Oct 09

Are The Games Really Too Long?

As one of his last acts as baseball commissioner, Bud Selig wants to add “speeding up the game,’’ to his legacy.

A seven-member committee appointed by Selig to study the issue includes Mets GM Sandy Alderson, but no active players. MLB union director Tony Clark was designated to speak on behalf of the players.

TRACHSEL: Slow and painful. (AP)

TRACHSEL: Slow and painful. (AP)

After years of collaborative efforts between management and the players, it smacks of the early “bad old days’’ under Selig in which the owners acted unilaterally and strong-armed the players.

That led to bad blood and several work stoppages that included the sacking of the 1994 World Series. That too, in addition to the money MLB is making, is part of Selig’s legacy.

“It’s just important for us to have a say,’’ Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson told ESPN. “It doesn’t need to be all 750 of us. It’s just important to have three or four players who can say, ‘Hey, we’ve noticed this, and we feel this way.’ ’’

It is puzzling, and some might suggest hypocritical, that the sport without a clock is trying to speed up the pace of the game by forcing pitchers to work faster and hitters keep one foot in the batter’s box at all times.

During those lulls is when the players compose their thoughts and re-focus. Forcing the hitter back into the box or rushing the pitcher to throw could lead to mistakes and perhaps the outcome of the game.

At the best, they might shave three or four minutes off a game. Nobody has offered what else could be done in those four minutes.

The bottom line is if a game is played crisply and isn’t sloppy, nobody will complain about the length of the game. Who was complaining after the Giants-Nationals 18-inning playoff game?

Now, don’t go saying, “well, it’s the playoffs, it’s different.’’ It is different in one respect as there was no shortage of commercials between innings.

Unquestionably, the primary reason games might run long are the numerous commercial breaks between innings. However, don’t ask MLB to ask the networks for shorter commercials. If speeding up the game is that important, cut the commercial time. The networks demand the time so they can charge more and consequently pay the large rights fees.

No doubt some pitchers could stand to work faster as it would make them more efficient. I also grumbled at the likes of Steve Trachsel and Oliver Perez who were excruciating if not painful to watch.

Part of the problem, management says, is the hitters take too many pitches. Isn’t that what Alderson wants his hitters to do? He’s been quoted numerous times as wanting his hitters to be more selective.

As for Joe Torre, his Yankee teams won four World Series in large part because of their ability to work the count and drive up the opposing pitcher’s pitch count. One of the most memorable moments of the 2000 Subway World Series was Paul O’Neill’s ninth-inning 10-pitch at-bat against Armando Benitez after falling behind 1-and-2 in the count.

That’s what those Yankee teams did. That’s what the Mets should do now. I’d much rather see Juan Lagares work the at-bat to eight pitches and draw a walk then swing at garbage and pop up.

Hey, if Ike Davis had bothered to learn that, he might still be with the Mets instead of wondering what happened to his career.

By its nature, baseball is an ebb-and-flow game, with lulls followed by bursts of action. When the hitter steps out, that’s when fathers and sons talk and bond. In the NBA and NFL, lulls are met with video clips and loud music. People don’t talk at those games.

Those conversations are how the game is passed from generation to generation, along with watching the playoffs on television, which is another topic.

This is another example that the caretakers of the game don’t understand their own product. Yes, there are games that last too long. If that’s the case and you are bored, turn the channel or get up and leave.

However, if the game is interesting, close and compelling, odds are you’ll use that time when the manager goes out to visit the pitcher to catch your breath.

Feb 25

Gotta Love Buck Showalter

The New York Mets were roasted during their first year at Citi Field because the new stadium showed more a Brooklyn Dodgers feel than that of the Mets.

That never would have happened had Buck Showalter been running the show. Showalter, who is cut from the original old school cloth, gets it when honoring the game’s past.

Frank Robinson was in Orioles’ camp Monday and Showalter casually asked 19-year-old prospect Josh Hart if he knew about the Hall of Famer, a member of the 500-homer club and one of the three greatest players in club history along with Brooks Robinson and Cal Ripken.

Incidentally, Robinson was also the first African-American manager in major league history, and as a black man, you would think that’s something Hart would want to know.

When Hart said he didn’t know, Showalter assigned the rookie to write a one-page report on Robinson. Kind of like “I will not talk in class,’’ 100 times on the blackboard.

Hart not knowing Robinson ranks just below on the ignorance scale of LeBron James – who prides himself as a basketball historian – leaving Bill Russell off his NBA Mt. Rushmore.

The Robinson-Hart reminds me of something that happened in spring training several years ago, and also involved Robinson.

Then Mets-GM Omar Minaya asked former prospect Lastings Milledge to follow him across the field to the Washington dugout to introduce him to then-Nationals manager Robinson.

Milledge could not have been less interested and showed Robinson zero respect. And, in doing so showed the same amount to Minaya.

It was a precursor of things to come for Milledge, who was chastised by manager Willie Randolph for not honoring the game’s unspoken traditions, and later by his teammates, who posted a sign on his locker saying, “Know your place, Rook. Signed, your teammates.’’

Milledge never did get it and his career fell into “what might have been,’’ status. Here’s hoping Hart gets the message.

Feb 08

We May Have Seen The Last Of Alex Rodriguez

With Alex Rodriguez’s decision to drop his Triple Play lawsuits against Major League Baseball, Commissioner Bud Selig and the Players Association, it is extremely possible we have seen the last of the player who one time seemed destined to hold all the records.

In doing so, Rodriguez will accept the 162-game suspension that will cost him the 2014 season and $25 million.

RODRIGUEZ: Going, going gone.

RODRIGUEZ: Going, going gone.

While the reaction of Rodriguez’s decision has been positive, speculation is the suit was dropped because he was throwing good money after bad. He would stand to lose $10 million in legal fees.

While I have no doubt Rodriguez did something, nobody has said to what extent. I still call into question Major League Baseball’s tactics in the Biogenesis case, which could cost Rodriguez his career.

Rodriguez can return for 2015, and indicates he wants a post-playing career in baseball. Good luck with that … it definitely wouldn’t have happened had he followed through with the suit.

Rodriguez will be 40 in 2015, and after being away from the game for a year, one has to wonder how much he’ll lose. He could spend the time rehabbing and getting his surgically-repaired hips stronger.

Still, I don’t know if it will do any good for his career. The Yankees are obligated to pay him $62 million, but in what capacity?

Will they bring him back and deal with that distraction for two more years, or will they simply buy him out?

I’m betting the latter, thinking we’ll never see Rodriguez play another major league game again.

 

Nov 20

How The Market Is Shaping Up; Things Could Happen This Week

When will the New York Mets do something of consequence this off-season isn’t hard to imagine. If recent history is an indicator it likely won’t be until the market is defined, which comes after the Winter Meetings.

However, the week preceding Thanksgiving can get busy. Not much happens usually happens around Thanksgiving. There’s usually activity after the holiday leading up to the Winter Meetings and after until Christmas.

HUDSON: Returning West.

HUDSON: Returning West.

Then, more stuff gets done after the New Year with what’s left of the market leading up to spring training. That’s usually when the Mets have done their work.

So far, there’s been some interesting news, including LaTroy Hawkins signing with Colorado for $2.5 million. He’s somebody I was hoping the Mets would bring back before at 41 because he could still throw in the low-to-mid 90s and for his clubhouse presence.

Hawkins was an astute pick-up last year, and with Bobby Parnell coming off surgery, he would have filled a spot in the bullpen.

The Yankees brought back shortstop Brendan Ryan, who I touted for his defense. I’d still rather have him than Ruben Tejada. We’ll just have to wait to see what happens with Jhonny Peralta, who, as of now, would represent the Mets’ biggest splash in the market. Philadelphia brought back catcher Carlos Ruiz for two years, out-bidding the champion Red Sox.

Perhaps the most interesting acquisition is San Francisco signing Tim Hudson to a two-year, $23 million contract. The 38-year-old Hudson is coming off ankle surgery.

Hudson is the latest in several costly, and expensive, decisions the Giants have made the past few years. The first was signing Angel Pagan – whom the Mets gladly shipped out – to a four-year deal. Then, they extended Tim Lincecum’s contract two years for $35 million when there were no indications he’d be a hot commodity on the market.

However, the Giants won the World Series in 2010 and 2012 with pitching-based teams, so they are doing something right.

Mets GM Sandy Alderson said he didn’t want an injury reclamation project, which Hudson clearly would be. However, Alderson has a history with Hudson when they were with Oakland and I was wondering if he at least reached out the pitcher.

Currently, agents and general managers are talking and posturing – that includes Alderson – but the market is still forming. Mostly, parameter dollar amounts have been exchanged. With the Mets there hasn’t been much in terms of specifics.

In addition to shortstop, the Mets need two starters, bullpen depth and a power-hitting corner outfielder.

Nov 01

Mets Have Plenty Of Choices In Free Agent Market

 It never takes long for the free-agent season to begin with 147 players now on the market, including seven New York Mets. The Mets’ list includes: David Aardsma, Tim Byrdak, Pedro Feliciano, Frank Francisco, Aaron Harang, LaTroy Hawkins and Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Shortly, Johan Santana will join them as the Mets are expected to decline their option and pay him the $5.5 million buyout.

All are pitchers, which is a primary need. The Mets are seeking two starters for the back end of their rotation and could make a run at bringing back Matsuzaka and/or Harang.

For now, the Mets filled those spots on their 40-man roster by activating the following seven players from the 60-day injured reserve list: Ike Davis, Josh Edgin, Matt Harvey, Jeremy Hefner, Jenrry Mejia, Bobby Parnell and Scott Rice.

Harvey and Hefner are expected to miss the 2014 season, and it isn’t known whether Parnell and Mejia, both recovering from surgery, will be available for the start of the season.

Rice should be ready, while Davis could end up being traded as the Mets have a glut of first basemen.

The Major League Baseball Players Association has released the following list of 147 players who are free agents:

ATLANTA

RHP: Luis Ayala, Freddy Garcia, Tim Hudson, Kameron Loe.

LHP: Scott Downs, Paul Maholm, Eric O’Flaherty.

C: Brian McCann.

ARIZONA

C: Wil Nieves.

INF: Willie Bloomquist, Eric Chavez.

BALTIMORE

RHP: Scot Feldman, Jason Hammel.

C: Chris Snyder.

INF: Brian Roberts.

OF: Nate McLouth, Michael Morse.

BOSTON

RHP: Joel Hanrahan.

C: Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

INF: Stephen Drew, John McDonald, Mike Napoli.

OF: Jacoby Ellsbury.

CHICAGO CUBS

RHP: Scott Baker, Kevin Gregg, Matt Guerrier.

C: Dioner Navarro.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

RHP: Gavin Floyd.

INF: Paul Konerko.

CINCINNATI

RHP: Bronson Arroyo, Nick Masset.

LHP: Zach Duke, Manny Parra.

IF: Cesar Izturis.

OF: Shin-Soo Choo.

CLEVELAND

RHP: Matt Albers, Joe Smith.

LHP: Rich Hill, Scott Kazmir.

C: Kelly Shoppach.

INF: Jason Giambi.

COLORADO

RHP: Rafael Betancourt, Roy Oswalt.

LHP: Jeff Francis.

C: Yorvit Torrealba.

INF: Todd Helton.

DETROIT

RHP: Joaquin Benoit, Jeremy Bonderman, Octavio Dotel.

C: Bravan Pena.

INF: Omar Infante, Jhonny Peralta, Ramon Santiago.

HOUSTON

LHP: Erik Bedard.

KANSAS CITY

RHP: Bruce Chen, Ervin Santana.

INF: Carlos Pena, Miguel Tejada.

LOS ANGELES ANGELS

LHP: Jason Vargas.
OF: Jerry Hairston.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

RHP: J.P. Howell, Carlos Marmol, Ricky Nolasco, Edinson Volquez, Brian Wilson.

INF: Nick Punto, Skip Schumaker, Juan Uribe, Michael Young.

MIAMI

RHP: Chad Qualls.

INF: Placido Polanco.

OF: Matt Diaz, Austin Kearns, Juan Pierre.

MILWAUKEE

LHP: Mike Gonzalez.

INF: Yuniesky Betancourt.

OF: Corey Hart.

MINNESOTA

RHP: Mike Pelfrey.

NEW YORK YANKEES

RHP: Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Hiroki Kuroda, Mariano Rivera,

LHP: Andy Pettitte.

INF: Robinson Cano, Travis Hafner, Lyle Overbay, Mark Reynolds, Brendan Ryan, Kevin Youkilis.

OF: Curtis Granderson.

OAKLAND

RHP: Grant Balfour, Bartolo Colon.

PHILADELPHIA

RHP: Roy Halladay.

C: Carlos Ruiz.

PITTSBURGH

RHP: A.J. Burnett, Kyle Farnsworth, Jeff Karstens.

C: John Buck.

INF: Justin Morneau.

OF: Marlon Byrd,

SAN DIEGO

RHP: Jason Marquis.

INF: Ronny Cedeno.

OF: Mark Kotsay.

SEATTLE

LHP: Oliver Perez.

C: Humberto Quintero.

INF: Kendrys Morales

OF: Endy Chavez, Raul Ibanez.

SAN FRANCISCO

RHP: Chad Gaudin.

LHP: Javier Lopez.

ST. LOUS

RHP: Chris Carpenter, Edward Mujica.

INF: Rafael Furcal.

OF: Carlos Beltran.

TAMPA BAY

RHP: Jesse Crain, Roberto Hernandez, Fernando Rodney, Jamey Wright.

C: Jose Molina.

INF: Kelly Johnson, James Loney, Luke Scott.

OF: Delmon Young.

TEXAS

RHP: Jason Frasor, Matt Garza, Colby Lewis.

C: A.J. Pierzynski, Geovany Soto.

INF: Lance Berkman,

OF: Nelson Cruz.

TORONTO

RHP: Josh Johnson, Ramon Ortiz.

LHP: Darren Oliver.

OF: Rajai Davis.

WASHINGTON

RHP: Dan Haren.

INF: Chad Tracy.