Daniel Murphy

Trivia Friday – Games Out of the Division

With the injuries to Yoenis Cespedes, Asdrubal CabreraTravis d’Arnaud, Wilmer FloresSeth Lugoand Steven Matz, the Mets have not jumped out of the gate quite like we all expected.  Entering this three game set with the Nationals, the Mets are 5.5 games out in the division.  If they suffer another sweep at the hands of Daniel Murphy and the Nationals, they will fall to 8.5 games out.

And yet, this is not the worst the Mets have ever had it.  In each of the six times they have won the division, they have trailed at some point in the season.  There are multiple occasions where the Mets trailed in the division by double digit games.  Can you name each deficit overcome by the Mets when they have won the division?  Good luck!


At Least The Mets Were Competitive 

When Daniel Murphy hit a grand slam in the first inning with no outs against Zack Wheeler, it seemed like the game was over. The Mets have shown nothing of late to suggest they could score four runs, let alone the five it would take to take the lead. With Max Scherzer pitching for the Nationals, the loss appeared to be a near certainty. 

At least the Mets made this one interesting. 

Michael Conforto, who is cementing his spot as this team’s lead-off hitter, hit Scherzer’s second pitch of the game for an opposite field home run:

He also made a nice play in the field:

The Mets would narrow the gap to 4-3 on a Neil Walker third inning two run home run. 

The game remains close because Wheeler was great after the first inning. After the first inning, Wheeler allowed just one hit and issued just two walks. He had a manageable pitch count, and he was able to pitch seven innings throwing just 101 pitches. 

Wheeler’s final line was seven innings, four hits, four runs, four earned, two walks, and six strikeouts. 

It’s hard to say a guy who gave up a first inning grand slam deserved a better fate, but Wheeler probably did. At a minimum, you could argue that one day the hitters need to bail out a starter. With this offense, that’s wishful thinking. 

Any hopes were dashed when Ryan Zimmerman absolutely crushed a two run homer off Josh Smoker in the eighth inning making it 6-3. That would be the final score. 

The first showdown with the Nationals led to a sweep. Regardless of the Mets health, that’s a bad sign for the 2017 season. 

Game Notes: Asdrubal Cabrera is injured, and he stumbles after each play he makes. He looks more injured than he did last year. Travis d’Arnaud couldn’t catch again, but he pinch hit yet again. Kevin Plawecki got his first start of the year. 

Mets Lose In 3-1 Blowout

If we’re being honest, this isn’t the greatest Mets lineup even when the team is healthy. It’s full of guys who certainly can all hit the ball out of the ballpark, but it’s also full of players with poor on base percentages. When you lose Lucas Duda and Yoenis Cespedes to injury the problems become even more exacerbated. 
Now, the Mets have the pitching to win games no matter who is in the lineup. We saw that in 2015 as the pitching and Curtis Granderson kept the team afloat playing near .500 ball until reinforcements arrived. 

In those games the Mets did win, they needed their pitcher’s to be great. At the state the Mets offense is now, the 2017 Mets are back to that point. Yesterday, Jacob deGrom was good. 

He was mowing the Nationals down for the first three innings until his wildness caught up to him in the fourth. A Daniel Murphy single was bracketed by walks to Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon loading the bases. 

The Mets got a bit lucky as the Nationals third base coach sent Murphy on the ensuing RBI single by Matt Wieters

In the fifth, the Nationals got to deGrom again. Adam Eaton and Trea Turner hit back-to-back one out doubles to make it 2-0. After Harper was just told to go to first base (essentially what the new intentional walk rule is), Ryan Zimmerman hit an RBI single to make it 3-0. 

The Nationals wouldn’t score again in the sixth thanks in large part to Granderson:

After getting the first two out, deGrom got in trouble again issuing yet another walk, this time to Eaton, and then allowing a single to Turner. At this point, Terry Collins turned to Josh Edgin to get the Mets out of the jam. Somewhat surprisingly, he did by striking out Harper. 

Overall, it was a tough day for deGrom who issued a career high six walks. He was obviously ramped up early getting it up to 98 MPH and recording a lot of strikeouts. The early adrenaline wore off, and deGrom was left throwing 94 MPH and missing his spots. This was an uncharacteristic start for deGrom. His final line was 5.2 innings, eight hits, three runs, three earned, six walks, and 10 strikeouts. 

Given the current state of the Mets offense, 3-0 might as well have been 30-0. This game was no different. 

For the second time this season, the Mets offense was no-hit through five innings. This time, it was done by Gio Gonzalez. Though the Mets offense looked overmatched and lifeless, they would break through in the sixth. 

Jose Reyes pinch hit for Edgin and worked a one out walk. Then, Juan Lagares broke up the no-hitter with a single. More than that, the Mets had a rally going. 

Michael Conforto didn’t help the narrative he can’t hit left-handed pitching by striking out and going hitless on the day. Where Conforto didn’t come through, a hobbled Asdrubal Cabrera did hitting an RBI single to make it 3-1. That was as close as the Mets would get. 
Jay Bruce and Neil Walker had back-to-back strikeouts ending the Mets only rally of the game. The offense then made a struggling Nationals bullpen look like the 1990 Nasty Boys. 
Blake TreinenEnny Romero, and Koda Glover did their best Norm CharltonRob DibbleRandy Myers impersonation to slam the door shut on the 3-1 victory. 
With that, the Mets are 8-10 and are in fourth place 4.5 back. They’re having trouble beating the Phillies and can’t even hit a poor Nationals bullpen. It’s still April, so it’s still early, but things do not look good right now. 

Game Notes: Cabrera tried to leg out an infield single in the fourth.  He was noticeably hobbled, and he came out to take his position right before the first pitch of the fifth inning. For the second day in a row, an injured Yoenis Cespedes informed the team he was too injured to pinch hit. Once again, Travis d’Arnaud was limited to pinch hitting duty. T.J. Rivera got the start at third base over a healthy Reyes. He was 0-3. 

Hard Fought Loss Is Still A Loss

As if the Mets weren’t injured enough, the team had a new rash of injuries heading into tonight’s game. 

Wilmer Flores and Lucas Duda went on the disabled list. Travis d’Arnaud and Yoenis Cespedes didn’t, but they couldn’t start. At least d’Arnaud was available to pinch hit. To make matters worse, Asdrubal Cabrera is now dealing with a hamstring injury keeping him out of the lineup, and Jacob deGrom woke up on the wrong side of the bed. 

With deGrom waking up with a stiff neck, he missed tonight’s start, and he probably needs someone to start for him tomorrow. 

With so many people out of the lineup, the Mets needed someone to step up. The Mets had people stepping up all over the place tonight. 

First was Matt Harvey who was the surprise starter. Harvey gave his team a chance to win pitching seven innings. His final line was seven innings, four hits, three runs, three earned, two walks, and two strikeouts. 

Harvey pitched well, but he was tripped up by the long ball. In the first inning, he grooved one to Bryce Harper who launched it for a two run homer. It was a strange site to see when you consider Harper couldn’t get a hit off pre-TOS Harvey. The third run off Harvey came off a Jose Lobaton solo shot in the fifth. 

Despite the two homers and the makeshift lineup, Harvey had a no decision.  

He was first helped by a Michael Conforto first inning blast off Tanner Roark‘s first pitch of the game:

The second and third runs came courtesy of Curtis Granderson. In the fourth, Granderson had a two out RBI single scoring Jay Bruce. He then tied the score in the sixth:

It was a terrific night for Granderson. Coming into the night, he was hitting .143/.197/.214. Just like he’s done in his entire Mets career, Granderson stepped up when the Mets needed him most going 2-4 with a run, two RBI, one walk, and the home run. 

The Mets nearly took the lead in the seventh. Zack Wheeler hit for Harvey and hit a pinch hit double. The Mets would load the bases, and the Nationals would go to Oliver Perez, who got Bruce to line out to end the inning. 

In the ninth, there was some craziness. Rene Rivera earned a lead-off walk off Joe Blanton, and Terry Collins opted to pinch run Robert Gsellman. T.J. Rivera then bunted Gsellman to second. 

Cabrera then pinch hit for Addison Reed and drew a walk. Given his hamstring issues, Collins sent out Kevin Plawecki to pinch run for him. No, it didn’t make sense to do this and force the pitcher’s spot to come up earlier in the lineup, but nothing in this inning made much sense. 

In the long run, Blanton worked his way out of the inning. Another side effect of the inning, Collins’ mechanations led to the pitcher’s spot coming up three spots earlier in the lineup. He did that in a game where the Mets had a short bench. Just an inexcusable move. 

The Mets certainly could’ve benefitted from better managing as the pitcher’s spot did come up in the bottom of the 11th with the Mets down 4-3. 

The Mets were down 4-3 because Jeurys Familia is still rusty. Keep in mind, he only made two relief appearances in the minors before his suspension was over. 

After Josh Smoker allowed a lead-off double to Harper, Murphy was intentionally walked, and Familia entered the game. He threw a wild pitch allowing Harper to go to third. It didn’t matter much as he issued back-to-back walks to Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner to force in a run. Familia settled down after that, but it was too late. The Nationals took the lead. 

Shawn Kelley came on in the 11th and pitched a 1-2-3 inning to earn the save. With that, the Mets fought valiantly, but still lost. They’re now under .500, and who knows who will be healthy enough to play tomorrow. 

Game Notes: Daniel Murphy‘s 19 game hitting streak came to an end. He was 0-4, and he was intentionally walked in the 11th. Apparently, Reed wore the wrong hat during his appearance. 

Please Don’t Mess Around With These Injuries

One of the best things to come out of the past offseason was Major League Baseball shortening the stint on the disabled list from 15 days to 10 day.  Presumably, that change made it easier for teams to place their players on the disabled list to allow them to recover.  Someone should tell that to the Mets.

Last night, with the Lucas Duda injury and Wilmer Flores infection, Jay Bruce was forced to play first base for the first time since he played three games there in 2014.  That also put Juan Lagares in the position of being the team’s lone back-up outfielder and middle infielder.  Lagares was initially signed by the Mets as a shortstop, but he has not played the middle infield since he played six innings for the Single-A Savannah Sand Gnats as a 20 yeard old in 2009.  To put it in perspective how long ago that was, back in 2009, Citi Field just opened, and Daniel Murphy was considered a left fielder.

When Cespedes had to leave the game with a hamstring injury after running the bases in the fifth inning, the Mets were in trouble.  If the game were to go deep into extra innings, the Mets were likely going to have to consider which infield position other than first could Kevin Plawecki handle.  They might have followed through with the plan to put Zack Wheeler at first base like it was contemplated during the 16 inning game.  If things got bad enough, the team might have had to lean on Jacob deGrom‘s experience as a collegiate shortstop.

Simply put, this is unacceptable.  Year-in and year-out the Mets find themselves in this position, and they are more than willing to play with short benches with players not even available to pinch hit.  Worse yet, they ask players to do too much.

Last year, the Mets saw Asdrubal Cabrera deal with a knee injury all season.  From the middle of May until the end of July, he was hobbled and struggling.  Over that stretch, he hit .232/.285/.436.  The Mets finally put him on the disabled list so he could rest his knee.  He responded by becoming the 2015 Yoenis Cespedes and willing the Mets to the postseason hitting .345/.406/.635 over the final 41 games of the season.

Speaking of Cespedes, the Mets were also stubborn about putting him on the disabled list.  On July 8th, he suffered an injured quad.  He would not go on the disabled list, and he would not play in another game until July 17th.  When he did play, he was noticeably hobbled.  From July 17th to August 3rd, Cespedes hit just .205/.302/.318 in 14 games before the Mets finally put him on the disabled list.  When he came back, he hit .259/.335/.490 over the final 38 games of the season.

Then there was Michael Conforto.  We are not quite sure when he was injured, but we do know that he received a cortisone shot in June of last year.  Clearly something was bothering him as Conforto went from the best hitter on the team in April to a guy who hit just .174/.267/.330 for the rest of the year.  Instead of a disabled list stint, the Mets treated him to multiple demotions to Triple-A, where he absolutely raked, and being stuck to the bench for far too long stretches.  Perhaps if the Mets put him on the disabled list, his second season would have gone much differently, and the Bruce trade might not have been necessary.

You would think the Mets would have learned from that, but they clearly haven’t as they are already repeating the same mistakes.

While it is not ideal with six of the next nine games coming against the Nationals, the Mets can definitively get away with Bruce at first with an outfield of Conforto-Lagares-Curtis Granderson from left to right.  While it does not have the offensive punch you would like, that is a really good defensive outfield.  On the infield, the Mets could recall T.J. Rivera, who showed the Mets last year he has a place in the major leagues.  The Mets could even get bold by calling up Gavin Cecchini to play second and moving Neil Walker to third.  At a minimum, it would get a struggling Jose Reyes out of the lineup.  It could also allow the Mets to pick and choose their spots with Reyes to allow him to be an effective pinch hitter or pinch runner in late game situations.

The overriding point is the Mets have talent on the 40 man roster even if Duda and Cespedes went on the disabled list.  With the Mets throwing Noah Syndergaard, deGrom, and Matt Harvey, the Mets can still win a fair share of those games to keep the team afloat until Duda and Cespedes are ready to return to the lineup.  In fact, the team might be better off because you’d rather have two healthy sluggers mashing all season than two injured players trying to find a way to produce to their normal levels.

That is something that didn’t work last year, and we can’t expect it to work this year.  It’s about time the Mets learned how to properly utilize the disabled list and field a team of healthy players.

Five Mets Who Should Improve In 2017

With the Mets returning almost of the entire 2016 team that lost the Wild Card Game, the team is going to have to count on the players they have now improving in order for the team to advance further than the Wild Card Game.  Fortunately for the Mets there are some players who appear poised to have a much better 2017 season:

C Travis d’Arnaud

After the 2015 season, d’Arnaud seemed poised to take the next step.  After all, his 130 wRC+ trailed only Buster Posey among major league catchers with at last 200 AB.  His pitch framing was simply outstanding.  While he was never known for his arm, he was able to throw out 33% of base stealers, which was actually higher than league average.  Entering his age 27 season, he seemed primed for an All Star selection or more.

Injuries once again got in the way for d’Arnaud as did his problems throwing out base stealers.  He also regressed offensively hitting a paltry .247/.307/.323 in 75 games.  After a season like that, the only place d’Arnaud could realistically go is up.

And that’s where he is trending this Spring Training.  With his work with Kevin Long, he has abandoned the wrap in his batting stance, and we have seen him hit much better in the Spring.  While his throwing is not exactly where you want it yet, but with Glenn Sherlock as his catching coach, we should see d’Arnaud improve again behind the plate.

And with d’Arnaud improving offensively and defensively, and with a little luck on the health side, we may finally see d’Arnaud play at an All Star level.

RF – Jay Bruce

In his 50 games with the Mets, Bruce hit .219/.294/.391 with eight homers and 19 RBI.  While the trade for Bruce may not have been popular, and the Mets being unable to trade him this offseason being even less unpopular, let’s keep in mind Bruce has been a far better player than this in his career.

In his nine year career, Bruce is a .248/.318/.467 hitter who has averaged 27 homers and 82 RBI.  In each season he has played 150 games, he has hit 30 homers and 97+ RBI.  He has shown the ability to be patient at the plate having posted .353 and .341 OBP in his career.  The overriding point here is that Bruce is capable of so much more, and fortunately, Bruce is with a team that can get it out of him.

Since Kevin Long became the Mets hitting coach, he has taken players like Daniel Murphy, Curtis Granderson, Yoenis Cespedes, Neil Walker, and Asdrubal Cabrera, and he has gotten them to hit for more power and get on base more frequently.  As James Wagner of the New York Times reports, the Mets have begun that process by sharing advanced data with him and by helping him change his approach at the plate.  So far, Bruce has been a willing student.

Considering Bruce is willing to listen and improve, and the Mets have the people in place who help hitters improve, there is every expectation that we should see a much better version of Jay Bruce than we saw last year.

SP Jacob deGrom

The 2016 season was a tough one for deGrom.  He started the year with an injured oblique and a sick infant.  He didn’t have his velocity even when he was presumably healthy, and then he had to have season ending to repair the ulnar nerve in his pitching elbow.

Whereas deGrom was throwing around 94 MPH in 2016, this Spring, he is back to the 96+ MPH he was in 2015.  That was a pitcher who was 14-8 with a 2.54 ERA, 0.979 WHIP, and a 9.7 K/9.  That was a pitcher who finished seventh in Cy Young voting.  That was a pitcher who out-dueled Clayton KershawZack Greinke, and Kyle Hendricks in the postseason.  That pitcher was an ace.   By all accounts, that pitcher is back.

SP Steven Matz

There were glimpses of the ace Matz could be during last season.  In an eight start stretch from April 17th to May 31st, Matz was 7-0 with a 1.17 ERA, 0.913 WHIP, and an 8.7 K/9.  From that point forward, Matz had difficulty pitching through what was described as a massive bone spur in his pitching elbow.  Matz lost a tick on his fastball, and he had to reduce the amount of sliders he threw.  He struggled, and he eventually had to have season ending surgery.

Looking at him this Spring, Matz is back to the form he was when he was at his best last year.  Maybe, just maybe, he might be even better.  After working with former Met Scott Rice this offseason, Matz has a slightly new leg kick which functions to keep both base runners and batters off balance.  With the new delivery, Matz could possibly be better than what we saw from him over the past two seasons.  With the bone spurs gone, and with him presumably no longer sleeping on couches, his injury problems are hopefully in the rear view mirror.  Then again, with this latest bout with the elbow, who knows with him?

Overall, with him reportedly feeling good after throwing off flat ground, and I’m choosing to believe the MRI is precautionary. I’m going to choose to believe Matz will be good to go in 2017, and he will have a breakout 2017 season.

LF Yoenis Cespedes

Last season, Cespedes hit .280/.354/.530 with 31 homers and 86 RBI.  Using OPS+ as a barometer, it was the third best season of his career.  It is all the more amazing he had that type of a season when you consider Cespedes played out of position most of the year, and he dealt with a right quad injury most of the year.

In 2017, Cespedes should be playing in his natural left field position where he won the 2015 American League Gold Glove despite playing only 102 games there.  He should also be more comfortable with a large guaranteed contract with a Mets team in which he loves.  We have seen the effects of that with Cespedes showing up to camp in terrific shape, and he has been all about business this Spring.  No car show.  No waffles.  Just baseball.

And by the way, he is absolutely killing this Spring.  He’s sending moon shots all over the place including one over the batter’s eye at First Data Field.  By the look he has in his eye this Spring, Cespedes looks like he may put together a better run than he did when he first joined the Mets in 2015.  Seeing how he’s playing now, it is tough to rule that out.

Certainly, with improved seasons from the aforementioned five players, the Mets should have enough to overtake the Nationals once again and win the National League East.  When you take into account bigger contributions from players like Lucas Duda and Juan Lagares or with young players like Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, or Gavin Cecchini being ready to contribute the minute the Mets call them up to the majors, this team should do better than the 87-75 record from last year.  They should do better than the Wild Card.  Maybe, just maybe, they can do better than the 2015 team.

No, Jim Leyland Is Not a Hall of Famer

One of the discussion points during the championship game of the World Baseball Classic was whether Jim Leyland‘s Hall of Fame case should be boosted by winning the event.

Now, it will be interesting to see in the future whether the World Baseball Classic will have any impact on anyone’s Hall of Fame case.  It is doubtful as you are putting weight on a 8 – 10 game sample size.  It’s also doubtful because in reality the real prize in baseball is the World Series.  With that said, maybe it’ll have some impact with managers as USA keeps selecting retired managers to man their squad.  The selection of these managers brings them back to the limelight, and the attention usually serves as an opportunity to wax poetic about a person’s career.

With that caveat, it is possible Leyland may prove to be a test case for the WBC’s impact on bolstering a person’s Hall of Fame candidacy.  Then again, it seems strange that’s the case when Leyland is about the only person with any knowledge of baseball that thinks Eric Hosmer is a better player than Paul Goldschmidt.  For that matter, Leyland also thinks Hosmer is a better hitter than Andrew McCutchen, Giancarlo Stanton, Jonathan Lucroy, Buster Posey, and Daniel Murphy.

Still, this does seem an opportune time to discuss Leyland’s Hall of Fame case.  In a 22 year Hall of Fame career, Leyland amassed a 1,769 – 1,728 record (.506 winning percentage).  He won the World Series with the Florida Marlins in 1997, and he won American League Pennants with the Detroit Tigers in 2006 and 2012.  He won six division titles (Pirates 1990 – 1992; Tigers 2011 – 2013), and his teams captured two Wild Cards (1997 & 2006).  Leyland is one of 17 managers all-time to bring two different teams to the World Series.

Leyland has also won three Manager of the Year Awards.  The first two were with the 1990 and 1992 Pirates, and the last one came in 2006 with the Tigers.  With the award starting in 1983, he is one of seven managers to win in both leagues.  He is one of seven managers to win at least three Manager of the Year Awards with Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa having the most awards with four.

Looking at the above information, it is fair to say he was a respected and well decorated manager during his career.  The question is whether he has done enough to merit Hall of Fame induction.  He hasn’t.

According to the Baseball Hall of Fame, there have been 23 managers inducted into the Hall of Fame.  With Rube Foster being inducted as a Negro League manager, there have been 22 Major League managers inducted in the Hall of Fame.  Considering the first professional team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, suited up to play 148 years ago, the bar has been set extraordinarily high to be inducted into the Hall of Fame as a manager.

The average Major League Hall of Fame Manager has 1,916 wins with a .540 winning percentage.  Again, on average, these managers have won five pennants and two World Series titles.  Now, Frank Selee and Ned Hanlon managed a majority of their careeers prior to the inception of the World Series possibly making their stats too remote in time to judge the average Hall of Famer.  It should be noted, that their having won no World Series titles are incorporated in the average World Series titles won so that number is inaccurate as well.

Taking Selee and Hanlon out of the equation, the average Hall of Famer has won 1,978 games with a .539 winning percentage.  Additionally, these managers have won six pennants and three World Series titles.

Now, if you want to consider Connie Mack an outlier as well because he was an owner who was never going to be fired, the numbers change again.  Without Selee, Hanlon, or Mack, the average Hall of Famer won 1,886 games with a .545 winning percentage.  These managers have won five pennants and two World Series titles.

Looking at that, Leyland falls well short of the averages again no matter how much you try to manipulate it lower the standards to make him appear to be a Hall of Famer.

Now, it is true that there are managers in the Hall of Fame already who fall short of each of these averages.  Still, Leyland would fall short of each of these “lesser” managers as well.

Let’s start with the managers, like Leyland, who have only won one World Series title.  There have been four such managers in the proverbial World Series era.  They are Bobby Cox, Leo Durocher, Whitey Herzog, and Earl Weaver.  Each one of these managers have a winning percentage of .532 and higher.  This group has averaged 1,818 wins.  Moreover, this group has averaged a .552 winning percentage.  Looking at it from that perspective, Leyland falls short.

Now, with 1,769 wins, Leyland does have more wins than 10Hall of Fame managers, eight if you once again eliminate Selee and Hanlon.  Eliminating Selee and Hanlon, these managers have an average winning percentage of .546 and, on average, have won four pennants and one World Series.  That puts Leyland well short in terms of winning percentage and just short in terms of pennants.

In reality, the only thing you can look at to justify Leyland’s Hall of Fame case is the induction of Wilbert Robinson.  Robinson was 1,399 – 1,398 with no pennants or World Series titles.  It should be noted Robinson was also a catcher who won three straight titles with the Baltimore Orioles in the dead ball era, and he was the catcher recognized as revolutionizing the position by being the first to play directly behind the batter for an entire at-bat.  When he retired from managing, he had the third most wins all-time, and in his day, he was widely respected as manager and pitching coach who could get the most out of his pitching staffs.

Overall, Leyland doesn’t have the numbers for the Hall of Fame.  And that is before you consider Leyland quit on his team on three different occasions.  

He quit on the Pirates after they lost Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla so he could take the Marlins job and get a chance to win the World Series.  After he got his World Series and the subsequent Marlins firesale, Leyland quit on them to join the Rockies.  When the Rockies weren’t as good as he expected they would be, he quit on them.  

It’s one thing to make a case for a manager who doesn’t have the numbers, it’s a whole other thing to support the candidacy of a manager who quit on three different teams.

Certainly, when you have a managers with a low winning percentage that quits on his teams, it begs the question why anyone would think he was Hall of Fame worthy?

Thank You Team USA

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.

Tanner Roark, Drew Smyly, and Danny Duffy really stepped up and pitched better than really anyone could have reasonably expected them to pitch.

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.

Well done.

Dreading the USA v. Puerto Rico WBC Matchup

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.

Also, ever since Aaron Heilman delivered that ill fated pitch, I can never bring myself to root for Yadier Molina.  At least in that respect, my Mets fandom and country pride are aligned.

Go USA!

And To Think That I Saw It At Citi Field

* adapted from “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” by Dr. Seuss

When I leave home to go to Citi Field,
Dad always says to me,
“John, keep your eyelids up
And see what you can see.”

But when I tell him where I’ve sat
And what happened each at-bat,
He looks at me and sternly says,
“You did not see all of that.

Stop telling such an outlandish story.
Juan Lagares cannot cover that much territory.”

Now, what can I say
About what I saw today?

All the long way to the game
And all the way back,
I’ve looked and I’ve looked
From the outfield to the bat rack,
But all that I’ve noticed,
Except the green infield,
Was d’arnaud and Matz
At Citi Field

That’s nothing to tell of,
That won’t do, I know . . .
Just the starting pitcher Steven Matz
Hurling pitches to Travis d’Arnaud.

That can’t be my story.  That’s only a start.
I’ll say that a GAZELLE was pitching instead of a Bart!
Add that is a story that no one can beat,
When I say that I saw it at Citi Field.

Yes, the Gazelle is fine,
He gives batters a migraine,
There’s another marvelous pitcher
Who’s stuff is much more insane.
The story could be so much more
If the pitcher I saw were Thor.
An orange and blue capped pitcher’s fastballs are profound,
Rumbling like thunder from the mound!

No, it won’t do at all . . .
There’s another with the ball.

Zack Wheeler is better;
He’s come back round,
And he’s ready to for a start
On the Citi Field mound

Hold on a minute!
There’s something wrong!
The bullpen is the place for this dealer
It’s off to the bullpen for Zack Wheeler,

It’d be much better, it might,
If the start went to the Dark Knight.

Hmmm . . . A Dark Knight . . .
Say – anyone could think of that,
Dick or Kevin or Dan or Pat
Say, even Terry could think of that.

But it isn’t too late to make one little change.
This story is about Yoenis Cespedes!  No longer on the driving range!

He’s got plenty of power and size,
You can see the opposing pitcher with fear in his eyes.
A then, the sound system emits a loud tone,
Cespedes the Lion King!  Perched high on a throne!

Say!  That makes a batter that no one can heel,
When I say that I saw it at Citi Field.

But now I don’t know . . .
It still doesn’t seem right.

A Cespedes swinging a bat that’s so light
Would hit balls around in the air like a kite.

But he’d look simply extreme
With a great New York Mets team!

A team that’s that good should have someone to see it,
Wins coming so fast, the Nationals finding it hard to keep near it.
Nationals always the trailer!  They’ll be out of their mind
Not even Daniel Murphy can get them out from behind.

But now is if fair?  Is it fair what I’ve done?
Before they take the field, they’ve already won.
That’s really too heavy a load for one beast;
I’ll give him some helpers.  He needs two, at least.

Michael Conforto to do the trick,
To guide them after the intentional walk schtick –
It takes a lineup to do the trick.
They’ll never lose now.  They’ll race at top speed
With Curtis Granderson, himself, in the lead.

The Manager is there
And he thinks it is grand,
And he raises his hat
As they rise from their seats in the stands.

The Manager is there
Sandy Alderson too,
All waving big banners
The stands are becoming a zoo.

And that is a team whose championship is sealed
When I say that I saw it at Citi Field!

With a roar of its motor an airplane appears
The pitcher steps off the mound and everyone jeers.

And that makes a story that’s really not bad!
But it still could be better.  Suppose that I add . . . . . . . . .

. . . A David Wright
Who can stay upright . . .

A big Duda
Swinging sticks . . .

A Jacob deGrom
And his garden gnome . . .

No time for more,
Cespedes’ coming home.

He swung ’round third base
And dashed towards the plate,
The Mets ran up the steps
And I felt simply GREAT!

FOR I HAD A STORY THAT NO ONE COULD YIELD!
AND TO THINK THAT I SAW IT AT CITI FIELD!

But Dad said quite calmly,
“Take the parking pass off the windshield
And tell me the sights
That you saw at Citi Field”

There was so much to tell, I JUST COULDN’T BEGIN!
Dad looked at me sharply stroking the beard at his chin.
He frowned at me sternly from there from the front seat,
“Was there nothing to look at . . . no great feat?
Did nothing excite you or make you jump out of your seat?”

“Nothing,” I said, now becoming more even-keeled,
“But a Matz pitching to d’Aranud at Citi Field.”

The End.

Last year’s story “One Strike, Two Strikes, Three Strikes, You’re Out!” can be found here

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!