March 21, 2011
Hitting the High and Low Notes
Today's to be a notes column, both to cover a series of Cubs-related stuff after four straight days of catching Club Quade, and to comment on the conclusion of the other aria within the Mets' opera.
Let's start with the Mets, and their decision to release Oliver Perez today after cutting most of their ties with Luis Castillo on Friday. Even if these two sign elsewhere for the minimum, that's more than $17 million the Mets will be mailing off to wherever it is that the ex-Mets land—starting with forwarding Castillo's checks to the Phillies' camp, since he's signed a minor-league deal with Philly to help them with their burgeoning Chase Utley issue.
It's interesting that, in each instance, the Mets brass has elected to just be done with it, eating that much payroll to make a statement that the excesses of the Minaya team are a thing of the past. You can credit Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins with the courage to hang the expense and just start tossing major appliances onto the lawn, because if they don't work, there's no point in keeping them plugged in. If they're lucky, somebody else will haul their junk away; if they're unlucky, that somebody else will profit from it. They didn't needlessly extend the drama for another two weeks, and cutting both players now, at the earliest point of the serious cutdowns, does them the favor of lining up future gigs while doing the other last Mets standing the favor of sparing the remaining playing time for them.
Omar Minaya's legacy still hangs over this club's head, however. Just because the poster children for Minaya's incredible ability to misread a market for second-rank players have been neatly clipped out of the present, let's not pretend that the “new” Mets are that radically different from the old. This is still the team that is paying more than $31 million to Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran for one more season apiece, hoping they perform well enough to bring prospects in return (or draft picks, should they depart by free agency after 2011). This is still the team stuck paying Jason Bay more than $18 million per annum for three more years, hoping that he doesn't conjure up any more (unfair) comparisons to Kevin McReynolds. This is still the team lamenting its relationship with Francisco Rodriguez.
In short, the Mets still have the payroll of a stars-and-scrubs exercise, but it's one where the scrubs aren't—Ike Davis and Josh Thole are building blocks—and the dim light shining from these guttering stars unavoidably casts Minaya's shadow in the present and on into the near future.
All in all, Luis Castillo may rather be in Philadelphia, but for the Phillies this is a worthwhile exercise to see if there's anything there. Even if Castillo is reduced to getting on base and playing a clumsy second, the first is something the Phillies need with Utley ailing, the latter something they can afford with their high-strikeout starting staff that will keep balls in play to a minimum. Yes, the right side of their infield will be brutally bad, but even an imperfect solution beats spinning their wheels with Wilson Valdez.
Jake Peavy's “breakdown” is news insofar as it seemed as if the combination of a hard-working hurler and Herm Schneider's training staff could alter the initial expectations that he'd miss time this year. Now, between his shoulder tendinitis and a dose of the flu, those expectations seem prescient. It was easy to get caught up in the wishcast that Peavy would get more than 26 starts, but right now, that's looking reasonable—if he doesn't have any other major setbacks, because that's basically allowing for a month off. The problem is that, even with his excellent effort to come back fast despite this stumble, we can't be especially sure. We ought to accept that he may never be the workhorse of old, since that's someone we haven't seen since 2007. If he can at least be a high-maintenance show horse, the Sox should have the rotation depth to afford getting what they can once he's ready.
Four straight days of watching the Cubs—with a fifth in the offing if today's game against the Angels isn't rained out—has left me with a couple of key takeaways.
Notes columns are necessarily something of a pastiche, and make for a contrast with the Groundhog Day life of the beat*, as far as I'm qualified to comment on that. However, watching one team again and again might represent microhistory of a sorts, and I'm looking forward to today's fifth Cubs game in a row—weather permitting—which promises to add Andrew Cashner's latest spin to the mix.
* Exacerbating the experience is my inability to make the rental car's USB access to my iPod do anything but play the same 20 songs, in the same order. As much as I love Siouxsie singing “Pluto Drive,” listening to it every day for two weeks has managed to make the repetitive quality of camp even more so.