Category Archives: pennant race

THE THREE BIGGEST TEAM FLOPS THIS YEAR

So you think back to April when all the Hot Stove trades and free agent signings are over with and the season is young and fresh – and we looked to see where our favorite team was predicted by the “experts” to land in the Division Standings after 162 games……except one thing happened along the way……..they had to play those games. What was thought to be then isn’t now. Some would even argue the standings are upside down, except when you think about it they’re not. These teams deserve to be exactly where they are.

With virtually no argument expected, the Washington Nationals take the prize as the biggest flop of 2015. Just for example, name one playerimages-45 who has lived up to his expectations (and you can’t say Bryce Harper because he’s finally becoming everything they said he was supposed to be) this season. Matt Williams was an ill advised hiring and it’s surprising he’s even still there. Max Scherzer (right)……..where was he?….Look, every team like every player can have a “off year”…..but this was total demolition.  Put a team together guys……..have a plan…..

The next team on my list is the San Diego Padres, if only because of the big splash they made in the off season with a new GM and a cadre of “moves” images-57made virtually every week. Except for one thing again……it’s not the quantity of moves you make it’s the quality of those moves and how they fit into your overall strategy…..if you have one………Or are you just taking your six gun out into Dodge and firing everywhere? Matt Kemp (left) is a good example of where the wheels came off even before they knew it did. Matt Kemp has had trouble hitting home runs in Dodgers Stadium for five years and now you’re bringing him into cavernous Petco??? What were they thinking? Besides, he’s totally “L.A.” (see photo) 

My final team is more of a disappointment than a flop. And we all know the odd even thing going on here images-62and how this was mapped to be a “off year” for the Giants (as my friend Ronnie Redmond laments)…..and I get thatimages-53 but we are talking about a team with immense talent battling the “soft” and very beatable Dodgers……and they just evaporated into nothing in the final 40 games, and maybe even sooner. The loss of a very underrated Jeff Panik hurt…..same with Angel Pagan……but somebody’s gotta pick it up……..and nobody did. Kudos to “Bum” (upper left) and MVP Candidate Buster Posey (upper right) for doing all they could. Gotta strengthen that starting  pitching though for next year…….Cain (ouch – big money lost so far), Lincecum (make him a seventh/eighth inning man?), and Peavy (his last stop in a very pedestrian career)…..have to do better than that versus Kershaw/ Greinke……..

Next post……the three biggest Surprise Teams of 2015.

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THIS IS NOT A FAIRY TALE – THIS TEAM IS REAL

It was fifty-three years ago in 1962 when Casey Stengel, the Mets first manager, images-41labeled his hapless team as Amazin’. No one knows for sure but it must have been a adjective he chose carefully. Because it’s  a word that suggests something illusionary – something not real that belongs in the field of “magic”.

I mention that because last night in listening to the Mets announcers on SNY as the Amazins rallied to yet another victory over the Nationals, they couldn’t stop repeating “This is a fairy tale season” as Cespedes deposited another game winner in the left field seats. 

This is not magic and it’s not a fairy tale, folks. This is a solid ballclub doing what they have been built to do. General Manager Sandy Alderson made the right moves (at the right time) and Terry Collins applied the finishing touches with his Manager of the Year people skillsimages-17images-28 that formed a juggernaut of rising spirit that suggests in the clubhouse “Yes, we can do this”.  From there on each player takes responsibility for himself as a part of the team. If anything, that’s the only “magic” we are seeing. It’s called team building. You develop a strategy and then you implement it. In the Mets case, they put starting pitching as their first priority. Anyone doubt they have succeeded in doing that? And then they filled in the holes adding Tyler Clippard to the bullpen, bench players Uribe and Kelly Johnson ( both great clubhouse men), and finally a rental with power in Cespedes.

In sum, the Mets are everything the Nationals are not. Picked by virtually everyone to run away with the Division, they have floundered and flopped. And fans of the National’s know it better than anyone as only (a average of)  27,000 of them showed up for the series of the year with the Mets. They went for the gold in Scherzer, paid the price and lost because they lacked the all important strategy of team building. 

Finally, a disclaimer. I am a Yankees fan first and foremost. But beyond that, I am a fan of baseball. So when teams like the Mets and Astros rise to the top – like the Royals last year – it gives me pause to notice, appreciate, and watch what they are doing and how they are doing it. It’s simply baseball at its best.

“MATT THE BRAT” – EPISODE THREE – THE TEAM MOVES ON – WITHOUT HIM

So, finally the real picture comes into focus. Matt Harvey took the mound last night facing the Nationals in a crucial game going 5.1 innings and giving up seven runs leaving the Mets with an almost impossible task ahead of them to win e game. And yet, they do exactly that….images-1win the game and increase their lead over the Nationals with Jacob DeGrom taking the hill tonight.

With the events of the past several days in mind, there’s a lesson to be learned for Met fans, but especially for Matt Harvey. It’s simple, the Mets don’t really need you.

They’ve got this. And no matter how far they carry this thing through the playoffs, last night they proved that they are a team that can win in spite of you. No doubt, the animosity towards you has waned in the clubhouse, as well it should because if not for the ill timed “advice” of Scott Boras, this would have been “just one of those starts” over the course of a long season. 

So again, this only proves (once again) that no one man is bigger than the TEAM when it comes to a winning formula. And despite the words and actions of Mr. Harvey, the Mets are gelling…..and it would be a good time for their self proclaimed star to climb aboard.

Tonight,the real ace of the staff Jacob DeGrom – (my opinion)  takes the mound and looks to cement the season for the Mets. Matt Harvey, take notice……..the New York stage is not quite yours yet.

“MATT THE BRAT” – EPISODE TWO – THE FLIP FLOP

I’m telling you, you can’t make this stuff up. Today, just one day after holding court in the Mets dugout with his woe is me act and indicating that he sided more with his agent than his team, Matt The Brat published one of those “I take it back” statements on Derek Jeter’s website (how ironic is that) telling all of Metland and baseball that all is well and “I’ll be pitching in October – no matter what”.

Except it does matter. In fact it matters a lot. They say that timing is everything. For the Mets, this Harvey/Boras fiasco couldn’t have come at a worse time. images-48Beginning today, the Mets begin a critical four game series against the Nationals – in Washington. Their lead has been cut to 4 games including the all important loss column by the (finally) resurgent Nats. Met fans are blinking and wondering…..is this the beginning of yet another late season collapse……..and if the team blinks……..it could easily happen.

For Terry Collins, who is fighting for his baseball life, everything hangs in the balance over the next few weeks. Like the Mets Brass, he has to be images-32images-23scratching his head and saying to himself……..”Do I/we really need this now, Matt?” (photo above). But in fact and being the man that he is, what he actually told Harvey is “Just go out there Tuesday night and pitch like you are capable of doing”. Significantly, it was also no coincidence that David Wright made a point of sitting with Harvey in the dugout during last night’s painful loss to the lowly Marlins.

In 2019, Matt Harvey will become a free agent entering the market with the potential to sign a Scherzer like contract at nearly 30 years of age. Hopefully, by that time owners and general managers will have come to their senses about long term contracts (Note: Scherzer is a mere .500 pitcher this year). Nevertheless, he will be in for a significant pay day. 

It can be said that the only thing holding Matt Harvey back from that is Matt Harvey. With fame that he seems to thrive on and fortune comes responsibility.

This is especially true in New York where the spotlight shines brightly. Sometime soon, he will need to grasp that concept and grow up and into it. He boldly associates himself with Derek Jeter every chance he gets….fine……no problem……but how about BEING like Derek…..and not the immature person you were when you thought it was funny to pose (below) giving the finger from your hospital bed. New York City doesn’t give itself away easily and that’s a lesson Mr. Harvey needs to learn quickly. His image already has been tarnished, but it is repairable IF he performs on the mound. Because with that (think Alex Rodriguez), New York can also be a very forgiving town.

Matt Harvey

Matt Harvey

Note: In case you missed Episode One, here’s a link………

https://scontursi.wordpress.com/2015/09/06/matt-the-brat-a-big-pain-in-the-mets-brass/

SAVING THE BEST FOR LAST……

A constant theme being developed on this blog is how the length of the baseball season plays out with intrigue and mounting interest as we move closer to the playoffs. With only 35 or so games remaining to be played, images-3several players and teams seemingly have saved their best for last……..

Perhaps the biggest move forward comes off the bat of Josh Donaldson (right) who has already passed the 100 RBI mark while leading the Blue Jays to the top of the AL East. A sure fire candidate as MVP, he stars on a team where nine other teammates make more than his $4.3 million. If Toronto gets to the World Series, they should order a ring for Billy Beane and hand deliver it to his office in Oakland.

Another late bloomer this season is Nelson Cruz (left) of the sub-par Seattle Mariners. Cruzimages-5, a late signee off the free agent market back when the season was young and promising for the Mariners, leads his team in every offensive category except stolen bases. Only trouble is that Robinson Cano still labors around the .250 mark. For the Mariners and a (perhaps) regretful Cruz, this season can’t end soon enough.

Remember when Paul Goldschmidt (right) was in the top ten of virtually every offensive category in the National League back in April and Mayimages-6…………a mark of consistency…….he still is. He’s turned into a complete hitting machine while piling up big numbers and leading the D-Backs to a late season run for the final wild card spot. They have a long road to the make the playoffs and Goldschmidt is definitely saving his best for last. Fun to watch.

At the other end of the spectrum, remember when Adrian Gonzalez (left) was lighting it in April and May…..batting .600….. and no one could get him out? Well look now,images-4 his numbers have plummeted and he struggles to maintain a very pedestrian .280 batting average. The Long Season may not only be too long for him but for the Dodgers as well as the Giants seem ready to pounce for another late season run…………

So down the stretch they come…………and as the saying goes……cream always rises to the top and baseball (unlike football where a 1-4 start all but knocks a team out of the playoffs) offers opportunities for teams (remember the Royals about this time last year) and players to imagine and realize new heights and fortune in the upcoming Second Season.