Oct 31

Potential Free Agents From World Series Teams And Possible Mets’ Interest

The champagne on the carpet Boston Red Sox clubhouse isn’t even dry and there’s wonder which players from both World Series teams will be back, and if not, might the Mets be interested, or more to the point, will they have a chance?

Here are the most intriguing names:

Jon Lester: Don’t even think about it. Lester, who beat the Cardinals twice and arguably, could have been the Series MVP, just competed the final season of a five-year, $30-million contract with an option for 2014. His yearly salary numbers are reasonable by Mets’ standards, but the Red Sox have said they’ll resume negotiations. If they fail to reach an agreement, they can always pick up the $13 million option and try again later.

ELLSBURY: Could be too pricey for Mets.

ELLSBURY: Could be too pricey for Mets.

Jacoby Ellsbury: Reportedly, after the 2011 season the Red Sox offered him a $100-million package, which was rejected by agent Scott Boras, who countered with $130 million. The following season, despite injuries limiting him to 74 games, the Red Sox made another offer of $75.25-million deal over five years, which was again turned down. Ellsbury improved this year, and Boras already planted the seeds saying 11 teams are interested. Although Sandy Alderson said the team has the resources to offer a $100,000-million deal, it won’t be spent on a hitter who isn’t a middle-of-the-order force.

Stephen Drew: The Red Sox said they’ll tender a contract to the shortstop, despite Xander Bogaerts the heir apparent for the job. Shortstop is a necessity for the Mets because they can’t rely on Ruben Tejada, but would they go over $10 million – which Drew made – to fill the position or will they hope for the best with Tejada? Teams are built on defense up the middle, but Tejada regressed in that area.

Mike Napoli: Initially the Red Sox offered Napoli a three-year, $39-million contract, but took it off the table and gave him $5 million when a physical revealed a degenerative hip condition. Napoli proved he was healthy as he played in 139 games and drove in 92 runs. Trouble is, he did it at first base, where the Mets have a glut of unproven and underachieving options.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia: The $4.5 million he made this season fits into the Mets’ budget and there’s a need for a veteran presence to back up Travis d’Arnaud. There are other options, including bringing back John Buck.

Carlos Beltran: Reportedly, Mets’ COO Jeff Wilpon reached out to Beltran at the All-Star Game and the club and veteran outfielder made amends. During his stay with the Mets, Beltran gave them everything he had and was under appreciated. Beltran made $13 million this season and hit .296 with 24 homers and 84 RBI. He’ll be 37 next year.

Chris Carpenter: A shoulder injury prevented Carpenter from pitching this year, in which he made $10.5 million. There have been reports he will retire this winter. If he’d like to pitch another year, it might not be possible with all the Cardinals’ young arms.

Rafael Furcal: The Mets said they will eschew injury reclamation projects, which will probably exclude Furcal, who did not play this season because of torn ligament in his elbow. However, they are faced with their own shortstop, Tejada, recovering from a broken leg. Furcal made $7 million this year, and at 37, won’t get near that, from the Mets or anybody else.

Oct 28

Will Fate Choose Adam Wainwright In World Series’ Game 5?

Nobody knows where October’s spotlight will fall. Sunday it shined on journeyman outfielder Jonny Gomes, the unlikely slugger of a game-winning three-run homer for Boston in Game 4. Gomes is proof October doesn’t always belong to the marquee names.

The previous night it shined on the umpires, who correctly ended Game 3 on an obstruction call.

After Gomes’ blast on Sunday, fate chose to bite the Cardinals’ Kolten Wong, who became the first player in history to be picked off to end a playoff game. Fate is often cruel come October.

WAINWRIGHT: What will fate give him?

WAINWRIGHT: What will fate give him?

Earlier in the night Clay Buchholz produced despite a tired arm, giving the Red Sox four innings. The Cardinals had a two-on, one-out threat in the second and two-on, two-out in the fourth, but Buchholz survived both.

The Cardinals later stranded two runners in the seventh. St. Louis, a beneficiary the night before, was the ultimate giver Sunday.

Gomes provided the heart and David Ortiz gave us a made-for-TV moment with a pep talk to his teammates in the dugout in the fifth inning. Ortiz, who is having a marvelous Series and has always had a flair for the dramatics, had to know the nation was watching. It made for good television, but Ortiz couldn’t do anything to help for Gomes or Buchholz, who produced when the Red Sox needed it most.

Emotion can carry a player in football, basketball and hockey, but not so much in baseball.

Everybody contributed for the Red Sox, who, like the Cardinals have been a resilient team this season. Both teams, each of whom won 97 games this season, are on the cusp of giving us a classic World Series.

The definition of classic has to be seven games. For that to happen, Adam Wainwright has to find it for the Cardinals tonight. If the Cardinals fall behind in games 3-to-2, I don’t see them beating the Red Sox twice at Fenway Park. Wainwright, whom fate blessed against Carlos Beltran in 2006, has lost his last two playoff starts. He was routed in Game 1.

It has been a sloppy Series, which only fuels the drama. Outside the Game 1 blowout, the Series has been complete with unlikely heroes, game-turning plays, managerial decisions and tension. There has even been the unfolding saga of what Jon Lester has put on his glove. The composite score of Games 2-3-4 has been 11-10 in favor of St. Louis. It can’t get much closer.

We even saw Red Sox manager John Farrell second-guess his Game 3 decision to not hit Mike Napoli for reliever Brandon Workman. Credit Farrell for being stand-up enough to admit his doubts. You don’t see that often from a manager, especially from one the day after losing a World Series game on the most bizarre of calls.

There is a flurry of statistics to ponder over the first four games, but Ortiz going 8-for-11 is the most glaring. The Cardinals would do well to repeat the Angels’ strategy in the 2002 World Series to pitch around Barry Bonds. Having Ortiz in the field has not hurt the Red Sox, and for that they are fortunate. The Cardinals are also lucky he hasn’t hurt them more.

Despite the interesting numbers and Sabremetrics, this is still a game played by humans, and there was no number to project Gomes’ homer or the obstruction call. No stat could have projected Buchholz’s guile in pitching out of trouble. Things just happen in baseball nobody can predict.

So far, these humans – from both sides – are giving us a World Series that could be for the ages.

We can only hope.

 

Oct 24

Game 1 Of World Series Overcomes Bad Call, But Raises Issues

Maybe Jon Lester cheated in Game 1; maybe he did not. It makes for an interesting fodder and falls in line as to what is reviewable and what is not regarding expanded instant replay beginning next season.

Overturning a call by replay such as Dana DeMuth’s horrible one last night is not allowable within the current structure, and the Cardinals would have a legitimate beef had the umpires convened to watch the replay on a monitor.

Getting it right. (Getty)

Getting it right. (Getty)

However, one umpire – in this case, five – overturning a bad call is permitted and the umpires absolutely handled it properly in agreeing with Boston manager John Farrell for DeMuth to get a second opinion. Umpires should be applauded for seeking help. They shouldn’t think they are being shown up, but that the crew is working in concert.

Raised from last night’s first inning is the method of a manager challenging a call. Currently, the challenges are limited, but that’s not an efficient or fair format.

Whether a central monitoring system established in New York similar to how the NHL’s format is in Toronto, or have a fifth umpire in the press box who can buzz down to the crew chief seems preferable than the manager challenging from the dugout.

For one thing, an executive monitoring upstairs has an immediate picture of the play and can contact the crew chief. The manager, in this case Farrell, instantly knew it was a bad decision and bolted from the dugout as if he had a jetpack.

All plays won’t be that way and it is easy to envision a manager challenging based on his player’s reaction to the call. Players aren’t always right, they often go by emotion, and challenges could be wasted early. Presumably, this could be offset with a direct link to the dugout from the press box, similar to how a NFL coach is buzzed to throw the challenge flag.

Having an immediate set of fifth eyes would likely take less time and improve the flow of the game. Major League Baseball is always moaning about game length and this method is better. Presumably, under the new system everything but balls and strikes would be under review, which is the way to go.

Today’s umpiring is flawed, but I don’t know if it is any worse than what we had 10, 20 years ago. However, the technology is so much better and points out things missed in earlier decades. That should lead to a system that in the interest of fairness, the camera/review format should be the same for a Tuesday night June game in Milwaukee as it is in the World Series. Granted, there are more cameras for the Series, but having a designated number of cameras in specific locations can alleviate this.

More cameras and establishing a better review system costs money, but I don’t want to hear it. This is a multi-billion a year industry. There’s plenty of money to invest in getting it right.

What would have been fascinating was to mike the umpires the way FOX did Joe West in the ALCS. To hear that conversation between the five umpires in Game 1 would have been priceless television.

Fortunately, they got the call right, which is the ultimate objective. I can only imagine DeMuth assumed Pete Kozma made the transfer and was only watching his feet. That leads to a fair criticism about umpiring and assuming the outcome of a play. DeMuth was in position and looking at the call; he just didn’t make the proper decision.

If the intent is to get the play right, then why is there such thing as a neighborhood play, which surfaced earlier in the playoffs? If it is allowed in the interest of player safety, then modify the sliding rules. We also see too many instances of a runner called out simply because a throw beat him to the bag. These calls frequently show an umpire out of position.

But, and this is most important: Baseball is more black-and-white than other sports. Either a player is safe or he is out; it is either a strike or it is not.

That purity should be emphasized in spring training as it is in the World Series. I’m tired of hearing the phrase, “you just don’t make that call in the World Series,’’ just as I was Sunday when I heard “you don’t make that call in overtime on a 56-yard field goal attempt.”

Why the hell not? Out or safe; fair or foul. Just get it right. If it is a rule, then apply it equally regardless of situation.

That should also include balls and strikes, as the idea of each umpire having his own interpretation of the rules is ridiculous. This isn’t figure skating in the Olympics when the Russian judge screws the American skater with prejudice. The rulebook lists a definition of what is a strike. Just get it right.

Luckily, regardless of how the play was ruled, Mike Napoli doubled in enough runs to where it wouldn’t matter to the helpless Cardinals. The Cardinals played a terrible game, and fortunately for all involved, DeMuth’s call added drama but did not decide the outcome.

As for whether Lester used a substance on the ball or not won’t be known. Under expanded replay we could only hope the observer in the press box would have the authority to order the crew chief to examine a pitcher’s glove if he sees something on the monitor. Presumably, the umpires will have their eyes on Lester when he pitches next in St. Louis.

The fans have the right to believe what they see on the field is legitimate, which is why MLB has such stiff penalties on gambling and performance-enhancing-drugs. There should be a similarity when it comes to on-the-field cheating. Doctoring the ball isn’t gamesmanship, it is cheating and the penalty should be severe.

 

 

 

 

Oct 19

Gooood morning: On tap for today.

Goood Morning: What's on your mind today?

Goood Morning: What's on your mind today?

It has to be a good morning somewhere. Boston, perhaps? Gotta think they didn’t get much sleep in Tampa last night. If you’re the Rays you have to be a little concerned. The Red Sox have come back before.

Twice they’ve been down 3-to-1 (including 3-0 to the Yankees in 2004) and rallied. This is a team with a backbone. And, with Jon Lester pitching tonight, you have to like their chances. The decision to go to the bullpen instead of giving Scott Kazmir a shot to work out of trouble could be the turning point to the series.

Of course, I’ll blog the game with you tonight. I’ll also have a post up at 1 p.m., for those watching football.

Should be a fun day.