Tap-in Putz for Mets
Yesterday, on the third day of what had been a formerly quiet Winter Meetings in Vegas, the Mets and their GM Omar Minaya addressed the team's laughable bullpen problems from '08 in a huge way. Not only did Minaya sign the best free agent closer out there, Angels righthander Francisco (K-Rod) Rodriguez, but he followed that up last night with a gi-normous 12-player, three-team deal that brought him J.J. Putz from the Mariners, along with fellow reliever Sean Green and outfielder Jeremy Reed. In return, the Mets gave up seven players -- Aaron Heilman, Endy Chavez, Jason Vargas and three minor leaguers to the M's and righthander Joe Smith to the Indians. The Tribe sent Franklin Gutierrez to the M's and received a minor-league second baseman, Luis Valbuena from Seattle.
The sleeper in the deal for the Mets is Green, who has a great arm and can work the middle innings. Putz, who is not happy with his new role according to his agent, will set up K-Rod. The Mets have 14 players under contract for '09 for a total of $113.5 million. The most amazing thing about the breakdown of payroll is that they have three established closers on the hook, including Putz, K-Rod and the injured Billy Wagner, still guaranteed his contract. The closer's position is costing the Mets $27.8 million.
It seems likely now that A.J. Burnett will sign with the Yankees, as the report of a fifth year guaranteed by the Braves seemed premature. The five-years and $85 million that the Yanks are reported to be dangling makes the Jays' initial offer of four years and $54 million that was never actually presented formally, but was real, seem ridiculous. The Jays, in effect, ended up getting Burnett for three years and $31 million as he left $24 million and two years on the table to opt out. How about a three-game series vs. the Yankees next year with the daily match-ups of Halladay vs. Sabathia, Litsch vs. Burnett and Purcey vs. Wang.
Today marks the final day of our Vegas vacation highlighted by the Rule 5 draft, after which all the GMs will scuttle from the palatial Bellagio hotel like kitchen roaches when the light goes on. The annoying rodeo folks that have been in town all week for what seems like some sort of World Series of cow rasslin' or whatever the heck it is have been dominating all the lobby TVs at Bill's Gamblin' Hall and Saloon and in the Big Elvis room, blocking out any chance of seeing the Leafs play -- as if.
The week's been crazy. With all these Stetsons meandering around the lobby on heads belonging to all manner of shapes and sizes most of them not even resembling real Cowboys, it is reminiscent of an open casting call for Brokeback Mountain II. Well, at least I don't have to endure any more of it. I'm flying out today.
The other morning I drove away fropm the Strip for breakfast just to get a break from the neon suntan and dancing waters outside my hotel room stained-glass window.
Las Vegas Blvd. always seems traffic-jammed and there's eternal helter-skelter police and ambulance activity. In fact in four days I've listened to more sirens than Ulysses on the Odyssey. In any case, I took my valet parking ticket downstairs that morning hoping dearly that the guy in the faded T-shirt and jeans I had handed my keys to a while back had in fact been a hotel empoyee and not just some dude looking for a drive. The valet parking is free at Bill's so they don't ask for room number or any other form of ID which worried me. But my white Dodge Avenger showed up screeching down the ramp in one piece.
I tipped the guy and wheeled out of the parking lot heading south on I-15 towards Los Angeles at 6:10 in the morning. I was excited. It was the same road that the late Hunter S. Thompson took when approaching the city in his awesomely full of crap book, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
I knew where I was going because I had read some in-room literature amid the flashy ads for expensive restaurants and gentlemen's clubs that spoke of a town called Primm, Nevada. Their claim to fame they bragged is that they had Bonnie and Clyde's getaway car as a tourist attraction.
As I hurtled down the highway listenting to XM radio's main hip-hop station, T-I kept telling me "You can have whatever you like." What I would have liked at that point was not Patron on ice, but a jug of coffee and some crisp bacon. Instead, I got some cold desert breeze and a straight line highway through the desert, seemingly headed for nowhere in particular.
At 90 m.p.h. I was being passed by everyone, so the trip to Primm was a proper 20 minutes. There was one exit off the highway and it turned out that the entire town consisted of three casinos, one gas station, a monrail, a rollercoaster and a strip of outlet stores. Nobody actually seemed to live in Prim, but the rooms at the casinos were $29.99 per night. Brooks and Dunne and Boys2Men were appearing in December and the Naughty Girls were there nightly. I couldn't find Clyde's ride, but I did stumble across Al Capone's 1931 Lincoln.
I must have just missed Giants' receiver Plaxico Burress because the entire passenger side above the running board was riddled with bullet holes. Inside Buffalo Bill's Casino I bought the Vegas paper, had a leisurely meal and drove back to the Strip, stopping at the south end of the boulevard only to whack a bucket of golf balls with a demo driver at the Callaway golf centre. Then it was back to reality and daily chats with J.P. at the Bellagio ballrooms. Ain't that America.