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 10

Alderson Quits On Mets For This Year And Next

By the time Ryder Ryan reaches the major leagues – if he even plays for the Mets – Jay Bruce might be in the final year of his contract with the Indians, or any number of teams. The Mets will not be one of them.

Who knows? Bruce might be retired by the time Ryan pitches at Citi Field. Is that Sandy Alderson’s idea of being competitive in 2018: To trade their best offensive player for a player who isn’t even one of the Indians’ top 30 prospects?

BRUCE: Escapes the lunacy. (AP)

BRUCE: Escapes the lunacy. (AP)

There are so many layers to this deal, including the inevitable conclusion the Mets don’t want to trade with the Yankees, who reportedly offered two prospects, but weren’t given a call back from Alderson, who continually thinks he’s the smartest man in the room, despite a track record that suggests otherwise.

Bruce was prepared for the trade, telling the Mets website: “The long and short of it is I was prepared. I knew something could happen, and happen fast. I really enjoyed my time in New York, but I’m excited to jump right into a pennant race.”

The kicker?

Of course, it is money. The Indians will pick up the balance of Bruce’s 2017 salary, around $4 million, while the Yankees, who traditionally throw money around, reportedly only wanted to assume $1 million of Bruce’s contract.

Reportedly, Alderson didn’t even extend Yankees GM Brian Cashman the courtesy of a “give me your final offer,’’ phone call. It’s even more baffling considering the Mets agreed to the two Yankees prospects.

Ryder, by the way, has a 4.79 ERA in 33 relief appearances in Single-A.

So, in exchange for Bruce, Lucas Duda and Addison Reed, the Mets received five relief prospects, none of whom can be labeled “can’t miss blue chippers.’’ They also acquired the unimpressive AJ Ramos in a separate deal with the Marlins.

It must also be pointed out the Mets save around $11 million, which only reinforces the notion this was merely a salary dump and they are trying to build on the cheap. In the interim, the Mets are still trying to dump Asdrubal Cabrera, Neil Walker and Curtis Granderson. Apparently, all offers will be considered.

Apparently, all offers will be considered.

I loved the Bruce trade last summer and never bought into the notion he couldn’t play in New York, which is really an overrated mind thing. Often the issue is raised by self-important media commentators.

If you play hard, don’t whine, are stand-up in the clubhouse, and produce without making excuses, anybody can play in New York. The fans, media and team executives simply want players to be productive at their jobs. Bruce was that in his last two weeks last summer and he’s been a rock this year, leading the team in homers (29) and RBI (75), playing right field and first base.

He did everything manager Terry Collins wanted, and his value to the Mets was underscored when after Amed Rosario botched a play that cost them a win he was counseling the rookie after the final out.

No excuses. A solid professional. And a proven, lefty power hitter. Don’t you think the Mets might need those qualities next season if they are as close to contending that they claim?

Bruce, Reed or Duda might play deep into October, possibly at the expense of the Yankees. Does skunking the Yankees qualify as a successful season for Alderson and the Mets? It sure seems so. Then again, they save around  $11 million, which is really what this is all about.

So, what have the Mets accomplished toward next season? After all, they say this is tinkering and not a rebuild.

In trading Reed they lost their capable – and underpaid in relation to the position – closer in the hope Jeurys Familia will recover from surgery to get his job back, this despite monumental postseason collapses in each of the past two seasons.

Trading Bruce probably enables them to bring up first base prospect Dominic Smith, but that should have been done weeks ago.

Trading Bruce also enables them to move Michael Conforto to right field, but that leaves a hole in center. The Mets aren’t sold on Juan Lagares, whom they signed to a four-year contract, yet won’t let play. It dosn’t help he’s been injured in each of the last two years. Another great Alderson decision.

Perhaps that leaves an opportunity for Brandon Nimmo. But, do you think Nimmo or Smith – perhaps combined – will give the Mets the production Bruce did? Both are unknowns.

If nothing else, extending Bruce a one-year qualifying offer, would net them a compensatory draft pick which will be higher rated than Ryder. I don’t know if Bruce would have accepted the offer or would have been willing to sign a long-term deal. If I were him, and seeing how Alderson was so foolishly open in trying to trade him, I wouldn’t trust him.

But, did Alderson even try?

Bruce is 30 years and has proven he can produce in New York, offers protection to Yoenis Cespedes and has five good years left, barring injury. How much would it cost to keep Bruce? Perhaps $80 million over four years is my guess. But, if Alderson thinks he can get a comparable bat and clubhouse presence for less, he’s mistaken.

So, instead of having a lefty power hitter in the fold, add that to Alderson’s offseason wish list.

Of course, Alderson says it will be better when all those young arms – which are another year older – return from the disabled list.

We’re still waiting on Matt Harvey to repeat his 2013 form. Noah Syndergaards lat injury is a concern. He admits he’s willing to adjust his offseason conditioning program, which is a plus but guarantees nothing.  Zack Wheeler showed some promise after sitting out two years. He’s back on the disabled list. Like Harvey and Syndergaard, the Mets are hoping he can make a few starts in September.

Once again, the Mets are hoping for the injured to bounce back. Speaking of hope, they are still wondering about Steven Matz, but have little left for Rafael Montero.

Overall, this vaunted rotation has yet to complete a five-game cycle together, and none of those arms has won 15 games. But there’s hope, isn’t there? Hope is the card Alderson wants to play, probably on orders from above.

The 2017 Mets entered the season as World Series favorites in some circles and will finish as a dumpster fire. The 2018 Mets, assuming no significant acquisitions are made, have numerous significant questions with few answers in sight.

Thanks Sandy. Thanks Fred. Thanks Jeff.

 

Jun 30

DeGrom Aces Phillies

There can be no doubt if the Mets are to salvage their season, if not make a run, they’ll need more of the same from Jacob deGrom, who pitched like the ace he is in keeping his team hot.

The Mets have now won six of their last seven games tonight in beating the Phillies, 2-1, at Citi Field, to pull within five games of .500.

De GROM: Aces Phillies. (AP)

De GROM: Aces Phillies. (AP)

“Going into LA was a wake-up call for us,’’ deGrom said. “We got our teeth kicked in. We know we had to play better. If we’re going to do it, we’re running out of time.”

Getting going means beating the teams you’re supposed to, which includes the Giants and Phillies.

This still could turn into a “trap series,’’ if the Mets stumble the next two days, but deGrom wouldn’t let that happen tonight. DeGrom had to be dog tired as the Mets’ flight from Miami didn’t land in New York until after 4:30 a.m.

DeGrom has turned things around since back-to-back starts when he gave up 15 runs. Since then, he’s gone 4-0 with a 0.84 ERA, walking only eight but with 31 strikeouts.

“He’s in a groove for sure,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “He’s such a competitor. He won’t give in and throw one over the middle.’’

DeGrom’s fastball was superb tonight, but he also commanded his secondary pitches well, particularly his slider early in the game and his change-up in the later innings.

DeGrom, who had worked at least eight innings in his last three starts, worked seven innings and gave up one run on three hits and one walk. DeGrom, who had a string of double-digit strikeout games earlier this year, but not recently, struck out 12, which contributed to his higher than normal pitch count of 111. It is the sixth time this year he struck out at least ten.

“I was able to throw it tonight when I needed to and where I needed to,’’ deGrom said of his change-up. “My fastball command was good tonight. I was able to control it on both sides of the plate. Everything worked off the fastball tonight.’’

STILL NO CONFORTO: Today is Day Five without Michael Conforto and he’s still not close to coming back after being struck on his left wrist by a pitch last Sunday in San Francisco.

And yet, the Mets refuse to put him on the 10-day disabled list and continue to play shorthanded.

The only reason I can come up with is the Mets are reluctant to pay the major league salary to whoever would come up from Triple-A Las Vegas to replace him, even if it is only for ten days.

That’s speculation on my part, but would anybody really be surprised?

“There’s no break,’’ Collins said. “It’s the bone bruise that is causing him problems. He tried to swing the bat today and he had trouble.’’

CESPEDES SLUMPING: One of the ramifications of not having Conforto available is not being able to rest Yoenis Cespedes, who, with a broken-bat single in the eighth has four hits in his last 24 at-bats.

Of course, would it kill the Mets to start Brandon Nimmo for a game?

THINKING ABOUT COLON: The Mets are kicking the tires on bringing back Bartolo Colon, who was designated for assignment by the Braves.

Atlanta has ten days to either trade, release outright or assign him to the minor leagues (won’t happen). After which, the player becomes a free agent.

“He’s still a member of the Braves,’’ GM Sandy Alderson said when asked about Colon.

EXTRA INNINGS: Lucas Duda is still weakened with flu-like symptoms and was a late scratch. … Addison Reed has converted save opportunities in the last two games. … Curtis Granderson singled to extend his hitting streak to nine games. … Zack Wheeler will come off the disabled list and start Saturday.

 

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.

 

 

May 08

Mets To Protect Harvey With Friday Return

The Mets are thinking about Friday as a return to the mound for Matt Harvey. He will return to the ballpark tomorrow to make his apologies and pitch again Friday when the Mets are in Milwaukee – away from the prying microphones and cameras that would besiege him at Citi Field.

HARVEY: Looking at Friday. (AP)

HARVEY: Looking at Friday. (AP)

It seemed logical the Mets should start him Wednesday afternoon over Rafael Montero, who can’t find the plate with a GPS, or recently-acquired Tommy Milone.

Instead, this is just another example of the Mets massaging Harvey’s fragile ego; do it in Milwaukee to spare him the boos he’d undoubtedly hear in New York.

C’mon, admit it, if you were going to be at Citi Field Wednesday, part of you would want to stand up and vent your anger at Harvey, the same anger GM Sandy Alderson finally did.

After acquiescing to Harvey’s pettiness and demands since 2013 – from hiding pain in his forearm that eventually lead to Tommy John surgery, to complaining where he would do his rehab, to his innings fiasco in 2015, to missing a World Series workout because he got caught in traffic and it was later discovered he was out partying the night before, to pitching a fit in the dugout to stay in Game 5 of the World Series he eventually kicked away – Alderson finally had enough.

“We have a policy here,” Collins said of Harvey’s for an unexcused absence Saturday. “I thought it was the right thing to do. I know it’s dramatic, but I think any team in baseball would have probably reacted very similarly. And it wasn’t just Matt Harvey. Anybody in that room that misses a day and nobody knows about it, we’ve got to do the same thing.”

Harvey said he developed a migraine headache after golfing and there was a miscommunication of explaining his absence that the Mets weren’t buying.

I’m not either, because how could he not have Alderson’s cell number? Or, Collins? Or trainer Ray Ramirez?

If we’re venturing guesses, I think him being in Ottawa watching the Rangers is as good as any.

Anyway, before Harvey throws his first pitch, he’ll have some groveling to do with his teammates tomorrow afternoon.

“I know one thing about our society: You make a mistake, you stand up, be accountable and move on,” Collins said. “He needs to address the guys. We’ve got to get this behind us. However he wants to go about doing that, I’ll sign on for it.

“We have a good clubhouse. Understand, you’re never going to have 25 that all like each other. But they respect each other and that’s all I want.”

Harvey may have lost that respect and has a long way to go to earn it back.