and Braves to compete with. Both franchises have new baseball minds running the show, that is, they're not afraid of sabremetrics or looking beyond a player's batting average to assess his value to the team.

Coming into the 2010 season, Blue Jays fans received daily doses of the same message "our pitching is young and WILL BE awesome...eventually". 1 year later, Shaun Marcum is in Milwaukee, Brett Cecil is in AAA and Jesse Litsch is on the DL. The Mets rotation is similarly young and loaded with potential with nothing but upside for guys like Mike Pelfrey, Jonathan Niese and Dillon Gee.

Ultimately, I hope that the future is bright for both franchises. It's my belief that the game of baseball is at its best when franchises in big markets are successful. I think Jays fans can look at the Mets and see why the timing around a new stadium is very important to the future success of the franchise. Citi Field is gorgeous and I'm looking forward to visiting in August, but it's also nearly empty every night. The same can be said about the Rogers Centre except that it's paid for. The Rogers corporation also puts the Jays in a good spot to succeed by not getting involved in the kind of financial mess that has the Mets selling off large portions of the team.

My final thought on this comparison is that both teams look to be compiled the way that many pundits suggest you draft a fantasy baseball team in a really deep league. Stars and Scrubs...a couple of marquee players and lots of "role" players around them.

Toronto ---------- Mets
Bautista, Jose --- Reyes, Jose
Lind, Adam --- Beltran, Carlos
Romero, Ricky --- Wright, David

With both teams being 4th in their respective Eastern divisions, and both with a great deal invested in young talent, it's only a matter of time until these franchises get everything rolling again. If the Mets indeed do trade away any of their marquee guys, it can only serve a larger purpose of sustained success...if the right moves are made. As far as Toronto, we can only continue to watch and hope. We're waiting for the real Travis Snider to come back, Brett Cecil to come back hitting 90 mph with his fastball and for the *Legend of Brett Lawrie* to begin.

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