Oct 28

I Want Bartman To Throw Out First Pitch Tonight

Despite the years 1908 and 1945, can you really call the Chicago Cubs the “underdogs’’ or sentimental favorites in this World Series?

I don’t think so because the Cubs entered the season as heavy favorites to win it all this year. Their off-season shopping of Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward and John Lackey, not to mention their in-season acquisitions of Aroldis Chapman and Mike Montgomery, meant they were built to win.

BARTMAN: Cubs need to do right thing. (FOX)

BARTMAN: Cubs need to do right thing. (FOX)

In some ways, how this team was put together was reminiscent of the Yankees and Theo Epstein’s Red Sox. They played by the economic rules of the game, so I don’t have any problem with how they were constructed. When you consider the youth of their team and management’s willingness to spend, they should be good for a long time.

But, that hardly makes them the underdog. Cleveland’s budget, style of play and lack of fielding a winner since 1948 makes them more a sentimental favorite.

All season we’ve been bombarded with Chicago’s history, about curses and bad luck, but that’s not why they haven’t won.

They haven’t won because of how this team was put together. For decades, Cubs ownership and management – much like the Red Sox did – sold the experience of their quaint, historic stadiums over fielding a winning team.

Cubs’ fans, like Red Sox fans prior to 2004, relished the role of lovable, hard-luck losers.

Nowhere was that more emphasized than in 2003 when Steve Bartman did most any fan would have done when Luis Castillo’s foul pop came down on him. He reached for the ball.

We’ll never know if Moises Alou would have caught the ball. But, the bottom line is the Cubs couldn’t put away the Marlins in the eighth inning. Mark Prior went on to walk Castillo. Alex Gonzalez botched a potential double-play grounder and the inning unfolded and before it was over the Marlins had scored eight runs.

I’ll give you the Bartman play being bad luck, but championship teams have to overcome adversity and the Cubs did not. As the game slipped away from the Cubs, Bartman was showered with debris and threats. The Cubs public relations department had to sneak Bartman out of Wrigley Field for his own safety.

In case anybody forgot, the Cubs blew a 5-3 lead in Game 7. Bartman was in hiding at the time, so how could be be blamed for that one?

The Cubs, who once held a 3-1 games advantage, would be denied again. Bartman was vilified, made out to be the personification of 95 years of bad luck, much the way Boston fans vilified Bill Buckner for his Game 6 error in the 1986 World Series.

When a team loses in horrific fashion, there’s a lot of blame to go around. For Alou and Cubs manager Dusty Baker pin it all on Bartman was inexcusable.

For the past 13 years, Bartman kept a low profile. He did not benefit financially in any way despite the offers. He hasn’t sold his story to the press. Hell, he didn’t even come away with the ball.

Speaking through a friend, Bartman apologized profusely and said he wanted nothing more than his childhood team to win a World Series.

How Cubs’ fans – most whom would have reached for that foul ball themselves – treated Bartman through the years has been reprehensible.

Eventually, the Red Sox and their fans kissed and made up with Buckner. The Cubs could go back to being sentimental favorites once again if they invited Bartman to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before tonight’s Game 3 at Wrigley Field.

It would be a magnanimous and classy gesture. I don’t know if they’ll extend the invitation, and I don’t know if Bartman would accept, but it would put a very human face on this World Series.

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Oct 27

Today In Mets’ History: Knight Named MVP To Complete Series Win Over Boston

While we all remember the ball that got by Bill Buckner in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, but sometimes we forget Game 7 also produced a memorable comeback.

Ray Knight's Homer Wins World Ser

                 Ray Knight’s Homer Lead Mets

Perhaps it is because after Game 6 winning the title seemed a foregone conclusion. The Mets steamrolled through the regular season – coming out of spring training manager Davey Johnson said they would dominate – much the way the Cubs did this year.

The Red Sox hardly seemed devastated from their meltdown as they took a 3-0 lead in the second against Ron Darling on back-to-back homers to lead off the inning by Dwight Evans and Rich Gedman, and Wade Boggs’ RBI single.

Meanwhile, Red Sox left-hander Bruce Hurst was on his way to being named Series MVP until the sixth, when the Mets pulled within 3-2 on Keith Hernandez’s RBI single and Gary Carter’s run-producing groundout.

Ray Knight tied the game, 3-3, when he lead off the seventh with a homer off Calvin Schiraldi. The Mets increased their lead to 6-3 later that inning on Rafael Santana’s RBI single and Hernandez’s sacrifice fly.

However, the Red Sox pecked away for two runs in the eighth, but the Mets responded in their half of the inning on Darryl Strawberry’s homer and Jesse Orosco’s RBI single.

While the Mets were tormenting Boston’s bullpen, one question hung over Shea Stadium, and that was why the Red Sox didn’t go to their Game 6 starter, Roger Clemens, for an inning or two?

It might have been pushing things, but Schiraldi spit the bit in Game 6, as did Bob Stanley. Boston used five relievers in the last two innings, so it really never had a chance.

Knight, who drove in five runs and hit .391 (9-for-23), was named Series MVP.

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Oct 18

Dilemma In Rooting For Cubs

The Mets were a feel-good story when then finally reached the playoffs last season. The Cubs, because of their long Word Series drought, were also a feel good story. But, feel good is now past tense for the Cubs.

1024x768_wallpaper_08Frankly, I’m tired of having the Cubs jammed down my throat. They haven’t won since 1908, but they eventually will. Since 1945, their last World Series appearance, they’ve had several heart-wrenching near misses – including their collapse in 1969 – but mostly Chicago’s ownership insisted on selling the Wrigley Field experience over quality baseball.

Chicago’s current ownership has gone all out to produce a winner, which is something Mets’ ownership hasn’t always done. That’s to be applauded.

However, as with the Red Sox, I’m not a believer in curses. I’m just not a big supporter of their fan base that expects to win. There’s an undeserving sense of entitlement there that’s hard to understand. It’s almost cliché to root for the Cubs, just as it was to pull for Cleveland in last year’s NBA finals. The Cubs are the darlings of the networks, which is reason enough not to root for them.

Sooner or later the Cubs will get to – and even win – a World Series. When they do, I’m afraid Cubs’ fans will become like Red Sox fans. For years they wallowed in misery in Fenway Park; crushing defeat became a badge of honor. When the Red Sox finally won, their fan base became insufferable.

If the Cubs do win, what will their fan base identify themselves with?

What will make me feel empathy for the Cubs again is to do what the Red Sox did. Long personified as part of the curse, the Red Sox invited Bill Buckner back and all the angst seemed washed away. If the Cubs get to the World Series, Steve Bartman should be invited back to throw out the first pitch.

If he accepts and is booed, may the Cubs forever be cursed.

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Dec 02

Price Signing Could Forecast Mets’ Handling With Harvey

Not that it would have happened anyway, but Boston’s blockbuster signing of David Price Tuesday means there won’t be a trade of Matt Harvey to the Red Sox for shortstop Xander Bogaerts and outfielder Mookie Betts or Jackie Bradley.

I was onboard for such a deal, and the Price signing only affirmed my reason.

The cost for Price is $217 million over seven years. The key to the deal is Price has an opt-out clause after three years for roughly $90 million. If Price can give the Red Sox a couple of playoff appearances, and perhaps a World Series title, the contract would have been worth it – if they allow him to leave.

The Yankees mistakenly chased after C.C. Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez when they exercised their clauses.

The Price contract makes you wonder what it will cost when Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler and Steve Matz hit the market. The Mets certainly can’t afford to sign all five to mega deals at once, but they can defray some of the cost if they stagger the signings and they trade one or two of theses guys.

If you think $217 million is steep – and it is 2015 – wait until Scott Boras puts Harvey on the market in three years. Assuming Harvey pitches to expectations, Boras’ numbers for Harvey could approach $300 million.

Figuring the Mets don’t change their financial approach, there’s no way they can afford to keep Harvey and deGrom and Syndergaard.

Their best options are to fill their positional holes by dealing Harvey – who is a goner and we all know it – and offering long-term deals to deGrom and Syndergaard.

Yeah, I love the potential of the Mets’ young pitching and it would be great if they could keep the core together and fill out the rest of their roster with key free-agent signings. But, that’s not the real world. The real world has the very real, and very likely, chance of Harvey asking for a monster contact the Mets can’t afford.

I know you don’t like to hear this, but the Price signing screams trading Harvey is the thing to do.

ON DECK:  Tendering contracts deadline is today.

 

 

Aug 28

Second Part Of Harvey Gamble Plays Out Friday

Well, the Mets gave Matt Harvey his rest, 12 days to be exact, and it will be interesting to see how he responds tonight against Boston. Harvey missing a start was a two-part gamble. First, there was skipping him in favor of Logan Verrett. The second part is seeing how he would do on extended rest.

HARVEY: Plenty of rest tonight. (AP)

HARVEY: Plenty of rest tonight. (AP)

Harvey has been vocal about his preference working in a conventional five-man rotation where he works on four days rest. He was especially agitated when he lost to the Dodgers in Los Angeles, July 4, while working on eight days rest. On July 20, on nine days rest, he lost in Washington.

Harvey is 1-1 on seven days rest; 6-3 on six days rest; and 3-1 on five days rest. That’s seven losses for Harvey when not working on conventional rest.

When pitchers get too much rest they have a tendency to be overly strong and often overthrow and have a lack of command. You hear it all the time with sinkerball pitchers that they leave the ball up when too strong and need to be a little tired.

As bad as the Red Sox are, they can still hit and the Mets don’t need is for Harvey to be walking hitters in front of guys like David Ortiz.

Harvey has thrown 154 innings this season and including tonight is on schedule to make eight more starts on conventional rest. Assuming he goes seven innings in those games, that’s 56 more or 210 for the season. Using those numbers and how many innings they wanted for him, that leaves zero for the playoffs.

That obviously won’t work.

The Mets’ options are to skip him one or two more times; or severely limit his innings in September. But, with the Mets’ porous bullpen and need to win games – including six more with the Nationals – that’s not a good choice, either.

As the Mets calculate his potential innings for the playoffs, they must figure them through the World Series. They certainly aren’t going to calculate his playoff starts for just the first round. In doing that, the Mets must figure at least six more starts, which is two starts for every playoff round. Of course, they could figure sweeping each round, but this run already has a large dose of fantasy.

The Mets have done a decent job giving Harvey his rest, but not so much limiting his innings. Have I mentioned this before? It goes to not having a concrete program.