Jul 10

Five Ways To Fix The All-Star Game

When I was growing up I used to love the All-Star Game. The game meant something to me because it was clear it meant something to the players. When two of my favorite players – Pete Rose and Ray Fosse – met at the plate during the 1970 All-Star Game in Cincinnati, it was clear it was not just another game. At least to those two.

FOSSE/ROSE: When the stars played with passion.

At one time they played two All-Star Games. These days there’s not too much of a game at all. It stopped being special when the vote was returned to the fans – ironically, in 1970 – because that’s when it became a popularity contest. Any election where a person can cast an indefinite amount of times is a farce by definition.

As far as I’m concerned, the game officially jumped the shark with interleague play. Soon after, MLB did away with the league offices and merged the umpires. And, of course, let’s not forget the farce of having the two leagues play with different rules regarding the DH.

Baseball’s All-Star Game is by far superior to other sports, but that doesn’t mean changes aren’t necessary. It doesn’t need tinkering, but an overhaul of serious proportions.

Here’s what I would do:

1. It is a pipe dream, I know, but the first thing would be to eliminate interleague play, thereby creating a distinction between the leagues. The leagues will always be blurred to some extent because of free agency and movement of players. Interleague play is a gimmick that has taken luster from the All-Star Game and World Series.

2. Knowing MLB will keep interleague play as long as Bud Selig is around, the next step would be to cut the nonsense about the winning league having home field in the World Series. As long as the fans vote and it is a popularity contest, having it have such an impact in the postseason is a contradiction. The notion of a fan vote, having each team represented and trying to play everybody is the opposite in essence of having the winner determine the Game 7 site of the World Series.

3. Take away the fan vote. Another pipe dream, but I’d rather eliminate the popularity contest angle. Maybe the managers and coaches, or players, or scouts, or media. The stipulation being you can’t vote for your own players.

4. Why should every team be represented? It’s like everybody getting a trophy in the second grade. The only caveat being the host city having a player on the team. Assuring each team being represented often ends up having a deserving player being snubbed.

5. Expand the rosters to include a lifetime achievement participant. If a player is at the end of his career and has been a perennial All-Star but is having a sub-par year, include him on the team. For example, had Chipper Jones had not made it as a late entry, then a spot should have been reserved for him. Give the public a chance to say good-bye.

Jun 06

Jason Bay Back For Mets …. Kind Of

Jason Bay was activated from the disabled list this afternoon, but isn’t in the lineup for tonight’s game at Washington. Just as well, as there’s no great desire on my part to see him play. Not yet, anyway.

BAY: Welcome back?

I am leaning toward the camp of a player not losing his job because of injury, but that can’t be absolute. With the Mets, when David Wright goes down he should play again when he’s able. Wright’s track record of production warrants that right, or respect, if you will.

However, in the two plus years Bay has been with the Mets, what exactly has he done to earn that privilege? Has he had a run of production similar to the small window opened by Kirk Nieuwenhuis? I’d say no. With Nieuwenhuis playing, there’s a reasonable expectation of something good happening. You can’t criticize Bay’s defense or hustle. It the combination of both which landed him on the disabled list to begin with. However, the Mets aren’t paying him all that money just for defense. Mix in a RBI once in awhile.

The Mets won’t eat Bay’s contract and release him. His contract makes him impossible to trade. He will play, but does it have to be right away with the team playing so well.

With the Mets facing six games on the road in AL parks in New York and Tampa, there’s an opportunity to gradually ease him back in the DH role. That’s one of the perks – if you can call it that – of interleague play.

I’d go that route first, then work him back into the outfield spotting Nieuwenhuis in left, Andres Torres in center and Lucas Duda in right.  And, with Ike Davis having problems at the plate, I’d even see if Bay can play a little first base.

Afterall, any bit of information is useful, right?

During spring training, Terry Collins said he would be reluctant to move Duda from right to first and Daniel Murphy from second to third, or first, because he wanted them to just concentrate on learning their new positions. Duda has been taking grounders at first, which Collins explained away as keeping him sharp in anticipation of double switches.

Should Bay return and start raking, he should play, but I’d be hesitant to jump right in with him on an everyday basis. I’d make him earn it. You see, there’s a good feeling with the Mets again. They are relevant, with an emphasis on team. That’s why I was disappointed in Davis expressing reluctance in going down to the minors to work on his hitting. That’s why I don’t want to see playing time going to someone simply because of his contractual status.

That would be a step back.

 

Mar 05

Spring training opener: Mets vs. Nationals.

Dillon Gee will start tonight against Washington, followed by Matt Harvey, Miguel Batista, Daniel Herrera, Tim Byrdak and Frank Francisco.

Gee and Harvey should get two innings apiece. I think it was a good call to ease Harvey into things rather than give him a start right away. He’ll have enough adrenalin as it is, so there’s no need to push the envelope with him, especially since he doesn’t fit into this year’s rotation plans.

There will be opportunities later this spring where Harvey will get to start and be in the spotlight.

GEE: Gets the ball tonight.

Gee took advantage of his opportunity last summer caused by injuries to force his way into the rotation and at one time was the Mets’ most effective pitcher. If Johan Santana doesn’t pan out physically, and we’ll know more about him tomorrow, Gee could be in line for the Opening Day start.

Manager Terry Collins pitch projected closer Francisco earlier in the game where he’ll face tougher hitters to sharpen him for the season. Early on, the last few innings are played out by minor leaguers and prospects who won’t be on the major league rosters.

Normally, starters will throw roughly 30 innings during the spring while relievers will get from 10 to 15 innings. It is easier for relievers to get their innings through simulation and split squad games.

Here’s tonight’s Mets’ lineup:

Andres Torres, cf

Daniel Murphy, 2b

Justin Turner, 3b

Ike Davis, 1b

Jason Bay, lf

Lucas Duda, rf

Valentino Pascucci, DH

Josh Thole, c

Ruben Tejada, ss

LINEUP COMMENTS: Was curious to see who would bat second. Murphy has good bat control and patience at the plate that makes him the prime candidate. You can’t help but read in the following days about the leadoff spot. Let’s face it, regardless of who the Mets put out there he can’t live up to Jose Reyes.

ON DECK: Mets playing it cautious with David Wright.


Jan 27

Mets have option at outfield help.

There was some talk the Mets were monitoring the outfield market, but Juan Pierre is now off the market and they will find the asking prices for Johnny Damon, Kosuke Fukudome and Raul Ibanez to rich for their blood.

ANKIEL: Help at a reasonable price.

Vlad Guerrero is strictly a DH type, J.D. Drew is heading toward retirement and Magglio Ordonez is an injury question. All three would want more than the Mets are willing to pay, regardless.

Rick Ankiel is still available.

Ankiel, who made $1.5 million last year for Washington is within the Mets’ budget. Ankiel hit 25 homers for the 2008 Cardinals, but hasn’t come close to those numbers since, although he hit nine last season.

Ankiel isn’t a player to build around, but he does offer something of value to the Mets in three capacities: 1) as a left-handed bat, 2) an exceptional defensive replacement, and 3) as a back-up center fielder to Andres Torres.

Yeah, I can hear the groans already about Ankiel, but the truth is he can contribute in several areas at a reasonable price, and for the Mets that’s about the best they can hope for these days.

 

Dec 08

Departures of Pujols, Reyes shouldn’t scuttle Cardinals or Mets.

Pockets of fans in St. Louis and New York are understandably upset after Albert Pujols and Jose Reyes sold their legacies and moved them out of town as mercenaries.

Pujols thought $220 million over ten years, his developmental years in St. Louis along with his businesses and foundation weren’t enough, so he took $30 million more and shuffled off to Los Angeles.

Reyes could have had close to $100 million from the Mets – which included incentives – but in the end took roughly $6 million more to move to Miami.

In the end, reports from Pujols supporters and Reyes himself, were that they weren’t “loved” enough by their former teams so they went with the money.

I never expected Reyes to stay. I always believed he’d go to who flashed the most bling. However, I thought Pujols might have been one of the rare few to spend his entire career with one team.

Stan Musial did it and so did Mickey Mantle. So did Cal Ripken and Don Mattingly. They were thinking of a statute for Pujols in St. Louis. Not any more.

Who is to blame?

Actually, nobody.

As much as it would have been nice to think about Pujols staying home, in the end I was naive. It was something I wanted to believe in.

Pujols and Reyes; the Cardinals and Mets; the Angels and Marlins all made business decisions this week.

For Pujols and Reyes it was for the money. Pujols might also have the additional incentive of setting the career home run record with the aid of the designated hitter. Reyes sought the comfort of a guaranteed contract because of his house-of-card hamstrings.

The Angels are competing with the reeling Dodgers for the lion’s marketing share of Los Angeles and now have star power for their television network. As an American League team, the Angels can offer Pujols the DH during the back end of his contract. Pujols is worth all that money to them.

As for the Marlins, they significantly upgraded not only with Reyes, but Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell, and should have a good product in their new stadium. They might not be good enough to catch the Phillies, but with the extra wild card, they have a chance at October.

For the Cardinals and Mets, they have $220 million and $100 million, respectively, to build with. The Cardinals always have been a smart organization and based in the average NL Central, they should be able to rebound and retool quickly.

For the financially strapped Mets, they couldn’t afford to risk that kind of money on Reyes’ brittle hamstrings. The Mets have holes and ownership is drowning in red ink. The last thing the Mets needed was to be on the hook for another brutal contract.

So, nobody is to blame. And, the winners? It seems as if all the players got something they wanted. That is, of course, except fans of Pujols and Reyes, but who is surprised by that?