Archive for the 'General' Category

I Hate to Admit It but It’s Time for the DH In the NL

I do not like the Designated Hitter, never have and likely never will. But I am onboard with the National League finally accepting the rule first used by the American League in 1973.

The main reason for my acceptance of the DH is because in baseball everywhere, professional and amateur, the National League is the only league to not use the forty-three year old rule that allows a permanent pinch hitter for the pitcher. The DH was supposed to have been an experiment for a couple years when it was introduced for the 1973 season in the American League. Apparently the experiment is ongoing because it is now 2016 and every baseball league on this planet save one employs the DH. The Japanese Pacific and Central Leagues use the DH. The Caribbean Winter Leagues, the European Baseball leagues, and the Australian Winter League use the DH. All independent minor leagues as well as colleges and high schools use the designated hitter. Now that we have finally re-opened trade with Cuba, I’m sure we’ll learn that their talented leagues use it too.

Beyond the NL, there are a few exceptions. In Triple A and Double A, pitchers bat when two NL affiliates play each other. But when AL affiliates play NL affiliates, they don’t. However in the Pacific Coast League (AAA), the two NL affiliate rule can be overridden by the two teams if agreed upon.  In the minor leagues below AA, the DH is used regardless of affiliation. So then why in the world would National League owners want their pitchers to bat in the major leagues when they have had such little experience doing so before? Pitchers that command a huge portion of a team’s expenditure are unnecessarily exposed to potential injury when standing in the batter’s box or running the bases.

Now if I came across a genie in a bottle and was granted three wishes, one of the three would be to abolish the DH in all of baseball.  I’m really old school but I completely understand and accept that the DH is never going away. It makes the most sense to finally incorporate the rule into the National League.

In a league governed by one office, what sense does it make to have two sets of rules anyway? In 2000, the National League and American League offices were dissolved and the singular office of Major League Baseball was formed, one office to oversee both major leagues. At that time, umpires were pooled together in one group and do all games regardless of league. There was a time when there were AL umpires and there were NL umpires. Not anymore. A team of umps can be at Citi Field for one series then move over to Yankee Stadium for the next. It’s been that way since 2000.

So why does the DH rule remain the only difference between the two leagues?

One reason is stubbornness. Many NL owners simply did not like the DH and did not want to see it implemented in the senior circuit. There is a feeling that the older NL has more tradition than the younger AL. I find that argument to be inconsistent. Tradition is a perception. Are three divisions and 30 teams traditional? Are wild card teams traditional? Are ballparks with roofs traditional? Is modern uniforms made from modern material traditional? Are 5000 square foot video boards traditional (and at Wrigley Field no less)? How about replays for umpires? Is that traditional? Some might feel that people of color entering baseball went against tradition. Who wants to defend that abhorrent tradition?

Baseball has always been about change. It has reflected American society for almost 150 years. Way back in 1973, when I was still quite young, I saw the DH implemented and many did not like it. But do you realize the percentage of fans today that have never known the game without a DH? A person born in 1973 is turning 43 years old this year. Those at that age that are baseball fans have watched a lot of baseball. The DH is part of their tradition.

Getting back to pitchers and injury? With today’s salaries of major league players, owners worry a great deal in regard to injury, especially when it comes to pitchers. Why have their star pitchers stand in a batter’s box in most cases unequipped to handling a 95 mile an hour fastball? And when pitchers do get on base, they are then vulnerable to be injured running the bases. You would think that NL owners would want to protect their pitching investment at all cost. With all due respect to the Mets pitching staff and their ability to hit, most pitchers are automatic outs. How is that good for the game?

The DH also has implications on player movement. An older hitting player, still quick with the bat and still having some pop is not likely to go to a National League team. There he would be relegated to pinch hitting once per game if the situation warrants. He might play one or two days a week. In the American League, that same hitter might play every day as a DH and may be more of a draw for fans to come to the ballpark as well.

Now to be fair, counter to the pro DH argument is pitching stress. In the AL, pitchers never get to face bad hitters, at least bad hitting pitchers. In the NL, the pitcher might work around a batter or two to get to the pitcher. Obviously that strategy as well as whether to pinch hit for the pitcher would be lost to the game for good. But again, except for the NL, it has been gone for over four decades now. But none the less, the DH has caused more pitchers to want to go to the National League and not just to hit but to have an easier time of it when pitching through the bottom of the order.

One more point. What other league has two sets of rules? Would it be fare if kickers in the NFC had to kick an extra point from ten yards but their AFC counterparts had to do so from the 15? No other sport except baseball plays by two sets of rules. Now granted it’s only one rule but it is a big one.

I love the game when the pitcher hits so my brain is arguing completely against my heart.  But unless aliens threaten our existence if we don’t remove the designated hitter, the rule is here to stay. The NL needs to stop putting off what eventually is going to happen and finally accept its fate and employ the DH. But don’t be surprised  in a few weeks if I write a post completely contradictory to this one.

Minaya vs. Alderson

The Mets are the reigning National League Champions. 2015 marked the first time the Mets reached the World Series since 2000. Since then the Mets also played in the post season in 2006 but failed to make it to the World Series, losing game 7 of the NLCS to the St. Louis Cardinals.

The general manager at that time was Omar Minaya. He was given the reigns of the Mets following the 2004 season. He stayed as the head of baseball operations until the fall of 2010. After Minaya was let go, Sandy Alderson was hired to right the ship.

I bring this up today because of some of the feedback I read from Mets fans unhappy with the 2015 offseason so far. The apparent expectation was that since the Mets came within a breath of winning a World Series, the front office would be more proactive in going out and signing some big time free agents. The Mets have made moves, some good moves, but have not made any blockbuster deals. Apparently only a team making huge signings is a serious contender. Or is it?

To a faction of Mets fans, even after winning the pennant, the only thing that will make them feel the Mets are legitimate is for Alderson to sign a big player or two to contracts for way too much money and way too many years. Let’s look back at the two most recent GMs and contrast their styles to determine if the current Mets are on the right track or not.

At the time Omar was hired, he said many things that made Mets fans feel warm and fuzzy. From the moment of his hiring, he talked of signing Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran, the two biggest names on the market at that time. This was not your father’s Mets’ GM. This guy was a true breath of fresh air to Mets fans that long waited for a GM to talk big in a town dominated for years by the Yankees.

Minaya convinced Mets ownership to open up the checkbook. In the winter of 2004-2005, Minaya backed up his words and signed Beltran and Martinez. He also brought in less noteworthy but solid players in Ramon Castro, Chris Woodward, Miguel Cairo, and Marlon Anderson.  In 2005, the Mets contended for a while but ultimately finished only a couple of games above .500. It was however, the first winning season since 2001. There were a lot of good feelings heading into the winter.

During the offseason, the Mets traded with the Florida Marlins for Carlos Delgado. Also via trade, Minaya brought in outfielder Xavier Nady and also acquired catcher Paul LoDuca to replace future Hall of Famer Mike Piazza. Omar signed free agent Billy Wagner to be the closer and side-arm righty Chad Bradford to be the setup man. Another free agent signing brought in outfield defensive wizard Endy Chavez. The 2006 Mets did not disappoint as they cruised to a division title, their first since 1988. In the post season, the Mets swept the Dodgers in the NLDS then took the NLCS to the seventh game before losing with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth.

By then, Mets fans were insatiable when it came to the spectacle of the off season transaction. The Amazin’s became the champions of winter with the many blockbuster signings and trades made during this era. After 2006, Mets fans were convinced the signing and trading for big time players was the way to go, regardless of the cost. There was little concern for home grown talent. Being so close to the World Series, we all wondered what Minaya would do to give us the championship in 2007.

Minaya brought in free agent Moises Alou. It was a gamble because Alou could still hit but his health was an issue. Heath Bell and Royce Ring, two useful Mets bullpen arms were traded to San Diego for Jon Adkins and Ben Johnson. The Mets also singed Damion Easily who was with the Diamondbacks. Minaya let Bradford get away as he signed with the Orioles and Chris Woodward signed with the Braves. These were two players who could have helped the Mets in ’07, especially Bradford.  Minaya spent even more money signing Jorge Sosa, Scott Schoenweis, Aaron Seile, Robinson Cancel, Jesus Feliciano, Sandy Alomar Jr., Fernando Tatis, and pitcher Chan Ho Park.  With all these players signed, the Mets were positioned to repeat as division champions. If so, it would be the first time in Mets history to ever accomplish such a feat.

You know what happened. It all fell apart. The Mets did not have a great starting staff. The bullpen was taxed beyond belief. With a seven game lead in September with seventeen left to play, the Mets suffered one of the worst collapses in baseball history. At the time, the Mets had the third highest payroll in major league baseball, only behind the Red Sox and the Yankees.

Prior to 2008, Omar Minaya spent again, this time by trading Carlos Gomez and Phillip Humber for Cy Young award lefty Johan Santana then signing him to a new multi-year deal. Also in 2008, the Mets jumped into second place in payroll behind the Yanks. With a total of 137.8 million dollars, the Mets failed to make the playoffs on the last day of the season for the second consecutive season. Shea Stadium closed for good after that depressing game ended with Mets fans left wondering what it would take to get this team back to the playoffs.

Prior to the 2009 season, the first at Citi Field, money was again used to hopefully solve the Mets woes. Minaya signed free agent Francisco Rodriguez to be the new closer. He also signed Livan Hernandez to bolster the starting rotation and an aging Gary Sheffield to hopefully supply some punch in the batting order. In ‘09, the Mets still with the second highest payroll in baseball fell below .500 at 70-92, their first losing season (record wise) of Minaya’s tenure. Only the Washington Nationals had a worse record in the NL East as they quietly were working on building their farm system. Livan Hernandez was released by the end of August. Minaya also traded Billy Wagner to the Red Sox. The Mets began to dump many players that simply did not work out. Needless to say, the Mets were in complete disarray.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. So was it fair to say Minaya was insane when prior to 2010, he signed Jason Bay to a three year deal worth over 60 million dollars or even a year earlier when he resigned Oliver Perez to a three year 36 million dollar deal when no one else was making an offer. Neither ever panned out and the Mets continued to lose. The Mets payroll had dropped to 5th highest in the majors but still at 132.7 million, very high for a team that could not even play .500 ball.

2010 was Minaya’s last as Mets general manager. He was fired in October and eventually replaced with Sandy Alderson. Minaya, for a short time, brought back respectability to the Mets organization. He instantly turned them into a winning club, making one playoff appearance. But he could not recover from the collapses of ’07 and ’08, continually attempting to spend his way out of trouble.

Alderson was tasked with bringing the Mets back to respectability once again. But unlike Minaya’s propensity to spend money like a drunken sailor, Alderson would be methodical, rebuilding the organization from bottom to top. It was said that Alderson just shook his head when he saw the money the Mets owed to talent that was not very good. His goal was simple and stated from the outset. He would rebuild the farm system and spend little and as wisely as possible at the major league level attempting to lower the payroll to create more flexibility. He talked of making the Mets competitive but any smart fan could read between the lines. The Mets were going to suck for a few years while a new foundation to the organization would be built.

This is not what the fan base wanted to hear. You would think that after all the failed seasons that followed 2006, fans would be more patient and realize that Alderson’s approach is what the organization needed to get back to a contending level. But no, off-season after off-season, we continued to hear and read the complaints of a cheap organization only out to make money and not spend to make the team better.

Then came the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme. That really threw a monkey wrench into the works. But in retrospect that mess could not have happened at a better time. In fact it may have actually aided Alderson in that it appeared that not spending was not his fault. However, I don’t think Alderson would have spent the money anyway unless it was on the draft and the future of the team. And in regard to the draft, while fans complained of not spending, it was Alderson who convinced ownership to spend above slot in the amateur draft to acquire the higher profile prospects.

Sandy’s plan was to rebuild the farm, have a manageable payroll for maximum flexibility, and make smart free agent signings and trades. It all paid off in 2015. The Mets young starting staff that had been given time to develop in a completely retooled system blossomed and performed at exceptional levels. With the help of mid-season deals (there’s that flexibility), the Mets pushed on and won the NL Pennant.

So here we are today, the end of 2015. The Mets lost the World Series. If you were able to go back in time to a year ago and tell fans what was in store for 2015, they all would have signed on the dotted line. However, now that the Mets have not signed a big star, we hear the same complaints about the cheap front office yet again.

We saw what Minaya’s approach accomplished. It was one trip to the post season followed by seasons of frustration. Alderson’s approach continued the frustration but all the while underneath the covers, he and his staff were building something sustainable. Now it would be unfair to coronate Alderson just yet. He like Minaya has taken the Mets to the post season only once. And like Minaya, has a shot at back to back division titles, an elusive goal in the history of this organization. So we will see if the smart but non-spectacular moves pan out as the Mets head into the 2016 season.

It would have been easy for Alderson to resign Yoenis Cespedes to quell the ire of the masses, even if he did struggle mightily in the post season. But the Mets front office continues to keep their wits about themselves and not give in to media and fan pressure. It strikes me odd that I will listen to someone like the Daily News’ John Harper who in one breath thinks Cespedes is not worth the money but in the next says the Mets should sign some big time player to appease the fans. Is that what it’s about, winning the winter?

Let’s not forget that Alderson did sign one big star player to a huge contract a couple of years ago. That would be David Wright and as much as we all love David, you can see by his recent struggles with health how risky these types of deals can be.

The big spenders last off-season was the San Diego Padres. How’d that work out? The Marlins were also the darlings of the media for the moves they made. They were awful too. The problem today is that baseball is a twelve month season with each team’s media fighting for stories. However, keep in mind no games of significance are played from November through March. I stopped caring about the offseason. I keep abreast of what is going on during the hot-stove but I no longer get anxious about it. We’ve seen far too many teams spending big only to not have a winning season. And we have seen teams like the Royals, the Giants, the Cardinals, and now the Mets, not make the spectacular move and do just fine.

The Mets are the NL Champs. That goes a long way for me giving Alderson the benefit of the doubt. Unlike Minaya’s teams, this one is filled with many young players loaded with potential. With the crop of talent on the major league roster and the many prospects in the lower levels, the Mets are poised to be a very good team for many years to come. I will continue to believe in Sandy’s plan until proven otherwise.

Note: I probably come across as a real Minaya basher here. Understand I really like Omar and as mentioned he gave the Mets instant cred when he took over. He’s sincere, loyal, and I would love to sit down with him and talk baseball. From all accounts, Omar is simply a downright nice guy. His fault was his inability to manage an entire baseball operation. He also did not have enough backbone to stand up to the front office or the media. Minaya’s best ability is of talent evaluator. It’s easy to give Alderson and his front office lots of credit for the Mets success last year. But realize many players that made it happen were brought in by Minaya. They include Daniel Murphy ‘06, Ruben Tejada ‘06, Lucus Duda ’07, Dillon Gee ’07, Jeurys Familia ’07, Wilmer Flores ’07, Jenrry Mejia ’07, Kirk Nieuwenhuis ’08, Hansel Robles ’08, Steven Matz ’09, R. A. Dickey ’09, who Alderson used to get Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud from Toronto,  Matt Harvey ’10, Josh Edgin ’10, Jacob deGrom ’10, Erik Goedell ’10, and Matt den Dekker who was traded to Washington to get Jerry Blevins. And let’s not forget Minaya’s biggest signing as GM, Carlos Beltran who became the greatest Mets centerfielder of all time. He was traded by the new regime to San Francisco for Zach Wheeler who will hopefully be back from elbow surgery this coming season.

No one organization can be built by one person’s vision. Minaya with all his faults as GM left the Mets with a fine corps of prospects, many of whom have panned out. But also give credit to Alderson’s regime for developing those players they inherited as well as drafting their own crop of talented young players.

The Grind of a Major League Baseball Player

Michael Cuddyer retired on Friday. He still had one year left on his two year contract he signed last fall to play left field for the Mets.

Cuddyer did not have a stellar year on the field by any means. He played hurt but provided a very positive veteran influence in the clubhouse. Current left fielder and star in the making, Michael Conforto praised Cuddyer for his help and support. Instead of being bitter as a young player took his job, Cuddyer went out of his way to help Conforto adjust to life in the Show.

In retiring, Cuddyer leaves roughly twelve millions bucks on the table. That’s some serious cash to walk away from. Now granted, it’s not like Cuddyer does not have a lot of money. He played fifteen years in the Bigs and I’m sure he squirreled away a lot of money. So why retire now, why not play out one last year and collect what’s left on his deal?

It appears Cuddyer has had enough. The wear and tear on his body reached the breaking point. He recently underwent surgery to repair a core muscle that he apparently struggled with all season long and likely contributed to him having a subpar campaign. In his statement, Cuddyer said “…after 15 years, the toll on my body has finally caught up to me.” What? What toll? It’s baseball. Everyone knows baseball is a lazy man’s sport. It’s not like football where athletes take a beating during every play. It’s not like basketball or hockey where the action never stops. What in the world is he talking about?

Of course I am being flippant. What Michael Cuddyer is talking about is the grueling schedule of a professional baseball player. No other sport requires their athletes to compete on a daily bases the way baseball does. Too often, baseball gets labeled as slow or not a very athletic game. That’s because of the obvious comparisons to other sports where action is more dramatic. Yes, there is a lot of standing around in baseball. However, with that requires tremendous focus because it is unclear when the action will begin and players need to be ready for when it does. Any pitch could be the beginning of a play that will require different baseball skillsets to come into play. They include running, throwing, diving, sliding, and even colliding into other players or barriers like outfield walls or into the stands trying to catch a foul ball.  And let’s not forget having to hit a round hard ball with a round wooden bat, one of the most difficult skills in all of sport. That ball is coming at the hitter in excess of 90 miles per hour in most cases, often curving into or away from the hitter. Sometimes a hitter gets hit by the ball causing serious injury with the only consolation being awarded first base. The changing speed of the pitch keeps hitters off guard, trying to adjust their timing in order at a shot of hitting the ball. Baseball is easy? Not when failing seven out of ten times gets you into the Hall of Fame. It’s that hard! It is a game of failure requiring tremendous competitive skills.

Baseball is also a sport that requires all team members, for the most part, to possess the same skills. With the exception the pitcher in the American League’s, everyone on the field must take a turn at bat. Everyone in the field must be able to throw and catch the ball. In football, there are positions where it is against the rules to catch or throw the ball. In baseball everyone is expected to run around the bases as fast as possible, a distance equivalent to running the length of a football field from end zone to end zone (90 feet x 4 = 360 feet, 120 yards).

Granted, football is physically demanding. The NFL regular season is 16 games with each team getting one week off. The NHL and NBA play around 80 games, or two to three times a week. Major League baseball teams play 162 games (sometimes 2 games in one day) over a sixth month period with just 20 days off including the four day all-star break. There is also a month and a half of spring training that includes around 30 games and if a player is lucky enough to play deep into the post season, add another month of play to the schedule. No professional athlete travels more often than an MLB player. Show me another sport where a team plays a game in the afternoon or even at night because of national TV demands then has to travel across the country to play a game the next day. You will not find that to be true in any of the other three major sports. (And that’s something that really needs to be looked into by the Players Association in the next round of negotiations.)

The point is baseball is a grueling game that requires athletes to be in tip top shape. Today’s ballplayers work out constantly on top of a ridiculous schedule. In a game where there are literally millions of dollars on the line for athletes that have no guarantee of a long playing career, it is in their best interest to be in the best physical condition as possible. Long gone are the days of Babe Ruth famously downing a few hot dogs during the course of a game or even a Keith Hernandez sneaking in a smoke in the corner of the dugout. Players know what’s at stake if failure becomes routine. With a farm system second to no other professional sport, there are many players ready and willing to take the place of a falling star.

Some players stay too long. It’s hard for them to quit. It’s not just the money or fame that comes with being a major league ballplayer. It’s the need to compete. They have known it all their lives from when they were stars in Little League. Professional baseball, like any sport, is not something you pick up after you receive a degree from college. You need to start young and dedicate your life to it. In most professions, people can stay until their sixties or even older. If you are 36 years old in professional sports, you are considered a dinosaur. Players like Alex Rodriguez and Bartolo Colon who are in their 40s are the exception.

In reading Cuddyer’s statement, it’s clear he struggled with the decision to retire. However, I give him credit for not extending what would surely be less of a performance than where his numbers dictate what kind of player he should be. He’s won a batting championship and has been on the all-star team twice. He’s been to the post season seven times. He made it to the playoffs six times with the Minnesota Twins, getting as far as the league championship series in 2002. His only trip to the World Series was with the Mets in October. He leaves baseball a league champion, not a bad way to go out.

I felt that Cuddyer would have had a better season in 2016 considering his injury issues this past season. Apparently he knew better than to come back knowing he would not be able to give it his all. It’s really a noble thing he is doing because the money he will not be paid now will help the front office get a player or two that will help this club as they try to get back to the World Series next season.

Cuddyer is an example of what the grind of baseball can do to a player over the course of a career. So let’s not think for a minute that baseball is a sport that doesn’t require an athlete to be tough. It also requires skill, dedication, and perseverance. We assume many players have had long careers because we tend to focus on the stars of the game. But in most cases, it’s rare that a player makes it to 15 years in the big leagues. That in itself is an accomplishment.

Good luck in the future Michael and enjoy your retirement.

 

Things Go Better…

The biggest question of the off season was answered this morning (see original post). The Mets have announced that they have agreed to terms with Coca-Cola. Coke replaces Pepsi that was the Mets soft drink sponsor since Citi Field opened in 2009. In addition, the right field upper stands, formally the Pepsi Porch will be somehow associated with Coca-Cola. Details have not been announced.

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.

BleacherReport.com 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 Sportnaut.com kind of sums up why it is so ridiculous to make predictions as to who is going to win and who is not.