Sep 07

Mets See Good In Zack Wheeler Despite Loss; Scott Rice Season Ends

The result wasn’t what the New York Mets wanted, but overall they must be pleased with what they’ve seen from Zack Wheeler this season.

Even Friday night when he walked five in five innings in a loss at Cleveland.

WHEELER: Not a kid anymore.

WHEELER: Not a kid anymore.

I thought Wheeler might have been rushed to the major leagues because he didn’t dominate at Triple-A Las Vegas, and that idea seemed to be reinforced when his control was off early. Wheeler seemed to correct the problem, but it resurfaced against the Indians.

However, after the game he told reporters his shoulder was “flying open.’’ That he understood that flaw, no doubt pointed out by pitching coach Dan Warthen, but limited the damage are positives.

What’s next for Wheeler’s development is to not only notice a mechanical issue by himself, but also be able to correct it during the game. The great ones cannot only recognize a flaw by where their pitch went, but correct in during the at-bat.

During his first two starts, the Mets went overboard in calling his pitches – perhaps in the wake of Terry Collins getting messages Wheeler was tipping his pitches – but they quickly abandoned that plan and allowed him to use his fastball.

Although the Mets will limit his innings for the remainder of the season, Wheeler, 7-4, could get another three or four starts, and should he run the table, will have won more games than Matt Harvey.

Who would have thought that in April?

Who also would have envisioned at the time that Scott Rice would still be around?

Everybody expected big things from Harvey, but Rice was easily the Mets’ most inspirational story of the season. Harvey was the given; Rice was the underdog who made good.

The 31-year-old lefty reliever toiled for 14 years in the minor leagues before hooking on with the Mets this spring. He didn’t stick because of the state of their bullpen, but because he deserved to in leading the majors with 73 appearances.

Rice was 4-5 with a 3.71 ERA, but his most important statistic was the .174 average lefties hit off him. As a lefty specialist, that’s important. Rice walked 27 and struck out 41, and could go into spring training as the lead lefty in the pen.

Rice’s season, however, ended with the news he will have surgery to repair a sports hernia and will be out for the remainder of the season.

Even so, Rice was a good Mets’ story this summer. Maybe the best.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Sep 06

Mets Finally See Scott Kazmir Pitch

It is September 6, do you know where your New York Mets are?

They are in Cleveland, Ohio, not on a traffic layover, but for the start of a three-game series against the playoff-minded Indians. The Mets long ago lost those aspirations.

KAZMIR: In the day.

KAZMIR: In the day.

This is nothing against Cleveland, where I spent many afternoons in that monstrous stadium watching the Indians flail into mediocrity and freeze during Browns’ games in December.

Of course, that’s when they were the real Browns, not the fake Browns who were thrashed by Denver last night. Fake Browns II will be playing Sunday.

But, that’s another issue in the tales of: “What’s Wrong With Sports?’’

This could be my last chance of the year to rail against interleague play, which I will never grasp. I loved it in spring training where at a time it was unique, but hated it with the first pitch – I don’t care if Dave Mlicki did throw a shutout against the Yankees that day – and continue to loathe it to this moment.

I’ll watch because it is the Mets, and because I don’t get to see the Indians that much anymore, but the sporting essence of the concept is wrong.

The essence of baseball is the regular season, one in which every team used to run the same race from April until October. There was no variation to the schedule, totally balanced. With interleague play and the unbalanced schedule, schedules can be measured by degree of difficulty, much like college basketball and football, the latter being the only high-end sport without a legitimate championship process.

That’s another issue.

I understand Bud Selig’s economic reasoning, but Major League Baseball is a multi-billion-dollar industry and would still be without interleague play. If interleague play had a purpose, it is gone.

Tonight the Red Sox are in the Bronx in a match-up with teeth. The only other series this weekend with a real playoff sizzle is the Pirates and Cardinals.

The other match-ups have the playoff implications of the manufactured wild-card, but save those two series the schedule is barren of playoff race games. As if the National Football League didn’t have it easy enough in its opening weekend, there’s little playoff tension for a distraction.

And, about your Mets, Scott Kazmir is the opposing attraction against Zack Wheeler. A former “pitcher of the future,’’ against a current “pitcher of the future.’’

Kazmir was dealt at the trade deadline for Victor Zambrano, in at the time was considered a controversial, then horrendous trade, from a Mets’ perspective. But, as these fade over time, the feelings softened as Kazmir’s career was derailed by injuries.

However, in a two-year span of 2007 and 2008, when the Mets’ collapsed down the stretch and were nosed from the playoffs on the season’s final day, Kazmir was winning 13 and 12 games, respectively, for Tampa Bay.

Those were the only times where it really was, “what could have been.’’

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

May 12

Don’t Mind The Mets Today, Save Your Cheers For Mom

Like many of you, my love of baseball started with my dad, who was my Little League coach – from T-Ball to high school – took me to the Indians games, and watched the Game of the Week with me. There was usually a game on TV in our house.

However, my mom also helped nurture my love for the sport. She drove me to my games and practices, gave me nickels and dimes to buy baseball cards, and watched me play ball in the front yard with the neighbors. We chewed up the lawn, but she and my dad never said anything.

One of my most endearing memories of her was how he cheered for me at my games. One time, halfway through one of my few home runs, rounded second base heading for third when I looked up and saw her behind the base jumping up and down and screaming for me to run.

I smile when I think about that moment. When I gave her eulogy, it was one of the things I spoke of. Sadly, I never told her about that and how good it made me feel. I just kept the memory with me through the years.

I know many of you have similar memories of your mother and hope you’ll let her know today how important she is to you. Pull yourself away from the Mets’ game – even though it is a Matt Harvey start – and take her to brunch.

So, all of my best to you and your moms today and every day. Today is her day, but every day should be about her.

Have a great day.

 

Apr 12

Mets Need To Weather The Storm In Minny

target-field-snowOf all the tweets in all the world of Twitter, the one with Target Field blanketed in snow is the most telling.

There is five inches of snow with more forecast in Minneapolis where the Mets play tonight. The high for the series is forecast at a blustery 43 degrees. It will be colder with the wind.

I would love to see Twins owner Jim Pohlad sit with Commissioner Bud Selig in short sleeves tonight in a vain attempt to convince us the weather is fine. But, it isn’t and probably won’t be much better next week in Denver, where it also snows any time.

It is true scheduling isn’t about one team but all 30 and you can’t predict the weather. However, it is also true MLB created this issue, and first did so with the increase to 30 teams from 20 when the Mets were born in 1962.

The insistence of a 162-game schedule stretched the season from the first week of April into October. Factor increased playoff rounds with the last two – including World Series – lasting up to seven games and we’re brushing against November.

There’s too much money to be made over 162 games and the playoffs – the vehicle for the networks to shill for their programming – so they won’t think to cut there.

Nonetheless, Major League Baseball made things more difficult for itself with interleague play, and now, interleague play every day of the season.

With interleague play comes the unbalanced schedule, which means not every team runs the same race in a season. By definition, that means the schedule has no integrity to it, thereby making it unfair.

Unfortunately, Selig loves interleague play, so that won’t change, either. Interleague play has become part of Selig’s legacy, and I don’t think in a good way.

I don’t believe MLB’s economic growth is directly attributable to interleague play as it is to the steroid era which brought on the great power numbers; the construction of new stadiums in both leagues; almost 15 years of the Yankees and Red Sox on top which increases everybody’s attendance and TV ratings; better television deals because of cable; and to Selig’s credit, the international marketing of the sport and continued labor peace.

The great influx of money made MLB, its teams and the Players Association willing to accept the playing in horrible conditions, where injuries and pitcher’s arms are at risk. Instead of improved conditions, the players union settled for more money. Seriously, don’t worry about ending a career because you’ve got enough money to retire for life at age 32.

Things happen and weather is unpredictable, but MLB can still do things to put the odds in its favor while keeping most everything it has going for it now, things that came with the cost of tradition.

First, what genius approved an open-air stadium in Minneapolis? There’s inclement weather this time of year in the Northeast and Midwest, but Minnesota is a different animal. It can snow there for another week or so and almost any time in mid-October.

If they weren’t smart enough to build a dome where it snows seven months in the year, then play the Royals or Indians or White Sox in April, teams that are easier to reschedule later.

Yesterday, the Yankees were out of their division and had a rainout in Cleveland for a second straight day. They now will have a doubleheader on an off-day and play 17 games in 16 days. That makes for tired players and poor pitching, but who cares about putting the best product on the field?

“I don’t think you can go to cold weather cities in April if you’re only going to go there once,’’ Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “I know the schedule’s not easy to make, but if you could just stay in your division longer or go to some warmer weather cities you might be able to get by a lot of this.’’

From a business standpoint, the Indians can’t like playing the Yankees in April, when the crowds are down. They’d rather play them later when there’s a chance for a sellout.

It’s pounding a square peg into a round hole to play interleague and non-divisional play in April. The first two weeks of the season should be within the division so make-ups are easier to reschedule.

I’ve suggested this several times, even talked with players and club officials who believe it is a good idea, and that is the scheduling of day-night doubleheaders.

In this case, MLB can make the unbalanced schedule work to its advantage. Because you’re playing 18 games within the division, have several day-nighters each month. Not only does this give the owners the gates they want, but provides more off-days to make rescheduling easier.

Nobody likes to play in horrible weather conditions, and nobody likes to sit in them, either. However, this is an issue because MLB lacks the willingness or foresight to change something within its control.

Dec 27

Kudos To Braves

Did you see what the Atlanta Braves are planning for next year?

A return of the screaming savage logo on their batting practice caps. Political correctness be damned, and I love it.

Screaming savage logo is back

There are fewer things more offensive to me than the political correctness movement. Fortunately, no professional football or baseball teams caved and changed their nicknames because of PC. The Washington Bullets changed their name to Wizards.

As if a team nickname would prompt somebody to go ballistic. The Bullets got their name when they were in Baltimore, which is close to where ordnance manufacturers are located.

But, the PCers found it offensive and Washington caved and changed the name. Fortunately, the Braves, Indians, Chiefs and Redskins held their traditional ground.

To me, more offensive than the names is the weakness in changing your ground to placate the disgruntled let’s-find-something-to-bitch-about rumbling minority.

For the most part, team names are either territorial as something to identify the team to the city in which it plays or create a fearsome image.

I can’t, even for one moment, believe an organization sat in a meeting room and said, “let’s find a name that will offend this group of people.’’

I can, however, envision them coming up, or revising, a logo that will sell, sell, sell.