South Korea is where we soon hope to be as a country. They have widespread testing, and as a result, they’ve been able to return to normalcy much quicker. They’re even at the point where baseball is soon to return.
Yesterday, the KBO, the Korean Baseball Organization, returned to play with practice games. With these intrasquad games, we can finally see some real baseball being played. Fortunately, some of these games are being streamed on YouTube:
If that pitcher for the Doosan Bears looks familiar, it should. That’s former Mets pitcher Chris Flexen. He would have a scoreless appearance.
Seeing actual baseball and seeing a familiar face pitch is a needed reminder there’s still hope we can all get back to normal. We may not know when, but it can happen, and hopefully, that day will come soon.
Until then, we get to see Flexen. For parts of three seasons, that’s something which would’ve made many Mets fans cringe. Now, seeing Flexen on the mound is hope, and it is something to be enjoyed at least until we get to see Jacob deGrom back on the mound to begin the 2020 season.
According to reports from MLB, while there is hope to resume the baseball season in May and play all 162 games, there are indications the baseball season may not be able to start until July. Overall, the optimistic view is Memorial Day weekend, and the pessimistic view is Fourth of July or All-Star Weekend.
Actually, the pessimistic view is no 2020 season, but we’ll address that at some other time.
For the sake of argument, let’s assume baseball cannot resume during the month of May, and there is going to need to be some form of Spring Training in June before baseball can begin anew. At that time, even the most casual of baseball fans will be baseball starved, and they will want to see any form of baseball as soon as they can.
Now, the later the season goes, the chances of the All Star Game actually being played become increasingly more remote. That’s problematic for the Los Angeles Dodgers who were awarded the game, and they cannot get the game back until 2022.
When you think about it, there is no reason for the Dodgers to lose the All-Star Game. After all, it is just an exhibition designed to give fans baseball at at time players are getting a mid-season break. On a related note, it is an event baseball wishes they could garner more interest leaving them to try different things like “making the game count” or miking up players in the field.
In some ways, COVID19 presents a real opportunity for MLB to get as much possible interest in the All-Star Game. If MLB were to start the 2020 season with the game, instead of using it as the midway point of the season, a baseball craved fanbase and sports starved world will likely tune it to watch at record numbers.
If you think about it for a second, the All Star Game is well suited for Spring Training anyway. Pitchers can only pitch a maximum of two innings. Position players play a couple of innings. There’s light workouts mostly generated in getting fan attention. In essence, the All-Star Game is really just a hyped Spring Training Game.
If it’s really just a Spring Training game with really good players, let’s make it a Spring Training All-Star Game, at least this one year. After all, it is not unprecedented to begin a professional sports season with a marquee event. For example, NASCAR begins their season with the Daytona 500, an event they deem their “Super Bowl.”
Seeing how this is fan driven event with each team getting a representative, allow the fans to pick the representative from their team. It’s a fun way to do it too. We can see Jacob deGrom and Pete Alonso squre off. Maybe this could lead to another video of Alonso and Jeff McNeil to make their case as to why it should be Alonso.
Other teams can have similar fun and interesting debates. For Yankee fans, is your guy Aaron Judge or Gleyber Torres, or are you already star struck by Gerrit Cole? Do Dodgers fans love Clayton Kershaw that much, or is Cody Bellinger their guy now? Like Yankees fans, maybe it is the new guy Mookie Betts.
There are fun possibilities, and honestly, it gives baseball fans something to argue and debate leading up to the start of the season. If people are searching for things to talk about now, just wait until there are no sports in March, April, and May. Fighting over who should and should not be an All-Star will be at a fevered pitch, at least that’s the hope.
Once there are 15 players selected by the fans for each squad, the players can fill out the rest of the 34 man roster. After all 34 players are named, the fans can then vote who from the pool of players should be starters in the All-Star Game.
Again, the concept here is to get fans engaged with something to discuss and to give people baseball even when MLB can’t give them baseball. Then, finally, when MLB can give them baseball, they will start the abbreviated season with a must-see event with the best players in the game taking the field.
Overall, it allows us to have the All-Star Game, and it gives us something to look forward to, which at a time like this is something we really need.
Opening Day was supposed to be on March 26. We were supposed to see Jacob deGrom outpitch Max Scherzer and out a damper on the Nationals World Series celebration. Due to COVID-19, that’s not happening, at least not yet.
This left SNY without a game to broadcast, they really have no sports to air. Really, they don’t even seem to have a plan on what to do, which is understandable.
Seeing as no one can be quite sure when baseball will be able to return, and with this being the 20th anniversary of the 2000 pennant, SNY should begin airing the 2000 season in its totality.
Each game aired on the same day it was 20 years ago. On March 29, 2020, the Mets should re-air the Japan Series with Mike Hampton taking the ball in his first ever start as a New York Met. The following day, they can air Benny Agbayani‘s Sayonara Slam.
If you recall back to that 2000 season, those games were aired around 5:30 A.M. local time. Now, those games can be aired at a more fan friendly time. Just like we normally see, begin the SNY broadcast around 7:00 P.M., and they can play the games in their entirety.
After the game, in lieu of a more traditional post-game show, they can have a retrospective. Fortunately for the Mets, they already have Todd Zeile as a studio analyst. In addition to Zeile, the Mets also have former Mets players like Edgardo Alfonzo, John Franco, and Al Leiter as team ambassadors.
Perhaps, SNY can get them to give their input of those games and/or their analysis of where the Mets were at that point in the season. Maybe, the team could also get Bobby Valentine and Mike Piazza to do some things for the team, and there is always Gary Cohen and Howie Rose who could find a way to contribute. After all, they have an encyclopedic memory of the team and all of their great seasons.
The team could even have fun with it talking to David Wright about what it was like growing up as a Mets fan and later getting to be teammates with some of these players. They could have Steven Matz, Rick Porcello, and Marcus Stroman give their take of what it was like being a Mets fan in New York at this time, and they could even have some fun discussions about bringing back those black jerseys.
Perhaps, running the 2000 games during their appointed times on the schedule would give fans a reason to tune in and watch Mets baseball. After all, there aren’t any other sports that are currently being aired anywhere. This could give us all a sense of normalcy we are currently striving to find, and it could create a little fun for us all.
Right now, now one knows when baseball can return, and the elephant in the room is if it can return. No one can be quite sure of that. Until that time, SNY can deliver us baseball until we actually have real games to watch.
With the fears over the outbreak of the coronavirus, Major League Baseball is starting to take preventative measures. Different teams have prevented their players from signing autographs for fans. When it comes to the spread of disease and the health of their players, you understand why teams are doing this.
For Spring Training, this is troublesome. This is a time where fans get more access to the players than at any point during the year. That is all the more the case with expanded netting around ballparks. With the reduced access to players, fans get less time to interact and to get autographs.
Some teams are sensitive to that, and as a result, they are having their players sign some items, and those items are going to be distributed to fans. This is something teams should think about doing year-round.
For young fans, batting practice presents an opportunity to get autographs. Unfortunately, not every player takes batting practice, and some of the better players have team obligations pre-game which stands in the way of their ability to sign and take pictures with fans before games.
As a result, some young fans aren’t going to get autographs or get to see the players they want to see. To a certain extent, that’s life. Kids are just going to have to suck it up and grow from it. However, that doesn’t mean teams shouldn’t now be thinking outside the box and using this idea to grow the game.
Take the Mets for an example.
Every Sunday, the New York Mets have Family Sundays. On Family Sundays, there are some fun activities outside the ballpark for young fans. After the game, those young fans have the opportunity to run the bases. Perhaps, the Mets could also give away some player signed items to young fans at games.
Maybe it is a box of pre-signed baseballs given to young fans as they enter the game. It could just be random giving kids a chance to grab a Pete Alonso or Paul Sewald. Perhaps, they could do themed days.
One week could be rotation week with a ball signed by Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, Steven Matz, and Rick Porcello. Another week could be the outfield with autographs from Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, and whoever else lands in the outfield. With the 20th anniversary of the 2000 pennant, there could be a ball signed by players from that team including Edgardo Alfonzo, Mike Hampton, Al Leiter, and Mike Piazza.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be balls either. It could be baseball cards, or it could be other items teams have in stock and are just trying to move. In fact, you usually see that at the end of the year with the team having a wheel for fans to spin to win a “prize” which was really nothing more than a promotion they never could give away.
In the end, Major League Baseball is adapting to the threat of the coronavirus, and they are trying to make the game experience safer for their players and fans. They could take what they learned from this, and they can carry the policy through the season. If done well, they could make the game experience more fun for kids and help grow the game.
Let’s get it out of the way. The best promotions of every season is the bobbleheads, and there are some good ones with Pete Alonso, Jacob deGrom, Jeff McNeil, Amed Rosario, Noah Syndergaard, and Robinson Cano having their own bobblehead days. In fact, with Alonso having a Marvel superhero bobblehead, there are two for him.
Those are always the best and most fun, but that’s only if you can get them. Fact is, the lines are way too long for them, and those lines can get a bit aggressive with people pushing forward to try to get one of the bobbleheads. Up until the Mets choose to be like big market teams like the Milwaukee Brewers, we’re just going to have to deal with the unnecessary inconvenience the Mets create by having bobbleheads for roughly half of those in attendance.
The good news for parents is the bobbleheads aren’t the only fun promotions during the 2020 season. There is also the Michael Conforto Funko Pop on August 25th, but it is safe to assume that day will have bobblehead type issues. Looking at the schedule, here are some other fun ones specifically geared towards kids:
April 19 – Player Poster
May 31 – Player Poster
July 5 – Player Poster
July 19 – Slime
August 2 – Toy Truck
August 16 – Baseball cards
August 30 – Player Poster
In terms of the player posters, the specific players have not yet been named. However, as we saw when the Mets were miked, Dominic Smith especially, this is a fun and likeable Mets team. Chances are any poster you get is going to be great.
The same goes for the baseball cards.
The toy truck and slime are fun because those are more traditional kids toys, but they will have a Mets theme to them. If your kid loves baseball, that’s right up their alley.
Of course, no discussion on fun promotions for kids is complete without mentioning the Mr. Met Dash. In terms of the Mr. Met Dash, be prepared.
Be ready to leave the game early and wait on line. That can be partially circumvented by joining the Mr. Met Kids’ Club, but only partially.
Another note is the Mets don’t do it for Sunday Night Baseball, so before you get your tickets just make sure the matchup isn’t one which could get flexed to prime time.
One final note here is if you think your children are old enough to learn about and appreciate Mets history, go to the June 13 game when Jerry Koosman‘s 36 is going to be retired.
Overall, Citi Field is a fun place for kids, especially for Sunday day games. Take advantage of it and help make your child a lifelong Mets fan.
During the 2019 season, there were rumblings the Mets pitching staff was not happy with Wilson Ramos‘ work behind the plate. While Noah Syndergaard was the only one who went public, we did hear rumblings about other pitchers.
For example, there were issues early on in the season between Ramos and Jacob deGrom. This led to deGrom briefly using Tomas Nido as his personal catcher to get his season back on track and to get him moving towards winning his second straight Cy Young.
Behind the scenes, deGrom and Ramos worked together to get on the same page. Beginning on June 7, Ramos again caught deGrom the majority of the time. From that point forward, deGrom was 8-3 with a 1.88 ERA. In essence, the two figured it out, and once again, deGrom was deGrom.
All we know is that the two worked out what needed to be worked out, but we never quite knew the issue. In a recent interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, Zack Wheeler described what the issue between Ramos and really the rest of the pitching staff might’ve been.
Wheeler mostly tabbed unfamiliarity as the issue saying, “I wanted to go up there [with high fastballs] but he wasn’t calling it, so I didn’t throw it up there. Nothing on him. He was getting used to us also. But I knew I needed to go up there a good bit, even early in the count.”
Looking at Wheeler’s first half, he struggled. In 19 starts, he had a 4.69 ERA. The second half was a different story. As Wheeler noted, Ramos was calling the pitches up in the zone more, as he had wanted, and Wheeler rebounded to have another big second half.
Akin to deGrom and Wheeler, we saw clear first half and second half splits for the Mets. In the first half, the Mets were outside the top ten in most pitching categories including their having a 4.88 team ERA, which was 10th worst in the majors. In the second half, the Mets staff was significantly improved to be among the best staffs in the game with a 3.48 ERA, which was fourth best in the Majors.
Perhaps it is of no coincidence the Mets were a completely different team in the second half. After being 10 games under .500 in the first half, they were 20 games over .500 (.644) in the second half. With Ramos figuring things out behind the plate and getting on the same page with the Mets pitchers, they were a completely different team.
It seems the only pitcher Ramos couldn’t quite figure things out with was Syndergaard, but to his credit Ramos is working on it by changing his stance. This should allow him to better catch and frame for Syndergaard leading to better results.
Across the board, there should be better results. After all, the awkward feeling out period between Ramos and the staff isn’t really present. In fact, aside from Dellin Betances, Rick Porcello, and Michael Wacha, Ramos has worked with this staff. He knows what they need to do to succeed, and more importantly, what he needs to do to help them succeed.
Overall, Ramos was a a part of the problem in the first half – a big part. However, he was part of the solution in the second half, and now, he may be a big reason why the Mets win in 2020.
Major League Baseball has implemented new rules which not only restrict the use of left-handed relievers (i.e. LOOGYS), but they have also severely restricted the ability of position players to pitch in games. In fact, according to the new rules, a position player may not pitch unless it is extra innings or “his team is losing or winning by more than six runs when he enters as a pitcher.”
There is a caveat there where a position player can freely enter a game if they are designated as a two-way player. A two way player is someone who has 20 games started as a position player and has pitched 20 innings. As the rule implies, this is a status a player achieves during the course of the season.
Obviously, the 20 way player rule was implemented for a player like Shohei Ohtani who serves as both the Angels DH and a member of their pitching rotation. However, that does not mean other teams should not look to take advantage of this rule.
For the Mets, that means pitching J.D. Davis every opportunity they get.
When the Mets traded for Davis, one of the justifications for the deal was he could step in a reliever if needed. In fact, in his brief Major League career up until that point, Davis had made three relief appearances for the Houston Astros allowing an earned run over 2.2 innings. In those 2.2 innings, he struck out four and walked one.
That was his first pitching experience since college. While at Cal State Fullerton, Davis had 20 appearances. While pitching 43.1 innings, he had a 2.70 ERA, 1.177 WHIP, 2.3 BB/9, and an 8.1 K/9. In his draft report, Baseball America noted ” shows good arm strength off the mound, showing 91-93 mph heat and a decent breaking ball, but his fastball is straight and his arm action isn’t great.”
Put more succinctly, Davis isn’t a Major League quality reliever, but he is a capable pitcher who could help a team out of the bullpen in a real pinch. The thing is you never know when that pinch is going to come.
Far too often, we see times in the season where the Mets pitching staff is completely gassed. The pitchers weren’t giving the length needed. Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman have begun piling up the multiple inning outings. That puts more of an onus on the one inning relievers to push harder than they typically should. Following the Mets, this happens at least twice a year.
With those stretches, an already questionable Mets bullpen will cost the Mets some games they wouldn’t otherwise lose. The job for new manager Luis Rojas and new pitching coach Jeremy Hefner is to find ways to mitigate against that. While being more judicious in how you use your pitching is one element, another is knowing when you send out a position player to pitch.
Early in the season, whenever the Mets have a six run lead or deficit, they should put Davis into the game to accrue innings necessary to achieve that two way player designation. Later in the season, that will allow the Mets to use him in four or five run games when they feel they need to save their pitching staff to give them a break.
Remember, this is an extremely talented Mets bullpen, but it is one with some health issues. Lugo has the torn UCL. Gsellman partially tore his lat. Dellin Betances is coming off an Achillies, and he had shoulder issues prior to that. Justin Wilson pitched through elbow soreness. Edwin Diaz has bone spurs in his pitching elbow. Michael Wacha was shut down with shoulder problems multiple times in his career.
Point is, bullpens, even the best bullpens, need breaks whenever they can get them. That can come in the form of a Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard complete game, and it can come in the form of Davis coming into a game and eating an inning here or there when the opportunity presents itself.
In order to really accomplish that, the Mets should remember a 162 game season is a marathon, and they need to prepare in April and May for problems which may come into play in July and August. Those problems are usually bullpen exhaustion related. To best prepare for that, the Mets should begin implementing strategies to get Davis qualified as a two way player so he is available when they really need help down in the bullpen.
In 2020, Jacob deGrom sets out to become the first pitcher in Major League history to win three consecutive Cy Young Awards. If he does that, he will also become the 11th pitcher in Major League history with three plus Cy Young Awards.
Can you name the 10 who have done it? Good luck!
Earlier this offseason, MLB Network rated Jacob deGrom as the best pitcher in baseball. It made a lot of sense because the reigning two time Cy Young Award winner is actually the best pitcher in baseball.
Over the past two years, deGrom leads all pitchers in WAR, ERA, FIP, and other categories including Cy Youngs. While everyone is entitled to their opinion, deGrom is clearly the best pitcher in the game, and he shows no signs of slowing down.
So naturally, after ranking deGrom the best pitcher in the game, which he is, MLB rated him as the best pitcher in the game when they ranked the Top 100 players.
Here is your Top 10! Led by…
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) February 14, 2020
Somehow, even with deGrom being the best pitcher over the last two years, and his already having been ranked as the top pitcher, MLB somehow changed course now naming Gerrit Cole a better baseball player.
There’s no rationalizing it either as Cole is an AL pitcher meaning you can’t even use hitting as a tiebreaker. Really, you can’t even stretch to try to rationalize this.
In the end, all you’re left with is Cole is now a New York Yankee, so people will vote for the pinstripes. That’s fine. They can do that and contradict themselves all they want for a pitcher who has yet to prove he can pitch in New York the way someone like deGrom has.
While that’s happening, deGrom will continue to prove his greatness, push for a third consecutive Cy Young, and further cement the fact he’s the best pitcher in baseball.
Since David Wright has retired, there has been some question over who should be the next captain of the New York Mets, or even if there should ever be another captain. In the event the Mets do ever seek to name a new captain, they have a roster full of homegrown players who could step up and be exactly that leader the next Mets captain needs to be.
The popular choice is Pete Alonso. That choice is inspired, and Alonso has shown himself worthy. In addition to a record setting rookie season, he showed himself to be a great teammate by and through his friendship with Dominic Smith, and he showed true leadership with the 9/11 cleats.
Another very worthy candidate is Michael Conforto.
In his five year career, Conforto has seen it all. He was the phenom how helped the Mets win the 2015 pennant. He was there for the Mets tearing down that roster to build it back up. He has handled his own injury problems, and he has been bounced around the outfield to suit the Mets needs.
He’s been a future superstar, a platoon player, a bust, an All Star, a what could’ve been, and finally, a good baseball player again who is a part of a team who could win the World Series.
More than anyone, Conforto knows what it is like being a Met when times are a good and when times are bad. In some ways, he had a career arc not too different than what we saw with David Wright, albeit on a truncated and less dramatic scale. On that note, Conforto was there when Wright battled back from spinal stenosis, and he was there to learn from him.
Conforto was also there learning from other leaders like Jay Bruce, Michael Cuddyer, and Curtis Granderson. In fact, when Bruce and Granderson were traded away in 2017, it was Conforto who initially had to step up and fill the leadership void, something which became difficult as he dealt with a potentially career ending surgery.
It has become quite clear Conforto learned from people like Bruce, Cuddyer, Granderson, and Wright.
Right now, the biggest issue in baseball has been the sign stealing. That scandal has impacted the Mets as they have already lost a manager in Carlos Beltran before he even managed a game. One of their best pitchers, Marcus Stroman, has been quite vocal in his issues with the Astros sign stealing. While we haven’t seen public statements, there are reports Jacob deGrom and Edwin Diaz are similarly angry.
With J.D. Davis and Jake Marisnick having been part of that 2017 Astros team, that could be very problematic for this Mets clubhouse. That is an even bigger issue with Marisnick doubling off Stroman in a specific game Stroman commented saying the Astros were “Ruining the integrity of the game.”
This is the type of situation which begs for someone to step up and tackle this issue before it is a problem either in the clubhouse or publicly. Right away, Conforto has stepped up and tried to take control of the message:
Michael Conforto said there won’t be any animosity from Mets teammates toward 2017 Astros Jake Marisnick and J.D. Davis.
“But I’m sure there will be conversations about it.”
Conforto was clear that the Astros crossed a line, but he won’t hold it against Marisnick/Davis.
— Tim Healey (@timbhealey) February 11, 2020
This is exactly what you need from a captain of your team. You need someone to have the savvy to disspell any notion of internal strife and have the status in the clubhouse to make sure that this will in fact be the case. In that statement, we see while he may not be the captain, Conforto remains a leader in that Mets clubhouse.
Conforto has indicated he loves being a Met, and he would be open to a contract extension. If the Mets step up and make him a Met for life, it would be fitting to also named him the next captain in team history as he is showing he is a leader, knows how to handle everything which has come the Mets way, and ultimately, he is the type of player and person who would make a good captain.