Jan 29

Why I Am Pulling For Flores

I don’t know Wilmer Flores well, but pulling for him to have a breakout season. And, I wanted this before Sandy Alderson foolishly cracked wise on him last weekend.

There are several reasons why, beginning with my penchant for rooting for the underdog. All those signings and trades people have advocated the Mets should make probably have made him uncomfortable, despite his well-grounded response to the rumors.

FLORES: Hope he does well.

FLORES: Hope he does well.

“You hear people talking all the time: ‘Is this guy going to be a shortstop? Can he play shortstop? Can he not?’ ’’ Flores told Newsday. “You know what? I can’t listen to that. I want to play the way I’ve been playing. … I’m not going to say I don’t hear things. But I try not to because I know what I can do, man. Honestly, I know what I can do.’’

That’s a great approach for somebody entering a season the first time as the frontrunner.

Playing Major League Baseball is hard enough without your boss dissing you. And, Alderson isn’t the only one. The Internet is loaded with comments endorsing just about anybody over Flores.

I like Flores because he works hard to succeed despite the criticism. He wants to do well and how can you not like that?

There’s criticism he can’t hit on the Major League level, but seriously, how do we know because he’s never been given a chance?

There’s also criticism his defense is suspect, but often over-looked is the aspect of positioning and pitchers working to hitters in such a way where the ball will be hit toward Flores.

Over the past few years Flores wasn’t given a real chance by the Mets. It appears that has changed, and for one, I hope he does well.

 

Jan 28

Mets, Mejia Avoid Arbitration

As expected, the Mets avoided arbitration with reliever Jenrry Mejia, who agreed to a one-year, $2.595 million contract this evening.

Mejia, whose role has bounced from the rotation and bullpen during his Mets’ tenure, assumed the closer job after Bobby Parnell was injured.

Manager Terry Collins, despite not knowing Parnell’s physical status, already anointed him as the closer in mid-December even though Mejia saved 28 games with a 2.72 ERA last year.

It was a premature announcement that thwarts the concept of competition. Playing the good soldier, Mejia said he doesn’t care, but how could he not?

 

Jan 28

Manfred Must Shift From This Issue

That Rob Manfred is even thinking of it should give pause to any baseball fan, or at least one who considers themselves traditionalists.

MANFRED: Shift not an issue.

MANFRED: Shift not an issue.

There’s no such thing as perfection, and certainly baseball is not without flaws. However, use of a defensive shift isn’t one of them. Manfred, who succeeded Bud Selig as commissioner, in an effort to increase scoring is contemplating outlawing defensive shifts.

Baseball defenses have implemented shifts for years, dating back to Ted Williams if not before. Williams was good enough, and smart enough, to beat the shift.

Many of today’s players are not. Many frustrated by the shift have complained and privately lobbied to outlaw it. If Manfred manages to do this he would be rewarding players for incompetence and not being able to do their job.

Run production has gradually declined in recent years and a knee-jerk reaction has it being attributable to an increase in shifts. Funny, but did anybody connected with Major League Baseball ever think that might be because of a decline in steroid usage?

Of course, this logic would be an admission of the steroid era, one of the black marks of Selig’s tenure.

How many runs do shifts take away is debatable, but I’m willing to bet offenses are more stagnant because too many hitters simply don’t know how to hit. They are too preoccupied with pulling the ball and not using the entire field; they aren’t interested in working the count and drawing walks to increase their on-base percentage; and perhaps above all, they are enamored with the home run and don’t care about strikeouts.

So, what’s next if shifts are outlawed? Could baseball legislate what pitches must be thrown on specific counts? Or, how about telling outfielders how deep they can play, or ban corner infielders from guarding the lines late in the game? What about giving a hitter four strikes instead of three?

There are so many things Major League Baseball could do if it wants to improve the product on the field, but banning shifts is not one of them.

All too often, the stewards of the sport remind me of a man who can’t resist poking the coals of a barbeque to fan the flames. It’s really a great sport, with its biggest problem all those trying to needlessly trying to “improve’’ it.

Jan 27

Mets Rotation: A Difference Between Depth And Potential

There’s a distinct difference between depth and potential when it comes to the Mets’ rotation. There’s a lot to like about their potential, but you should be careful not to equate the names with depth.

Matt Harvey, Bartolo Colon, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom, Dillon Gee, Jon Niese, Rafael Montero, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz give you nine names, but also nine questions.

Harvey: How will he respond from elbow surgery?

Colon: He’s 41 and the Mets are trying to trade him. If they do, will anybody give them the 200 innings he gave the Mets last year?

Wheeler: Will he improve his command and thereby increase his innings?

deGrom: Can he encore his Rookie of the Year season?

Gee: Will he be gone by Opening Day?

Niese: Will he live up to his expectations and stay healthy?

Montero: Can he improve what has been keeping him back, which is his control?

Syndergaard: Can you count on anybody who hasn’t pitched in the major leagues?

Matz: Can you count on anybody who hasn’t pitched in the major leagues?

Sure, the best-case scenario is to have all these answered in the positive, but that rarely happens. Hopefully, these issues can be resolved and the Mets can count on these guys to be moved in the depth category.

I asked nine questions about potential Mets’ starters for 2015. Let me ask one more: Who among you haven’t wondered the same?

Jan 26

Yankees Ready To Spar With Rodriguez

The Yankees fired an interesting salvo in their on-going war with disgraced slugger Alex Rodriguez.

After refusing to hold a “clear-the-air’’ meeting with Rodriguez, the Yankees are reportedly bracing their legal defense to prevent him from collecting on any of the $30 million in bonuses he would get from his 2007 marketing agreement with the team.

RODRIGUEZ: Facing more legal hassles.

RODRIGUEZ: Facing more legal hassles.

Good for them, even though they are sure to lose.

With six more homers he will tie Willie Mays (660) for fourth place on the career list, which would be worth $6 million. He would also get $6 million for tying Babe Ruth (714), Hank Aaron (755), Barry Bonds (762) and passing Bonds.

Naturally, the basis for their argument is Rodriguez’s involvement with steroids. It would be a worthwhile fight except for several flaws, namely the Yankees knew what they were getting into when they signed him, and then re-signed him.

However, their case would carry greater weight if they were to sue him for money already paid and to get out of the contract entirely, which has three years and $61 million remaining.

Proving they had no knowledge about steroids would be difficult because it is largely assumed Major League Baseball was aware of steroid use as far back as 1998, when we were “treated,’’ to the home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.

Going this way would undoubtedly reopen old wounds and possibly create new ones. Personally, I would like to see them go that route regardless of the fallout because maybe all the truth would come out.