Archive for the 'General' Category

Great Game, Terrible Broadcast

Thankfully and in large part due to Noah Syndergaard, the Mets salvaged the final game of their three game set with Miami at Citi Field.  The bad news was that the game was telecast on ESPN, the worst TV venue for baseball.  Karl Ravech, Eduardo Perez, and Dallas Braden handled the telecast.  Ravech, the one legitimate announcer is garden variety at best but the two former players were simply brutal pointing out the most obvious points as if they invented them.  Specifically embarrassing was the interview with Mr. Met.  I’m sure the person in the Mr. Met costume was glad he/she could hide behind that huge baseball head and never have to admit to being a part of such an horrendous attempt at humor. Then there was the interview with Giancarlo Stanton in the left field promenade seats where he once hit a batting practice home run. Perez’s interview was okay but ESPN felt the need to show the interview a couple of times and during the pre-game. Guys, it was batting practice!

By contrast, Gary Cohen, Ron Darling, and Keith Hernandez, baseball’s classiest TV trio, did a wonderful bit on Friday night going through a box of old baseball cards. It was entertaining, educating, and brought back many memories of childhood, trading baseball cards in the backyard on hot summer days.  Cohen and company never lose sight of why we tune in. It’s to be informed as we watch the game.  Gary, Keith, and Ronnie, as well as Howie Rose and Josh Lewin on the radio side, never make the broadcast about themselves.  They play the sidekick to the straight man, the game itself.  Historically ESPN’s spin has always been that they, the broadcasters and the network, are the story.  The MLB network, TBS, and FOX do a far superior job of broadcasting baseball nationally than ESPN does.  But unfortunately if you have enough money to pay Major League Baseball,  you too can broadcast games too.  Quality of the broadcast never matters when it comes to doling out TV contracts.

The one thing that really disturbed me was the narrative the ESPN crew kept harping on, that the Mets only score when hitting home runs. While that was often true last season, it really hasn’t been the case so far. The Mets won games on opening day, Thursday, and last night in a number of fashions.  Last evening while going on and on about the Mets only scoring when socking those home runs over the wall, they failed to mention that the Mets held a 3-2 lead on runs scored by a base hit to left, an error, and a walk with the bases loaded in the first inning. True that Jay Bruce and Michael Conforto both added to the lead with solo shots but the real story was the pitching.  Beyond one earned and unearned run, Syndergaard shut down the Marlins offense as well as relievers Fernando Salas and Addison Reed. But to all of baseball land on TV, the Mets only score when they hit home runs. Aye!

And another night game.  Geez, do you think baseball owners care about their players?  Well guess what?  They don’t. They care only about your money.  Look at old Mets yearbooks from the 60s and 70s.  Most games played in April were played during the day.  Weekdays, can you believe it?  Why?  Because in April the daytime temperatures in the northeast are better during the day than at night.  The argument that the Mets wouldn’t draw during the day falls flat when you see the minuscule crowds at night games and in uncomfortable if not close to freezing temperatures.  The reason these games are played at night in April is because of TV revenue.  We need to tune in to see all the commercials at night regardless of the conditions the players must endure.  It’s truly a shame the Mets could not have afforded a retractable roof as ownership originally envisioned.

Minor Leagues: Dominic Smith (first base) and Amed Rosario (shortstop) are both batting .375 in the early going for Las Vegas.  Both have 6 hits with Smith having two doubles.  The Columbia Fireflies, the Mets single A affiliate, has started their season at 4-0 in the South Atlantic League.  In two of the four games, the Fireflies pitching staff shut out the opposition.  Did you know that the Binghamton Mets are now known as the Binghamton Rumble Ponies? Not kidding.


IBB Hoax

So far the new intentional walk rule has been a huge success. In the fourteen major league games played since Sunday, there have been 6 IBBs (intentional base on balls). Now pitchers no longer are required to wear out their arms by throwing four lobs to the catcher. The umpire merely sends the runner down to first base. Just look at the results of this rule guaranteed to speed up the game.

The average length of games played so far have been reduced from over three hours to over three hours. The six intentional walks saved at least a minute from the fourteen games collectively played. Meanwhile, play reviews are talking just as excruciatingly long as ever. Batters step out of the box to adjust their batting gloves excessively, pitchers take forever to throw the ball, and commercial breaks go on too long. What am I missing here?

The new intentional walk rule is an absolute joke. I say put the old rule back, don’t allow the batter to leave the batter’s box unless absolutely necessary, and enforce two rules already in the rule book. The first: enforce the strike zone. Make the batter swing the bat. Two: If the pitcher doesn’t throw the ball back in 12 seconds, it’s a ball. These things will speed up the game, not this ridiculous attempt to show that baseball really cares about the length of a game.

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.


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.