Oct 10

Revamping The Playoff System

The Mets are gone, but I’m still watching the playoffs. I can’t help it as I am a baseball team first and foremost. The Division Round hasn’t been pretty with one series over and possibly another two ending today.

Only Dodgers-Nationals is assured of lasting beyond today. I have no animosity towards the Nationals and Daniel Murphy. The Nationals are a rival now, but what about in two years? The Mets’ rival changes from year to year. Next season it could be the Braves again … they are a lot better than people think and almost knocked the Mets in the end.

I’m sure MLB is already thinking of ways to liven up the wild-card game and Division Series. It’s only natural to assume something is wrong, but in what ways? Can you really say the wild-card drains the teams? The Blue Jays swept the Rangers, and if Madison Bumgarner does it again tonight, the Giants could tie the Cubs tomorrow.

Here’s what I would change:

Wild-Card Game: I’m not crazy about the wild-card game, but since it is a money-maker, it will continue. My objective would be to shorten the playoff format to avoid playing in November. We don’t need one with a month that has baseball in the beginning and Thanksgiving at the end.

Some want the wild-card to be a best two-out-of-three, but that practically guarantees November. If you go there, with possible rainouts you are assured of playing baseball in November.

One thing I would change about the wild-card game is the way it is telecast. With the networks having sub-networks, have a national feed and one using the announcers of each team. I would have liked to have heard Gary-Keith-Ron do a playoff game. I would have also liked to have listened to the San Francisco feed of Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper.

When NBC had the broadcast rights years ago it sometimes used the team’s announcers for an inning each.

Division Series:  I loved the first Friday of the Division Series when there was baseball from noon to midnight. It reminded me of the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament. I understand the networks want a game every day and don’t want the games to conflict, but MLB needs to do away with the present format.

Let all the games of the Division Series be played the same day. Play both wild-card games on the Tuesday after the end of the season (Monday left open for tie-breaker games). Wednesday would be a travel day for the NLDS, with all four series starting Friday. Games 1 and 2 would be Friday and Saturday, with Sunday off as not to conflict with football. (MLB shudders at the idea of competing with the NFL). Sunday is a travel day, with Games 3 and 4 on Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday would be travel with Game 5 on Thursday.

Championship Series and World Series formats: Both go with a 2-3-2 format, which I don’t like. It gives the lower seed a distinct advantage and neutralizes the benefits of having a better regular season record. If there’s going to be a home field advantage, then make it a real one.This year’s World Series gives the American League the added advantage of not only having the extra game at home but getting the three middle games.

This year’s World Series gives the American League the added advantage of not only having the extra game at home, but the three straight middle games on the road. One more time: Get rid of the All-Star Game gimmick of the winner having the home field advantage in the World Series.

MLB tried to emphasize the element of fairness when it had all of Sunday’s games start at the same time. So, why not carry the premise the whole way?

Go 2-2-1-1-1. This year there are two California teams that could make for up to four cross-country flights in both series. It would mean extra travel days for both series, but do it in the interest of putting the best product on the field. Players always play tired and injured, but doesn’t the public deserve to have rested players whenever possible?

This year, if the World Series goes seven games, it could end – barring rainouts through – November 2. Either do away with the wild-card round or shorten the season, but playing into November is ridiculous. I understood it in 2001 as the playoffs started later because of the September 11 terrorist attacks. I knew then that when the World Series touched Novermber that was no turning back.

Here’s how MLB can shorten the season by one week and move up the playoffs: The system is out of whack because of interleague and the unbalanced schedule. Since that won’t change, I would schedule one doubleheader a month for each team.

But, John, the owners don’t want to give up the extra gate, so what then?

Glad you asked. Schedule one day-night doubleheader a month with a division opponent. Since you’re playing your division 19 games each year – also backwards because of the uneven number of home games against that opponent – there’s plenty of wiggle room.

With six months in a season, that’s six extra days. If done correctly, that would mean for extra off days during the season. The players I spoke to don’t like day-night doubleheaders,  but would go with this plan because of the extra off days during the season.

That’ not the only tweaking I would do.

Umpiring: There are six umpires during the playoffs but only four in the regular season. Playing under different conditions than in the playoffs make no sense. MLB has plenty of money to afford six-man crews during the regular season. MLB wants to do it, as they say, to get it right? But, isn’t getting it right important during the season, also?

Can you imagine there being two additional refs for the NFL or NBA playoffs? I’m against inconsistency.

Instant replay: There are still flaws that need to be worked out. I’d rather have an umpire in the press box who can signal down he is reviewing a call. In could save some time. Along those lines, the reviewing umpire has 90 seconds to either confirm or overrule a play. If he can’t decide after 90 seconds, the original call stands. It’s not all that hard.

Rules: Tell me, does it make sense for the leagues to play by different rules? Of course, that brings us to the designated hitter. Play with it, play without it, I don’t care. Just make it the same for both. Again, it’s not all that hard, especially with the DH being used in high school. Does anybody know it they have the DH in Tee Ball?

I spoke with an American League general manager who hates interleague. He said the fastest and surest way for change is to have an American League manager in a National League park say he’ll use the designated hitter, and if the umpires don’t like it he’ll forfeit the game.

Sure, it is drastic, but pushing the issue is the only way it will be solved. When it comes to talking about it, we’ll have the same conversation in ten years. We’ve had the DH since the 1970s – take a bow, Ron Blomberg – but it was supposed to be a three-year experiment. I think interleague was supposed to be an experiment, too.

One edict Commissioner Rob Manfred could issue is to tell both teams in an interleague game that the American League team play by whatever rules it is comfortable with.

Of course, the AL team would opt for the DH, but can you imagine the NL team – that doesn’t have a Noah Syndergaard or Bumgarner – letting their pitchers hit just for the sake of the rule? I surely wouldn’t put a weaker team on the field if I didn’t have to.

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Oct 06

Bumgarner Wins Classic Duel

For the second straight season, the interlocking “NY’’ on the Mets’ caps stood for “next year.’’ After an improbable run to overcome lengthy offensive droughts and numerous injuries to reach the postseason, the Mets received a sterling performance from Noah Syndergaard.

BUMGARNER: A classic ace. (AP)

BUMGARNER: A classic ace. (AP)

However, it wasn’t enough to beat Madison Bumgarner, who again came up with a game for the ages in October, who spun a four-hitter to beat the Mets, 3-0, to send the San Francisco Giants to the NL Division Series against the Cubs.

Syndergaard throws heat all the time and showed he doesn’t just have ace potential, but that he’s already there. However, Bumgarner will go down as one of the game’s greatest playoff pitchers in history.

In three postseason win-or-go-home games, Bumgarner has thrown 23 scoreless innings. He has reached a level few could ever imagine.

In 2014, Bumgarner won Games 1 and 5 in the World Series, then came back after two days of rest to throw five scoreless innings in relief. When asked what he hoped his legacy would be, Bumgarner simply said: “A winner. That’s all anybody wants to be regarded as.”

Syndergaard outpitched Bumgarner in the early part of the game, but as his strikeouts mounted – he finished with ten – so did his pitch count. Syndergaard threw 108 in seven innings while Bumgarner threw 119 for the complete game.

“Bumgarner, he never gives in,” said Jose Reyes. “We had some chances and couldn’t do anything with them.”

Bumgarner vs. Syndergaard had baseball junkies salivating and weren’t disappointed. The Mets had their best going, but unfortunately, the Giants had one of the best of all time going for them.

The starters were the storyline of the night, with the others being Jeurys Familia and Yoenis Cespedes spitting the bit.

FAMILIA LOSES IN THE NINTH: Familia saved 51 games this season and the Mets weren’t in the playoffs without him.

Last year, Familia blew three save opportunities. Tonight wasn’t a save chance, but it hurt just the same.

The fall began with a double by Brandon Crawford. After Angel Pagan failed to get a bunt down, Joe Panik walked then Conor Gillaspie crushed a three-run homer to bring on winter.

“It was a sinker. That’s my best pitch,” said a stand-up Familia. “Every time I try to go out and do the best I can. I missed with the location. I have to move on.`I know these things are going to happen. It’s a game.”

CESPEDES SILENT: For all his talking about living for these moments, for the second straight postseason Cespedes came up empty.

As far as I’m concerned, Cespedes gave away his four at-bats by swinging from the heels at pitches out of his reach. Bumgarner toyed with him getting him to strike out twice and pop up.

Cespedes saw only 18 pitches.

True to form, Cespedes opted not to talk after the game.

Perhaps he had an early tee time.

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Apr 03

Mets’ Over/Unders

What’s baseball without numbers? Every team has its significant statistics, and the following are the over/under stats for your 2016 Mets. The most important number, or course, is victories and that’s where we begin with last year’s 90 victories:

Every team has its significant statistics, and the following are the over/under stats for your 2016 Mets. The most important number, or course, is victories and that’s where we begin with last year’s 90 victories:


92: Wins by Mets.

90: Wins by Washington Nationals.

20: Victories by Matt Harvey.

Tonight: When Harvey breaks media silence.

5: Drama issues by Harvey (he already has one).

17: Victories by Jacob deGrom.

16: Victories by Noah Syndergaard.

14: Victories by Steven Matz.

200: Innings pitched by Harvey.

200: Innings pitched by deGrom.

200: Innings pitched by Syndergaard.

20: Starts by Bartolo Colon.

July 15: Date Zack Wheeler brought up.

12: Starts made by Wheeler.

8: Number of pitchers who will start for Mets this summer.

13: Number of different relievers used by Mets.

40: Saves by Jeurys Familia.

7: Blown saves by Familia.

120: Games played by David Wright.

14: Homers by Wright.

33: Homers by Lucas Duda.

96: RBI by Duda.

.285: Neil Walker batting average.

10: Errors at shortstop by Asdrubal Cabrera.

17: Homers by Wilmer Flores off the bench.

15: Games started at shortstop by Flores.

95: Walks by Curtis Granderson.

28: Homers by Granderson.

35: Homers by Yoenis Cespedes.

100: RBI by Cespedes.

9: Errors by Cespedes.

450: At-bats by Michael Conforto.

50: At-bats by Conforto vs. left-handers.

.280: Conforto batting average.

10: Mets victories over Nationals.

4: Mets victories over Cubs.

3: Mets victories over Yankees.

13: Mets victories in April.

115: Games started by Travis d’Arnaud.

18: Homers by d’Arnaud.

12: Runners caught stealing by d’Arnaud.

22: Times Mets use disabled list.

8: Number of different Mets to hit double-digit homers.

7: Longest winning streak by Mets.

6: Longest losing streak by Mets.

2: Playoff series won by Mets.

4 million: Attendance at Citi Field.

8: Playoff games at Citi Field.

.335: Daniel Murphy batting average vs. Mets.

4: Murphy homers vs. Mets.

3: Mets to make All-Star team.

43: Players the Mets will use this year.


ON DECK:  Mets should be happy to watch KC celebrate.

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Jan 12

Collins Learns And Moves On From Game 5

Mets manager Terry Collins allowed himself three days to stew on his decision to let Matt Harvey pitch – and kick away – the ninth inning of Game 5 of the World Series. Undoubtedly, he’ll relive that decision when spring training begins in little over a month.

COLLINS: Trusted Harvey. (AP)

COLLINS: Trusted Harvey. (AP)

In the MLB Network documentary, “Terry Collins: A Life In Baseball,” which airs Tuesday night, he said: “I had my bad three days. You’ve got to move on.”

I never thought Collins should have let Harvey stay in, thinking he went away from his principles. But, it was Collins’ decision, not mine, and he has to live with what happened. We have no way of knowing what would have happened had Jeurys Familia entered the game. It isn’t a slam dunk Familia would have saved the game. Afterall, he already blew a save in the Series.

Even had Familia saved the game, the Royals would have had a 3-2 Series lead with Games 6 and 7 in Kansas City. There were no guarantees.

“I don’t know what would have happened, after [Game 5],” Collins said on the show. “But, in my mind , we should’ve made the change. … I trusted this young man. I think the world of him . I still do. We made it. It didn’t work. You’ve got to move forward from it.”

Collins has spent his entire life around baseball, and knows everything is a learning experience. Collins went against what he thought was best and trusted his player.

Here’s hoping he learned from that and will become a better manager for it.


Oct 12

Utley Not In Lineup; Rollins Playing

Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly cited “baseball reasons,” for not starting Chase Utley in Game 3 tonight against Matt Harvey. However, Jimmy Rollins will start at shortstop. Mattingly said Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke starting Games 4 and 5.

It is surprising Utley isn’t starting considering he has a career .333 (6-for-18) against Harvey.