Aug 14

A Good Game, But Still Interleague Play

It was well played, but tonight’s Mets-Yankees game was still interleague, so it only gets a half-hearted thumbs-up. I make no apologies, I can’t stand interleague play.

If it is a true rivalry game, then I’d rather see the Mets play the Nationals, the Braves, or even the Phillies. Then again, it would be nice to see a dozen more games in Citizens Bank Park.

Hell, I’d rather see them play another four games with the Dodgers than four with the Yankees this week.

There are so many reasons why interleague play doesn’t make it for me:

No integrity to schedule: Interleague play coupled with the unbalanced schedule means teams in the same league don’t travel the same course to the playoffs. That’s not an issue when everybody plays the same schedule, home and away.

I’m sorry, but 19 games a year against the Nationals, Braves, Phillies and Marlins is just too damn much.

Speaking of the schedule, does it make sense for the Angels to play three games at Citi Field while the Yankees are only in for two? Or the Mets in Seattle for three games, but only two games in the Bronx?

There are so many complications with the current schedule, such as teams playing out of their leagues and divisions in April, when the schedule is prone to rainouts. That the Yankees had to wait out a three-hour-plus rain delay because the Tigers made only one trip to New York is simply the epitome of arrogance and taking their fans for granted.

Commissioner Rob Manfred, like Bud Selig before him, is so hell bent on cutting three minutes from the time of game – and selling T-shirts in China and Europe, that he ignores the basic structure that served the sport well for over a century.

Regarding the Mets and Yankees, the two teams are competing for different objectives, so what’s the point of these games? It has been said a baseball season is a marathon, but with different schedules how fair is it for one team to run 26 miles while another runs only 25?

Attendance and original premise are irrelevant: There are only four teams playing in antiquated stadiums – Boston, the Cubs, Tampa Bay and Oakland – with the Athletics and Rays hurting at the gate.

Interleague play was introduced as a gimmick to boost attendance, with some critics of Selig saying it was to have the Cubs play in Milwaukee. But, with nearly everybody playing in new stadiums, attendance is rarely an issue.

Another selling point for tearing the fabric of the game was for the fan in Cleveland to watch the Padres. But, with cable TV and the various MLB packages, viewers in Wyoming can see most any team at most any time.

Different rules: Can you imagine an AFC team getting to use a two-point conversion with NFC teams not being able to? There’s simply no good reason why the NL doesn’t have the DH while the AL teams do. It is ridiculous this still goes on, especially in the World Series.

It doesn’t work everywhere: I can appreciate the premise in New York, Chicago and maybe Los Angeles. Weak arguments can be made for Cleveland-Cincinnati, Baltimore-Washington, St. Louis-Kansas City and San Francisco-Oakland. But, who are the “natural interleague rivals’’ for Atlanta, Boston, Seattle, Arizona, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and San Diego? Or, Minnesota and Detroit?

Unless a player is returning to face his former team – or the teams in question are having outstanding seasons, what’s the appeal of Twins-Pirates, or Mets-Mariners, or Marlins-Tigers?

I’m old school: Call me what you will, but I grew up watching baseball a certain way. I respect and appreciate, but I have yet to hear an argument interleague play is for the betterment of the game.

The 2000 World Series was special, it was an event. but everything since just didn’t do it for me. I mean other than Shawn Estes throwing behind Roger Clemens. Yeah, that was interesting.

MONTERO SHARP: Rafael Montero was as good tonight as we’ve ever seen him, giving up two runs in six innings, which by every stretch was a quality start.

Montero gave up five hits and two walks with six strikeouts, so he was adept at pitching out of trouble. What was most impressive about him was how he challenged Yankee hitters inside with his fastball, including Aaron Judge, whom he struck out in the first.

Judge did get a measure of revenge with a game-tying homer in the sixth.

Jun 30

DeGrom Aces Phillies

There can be no doubt if the Mets are to salvage their season, if not make a run, they’ll need more of the same from Jacob deGrom, who pitched like the ace he is in keeping his team hot.

The Mets have now won six of their last seven games tonight in beating the Phillies, 2-1, at Citi Field, to pull within five games of .500.

De GROM: Aces Phillies. (AP)

De GROM: Aces Phillies. (AP)

“Going into LA was a wake-up call for us,’’ deGrom said. “We got our teeth kicked in. We know we had to play better. If we’re going to do it, we’re running out of time.”

Getting going means beating the teams you’re supposed to, which includes the Giants and Phillies.

This still could turn into a “trap series,’’ if the Mets stumble the next two days, but deGrom wouldn’t let that happen tonight. DeGrom had to be dog tired as the Mets’ flight from Miami didn’t land in New York until after 4:30 a.m.

DeGrom has turned things around since back-to-back starts when he gave up 15 runs. Since then, he’s gone 4-0 with a 0.84 ERA, walking only eight but with 31 strikeouts.

“He’s in a groove for sure,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “He’s such a competitor. He won’t give in and throw one over the middle.’’

DeGrom’s fastball was superb tonight, but he also commanded his secondary pitches well, particularly his slider early in the game and his change-up in the later innings.

DeGrom, who had worked at least eight innings in his last three starts, worked seven innings and gave up one run on three hits and one walk. DeGrom, who had a string of double-digit strikeout games earlier this year, but not recently, struck out 12, which contributed to his higher than normal pitch count of 111. It is the sixth time this year he struck out at least ten.

“I was able to throw it tonight when I needed to and where I needed to,’’ deGrom said of his change-up. “My fastball command was good tonight. I was able to control it on both sides of the plate. Everything worked off the fastball tonight.’’

STILL NO CONFORTO: Today is Day Five without Michael Conforto and he’s still not close to coming back after being struck on his left wrist by a pitch last Sunday in San Francisco.

And yet, the Mets refuse to put him on the 10-day disabled list and continue to play shorthanded.

The only reason I can come up with is the Mets are reluctant to pay the major league salary to whoever would come up from Triple-A Las Vegas to replace him, even if it is only for ten days.

That’s speculation on my part, but would anybody really be surprised?

“There’s no break,’’ Collins said. “It’s the bone bruise that is causing him problems. He tried to swing the bat today and he had trouble.’’

CESPEDES SLUMPING: One of the ramifications of not having Conforto available is not being able to rest Yoenis Cespedes, who, with a broken-bat single in the eighth has four hits in his last 24 at-bats.

Of course, would it kill the Mets to start Brandon Nimmo for a game?

THINKING ABOUT COLON: The Mets are kicking the tires on bringing back Bartolo Colon, who was designated for assignment by the Braves.

Atlanta has ten days to either trade, release outright or assign him to the minor leagues (won’t happen). After which, the player becomes a free agent.

“He’s still a member of the Braves,’’ GM Sandy Alderson said when asked about Colon.

EXTRA INNINGS: Lucas Duda is still weakened with flu-like symptoms and was a late scratch. … Addison Reed has converted save opportunities in the last two games. … Curtis Granderson singled to extend his hitting streak to nine games. … Zack Wheeler will come off the disabled list and start Saturday.

 

Jun 29

Should Mets Bring Colon Back For Encore?

Why not? With their pitching staff in shambles, why shouldn’t the Mets consider bringing back Bartolo Colon for the rest of the season?

COLON: Why not? (AP)

COLON: Why not? (AP)

The 44-year-old Colon – who his 2-8 with an 8.14 ERA – was designated for assignment today by the Braves. (Part of that ERA has to be attributable pitching in Atlanta’s new stadium.)

Colon returned from the disabled list June 6 from a strained oblique and stiff back. If he passes a physical, why not bring him back, either as a starter or reliever? He’s failed to make it to the fifth in his last three starts.

After his last start, Colon said: “I felt good, I just feel like I’ve kind of hit a rough streak, to be honest, and it’s tough to just snap out of it. The reality is that I’ve been getting hit hard and that’s the truth and you can’t dance around it.’’

Colon can’t be any worse than who the Mets have thrown out there. The Mets know him and it would be a great story. The bottom line is the Mets have nothing to lose by bringing Colon back for an encore. They might even sell a few tickets.

 

Jun 12

Cubs-Mets Is Opening Day II

Call Cubs-Mets Opening Day II.  The World Champion Cubs – something I never thought I’d write – are in tonight for a three-game series. After them, the Mets play the Nationals, Dodgers and Giants over a two-week stretch that will define their season.

The Mets are feeling good about themselves these days after winning three-of-four in Atlanta, and the returns of Steven Matz and Seth Lugo – who each worked seven strong in their starts – and Yoenis Cespedes, who ripped a pinch-hit grand slam.

CESPEDES: Mets need his bat. (AP)

CESPEDES: Mets need his bat. (AP)

“This is fun, you’re playing the world champs, you are playing arguably the best team in our division,” Collins said. “We’re a little healthier and having Ces back is big, but we’ve got to go pitch. It’s going to be a fun week. I just hope we go out and play well.”

In their last five games, Mets’ starters have given up three runs over 32.2 innings. However, none of those games include Jacob deGrom, tonight’s starter. DeGrom has given up 15 runs in his last two starts. We’re used to seeing deGrom give up 15 runs in a month of starts, and if he doesn’t get back to that form the Mets can forget about sniffing the playoffs this year.

The big series, of course, is the four-game set against the Nationals. If they sweep that, then the Mets trail by only six games. That’s entirely doable.

However, for that series to mean anything they have to take care of business against Chicago as they can’t afford to fall any further behind. The Mets are fortunate in that they are playing a listless Cubs’ team that is only .500 at 31-31.

“We went through that last year,” Collins said of the Cubs. “Going to the World Series really beats up your pitching and as a team, it takes a while to get that energy back.”

The Mets seemed energized against the Braves, and they can’t afford any letdowns the rest of the way. These next two weeks will determine what they do at the trade deadline and whether there will be a summer worth watching.

ON DECK: What’s Wrong With DeGrom?

 

May 05

Mets Wrap: Small Ball And Bullpen Lift Comeback

The Mets can play small ball, and yes they can play it very well. They compiled 20 hits – with no homers – in Wednesday’s rout of the Braves, and then strung together six straight hits in the season’s largest comeback to beat the Marlins.

FLORES: Game-winning walk. And he does. (AP)

FLORES: Game-winning walk. And he does. (AP)

“I think [this game could give us] a huge lift,” manager Terry Collins said. “You have to be resilient you have to play nine innings and put up good at-bats.”

The Mets fell behind 7-1 with Rafael Montero, and began their comeback with a two-run homer by Curtis Granderson in the fourth.

Then came what could become one of the most important innings of the season when they strung together six hits against Brad Ziegler.

It began with a single by Wilmer Flores and a double by Jose Reyes. Rene Rivera and pinch-hitter Asdrubal Cabrera followed with RBI singles. Michael Conforto singled to load the bases and T.J. Rivera – who hit a solo homer – ripped a two-run double.

“I was looking for something up in the zone where I could out the barrel on it … it just so happens it came on the first pitch,” said T.J. Rivera.

Right-hander Kyle Barraclough relieved Ziegler and struck out Jay Bruce and Neil Walker. He intentionally walked Granderson to load the bases and then walked Flores to force in the game-winner.

“I’m just trying to be patient,” said Flores.

The Mets have now scored at least five runs in eight straight games, all without Yoenis Cespedes. Collins, who managed his 1,000th game with the Mets – to trail Davey Johnson and Bobby Valentine – said his hitters aren’t trying to do too much, which is common for teams losing its best hitter.

BULLPEN OVERLOOKED: As impressive as the Mets’ offense was, it was made possible by the bullpen. After the lines of Montero (five runs in 3.2 innings) and Josh Smoker (two runs in one inning), five Mets relievers combined to throw 4.1 scoreless innings.

A key moment came in the sixth when Hansel Robles gave up a leadoff double to Marcell Ozuna and one-out later a single to J.T. Realmuto, but escaped without giving up a run.

MONTERO TO START AGAIN: There was no waffling by Collins when asked if Montero will get the ball again.

Considering Montero has never taken advantage of previous opportunities and gave up five runs in 3.2 innings tonight, it was a logical question.

So was Collins’ answer: “If it’s not him, I don’t know who it will be. We have to get him going.”

UP NEXT: Rookie Robert Gsellman (1-2, 6.75 ERA) is coming off his first victory of the season Monday in Atlanta.