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.

Jul 29

Reed Waiting For Phone To Ring

This has to be an excruciatingly frustrating time for Mets closer Addison Reed. He’s a Met today, but could be a Dodger, or a Brewer, or a Diamondback, or on a half-dozen other teams tomorrow or Monday.

The Mets’ acquisition of A.J. Ramos from Miami on Friday, practically assures they will deal Reed by Monday’s deadline. If they don’t, he’ll be a free agent this winter because there’s no way the Mets will bring him back – at over $7 million – and Ramos – at over $6 million – to work out of the same bullpen with Jeurys Familia (over $7 million).

Those three, along with Jerry Blevins, would give the Mets a formidable bullpen, but we know they won’t spend that kind of money. So, Reed just bides his time waiting for his cell phone to ring.

What the Mets hope to do is swap Reed for a couple of prospects to make up for the two minor leaguers they traded to Miami for Ramos, just to get an extra year of reliever coverage for $1 million cheaper.

“As far as I know, I’m still here,’’ Reed told reporters in Seattle. “So, I’m going to keep pitching. Whenever the phone rings and they call my name, I’m going to be ready to go.’’

With Ramos expected to join the Mets in time for Sunday’s game, you can count on Reed not pitching Sunday as to not risk injury which would short-circuit any deal.

In replacing Familia, Reed has been superb this season with 19 saves in 21 opportunities with a 2.57 ERA.

Jul 27

Mets Do As Well As Can Be Expected In Duda Trade

Since they weren’t going to bring back Lucas Duda anyway, the Mets did about as well as could be expected in today’s trade to Tampa Bay for Triple-A pitching prospect Drew Smith.

Duda had been linked to the Yankees and Seattle, and with the Rays, he has a chance to make the playoffs for a third straight season.

DUDA: Traded to Rays. (AP)

DUDA: Traded to Rays. (AP)

It wasn’t too long ago that the Mets chose Duda over Ike Davis, both high-strikeout first basemen with plenty of power. Duda ranks seventh on the Mets all-time homer list with 125. While it is unfair, Duda’s Mets’ legacy will be his wild throw to the plate in Game 5 of the 2015 World Series.

“I’m excited to join the Rays. They’re in the hunt,’’ Duda told reporters in San Diego. “Kind of mixed emotions. There are guys here I’ve grown pretty close to, and [the Mets] are a first-class organization. I was very proud to be a New York Met, and I’m gonna be very proud to be on the Tampa Bay Rays.’’

With his power, Duda would fit in well with the Rays, who have the DH in the American League. He is hitting .246 with 17 homers and 37 RBI.

Trading Duda opens the door for Dominic Smith’s promotion to the Mets from Triple-A Las Vegas, but until he gets here they have other options, namely Jay Bruce, who is in the lineup tonight in San Diego, T.J. Rivera, Wilmer Flores and even Neil Walker. Playing Bruce at first also enables the Mets to play Curtis Granderson in center, until they trade him.

“I’ve heard a lot of good things about Dom,’’ the ever classy Duda said. “I hope he becomes a 10-year All-Star.’’

Duda will be a free agent this winter.

In Smith, 23, the Mets will add to their bullpen, which will be important especially if the Mets are successful in dealing Addison Reed. Smith was a third-round pick by Detroit in 2015 and traded to Tampa Bay in April. He has pitched for four minor league teams in the Rays’ organization and compiled a 1-2 record with a 1.60 ERA and seven saves in 31 games.

 

Jun 29

Mets Wrap: Bruce, Lugo Beat Fish To Salvage Trip

The way things started on this road trip by being pummeled four straight in Los Angeles, the Mets stared at the end of their season.

However, after Seth Lugo and Jay Bruce combined to beat the Marlins, 6-3, tonight they have now won five of their last six games. They are still miles behind the Nationals, but went from ten games under .500 after the Dodgers’ series to six games under heading into a three-game series against Philadelphia tomorrow at home.

BRUCE: Sizzling (AP)

BRUCE: Sizzling (AP)

Should they sweep the Phillies, entering the All-Star break at .500 is possible. That’s something most of us couldn’t imagine a few weeks ago.

“I thought we played very well [following the series in Los Angeles],’’ manager Terry Collins said. “It showed we won’t back down. … We have to continue to play well. We have to continue to pitch. If we keep pitching it could be an exciting second half.’’

Bruce wasn’t biting on the notion the Mets turned their season around. He was being a realist.

“We still have a lot of work to do,’’ Bruce said. “We have to play great baseball. We have to be consistent with our approach and mindset. We know the talent that we have, and we know what we have to do.’’

The Mets close the first half with three games each in Washington and St. Louis, two clubs that traditionally have bullied them.

On the positive, the Nationals bullpen is suspect after blowing another ninth-inning lead against the Cubs and losing Trea Turner indefinitely with a broken wrist. The Cardinals have been inconsistent this year, but have won four of their last five games to pull within 3.5 games of Milwaukee.

The Mets open the second half with a ten-game homestand against the suddenly slumping Rockies, Cardinals and Oakland. They close the month with four games at San Diego and three in Seattle.

BRUCE MERITS ALL-STAR CONSIDERATION: Bruce is ranked 13th in the fan voting for National League outfielders, but his statistics dictate he should be much higher and deserves a spot on the All-Star team.

Wouldn’t that be wild? The player Sandy Alderson was practically begging teams to take him off his hands could represent the Mets in Miami.

Bruce was a force in the Mets’ victory over the Marlins tonight going 2-for-3 with two RBI (he has 54) and two runs scored. Overall, he’s hitting .270 with 20 homers (tied for third).

Quite simply, Bruce is playing the way the Mets envisioned when they traded for him last year at the deadline. Bruce pressed trying to make a good impression, but had a strong last two weeks in helping the Mets clinch a wild card.

The Mets re-signed him as a hedge to losing Yoenis Cespedes, but after they extended the latter, they made it clear they wanted to trade Bruce.

However, Alderson’s public desire to trade Bruce lessened his value and he opened the season as the starting right fielder.

With injuries to Cespedes, David Wright, Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker, Bruce literally carried the Mets in the first half. While the Mets floundered for much of June, Bruce hit .299 with eight homers and 17 RBI and a .346 on-base percentage and .934 OPS.

Bruce could go based on every team needing one representative. However, based on that premise, tomorrow’s starter, Jacob deGrom (7-3) might go.

DeGrom has been lights out in winning his last three starts – going at least eight innings in each – following those two dreadful games in which he gave up 15 runs. During his winning streak he’s given up just three runs over 25 innings.

LUGO TREMENDOUS: You wouldn’t expect Seth Lugo to be listed with Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman, but he joined those two pitching icons by winning his sixth straight road decision.

For his second straight start, Lugo struggled in the sixth, but he made it out of the inning to close his line at three runs on six hits and importantly, only one walk.

“I think everything was there,’’ Lugo said. “What I’d like to improve on is going deeper into games.’’

Jun 26

Don’t Read Too Much Into Giants’ Sweep

In most seasons, the Mets sweeping the Giants in San Francisco would be something to get excited about, but this isn’t most years. To emphasize how bad the Giants are this season, they were just swept by the Mets, and we know how bad they have been.

This weekend was just the Mets’ third series victory of the month, and they’ll need to reel off a dozen more in a row if they are to turn this season around.

The Mets’ next two series are against Miami and Philadelphia – they are 4-6 and 4-2 against, respectively – before back-to-back three-game series in Washington and St. Louis before the break.

The Marlins and Cardinals always play the Mets tough, and I’m certainly not counting on them beating the Nationals.

Against the three division leaders and the one wild-card team they have played, the Mets are 5-19. After the break until the trade deadline, the Mets have three games against what is now the second wild card – Colorado – four more against St. Louis, and four at San Diego and three at Seattle.

Daunting is an understatement, so I’m not reading too much into the Mets fun in the Bay Area.