Well, it surprisingly took until the fourth World Baseball Classic for the Americans to finally win won. It was well worth the wait, and it was great watching a group of likeable players win this thing. For the most part, I developed a deeper appreciation for a lot of these players.
For starters, Adam Jones may now be my favorite non-Met. He had some truly clutch hits, and his robbery of Manny Machado is a play that will live on forever. More important than that, he was a player who had a lot of pride representing his country.
Marcus Stroman was absolutely dominant in the World Baseball Classic. For a pitcher who has pitched in big games for most of his young career, Stroman took his game to a higher level last night carrying a no-hitter into the seventh. It was great to see a fellow Long Islander there is one of the biggest moments in USA baseball history.
It was a delight to see Brandon Crawford play shortstop. With him playing on the West Coast, and my being a Mets fan, I really only get to see him a handful of games a year. You really appreciate how good he is watching him play on a prolonged basis. I also wasn’t aware of just how much he’s improved as a hitter.
Ian Kinsler went out there, and even he had to show a little enthusiasm on the field. He’s really about as good a second baseman as there is in baseball.
While they didn’t play as large a role as they did in 2015, it was nice seeing Tyler Clippard and Daniel Murphy win something. They certainly deserved it . . . even if Murphy didn’t deserve being frozen out.
Certainly, Paul Goldschmidt showed he was a bigger man than anyone could have expected. We did not hear one word from either him or Murphy about being benched in favor of lesser players. Speaks a lot about their character and their dedication to winning. Same goes for Jake McGee, who certainly could have been tabbed by his manager to get some of the bigger left-handed hitters out in the WBC.
In one game, Alex Bregman showed us why he’s going to be the next young star in this league. That Astros infield is going to be terrific next year and for the next decade.
Nate Jones, Sam Dyson, and Mychal Givens are much better relievers than anyone might’ve known prior to the tournament. They certainly showed that during the WBC. For that matter, Luke Gregerson showed everyone he’s a closer in this game.
I certainly was able to appreciate the skill Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton bring to the table on a game-in and game-out basis. They play the game hard, and they play it the right way. It was easy rooting for them in the WBC. Still, that won’t prevent me from rooting against them during the regular season.
Andrew McCutchen is really just a great player no matter what position you play him in the outfield. The Pirates are going to be happy they held onto him.
No, still not going to say anything nice about Eric Hosmer.
I still can’t believe Pat Neshek got out of that jam against Japan.
We all know Andrew Miller was better than he was in the WBC, but it is a testament to him that he was still willing to go out there and give whatever he could give the team despite him not being ready to be Andrew Miller yet. Same goes for David Robertson.
Buster Posey and Jonathan Lucroy showed everyone that despite the fawning over Yadier Molina, they are the two best catchers in the game. USA was able to share time between them and not miss and beat. Also, Lucroy had the best chest protector I’ve ever seen on a baseball field.
Nolan Arenado just went out there and played hard. Again, you have to admire someone who goes out there and just fights through it.
I appreciate what Chris Archer and Mark Melancon did. I wish their teams would’ve permitted them to participate more, but you have to admire anyone who is willing to go out there and contribute whatever they can. Certainly, Archer’s impact was lasting because he went out there the first game and dominated. He set the tone for this entire starting staff.
Finally, it was great seeing Willie Randolph out there coaching. He is a great baseball person that has not gotten the second chance to manage he so rightfully earned. He is class personified. There is no greater example of this than his wearing Jackie Robinson‘s 42 with permission from Robinson’s family. Throughout his entire career, he has deserved better from baseball, and I am hoping he finally gets that chance he so richly deserves.
Overall, it was great watching a group of Americans who were easy to root for. Top to bottom these were classy players that played hard, and they were players who had pride in representing their countries. I can thing of no finer collection of players to go out there and not only capture the title, but to also raise the interest in the WBC.
After the 2013 season, Curtis Granderson was really a free agent for the first time in his career. While Granderson was always durable, he was coming off an injury plagued season that was the result of getting hit by two pitches. In the prior to season for the Yankees, Granderson was coming off consecutive 40 home run seasons. In fact over that two year stretch, Granderson led the majors with 84 homers. With that in mind, Granderson was one of the most coveted free agents on the free agent market.
To that end, it is surprising that a player like Granderson who had mostly played for good teams in his career would opt to go a Mets team coming who never had a winning record since moving to Citi Field. Moreover, it was surprising that a power hitter like Granderson was so willing to move to the cavernous dimensions of Citi Field.
And yet, Granderson signed a four year deal to become the Mets right fielder. Why?
Well as Granderson told MLB Network during their 30 Clubs 30 Days feature on the Mets, “I was optimistic it was going to happen. Sandy Alderson and the Mets organization told me about the young guys – the Matz’s, the Syndergaard’s, I had see Harvey, the deGrom’s – and all of a sudden here they are. Not only are they here but they’re here to stay. They all piggyback off of each other and do an amazing job.”
Either Sandy did a great job selling, or Granderson just has an eye for talent because heading into the 2014 season things were not that optimistic.
Matt Harvey‘s incredible 2013 season was cut short with him needing Tommy John surgery. Noah Syndergaard was not yet dominating in the minor leagues despite having terrific stuff. Steven Matz was just coming back from pitching after what had been an arduous Tommy John rehabilitation.
Now, Zack Wheeler was coming off a promising season, and Rafael Montero promised to be the next big thing. While Granderson mentioned Jacob deGrom, if we are being honest, no one knew what he was yet. Certainly, not the Mets as they had deGrom lower on the depth chart than Montero.
Despite all of that, Granderson was right, it has all worked out. Even better, the Mets have pitchers like Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo who have developed into good pitchers while Granderson has been a Met. Behind them are pitchers like Thomas Szapucki and Justin Dunn.
Back in 2013, this was the image of the Mets Alderson presented to Granderson. To his credit, Granderson bought in and signed with the Mets. To Alderson’s credit, he not only delivered, but he keeps delivering.
As Granderson enters the last year of his four year contract, it is important to remember he was the first free agent that believed the Mets could one day be World Series contenders. Not only did he sign with the Mets based upon that belief, but he has also been an important contributor to this Mets team both on the field and in the clubhouse. In many ways, the Granderson signing was a pivotal moment. It was the time that the Mets starting the process of going from a rebuilding team to a World Series contender. It was also the time when someone started believing in this team.
During Spring Training, Paul Sewald and Ben Rowen have emerged as real possibilities for the Opening Day bullpen. The issue with adding either player to the Opening Day roster is neither reliever is on the 40 man roster. Moreover, there is currently no room on the 40 man roster. Therefore, if the Mets want to carry either Sewald or Rowen on the Opening Day roster, the team is going to have to make a roster move.
The first possibility is putting David Wright on the 60 day disabled list. At this point in time, Wright is still not throwing, and there is no known timetable as to when he will be able to throw. Accordingly, it is eminently possible he will need an extended stay on the disabled list. If so, putting Wright on the 60 day disabled list would open up one spot.
The issue arises if Wright does not need a stay on the 60 day disabled list or if the Mets were going to look to add both Sewald and Rowen to the roster. To that end, there are some players who could be moved off the roster.
Normally, this is where most Mets fans would point to Rafael Montero. However, Montero has pitched quite well this Spring. It’s more than the 2.70 ERA. Montero has been trusting his stuff more, and he has been pounding the strike zone. As a result, we are finally starting to see what the Mets have seen with their decision to keep Montero on the 40 man roster all these years. Now, if you are keeping Montero, this means someone else is going to need to be removed from the roster.
The most likely candidate is Josh Edgin. Prior to his Tommy John surgery, Edgin could throw 95 MPH. With his fastball, he dominated left-handed batters, and he could hold his own against right-handed batters. Post-surgery, Edgin is throwing in the high 80s to the low 90s. He has not been the same pitchers since, and the results are no longer there. He’s also struggling this Spring. With him being out of options, it’s hard to justify having him block someone else’s path.
Erik Goeddel is another Mets reliever who struggled in 2016 that is also struggling in 2017. Last year, Goeddel pitched through bone spurs, and he had a 4.54 ERA. Unfortunately, things have not been better after the surgery. Goeddel does not seem to have his command or velocity, and as a result, he has posted a 9.95 ERA in seven appearances.
Another pitcher who struggled last year and is struggling in Spring Training is Sean Gilmartin. Gilmartin was a terrific long man in 2015 to a pitcher without a role last year. He bounced back-and-forth between Triple A starter and major leauge reliever. He did not handle the transition well. Now, he is struggling yet again posting a 6;75 ERA.
Certainly, the Mets could hope that Edgin, Goeddel, or Gilmartin rebound in 2017. However, those hopes are not going to stand in the way of the team putting together the best possible bullpen they can put together on Opening Day.
If there is anything you can say about this Mets organization is that they like their tall hard throwing right-handed pitchers. Overall, you’d be hard pressed to find a pitcher as tall and as hard throwing as the Mets 2016 sixth round draft pick Chris Viall. This 6’9″ pitcher out of Stanford has pitched out of both the bullpen and the starting rotation, and he has been known to throw his fastball up to 101 MPH.
After being drafted, Viall was assigned to Kingsport where he showed the ability to rack up a high number of strikeouts. While Viall is preparing for his first full professional season, he was kind enough to answer some questions about how he is progressing as a professional pitcher.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me, and congratulations on finishing your first season as a professional pitcher. In your experience, what has been the biggest adjustment from pitching in Stanford to pitching in the minor leagues?
I would have to say the largest adjustment between collegiate and professional baseball is which roles I am filling. At the college level, I had to come in at different times in the game; sometimes in relief, sometimes starting. Now at the professional level, the Mets organization stresses having a set routine and a specific throwing schedule. I enjoy being able to have that set routine in order to most effectively prepare for my outings and improve my skills.
Do you feel the Mets program is more conducive to success than the program you had at Stanford?
I don’t think I can really comment as to which was more successful as the two systems had slightly different aims. College baseball programs have to be primarily focused on winning with player development coming in second. So far in the Mets organization, I have been working primarily to improve as a player. Currently, I am very happy to work towards focusing on improvement.
What specific things have you worked on in the past year with the Mets that would help you become a more effective pitcher?
I have been working on simplifying my delivery in order to make sure I’m always in control and linear towards home plate.
You mentioned you have both started and relieved. Which role do you personally prefer?
I enjoy starting. While I have relieved in games and am comfortable with that role, I enjoy being able to have a specific routine in the rotation and knowing exactly what my plan is every day. Being able to see batters more than one time in a game is also a plus as I am able to adapt and improve my gameplan with multiple innings of work.
For those that have never seen you pitch before, what type of pitcher should they expect to see?
They should expect to see a tall, hard throwing right handed pitcher with a good mix of fastballs, change-ups, and curveballs.
Tall indeed. Baseball Reference has you listed at 6’9″. Is that accurate, or are you a little taller than that?
As of the last time I checked 6’9″ in bare feet is accurate, although I haven’t really challenged that number for awhile, most doctors’ height measurement devices max out around 6’6″.
I’m sure someone has asked you this before with how tall you are, but I’ll ask it to you anyway. At your height, why baseball instead of basketball?
In high school I originally played both sports, but in my junior year I decided to focus only on baseball. It was around that time that my velocity increased and my secondary pitches became more solid, so it was the correct decision at that time.
What are the advantages and disadvantages your height presents to a pitcher?
I think the main advantages I have are the ability to easily throw faster and the steep angle that I throw the ball to the plate. The only disadvantage I have experienced is that being taller introduces some coordination issues (such as repeating the same motions), but I mostly overcame this shortcoming when I got used to my height and increased my strength training load.
One of the things that stood out when you were drafted was your velocity. How fast is your fastball?
My velocity varies. Last season in starts I was generally 93-97, but in relief appearances my fastball touched as high as 101.
Overall, who has had the biggest impact on your career?
Mark Eichorn. He was my pitching coach through high school and helped me tremendously on both the physical and mental side of the game.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received how to succeed as a pitcher and make it to the major leagues?
That would be to trust the process and set a goal to improve every day.
What are your goals for the 2017 season?
Increase strike percentage and increase pitch diversity. I’m moving away from just trying to overpower batters, as though that may work now there will be a point where I won’t be able to rely so heavily on my fastball to get batters out.
What has been your favorite memory as a baseball player?
My favorite memory was when I threw at the Stanford summer baseball camp going into my senior year of high school. I had always wanted to attend Stanford as it was about an hour away from my house and a great university, and walking off the field talking to Coach Stotz about my future at Stanford was an amazing moment for me.
Who was your favorite player growing up?
Growing up my favorite player was Matt Cain.
Do you try to model your game after his?
I don’t try to emulate his mechanics, but I do try to pick up on the way he goes about his outing. Cain seems to have a controlled bulldog mentality that toughens under adversity, and I try to bring that into my game as well.
Last year, former Mets minor leaguer Nicco Blank made a name for himself for leaving tickets for Taylor Swift to see him pitch. What famous person would you like to come see you pitch?
I guess I’ll keep the trend going and stick with Taylor Swift.
Are you inviting Taylor Swift because you’re a fan of her music?
To be honest I don’t really know many of her songs. I just want to keep the streak alive.
Do you know where you will be assigned next year?
I am not yet sure where I will be assigned.
I appreciate Viall taking the time to answer my questions while he is preparing for what should be a promising 2017 season. Given his arm and his ability to strike people out, he has a real future in the Mets organization, and I believe I speak for all Mets fans when I say we wish him well.
Paw Patrol is the worst, and I mean the absolute worst, children’s show I have been subjected to by my son. Having watched it over and over again, the show gets worse and worse. Then I noticed some serious issues with the show. They mostly surround Ryder.
For those uninitiated, Paw Patrol, is a show where a boy named Ryder leads a bunch of pups to solve the problems that arise in Adventure Bay. The issues usually arise over something wrong with Mayor Goodway, who is the most incompetent cartoon mayor this side of Diamond Joe Quimby, or Cap’n Turbot, who is a sea captain that I’m surprised hasn’t drowned while taking a bath.
Whenever an issue arises, these adults contact a young boy named, Ryder. Yup, a person who is supposed to be in charge of an entire city has to contact a little boy to help her solve her problems. Those problems usually involve her pet chicken because what other issue would the mayor have than handling her pet chicken?
Ryder accepts the call on his pup-pad, says he will offer assistance, and offers the reassuring motto of “No job is too big, no pup is too small.” Ryder, then using the same pup pad summons his pups. The pups receive the alert straight through their collar, which presumably means Ryder equips each of his pups with a shock collar so they can be summoned at his will.
The pups then run to this tower called the Lookout. Somehow, someway midway up the elevator to the top of the Lookout, the pups are zapped into clothing with their preordained jobs from Ryder. Mind you, this counts the second time the pups are zapped.
Once there, the pups have to go through Ryder’s artist rendition of the current situation. Keep in mind, there is an emergency, but Ryder thought there was time for him to make a fun little cartoon first to show everyone before they go and solve the problem. Ryder then selects two or sometimes three pups to join him. The rest just sit there until everyone returns.
There is so much wrong here. First, this boy has the technology to build a technologically superior tower that would make Elon Musk blush, and he has the ability to not only communicate with dogs, but the ability to have them bend to his will. Do we seriously believe he does not have the capability to summoning the exact number of pups he needs? Does he not do that because he’s too busy with his arts and crafts project? Or perhaps, this is a just the work of a twisted little boy, who fits pups with shock collars, who loves having these pups bend to his every will and demand.
His team of pups is as follows:
- Chase – a police pup who mostly is there to throw a net to catch someone when Ryder’s instructions go horribly wrong
- Marshall – a clumsy fire dog who really is mostly there to provide a ladder
- Rubble – a construction dog who pushes stuff around with a bulldozer
- Rocky – a recycling pup who in reality is just a few years away from being on one of those hoarding reality shows
- Skye – the lone female who flies in the sky and really does most of the work
- Zuma – a water rescue dog, whatever that means, who is basically told to get deep sea diving to fetch something underwater
Oh, on top of that there are two other dogs named Everest and Tracker. It is not of much importance that they don’t belong to Ryder. What really matters is that for some reason, Ryder gets to fit them with a shock collar as well so he can summon them too at his beck and call. Considering how he abuses these dogs, I’m almost afraid to ask where Ryder’s parents are or what happened to them. Although part of me does wonder if he made them “yelp for help.”
Anyway once Ryder chooses the pups that get to come with him, they got down a slide into their dog house which turns into the corresponding vehicle. Basically, these dog houses are a rip-off of Transformers.
Now, for the bigger jobs, Ryder will use more dogs, but that means he’s going to have to take them all in his not so cleverly named Paw Patroller. Everything is able to fit in there, and it is driven by his robotic dog. That’s right, in addition to building a state of the art tower, and vehicles, Ryder has built a mechanical dog capable of driving something larger than a semi.
And all of this is basically to save a chicken getting stuck on a roof, or repairing something using the garbage Rocky found on the side of the road.
If this child is really the genius the show purports him to be, why is he using his talents in this manner? Shouldn’t he be off making inventions for the betterment of man kind? A person this brilliant should be discovering how to cure cancer or how to end world hunger. No, he decides to become the de facto lord of Adventure Bay.
In the process, he has completely eliminated the need for Adventure Bay to have a police force, fire department, construction workers, or any other of a series of union jobs. Ryder has used his technology to force people out of jobs and presumably move out of an expensive area like Adventure Bay. It’s of little doubt why there’s only like 10 people left who live in the entire town. Presumably, most moved away due to jobs or to escape this unpredictable sociopath. Seriously, why else wouldn’t people want to live in a town that is clean, has terrific weather, and has talking dogs?
So, in the end, Paw Patrol is a show about a disturbed little boy who intimidates both man and animals alike. At its core, this is a very dark and disturbing show that no one should be subjected to.
It’s a fact of life that if you are supremely talented, you get away with more than other people. It’s an unfortunate fact of life. However, what is baffling is when people who aren’t even that good get away with stuff.
Take Jose Reyes.
Last year, Reyes was a .267/.326/.443 hitter in 60 games for the Mets. If you’re being honest, that is much worse than you would have thought considering the fanfare that surrounded him last year. Over the past three seasons, Reyes has been a .279/.321/.400 hitter who averages 21 stolen bases a year. While people are arguing that he’s the Mets best leadoff hitter, he’s not even good enough to play everyday. Certainly, his 96 OPS+ and his 96 wRC+ will tell you he is a below average hitter. Basically speaking, the argument should be whether he should be batting eighth or if he should be playing at all.
However, he is playing because David Wright can’t right now. He’s playing because Wilmer Flores is a platoon bat, and the Mets refuse to admit a guy who hit .239/.293/.371 against right-handed pitcher last year is every bit the platoon bat Flores is. The Mets are also not willing to give T.J. Rivera a shot at the third base job due in part to his OBP fully ignoring Reyes’ .321 OBP the last three years. Gavin Cecchini won’t get a chance to play third because he’s never played there before. Of course, that didn’t stop the Mets from playing Reyes there last year.
Simply put, there is a wide chasm between the Jose Reyes that was a superstar with the Mets from 2003 – 2011 and the player Reyes is now. Consider in Reyes’ first stint with the Mets, he was a .292/.341/.441 hitter who averaged 25 doubles, 11 triples, nine homers, and 41 stolen bases a year while playing a good defensive shortstop. Now? Reyes doesn’t have the same ability to hit, the same speed, or is that good defensively. Also, consider the distraction Reyes is.
Last year, Reyes was arrested for allegedly beating his wife. The only reason the case did not go to trial was because Reyes’s wife did not cooperate with prosecutors. After serving a suspension and being released, Reyes found himself back on the Mets. It was that rare second chance. Still, Reyes could not be on his best behavior.
Now, we find out, much like Bartolo Colon, Reyes has another family. Apparently, in addition to allegedly beating his wife, Reyes also has an alleged history of cheating on his wife. He also has a child with his paramour, who claims that not only does Reyes not see his child, but he also does not pay sufficient child support. Reyes’ attorneys state he has met his obligations. Reading between the lines, this may reference child support, which is still to be determined, but not in terms of being an actual father to his other daughter.
Look, it could be a case of someone trying to maximize upon Reyes being back with the Mets. The child support claims could be patently false. However, it does not change the fact that it gets harder and harder to root for Reyes. It does not change the fact that Reyes is no longer a good baseball player . . . that is unless you expect him to be that rare middle infielder whose game is predicated upon speed to get better during a season in which he turns 34 years old.
At this point, you have to ask yourself, what’s next with Reyes? How much longer can the Mets put up with this nonsense? Turns out, it will be quite a while because the team is only paying him $507,500 this year.
The funny thing is the Mets once took a stand against stuff like this like they did when Francisco Rodriguez attacked his girlfriend’s father. For that, the Mets put him on the restricted list. Then again, the Mets found their courage there because K-Rod was making a little over $12 million back in 2010. Perhaps if K-Rod was making the league minimum, the Mets would have ignored that situation as well.
So, despite the Mets having legitimately better options, and Reyes possibly serving as a distraction, the team will keep the cheap player because in reality the Mets only really have the courage to do the right thing when they owe a player actual money. It’ll be interesting to see the Mets no comments or diversion tactics if something else happens with Reyes. Based on recent history with him, you can’t discount that from happening.
There are three great things about March. The first is St. Patrick’s Day. The second is we are ever closer to the beginning of the baseball season. The last, but certainly not the least, is the NCAA Tournament. Each year everyone, and I mean everyone, fills out their brackets hoping to win their pools. For some die hards, they desperately want their alma mater and/or favorite team to win the NCAA Championship [Onward Setonia!].
Looking over the years the Mets have made the postseason, there is no real harbinger from the NCAA Tournament. Certainly, there is nothing akin to the Yankees-Kentucky championship link. In fact, the Mets fate isn’t even tied to one conference or another. This is good because you can watch this tournament without that thought in the back of your mind that if Texas Southern loses today, the Mets have no chance of winning the World Series.
Now, we know Texas Southern won’t go to the Final Four this year, and they have never even won a game in NCAA Tournament history. As such, they never would have been in the Final Four the years the Mets made the postseason. Can you name the teams that have been in the Final Four the years the Mets made the postseason? Good luck!
In international competition, I am an American, and as such, I will always root for the USA to prevail. In the Olympics, I root for the USA regardless of what Rangers are playing for the other country. I love Henrik Lundqvist to death, but I would root for an American team full of Islanders, Devils, and Flyers if it was ever a USA-Sweden gold medal match.
The same goes for the WBC.
Surprisingly, the closest ties USA has to the Mets is Daniel Murphy and Tyler Clippard, both of whom were on the 2015 pennant winner. Mostly, the USA roster is full of players you would rather not root for as a Mets fan.
There’s Eric Hosmer whose name cannot be mentioned in my house anymore. I loved watching Michael Conforto take Danny Duffy deep in the World Series, but to be honest, Duffy got the last laugh. Tanner Roark is a National, who also did all he could do to help blow the 5-0 lead against the Dominican Republic. While I generally like both Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford, when seeing them play, you cannot help but be reminded of the heartbreaking loss in the Wild Card Game last year. Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton have been a thorn in the Mets side on a Marlins team that seemingly exists just to be a Mets spoiler.
Overall, while I have found USA to be a likeable team, there are enough players there that harbor bad memories.
The Puerto Rican roster, on the other hand, is full of players I absolutely love.
Carlos Beltran may be the next Mets player inducted into the Hall of Fame. T.J. Rivera grabbed a hold of the second base job last year after a number of injuries left the Mets searching for a capable player at the position as the team was fighting for a Wild Card. Rene Rivera helped Noah Syndergaard improve as a pitcher last year.
Worse yet, Seth Lugo is going to start against the USA in what should prove to be an incredibly important game. Lugo was an vitally important pitcher who helped get the Mets back to the postseason last year. He may prove to once again be an extremely important pitcher for the Mets next year whether he is in the rotation, the bullpen, or both. As a Mets fan, you do not want to see Lugo get bashed around by the USA in the WBC. Rather, you want to see him continue to improve and be in the best possible position to help the Mets next year.
Not to be wishy-washy, but you hope that Lugo pitches well and the Americans still win.
And yes, despite all the Mets ties to Puerto Rico, including Angel Pagan, who was once a pretty good Met, I am still rooting for the USA tomorrow night. Mostly, I am rooting for the USA because I am an American.
On the dawn of the World Baseball Classic, Mets starter Noah Syndergaard made some waves when he stated, “I’m a Met. Ain’t nobody made it to the Hall of Fame or the World Series playing in the WBC.” (Abby Mastrocco, nj.com).
Judging from attendance at Spring Training, Syndergaard’s belief is not something that is universally shared in the Mets clubhouse. Jose Reyes is one of the few major league players that have appeared in all four WBCs. He is joined on the Dominican Republic team by Mets relievers Hansel Robles and Jeurys Familia.
Fernando Salas threw his first pitch this Spring for Mexico. Brandon Nimmo and Gavin Cecchini have been stars for Italy. Seth Lugo and T.J. Rivera, two players arguably fighting over the last spots on the Opening Day roster, are playing with Mets back-up catcher Rene Rivera for an undefeated Puerto Rico team. Ty Kelly is both fighting for a potential roster spot and for a spot in the semifinal for Israel.
Point is, while Syndergaard doesn’t believe in the importance of the WBC, many of his teammates do. That includes team captain David Wright, who said, “Everybody has their right to their own opinion, and obviously Noah doesn’t think too highly of it. But I do. So I’m not sure if it’s just a different mentality, and I’m not sure if there’s a right or a wrong. But getting a chance to represent your country, and put that jersey on, and hear the chants of ‘U-S-A, U-S-A’ — that’s one of the highlights of my career. (Anthony DiComo, mlb.com).
It should be noted Wright wasn’t calling out Syndergaard like the time he and Bobby Parnell threw Syndergaard’s lunch in the garbage. He wasn’t singling out Syndergaard either noting other great players like Clayton Kershaw have opted not to play in the WBC without having to face the same scrutiny Syndergaard has. Rather, Wright was merely trying to speak to what the WBC has meant to him.
It certainly was one of the highlights of Wright’s career. In the 2009 World Baseball Classic, Wright sent USA to the semifinals with a walk-off hit against Puerto Rico. In the 2013 World Baseball Classic, Wright would loom even larger. He hit the decisive grand slam against Italy that helped propel the United States back to the semifinals. In the 2013 tournament, Wright hit .438/.526/.750 with two doubles, a grand slam, and 10 RBI. Wright was named as the third baseman to the All WBC Team. If not for his intercoastal injury before the semifinals, who knows if USA wins the WBC that year?
Among USA players in WBC history, Wright is second all-time in games played, third in hits, second in doubles, and first in RBI. He is a ,333/.400/.458 hitter in WBC history. He had two huge go-ahead late inning hits that propelled the USA into the semifinals. It is why Wright was dubbed Captain American. Overall, you cannot discuss the greatness of Wright’s career without mentioning the WBC.
It is an event that has mattered to Wright as much as any moment in his career. As Wright said, “Up to this point if you say, ‘Hey, what’s the most fun you’ve had on a baseball field?’ I’d say the World Series. But I would say in the conversation of cool things that I’ve gotten to do on a baseball field, the World Baseball Classic is toward the top of that list for sure.”
Overall, during Spring Training and the WBC, Wright has been noticeably absent. As his health issues continue to linger and keep him off the field, the 2013 WBC and 2015 World Series seem farther and farther away. However, those moments should not serve as the epilogue to a great career for a great Met. Rather, they should serve as highlights.
Deep down, each and every Mets fan must hope Wright has another chapter left in him. It may not happen in the WBC. It may happen in the World Series. And it may just happen this year.
This is not meant to be critical of players or their patriotism. It isn’t. Players, especially pitchers, have a certain shelf life, and no one should tell them to risk everything for a one month international competition. Perhaps Noah Syndergaard put it best when he said, “I’m a Met. Ain’t nobody made it to the Hall of Fame or the World Series playing in the WBC.” (Abby Mastrocco, nj.com).
If you go down the line, you will probably hear similar responses from the other players that did not play. The problem is most of them are American.
The reigning Cy Young Award winners are Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello. Neither are pitching, but to be fair Scherzer was slated to pitch before he suffered an injury. The runner-ups were Jon Lester in the NL and Justin Verlander in the AL. They aren’t pitching either. Third place? Kyle Hendricks and Corey Kluber respectively. The two pitchers who started Game 7 of the 2016 World Series aren’t on the USA roster. Dig deeper. The best pitcher in baseball right now is Clayton Kershaw. He’s not on the roster. The best clutch pitcher in all of baseball right now, if not all time, is Madison Bumgarner. He’s not on the roster.
This speaks to the absolute depth of the starting pitching among Team USA. Arguably, the crop of starting pitchers on the USA roster right now is their 7th best option. Maybe even worse. And yet, they pitched brilliantly. Chris Archer, Marcus Stroman, and Danny Duffy went out there and pitched as good as or better than any of the aforementioned pitchers would have pitched in that spot.
But then comes the bullpen. As loaded as the USA is in the rotation, they should be just as loaded in the bullpen. Zach Britton is coming off a historically great season, but much like the AL Wild Card Game, you are not going to see him pitching against a foreign opponent. Addison Reed, a pitcher coming off a season with a 1.97 ERA isn’t on the roster. It could be argued Wade Davis is the best closer in all of baseball, and yet, he isn’t on the roster. The closest USA comes to having a terrific closer on the roster is Mark Melancon, who is on the provisional roster.
I kept thinking about all the aforementioned pitchers while Tanner Roark, a pitcher who wouldn’t make a squad of the best American born pitcher in the National League East, was getting tattooed by the Dominican Republic. Oddly enough, it was the one pitcher for USA you trusted the most, Andrew Miller, the one who definitively belonged on the roster, was the one that ultimately blew the save.
Sure, you could have hoped USA scored more runs after jumping out to a 5-0 lead. You could argue that the best young players in the game Mike Trout and Bryce Harper went to Spring Training instead of competing in this event. You also wonder how much of an impact USA not bringing their best players had an impact on American born Manny Machado playing for the Dominican Republic. You wondered a little more as he hit a Tanner Roark ball nearly out of the gigantic Marlins Park.
Personally, I was wondering what the heck Jim Leyland was doing with his lineup. Two of the better hitters on the team, Andrew McCutchen and Daniel Murphy, were stapled to the bench while Eric Hosmer was batting fifth. Mind you, Hosmer could very well be the worst hitter in that lineup. He’s certainly the bottom two or three on the roster. These are the things that happen when you name Leyland manager instead of giving the chance to Willie Randolph, a man who has had success at the major league level and in international play.
Seriously, aside from Buster Posey and perhaps Nolan Arenado and Ian Kinsler, you could argue the best USA players and coaching staff stayed home. This is why USA has not won a WBC to date, let alone appear in a final. And yet, in some strange way, it speaks about how much better USA is than the world in baseball.
In Olympic basketball, USA brings its best players in LeBron James and Kevin Durant, and yet, the team has to sweat it out to win Olympic Gold. In hockey, Canada is absolutely stocked top to bottom. Arguably, the team it leaves home would win Olympic Gold, and yet each Olympics teams constantly push Canada. In the WBC, USA isn’t sending near its best, and they are having to play tougher games than expected.
Teams like Colombia try to keep their hopes alive with a gutsy performance from Nabil Crismatt. Puerto Rico’s ace is Seth Lugo, a pitcher who can’t even find his way onto an All-American Mets starting rotation. Israel has transformed Josh Zeid, a pitcher the Mets would not re-sign to a minor league deal, into their version of Andrew Miller.
USA may not have their best, but they have players like Adam Jones who well up with pride putting on the uniform and representing their county. This is a roster full of players that are easy to root for and are good enough to win the WBC. As an American and as a baseball fan, I’m happy these players chose to play, and they deserve to win it all because even though they might not be the best American players, they are the best team in the WBC.