Feb 14

Forget NBA, Baseball Still Has Best All-Star Game

For all the tinkering Major League Baseball does with its All-Star Game, it remains superior to the other All-Star Games, including the one we’ll see Sunday night.

Of course, all are commercialized to death, but the baseball edition still is played as a sport. They still play the game, unlike basketball and football, where defense is forgotten and it’s mostly showboating.

Those two are basically pick-up games.

I like the baseball game better because performances have to be earned. It’s also that way in hockey, where not much of anything can be predicted. The batter still has to hit the ball, whereas the basketball game can easily be taken over by a singular player.

In football, with no blitzing, there aren’t many quarterbacks who can’t light up a secondary.

This might sound weird, but one of the reasons I like the baseball game better is that players wear their own uniforms. In that, you get a sense of team. You don’t get in the other games, with the exception of football and their helmets.

Another reason is history.

Selected games in all sports have their moments, but there is a history, a tradition, to the baseball game. Ted Williams’ game-winning homer in 1941 in Detroit; Reggie Jackson going off the light tower, also in Detroit; the 15-inning 1967 game in Anaheim, when pitchers actually pitched, with Catfish Hunter going five innings in relief; Pete Rose running over Ray Fosse; Johnny Callison winning the 1964 game at Shea Stadium; how New York buzzed over Matt Harvey two years ago.

There are so many more, but after awhile the dunks all look the same in the NBA game. And, please, the fashion week adds nothing.

Feb 13

Wheeler Must-See Watch In 2015

Of all the Mets, Zack Wheeler is the one I am most curious to watch this summer. Wheeler made a strong first impression in 2013 and improved last season to 11-11 with a 3.54 ERA while working 185.1 innings in 32 starts.

WHEELER: High expectations. (AP)

WHEELER: High expectations. (AP)

His durability last year indicates 200-plus innings is within reach. We don’t know Wheeler’s ceiling, but our expectations are realistically high.

Wheeler averages over nine strikeouts per nine innings, but also just over four walks which is  red-flag worthy.

There’s no doubting his stuff, but his command must improve. It’s not just the walks, but consistently running deep into the count. Consequently, he only worked into the seventh just 13 times. By comparison, 41-year-old Bartolo Colon pitched into the seventh or longer 18 times.

When looking at the development of a young pitcher, innings pitched might be most important as it indicates an ability to work out of trouble to give his team a chance to win.That’s why 200 innings was important to Colon last year and to Dillon Gee the previous season.

If Wheeler can cut the four walks he gave up in half and convert them into outs, that could have pushed him into the seventh nine more times last year if not longer because it would have reduced his pitch count. As it was, he threw over 100 pitches 24 times and at least 110 in 13 games.

This is the step Wheeler must take this summer. If he can, a lot of good things can happen.

 

Feb 12

Harvey Weighs In On A-Rod. Yanks In His Future?

Future Yankees pitcher Matt Harvey, who grew up in Connecticut cheering for the team in the Bronx, weighed in on Alex Rodriguez’s return.

Harvey told the New York Post this week: “Obviously Alex wants to play, that’s good for him, good for baseball. If he is that dedicated and wants to come back then more power to him for going up to the organization like that, it shows a lot. It will be exciting to see what he can do.’’

Harvey’s affection for the Yankees is well known as is his strong desire of playing in New York. Although he said all the right things a few days ago, it can’t be forgotten about his sparring with Mets’ management about where he would do his rehab and wanting to pitch last year. And, it must remembered he won’t have to move he signed with the Yankees.

What Mets’ fan can forget Harvey being photographed at Yankee Stadium watching Derek Jeter? The Mets bit their tongue on that, but privately they weren’t happy, from the front office to the clubhouse. Perhaps they would have said something had Harvey worn a Yankees’ cap.

Harvey will be under Mets’ control through the 2018 season, but by that time could have gone through several arbitration processes, which can get be tension filled.

If the Mets continue to pinch their pennies until then, who can’t see him moving on, especially with his agent being Scott Boras?

We don’t know what the Mets’ financial landscape will look by then, or even if they’ll be a contender. However, this much we know, Boras usually takes his clients through the free-agent process looking for every last dollar. And, we also know the Yankees, unlike the Mets, aren’t afraid to spend and have the resources to live through a bad contract.

Sure, this is a few years down the road, but Boras operates with a multi-year calendar.

Feb 11

Suggested Mets’ Batting Order

Spring training is for a lot of things, but I thought I’d save Terry Collins time and suggest a batting order for him. Several slots will automatically fall into place, but where Collins will do his most head scratching will be over the leadoff position.

Juan Lagares, CF: He has the speed and at the end of last season proved he could steal a base. However, he needs to get on base to utilize that speed which is why he must cut his strikeouts and raise his on-base percentage.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Willing to take a pitch, which should help Lagares. Was the Mets’ best hitter last season and his ability to drive the ball in the gap could give the Mets an early first-inning lead.

David Wright, 3B: Theoretically, third is where the best hitter should be, which is the combination of power and average. Injuries sapped Wright’s production the past few years and the Mets are hoping for a bounce back season. If he has one it will solve a lot of problems.

Lucas Duda, 1B: Gave the Mets 30 homers last year and they aren’t expecting anything less. When he gets hot he should offer Wright protection. Still strikes out too many times, but is showing improved plate discipline.

Michael Cuddyer, RF: He should hit here to separate the left-handed hitters. How sweet would it be if he returned to the form where he lead the National League in hitting.

Curtis Granderson, LF: Even with the fences moved in, nobody expects him to hit 40 homers again. But, 30 should be reasonable along with a boatload of doubles in the gap. If Lagares falters, Granderson could get another look at leadoff, but he strikes out too much to excel there in the long haul.

Travis d’Arnaud, C: Another right-handed hitter to give the order balance. Showed glimpses of power, but if he masters things behind the plate the Mets will take what they can get from him offensively.

Wilmer Flores, SS: He’ll have enough pressure as it is, so dropping him to eighth to see what he can do is the best option. Hitting here ahead of |the pitcher should help improve his plate discipline. There’s nothing wrong with a walk to clear the pitcher’s spot.

Pitcher: Unless you’re in Tony La Russa’s world, pitchers bat ninth.

Things will vary according to injuries, days off and slumps. But, this offers a balanced order with the hitters providing the most protection for each other. That is, if they are hitting.

Feb 10

Mets’ Minor Leaguer Suspended

Mets’ minor league pitcher Tim Peterson was suspended for 80 games after testing positive for a metabolite of Trenbolone.

A 20th-round pick in 2012 from the University of Kentucky, the 23-year-old went a combined 5-2 with a 4.28 ERA in 33 games with Savannah, St. Lucie and Binghamton.

Peterson isn’t the first Mets’ minor leaguer to be suspended, which makes you wonder how much the franchise emphasizes PEDs on that level. The club says it does, but the onus is always on the player. For where he was drafted and his numbers, it isn’t inconceivable to think Peterson was in a panic over his career.

If he has to resort to cheating perhaps he doesn’t believe his chances are good.