Apr 05

Where Did Opening Day Go?

We all know Major League Baseball scuttled tradition years ago, but did it have to do away with common sense, also?

At one time, baseball owned the first week of April with Opening Day, with the season traditionally starting in Washington and Cincinnati – the nation’s capital and the city of the sport’s oldest franchise. Those traditions made baseball unique. That disappeared awhile ago, but baseball still had the sense to open up after the NCAA Championship game.

However, the National Football League wrestled the concept of Opening Day away from baseball with the scheduling of the Super Bowl champion the Thursday before the first weekend. But, even before then Major League Baseball started doing screwy things that ruined how special Opening Day is … or was. Both the Mets and Yankees opened the regular season in Japan, then returned to the United States to play exhibition games. That’s beyond stupid.

Then it started opening games on Sunday night between the Final Four and the Championship game. But, with the nation’s attention focused on basketball, does this really make sense?

Ideally, Opening Day should be on the Tuesday after the hoops game, when, as Johnny Bench recently said, it could be a de facto national holiday with baseball owning the attention of the national sporting world.

However, in addition to the starting date, the scheduling of the teams has been far from ideal.

You all know how I feel about interleague play, but really on Opening Day? It is absurd, and for no other reason the high probability of poor weather postponing games.

If not the opener, then the rest of the series makes re-scheduling a rainout difficult because the team won’t come back. And, that argument applies to more than interleague games. Too many times teams make only one visit to a city because of the unbalanced schedule caused by interleague play.

Given that, does it make sense to have two cold-weather teams, such as Boston and Cleveland (which was postponed Monday) play each other? For that matter, why have two dome teams (Toronto played at Tampa Bay) or two warm-weather teams, such as the Dodgers and Padres, playing each other out of the gate?

I realize warm-weather and dome teams don’t want to schedule high-draw teams such as the Yankees, Mets, Cubs and Red Sox early in the season because they want to save those games for later in the summer.

However, it doesn’t have to be every year.

What makes the most sense is to schedule within the division because if those games are rained out they are easier to re-schedule because a team will make two more trips to that town.

Look, I understand it will never be the way it used to be, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be better.

Of the 15 opening series, there were only five divisional match-ups, and two of them included Dodgers-Padres and Blue Jays-Rays.

This is just not smart. It seems that not being smart is one tradition Major League Baseball will not abandon.

ON DECK: No way Royals will retaliate against Syndergaard.

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Apr 05

Mets Today: April 5

The Mets will be going after their first victory of the season after losing Sunday night. Noah Syndergaard gets the ball against former Met Chris Young.

Before previewing the game, I’ll have the following:

* A piece on where the tradition of Opening Day went.

* The issue raised during spring training on if the Royals are planning to retaliate against Syndergaard for his brushback pitch during the World Series.

* I’ll also have a wrap of the game.

ON DECK: Where did Opening Day Go?

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Apr 05

Today In Mets’ History: Trade For Rusty Staub

On this date in 1972, the Mets acquired one of the most popular players in franchise history when they traded outfielder Ken Singleton and infielders Tim Foli and Mike Jorgensen to Montreal for All-Star right fielder Rusty Staub.

STAUB: Mets favorite. (Topps)

STAUB: Mets favorite. (Topps)

Injuries limited Staub to just 66 games that season, but he played a significant role in leading the Mets to the World Series in 1973. An enduring image from that postseason is Staub injuring his shoulder after running into an outfield wall and not being able to throw.

A six-time All-Star, Staub played 23 years in the Major Leagues, with nine of them with the Mets, in which he hit .276 with 75 homers and 399 RBI. Staub didn’t reach the All-Star Game with the Mets, but did so with Houston, Montreal and Detroit.

Staub retired with 2,716 hits (292 homers) and a .279 average.

ON DECK: Mets Today. Blog doings.

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Apr 04

This Year Will Be The Toughest Job Of Collins’ Career

If you heard Terry Collins‘ lame defense of Yoenis Cespedes‘ boneheaded error Sunday night – “Gold Glove out there, it surprised everybody.” – then you’ll see why this will be the toughest of his managerial career.

Collins is an apologist for Cespedes’ lack of effort and for Matt Harvey questioning his authority. But there’s so much more. There’s how he’ll limit David Wright‘s playing time, or more to the point, not knowing when he’ll have the third baseman available.

COLLINS: Facing his toughest challenge. (AP)

COLLINS: Facing his toughest challenge. (AP)

Cespedes is also a Mets’ wildcard in nobody knows how he’ll respond to the pressure of his $27.5-million contract. If Cespedes folds then Collins is again searching for offensive help, especially if Wright doesn’t hit.

Everybody raves about the Mets’ young pitching, but none of those arms – save Bartolo Colon – have won as many as 15 games. And, please, let’s not forget about the uncertainty of the bullpen.

The Mets are also counting on a breakout years from Michael Conforto and Steven Matz and a new double-play combination.

That’s a lot of variables placed pressure squarely on Collins’ shoulders. How he handles that pressure will go a long way towards where the Mets finish. However, perhaps most importantly is Collins has never had a team this talented. He’s never had a team that went to the World Series the previous season and with as many expectations like his 2016 Mets.

In his first years with the Mets, Collins had the security of having a bad team without a willingness to spend money. Those teams had no expectations and GM Sandy Alderson wasn’t going to sacrifice Collins as he tinkered with payroll and building this rotation. Managers of rebuilding teams having low expectations don’t get fired.

However, it’s different now. That security is gone. The expectations are high as is the pressure to win. And, pressure makes managers vulnerable. That’s why this will be his toughest year.

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Apr 04

Cespedes’ Explanation Insulting

Seeing Yoenis Cespedes’ comments about his misadventures in left field Opening Day served as a reminder most players don’t care as much as fans do. His explanation was insulting.

I don’t know what I expected Cespedes to say after he lackadaisically loped into position and casually reached for Mike Moustakas’ routine fly ball in the first inning. And, dropped it because he wouldn’t do the most fundamental thing, which is to use two !@#$% hands.

CESPEDES: ``I'm human.'' (AP)

CESPEDES: “I’m human.” (AP)

Every Little Leaguer knows to do that, but not Cespedes – and to be fair most Major Leaguers, either. Maybe they don’t think it’s the “cool’’ thing to do. Maybe they just don’t give a damn.

Cespedes’ comment was as half-assed as his effort three hours earlier: “The ball just fell out of my glove. The ball just fell. I’m human.’’

Fell? It fell because he was too lazy to use two hands; too stubborn to do one of the most fundamental things in his sport. Actually, in all fairness to Cespedes, it “fell” from his glove twice, the second when he attempted to pick it up with his glove. Another screw-up, as in a play like that you reach down with your throwing hand.

I guess Mets fans should be grateful he at least reached down to pick it up.

The play, Cespedes’ comments, and manager Terry Collins’ reaction is emblematic about what is wrong with professional sports these days.

First, there’s the player who doesn’t care enough to do his best then dismisses legitimate questions. Then, there’s the manager who is too timid to do anything about it. And, worse, defends the botched play. Don’t dare call out the player who is making $27.5 million.

Instead, Collins meekly said: “Gold Glove out there, it surprised everybody.”

I laughed because anybody who has been paying attention couldn’t be surprised.

Actually, the only person who came out of this looking good was the player victimized the most, with that being Matt Harvey.

Sure, Harvey had to be pissed – no pun intended – but he did the professional thing, which is to not publicly throw his teammate under the bus.

“It’s baseball. Things happen,’’ Harvey told reporters. “Nobody’s trying to do anything out there except to get outs and do everything we can to help the team. Errors happen. It’s part of the game.’’

So is using two hands.

ON DECK: Why this is Collins’ toughest job

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