ESPN Missed a Real Opportunity Last Night

I’m well on the record defending Matt Harvey. Overall, in my opinion, unless you’ve been in his shoes, how can you properly judge him for ignoring a doctor’s advice and risk everything?  Personally, I know my father and I ignored doctor’s advice and went to work. We’re both idiots, and we’re both on Harvey’s side. 

However, there is a person with real credibility on the issue, who has taken umbridge with Harvey. That’s Curt Schilling, who said:

Because of a well earned suspension and the rise of Jessica Mendoza, Schilling took to Twitter with his comments rather than being able to offer them on Sunday Night Baseball. It’s a shame because Schilling saying these comments on live TV would’ve been interesting, especially since he’s got credibility on the issue:

The “Bloody Sock Game.”  Schilling risked his career to get the Red Sox to the World Series. The man literally had his tendon sewn into place so he could pitch. Then, he did it again in the World Series. If anyone can talk about risking your career for your team, it’s Schilling. I’m not going to parse out that Schilling did it in the playoffs after getting his money while Harvey still has a career to consider. The fact is Schilling did it. 

Instead, we get John Kruk criticizing Harvey. The same Kruk who retired mid-game due to injuries. He got his hit, was taken out of the game, and he drove home before the game was finished. 

So while I disagree with Schilling’s take, I respect his opinion. It would’ve made the broadcast last night better. 

He Broke Our Burkhardts

For a second straight week, I am lucky that I do not have to choose between the Mets and football. Now, I would choose the Mets, but I wouldn’t be thrilled with missing the Giants game.

There’s an extra treat for Mets/Giants fans like me today because

That’s right, we get to see and hear Kevin Burkhardt call a Sunday 1:00 game. Forgive me if I instinctively tune to Channel 11. 

It’s amazing if you think about it. Burkhardt was the Mets version of a sideline reporter, and now, he’s the football play-by-play man for Fox’s #2 broadcast team. In essence, it was like finding Jim Nantz doing postgame interviews for the Dodgers. No one going to ask Vin Scully to step aside for anyone, but Jim Nantz is way too qualified for the job he’s doing. 

Losing Burkhardt was tough for Mets fans. He’s one of us. Like Gary Cohen and Howie Rose, he was not only a Mets fan, but he’s also tremendous at his job. He showed he was capable of more, and he got it. However, that came at a huge loss to Mets fans. 

We miss him. I know we get him on Sundays and doing pre-game and post-game baseball work. It’s not 162 games. 

I do have one personal antedot regarding Burkhardt.  I got a chance to meet him when we just found out my wife was pregnant. I had a Mets Bob on me, which he was happy to sign. When he asked me what we were going to have, I said a baby, which he responded with an incredulous look. 

I think he thought I was trying to be funny. I explained to him that it was too soon to find out. In fact, he was finding out before most of my family because it was still too soon to tell. He then laughed and congratulated me. 

So now, I get the chance to turn him on today with my son. I’ll get to tell him that’s the guy who autographed the bib that hangs in his room. I only wish my son could get to watch him more frequently because he brought something to Mets games that made them a little more enjoyable. 

However, Kevin Burkhardt is too talented for that. Mets fans loss is America’s gain. I’m going to enjoy the Giants and seeing an old friend today.  I just want to wish continued good luck to Kevin Burkhardt . . . not that he needs it. 

Don’t Boo Carlos Beltran

Tonight, Carlos Beltran returns to Citi Field. This time he’s wearing a Yankees uniform. That doesn’t change the fact that he’s an All Time great Met. 

If you look at WAR, Beltran is the sixth best Mets to ever put on the uniform. He was better than Edgardo AlfonzoJose ReyesKeith Hernandez, and Mike Piazza. In his seven years with the Mets, he went to five All Star Games and won three Gold Gloves. He should have won the 2006 NL MVP Award. He was the best CF the Mets ever had in their history. 

More than that he was a gamer. After that violent August 11, 2005 collision with Mike Cameron, he suffered facial fractures and was hospitalized.  He only missed four games. In the last game at Shea, with the season on the line, he hit a game tying homerun to keep their hopes alive. He was also terrific in the 2006 postseason with a .422 OBP and 3 homeruns. 

That’s where it all gets mixed up. The strikeout. I can’t defend it. He didn’t even try to foul if off. What I can defend is the work that came before and after it. I was happy when he got a loud ovation at the 2013 All Star Game. It was all the more impressive because he was wearing a Cardinals uniform. He comes back again tonight wearing a Yankee uniform. 

It’s not cause to boo. He didn’t leave the Mets for them. He was traded away, and the Mets never showed interest in bringing him back. So when he comes up to bat the first time, give him some applause to thank him for his time with the Mets. 

It’s My Island

This is a huge start for Steven Matz. As a local kid from Long Island, it’s his opportunity to stand up and proclaim, this is the Mets town. It’s time for a man named Steven to stand up and declare:

In all seriousness, Matz has something more important to stake his claim – a postseason roster spot. Right now the postseason rotation is still in flux. It seems the only one assured of a spot is Jacob deGrom

Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard both have innings limit issues. Jon Niese has been utterly ineffectiveBartolo Colon has beaten up on the NL East and sub-.500 teams. Logan Verrett is nothing more than a spot starter. There’s an opening for Matz, and frankly a left handed starter, with the Dodgers coming up in the NLDS.

The Dodgers feature a number of big left handed bats with Adrian GonzalezJoc PedersonAndre Ethier, and Chase Utley, who you know is chomping at the bit to beat the Mets again.  It would be great if the Mets could throw a lefty starter out there to neutralize those bats.  It’s all the more important without a lefty in the bullpen.  Niese has shown it shouldn’t be him. 

This will be the last Mets opponent over .500 until the last series of the season. The Yankees are in a dog fight in the AL East and Wild Card. They need the series a lot more than the Mets do. Most likely, he will face Jacoby EllsburyBrett Gardner, and Greg Bird. It’s a good primer.

Matz needs to step up. He needs to go out there tonight and pitch like the ace the Mets fans think he is. I want to see his grandfather celebrating all game long. If we see it, it means Matz is pitching well. It means he’s securing a postseason start. It means the Mets will have a better chance of winning the NLDS. 

It may lead further towards the Mets taking back New York. It may see mad, but it may become Steven’s Island. 

NL East’s Most Hated Team

When divisional realignment took place in 1994, the NL East was haphazardly set up. Sure, it made sense geographically, but the division was set up with no natural rivalries. 

Despite being around since 1962, a Mets rivalry never developed with the Phillies or Expos. The Mets and Braves were always in separate divisions, and it’s not like there was any bad blood lingering from the 1969 NLCS. The Marlins were too new and too terrible to really create a rivalry with anyone. 

The Braves ruled the division early, and there was a brewing rivalry with the Mets. I’m still smarting from 1999. The rivalry is there, but it’s really fizzled after the Braves run. From 2006-2008, the rivalry was with the Phillies. With the Mets downward spiral since moving to Citi Field, that rivalry has dissipated a bit. 

Sure, the bad blood is there, but I’m not quite sure either is a true rivalry. However, what I am sure of is the fact that there is a lot of bad blood in the NL East and it’s directed at the Mets. 

In 2007 and 2008, the Marlins gave their all against the Mets. They beat the Mets two out of three in the Mets final home series with a Mets playoff berth on the line. I’ve heard blame Jose Reyes and his boisterous play (someday showboating). However, how do you explain this year?

I don’t think I’m imagining things when I say the Phillies, Braves, and Marlins have played hard against the Mets recently. This isn’t a complaint. They should play hard everyday, and especially so against their divisional rivals. However, I don’t think they bring the same energy against the Nationals. 

Since August, here’s how those teams have played against the Mets and Nationals:

Atlanta Braves

  • Mets go 4-0 with a composite score of 28-14
  • Nationals go 4-0 with a composite score of 36-9

Miami Marlins

  • Mets go 5-3 with a composite score of 50-40
  • Nationals go 3-3 with a composite score of 21-13

Philadelphia Phillies

  • Mets go 5-1 with a composite score of 56-49
  • Nationals go 3-0 with a composite score of 24-9 

The scores between the Mets and their NL East opponents are closer than the scores between the Nationals and the same opponents. Also, it looks like the Marlins like being a thorn in everyone’s side. Imagine if they put that same energy in a 162 game schedule?

Hopefully, the Marlins keep it up. They just beat the Mets two out of three spreading panic throughout Mets fans. They now have a four game set with the Nationals. Here’s hoping the Marlins put forth the same effort. 

If they don’t, it just shows the NL East truly hates the Mets. 

Matt Harvey IS Ricky Vaughn

With the hand-wringing over Matt Harvey, I noted that he’s not Billy Chapel. He’s not an aging veteran seeking that one last chance at glory. No, he’s Ricky Vaughn

Ricky Vaughn came bursting on the scene armed with a high 90s fastball. He was there to strike you out. He was a fiery competitor who only cared about domination and winning. That was Matt Harvey in 2013. The man put the team on his back every five days. He was there just to beat you, and he was as intense as they come:

Unfortunately, Harvey needed Tommy John surgery. Like Ricky Vaughn in Major League II, Harvey figured out he now had a career to consider. Instead of a publicist, he has Scott Boras trying to guide his career. Eventually, the fans turned on Ricky Vaughn. 

It seems like Mets fans have turned on Matt Harvey. I guess we’ll really find out how much on Sunday. However, before you boo him, remember how the story ends:

When his team needed him most, he was given the ball. The fans loved him. The manager made a ponderous decision. The fallen star pitched his team to the World Series. If you’re a Mets fan, you can see all of this happening. 

There’s greatness in Harvey. Never forget that. I know he will be there when he’s needed, and he’s going to deliver. 

Everyone’s Jumping on the Bandwagon

Mets fans seemingly want to “Take Back New York.”  Now that it seems to be on the verge of happening, Mets fans seem displeased. They’re complaining about the wave or the fact these bandwagon fans have the same shot the diehard fan has at getting postseason tickets. 

I don’t care about bandwagon fans per se. These people are the ones who help create sellout crowds. They buy the new gear. They visit the blogs (hello!). They care about the Mets . . . just not as much as diehard fans do. That doesn’t mean they’re not on our side [now], and it doesn’t mean we can dictate how much they are allowed to enjoy all of this. It also doesn’t mean we need to give them a crash course on how to be a Mets fan. 

They’ve been fans on their own terms, and we’re not going to change that. The only ones who can are the Mets. With the way the Mets are playing, who knows?  Maybe they get swept up I all of this, and they become diehard fans. 

If they do become diehards, they can make their seats on the bandwagon permanent. 

Cespedes Could’ve Been the MLB MVP

There has been a lot of discussion for Yoenis Cespedes as an NL MVP candidate. I understand the discussion even if I do not believe there is much merit to these discussions. The reason is Cespedes will have only played 36% of the season in the National League. Furthermore, with an NL MVP, you can only take his NL stats into consideration. 

However, Cespedes is neck and neck with Josh Donaldson for the MLB MVP Award right now. The reason why Cespedes’ candidacy improves here is you can now look at the totality of his stats, which are impressive. He is hitting .296/.332/.558. This includes 35 homeruns and 103 RBIs (he’s Top 10 in both categories). His 6.9 WAR ranks fifth in MLB. He’s a viable candidate. 

The only problem is the award doesn’t exist. While there were predecessors to the MVP award, the awards as we know them now started in 1931. At that time, there was a separate award given for the NL and the AL. This has continued until the present day despite the fact that Interleague Play started in 1997. With Bud Selig forcing the Astros into the AL, Interleague Play runs throughout the schedule, by necessity. 

Right now, MLB is the only sport that doesn’t have one unified MVP. In the NFL, a team plays 25% of its schedule against the other conference. In the NBA, a team plays 34% of its games against the other conference. In the NHL, a team plays 34% of its games against the other league. In MLB, it’s only 12% of their games. 

So yes, the other sports play a larger percentage of their games against the other league. However, that’s not the reason why there won’t be one unified MLB MVP. The reason mostly boils down to the fact that there are contract incentives tied to MVP vote results. There is no way the Player’s Association would ever permit fewer awards because that means less bonus money available to its players. 

Honestly, I like the idea of baseball having two separate leagues with their own rules.  I’m not a fan of the DH, but it does create a separation between the NL and AL. That separation is a key reason why I believe MLB can justify having two MVPs. Unfortunately, that means Cespedes won’t win an award he may very well could have earned. 

How Serious is the Cespedes MVP Talk?

I remember Opening Day in 2006. The Mets fans entered this season with a lot of hope, more hope than they’ve had in a long time. Much of it was fueled by their budding young stars, Jose Reyes and David Wright

When Wright hit a sixth inning homerun, I remember the fans starting an MVP chant. I joined in on it. It wasn’t serious. It was just fun. I remember chuckling afterwards. I also remember Mike & Dog blowing a gasket over that and Billy Wagner‘s entrance music. I was reminded of that day when I saw this last night:

These fans seem to be having the same fun we did in 2006. If it’s all in fun, I’m on board. If it’s to show Yoenis Cespedes some love, I’m on board. If the fans are serious, you’ve lost me

Look, I love things that are fun for the fans. However, if this is a real push, you’ve lost me. He’s not the MVP of the National League or the Mets. Instead, he’s an amazing story that can lead the Mets to more amazing stories in the playoffs. 

Maybe then I’ll agree with the MVP sentiments. 

Reading Between the Lines

The New York Times has an excellent piece today on Yoenis Cespedes. There were some things we learned or were reaffirmed:

  1. Cespedes desperately wants to win;
  2. Cespedes was the only OF available for the Mets on the eve of the trade deadline; and 
  3. It’s going to be very expensive to re-sign him. 

In reading the article, there are some things I personally interpreted. 

The Tigers Were Desperate 

The Tigers used Jim Leyland to take advantage of his relationship with Terry Collins to tell him Cespedes was available. I’m not an expert, but I presume trade negotiations are not normally done between a manager and a former manager. 

This was a way to put pressure on the Mets to go get Cespedes, a player with whom the Mets had reservations. Everyone on the planet knew the Mets offense was terrible. Collins must’ve been going crazy filling out a lineup card that included John Mayberry, Jr. in the cleanup spot. I’m sure when Collins found out the Mets could get Cespedes, I’m sure he ran through the Mets offices telling anyone who would listen to get the deal done. 

Again, the Mets were split. Maybe this Leyland-Collins conversation is what finally pushed the Mets to go out and get Cespedes. 

The Mets Have Soured on Juan Lagares

One of the key aspects of the decision to get Cespedes was whether or not he could play CF. This was after the Mets failed attempts to get Carlos Gomez. Remember in that deal, the Mets were pushing to trade the Brewers Juan Lagares and his contract. It’s apparent the Mets didn’t just want a bat; they wanted a CF. 

I’m shocked as the Mets were high on him as long as a year ago when they gave him the extension. Now it seems, they want to move on. That’s a huge fall out of favor for a gold glove CF. 

The Mets Only Saw Cespedes as a Rental

As noted in the article, the Mets knew about the five day clause in Cespedes’ contract. They knew it would be difficult to bring him back to the fold in 2016 and beyond. The article further notes that Alderson doesn’t typically give out contracts to players of Cespedes’ age because Alderson likes his teams to have payroll flexibility. Cespedes will more likely recieve than David Wright‘s $138 million. That really restricts the Mets payroll flexibility when they will have to eventually pay these young pitchers. 

This May Be a Test Case for Future deGrom Negotiations

As luck would have it, Cespedes shares the same agent as Jacob deGrom. Their agent, Roc Nation, and chief negotiator, Brodie Van Wagenen, are known to be tough and to be able to get the maximum value for their clients. The Mets dipped their toes on what it will be like when Robinson Cano was a free agent. The Mets came off as looking like they weren’t serious. 

Whether the Mets eventually re-sign Cespedes or not, they need to put their best foot forward here. It’s possible the Mets will be outbid while still making a real, viable attempt to keep him. Remember there’s always a crazy team out there. Just look at contacts given to Jayson Werth and Ryan Howard

The point here is to look like a serious team that can and will spend money. 

Sandy Alderson Wants to Win Now

There was every reason not to make this trade. Cespedes was not the type of player the Mets sought out under Alderson’s regime: he swings wildly and doesn’t walk enough. The fact that Michael Fulmer could turn out to be the Mets best pitching prospect, current Mets pitchers included. There was dissension within the Mets front office whether to proceed. 

Alderson saw an opportunity, and he went for it. Sure he took advice from his advisors, but he made the final call. It was gutsy and risky. Whether or not you agree with the trade, you have to respect how Alderson made the call. 

There are some other nuances that are there, but these are the main ones in my opinion. In any event, while I disagreed with the trade, I’m loving the Cespedes ride. I’m not so excited about how the offseason will shake out. I’m putting that out of my mind right now. 

I’m just enjoying the ride for now. Lets Go Mets!