In which we are forced to admit that Bryce Harper is pretty much awesome

I saw this last week and forgot to post it, but Rob V reminded me yesterday. In case you weren’t convinced by Bryce Harper’s thorough pwnage of Cole Hamels in the old-school baseball episode earlier this season, Harper’s general distaste for clown questions, his pioneering work in finding new and obnoxious ways to keep the sun’s glare out of his eyes, and the obscene force he can exert on a baseball, Harper tweeted his home’s treat selection on Halloween:

Full-sized candy bars! That’s a huge score for area trick-or-treaters, and well worth whatever aggravation they might have to put up with the other 364 days of the year for living near Bryce Harper. (Presumably he makes a racket in his home batting cage at all sorts of odd hours. And Hamels, hiding behind designer sunglasses and jamming out on Daughtry with his little white dog in his car parked down the block, really creeps the hell out of the neighbors.)

Oh, and how did Harper greet the eager locals? As a clown, bro:

Bryce Harper: Magnanimous, jocular, eschewer of pants.

At Bay

People keep equating the Mets’ seemingly amicable split with Jason Bay to a divorce. I’m trying to come up with a clever way to extend the metaphor, but I’m mostly at a loss. It was an ill-advised marriage from the start that saw very few happy moments. I suppose it’s like marrying someone purely for the person’s looks right before the person became indisputably unattractive. And even though the person was still very nice and trying hard to make it work, it became clear that without the surface beauty the relationship was doomed, and both parties ultimately realized the spark was gone forever and decided to cut their losses and move on. Something like that?

Either way, it doesn’t seem anyone harbors any ill-will toward Jason Bay. That’s good; he doesn’t deserve it. Bay didn’t sign himself to the huge contract with the vesting option, and given the circumstances there were probably a lot of ways he could have made the situation more difficult for the Mets. He gets the chance at a fresh start and rejuvenation, however unlikely, somewhere else. And the Mets can use whatever payroll they save in the short term — even if it’s as little as the Major League minimum — toward finding an outfielder that will outproduce Bay in 2013.

Given Bay’s performance in 2012, that shouldn’t seem a particularly difficult task, but it’s rendered tougher in the Mets’ case by their utter lack of right-handed hitting outfielders under contract in their system.

The closest they’ve got are a pair of 23-year-olds, Juan Lagares and Cory Vaughn, both of whom boast some promise but do not seem likely to contribute much at the Major League level by the start of 2013. Lagares’ 2012 line at Binghamton translates to a .557 big-league OPS, a mild uptick from Bay’s woeful year but not certainly not the type of number a club could abide from a corner outfielder. Vaughn has yet to play above A-ball, though his .243/.351/.463 line in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League appears to have been, by the ol’ equivalency calculator, the best overall performance by any right-handed hitting outfielder in the Mets’ system not named Scott Hairston in 2012.

As much as this will frighten my man Eric Simon, the alternatives in the system make the idea of working Justin Turner into a platoon role in the outfield appear a lot more palatable, though Turner’s reverse platoon splits do not help his case.

Presumably, though, the Mets will enter Spring Training with at least one Major League outfielder that can hit from the right side of the plate. That they split with Bay now, before that guy (or those guys) are on board, probably says a hell of a lot about their opinions on Bay’s prospects for a revival.

Mets cut Jason Bay (!)

Jason Bay and the New York Mets today announced a negotiated early expiration of his contract.  The agreement provides Bay his unconditional free agency while the Mets gain roster flexibility.  Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

“Jason is a great teammate, hard worker, stand-up guy, and true gentleman,” said Mets Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon.  “Like Jason, we had planned for the kind of production here that he enjoyed in Boston and Pittsburgh, where he established himself as one of the game’s top players.  We wish Jason and his family success and happiness in the future.”

“Jason has a tremendous work ethic. There was never any question about it,” said Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson.  “Unfortunately, the results weren’t there and we are in a results-oriented business.  We thank Jason for his efforts and wish him well.”

“I still feel I have plenty to give to this game and that I can play baseball at a high level. But after serious consideration, both sides agree that we would benefit from a fresh start,” said Bay.  “I’m grateful we were able to reach an agreement to allow that to happen.  I’m excited to keep playing and have no intention of just walking away.  I enjoyed my time in New York.  I have no regrets in signing with the Mets, other than that I wasn’t able to play to the level that the team, the fans and I all expected and that we weren’t able to win more games. I move on with nothing but an appreciation for the organization and its fans and best wishes to all my teammates there.”

- Mets press release.

Whoa. So that happened sooner than expected. I was in the midst of writing something pretty long when this news broke and I’ve got a podcast to record in 10 minutes, so it’ll be quiet here for a bit. Discuss Bay’s departure amongst yourselves, if you’d like.

Now we’ll have something to discuss on the podcast, I suppose.

Art Howe and Jerry Manuel possibly up for Major League managing jobs

Shocking, but true. Manuel actually got an interview from the Rockies, so he seems to be several steps ahead of Howe, who has merely stated that he’d like to manage the Blue Jays (and also that he was misrepresented in Moneyball).

I’d LOL about this some from the Mets-fan perspective, but I know Angels fans LOL’d pretty hard when the Mets hired Terry Collins. And though the Mets have not won much under Collins, his stewardship hardly seems to be anything close to their biggest problem. Plus, let us not forget, there was a time — the halcyon days of August, 2008 — when a lot of us were pretty excited about the way the Mets seemed to improve immediately after Manuel took over. If teams only hired managers that had never failed before, Davey Johnson would be pretty much the only veteran manager with a job.

Everybody freak out

The New York Mets today announced outfielder Lucas Duda underwent surgery yesterday at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan to repair a fracture in his right wrist.  The procedure was performed by Dr. Andrew Weiland, the Mets’ hand specialist. The fracture occurred while Duda was moving furniture last month at his apartment in Southern California. Duda will be discharged from HSS today and is expected to be ready for Spring Training in February.

- Mets press release.

LOLMets?

I, for one, would like more details about the furniture. What style of interior design does a man like Lucas Duda favor? WHY ARE THE METS NOT BEING MORE FORTHCOMING ABOUT LUCAS DUDA’S DECOR?

Here’s hoping the Dude is good to go come springtime.

Shockingly, someone attending an Aerosmith concert shows questionable taste

Tom Brady took a break from his usual hobbies of bedding models atop piles of money and being frustratingly awesome at football to take in an Aerosmith concert in Boston on Monday afternoon with Patriots owner Robert Kraft, among others. Brady braved Boston’s November chill in a belted black peacoat with a half-popped collar and, alarmingly, no evidence of a shirt underneath:

It’s strange, but I’m not sure it even cracks the Top 10 most embarrassing photos of Tom Brady. Hell, for all we know, Brady was just paying tribute to Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry, who, as a point of fact, does not even own a shirt.

Also, because I found it while Google Imaging “Joe Perry shirtless” (I really hope my web activity here at the office is being screened by someone), here’s a photo of Joe Perry and Roger Clemens. Via Matador Records:

I’m trying to imagine how a conversation between Joe Perry and Roger Clemens might go, but I can’t get past two exchanges in my mind before they just start yelling, “No, I’m the worst!” and going back and forth like that ad infinitum.

Brady news via Greg.

Manny Ramirez on the comeback trail

Manny Ramirez is headed for the Dominican Republic to restart a baseball career that could continue in Japan, The Post has learned.

According to a person with knowledge of the situation, three Japanese teams want to see the 40-year-old Ramirez play in games for Las Aguilas in order to gauge if he is worth signing.

Ramirez is slated to leave Florida tomorrow and travel to his native Dominican where the winter league is under way.

- George A. King III, N.Y. Post.

In case you’ve forgotten, Manny Ramirez: a) bats right-handed, b) was an excellent hitter as recently as 2010, c) is sometimes willing to stand in an outfield corner while his team is on defense and d) is Manny Ramirez. I think you see where I’m going with this.

I’m mostly kidding. But I’m definitely rooting for the Mets to acquire Manny Ramirez just for the sheer spectacle of it all, from the day they sign him until the day it inevitably ends poorly.

Here is Manny Ramirez getting whacked in the face by his own dreads during Spring Training:

Dickey stuff

Before and after exercising Dickey’s $5 million option for 2013 last week, it was natural for club brass to discuss how to maximize his value: Is he worth more to the Mets as a pitcher, or as a trade chip? The team is in desperate need of outfielders and catchers, have an abundance of young pitching, and believe they should deal from depth.

- Andy Martino, N.Y. Daily News.

I’ve discussed potential Dickey deals in this space, prompting a few people to ask why I want the Mets to trade the Dickster. To be clear: I don’t. What I want is for the Mets to have the wherewithal to sign Dickey to an extension and add a free agent or two and aim to contend in 2013.

But since I try my best to operate in reality where appropriate and because it doesn’t seem like the Mets will be throwing around big bucks this offseason, I have become progressively more open to the idea of them trading Dickey in a deal for a young position player.

The Mets can approach Dickey in any of three ways this winter. They can sign him to an extension, they can do nothing and enjoy one more year of his services at a discount rate, or they can try to trade him for young players.

Opting to sign him to an extension — rumored to be somewhere in the three-year, $45 million neighborhood — will mean paying a premium for a premium pitcher. Dickey was probably worth more than $15 million to the Mets in 2012, and he’s a knuckleballer who hasn’t yet suffered the effects of his advancing age. So there’s some chance Dickey could pitch well enough over the course of an extension to provide the club surplus value on top of what he’s earning.

But an extension also comes with significant risk: He is, after all, 38, and the Mets would be paying him at a rate he established with a career year in 2012. If he falters, he could prove a fine pitcher worth slightly less than the $15 million a year, or, worse, if he gets hurt he could be worth way less than $15 million a year. Either way, the salary would count against the Mets’ finite payroll, and represents money that could be spent elsewhere — for better or worse.

Doing nothing seems like the worst idea of the three, given the Mets’ current situation. Due to the new collective bargaining agreement, an acquiring team would not receive compensatory draft picks for Dickey if it traded for him during the season, which seems likely to diminish his value at the trade deadline. Holding on to him now in the hopes of a #YOLOrioles-style postseason run in 2013 could help fill seats in the early part of the season, but if it doesn’t pay off and/or Dickey does not repeat his 2012 performance, the Mets will have missed their opportunity to cash in on him when his value is highest.

The thought of him pitching elsewhere on Opening Day 2013 is tough to stomach, I know. But trading him — as Martino’s article suggests — might represent the best way to maximize the value of the commodities on the Mets’ roster. The deal needs to be right, of course. But think about it this way: Which is likely to provide more value to the Mets moving forward, Dickey signed to a three-year extension at the market rate (or near the market rate), or a package of young, cost-controlled players they could receive in a deal for a pitcher coming off a Cy Young-caliber season?

And think about the replacements in question. Without Dickey, the Mets’ rotation is not nearly as good as it is with Dickey. But it’s still reasonably deep, with Johan Santana, Jon Niese, Matt Harvey, Dillon Gee, a host of young guys with live arms and a group of solid Triple-A dudes deemed “Dillon Gee types.” Without bringing in outfielders, the Mets have only outfielder under contract — Mike Baxter — who posted an OPS above .730 at a level above Double-A in 2012.

What say you?

James McDonald and the mean thing about baseball

Real-life friend Jake made a solid baseball-reference discovery this weekend.

Here’s Pirates righty James McDonald’s 2011: 171 innings pitched, 4.21 ERA.

In the first half of 2012, something seemed to change for McDonald. He threw 110 innings before the All-Star Break and yielded a stellar 2.37 ERA, earning some of the credit for the Pirates’ early success. Analysts chalked up the difference to increased confidence in and effectiveness from his slider. Finally, some said, James McDonald became a pitcher, not a thrower*.

In the second half of 2012, McDonald pitched 61 innings with a 7.52 ERA. Notably — tragically, hilariously — in his last outing of the year, McDonald allowed three earned runs without retiring a batter. With that, he kept his season innings total to 171 and lifted his ERA to 4.21 to finish off his 2012 with the exact same totals in both stats as he posted in 2011.

McDonald’s peripheral stats improved slightly, so it’s unfair to say he endured an identical season. But looking at the largest sample available for James McDonald’s 2012 shows a pitcher indisputably remarkably similar to the James McDonald of 2011.

I think sometimes baseball nerds like me get so excited about regressions to the mean that we’re too quick to dismiss fluctuations in performance and the narratives that come with them. Baseball players can tinker and adjust and change, and they exist at the whims of so many outside factors. Maybe there’s something better than pure randomness to explain why Jeff Francoeur seems to start hitting every time he joins a new club, and why he reverts to being Jeff Francoeur shortly thereafter. Maybe McDonald did turn the proverbial corner in the first half of 2012, only to then turn three more corners and wind up right back at the intersection of Thrower Boulevard and League-Average Innings-Eater Avenue like so many players before him.

Or maybe McDonald’s first half and the stories that came with it provide only more examples of baseball’s wild sample-size caprices deluding us once again. And that might be depressing or it might be redeeming, depending on your angle.

*- This is among my very least favorite baseball expressions. I don’t think it’s entirely meaningless, it’s just used way too frequently, and too often as a stand-in for “is throwing more offspeed pitches” or “is walking fewer batters.” Also, it suggests the “throwers” in question don’t have any idea what they’re doing and are just chucking it, which is ridiculous. There are plenty of people who can throw in the 90s who will never sniff a Major League mound.

Friday Q&A, pt. 1: Mets stuff

Well that’s the reported-to-be-around $125 million question, no? I’ll say that if I had to bet on it now, I’d guess the Mets do re-sign Wright, and that it’s more likely they overpay him then send him packing. But obviously they’ve got to have a limit, and for all we know Wright and his agents will absolutely demand some sum the Mets absolutely cannot afford, forcing their hand.

The best-case scenario for a Wright trade would be something like the Rockies’ end of the Matt Holliday deal a few years ago. For Holliday — with one year remaining on his contract — Colorado received Huston Street, Greg Smith and Carlos Gonzalez. Smith never amounted to much for the Rockies, but Street — already established and well-compensated at the time of the deal — pitched well there and Gonzalez emerged as a franchise cornerstone.

It’s hard to count on any prospect panning out as well as Gonzalez has, which is why it seems silly to argue for trading Wright. Still, if it comes to that, the Mets need to get back a young player of that ilk: Someone who has already performed well in the high Minors and doesn’t appear far from becoming a Major League regular, with the potential to become a very good to great Major League regular.

Due the inexpensive terms of Dickey’s 2013 option, he might net even more than Wright in a trade. If the Mets were to deal him, I’d hope they could bring back an immediate Major League contributor with some upside and at least one more potential Major League contributor.

Very slim. We love Endy here, but for as desperately as the Mets need outfielders, they don’t really need outfielders that do the things Endy does at this point in his career. Guys who field pretty well and bat left-handed they’ve got.

Wait, an elephant learned to speak? Like, with words? How did I miss this?

The Orioles’ playoff run this year should stand as evidence forever that trying to predict baseball is futile. So… I don’t know, 2014. Why not?