MLB Better Not Suspend Utley

What Chase Utley did in the seventh inning to Ruben Tejada was cheap, dirty, and any other adjective you want to use. There’s a fine line between hard nosed, and dirty. Utley crossed that line a long time ago:

As we know, he crossed it again when he broke Tejada’s right leg: 

As we know, this play was reviewed, and Utley was called safe. This means MLB found Tejada did not touch the bag, couldn’t turn a double play (neighborhood play exception), and Utley’s slide was not interference. The last part is the key. MLB ruled Utley’s slide was legal. 

Sure enough, Joe Torre made a buffoon out of himself at a press conference.  I’ll detail all the ways later, but with reference to this play, he acknowledged that: (1) the play was not ruled interference; and (2) MLB will investigate the slide because it was a late slide. 

Essentially, Torre is talking out of both sides of his mouth. He’s saying the slide was ruled legal, but it wasn’t because it was late. By suspending Utley for a late slide, you’re acknowledging the call on the field and the replay was blatantly wrong. It’s saying there should have been an inning ending double play on the interference call. 

If that’s the case, the inning is over. The Mets enter the eighth inning with a 2-1 lead. Disciplining Utley acknowledges the play was completely wrong, and if a protest had been filed, MLB would have to grant it. If MLB disciplines Utley and doesn’t overturn the result of the game, it’s a failure of epic proportions. Just like Game 2’s umpiring was

MLB failed on all fronts early this morning. They can’t compound it today. 

Major Flaw in Replay System 

I think Mets fans everywhere correctly questioned why this play wasn’t the neighborhood play:

Now, we know the neighborhood play isn’t reviewable. However, this play was reviewed because the umpires on the field determined it wasn’t the neighborhood play. My question is why can’t the replay officials review the play and determine that the neighborhood play should’ve applied?

Keep in mind we have replay because umpires blow calls. The replay system is in place because we can’t trust the umpires’ judgment. However, in this specific instance we’re going to trust their judgment even though they got everything about the play wrong. 

Look at the play again. Utley “put a body on Tejada to break up the double play.”  When the collision took place, Tejada’s arm was in a throwing position. If the slide/tackle was made to prevent the double play, and this slide/tackle prevented the throw. How is this not the neighborhood play?  If upon the collision, Tejada throws the ball in any direction, do the umpires then rule there’s a neighborhood play?

Furthermore, why couldn’t the replay officials rule it was interference?  We all know Utley wasn’t trying to slide there. We know the fiction we create regarding sliding and breaking up double plays, but this was: (1) not a slide; (2) started the tackle after the out call was made; and (3) not even an attempt to touch second until he was well past the bag. 

I understand the arguments in both directions regarding replay. However, if the replay officials cannot review every aspect of the play, what’s the point of replay?  In essence, replay officials have their hands tied by an umpiring crews bad decision. If the replay system is in place to correct bad umpiring, why are we relying on their poor judgment calls when reviewing a play?

The whole system doesn’t made sense. The umpires on the field made a series of bad calls. The replay rules prevented the replay officials from correcting the call in the fashion it should have been. This rule needs to be fixed now. 

Mets Can’t Get Direct Retribution from Utley

Every Mets fan is whipped into a frenzy right now over Chase Utley‘s dirty “slide” which broke Ruben Tejada‘s leg. They can’t wait for him to be beaned or taken out with a retaliatory slide. 

The problem is that it’s not going to happen. Utley is a bench player. If he comes up in a big spot, you can’t bean him. You risk the game and the series. If you do that, Utley wins. If he’s not playing in the field, how can you retaliate with a take out slide?  Seriously, the only way to get direct retribution from Utley is to hire Jeff Gilloly to take him out during pre-game introductions. Please note, I’m not advocating this. 

Also, it’s dumb to expect Matt Harvey to plunk someone. First, who do you pick?  Second, if you’re not injuring the player, how is this payback?  Third, it will lead to warnings taking away the inside corner of the plate. Fourth, Harvey risks getting tossed. Fifth, it’s not enough. 

We learned that with the whole Mike PiazzaRoger ClemensShawn Estes debacle. Remember this happened years after the Mets plunked Tino Martinez as payback. No one was happy until the Mets could plunk Clemens directly. So if plunking someone won’t suffice, what will?

Tejada Overshadowed Collins

The focus on Game 2 was Chase Utley‘s dirty “slide” breaking Ruben Tejada‘s right leg. The focus was on MLB not knowing its own rules. The focus wasn’t on Collins. 

Personally, I would not have started Noah Syndergaard in the seventh, but I can understand why Collins’ did it. I agree with Collins pulling Thor when he did. I can’t comprehend one decision he made after that. 

First, let’s remember the situation. The Mets were leading 2-1. There were runners on first and second with one out. Sac fly ties the game. Collins goes to the bullpen to bring in Bartolo Colon?!?!?!?  Sure, Colon is a veteran, and you want to trust your veterans, but Colon?

Colon doesn’t strike anyone out anymore. His K/9 is a very low 6.3. Also, he gives up a lot of flyballs. You don’t want that when the tying to is on third with less than two outs. Colon actually got the ground ball, and a terrific play by Daniel Murphy. However, we happened next. 

In any event, Colon, your long man in the pen, was only used for one batter. He was then lifted, so Collins could bring in Addison Reed. This is the same Reed who two seconds ago was not good enough to bring in to get out of the inning. Now, you’re bringing him in to face Adrian Gonzalez, who is 1-2 with a walk against him. 

Now, I know it’s a small sample size, but that’s part of the larger point. They played in the same division for two years. How is it possible they only faced each other three times.  Someone, somewhere knew Reed couldn’t get Gonzalez out. Reed didn’t in Game 2. He gave up a two ru double to Gonzalez turning a 2-1 lead into a 3-1 deficit. 

Still in the bullpen was Jon Niese, who has pitched well to Gonzalez. Gonzalez is 0-9 against Niese. If Niese isn’t pitching to Gonzalez than why is he in the bullpen?  It dissent make sense especially when you consider Niese would eventually come on in that fateful seventh inning. 
There was a lot going on at the time, but we all missed Collins make two huge gaffes in the seventh inning. That, along with the bad bullpen, the umpires, and the replay officials cost the Mets the game. 

Replays Show MLB Doesn’t Know the Rulebook

It all came down to the seventh inning. Terry Collins pushed Noah Syndergaard a little too far. Thor left the game after 6.1 innings with runners on first and third. 

Puzzlingly, Collins would bring on Bartolo Colon. Colon induced a ground ball, and Daniel Murphy made a nice play. He flipped the ball to Ruben Tejada, and I’m not sure what happened next:

You see, the umps ruled Chase Utley safe. No, seriously. They called him safe. You see Tejada missed the bag. It doesn’t matter that Utley didn’t touch the bag. It doesn’t matter he didn’t begin his slide until after the out call was made. MLB will pick and choose which rules they will enforce:

Here’s another angle:

That’s right, if the rule was properly enforced, it’s an inning ending double play. Instead, Utley is ruled safe, and Tejada is done with a broken right fibula. 

Speaking of a double play, the umpires ruled that it was not a neighborhood play because Murphy’s throw pulled Tejada off the bag. No, seriously. The fact that Tejada thought he touched second and began to spin to throw to first wasn’t indicative that there was a double play chance. 

Yes, I know the Mets bullpen, lead by Addison Reed imploded. The bullpen was handed a 2-1 lead courtesy of Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto homeruns. The game ended there. It became a 5-2 loss. 

The Mets bullpen failed. The umpires failed. Replay failed. MLB failed. 

Murphy’s Leaving an Impression 

Coming into theses playoffs, the focus has been on David Wright and the Mets young pitching. However, there hasn’t been much attention to a homegrown Met who has waited his whole career for this moment. Daniel Murphy

He was first called up in 2008 because he could take. The Mets called him up to help save them from a second collapse. Murphy held his end of the bargain even if the rest of the team didn’t. He spent the next eight years on losing teams trying to prove he was a major league second baseman. 

He worked hard, and he eventually became an All Star second baseman. This year he’s the starting second baseman for a playoff team. He’s finally here after coming so close eight years ago. He quickly made an impression by hitting a homerun giving the Mets the lead in an extremely tight game:

In the ninth, he made a tremendous play to help the Mets preserve the 3-1 win:

Overall, the biggest impression he might’ve made was on the homerun ball:

That’s right. He hit the ball so hard, he left his name on it. After toiling for eight years with mediocre to bad teams, he literally made an impression. He’s been doing it with the Mets. Hes now doing it in the playoffs.

I can’t wait to see how he makes his next impression during this playoff run. 

Mets Used Mo Familia

One of the reasons I had confidence in Terry Collins in the playoffs was his willingness to use Jeurys Familia for more than three outs to close out a game. This season Familia did it more than anyone.

Familia is by far the best reliever on the Mets. In my opinion, he was the best relief pitcher in baseball. When the game is on the line, you want your best guy out there. Don Mattingly didn’t, and Terry Collins did. So yes, Mets fans, Collins out managed Mattingly and had a direct impact on why the Mets won. 

You can quibble with Tyler Clippard starting the eighth. I don’t think it’s fair because Clippard has been good with the Mets. Regardless, Collins was prepared. Once Clippard got into trouble, he went to Familia with two outs in the eighth. Familia got out of the jam and pitched a perfect ninth for the save. Moves like this are why Joe Torre is in the Hall of Fame, and Mariano Rivera will be one day. 

Am I comparing Familia to Rivera?  No. Not yet at least. Rivera was as dominant as you can ask in the playoffs. He was 8-1 with 42 saves, a 0.70 ERA, and a 0.759 WHIP. He’s averaged 1.1 innings per postseason appearance. He was the 1999 World Series and the 2003 ALCS MVP. He was everything you wanted your closer to be. 

Does Familia need to equal these numbers to be successful in the postseason?  Of course not. He just needs to be himself. He’s a closer that can go multiple innings. He can come on in the middle of an inning to get out of a jam. He can generate groundballs. He strikes out more than a batter an inning. He’s built for the playoffs. 

Rivera had an amazing career. He was even better in the playoffs. This season Familia showed he was capable of being a great closer. Last night, he didn’t shrink from the moment. Rather, he was, at a minimum, as good as he was in the regular season. 

As the playoffs and his career go on, I can’t wait to see Mo. 

Watching a Playoff Game Sure Has Changed

Game One of the 1999 NLDS was a bittersweet moment. The Mets were in the playoffs. I was excited because the Mets were in the playoffs. However, I was watching the game without my Dad and brother because I was in college and my brother was still in high school. 

I remember that game running late. I remember my roommate being really irked when my Dad called during the game. My roommate had an early class. I went into the hallway to talk to my Dad in a hushed voice to celebrate. The situation would be he same in 2000, but this time nothing would feel quite as new. 

In 2006, I was out of school and living on my own. I still didn’t have text messaging, but I had a blackberry. I remember having a network of Mets fans that would be on the same email chain. Basically, the emails would look like Twitter, but with good hearted ribbing. The only one I talked on the phone with was my Dad because he wasn’t up on all that technology. 

Last night was a completely different experience. I had a son that tried his hardest to stay up and watch the game. He fell asleep right before the first pitch. He would wake up later in the game when I let out a huge cheer after the David Wright RBI single. At that moment, my parental instincts were in direct conflict with my Mets fandom. I eventually rationalized that he wouldn’t remember this game, and I got him back to sleep. 

As for my Dad, we were text messaging during the game. It was great because I was able to talk to him during the game without waking up a sleeping baby. In 1999, 2000, and 2006, I really couldn’t talk to him throughout the game. In 2015, I could. 

This is when technology is great. It allowed my Dad, brother, and I to talk about the Mets even thoughts we were in three different locations. It doesn’t beat sitting there and watching the game with him, but it is still good. I hope to get together with him to watch some games as the first pitch times get a little earlier. 

Even if they don’t, I will still be able to talk to him throughout the game. 

Cuddyer Needs to be LEFT Out

An unfortunate part of Mets history is Willie Mays falling down in the outfield during the 1973 World Series. It was a sign Mays was done in his last season. 

Michael Cuddyer had a similar experience last night. He misplayed two potential flyball outs into doubles. He struck out on a pitch that almost bounced in the grass in front of home plate. It was an ugly game for him. Fortunately, his teammates bailed him out. He would come out in the seventh for defense. His nightmare game ended. 

It also may have ended his chances to be a starting outfielder in this series. His only chance was to be the right handed bat in a LF platoon with Michael Conforto. After last night, I’m assuming Cuddyer stays on the bench against lefties, and Juan Lagares starts in center. Since Lucas Duda was in the lineup against Clayton Kershaw, he’s not sitting against lefties in the playoffs. 

Cuddyer has excelled in that role. It’s where he’s needed right now. Cuddyer didn’t cost the Mets on Friday, but if he keeps getting on the field, he eventually will hurt them. However, Cuddyer is still a big asset as a PH and a mentor. He could still get some playing time in a double switch. 

Cuddyer is still a big part of this team. I look forward to him getting a big pinch hit this postseason to prove it. 

That’s Messed Up Jake

For the past few years, I’ve lived and died with the New York Rangers deep postseason runs in an attempt to win a Stanley Cup. Whether the Rangers won or lost, I was too wired to go right to bed, so I would go to MSG to consume as much post-game coverage as I could. 

In those shows, you see the players get interviewed in the locker room. You get a sense of where the team is mentally. These past few years, I could see the Rangers had a steely resolve. They had the best goaltender in the sport, and they believed they could win no matter what happens. 

Early this morning, after an exhilarating 3-1 win, I turned on the SNY post game show. Originally, David Wright and Daniel Murphy were on the dais. They talked about their big hits, but they were more interested in singing the praises of Jacob deGrom, who would shortly join them on the dais. Here’s what happened next:

That’s right. After the biggest game of deGrom’s career, his first inclination is to prank Murphy eliciting a “Yowsa!” from Murphy. I don’t know if it was the prank or the “Yowsa!” but deGrom and Wright were chuckling to themselves. While this was going on, Murphy let him know “that’s messed up Jake.”

This moment tells me that this team is loose. It tells me that the moment isn’t too big for these guys. It lets me know that when times get tough this postseason, and we know that it will, this team can handle it because they have good team chemistry. It gives me confidence that the Mets can make a real run here. 

I hope the Mets can laugh all the way to the World Series.