Nov 01

What History Will Be Written Tonight?

Home runs and extra-inning games don’t necessarily define a great World Series. Those things, plus a tight and compelling Game 7 – which could also have aces Clayton Kershaw and Dallas Keuchel working out of the bullpen – could lift the 2017 World Series into the category of classic.

Sometime after midnight, and probably for the sixth time during this Series after the sixth inning, MLB will have a new champion, and the 39th crowned after a Game 7.

“This is the biggest stage, the best stage, an opportunity to win the World Series in Game 7,’’ said Astros manager A.J. Hinch.

Hinch’s ace, Justin Verlander, the loser in Game 6 who could be available for a batter or two tonight, said Game 7 was inevitable.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, said the same: “It seems fitting. You’ve got the two best teams in baseball going head to head. Like we’ve talked about from the beginning, these two teams mirror one another. And the compete and fight in both teams is the most important thing I see as similarities.’’

The Dodgers won 104 games this season, while the Astros won 101 games. It is the first time since 1970 – Orioles vs. Reds – that both teams won over 100 games.

This World Series has had just about everything. Outstanding pitching and explosive offense. It has had great defense and crappy defense. It has had stars, both on the field and in the stands – although a few less shots of celebrities would be nice.

There’s been so much to like about this Series. The one thing it hasn’t had is former Mets start Carlos Beltran delivering in the clutch.

Maybe we’ll get that tonight.

Oct 30

Were You Up Last Night?

Last night was the kind of game that if the casual observer were to tune in, they might get hooked on baseball. The same might be said of kids, that is if they were up at that hour.

Five-hour games are an aberration, and this isn’t about speeding up the pace. It’s about starting games at a reasonable hour. If a game starts at 8:30 p.m., it stands to reason the game will end close to, if not after, midnight.

Is this any way to cultivate the next generation of baseball fans, not to mention, ticket buyers?

Of course, that doesn’t seem to be on Commissioner Rob Manfred’s agenda, much like it wasn’t on Bud Selig’s. A commissioner’s obligation is to act in the best long-term interest of baseball, and this doesn’t necessarily mean the best short-term financial interest.

Baseball’s lifeblood is in its network television contracts, first FOX, followed by separate cable deals. The Division Series and League Championship Series were shown on FOX, FS1, TBS and its own MLB Network. None of these networks can draw the ratings that really brings in the advertising revenue.

That these games are traditionally shown at hours that virtually eliminate East Coast viewers after 11 p.m., but that’s all right because it gets the Pacific Coast from start to finish.

How MLB determines the first two hours on the West Coast are more valuable than 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. on the East Coast is beyond me.

What is most aggravating about MLB’s network alliances is how baseball has given the television networks carte blanche to schedule games as it wants with no regard to the public or to the sport. What MLB mostly means to the networks is a vehicle to promote its primetime schedule.

MLB is letting its product get shortchanged just for the money. It’s why World Series games are no longer telecast during the day. It has been that way for decades and doesn’t figure to change anytime soon.

Quite simply, it is because FOX doesn’t want to bump its football coverage, both college and pro. The networks value football over baseball, but as long as baseball gets its money it doesn’t care being second best.

Is that any way to market a sport, or anything else, by accepting being No. 2?

 

Oct 18

Playoff Scheduling Needs Fixing

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said the experience of coming from two games down to beat Cleveland in the Division Series helped them in coming back from two games down to take a three-games-to-two series lead over the Astros with the ALCS heading back to Houston.

While it could have a contributing factor, I think it is secondary to Major League Baseball’s inane playoff scheduling of 2-3-2, which in this case rewards the wild-card team of having three straight games at home.

Such a format neutralizes the home field advantage the Astros earned by winning 101 games during the regular season compared to the Yankees winning 91 games.

Isn’t having the best record supposed to stand for something?

The fairest playoff format in all sports for a seven-game playoff series is 2-2-1-1-1. Baseball doesn’t do it that way, saying it wants to cut down on cross-country travel. Seriously? In October it wants to cut down on the travel?

Beginning with the wild-card games, why do they have to be played on different dates? That’s because MLB cares more about playing as many games as possible in primetime.

Normally, that would carry some weight if we were talking about the major networks broadcasting the games. But, instead there were games telecast on four networks: FOX, FX1, TBS and MLB Network.

I wonder how much of the country missed out on some games?

For the ALCS and NLCS rounds, only four times was each league scheduled on the same date. That’s ridiculous scheduling.

It’s bad enough that if the World Series goes seven games, Game 7 will be played Nov. 1.  I know things will never go back to the way it was, and I know MLB – like all sports – cares more about placating television than the fans in the stands, but c’mon, you have to do better than this.

With some creative scheduling during the regular season, MLB could easily cut a week off the calendar and start the playoffs earlier.

For example, since we have the unbalanced schedule thanks to interleague play, have at least once a month have teams play day-night doubleheaders within the division. Three home; three away.

That would cut six days off the schedule, it would make for more off days during the season, and enable the playoffs to start a week earlier.

C’mon Manfred, be a commissioner for the game and not just the owners.

 

Sep 15

Mr Met: Entertaining and Delighting Fans Since 1963

mr_met

Tell the unknowing that a guy with a giant baseball head, cartoonish nose, and goofy wide smile is one of the most beloved characters in sports history and you’re bound to get a reaction of disbelief.

But such a claim holds true for Mr. Met, the long time mascot of the New York Mets.

The simple truth is that Mr. Met is sure to make you smile whether you’re a diehard Mets fan, a casual fan, or are just human with a charitable nature.

As an early pioneer of team mascots, the humble beginnings of the Mr. Met character date back a full decade or more before most MLB teams adopted costumed characters to amuse fans.  While it’s quite expected these days to see mascots engaging with fans at the ballpark, they all owe a debt to the groundbreaking Mr. Met.

He originally existed in animated form when he graced the cover of the Mets programs, scorecards, and yearbooks during the 1963 season.  Several artists, including acclaimed comic book illustrator Al Avison, contributed to the concept and design of Mr. Met.

The team moved stadiums from the Polo Grounds to Shea Stadium in 1964, an occasion enhanced by the debut of Mr. Met as a live mascot.

Mr. Met graced Mets games and promotional material until 1976, when he was phased out of appearance.  Presumably, he retired and was playing golf in Florida, although this has never been confirmed.

Passionate fan appeal sparked the Mets to reintroduce Mr. Met in 1994, and he has been rightfully entertaining the masses at Shea Stadium and Citi Field ever since.

In addition to being a fixture at the ballpark on his own, Mr. Met is a devoted husband, occasionally bringing his lovely wife Mrs. Met along to the games.

Mr. Met’s unwavering support for the Amazin’s through thick and thin is an inspiration to every fan, especially in down seasons like the current. The crosstown fans might peruse the lines on BetStars any given day and see the Yankees as 4/6 favorites over the Twins.  As the Mets faithful, we haven’t had that luxury often in 2017.

So while he has always worn the hat of his favorite baseball team, Mr. Met has worn many figurative hats throughout his career.  Off the field, he has been a cheerleader, a fundraiser, a marketer, and even a hired wedding guest.

Of course, Mr. Met is a man of giving back to communities.  He has appeared at numerous charity events over the years.  Everywhere Mr. Met goes he’s met with smiles and hugs, and the inevitable questions about his baseball head and toothless grin.

Beyond his role as the stellar ambassador of the Mets organization, Mr. Met is a savvy advertiser for anyone who will call him up for a commercial.  He has appeared in several spots for ESPN in their fan favorite This is SportsCenter ad campaign, as well lending his red stitched face to Sony PlayStation and MTA New York City Transit.

Mr. Met played himself in a 2016 episode of the CBS sitcom The Odd Couple.  Not that he could possibly be anyone else.

A noteworthy career of entertaining and delighting fans across the world doesn’t go unrecognized.  The Mascot Hall of Fame inducted Mr. Met in 2007, where he joined the Phillie Phantic of the Philadelphia Phillies to became only the second MLB mascot honored by the organization.  In 2012, Forbes magazine heralded Mr. Met as number one on a list of America’s favorite sports mascots.

Mr. Met has enlivened Mets fans and beyond for more than 50 years. In that time, multiple generations have grown up enjoying his jovial personality and zany antics at the ballpark.  We tip our caps to you, Mr. Met.  May you keep us young at heart for another 50 years.

Jun 19

Today’s Question: Is Going Against Kershaw A Reverse Lock For Mets?

Could the Mets showdown against the Dodgers and ace Clayton Kershaw be an example of a Reverse Lock?

KERSHAW: Smart money on him. (MLB.com)

KERSHAW: Smart money on him. (MLB.com)

A Reverse Lock is when all the stars are aligned for something to be played out one way but goes in the opposite direction.

All the stars are lined up for the Dodgers tonight. New York is struggling and Kershaw is 8-1 with a 1.49 ERA in 13 career starts against the Mets, whose hitters are batting .177 with a .245 on-base percentage against him.

In addition, Yoenis Cespedes is 0-for-9 lifetime and Lucas Duda is 1-for-11. The Mets’ leading hitter against Kershaw is Wilmer Flores at 3-for-9. Jay Bruce is 5-for-20 with two homers.

Feeling good about things?

Starting for the Mets is Zack Wheeler, who is making his first career start against the Dodgers. Wheeler is winless in his last four starts and coming off the worst start of his career, giving up eight runs in 1.2 innings last week against the Cubs.

So, if you’re into betting, why wouldn’t you place a buck or two on Kershaw tonight? That’s where all the smart money will be, making a Reverse Lock possible.