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 09

Montero’s Spot In Rotation Not Secure

It is all about pitching for the New York Mets. It is why this season went down the toilet a couple of months ago, and it is why they lost today and why Rafael Montero might not be long for the rotation.

MONTERO: Not getting it done. (AP)

MONTERO: Not getting it done. (AP)

Montero left today’s 5-1 loss to Texas for a pinch-hitter in the third inning after giving up four runs on five hits and three walks, with two of his 87 pitches hitting batters. After Montero fell to 1-8 with a 6.06 ERA, manager Terry Collins was understandably asked whether he would stay in the rotation.

“That’s something that will have to be discussed in the next couple of days,’’ Collins said. “If we don’t [find somebody better] he’ll go back out there.’’

Montero walked three of the eight batters Mets’ pitching issued free passes to. The staff has walked 398 batters, fourth worst in the National League and sixth overall (3.5 per game).

Eighty-seven pitches in three innings meant Montero was working deep into counts to numerous hitters.

“It’s a tough league to pitch in when you get three balls on a hitter,’’ Collins said. “We have not walked people like this in the past. You can’t keep putting runners on base. On this level, you have to throws strikes when you need to. He has got good enough stuff to go after guys.’’

 

 

Jun 28

Mets’ Pitching Could Determine Role At Trade Deadline

Watching Steven Matz toy with the Marlins tonight I couldn’t help but wonder what might have been or what could be. The Mets were supposed to go deep into the playoffs this season with five starters and two reliable reserves just in case something happened.

Well, something did happen and six of those pitchers have spent some time on the disabled list.

MATZ: He's back. (AP)

MATZ: He’s back. (AP)

Matz is back and going strong, working into the seventh inning in three of his last four starts, including seven scoreless in beating the Marlins, 8-0.

Teamed with Jacob deGrom, manager Terry Collins, said the Mets have the beginnings of a strong core.

“It’s going to take pitching if we’re going to get back into this thing,’’ Collins said.

Matz was superb despite only four strikeouts as he pitched to contact.

“I let them put the ball in play,’’ Matz said. “I got a lot of groundball outs [12] and that helps me go deep into games.’’

Matz’s control was on tonight as he not only painted the corners but brushed Giancarlo Stanton off the plate, something Mets’ pitchers don’t always do.

Robert Gsellman went on the disabled list today which gives Rafael Montero another chance to stay in the rotation. Montero has made three straight strong appearances and is coming off a good start.

While the Mets are optimistic about him, they are also hoping for innings from Seth Lugo, Thursday, in Miami, plus a positive medical report on Zack Wheeler.

Even should all those things materialize, the Mets are in such a hole that catching the Nationals isn’t likely to happen, but .500 is within reach.

Perhaps more importantly – and you can decide for yourself whether it is good or bad – the Mets open the second half with ten straight at home, which could make them competitive enough to where it could decide their direction at the trade deadline.

 

Jun 25

Montero Pitches Big For Mets

Rafael Montero made us wonder before, but could this time be different? Not only was Montero terrific in beating the Giants, but Sunday was his third straight solid outing.

With three starters on the disabled list, and the Mets trying to salvage something from their season, this is about as good a piece of news they can currently expect.

MONTERO:  Solid again.  (AP)

MONTERO: Solid again. (AP)

“This is what we were hoping to see from him,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “He didn’t shy away. I hope this is what we’re going to see from here on from him. Hopefully, this is a huge wake-up call that he can pitch in this league.’’

After giving one run in 3.2 innings against the Dodgers, and three scoreless against the Nationals, Montero gave up one run in 5.2 innings today to earn his second career victory, beating the Giants, 8-2.

Command has always been a problem for Montero. He only walked two Giants, but only 61 of his 104 pitches were strikes, which leaves plenty of room for improvement.

If there was a signature moment, it came in the sixth. The Giants had runners on first and second with nobody out and he busted a fastball in off the fists of Buster Posey, popped out into a double play. It was a pitch thrown with confidence because if Montero missed and the pitch tailed over the plate Posey could have crushed it and change the complexion of the game.

Zack Wheeler will be eligible to come off the disabled list in a week, but if he’s not ready Montero could slot in again.

And, this time Collins won’t have to cross his fingers.

 

 

 

Jun 21

Yup, Wheeler Is Fine … Except Goes On DL

What did I tell you about believing the injury denials from the Mets and their pitchers? Right, don’t believe a word they say. Less than 48 hours after saying there was nothing wrong with him, Mets starter Zack Wheeler was placed on the 10-day disabled list with biceps tendinitis.

WHEELER: Goes on DL. (AP)

WHEELER: Goes on DL. (AP)

“I’ve been feeling for a little while now and it has gotten a little worse,’’ Wheeler told reporters prior to Wednesday’s game against the Dodgers. “I could miss a start or two.’’

That’s not exactly the same thing as “I feel fine.’’

An MRI showed no structural damage and GM Sandy Alderson expects Wheeler to miss one start, but that’s being optimistic. Alderson speculates Wheeler might have hit a wall after missing the last two years following Tommy John surgery.

Wheeler’s next start will go to tonight’s starter, Tyler Pill, or Rafael Montero.

Wheeler, 27, is 3-5 with a 5.29 ERA after two straight horrendous starts in which he’s given up 15 runs while working 3.2 innings. He’s worked 66.1 innings, a little more than half of what his projected innings ceiling would be.

The Mets went to a six-man rotation, in part, to protect Wheeler. An innings limit shouldn’t be an issue any longer, but the six-man rotation could be gone without Wheeler and Matt Harvey.

“Neither the starting pitching nor the relief pitching is doing very well, and that’s been true over the last week or so with the exception of Jacob deGrom,’’ Alderson said. “We’re working hard to correct it. We haven’t seen any results at this point.’’

Just the last week or so?