The blog for Mets fans
who like to read

ABOUT US

Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

Got something to say? Leave a comment, or email us at faithandfear@gmail.com.

Need our RSS feed? It's here.

Visit our Facebook page, or drop by the personal pages for Greg and Jason.

Or follow us on Twitter: Here's Greg, and here's Jason.

Hawk Takes Walk

When a bargain ceases to be a bargain, then it’s just business. LaTroy Hawkins was a baseball bargain in 2013, getting paid a paltry (in the business where “paltry” is a highly relative term) million bucks for his Metropolitan services. He proved so valuable, he earned himself a nice raise.

Too nice to remain a bargain and too nice to remain nearby. Hence, the man who issued only 10 walks in 72 appearances took a walk himself, clear to Colorado where he projects as the Rockies’ closer for 2014. The million bucks has multiplied by two-and-a-half. The impulse is to say good for LaTroy — one of the swell guys of the game by all accounts, at least until those ever-present “Mets people” whisper from the shadows that he always hogged two parking spaces — and, in a way, good for the team that let him walk. Hawkins was reborn as an effective late-innings pitcher at the age of 40. What are the odds he’s gonna stay vital at 41? I’m a sucker for a heartwarming endurance story, but the Mets used to extend veterans who had given them one wonderful year just enough to make fans of all ages regret the decision.

On the same day Hawk flew to Denver, I noticed the Padres appointed Jose Valentin their first base coach. Valentin was a scintillating second base surprise for the 2006 N.L. East champion Mets, socking 18 homers for a below-market rate of a shade over $900,000. When his minor miracle season was over, Omar Minaya reward him with a contract for 2007 for more than four times as much. As if on disappointing cue, Jose Valentin slumped and did not finish out 2007, never to play in the majors after that July. (Somehow Minaya resisted the temptation to slip him a long-term deal; he saved that gem for the about-to-be acquired Luis Castillo.)

I’m also inclined to assume almost all relief pitchers are best recycled before they degrade. Your elite closers and your lefty specialists you might want to hold onto. Everybody else answering to the job description of “long reliever,” “middle reliever” or “setup man” seems a perennial candidate for eventual promotion or benign expulsion. It’s just the nature of the non-Rivera beast that getting attached to an arm for one season too long can lead to a particularly horrendous case of heartbreak.

But I would like to back up to LaTroy’s $2.5 million payday. If — if — Hawkins remains reliable for the Rockies, that’s not a lot to pay a closer. Even if the Rox rearrange their pile of pitchers and assign Hawkins the eighth inning and the righty retires batters in that role, that’s not a lot, either, not if the goal of the team is winning every game possible, not just getting through another sub-.500 campaign.

Should the Mets have attempted to match the Rockies’ offer to LaTroy Hawkins? For the reasons stated above, probably not. But devoting a suitable sum to a key cog on a major league ballclub — and as we’ve been reminded repeatedly over the decades, scoreless sevenths and eighths are pretty damn key to attaining victory —doesn’t always add up to Minayan madness. The average MLB player salary edges relentlessly upward; last year it was approaching $3.5 million. If you can get away with something cheaper as the Mets did for the innings they squeezed out of Hawkins and the hits they derived from Marlon Byrd ($700K), fan-freaking-tastic. There are budgets and strategies and dozens of contracts to take into consideration. Don’t throw money away if you don’t have to.

But geez, I hope the Mets weren’t overcome with the shakes that an experienced pitcher coming off a fine year was compensated well. I hope this doesn’t touch off another round of recriminations about how “scary” it is to pay for quality.

I hope the Mets find some good players, mostly. And I hope they don’t hide (or aren’t forced to hide) behind a new line of fiscal barriers and consign us to another season when the competitive lights are dimmed by August. Not having a Cano for more than dinner conversation is one thing. Not devoting sizable resources to a Choo or an Ellsbury is seated at the same supper as that one thing. But if we’re uncomfortably slinking away from the table that hosts the possibility of a Peralta or a Cruz…

Please serve us up somebody who will help us win measurably more games than the number to which we’ve become uncomfortably accustomed is all I’m asking of the Met waitstaff…y’know?

One other thought on Hawkins and Byrd: When Terry Collins was moving toward his inevitable naming of David Wright as captain in March, he mentioned that he planned to talk to both of those guys to get their input. Neither one had ever been a Met before Spring Training (and neither had played for this manager elsewhere) but Collins explained both men had been around, both saw how things operated in a plethora of clubhouses and he wanted to hear what they had to say on the subject of captaincies. Apparently neither LaTroy nor Marlon vetoed the idea.

Eight months later, neither player is a Met. I’m guessing new versions of wise old hands will materialize in St. Lucie, and if they stick with the team and make contributions, their comparatively callow teammates will swear by their humanity and the skipper will attest to their wisdom and we’ll feel good about those guys until they, too, have to get going. To a degree, that’s how the “industry” works for most players who cross to the far side of the rainbow. Only a handful of players receive the kind of eight-year contract David Wright was offered, and precious few don’t make you at least partially rue the dotted line on which it was signed.

I have no real actionable agenda regarding the circle of baseball life, except it does leave me to wonder if someday the Mets will keep somebody besides Wright around long enough to grow into a wise old hand on their watch.

The Mets signed a catcher to a seven-year, $91 million contract fifteen offseasons ago. On the night of June 30, 2000, it felt like the deal of the century. Watch here as Jason and I join a joyous SNY panel in recalling the eighth inning that produced ten runs of Braves-beating fun.

17 comments to Hawk Takes Walk

  • 9th string catcher

    So, is there someone in mind for the 8th inning? If so, how much are they going to cost? I’ve adopted your philosophy that relief pitchers are something that need to be recycled regularly, but then this is the GM who paid a fortune for Frank Francisco. So….what’s the plan?

    Or is there one?

    • Germen and Familia seem like possibilities among the presumably healthy. Maybe Edgin? Atchison is still on the 40-man, which I find surprising. If Rice is back and Torres takes the longer assignments…

      I dunno.

      • Kevin From Flushing

        Vic Black in the 8th, Parnell in the 9th, no?

        Late in the night of 6/30/2000, I bumped into a friend who lived SEVEN houses down from me. He asked, “is everything alright? I heard you screaming a while ago.” I wish the cup story made it into the piece!

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Thanks for the link to the video, you guys look happy, and why not.

    PS: I pay for Hawkins and maybe Byrd too. Other than possibly their age, what they signed for doesn’t seem out of line. The Mets have signed worse for far more money.

    I’m getting nervous. So far, for 2014 compared to 2013, they are minus Harvey, Byrd, Hawkins, and Buck, and plus, really, nobody.

  • Dave

    Now admittedly LaTroy Hawkins is not a cornerstone player, particularly on the other side of 40. But to hyperventilate because a proven setup man gets a $2.5M contract…doesn’t give me much confidence. You don’t have to have a garage full of Rolls Royces, but can they at least get say, a Volvo instead of a Yugo?

  • joenunz

    Greg – Considering the first word in the title of this blog, it’s not a surprise you used the word “hope” four times in this post. And that’s why we read.

    On the other hand…
    I’m no Howard Megdal (http://onlinebookplace.com/wilpons-folly-the-story-of-a-man-his-fortune-and-the-new-york-mets), but I’m sticking to the “we don’t have two nickels to rub together so forget about paying anybody, let alone anybody good” theory.

  • joenunz

    6/30/2000

    The most disgusting diaper change I ever had to complete – my 8 day old son needed assistance right in the middle of that inning. With one one on the TV, and one eye on a mess both missions were accomplished.

    13 years later he occasionally asks me to tell that story again, I tell him it’s when he officially became a Met fan.

  • open the gates

    “If…Hawkins remains reliable for the Rockies…”

    Closing at Coors Field at 41 years of age? That’s a big if.

  • Joe D.

    Hi Greg,

    The Mets said what Hawkins was asking for was laughable. It would be a waste of money and a risk thinking that at his age LaTroy could have repeated his 2013 performance. In addition, he would be taking away the opportunity for another young arm to take his spot – like Black who was acquired for Byrd.

    Of course, we do not know if LaTroy would have wanted to come back to the Mets so we can only focus on the Mets take on this.

    But I’m thinking of last year when Sandy signed the injury ridden Shaun Marcum for $4 million. It was lauded within the organization as a “no-lose” move by Sandy for even if Marcum didn’t return to form, all it cost us was $4 million – and if he did return to form, for less than that total $4 million he could then make a mid-season trade for a prospect before those incentives set in.

    Why then would it not have also been a “no lose” situation re-signing Hawkins for $2.5 million rather than it being called something laughable instead?

    • 9th string catcher

      You nailed that one JD. I always go back to Frank Francisco as one of the baffling moves ever. Didn’t save money or bring in someone consistent. I think having Hawkins and Black would have really solidified the bullpen, particularly if Parnell falters or stays injured.

    • open the gates

      It’s really not a good idea for Mets brass to describe a not-unreasonable salary request as “laughable”.

      Other potential free agents signees are watching. And they’re not laughing.

  • Ed Rising

    JD is right the Mets should have sprung for $2.5M for the experience Hawkins provides. He is in such great shape its reasonable he could have had a similar season in 2014. Plus since Mets are probably not ‘pennant contenders’ until Harvey comes back in ’15 – Hawkins could have nurtured Black, Carson, Parnell and whoever else makes up the ’14 pen. I think he would have been a better choice than bringing abck Byrd – as an everyday outfielder. Byrd’s season will be harder to duplicate but I think he was great for us and was happy he helped the Pirates in the playoffs. Hawkins will be missed by his team more so.