Dec 08

Hodges Falls Short Of Hall Again

What you and I both expected came to fruition when Gil Hodges was not inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame by the veterans committee; in fact, no players from the Golden Era were elected.

An eight-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner, Hodges was instrumental in leading the Dodgers to seven NL pennants and two World Series titles.

To Mets’ fans, he’ll always be the recalled as the manager who guided the team to the 1969 World Series championship.

Unfortunately, that’s not enough for the voters. Damn.

Oct 09

Are The Games Really Too Long?

As one of his last acts as baseball commissioner, Bud Selig wants to add “speeding up the game,’’ to his legacy.

A seven-member committee appointed by Selig to study the issue includes Mets GM Sandy Alderson, but no active players. MLB union director Tony Clark was designated to speak on behalf of the players.

TRACHSEL: Slow and painful. (AP)

TRACHSEL: Slow and painful. (AP)

After years of collaborative efforts between management and the players, it smacks of the early “bad old days’’ under Selig in which the owners acted unilaterally and strong-armed the players.

That led to bad blood and several work stoppages that included the sacking of the 1994 World Series. That too, in addition to the money MLB is making, is part of Selig’s legacy.

“It’s just important for us to have a say,’’ Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson told ESPN. “It doesn’t need to be all 750 of us. It’s just important to have three or four players who can say, ‘Hey, we’ve noticed this, and we feel this way.’ ’’

It is puzzling, and some might suggest hypocritical, that the sport without a clock is trying to speed up the pace of the game by forcing pitchers to work faster and hitters keep one foot in the batter’s box at all times.

During those lulls is when the players compose their thoughts and re-focus. Forcing the hitter back into the box or rushing the pitcher to throw could lead to mistakes and perhaps the outcome of the game.

At the best, they might shave three or four minutes off a game. Nobody has offered what else could be done in those four minutes.

The bottom line is if a game is played crisply and isn’t sloppy, nobody will complain about the length of the game. Who was complaining after the Giants-Nationals 18-inning playoff game?

Now, don’t go saying, “well, it’s the playoffs, it’s different.’’ It is different in one respect as there was no shortage of commercials between innings.

Unquestionably, the primary reason games might run long are the numerous commercial breaks between innings. However, don’t ask MLB to ask the networks for shorter commercials. If speeding up the game is that important, cut the commercial time. The networks demand the time so they can charge more and consequently pay the large rights fees.

No doubt some pitchers could stand to work faster as it would make them more efficient. I also grumbled at the likes of Steve Trachsel and Oliver Perez who were excruciating if not painful to watch.

Part of the problem, management says, is the hitters take too many pitches. Isn’t that what Alderson wants his hitters to do? He’s been quoted numerous times as wanting his hitters to be more selective.

As for Joe Torre, his Yankee teams won four World Series in large part because of their ability to work the count and drive up the opposing pitcher’s pitch count. One of the most memorable moments of the 2000 Subway World Series was Paul O’Neill’s ninth-inning 10-pitch at-bat against Armando Benitez after falling behind 1-and-2 in the count.

That’s what those Yankee teams did. That’s what the Mets should do now. I’d much rather see Juan Lagares work the at-bat to eight pitches and draw a walk then swing at garbage and pop up.

Hey, if Ike Davis had bothered to learn that, he might still be with the Mets instead of wondering what happened to his career.

By its nature, baseball is an ebb-and-flow game, with lulls followed by bursts of action. When the hitter steps out, that’s when fathers and sons talk and bond. In the NBA and NFL, lulls are met with video clips and loud music. People don’t talk at those games.

Those conversations are how the game is passed from generation to generation, along with watching the playoffs on television, which is another topic.

This is another example that the caretakers of the game don’t understand their own product. Yes, there are games that last too long. If that’s the case and you are bored, turn the channel or get up and leave.

However, if the game is interesting, close and compelling, odds are you’ll use that time when the manager goes out to visit the pitcher to catch your breath.

Oct 27

Obstruction Play Handled Perfectly By MLB

In the 109 years the World Series has been played, never has a game ended with a runner scoring on an obstruction play until Saturday night. Let’s hear it for Major League Baseball falling for the flawed reasoning that “you don’t make that call to end a World Series game.’’

Well, why not? It that’s the rule, and that’s what happened, then call it as such. There’s a reason why that rule is in place, so make the correct play. Baseball and its fans deserve as much.

Obstruction play handled perfectly. (AP)

Obstruction play handled perfectly. (AP)

Major League Baseball and its umpires handled everything superbly, with third base umpire Jim Joyce immediately making the call that gave the Cardinals a 2-to-1 Series lead.

The rule dictates “intent’’ is not relevant in making the call, nor should it be. Will Middlebrooks did not get out of the way in time, and consequently Allen Craig stumbled over him and was thereby awarded home.

It just happened to come in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 3, giving the Cardinals a “stumble off’’ victory.

Middlebrooks kept saying after the game that “I had nowhere else to go.’’ It’s surprising how many players, in all sports, don’t know the rules of the games they play.

“Just to go over the rule quickly, obstruction is the act of a fielder obstructing a runner when not in the act of fielding a ball. It does not have to be intent,’’ crew chief John Hirschbeck said. “There does not have to be intent, OK? Once he has the opportunity to field the ball, he can no longer in any way obstruct the runner. That’s basically the rule.’’

No, that’s not basically the rule. It is the rule.

Middlebrooks could not come up with catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s errant throw. Fact. He could not get out of Craig’s way. Fact.

Joyce made the correct ruling, and also a fact, Major League Baseball’s umpires did not hide behind a press release or pool reporter, but had all the principles involved accountable to answer any and all questions.

There weren’t too many complaints as to how the play was hoped, and I would hope MLB learns from that and lets its umpires be more open in addressing significant calls.

Major League Baseball did make the decision to review the rule regarding the issue of intent, but here’s hoping they don’t allow Saturday night’s controversial ending put the burden of having its umpires now judge intent.

Previously, the decision was simple in that either the defender was in the way or he wasn’t. Just because one game ended on an obstruction play, don’t make it so the umpires have to read a defender’s mind.

Oct 26

World Series Return To St. Louis Reminder Of MLB Gimmicks

Can you imagine in the NBA finals with the team holding the home court advantage being allowed to shoot a three-point shot while the other is not? Can you imagine one team in the Super Bowl allowed to go for a two-point conversion while the other is not?

However, Major League Baseball continues on with its inane designated-hitter rule, which is a blatant advantage to the National League. It defines unfairness, and with it also reminds us of some of the issues that takes away from the sport.

Whether you are for the Red Sox or not, you must admit the unfairness of them being denied an aspect of their game that they played with all season.

That’s just one more aspect of how MLB devalues its most valuable entity, which is the World Series. Another is the decision to award home field to the league that wins the totally unrelated exhibition otherwise known as the World Series.

For nearly a century home field was determined on a rotating basis. To go away from tradition to boost the sagging interest of the All-Star Game, brought on by the gimmick of interleague play is part of the legacy of Bud Selig’s tenure as commissioner.

This is one of the rare seasons when the teams with the best record in each league reached the World Series. Now that they are here, it doesn’t seem right a gimmick, a fad, could dictate the winner.

Why leave it to chance?  Either both leagues play with the designated hitter or they do not. Stop with the fads and let the best part of your game – the World Series – shine.

And, do it at a time of night that enables tomorrow’s fans, and ticket buyers, to stay up to watch. It’s a great game and everything should be done to take care of it and show it in its proper light, with none of these detracting issues.

Oct 25

Time To Let Things Pass For Carlos Beltran

If you thought for a minute Carlos Beltran’s bruised ribs would have kept him out of Game 2, then you haven’t been paying attention.

Beltran bruised his ribs robbing David Ortiz of a grand slam homer in Game 1, and while being treated in a Boston hospital that night began to doubt he’d be back in Fenway Park for Thursday’s game. Constant treatment helped him return, and with nearly two full days of treatment since, he will be in the lineup for Game 3 Saturday in St. Louis.

BELTRAN: A great Met scorned.

BELTRAN: A great Met scorned.

That’s because Beltran, as quiet as he is, is extremely tough. It would take a lot more than bruised ribs to keep him out of the World Series he’s waited 16 years to play in.

“I wanted to be in the lineup,’’ Beltran said. “I worked so hard to get to this point. Somebody would have to kill me in order for me to get out of the lineup.’’

Don’t forget, Beltran refused to sit after suffering facial fractures in an outfield collision with Mark Cameron in 2005, his first season with the Mets. Beltran played with several injuries during his Mets’ tenure, but unfortunately there’s a sizable segment of their fan base that prefers to remember him for taking Adam Wainwright’s nasty curveball that froze him to end Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, their last time they played in October.

The Mets collapsed at the end of the 2007 and 2008 seasons, and this summer was their fifth five straight losing year. Unfairly, Beltran became a symbol of their long fall because of that pitch.

I heard on talk-radio today one caller say he hopes the Cardinals and Beltran will lose based on that pitch. That’s beyond ignorant.

Just get over it, will you?

Nobody could have hit that pitch. Odds are had he swung he would have missed or hit a weak popup because he was greatly overmatched.

Beltran is arguably one of the most talented players in Mets’ history and for him to be castigated years later is blatantly unfair and ignorant.

New York sports fans like to believe they are the most sophisticated in the country. If that is so, then prove it and leave Beltran alone and join us in 2013.

It doesn’t matter who you favor in the World Series. Everybody has their reasons why they root for or against a team. But, to root against the Cardinals because of that pitch Beltran took years ago makes no sense.

To blame one player for the ills of the past seven years is beyond stupid.