Players weigh in on Dusty Baker, who the Mets could have hired two separate times last year

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know my feelings about Dusty Baker as a manager. Here’s a snippet from 2019:

IN PRAISE OF AN EX MANAGER – Dusty Baker is rarely thought of as one of the best managers in recent history but you’ll forgive me if that’s where he rates in my mind. He’s taken four different franchises to the playoffs and in 22 years leading teams, he’s amassed an 1863-1636 record for a .532 winning percentage. Over a lengthy MLB managerial career, Baker averages 86 wins a season. He won 90 or more games in five of his last six years on the bench but wasn’t brought back by two different clubs. The Reds went from 90 wins in Baker’s last season to 76 without him while the Nationals went from 97 wins in Baker’s last year to 82 wins without him.

Since 2010, Baker has a 41-24 record against the Mets. The year before he arrived in Cincinnati, the Reds went 2-5 against the Mets. The year after Baker left, Cincinnati won just two of six games against New York. It was more of the same in Washington. The Mets went 11-8 against the Nats the year before Baker took over and again won 11 of 19 games after Baker was replaced. But the two years Baker was in DC, his squad went 25-13 against the Mets. With two wins this season, the Mets have now won seven of their last nine games against the Nationals, something that would have been unthinkable if Baker was still running things there. As a Mets fan, thanks for running him out of town, Washington.

*****

It’s now five teams that Baker has brought to the playoffs. Today at The Athletic (subscription required) there was a story filled with player quotes about Baker. Here are a few of them:

Jonny Gomes: I’ve never seen someone that hands on, not fake, know the details, know the stories, relate to every demographic of player. He can just sit and hang out with the hip hop group, then sit and hang out with the rock and roll group. He can sit and hang out with the Latin group and the superstars. He was with Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Kerry Wood, Jeff Kent. The dude was on deck when Hank Aaron hit 715.

LaTroy Hawkins: When I played for him in Chicago, I grew up 30 minutes from there (in Gary, Indiana). So I would go home, and all the people where I’m from, they’re all Cub fans. They all wanted to know: How’s Dusty? How’s Dusty? And I would always tell them — we have a liquor store in our neighborhood called Tarry Town Liquors, and I’d say: “Dusty could come out here and stand on the corner with you guys, hang out, and you would think he was born and raised here. Or, he can go to the White House and sit in the Oval Office and he’ll belong there.” He can navigate any environment.

Bronson Arroyo: He would see me leaving the hotel with some friends or a girl, and he’d say: “You know who I am?” And she’d say: “Yes, Mr. Baker. I know.” He’d say: “Well, you know that beer commercial with the most interesting man in the world? I’m the second most interesting man in the world.”

Joey Votto: As a manager, he made me crazy. He made me crazy in a good way. My dad made me crazy. But I loved my dad. I loved him. With that in mind, in 2011, I got off to a really nice start, but I wasn’t hitting for as much power. I wasn’t hitting as many home runs. But I felt like I was hitting really well. And we’re in Atlanta, and we weren’t in first. And Dusty is absolutely, unequivocally all about winning. He doesn’t care about anything else but winning.

I’m about to go on deck. It’s my time. I need to focus on hitting, and I was in the hole … And Dusty would always sit on the end of the bench, and to get out to the on-deck circle, I needed to pass him. So I walk past him, and he catches me. He goes: “Now listen, listen.” And he gave me one, two, three different tips on hitting for power. Some adjustments that he felt like I needed to make. Now, this was in the middle of the game, in the middle of competing. And in Atlanta, in center field, there’s a really big Jumbotron screen in the old stadium … and Dusty is talking to me about hitting, and he’s looking me in the eyes, and I’m going crazy. I’m doing everything I can. I’m doing well. Get off me. He’s asking more of me. And I needed that, but I didn’t know I needed that. So I’m looking at him, and I look past him, I look around his head, and I look up and I’m hitting .330, and here he is, giving me hitting tips, in the middle of the game, before my at-bat.

And you know what? At the time, I was frustrated with it, and I was angry, but he was absolutely right.

Ryan Zimmerman: So many managers now are terrified of getting fired and are basically being told what to do from the top. It’s fun to play for a manager that remembers the game.

Source: Rustin Dodd and Brittany Ghiroli , The Athletic

Mike Vaccaro on Rob Manfred and the use of a litter box

Back in the day, it was hard to get mainstream reporters to say anything remotely bad about the owners. Mike Vaccaro doesn’t let the players off but it’s clear who he’s giving the largest share of the blame.

Of course, no one bears a greater burden of the shame than Rob Manfred, baseball’s loudest carnival barker, who speaks now with a tongue so forked it is all but impossible to keep track of his spinning and his shucking and his utter contempt for the people — you, me, us — for whom he would tell you he is a safeguard. Nonsense. He does the bidding for the owners, for the 30-man cabal of billionaires who cry poverty even as television networks line up to refortify their coffers with still more billions. That’s fine; technically he is their servant and they are his collective master. So enough with the notion that he shepherds the game. Enough with the hoary old chestnut that a commissioner exists to protect “the good of the game.” Not this commissioner. Manfred has proven time and again that he views the sport with all the reverence of a highway pit stop, and the fans with all the respect due a litter box. That’s who he is. That’s what the job is to him. From here on, never forget that.

Source: Vaccaro, New York Post

Noah Syndergaard’s broken lease and broken contract

What follows is a Twitter exchange about Noah Syndergaard not paying on a lease during the pandemic. This is a couple of days old but these days I see things when I see them. Hope the lack of timeliness doesn’t detract from the overall message.

Amidst a fundamentally uninteresting dispute over an apartment lease, the Mets’ injured right-hander took on a combative tweep by referring to the current financial disagreement between players and owners.

When @GunterDawg99 wrote, “Yeah [the building’s landlord] is a monster for wanting you to live up to a lease agreement signed by both of you. How would you react if the team suddenly said yeah nah to your contract?” Thor responded: “You mean like MLB did to every Player this contract year due to the Covid pandemic? Which the players negotiated and [expected] to be paid on a [prorated] basis per [game] played because it’s fair for both parties? Like that? Did I scream BUT MY CONTRACT? No. Just shut up Chief.”

Source: Ken Davidoff, New York Post

Matt Adams and Coronavirus

Friend of the site John Coppinger was among the many who weighed in on the Matt Adams signing yesterday. Here’s what he said:

The Mets made a curious “Friday news dump” depth signing, as they have added first baseman Matt Adams on a minor league deal.

snip

So they can stash Smith on the roster much like they did at the beginning of last season as a lefty bat and part time OF/1B. After that, they can give Pete Alonso some rest at DH and give Smith plenty of time at first.

As for Adams, he’ll look good in a Syracuse uniform until Alonso gets exposed to the Coronavirus when the Mets medical staff runs out of funding for surgical masks.

Adams has been in the majors since 2012 and he’s been a quality player. But he’s one of those guys whose reputation far exceeds his actual production. How many times do you think he’s amassed 500 PA in a season? He only did it once, back in 2014. Since then, he’s been between 186 and 367 PA.

He’s a lefty hitter whose teams try hard to give him the platoon advantage as often as possible. How many times has he had a 120 OPS+ with his PA stacked with the platoon advantage? Once, back in 2013. Last year his OPS+ was 83.

He’s not a good defensive player and he’s an even worse baserunner. All of his value is tied up in his bat. If the Mets were going to use the new 26th roster spot on a hitter, he’s the type of guy who would make some sense. But smart money has that spot going to a relief pitcher, which means Adams will be enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of Syracuse.

Mets’ Ruben Amaro Jr. shares insights on GM candidates and his own future

He actually interviewed Chaim Bloom more than a decade ago for a job with the Phillies, and came to regret not hiring him. “He’s aggressive in a very good way, and very intelligent,” Amaro says of his subsequent interactions with Bloom.

When Doug Melvin was GM of the Milwaukee Brewers, he and Amaro were close, and Amaro came to view Melvin as a creative thinker and mentor.

“Doug is a good person,” Amaro says. “He’s one of those guys that was a mentoring type of GM. I gravitated toward the Doug Melvins and the Walt Jockettys of the world. The Cashmans, and the Kevin Towers of the world, God bless his soul.

snip

As for agent Brodie Van Wagenen, Amaro negotiated with him many times, and always found the interactions ethical and respectful.

“Brodie is a good baseball person,” Amaro says. “He’s a guy who knows baseball. He pays attention. He is a guy that has aspirations of doing great things in baseball, so I’m not really all that surprised by him being a candidate for this job. He’s just a good person. A good guy. There’s always discussions when you’re talking to an agent about his clients, but always very respectful with Brodie. I always had very good constructive discussions with him. It’s clear he understands the game.”

Source: Andy Martino, MetsBlog

Keith Law on the Mets’ farm system

I hear from Mets fans who think their farm system has been a problem, but the team’s 2011-13 drafts have already produced 22 big leaguers plus a few other players they traded for major-league value, and the system still has a lot of potential in starters and up-the-middle position players.

1. David Peterson, LHP (ranked No. 58)
2. Andres Gimenez, SS
3. Justin Dunn, RHP
4. Peter Alonso, 1B
5. Mark Vientos, SS
6. Anthony Kay, LHP
7. Thomas Szapucki, LHP
8. Desmond Lindsay, OF
9. Ronny Mauricio, SS
10. Jordan Humphreys, RHP

Source: ESPN.com (Insider)

Earlier, Law ranked the system 21st overall. This article goes into depth on the Mets’ organization. He’s very high on Kay, Ty Bashlor and Quinn Brodey. But he’s bearish on Corey Oswalt and David Thompson. He placed Jhoan Urena between Tomas Nido (16) and Patrick Mazeika (18), saying the latter has an “unorthodox swing.”

Matt Cerrone on Dan Warthen

For instance, why do nearly all Mets pitchers insist on never throwing inside? Is it Warthen making the call? Is it a lack of an evidence-based (statistical) strategy based on that day’s matchups? If they’re not doing this, why not? And, if Warthen is making the right call each night and the battery is ignoring him, why are they ignoring him?

The point is, I’m not clear on if this is all Warthen’s fault, the pitcher’s fault, the constant mechanical adjustments due to injury, or because of the rotating cast of catchers behind the plate, or some combination of everything. But it’s a problem and it has to be addressed.

Source: MetsBlog

As Neil Young once said – People pick up on what I’m puttin’ down now…

On Kevin Plawecki’s pitching performance

“I threw a lot of strikes,” Plawecki said. “I was happy about that. I used the whole ballpark in the first inning and got out of it, and then in the second inning, I left a couple up.”

Source: Eric Chesterton, MLB.com

The story also indicated this was the first time Plawecki pitched since he was 14. Let’s just say it’s unlikely that Plawecki becomes the next successful catcher to pitcher transformation.

An unusual suggestion to improve Travis d’Arnaud’s bottom line

And while d’Arnaud didn’t swing more frequently at balls outside of the zone, he made contact with those pitches much more often. Instead of making contact on 58 percent of pitches out of the zone, he made contact with 76 percent of those pitches.

It may be crazy to think that you’d want a player to swing and miss more often, but that’s exactly what I think hurt d’Arnaud last year from a statistical perspective. Making contact on balls out of the zone can be great if you’re a scrappy squib-hitter with speed or a bat-control freak of nature like Pablo Sandoval or Vladimir Guerrero. That isn’t d’Arnaud’s game; he’s a guy with doubles-power who needs to wait for a pitch to drive and belt it. Instead, d’Arnaud’s ground ball rate shot up, and as we’ve learned over the past few years, the best way to be a good hitter is to put the ball in the air. In addition to his ground ball rate rising from 37 percent in 2015 to 52 percent in 2016, he also “barreled” only seven balls this last season (per Statcast’s metric designed to identify the best possible contact) compared to 12 barrels in 2015.

From a numbers standpoint, it would certainly behoove TdA to swing at fewer pitches outside the zone if he’s going to make poor contact like he did this past season.

Source: Bryan Grosnick, BP Mets

Sandy Alderson on ways for the 2017 team to improve

That leaves us with a considerable margin of improvement just through good health…

I do think there’s a lot of room for improvement with players that we had last year not hitting with men in scoring position. Do I think that was symptomatic of something else? No. Do I think that was a fluke? I think it was sort of a statistical anomaly, at least. Do I think that will continue to happen? No.

Source: SNY.tv Mets Podcast

These clips that they put on MetsBlog are interesting. Alderson always has good insights and I enjoyed the Jay Bruce one, too. He seemed pretty composed, especially when they insisted on asking him questions he couldn’t possibly answer.

Seth Lugo and the core of the matter

Before the 2012 season Lugo underwent spinal fusion surgery and was bedridden for months. “The surgery was pretty scary,’’ admitted Lugo, who will arrive here Sunday.

From that hardship, Lugo worked that much harder on building his core when he was allowed to work out again and he believes that has made him a much better pitcher.

“I started using my legs more,’’ he said of his motion. “Without that surgery I never would have started working out like I do.’’

Source: Kevin Kernan, New York Post

His peripherals paint the picture of a guy who was very lucky last year. Still, I can’t shake the feeling that there’s something more here.