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.

Aug 12

Walker Is Latest Former Met

The last time the Mets nearly traded an infielder to Milwaukee produced the iconic snapshot of Wilmer Flores crying at his shortstop position. There was no such image tonight with the breaking news the Mets had traded Neil Walker to the Brewers for a player to be named later.

Tonight’s optic was a video of Walker leaving the Mets’ clubhouse in a golf cart, presumably to the team hotel to pack before flying to Milwaukee to join a pennant race.

WALKER: Another good one is gone. (AP)

                               WALKER: Another good one is gone. (AP)

By the time the Mets lost to the Phillies, 3-1, the deal had not yet been announced.

Despite playing with significant injuries – and undergoing back surgery last offseason – Walker was a consummate professional, just as Jay Bruce was, and exceeded his run production expectations since acquiring him after the 2015 season from Pittsburgh.

Walker, acquired when the Mets didn’t re-sign Daniel Murphy after his historic 2015 postseason, hit 23 homers last year in an injury-shortened 2016. After not drawing interest in the free-agent market, Walker signed a $17.2-million qualifying offer last winter.

At one point this season the Mets said they’d consider bringing back Walker, but such talk quickly died on the vine as their season slipped away.

With a glut of infielders, there was no way the Mets would bring him back, and since players-to-be-named are mostly bottom-tier prospects at best, this was nothing more than a salary dump, even with them picking up a portion of the remaining $4.7 million left on Walker’s contract.

The Mets were close to trading Walker to the Yankees at the July 31 deadline, but the latter backed out reportedly concerned with his medical records. In addition to his back surgery in the winter, Walker missed six weeks this season with a hamstring injury.

A season that began with such optimism continued to unravel for the Mets. A team many thought could return to the World Series, has rid itself of Walker, Bruce, Addison Reed and Lucas Duda, in addition to losing for long periods on the disabled list of David Wright, Yoenis Cespedes, Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud and Jeurys Familia.

Aug 08

Harvey Makes Progress In Rehab; Mets Beat Rangers

The Mets finally received some positive pitching news today with Matt Harveys pain-free, 20-pitch live batting practice session. Harvey’s last start was June 14, a four-inning stint against the Cubs.

HARVEY: Makes progress.  (AP)

HARVEY: Makes progress. (AP)

Live batting practice usually comes prior to a rehab assignment, so if he doesn’t feel anything tomorrow, he could make a minor-league start this weekend. Assuming all goes well, Harvey could make three or four starts before the end of the year.

“My goal is to get out there as soon as I can and get as many starts as I can,’’ Harvey told reporters. “I felt great. It was nice to get on the mound again. A little rusty at first, but at the end, I was able to get the ball down.

“My arm is moving the proper way. It was finally fun to throw a baseball again.’’

It has been a long time since Harvey had any fun pitching, perhaps the eighth inning of Game 5 of the 2015 World Series. It’s not his 4-3 record, but his 5.25 ERA, 1.45 WHIP and 35 walks in 70.1 innings that has frustrated Harvey.

That, and whether he’ll ever approach the potential expected of him when he became an All-Star and cult hero in 2013. If nothing else, both Harvey and the Mets want to ascertain where he physically fits heading into the offseason.

THE GAME:  Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes and Travis d’Arnaud homered to give Chris Flexen his first major league victory, 5-4, over Texas tonight at Citi Field.

Flexen (1-1), in his third career start, pitched 5.2 innings and gave up three on four hits, three walks and one hit batter while striking out four. For good measure, he also registered his career hit with a fifth-inning double.

For Conforto, it was his career-high 23rd homer and sixth leading off a game.

A NEW GIG FOR IKE: Former Mets first baseman Ike Davis is trying to make it back to the majors as a situational lefty reliever in the Dodgers farm system.

Davis, 30, struck out the side his one inning of work in the Arizona League.

Davis pitched for Arizona State in college and made two scoreless relief appearances for Oakland in 2015. His fastball has been clocked at 92 mph.

EXTRA INNINGS: With their win, the Mets snapped a four-game and improved to 26-31 at home. … Conforto’s leadoff homer was the Mets’ tenth to lead the majors. …

Since the All-Star break, Conforto is batting .313 (30-96) with nine home runs and 17 RBI. … D’Arnaud’s homer was his tenth. … Neil Walker started his first career game at first. … AJ Ramos converted his first save opportunity since joining the Mets.

 

Aug 07

First Impressions On Rosario After First Week

Amed Rosario has been a Met for a week. It’s premature to draw any conclusions, but it isn’t too soon to have some first impressions.

First of all, I like how this guy always hustles, especially coming out of the box. I wish Yoenis Cespedes hustled as much. I hope it’s a quality he never loses.

ROSARIO: Rough first week at plate. (AP)

ROSARIO: Rough first week at plate. (AP)

Secondly, how can you not love his range and throwing arm. That spells defense, something the Mets need to place a higher priority on for 2018.

However, as Rosario seems joined at the hip with Jose Reyes, here’s hoping he doesn’t learn some things from his mentor offensively, namely his plate discipline.

Rosario began his major league career with a four-game hitting streak – including two triples – and after six games he’s gone 4-for-22 for a .182 average. That wouldn’t be so bad, but where I hope he doesn’t take after Reyes is in the areas of on-base percentage and strikeouts-to-walks ratio.

For all his speed, Reyes has never had a great on-base percentage; it’s .284 this year and .336 for his career. Rosario’s on-base at Las Vegas was a very good .367, but he won’t replicate that on the major league level unless he employs better plate discipline. Reyes has always struck out too much, and that’s what we’re seeing so far from Rosario, who has ten strikeouts in 22 at-bats.

That’s way too many as he’s proven to be vulnerable to sliders and curveballs low-and-away.

As I said, it has only been six games, way too early to make any definitive conclusions, but just something to look at as this season progresses.

Aug 06

Mets Matters: Bruce Hopes To Return Tuesday

Jay Bruce didn’t play tonight, but it wouldn’t have mattered anyway with how the Mets have performed lately. Bruce was absent for the second straight game because of a stiff neck, but said he hopes to play Tuesday against Texas at Citi Field.

mets-matters logo“There’s been improvement, working with the medical staff, doing what I can,’’ Bruce told reporters. “Like I said, there has been improvement. I think with the treatment, and tomorrow off, I should be ready to go. … I want to be careful with it. Because I don’t want this to turn into a long-term situation.’’

Bruce believes he came down with the stiff neck on the flight back from Denver Thursday.

In 101 games, Bruce leads the Mets with 29 home runs and 75 RBI.

HARVEY MAKING PROGRESS: Matt Harvey threw his first bullpen session since going on the DL June 16 with a stress injury in his right shoulder. Harvey was scheduled to throw in the bullpen Tuesday, but will throw live batting practice.

MATZ STILL NOT THERE: It doesn’t matter an instant replay reversal in the first extended the inning so the Dodgers would score three runs in the first off Steven Matz, it is still up to him to get out of trouble.

He didn’t and the left-hander lost his fourth straight decision to remain winless since June 28.

Matz gave up five runs on six hits in 5.1 innings to see his ERA jump to 8.44.

The inning unraveled in large part with long standing flaw from Mets’ starters, which is their failure to hold runners on base. The Dodgers pulled off a double steal and both runners scored on Logan Forsythe’s single to center.

GLAD THAT’S OVER: With their 8-0 rout of the Mets, the Dodgers swept the season series, outscoring them 57-15 and shutting them out for the third time. … Los Angeles clubbed two more homers – Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger – and have outhomered the Mets 25-6. The rookie Bellinger has five homers against Mets’ pitching.

The 2015 NLDS seems like ages ago.