Mets and Las Vegas 51s extend player development contract through 2018

The New York Mets and Las Vegas 51s extended their player development contract for another two years.

Aug 5, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Mets equipment on the on deck circle prior to the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Aug 5, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Mets equipment on the on deck circle prior to the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

I will argue the Mets had no choice.  Opportunities to relocate their triple-A operation closer to home simply did not materialize.

Baseball’s Open Period takes place in September during even-numbered years.  The process allows major and minor league clubs the opportunity of extending existing PDC’s, or seeking new alternative agreements.  PDC’s run for either two or four-year terms.  At the end of the open period, MLB will join remaining unmatched teams for the two season minimum.

If you recall, the Mets and Las Vegas 51s originally came together under just such circumstances.

The Toronto Blue Jays were seeking escape from Las Vegas.  Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bisons were becoming increasingly displeased with former general manager Omar Minaya.  Buffalo continued shunning Sandy Alderson until their PDC with the Mets expired in September 2012.  The Bisons filed for divorce with the league office, and Toronto came running.  The two organizations have been in blissful agreement since.

There’s no denying Toronto and Buffalo are an ideal match.  But having their triple-A affiliate in upstate New York was optimal for the Mets as well – and they blew it. Stumbling out of Buffalo, they wound up exiled from the more convenient International League for a second time.

Enter Las Vegas, and a return to the Pacific Coast League.  Perhaps a foreign place for Mets fans, but not so much for Sandy Alderson.  His familiarity with the PCL stems from his previous experiences working in Oakland and San Diego.  The extension he signed with Las Vegas in 2014 nevertheless struck me as a slight surprise.

The 2014 open period concluded with 20 triple-A player development contracts timed to expire this month.  Only a fraction of teams could have actually served the Mets well.  But there was always the chance an alternative would emerge.

The Mets should have been so lucky.  Entering this year’s open period, fifteen clubs/affiliates already extended their respective PDCs at least through the 2018 season.  That left the Mets agreement with Vegas among only five remaining PDC’s still set to expire entering September.

Logic dictates the Phillies and Tigers will renew their respective PDCs with Lehigh Valley and Toledo.  Both Triple-A locales “could” have served as viable, albeit remote possibilities for getting the Mets back into the International League.  Unresolved PDC’s between the Milwaukee Brewers with Colorado Springs, and the Mariners with the Tacoma Rainiers, offered little help otherwise.

It’s all a moot point now.  The Mets are staying put and the 51s are seemingly happy with their decision.

And why shouldn’t they?

Aug 5, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Mets equipment on the on deck circle prior to the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Aug 5, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Mets equipment on the on deck circle prior to the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Las Vegas registered an 287-288 (.499) overall record during their four-year PDC (2009-12) with Toronto.

In 2013, Vegas began benefiting from a quality of talent the Buffalo Bisons once demanded from the Mets.  The 51s qualified for their first post-season since 2002 by winning the first of back-to-back division flags.  With Wally Backman at the helm, they also recorded consecutive 80 win seasons for the first time in franchise history.

None of this is to suggest they are dependent on the Mets for success at the gate. Since 1983, Vegas fans have proven themselves to be consistently reliable patrons. The 51s have never drawn less than 300,000 to Cashman Field in any season. They’re still averaging at least 4,000 fans per game, per season, for a 34th straight year.

That said, Las Vegas attendance since 2013 has exceeded figures posted during their previous run with Toronto.  They averaged 4,575 fans per game while fielding Blue Jays prospects.  They’ve so far averaged 4,725 per game during their time with the Mets.

From a New York perspective, this PDC still presents Mets’ minor league prospects with more problems than a math book.

I derive no joy from saying that.  The least of my desire is to speak disparagingly of the Las Vegas 51s.  In truth, I enjoy listening to the 51s on MiLB audio casts very much.  Through the magic of time zones, their games conveniently start after the Mets in most instances.  Listening to expert play-by-play announcer Russ Langer has been a pleasure.  The games in general have become a great way of extending my summer nights over these last four years.

Aug 5, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Mets equipment on the on deck circle prior to the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Aug 5, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Mets equipment on the on deck circle prior to the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

My entertainment aside, Mets triple-A prospects will continue playing in a rapidly deteriorating ballpark until further notice.

Cashman Field opened in 1983, making it the third oldest facility in all of triple-A baseball.  The park earned criticisms for substandard training and player facilities, lack of modern amenities, and for numerous fan inconveniences.  All of which precede the Mets PDC with Las Vegas.

Opened in 1942, McCoy Stadium, home of the International League Pawtucket Red Sox, is minor league baseball’s oldest operating ballpark.  It underwent a well deserved renovation in 1998 after 56 seasons of continuous use.  Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, WA, opened in 1960 making it the Pacific Coast League’s oldest park.  It likewise underwent renovation in 2011.  Both restorations came at taxpayer’s expense, something Las Vegas never seemed willing to do with their municipally owned park.

Worsening conditions at Cashman Field finally gained the PCL commissioner’s full attention.   Branch Rickey III expressed his displeasure in a May 2015 letter written to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, stating, “Cashman Field has sadly been surpassed by every other facility in Triple-A baseball.”

The severity of the situation came to a head – quite literally – three months later.  In the midst of a well attended back-to-school giveaway game on Aug. 22, the toilets near the Cashman Field dugouts backed up and exploded.  This prompted a second sternly worded letter authored by the commissioner in November urgently demanding immediate upgrades to infrastructure.

New ownership wants to build a new facility in nearby Summerlin.  But they’re no closer to breaking ground today than in 2013 when they first purchased the team. Ongoing negotiations between team owners and government officials remain stalemated over several issues.

In most cases, these would classify as fairly typical hurdles to overcome.

As if…

There’s now an emerging possibility a new stadium for the NFL’s Oakland Raiders could replace the entire Vegas convention complex.  That in turn would effectively squeeze out the 51s.

Stadium uncertainty only scratches the surface when addressing difficulties Mets prospects face playing for Las Vegas.

There’s definitely an east coast bias at work.  There are those who will exaggerate playing conditions to suit their opinions.  But don’t we all?  With regards to statistics, we torture them until they say exactly what we want.

And there’s the rub…

When it comes to playing in Las Vegas, people are quick to qualify stats with asterisks.  Many find difficultly taking them at face value, treating them instead like some Mayan codex.  Even then, many disagree regarding their interpretation.

But make no mistake.  Elevation, arid desert conditions, a sun-baked hardened infield, high temperatures often lasting deep into the night, are real issues.  I listened to Russ Langer announce game time temperatures in the high 90s and low 100s on too numerous occasions.  All these factors play a part in the day-to-day development of players.  To what degree is debatable.

Aug 5, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Mets equipment on the on deck circle prior to the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Aug 5, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Mets equipment on the on deck circle prior to the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

With regards to pitchers, most agree arid conditions in Vegas cause them difficulty in maintaining moisture on their fingertips.  That in turn affects their ability to maximize breaking pitches.  Ron Darling, during a recent SNY telecast, was explaining how that forces pitchers into utilizing more fastballs.  That in turn means living over the plate. Naturally, that drives up ERAs.

My opinion, however, is in lockstep with the late great Earl Weaver.  Unlike football, hockey and basketball, teams can not play keep-away in baseball.  In the course of securing 27 outs, the game provides equal opportunity to all whom step into the batter’s box.  Pitchers essentially must throw the ball over the plate.  Period.  Some pitchers simply do it better than many others.

Think that’s simplistic and archaic?  Then may Henry Chadwick help you.  If MLB ever switches to an electronic strike zone, the baseball universe will realize how much Weaver’s words ring true.

Offensively, position players too easily earn “Las Vegas hitter” tags.  The perception is they play in a large pinball machine.  That if playing conditions in Vegas are detrimental to pitching ERA’s, they must certainly be a boon for hitters.

Yet, not a single Las Vegas hitter would ever see a major league pitch if naysayers had their way.   Consider the respective seasons of Travis Taijeron, Gavin Cecchini, and T.J. Rivera in particular.   They’re all closing out rather productive seasons.  Yet, too few take them seriously.  Never mind that I singled them out.  They’re current, nothing more.  I merely wish to point out a symptomatic bias involved with PCL stats and Mets prospects playing in Las Vegas.

Aug 5, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Mets equipment on the on deck circle prior to the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Aug 5, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Mets equipment on the on deck circle prior to the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Logistics are an entirely different matter.

The Mets experienced little trouble between 2013 and 2015 shuttling players between New York and Las Vegas.  Need for reinforcements, however, became more dire this year.  Their 2016 injury plagued season best captured the true difficulties involved with maintaining their triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas.

Consider the average flight between New York and Vegas takes roughly five hours. Then consider the toll all those frequent flyer miles can have on a given player.

In August, the Mets recalling Josh Smoker from Vegas, then optioning him right back the next day barely qualifies as an inconvenience.

Brandon Nimmo‘s case, however, qualifies as mid-level ponderous.  The Mets optioned Nimmo on Sept. 2nd, recalled him on the 4th, then optioned him again on the 10th.  That adds up to roughly 15 hours of flight time in just over a week.

Then there’s the extreme case of T.J. Rivera.  He debuted on Aug. 10 upon the Mets selecting his contract.  The club then optioned him to Vegas on Sept. 19, recalled him on the 23rd, optioned him again on the 26th, then recalled him the very next day! Within an hour of landing in Vegas, he was boarding a flight right back to New York. After which, the Mets optioned J.T. right back to Vegas on Sept. 29th.

That’s roughly 30 hours of flight time within a 20 day stretch.  So much for jet lag…

If you’re a Las Vegas antagonist, all you can do now is hope.  Perhaps by 2018 some general manager pisses off a triple-A affiliate closer to Flushing.  Just like Minaya pissed off Buffalo and Norfolk years ago.  In the mean time, hang in there.  Don’t let Pacific Coast League and Las Vegas influenced statistics darken an otherwise open mind.

We can’t qualify everything!

For the record, I prefer having Mets triple-A players closer to home.  Like anyone else, I also want them playing in the best facility possible.  But some of the conditions they face do not consume me as they might others.

The army veteran living inside me also believes in adapting and overcoming adverse situations.   What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.  That goes for baseball players as well.

That said, I leave you with this last thought.  Eleven players listed on the 2015 National League championship 25-man roster played with Las Vegas between 2013 and 2015.

#VegasPlayersMatter

,

The New York Mets and Las Vegas 51s extended their player development contract for another two years.

Aug 5, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Mets equipment on the on deck circle prior to the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Aug 5, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Mets equipment on the on deck circle prior to the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

I will argue the Mets had no choice.  Opportunities to relocate their triple-A operation closer to home simply did not materialize.

Baseball’s Open Period takes place in September during even-numbered years.  The process allows major and minor league clubs the opportunity of extending existing PDC’s, or seeking new alternative agreements.  PDC’s run for either two or four-year terms.  At the end of the open period, MLB will join remaining unmatched teams for the two season minimum.

If you recall, the Mets and Las Vegas 51s originally came together under just such circumstances.

The Toronto Blue Jays were seeking escape from Las Vegas.  Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bisons were becoming increasingly displeased with former general manager Omar Minaya.  Buffalo continued shunning Sandy Alderson until their PDC with the Mets expired in September 2012.  The Bisons filed for divorce with the league office, and Toronto came running.  The two organizations have been in blissful agreement since.

There’s no denying Toronto and Buffalo are an ideal match.  But having their triple-A affiliate in upstate New York was optimal for the Mets as well – and they blew it. Stumbling out of Buffalo, they wound up exiled from the more convenient International League for a second time.

Enter Las Vegas, and a return to the Pacific Coast League.  Perhaps a foreign place for Mets fans, but not so much for Sandy Alderson.  His familiarity with the PCL stems from his previous experiences working in Oakland and San Diego.  The extension he signed with Las Vegas in 2014 nevertheless struck me as a slight surprise.

The 2014 open period concluded with 20 triple-A player development contracts timed to expire this month.  Only a fraction of teams could have actually served the Mets well.  But there was always the chance an alternative would emerge.

The Mets should have been so lucky.  Entering this year’s open period, fifteen clubs/affiliates already extended their respective PDCs at least through the 2018 season.  That left the Mets agreement with Vegas among only five remaining PDC’s still set to expire entering September.

Logic dictates the Phillies and Tigers will renew their respective PDCs with Lehigh Valley and Toledo.  Both Triple-A locales “could” have served as viable, albeit remote possibilities for getting the Mets back into the International League.  Unresolved PDC’s between the Milwaukee Brewers with Colorado Springs, and the Mariners with the Tacoma Rainiers, offered little help otherwise.

It’s all a moot point now.  The Mets are staying put and the 51s are seemingly happy with their decision.

And why shouldn’t they?

Aug 5, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Mets equipment on the on deck circle prior to the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Aug 5, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Mets equipment on the on deck circle prior to the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Las Vegas registered an 287-288 (.499) overall record during their four-year PDC (2009-12) with Toronto.

In 2013, Vegas began benefiting from a quality of talent the Buffalo Bisons once demanded from the Mets.  The 51s qualified for their first post-season since 2002 by winning the first of back-to-back division flags.  With Wally Backman at the helm, they also recorded consecutive 80 win seasons for the first time in franchise history.

None of this is to suggest they are dependent on the Mets for success at the gate. Since 1983, Vegas fans have proven themselves to be consistently reliable patrons. The 51s have never drawn less than 300,000 to Cashman Field in any season. They’re still averaging at least 4,000 fans per game, per season, for a 34th straight year.

That said, Las Vegas attendance since 2013 has exceeded figures posted during their previous run with Toronto.  They averaged 4,575 fans per game while fielding Blue Jays prospects.  They’ve so far averaged 4,725 per game during their time with the Mets.

From a New York perspective, this PDC still presents Mets’ minor league prospects with more problems than a math book.

I derive no joy from saying that.  The least of my desire is to speak disparagingly of the Las Vegas 51s.  In truth, I enjoy listening to the 51s on MiLB audio casts very much.  Through the magic of time zones, their games conveniently start after the Mets in most instances.  Listening to expert play-by-play announcer Russ Langer has been a pleasure.  The games in general have become a great way of extending my summer nights over these last four years.

Aug 5, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Mets equipment on the on deck circle prior to the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Aug 5, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Mets equipment on the on deck circle prior to the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

My entertainment aside, Mets triple-A prospects will continue playing in a rapidly deteriorating ballpark until further notice.

Cashman Field opened in 1983, making it the third oldest facility in all of triple-A baseball.  The park earned criticisms for substandard training and player facilities, lack of modern amenities, and for numerous fan inconveniences.  All of which precede the Mets PDC with Las Vegas.

Opened in 1942, McCoy Stadium, home of the International League Pawtucket Red Sox, is minor league baseball’s oldest operating ballpark.  It underwent a well deserved renovation in 1998 after 56 seasons of continuous use.  Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, WA, opened in 1960 making it the Pacific Coast League’s oldest park.  It likewise underwent renovation in 2011.  Both restorations came at taxpayer’s expense, something Las Vegas never seemed willing to do with their municipally owned park.

Worsening conditions at Cashman Field finally gained the PCL commissioner’s full attention.   Branch Rickey III expressed his displeasure in a May 2015 letter written to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, stating, “Cashman Field has sadly been surpassed by every other facility in Triple-A baseball.”

The severity of the situation came to a head – quite literally – three months later.  In the midst of a well attended back-to-school giveaway game on Aug. 22, the toilets near the Cashman Field dugouts backed up and exploded.  This prompted a second sternly worded letter authored by the commissioner in November urgently demanding immediate upgrades to infrastructure.

New ownership wants to build a new facility in nearby Summerlin.  But they’re no closer to breaking ground today than in 2013 when they first purchased the team. Ongoing negotiations between team owners and government officials remain stalemated over several issues.

In most cases, these would classify as fairly typical hurdles to overcome.

As if…

There’s now an emerging possibility a new stadium for the NFL’s Oakland Raiders could replace the entire Vegas convention complex.  That in turn would effectively squeeze out the 51s.

Stadium uncertainty only scratches the surface when addressing difficulties Mets prospects face playing for Las Vegas.

There’s definitely an east coast bias at work.  There are those who will exaggerate playing conditions to suit their opinions.  But don’t we all?  With regards to statistics, we torture them until they say exactly what we want.

And there’s the rub…

When it comes to playing in Las Vegas, people are quick to qualify stats with asterisks.  Many find difficultly taking them at face value, treating them instead like some Mayan codex.  Even then, many disagree regarding their interpretation.

But make no mistake.  Elevation, arid desert conditions, a sun-baked hardened infield, high temperatures often lasting deep into the night, are real issues.  I listened to Russ Langer announce game time temperatures in the high 90s and low 100s on too numerous occasions.  All these factors play a part in the day-to-day development of players.  To what degree is debatable.

Aug 5, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Mets equipment on the on deck circle prior to the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Aug 5, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Mets equipment on the on deck circle prior to the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

With regards to pitchers, most agree arid conditions in Vegas cause them difficulty in maintaining moisture on their fingertips.  That in turn affects their ability to maximize breaking pitches.  Ron Darling, during a recent SNY telecast, was explaining how that forces pitchers into utilizing more fastballs.  That in turn means living over the plate. Naturally, that drives up ERAs.

My opinion, however, is in lockstep with the late great Earl Weaver.  Unlike football, hockey and basketball, teams can not play keep-away in baseball.  In the course of securing 27 outs, the game provides equal opportunity to all whom step into the batter’s box.  Pitchers essentially must throw the ball over the plate.  Period.  Some pitchers simply do it better than many others.

Think that’s simplistic and archaic?  Then may Henry Chadwick help you.  If MLB ever switches to an electronic strike zone, the baseball universe will realize how much Weaver’s words ring true.

Offensively, position players too easily earn “Las Vegas hitter” tags.  The perception is they play in a large pinball machine.  That if playing conditions in Vegas are detrimental to pitching ERA’s, they must certainly be a boon for hitters.

Yet, not a single Las Vegas hitter would ever see a major league pitch if naysayers had their way.   Consider the respective seasons of Travis Taijeron, Gavin Cecchini, and T.J. Rivera in particular.   They’re all closing out rather productive seasons.  Yet, too few take them seriously.  Never mind that I singled them out.  They’re current, nothing more.  I merely wish to point out a symptomatic bias involved with PCL stats and Mets prospects playing in Las Vegas.

Aug 5, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Mets equipment on the on deck circle prior to the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Aug 5, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Mets equipment on the on deck circle prior to the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Logistics are an entirely different matter.

The Mets experienced little trouble between 2013 and 2015 shuttling players between New York and Las Vegas.  Need for reinforcements, however, became more dire this year.  Their 2016 injury plagued season best captured the true difficulties involved with maintaining their triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas.

Consider the average flight between New York and Vegas takes roughly five hours. Then consider the toll all those frequent flyer miles can have on a given player.

In August, the Mets recalling Josh Smoker from Vegas, then optioning him right back the next day barely qualifies as an inconvenience.

Brandon Nimmo‘s case, however, qualifies as mid-level ponderous.  The Mets optioned Nimmo on Sept. 2nd, recalled him on the 4th, then optioned him again on the 10th.  That adds up to roughly 15 hours of flight time in just over a week.

Then there’s the extreme case of T.J. Rivera.  He debuted on Aug. 10 upon the Mets selecting his contract.  The club then optioned him to Vegas on Sept. 19, recalled him on the 23rd, optioned him again on the 26th, then recalled him the very next day! Within an hour of landing in Vegas, he was boarding a flight right back to New York. After which, the Mets optioned J.T. right back to Vegas on Sept. 29th.

That’s roughly 30 hours of flight time within a 20 day stretch.  So much for jet lag…

If you’re a Las Vegas antagonist, all you can do now is hope.  Perhaps by 2018 some general manager pisses off a triple-A affiliate closer to Flushing.  Just like Minaya pissed off Buffalo and Norfolk years ago.  In the mean time, hang in there.  Don’t let Pacific Coast League and Las Vegas influenced statistics darken an otherwise open mind.

We can’t qualify everything!

For the record, I prefer having Mets triple-A players closer to home.  Like anyone else, I also want them playing in the best facility possible.  But some of the conditions they face do not consume me as they might others.

The army veteran living inside me also believes in adapting and overcoming adverse situations.   What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.  That goes for baseball players as well.

That said, I leave you with this last thought.  Eleven players listed on the 2015 National League championship 25-man roster played with Las Vegas between 2013 and 2015.

#VegasPlayersMatter

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