Archive for the 'General' Category

The Big Question

Now that two plus weeks have passed since the Mets sheepishly ended the post season with only one win during the World Series, it’s time to consider the very serious questions.

When we look at some of the shortcomings the Mets experienced in the fall classic, it’s easy to focus in on the biggest questions of all. Do they have to do with middle infield defense, a power bat, a strong setup man? Hell no, the number one question on my mind for next season is what the hell are we going to rename the Pepsi Porch?

If you haven’t heard, Pepsi ended their relationship with the Mets. Not sure why or what that’s all about. Was the contract up? Did Pepsi have an out clause in their contract like Zach Greinke did with the Dodgers? Can’t say except now the classic Pepsi Cola sign in right field that harkens back to the early days of the soda giant will have to be taken down. It has stood there, above the right field second tier of seats since the ballpark opened in 2009 and has become somewhat of an iconic symbol at the Flushing ballpark.

Now of course the “Porch” will still be there. The seats that overhang right field aren’t going anywhere. But the Pepsi sponsorship will be gone and the ballpark will look different in regard to what will be behind those seats. Will it have something to do with the next soda giant that will peddle their sugary products at Citi Field? It doesn’t have to be. I guess any concession mogul could step up and pay huge amounts of dough to put up their signage.

I would bet, and considering the large amounts of cash the company has, the new right field area will have something to do with Coca-Cola. After all, the Mets aren’t going to open up the 2016 season without offering their fans some form of carbonated cola drink. That’s as American as baseball itself. No cola at the ballgame would be as wrong as no hot dogs.

But Coke and Pepsi aren’t the only cola companies out there. During the 1969 season, the cola sold at Shea was Royal Crown Cola, otherwise known as RC. Who knows, maybe they will make a comeback. Back during those years of Cleon in left and Tommy in center, the ads for RC Cola in the Mets program featured actress Meredith McCrae in a very short red dress with the motto RC: The Comers. Okay, moving forward…

Let’s face it, if you were to name the two most prominent names in the cola industry, it would have to be Coke and Pepsi, with RC a distant but respectable third. The left field bleachers at AT&T park in San Francisco is dominated by a giant Coke bottle with a slide in the middle of it for the kiddies. Might we see something like that next season? And what would they call it, the Coca-Cola Cove? Not sure.

Anheuser-Busch is also a long time sponsor of the Mets. Maybe there could be a huge beer mug over sections 301 through 305. They could call it “The Brewery”. Ah but that rings too much like something you might see at Miller Park, a stadium named after a brewery for God’s sake. Plus the Mets likely won’t want to have such an obvious fan friendly location associated with an alcoholic product.

What about Subway, the sandwich sponsor of the Mets? Nothing like a big Styrofoam sub sandwich floating over the right field stands. Hey folks, enjoy a 2016 Mets game from the “The Subway Platform”. Just thinking out loud folks.

If anything, the fact that the Pepsi Porch will be no more simply illustrates how things have changed in stadium venues over the years. For forty-five seasons, Shea Stadium was home to the Mets.  Over that time, very little changed at the ballpark. There was a big scoreboard in right and a batters-eye in center.  That was pretty much it until the eighties when Diamond Vision was added in left along with new plastic seats and a coat of fresh paint. There was always limited signage on the scoreboards and really none inside the ballpark.  Renaming of ballpark areas was never a cause for concern.

Today, everything requires a sponsor. That includes within the broadcasts as well. You can’t get the game time temperature without giving a nod to some corporate sponsor.  Howie Rose and Josh Lewin report the game from the Peerless Boilers broadcast booth for goodness sakes. Someday, all 42,000 seats may each have a sponsor.

However and I have to concede that it’s completely understandable given today’s costs of running a major league franchise.  You want great ballplayers? You have got to pay for them. You pay for them through revenue and that does not mean just ticket sales anymore. It also includes TV money, both local and national. There is merchandising, concessions, and of course sponsorships.

The point is that in modern day ballparks, not much is permanent beyond the field, brick, concrete, and steel.  In addition to the Pepsi Porch, Citi Field has the Acela Club in the left field corner and the Party City Deck just behind the left field fence. The Mo-Zone (Modell’s) just behind the right field fence at field level unceremoniously became the Honda Clubhouse prior to the 2015 season. Even the stadium’s name is suspect. Shea Stadium kept its name from before it was erected to when it was razed in 2008. Citi Bank has a twenty year deal with the Mets for naming rights. So in 2029, who can say for sure what Citi Field might be called? You don’t like it? Well consider that Citi Bank is handing over 20 million bucks per year for two decades to simply put their name on the ballpark.

It will be interesting to see what finally is going to happen upstairs in right field. That iconic Pepsi Cola sign with whatever that round doohickey thing was on top will be gone leaving a hole in the outfield skyline. But with the revenue to be made from branding and concessions, you can bet something big will be there. And once that’s figured out, maybe we can get on to secondary business like who’s going to play short and who is going to set up Jeurys.

Baseball Break, It’s Time for The X-Files

I need a brake from baseball. After 176 games, I’m finding it difficult to get into the hot stove. I just need time to absorb the season that just concluded. So for now, no MLB network, no SNY Mets Classics, need a brake.

Instead I’m binge-watching on the X-Files on Netflix, getting ready for the new six episode season that starts on January 24th on FOX. Couldn’t be as a far away from baseball as that.

I’m not watching every episode that featured David Duchovney as special agent Fox Mulder and Gillian Anderson who portrayed Dana Scully, another special agent as well as a forensic doctor. That would take much more time than I have. There are over 200 episodes that aired over nine seasons between 1993 and 2002. I watched the show when it first debuted and really enjoyed it. Ironically I didn’t think I would because I really don’t believe in UFOs, ghosts, Big Foot, or anything else of paranormal origin. But like Field of Dreams that revolved around the unlikely scenario of ghost baseball players returning to play in a corn field in Iowa, the X-Files stories were told so well, it was easy to get caught up in the mania.

What’s interesting is that the Netflix episodes are presented in full high definition. In the United States, HD broadcasting did not begin until 1998 and not by most networks and cable channels. Apparently, from what I have read, producer Chris Carter was forward thinking enough to shoot the show using widescreen format cameras to portray the escapades of agents Mulder and Scully. (Now to make this somewhat baseball related, I am fairly certain I read a very long time ago that Agent Scully’s name was in honor of the great Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully but I could be wrong).  Other producers of other shows at the time were also using widescreen cameras because they liked the video quality compared to standard cameras. However, they blocked their  takes for 4:3 aspect ratio and if you were to go back to the original widescreen footage, you would notice the edges of sets, mic booms, and crew members on the left and right sides of the screen. The footage was virtually unusable when set to 16:9 aspect ration. Carter originally blocked the shows for 16:9 aspect ratio even though in 1993, no one owned a widescreen television. (I think that was not true of the pilot. I read that Netflix cropped that episode to show it in widescreen).

Netflix did a great job processing these episodes. A few long shots, here and there, look a bit fuzzy. Overall however, besides the fact that the technology used by the agents is so dated now, the episodes look as if they were just produced. I find that watching a lot of old shows on an HD TV not to be enjoyable because of the grainy video quality and the black bars on both sides of the screen. Not true of the X-Files. They look 98 percent new.

The X-Files episodes came in two basic flavors–stand alone or myth story arc. A stand alone episode was one where the paranormal de jour was all wrapped up in one episode. There was no carry over to the next week. The mythical story arc of the series revolved around a vast alien conspiracy. It turns out that Mulder, through various sources hidden deep within the government, was given pieces of information motivating him to investigate the government’s involvement and cooperation with an alien civilization hell bent on re-colonizing our planet. One must ask, can any one of these aliens play shortstop?

There would be seven to ten of the story arc episodes each season and typically each season ended with an alien cliff hanger that completed after the long summer break. There would also often be two part episodes throughout the season that revolved around the alien threat.

The show defies science at every possible turn but it always told their stories extremely well. And it specifically did a wonderful job of portraying Mulder and Scully’s relationship. There was no question of the sexual tension between the two main characters but the show never let that interfere with the basic paranormal story to be told and solved. Mulder and Scully were two characters whose work came first and everything else came last. Eventually, in the two movies that were made when the TV show completed production, it became clear that the two became an item. It will be interesting to see how producer Carter picks up the two characters, who are now twenty years older, in the new series. The show was never afraid to include humor. Mulder always had a good line or two per episode that would make you laugh. And some episodes were made with humor the utmost in mind. The third season Jose Chung’s From Outer Space comes to mind.

For me, the last couple of seasons of The X-Files were not as good as previous seasons. I just think it was a case where a series went just a bit two long, two seasons too long in fact. A new agent (Robert Patrick) was introduced who mostly replaced Duchovney who wanted to do other things and only made a few episodes the last couple of seasons. But looking back, the X-Files was one of the better TV shows ever made. It actually became a world wide favorite by its third season, probably not as widely watched as The Walking Dead is today but pretty close.

There will be only six episodes of the new The X-Files with all the main characters returning, even Cancer Man, the chain smoking bad guy who I thought was killed off. But I guess in a story where aliens and humans routinely procreate, anything is possible. It’s not clear if this is a one time thing or if there are plans to bring back the show on a more permanent basis. The X-Files will run from the end of January through February. Oh perfect, when it ends, pre-season baseball will begin.

Predicting the Past

Here are some predictions that were made for the Mets prior to the season beginning.

From Bill Price, New York Daily News:

“The Mets will make the playoffs. I have been on the other side of this all winter, and when things look too good for the Mets, I usually look at that as a sign something is about to go bad. But this year will be different. The Mets will make the playoffs due to a few factors: 1. Matt Harvey says they will make it. 2. They play in a division with one great team (that is severely banged up), one up-and-coming team and two of the worst teams in baseball. 3. They have depth in the starting rotation and a lineup that should be good enough to win some games. 4. You are taking a 79-win team and adding an actual left fielder, a No. 1 ace, a healthy David Wright and a full season from Jacob deGrom. The division may actually be in reach, but a wild-card spot is there for the taking.”

Well not bad. Bill was correct, the division was in reach and the Mets took it and then some. He was wrong about a healthy David Wright though but in fairness, no one saw that coming.

Here’s one from Athlon Sports and Life website.

“Teams often follow years of losing with a transition year in which they contend for a while but ultimately fall short, absorbing the lessons of a pennant race and applying them the next season. This could easily happen for the Mets in 2015, and if so, it would ultimately be an improvement over the last few years. But their goals are higher than that, and they should be. This team features a playoff-caliber rotation, and the offense showed real signs of life last season. The Mets will be a legitimate factor in the chase for a spot in the postseason.”

Not too committal but they were correct in that the Mets should have contended.

ESPN’s voting by committee said…

“The Washington Nationals led the way as our pick to win the World Series, receiving 42 percent (37 of the 88 votes) of the vote from our panel of experts. The Los Angeles Dodgers came in second, getting 19 percent (17 votes) of the vote… In the National League East, the Nationals were the overwhelming winners (85 votes) followed by the Miami Marlins (2) and New York Mets (1).”

Hey, I’d like to know who the one guy that voted for the Mets was. Give him a promotion. What I love about this one is the Mets took care of both of ESPN’s darling picks, Nationals and the Dodgers.

The Sporting News in conclusion of their prediction:

“The Mets will sweep the Braves at home in late September to edge within two games of the wild card, and will have to like their chances as they hit the road to woebegone Cincinnati and Philadelphia before wrapping up the season at home with the already-clinched Nationals. Their winning record will be assured, but the Mets will go 2-4 against inferior competition on that last road trip, rendering the final games of the season meaningless. It will be a good season for a team that has been downtrodden for so long, but an unsatisfying finish.”

Wrong, wrong, wrong. The Mets didn’t sweep the Braves. In fact they lost the series winning only the first game. Not sure how the Mets could go 2-4 on their last road trip since it was a seven game road trip but they did go 4-3 sweeping the Reds in a four game set, clinching the NL East in the third game. The Sporting news was correct however that the final home stand of the season against the Nationals would be meaningless and that there would be an unsatisfying ending. Just not in the way they thought. predicted the Mets to finish 82-80, 18 games back of the division champion Nationals. Hey, back then I might have felt okay about that. Sports Illustrated also predicted the Mets to win 82 games in 2015 and to finish in third place. I guess that was a safe bet. But here’s an interesting note that SI added:

“He (Daniel Murphy) doesn’t get mentioned enough as one of the better second basemen in the National League, but he should. He’s never going to win a Gold Glove, but the guy just hits. I agree with Kevin Long, who said that Murphy could win a batting title someday. He took his hitting to another level last year.”

Well Murph’s performance in the NLDS and the NLCS lived up to the praise that SI poured upon Murphy, that’s for sure. But it’s doubtful the Mets think of Murphy as highly as SI does when it comes to the future at second base or even on the Mets.

It’s fun to look back to see what the writers thought. And this coming spring it will be just as interesting when they make much bolder predictions of fortunes for the Mets. If you look back at all the twists and turns the Mets season took, it’s a wonder that anyone really comes close. And this article at kind of sums up why it is so ridiculous to make predictions as to who is going to win and who is not.




The Plan Comes to Fruition

When he was introduced to the media in the fall of 2010, Sandy Alderson said a lot of things. He didn’t say a lot of things Mets fans wanted to hear. He didn’t say the Mets would increase their payroll and go out and sign the best players available. He didn’t say money would be no option and that the Mets would be the National League version of the Yankees. Instead, he tiptoed around some very realistic and startling observations. One in particular was that the Mets were on the hook for some huge contracts for players who were clearly on the decline. Another was that the club’s farm system was in total disarray. It was clear that this military veteran, turned legal scholar, then baseball executive was going to take a path to insure sustained success, not just fire all cannons in the hopes of one glorious season.

Mets management, after suffering two dreadful season ending collapses after the last time the Mets made the playoffs, appeared on board with a plan that would take some time to fulfill. The plan required drafting smarter, spending more money, over slot as they say, to procure the talent necessary to grow and improve the franchise.

Alderson hired Paul DePodesta to be head of player development and scouting. He brought in J.P. Ricciardi as his special assistant while John Ricco remained from the Minaya regime as assistant GM. Sandy put together an all-star front office that made clear that the first order of business would be to rebuild the farm system. While that was going on, the Mets made minor moves at the major league level that would hopefully help the Mets compete but the reality was that everyone knew there would be four or five lean seasons before Mets fans would begin to see results.

Now in fairness, it needs to be pointed out that many of the players responsible for the Mets winning the 2015 National League pennant were drafted by former GM Omar Minaya. There is no question that Minaya’s talent was in scouting. I do believe his downfall was that he became drunk with money available to him from the owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon. He attempted quick fixes with a team that had many fundamental weaknesses instead of or in addition to getting the Mets’ development system in order. He also appeared vulnerably to media pressure to make a deal. The signing of Jason Bay for one comes to mind.

But give Minaya credit. In his second year of operation, he got the Mets to game seven of the NLCS. Unfortunately he never built a team, especially a pitching staff, for the long haul. The Mets collapses of 2007 and 2008 were in large part due to very ineffective pitching. At least during his tenure with the Mets, he was able to draft Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, Lucas Duda, Daniel Murphy, Wilmer Flores, Ruben Tejada, Juan Lagares, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Jonathan Niese, Hansel Robles, and Jerrys Familia. But before we give Omar all the credit, realize these players for the most part were developed under a completely retooled minor league system, and that credit must go to Alderson and his staff, especially Podesta.

Noah Syndergaard, Zach Wheeler, and Travis d’Arnaud were brought in by trading veterans Carlos Beltran and R.A. Dickey.  Those deals were made by Sandy as well as his drafts of Michael Conforto and Kevin Plawecki. Also, eleven young pitchers, all drafted by the Alderson regime were used in trades to acquire Kelly Johnson, Juan Uribe, Tyler Clippard, Yoenis Cespedes, and Addison Reed. So the point is Omar deserves some credit. But let’s be clear. The farm system under Minaya was in complete disarray and was consistently ranked one of the lowest in baseball. Just recall the famous incident when former head of player development Tony Bernazard ripped off his shirt in the Binghamton Mets locker room and challenged his double A players to a fist fight. That’s not out of the Branch Rickey handbook of player development.

Really back then, it was just one embarrassment after another. Then the real bomb went off when it was revealed that a huge part of the Wilpons’ investments were with Bernie Madoff who was running a Ponzi scheme for years. The Mets organization was being maligned from the sports page to the financial section. There were even those accusing Mets ownership for knowing about the scheme. That of course was never the case as the investigation completely exonerated the Mets hierarchy.

Clearly and contrary to the public statements made, the Mets finances were in disarray and it was not even clear how the Wilpons would pay off their shiny new stadium in Queens. Alderson had to have been somewhat blind sighted by this development but he realistically was never going to spend a ton of money anyway. And perhaps, the Madoff distraction benefited in that Alderson not spending money could be interpreted on him not having much to work with anyway.

The Mets ownership led by the Wilpons and Saul Katz consistently claimed that their money issues had no effect on the Mets operation, none whatsoever. Considering how things have played out and with the benefit of hindsight, they may indeed have been telling the truth.

If you take Sandy at his word, and there is no reason not too, his plan all along was to build a system that could deliver quality players, especially pitchers to the major league team. The strong belief was that pitching was how a club gets turned around. The idea being to develop great pitching with a small core of position players then mix and match on a seasonal basis with smart free agent signings and keen trades. It’s a type of rolling system where the basic construct of the team remains the same season to season with some of the names changing along the way.

Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe are good examples of this. They were brought in as quality bats off the bench, professional hitters that could help lengthen the lineup, and fill in admirably. They both are free agents at the end of the season. The question is not if the Mets will resign Johnson and Uribe but what similar players will they sign that can fill in those roles. Yoenis Cespedes is a different story. He’s a player that can carry a team so it would behoove the Mets to resign him. However, not for a ludicrous contract that another franchise may offer him.

Now that the Mets have reached the World Series, you can expect that payroll goes up in the coming seasons. They don’t have to become the Dodgers who spent over 300 million to players this year. But clearly the Mets will need to spend more than the 101 million paid this season. They have sold a lot of tickets since becoming a contender and reaching the playoffs. Their TV ratings have surpassed the Yankees now. So money is flowing through the door.

For next season, the Mets have about 60 million on the books with several free agents and a number of players eligible for arbitration. The Mets will likely settle with their arbitration players as they usually do. They will also have to consider what current Mets’ free agents they would like to resign or what’s out on the market to fill the gaps.

So Sandy’s model is now in place. He has his core pitchers and position players. He and his staff will have to fiddle with the bullpen as every club does. They will need to consider resigning Cespedes or paying someone out there who is similar. Plus they may have additional players ready to make a contribution next season from within. Those could include Brandon Nimmo, Gavin Cecchini, and Matt Reynolds. And who knows what other prospects that may impress come spring training 2016.

These are all nice problems to work out. The Mets have turned the corner. They are no longer in development mode. They are in the business of winning baseball, competing and hopefully making the playoffs for years to come. What I would love to see in the next few years if not next is the Mets actually winning back to back division titles, something this franchise has never done in 54 years of operation. The Mets now have that chance and this is all due to the patient and consistent reworking of the Mets organization by Sandy Alderson and his talented staff.

But of course I speak of the future. For now we get a few days off before our team, the Mets, begin their fifth World Series in franchise history. Holy cow!


In Terms of Wild Cards, is the System Fair?

Will there now be talk of altering the post season again? I say this because of what is happening in the National League Central this season.

The three best teams in the National League this season, record wise, are the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Chicago Cubs. The Cards have the best record in baseball and will be the odds-on favorite to win it all. But we know that anything can happen. Last year, it was two wild card teams that met in the World Series. That resulted in the San Francisco Giants winning their third world championship in three years. What this proves is all that really matters is getting to the tournament. Once in, anything can happen.

In its fourth season of the current playoff format, the two wild cards from each league will square off in a one game playoff game to open the post season. In the American League this season, it is working as expected. Both wild card teams are good but not as good as any division winner. However the National League is throwing a monkey wrench into the gears. That’s because the two wild cards, the Pirates and Cubs will likely finish the season with better records than the Dodgers and Mets, assuming the Dodgers win their division with their magic numbers down to 2. There will be cries of—why shouldn’t the Cubs or Pirates have more of an opportunity to compete in the post season when they had such remarkable seasons? The Pirates could possibly reach 100 wins as a wild card then lose to the Cubs in a one game playoff.

The purpose of the new playoff system was to provide an incentive for teams to win their division. Too often, wild cards were getting deep into the playoffs almost making the division title an unimportant goal. What was the purpose of a team to work so hard to win the division if being second good was good enough? Hence the latest playoff system was born. And for the most part, it works.

I like the two wild card format. If you look at the schedule on any given day this late in the season, because of their being two wild cards and three divisions, more than half the games have some significance in regard to the post season. It’s more fun for the fans and it even makes business sense. Often by now the games were meaningless because it was clear who was going to the post season. There was little incentive to watch and more incentive to turn to the NFL. But now, baseball remains exciting still with just one week to go in the regular season. Even after a team clinches, there is motivation to get home field advantage. The Mets would like to end with a better record than the Dodgers so they might have three games at Citi Field instead of two.

Look at tonight’s schedule in MLB. Except for the makeup game in Washington with the Reds this afternoon, every game has significance. The Red Sox are at the Yankees. The Yanks are still fighting for the division against the Blue Jays but certainly want to secure a wild card. The Cardinals are at Pittsburgh. Both teams are in the playoffs already however Pittsburgh wants the division and they don’t want to face the Cubs in a one game take all scenario. The Blue Jays play the Orioles at Camden Yards. The Jays have a magic number of 4 to clinch the division even though they have clinched a playoff spot. The Twins still fighting for that second wild card will be in Cleveland and the Tribe has an outside shot at the wild card too. The Rangers host the Tigers and try to lower their magic number from Houston. The Royals are at Wrigley. The Royals have already clinched the AL Central but they are tied with the Blue Jays for best record and will play hard to get home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Cubs want to win because they would like to have the wild card game on their home turf as opposed to going to Pittsburgh or St. Louis. The lowly A’s will be in Anaheim where the Angels are only a half-game behind Houston for the second wild card. Houston will be battling the Mariners in Seattle to try and remain in the post season mix while the Dodgers with a win tonight could clinch the division. Their opponent, the Giants who have already been eliminated from the wild card race have a slim chance of catching the Dodgers but they get four chances to make it interesting this week. So there you have it, September 28th with nine out of ten games having significant meaning regarding the post season.

So back to the Cubs and Pirates…

This season is more the aberration than the norm. There will be seasons when wild card teams have better records than one or two division winners within a league. And it likely will be rarer that both wild card teams have better records than the one or both of the other division winners. In 2012, the first season of two wild cards, the Orioles and Rangers, had better records than the central division champion Tigers in the AL, but not the other divisions. In the NL, the Braves (wild card 1) had the same record as the Giants had as division champs of the west but the other wild card, the Cardinals did not have a better record than any division champion in the NL. In 2013 in the AL, both wild cards had a worse record than any division champ in the AL. In the NL, the Pirates (wild card 1) had a better record than west division champ Dodgers but not better than east champ Braves. Last season, no wild card in both leagues had a better record than any division champion. So for the most part the system works and clearly the advantage of winning a division is obvious. Just ask the Dodgers, Mets, Cardinals, Blue Jays, Royals, and likely the Rangers. Automatically they will make the division series. However for the Bucs and the Cubbies, they likely will not be able to prove that they are better than the Cardinals. But baseball recognizes their success and awards the two teams an opportunity to make the tournament as I like to call it. However, regardless of their records being number two and three respectively in the league, one of them goes home after one game.

What it really comes down to is that no system in sports is really fair. You want fair, then you have to go back to when there were no divisions in the AL and NL. The first place teams of both leagues got to go to the World Series to determine the best team, the world champion team. As soon as divisions began in 1969, when the New York Mets broke in the system winning both the LCS and World Series, fair went out the window although in that season, the two best teams did make it to the World Series.

So today, with six division winners and four wild cards, ten teams making the post season—how can it be called anything but a post season tournament? And in such a tournament, anything can happen. The one game playoff for the wild cards is a great move. It provides an opportunity for the fourth and fifth best teams in the league to have a shot at the crown. No team really should complain about that.


Mets Punch Their Ticket for the MLB Tourney

The Mets, after having their worst home stand of the season, came to Cincinnati and won the first three games of a four game series in dominant fashion and clinched the 2015 National League Eastern Division Championship. It was the Mets third eastern division title in their history and the eighth time the Mets will head to the post season. It’s official, the ghosts of 2007 have been exorcised.

A huge shout out to the Baltimore Orioles and the Philadelphia Phillies. Their efforts led to a four game losing streak for the Nationals helping the Mets reduce the magic number to one. But yesterday, it was all Mets as Lucas Duda set the tone with a grand slam first inning home run. Matt Harvey had one hiccup in the second when the Reds got the game back to 5-2. He symbolically told his agent Scott Boras to shove it and pitched 6 and 2/3 innings and did so very well against a very good hitting lineup. Two more runs were driven in by a Michael Cuddyer double and then the exclamation point, a three run bomb from the Captain in the 9th sealed the deal. It was the Mets sixth consecutive win against the Reds this season as the Mets go for the sweep today with Jacob deGrom getting the start. It was the Mets tenth consecutive road win, a franchise record.

Say it, go ahead and say it all day if you like. The New York Mets are the 2015 National League East champions!!! Man that feels good.

Update: Btw, the clinching byt the Mets of the division was only the second time it happened on the road. The Mets clinched in 1973 on the last day of the season in Chicago. The other four times, 1969, 1986, 1988, and 2006 happened at Shea Stadium.


Magic Number: Back to Basics

Ok kids, this one if for you. You hear a lot of talk this time of year about magic numbers. What is a magic number and what does it mean?

First, let’s make clear what it means for a team to be games ahead or games back in the standings. It all has to do with the comparison of wins and losses between teams. In the column marked GB (Games Back) in the standings, you see numbers for all teams except the one on top, in first place, or teams tied for first place. That’s the number of games back. How come some times that number indicates a fraction? For example, Team B is 4.5 games behind Team A. It has to do with the fact that because of scheduling or postponements, teams have not always played the same number of games during the course of a long season at any given point. Let’s look at a couple of examples. The first one compares teams who have played the same number of games.

Ex 1.

Team A  W-10  L- 9  GB – none
Team B  W-9  L-10  GB  1

Using the data above, here’s the formula for figuring out why Team B is 1 game behind Team B:

Again, often during the course of a long schedule such as in baseball or basketball, teams may not have played the same number of games. Check out this example:

Ex. 2

Team A   W 14   L  8      GB – none
Team B   W 10   L  13    GB   4.5  (or you may see it displayed as 4 ½)

Same formula…

In Ex. 2, Team B has played one more game than Team A therefore there is a half game added to the value in the GB column. This formula is calculated for each team following the one in first place then the teams are sorted from the fewest games back to the most.

Ok, that brings us to magic numbers because it also has to do with comparisons of wins and losses plus we need to add a constant. That constant would be the total number of games on the schedule. Let’s look at this intuitively then we can look at the formula.

For the sake of example, let’s suppose that each team in a league plays a total of 30 games. The team in first place has won 20 of the 30. The team in second place has won 15 of the 30 but more importantly, the second place team has lost 8 of their 30 games played. That’s a total of 23 games played with 7 left to play. That means with 15 wins already in the bank and only 7 games remaining, the second place team can win a maximum of 22 games (15 wins plus 7 potential wins). The first place team with 20 wins already, needs to just win 3 more games for a total of 23 wins, an amount mathematically impossible for the second place team (and all other teams behind) to attain. Or, if the second place team loses 3 games, then they can no longer reach the number of wins the first place team already has (20). With 11 loses and 15 wins, the second place team, with only 4 potential wins available, could win only a maximum of 19 games, falling at least one short of the first place team. Or if Team A wins 2 and Team B loses 1 or if Team A wins 1 and Team B loses 2, any combination of wins and losses totaling the magic number. That is why we often hear baseball announcers say, any combination of first place team wins plus second place team losses equaling the magic number clinches the championship for the first place team. In this case, any combination of Team A wins and Team B losses totaling 3 give Team A the crown. A magic number is reduced if either Team A wins and/or if team B loses. So today, the magic number would reduce to 2 if Team B loses or Team A wins. It would reduce to 1 if both Team A wins and Team B loses. If Team A loses and Team B wins, Team B gains a game in the standings and the magic number is not reduced at all. Here’s the mathematical formula based on example 2.

Ex 3.

*Total number of games in the schedule.

Again, based on our example, 30 is the total number of games on the schedule so this value would change to 162 for baseball or 82 for the NBA. In this formula, the +1 is important because when added it represents a win total the second place team cannot reach. Without the +1 the formula then changes to the number of wins by the first place team and/or losses by the second place team to clinch a tie. The formula can be applied to any team following the first place team to determine the elimination value for those teams. More complex standings found at show an elimination number (E#) for each team along with wins, losses, winning percentage, and games back.

Disclaimer – Just because a team has a magic number doesn’t guarantee a playoff berth. Historically, late season collapses have occurred turning a magic number into a tragic one. The math says how many games a team must win to secure a playoff berth. However, the team must go out and actually win those games or at least hope the team(s) trailing lose theirs. The author takes no responsibility for the outcome of your favorite team.

Since 2007 and as a Mets fan, I pay no attention to the magic number. The only game that counts is the one played today. Win that game and see where we are tomorrow.