Category Archives: 2015 Playoffs

COLLINS: ” DON’T PUT IT ON HIM – IT’S ON ME”

Second guessing Terry Collins’ decision not to remove Matt Harvey images-17in 8th inning after 102 stress filled pitches does not do justice to a man who is a baseball “lifer” and who also has the credentials to be seriously considered for Manager of the Year in the National League.

Here’s the thing – in the press conference immediately following the loss to the Royals, he “manned up”images-23 taking ownership of his decision saying that he was thinking with his heart and not his head. Both he and pitching coach Dan Warthen had a plan coming into the game. It called for Harvey to go seven (if he could) and then for Familia to finish the game out.

A good, sound plan. Harvey did his part. And then came the “meeting” in the dugout in the eighth inning between Collins, Warthen, and Harvey. My brother Bob offered this question…..is this like Grady Little leaving Pedro Martinez in in the same eighth inning in the 2003 AL Championship Series? Good question. Continue reading

TODAY’S HISTORY AND MATH LESSON

Okay, real quick now……..how many times has a team come back from a 3-1 deficit to capture a World Championship?

I didn’t know either and had to look it up. It’s only been done four times. In 1925, the Pirates beat the Senators. images-1More than thirty years later in 1958, the Yankees beat the (then) Milwaukee Braves winning the final two games on the road. In 1968, the Tigers beat the Cardinals (Mickey Lolich!) also winning the last two games in St. Louis. And finally, the Royals came back and bested the Cardinals in 1985.

For our math lesson, what this means is that the Mets have less than a 4% chance (there have been 111 World Series) of coming back to beat the Royals. Or, to put it another way, the odds are 25 to 1 against them to accomplish this feat. Improbable, but not impossible you might say.

So tonight becomes yet another opportunity for Matt Harvey to show up and demonstrate that he is trulyimages-32 the ace of this young staff. I have my doubts about that but if he can get the ball to DeGrom, the true ace, well then you never know. Especially with Noah Syndegaardimage (1) waiting in the wings. It will be all hands on deck tonight and don’t be surprised if you see Syndegaard come in for a inning or two if the situation presents itself.

No doubt, if you are a Mets fan you will hold on to the late Tug McGraw’s refrain……”Ya gotta believe” and hope against the odds that you don’t have to say around midnight……”Wait till next year”.

 

AS THE GAME TURNS……

Just when it looked like the Royals had their gears in synced motion and their lineup was ready to quiet the raucous crowd at City Field with one of those keep the line moving rallies that has become their signature in this year’s Playoffs, the game turned on a dime in the second inning when a call at third base was overturned by replay.

The play (shown here in this MLB video) occurred when David Wright took a throw from left fielder Michael Conforto and the runner, 635818530669234576-USATSI-8892351Alex Gordon, was called safe on a very close play putting runners on first and third with one run in and nobody out.. However, Wright immediately raised his hand signalling to the dugout and Terry Collins pleading for a replay. Collins acknowledged his Captain and Gordon was ruled out by the replay umpire – resulting in runners on first and second with one out. Not necessarily a game turner but the play certainly swung the momentum back to the Mets and they never looked back from there. Continue reading

TAKE A DEEP BREATH – IT AIN’T OVER YET

Before the World Series began, I asked what I believed were two pertinent questions. The first one revolved around the contest of the Met starters who consistently average between 95-97 mph and have a litany of strikeouts as their major weapon – and how that would fare against the Royals offense which doesn’t strike out, images-1seldom walks, and seems to have a propensity to string together five or six consecutive hits creating the big inning that often decides what was (until then) a close game.

You may already get the drift of where I’m going with this, but I also pointed to the distinct possibilityimages-38 that most (or even all) of the Mets rotation has ( or would soon) run into a wall based on innings pitched and plateaus never realized until now. Never was this more apparent than the wall Jacob DeGrom (above) smashed into last night. Cruising images-19along with electric and dominant stuff, all of a sudden he left a few pitches up in the zone and voila – the Royals being the Royals capitalize on these mistakes and turn the game around – for good ( Congrats Johnny Cueto – above right). Continue reading

IT FEELS LIKE CHRISTMAS EVE….

Baseball’s Showcase or Fall Classic as it has been historically termed,  comes to life beginning tomorrow night. After 162 regular seasonFB_IMG_1445889516448 games and two playoff series, only two teams remain standing. The World Series is also, in many ways, baseball’s last stand before the NFL seizes the attention of sports fans until next February when the cycle renews itself and 30 teams arrive in Florida or Arizona with the sole purpose of being one of the two teams here in 2016.

For fans like myself, it usually doesn’t matter whose playing. MLBtrophyBut this year, it feels like Christmas Eve now because we can anticipate a series of gifts that may leave us gasping for breath – as was the case last year when the Royals took the Giants to the final out of the seventh game with a final score of 1-0.

The first gift I want to see opened is the contest between the Met strike out pitching and the put the ball in play Royals. Remember, the Royals don’t walk a lot – but they also don’t strike out a lot either. In fact, the Royals struck out the fewest number of times of any team in baseball ( beating the next closest team by almost 300 fewer whiffs). 

The other gift I can’t wait to see opened is the one with the image (1)fans wrapped inside. These are two great baseball cities and the players are excited about performing in front of them. You may not realize it but Kansas City is an integral part of baseball history and their fans know it. The Monarchs were the vanguard team in the (then) Negro Leagues. And there is a must stop visit to the Negro Baseball Museum in Kansas City that is a must for all fans. And the Mets, of course, have New York City as their backdrop. And judging by the newspapers and the amount of ink being used around here, this is BIG!

Indeed, Christmas comes early for fans of baseball……….

GET IT WHILE YOU CAN – OR NOT?

 We can all recall the decision of the Washington Nationals to shut Stephen Strasburg down prior to their Playoff appearance a couple of seasons ago – and we all know the ensuing history whereby the Nationals are still waiting for a return visit. The reason XXX C01 ANDREWS 25 S ALfor their decision was that he was coming back from “Tommy John” surgery performed by the pioneering Dr. James Andrews (left) and they wanted to protect him from another injury.

Unfolding now is a similar dilemma faced by the New York Mets as we await the start of the World Series on Tuesday. Except in this, we have not just one but four tender and spectacularly young arms in play, images-23with two of them (Harvey and Matz) in the rebound year of  their surgeries. Adding to the drama are the events surrounding Matt Harvey and his agent Scott Boras late in the season when both nearly tore the team apart when they declared a 180 innings limit for “The Brat”. Luckily, Doc Gooden and others stepped in to reason with Harvey and the fiasco fizzled out.

Nevertheless, all four of the Mets starting pitchers are approaching or have already surpassed their highestimages-33 inning totals in their brief career. In fact, in Harvey’s case, if he indeed starts game one (probable but not yetimages-38 written in stone), and if the Series is extended beyond four or five games, he will have pitched the most innings ever for a player coming back from surgery, and this includes Tommy John himself. 

As it was for the Nationals, this almost certainly is a lose-lose proposition for the Mets. Because if they play it safe by shutting down one or possibly even more of these young studs and lose the Series, they’ll have all winter to answer to that decision. On the other hand, if they win the Series and one or more of them suffers a career threatening injury, they’ll have all winter to answer to that decision. 

I’m of the mind that they (and in particular Dan Warthen, their underrated pitching coach) should look closely at their mechanics and body language when they are throwing. If one or more of them “looks” different now from the way they looked in July, then that should be a red flag demonstrating possible strain that could lead to injury. In this regard, Jacob DeGrom deserves a close look as he’s seemed a bit “off” in his last two starts, even though in both he was able to grind it out and secure two wins. As with Strasburg, this must be a management decision since all of them are too young to know their own bodies yet. Plus, they’re all bulldogs with a competitive edge and they’ll never shut themselves down voluntarily.

Adding to the intrigue is the fact that the Mets have two proven and stable starters on call in the ageless Bartolo Colon (left) images-51and Jonathan Niese who bounced back nicely in his last few starts when there was serious discussion about him even being on the Playoff roster. But in the end, it should be a “feel” decision made by the Mets and it should be done individually and not collectively. The Nationals were wrong when they shut Strasburg down even before the Playoffs began. To their credit, the Mets didn’t do that even when they could have when Harvey gave them the chance to. They hung in there and so did Harvey. Now, it’s game on! Continue reading

DON MATTINGLY – SOMETIMES, NICE GUYS DO FINISH LAST

It was Leo “The Lip” Durocher (below) who coined the17iti2omk97d0jpg phrase “nice guys finish last”. While it’s hard to imagine him as a role model for anyone in the game of baseball today, Don Mattingly (below) 635811032741246297-USATSI-8863478definitely fills the definition of a nice guy. And in a way, he has finished last as the Manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Whether he resigned or was forced out is really a moot point. What matters is that he might be one of those people who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But in order to fully understand what happened in LA, we need to take a look back at his time with the New York Yankees. Don Mattingly1371570128000-C03G2FOCUS23-21P6-X-38-LINES-1306181143_4_3 was a workmanlike “carry your lunch pail” first baseman. He was quiet, often mysterious. He never (as they say) put himself out there. He was also a self made major league hitter who assembled numbers that arguably make him a outside candidate for the Hall of Fame. Much like Derek Jeter, he led by example and not with words.

Therefore, the question then becomes – was he ever truly managerial material? Fans and media in New York wanted desperately for him to take Joe Torre’s place at the end of “the run” by the Yankees. But the Yankees went in a different direction and hired Joe Girardi. Left unsaid were the reasons why Mattingly did not get the job. However, everyone knew the reasons why – the job was ill suited for his talents.

Add to that the dysfunctional ownership situation in LA 1371690499000-06-19-2013-Don-Mattingly-1306192110_4_3during the beginning of his tenure there plus the influx of dysfunctional players to deal with (read Puig)……and then the final blow of the new owners choice to collect and fill their “book of stamps” resulting in a $300 million payroll……..and well……you get the picture.

There is (or should be) a place in baseball for someone like Don Mattingly. He would be welcomed back in New York by Brian Cashman in a heartbeat. Joe Girardi’s ego could accommodate him as a bench coach and he could also have an impact as a role model for younger players like Greg Bird and Didi Gregorious. In sum, Don Mattingly needs to come home…….

WORLD SERIES MATCHUP – METS VS ROYALS

Oops, the Toronto vs Kansas City series hasn’t even concluded yet. But, believe me it’s over. At home, there is no way the Royals lose two straight, even images-1with David Price (who has not exactly been Mr. Reliable in playoffs no matter where he has pitched) starting tonight for the Blue Jays.

So let’s get on with it. And let’s start with the probability that this will be a very entertaining World Series. On the one hand, you have the Royals with last year’s experience to build on facing the Mets with maybe one or two exceptions I can’t think of playing on Center Stage in baseball’s Fall Classic. for the first time.

Last year, the Royals met Mr. Bumgartner and the Giants. No doubt, “Bum” tore the Royals up. This year, they’ll be facing not one – but four prominent image (1)starters the Mets throw out there – each with 97-100 mph fastballs along with a litany of polished and tantalizing breaking balls. Plus, the Mets have that guy Familia (did anyone know his name in April) who appeared out of nowhere and continues to dominate.

On the Royals side, you have the patient and clutch presence of guys like 1412412471000-USATSI-8122795Eric Hosmer (left) and Alex Gordon (below) who “get it done”. Meanwhile, “something” appears to be wrong with Johnny Cueto and he and the Royalsalex-gordon-kansas-city-royals_20150901-e1441203607921 need to figure that out soon. But, to counterstrike their deference to the Mets in starting pitching, they have the knockout punch of a bullpen if the game is close.

And therein lies the key. The Mets were able to never let the Cubs even reach the door, much less enter it. The Royals however are a different brand right now. They do come back with a string of singles and doubles when they have fallen behind.images-38 Thus, the question is really how far the Mets starters can go into the game to prevent such an attack in the middle innings. In this regard,New York Mets Spring Training at their Minor League practice facility located within Tradition Field in Florida the whole question of innings pitched  to date (and it’s getting way up there) raises its ugly head again for the Mets. How far do you let these young arms go?

In sum, we are not only going to be entertained by this Series, but we will be talking about it throughout the Hot Stove season. If I were a betting man, I’d stay away from this one. Meanwhile, we can just sit back and enjoy it as baseball fans.

FINALLY – NEW BASEBALL DYNASTIES ON THE HORIZON

We all have our favorite teams and players to root for. More than likely, we will continue to do so. But as genuine fans of baseball, we also need to acknowledge a changing of the guard and welcome new teams (potentially) into the fold as Baseball Dynasties. 

While we have witnessed the amazing run of the Yankees images-14in the late Nineties and early 2000’s, they have diminished in recent years to a shell of what they once were (and I say that as a fan of the team). Same with the Braves who put together a incredible string of Playoff appearances under Bobby Cox. The Giants and Cardinals are a close call in terms of a dynasty, but have fallen short of being able to put together a string of any kind.

Continue reading

AMAZING NO MORE – THEY’RE JUST GOOD

photo_stengelIn the infancy of the New York Mets in 1962, Casey Stengel christened the team he managed as the “Amazing Mets”. And as only he could, he walked and clowned their way through one hundred losses that year. The city of New York could hardly care – National League Baseball was back!

Seven years later, the Mets would capture their first World Championship. Their next World Series title would not come for nearly two decades. What followed was a history most Met fans would like to forget. There was a ownership struggling with financial issues related to Bernie Madoff, ill fated and costly free agent signings, and general disarray along with ineptitude from the top down. When (Met fans rightfully asked) would they ever get it right?

Although he is locked away as a memory now, it was Omar Minaya, the team’s General Manager prior to current GM Sandy Alderson, who quietly began the process of signing images-38and cultivating a string of young and talented arms. Alderson followed up by refusing to deal any of these pitchers, even when the volume of dissent in the media was loudest. Similar to completing a jigsaw puzzle, Alderson brought the final pieces in giving the team the look and feel we see on the field today. Continue reading