Archive for the 'General' Category

A Dumb Rule Change

Major League Baseball has solved the age old problem of how to speed up ballgames. It is an ingenious solution and shows us that talented people are working hard behind the scenes and have really been thinking. In case you missed it, the intentional walk is no more. Well, there still will be intentional walks but now, the manager will simply signal to the umpire and the umpire will award the batter first place without the pitching throwing the four pitches. Gee, what took so long?

Actually I hope you can read into my sarcasm. This rule is an abomination and will do little to speed up the game. Ask yourself how many intentional walks there are per game? How many seconds will it actually save? Perhaps it will save a minute or two at the most and probably not even that much in most cases. Plus not having the pitcher throw those four pitches changes the game. It has happened, more than one would think that a batter reaches across the plate and smacks a pitch into right field. It has happened on occasion when a pitcher issues a free pass, he throws a wild pitch that changes the outcome of an inning, perhaps a game. Granted it doesn’t happen often but it does happen occasionally. In fact, when the rule was introduced, the MLB Network showed a montage of unanticipated plays that occurred from unfortunate pitches during intentional walks.

This rule is nonsense and will not solve the problem of speeding up the game. So what could?

How about simply enforcing the strike zone as the rulebook states? A larger strike zone will speed up the game because hitters will feel more compelled to put the ball in play or be called out on strikes more frequently. It will also reduce pitch counts. Don’t expect it to happen because revenue is tied to hitting. Little has been done to help the pitcher in the past twenty-plus years.

How about reducing commercial breaks from three minutes to two? Once the game starts, there are commercial breaks every half inning plus when there are pitching changes. There are seventeen half innings per game if the home team must bat in the bottom of the ninth. That’s a savings of sixteen to seventeen minutes per game. Of course that will never happen. In fact, I could see commercial breaks expanding to four minutes before they are ever reduced to two. The owners will never do anything that would infringe on their ability to pocket more cash. It’s a business, I get it, but don’t put in rules that change the game and will have virtually no effect on the outcome in terms of length. The only way reducing the length of commercial breaks would ever happen is if fans stop showing up and watching on the TV. Again—unlikely.

How about getting rid of replay review? That too is not going to happen but it could certainly be sped up. One way to speed up the play review process would be to have a fifth umpire at each game. He or she would sit in the press box with monitors all around. This would require employing fifteen more umpires, something the umpire’s union would surely embrace. Then we, the fans, would not have to wait for the review team in New York to finish two other plays from other games before they get to the review at hand.

So there are ways to speed up the game without taking away the four pitch intentional walk. Unfortunately if it has to do with curtailing profit, it’s never going to happen.

Here’s another rule change being tested in the Arizona Fall League this coming October. In extra innings, they are going to put a runner on second to start the inning. Just put a runner on second, without earning it. This is a similar concept to college football’s overtime rule of placing the ball on the twenty yard line of the opposing team to start play.

I hate this idea and hope it never reaches the major leagues. Currently the AFL ends games in a tie after ten innings, not to tax the young talented prospects. Hopefully this rule is simply for the AFL and not a testbed for an idea for the majors but we’ll see.

If the average length of a game thirty years ago was two and half hours then there’s got to be a way for that to happen today. The game is still nine innings long, with nine players on each team requiring three outs an inning. Nothing has changed that drastically if at all. But the idea that removing the four pitches of an intentional walk is going to shorten the game is downright silly.

Live Baseball Tonight

Live baseball is on the TV tonight beginning at 9:00PM EST.

It is the championship game of the Caribbean World Series. The AGUILAS (Eagles) de MEXACALI face off against the CRIOLLOS (people of Spanish origin) de CAGUAS in Culiacan Mexico.

The Caribbean World Series has been going on for a very long time. It is the culmination of the Caribbean winter leagues comprised of four leagues from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and Mexico. The winners of each of these leagues meet at a neutral site each season, this year in Culiacan, for a ten game round robin first round, single elimination semi-final games and a single elimination championship game.

This year as in the past couple, the Cuban national team has also been invited to play in the CWS. Cuba and Venezuela were eliminated in the semi-final games yesterday paving the way for Mexico to fight for the title tonight on their home turf against Puerto Rico.

The game will be broadcast live in Spanish on ESPN Deportes. Check you cable provider for channel number.  Link here for a recap of the series.

Collins Snubbed

Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers won the National League manager of the year award. What in the world does Terry Collins have to do to be recognized? He managed an injury riddled team, full of call ups, and imports from other teams scrap heaps to get to the post season as the first wild card. There were many times during the season where Terry could have lost the clubhouse but he held it together and managed the team to a streaking conclusion that landed the club in the playoffs. I’m not saying Roberts was not deserving of the award but certainly Collins was as well if not more so.

Mets’ pitching prospects Corey Oswalt and Corey Taylor combined to pitch seven innings yesterday in the Arizona Fall League. Oswalt gave up one run (homerun) on three hits and struck out three in five innings. Taylor pitched two perfect innings and struck out four.

 

 

An Emotional Evening

Perhaps it was the pressure of having to perform in such an emotional game last evening that cost Bartolo Colon early on. And to be honest, given the circumstance, the evening felt right that the Marlins, led by Dee Gordon, won the game.

Yes it was only a game but if it gave the slightest comfort to those mourning the loss of ace right hander Jose Fernandez, then it was right and just for the game to go the way that it did. I was not bothered by the loss and I’m sure most Mets fans were not either. In fact, it was moving to see the Mets players embrace their rivals and do what they could to comfort the Marlin players. The Marlins after the game surrounded the pitcher’s mound in what was one of the more moving tributes I have ever seen. The pennant race and everything associated with the game of baseball paled in comparison to what was happening in the center of the diamond. Everyone was touched and it gave all in attendance and watching on TV a moment of perspective.

So if I can be so bold as to get back to baseball, where do the Mets stand in the race for the wildcard?

The Mets have an 83-74 record after last night’s loss. Realistically a win total of 86 should capture one of the two wildcards. With five games left, the Mets will need to go 3-2 to achieve an 86-76 record. If the Mets are unable to do that, there is a very good chance they will sit out the post season and deservedly so.

The St. Louis Cardinals also lost last evening, a 15-2 drubbing by the Reds. For St. Louis to tie or beat an 86 win total, they will need to go 6-0 or 5-1 respectively with their six remaining games. Running the table would give the Cardinals an 87-75 record and likely the wildcard one title. A 5-1 record would land them at 86 wins and would also give them wildcard one since their intra-division record is better than the Mets.  It is not inconceivable for St. Louis to do this considering their competition. The Reds are bad and the Pirates are virtually out of the race now, and the Cardinals are well… simply the Cardinals. They always seem to figure out how to win.

The Giants who were idle last night will need to go 5-1 or 4-2 over their last six games to get to 87 or 86 wins respectively. They are playing the Rockies at home then the Dodgers who are still striving for the best overall record for home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Clearly the Mets are in the driver’s seat but that’s what scares me. Sorry but it brings up bad emotions from the end of 2007 when I kept hearing that all the Mets need to do… and guess what, they weren’t able to do anything and they ended up suffering the worst collapse in baseball history. Now no one is going to accuse the Mets of a major collapse this season, not with all they went through on the injury front and with Sandy Alderson having to rebuild the roster almost on a daily basis. But to get this close to the post season and not make it with a handful of games left would be difficult to swallow.

Tonight, the Mets will need to get back on track or they will face a tremendously pressure packed weekend in Philadelphia. The last thing the Mets will want is to have to depend on the Giants or Cardinals losing games.

Obviously we need to keep in my mind how our hopes of the Mets making the post season is dwarfed by the horrendous event over the weekend in the water near Miami. But we all move forward and so does baseball, exactly the way Jose would have wanted it.

Perspective

We live and die with each game. How silly that seems right now.

It’s a game, baseball that is. It has rules. The rules were made up a long time ago. The teams play by the rules. It became a huge business surrounded by talent, a huge fan base, and inordinate sums of money. But make no mistake that it is a game.

The results of any baseball game, no matter how great or bad, never started a war, caused the stock market to crash, or created famine. All these games do is make us feel good or feel bad. It gives us a platform to scream to the moon or shed tears of joy. But ultimately the games fade away to memories and numbers in a record book. The games really don’t mean a hill of beans in the grand scheme of the cosmos.

Yesterday, anyone who’s a baseball fan, anyone who appreciates decent people who help others, anyone who finds it compelling that a very decent young man defected from a communist country, made it to American and became a citizen paused and realized that baseball is just a game.

Yesterday we learned the horrible news that twenty-four year old Jose Fernandez, the ace right handed pitcher of the Miami Marlins was killed in a boating accident. If that doesn’t make anyone realize how insignificant sports truly are, I don’t know what will. Sure, sports are an important part of the American fabric, especially baseball. But it comes from the toy store of life. It puts no food on the table for the fans of the game. And while I will continue to watch the Mets as they attempt to gain a wildcard spot, I will do so with some perspective.

If I could choose between the reality of what happened early Sunday morning or Jose Fernandez pitching a perfect game against the Mets tonight, I would gladly chose the latter. Unfortunately I can’t. None of us can. That’s how permanent the situation is. It’s a reminder that professional athletes are simply human who possess tremendous talent, talents we can only dream of having. But they are just as vulnerable and subject to illness and death as the rest of us.

A tragedy of yesterday’s proportion reminds us all of what is important in life. We need sports. We need baseball. But it is just a game and we all need to keep that in perspective.

The Final Home Stand

Well, it’s not the end of the world that the Mets lost the series to the Nationals but it is an important indicator. Realistically for Mets fans, all we can hope for is that the Mets get to the post season as one of the two wildcards.

We may have to be happy with the fact that the Mets could simply make the post season for two consecutive seasons and that’s all. Clearly the Mets, with all the injuries this season, may come up a bit short against some of the league’s elite teams. The only other time the Mets went back to back to the post season was in 1999 and 2000. Both years, the Mets won the wild card. This season, if the Mets make it, they will have done so by being the division winner the first year, and a wildcard the second unless the unthinkable were to happen and the Nationals tank—a very unlikely scenario.

Of course I’m making an assumption and that is that the Mets will be one of the two wildcards. There is still a lot of baseball left regardless of what team has the weaker schedule. Over the final sixteen games remaining, the Mets play teams with a collective winning percentage of .425. Meanwhile the Cardinals play teams whose percentage of wins is .512 and the Giants play teams with a .497 percentage. So clearly the Mets play teams far worse than the ones the Giants and Cardinals have to play.

Let’s look at head-to-head records. The Mets play the Twins (0-0), Phillies (7-5), Braves (9-7), and Marlins (10-6), a total of 26-18. The Cardinals must play the Cubs (8-8), Giants (2-1), Rockies (2-1), Reds (8-8), and Pirates (7-9) for a record of 27-27. And the final team in the mix, the Giants will play the Cardinals (1-2), Dodgers (7-6), Padres (9-6) and the Rockies (8-8) for a total of 25-22. So based on head-to-head competition the rest of the way, the Mets have the best winning percentage against the teams they must play.

What about momentum regardless of competition? Since August 1 the Mets are 23-18, the Cardinals are 20-20, and the Giants are 16-24. So once again, the Mets have the momentum. But of course with two weeks to go, anything can happen. The Marlins and the Pirates could get hot and get right back into the mix as well. Perhaps the Mets could stumble and revert to the play we saw from May through the end of July.

I worry that the Mets playing bad teams could play into their heads. It could be a subconscious thing that they are not even aware of—that they do not playing to their full potential. That is why it’s fun to play with numbers but why the games are played on the field.

The Mets start their final regular season home stand of the year, a ten game, three team affair. It’s baseball’s worst, the Minnesota Twins for three followed by three with the Braves, then four with the Phillies. That’s two last place teams in a row before playing the next to last Phils. How’s that for pressure? The Twins, Braves, and Phillies over their last ten games are 3-7, 3-7, and 5-5 respectively. With all the Mets have been through this season, a chance at the wildcard is being handed to them on a silver platter. But they are going to have to earn it. Regardless that these teams are all having losing seasons, there is pride on the line. They are not going to hand the post season over to the Mets, you can bet on that.

With all the injuries, we still have meaningful games in late September and the final battle at home begins tonight.

The Wheels Have Fallen Completely Off

A statistic that has been really telling for the Mets this season is their record when they have scored four or more runs. Currently it is 44-15, a .746 winning percentage. And when scoring less than four runs, their record is 16-46, a dreadful .258 percentage. These stats point out the Mets haven’t scored enough runs in a little more than half of their games. So why should we be so shocked that the Mets are now under .500 again at 60-61? Here’s why.

The Mets are not below .500 because of hitting. Now it’s because of pitching. The old adage is true. Good pitching will always stop good hitting. For most of the season it has been the Mets pitching that has continued to keep the Mets relevant. With all the injuries the Mets have suffered and the disappointing performances from some players, it has been the pitching that has kept them in a wild card spot or close to one for most of the season. But here’s why the Mets will now begin to drop like a stone. The pitching has fallen apart at a time when the bats have come alive. This is a prescription for disaster.

Consider what has happened so far in the first four games of this westward swing. The Mets have scored 25 runs, an average of 6.25 runs per game. Remember the stat when the Mets score four or more runs? So what’s the Mets record in these four games? Right, 1-3. And that’s because the Mets pitching staff has given up 38 runs in these same four games, and average of 9.5 runs per game—not good. Even in their one win, you had to hold your breath when they looked like they might blow a 7-1 lead finally holding on to win 7-5 against Arizona. Last evening when Justin Ruggiero grinded out a great at bat then took Bumgarner deep for a grand slam, you had to feel good with Jacob deGrom on the hill. But deGrom promptly gave up eight runs in two innings as the Mets blew it big time 10-7.

Can it get any worse?

Ah, yes it can. We also learned that Steven Matz has shoulder discomfort and will miss his start this evening. Seth Lugo will take his spot in the rotation. By now, late August, the rotation was supposed to be Matt Harvey, deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matz, and Zach Wheeler, a rotation for the ages. Geez, where have I heard that before Jason, Bill, and Paul? Harvey is gone for the year having had a rib removed to un-impinge nerves in his shoulder. Who knows if he ever comes back? Wheeler has had setback after setback and now another one that will keep him from throwing for two weeks. Matz and Syndergaard have bone spurs in their elbows and now Matz’s shoulder is barking. Moving forward the rotation is deGrom, Bartolo Colon (thank goodness for him), Syndergaard, Jonathan Niese II, and now Lugo. The wheels have fallen off folks; it’s time to start wondering about next season.

The only way the Mets are going to be able to get back into this race for the wild card is for the pitching to re-stabilize and for the offense to continue to hit. Yoenis Cespedes and Asdrubal Cabrera will be reactivated tonight. And while that’s great, I think it would be better if the Mets could reactivate Sandy Koufax and Tom Seaver. The reality is nothing has gone right this season. How’s it possibly going to turn around in the final 41 games? Bill Parcells said it best—you are what your record says you are. And the Mets are a less than .500 team since May 1st. The Mets had a good month of April (15-7) and that’s it. Their record since is 45-54 (.455).

I’ll keep watching because I always do. But for the Mets to get to the playoffs will require a run like we last saw in 1973. Can the Mets activate Rusty Staub?