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Inbox: Were Mets wise to stay frugal?

Inbox: Were Mets wise to stay frugal?

Do you give credence to the thinking that because the 2009-10 free-agent class was below average the Mets chose not to spend a lot of money on average-at-best pitchers and/or position players and are trying to make do with what they have until next year? Some major players should be available then. Otherwise, it isn't real clear what management is trying to do.
-- Ed G., Glen Head, N.Y.

Good e-mail. The current free-agent class did lack position-player depth and had no ultra-attractive pitcher. And that has been a factor for all clubs. The Mets addressed one need via free agency, signing Jason Bay, and it was the one they had identified as their primary need. They seem to get no credit for that signing from the majority of folks who send e-mails to me.

Generally, the club determined that Jason Marquis, Joel Pineiro, Jon Garland, Ben Sheets, Randy Wolf, Mark DeRosa and Bengie Molina were seeking compensation and/or years that exceeded what it considered prudent. We'll all be checking box scores of other teams in 2010 to determine the wisdom of the Mets' inaction.

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I'm having a hard time figuring out why the Mets haven't made a move for a No. 2 pitcher. There's always a chance that anyone they acquire can have a great year or a poor year. Nothing is guaranteed. Their current staff has a No. 1 starter and a bunch of No. 4 or 5 pitchers. Do they have the resources to make a trade for a No. 2 starter before Spring Training?
-- Nick S., Philadelphia

I don't believe they do. And what club is in position to trade its No. 2 starter anyway? What could they have traded? Should the Mets have ignored their own evaluations and paid millions for players who probably wouldn't have enhanced their chances to any great degree?

Where is it written that a club must make changes because players are available? As it is generally in our world, too many things are done nowadays because they can be done, not because they are necessary.

Being a Mets fan in Tampa, Fla., isn't easy, especially with the Yankees' and Rays' fan bases. I don't understand why Mets fans are already giving up on the 2010 season. There is a lot of baseball to be played yet, and Mets fans need to stay patient. Look how well the Mariners played last season when everybody thought they were the worst team in baseball. Look at what they accomplished. What do you think, Marty? Are Mets fans overreacting?
-- Marcus G., Tampa

The Mets' 2010 season hardly is a lost cause at this point. Just the same, my assessment is that many things must go right for the team to produce the kind of season most of their followers seem to demand. Given all that went wrong last season, the law of averages may smile on the Mets in 2010. Perhaps injuries won't be so great a factor, though Carlos Beltran already is due to miss at least a month.

My sense of it is that if Beltran, Jose Reyes, David Wright and Mike Pelfrey perform as they did before last season, if Johan Santana is unaffected by the surgery he underwent and if John Maine can make 30 starts, a 10-12-game improvement is quite likely. That will make the Mets' percentage greater than .500. And the presence of Bay ought to make the middle of the batting order more productive.

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But what level of offense will be produced by first base, second and catcher, and what will they get from their setup relief? With Luis Castillo at second and either Daniel Murphy or Carlos Delgado at first, the right-side defense will be a liability.

At this point, the Phillies clearly are a superior team, and the Braves appear to be as well. And yes, this fan base is overreacting. But so do most radio call-in shows and Web sites in this market.

How would you rank Mike Piazza, Gary Carter, Jerry Grote, John Stearns and Duffy Dyer if you were deciding the best Mets catchers? Grote seems overlooked, even though he was the catcher for two World Series teams. (And is it true the Mets acquired him in a trade from the Astros?)
-- David L., Brooklyn, N.Y.

Before we start, we should include Todd Hundley. Now, Piazza unquestionably was the most productive hitter among the Mets' catchers, and even when his production is measured against that of Beltran, Wright, Delgado, Carter, Darryl Strawberry, Keith Hernandez, Howard Johnson, Kevin McReynolds, Rusty Staub and Robin Ventura, his ranks first.

But Grote was a superb receiver and defender, the best of his era other than the great Johnny Bench. Given the youth and inexperience of the rotation the Mets developed in the late 1960s, he was the ideal catcher for those teams of Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Gary Gentry and Jon Matlack.

The way I see it, Carter was the best two-way catcher the Mets have had. He was a force offensively, though not equal to Piazza, and a good receiver, though not comparable to Grote. Hundley was second to Carter in that regard, though for too brief a period.

Stearns was a better offensive player than most catchers, and his defense was, at the very least, adequate. He had his days. Dyer seldom played regularly unless Grote was unavailable. (And yes, Grote was acquired in a trade. The Mets obtained him from the Astros after the 1965 season for cash and right-handed pitcher Tom Parsons. It was a trade that seldom is noted. But it turned out to be a swindle. Parsons never appeared in a big league game after '65.)

Not to be overlooked is Paul Lo Duca, the Mets' catcher in 2006 and '07. He was critical to the team's success in '06. The Mets have yet to replace the fire he brought to the clubhouse and dugout.

After hearing your reasoning for not voting for Roberto Alomar for the Hall of Fame, I'm shocked that you hold yourself to such a high standard. Alomar's unprofessional attitude toward an umpire -- spitting on John Hirschbeck -- was without a doubt wrong, but his apology and acceptance by that umpire should be kept within the two of them.

Your withholding his name from the ballot is unacceptable. I don't know what gives you or any other sportswriter the right to vote someone into the Hall of Fame when you have never stepped onto a professional baseball diamond. Maybe when voting next year you'll take the time to put your personal thoughts aside and vote for the player with the credentials to enter the Hall on baseball terms.
-- Ralph G., Bronx, N.Y.

Several points you made need to be addressed. Who would you have serve as the HOF electorate? Only former players? The Hall would have hundreds more inductees, and its prestige would be nothing remotely close to what it is if players voted. Only Hall of Famers? It would have been difficult getting started if that were the case, don't you think? And I venture to say fewer players would gain election if only Hall of Famers voted. Goodness knows, one of them might have not voted for Alomar.

Only members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America who have covered at least 100 games for 10 years are given the right and responsibility to vote. It is taken quite seriously by the vast majority of us.

As for not having played the game; someone suggested you needn't have walked on the moon to recognize it as a momentous occasion. That concept applies here. And for that matter, how are you qualified to cast an unofficial ballot unless you are Ralph Gagliano (1965, Indians), Ralph Garcia (1972-74, Padres) or Ralph Garr (1968-80, Braves, White Sox and Angels)?

How many movie critics have acted or directed? How many food critics have been chefs? And I ask this question again. How do you think the Baseball Hall of Fame became the most prestigious Hall in sports? By its electorate voting with intelligence, regard for the game and a discriminating eye.

I've had players and fans contend that Roger Maris deserved election; likewise Don Larsen. I asked whether Maris would be on their "must" lists if he had hit 59 home runs 50 years ago. Would he? If Larsen had pitched a one-hit shutout in the 1956 World Series, would he still warrant their votes?

If their answers were "yes," then what about Brady Anderson and Harvey Haddix? If the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame worked that way, it would have inducted Jerry Samuels AKA Napoleon IV, who wrote and recorded "They're Coming to Take Me Away Ha-Haaa!" in 1966. It was No. 1. How about Richard Harris for "MacArthur Park"?

For the most part, the voting BBWAA members vote intelligently. I'm aware of none who have played the game. Yet somehow we elected Joe DiMaggio, Bob Feller and Lefty Grove.

And the final three points:

1. I intend to vote for Alomar next year. I'll be stunned if he isn't elected, though the ruckus prompted by my detailing the "why" of my ballot has made some fellow voters rethink his candidacy. He was a great player who stained his resume when he spit, and later when he played with conspicuous apathy.

2. Why did Alomar deserve to be treated as Ryne Sandberg, Cal Ripken Jr., George Brett, Nolan Ryan, Dennis Eckersley, et al? He spit in he face of an umpire, which is wrong. The others didn't. It doesn't matter that Alomar was forgiven by his target. I was not obligated to forgive him because Hirschbeck did.

3. You ask that I put aside by personal thoughts. And how do I vote then? Ask others? It is a fundamentally personal exercise. The ballots we receive direct us to consider the character of each candidate. Should I disregard that directive so that a player who wasn't on a par with the undeniable greats of the game -- Stan Musial, Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Bench, Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Seaver and Frank Robinson -- and who did spit in the face of the game should gain first-ballot status? Think again.

Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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