Mets Merized Online » Baseball Thoughts Tue, 29 Jul 2014 22:09:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 10 Years In: What is David Wright’s Legacy? Mon, 21 Jul 2014 17:00:26 +0000 david wright

Believe it or not, today marks the 10th anniversary of David Wright’s Major League debut. As we reach this milestone, it is an appropriate time to assess his legacy with the team.

Selected during the supplemental round of the 2001 amateur draft (20 picks after Aaron Heilman if you can believe it), David Wright served as a compensatory pick after the Mets lost Mike Hampton to the Colorado Rockies during free agency. Prior to being drafted, Wright, the 2001 Gatorade Virginia High School player of the year, had committed to attending Georgia Tech.

Fortunately for the Mets, Wright decided to forgo his prior commitment and sign with his childhood team.

Wright rocketed through the Mets farm system. In the 91 minor league games that Wright played before being promoted in the summer of 2004, Wright hit .341 with 18 home runs and 57 RBIs between Binghamton and Norfolk.

On July 21st, the Mets selected David’s contract for a game against the Montreal Expos. In just 69 games, David would hit 14 homers and garner 40 RBIs while batting .293. The future franchise cornerstone had arrived.

Now, ten years later, Wright is the captain of the Mets and unanimously beloved amongst the team’s fans. He already owns nearly every accumulative franchise record and by the time he retires he will undoubtedly lead in every offensive category, save for perhaps triples and stolen bases.

Known as Captain America, Wright has been the face of our franchise for a decade now. He has demonstrated his loyalty to the team, stuck it out through the tough times and yet the fact remains, the Mets have made the playoffs only once since his debut all those years ago.

From 2005-2008 David Wright was unbelievable. In those four seasons David batted .310 with 116 home runs and 449 RBIs. He won two Gold Gloves with matching Silver Slugger awards in 2007 and 2008 respectively. He also played in 160 games three of those four seasons, the lone outlier being 154 in 2006.

David had accomplished so much by the time he was 25 years old. Now, Wright is 31 and since that time he has just one 100 RBI season and one season of 25 or more home runs, both in 2010.

His batting average since 2008 has dropped nearly 20 points, to .292 over that span. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Wright has struggled to stay healthy through a 162 game season as he has gotten older.

After playing in at least 154 games every full season through the age of 25, he has accomplished that feat just twice since. The other fact to keep in mind, Wright has not been to the playoffs since he was 23 years old.

This is not a knock on David Wright in any way. In the dark years that have followed the September collapses of ’07 and ’08, Wright has been a lone bright spot for a franchise with little to cheer for. He is certainly one of the greatest if not the greatest position players in franchise history. But with just one post-season series victory under his belt in 10 years, I have to wonder what his legacy is at this point in time. Where does he rank in Mets lore?

MMO footer

]]> 0
In Sandy We Trust? Thu, 03 Jul 2014 12:18:26 +0000 Despite all of the offseason moves and despite all the talk of being a 90 win team, at 37-48, the Mets are now 11 games under .500 on July 3rd for the second consecutive year. At this point last season, the Mets were the same 37-48 featuring a lineup riddled with minor league players such as Omar Quintanilla, Josh Satin and Andrew Brown.

Alderson has a plan, but fans are quickly running out of patience.

Alderson has a plan, but fans are quickly running out of patience.

Well here we are one year later and though there are plenty of new faces out on the field for the Mets, the results remain unchanged.

Of the Mets 6,207 plate appearances last season, 2,627 of them were taken by players not currently on the Mets roster. That’s 42.3 % of the team’s total PAs. I, like most fans, find it disconcerting that there has been absolutely no evidence of progress despite all the moving and shaking of the front office.

Obviously there have been some major injuries that account for this lack of progress. This is the MLB though, and everyone has to deal with the same type of adversity. Just ask the Texas Rangers who will be rolling into Citi Field on Friday with all kinds of issues.

Terry Collins has had a horrendous year, as is well documented by my colleagues and Mets Twitter. I think his inability to settle on a lineup or anything resembling a steady playing schedule has done immeasurable damage to the team and our young players in particular.

However, the dismal turnover to progress ratio ultimately falls on the general manager. He has had four years to build this team up, and in that time the team on the field has actually regressed. Since being hired, there are only 8 players on the major league payroll that have survived Alderson’s rebuilding process (David Wright, Daniel Murphy, Jon Niese, Lucas Duda, Ruben Tejada, Bobby Parnell, Dillon Gee, Jenrry Mejia). Frustratingly, the team has not seen its record improve at all in that span of time.

What I can say about Alderson is that we will not know the extent of his success or failure as the GM of the Mets until we see how the prospects that he has acquired develop. He has certainly revamped the farm system, which will be important if the Wilpon’s financial woes continue.

Alderson is an investment banker. He sees players like Dickey, Reyes and Beltran not as keys to immediate success like Brian Cashman for instance. Rather he sees them as bartering chips that can help him acquire high ceiling ventures. While this can eventually lead to success, it requires a great deal of patience and runs an even greater risk of never panning out at all. For all of Billy Beane’s commercial success in implementing this “Moneyball” strategy, it has never won him a World Series. In the MLB, the teams with the most money are going to win the most games.

Prospects like Noah aSyndergaard will ultimately determine how Alderson is remembered by Mets fans.

Prospects like Noah Syndergaard will ultimately determine how Alderson is remembered by Mets fans.

I can’t fault Alderson for lack of trying. Dismissing 42% of your team’s plate appearances from one year to the next indicates that he has certainly tried to mix things up. However, he just does not have the funds to acquire any big league ready players beyond what he already has. We won’t see the true result of his efforts for several more years.

Coming out and saying this team could win 90 games was foolish and blatantly incorrect. He is under pressure to win games, but he was not forthright with the fan base entering this season. That may prove to be his greatest sin of all to this point.

The fact of the matter is that at the major league level, the Mets have regressed and plateaued during the Sandy Alderson era. However, his revamped minor league system may ultimately become the saving grace of this franchise. At this point though, it is hard to root for a team with nothing more than a “plan” for the future. It would be nice to see some returns on all those investments.

We can jump up and down and scream all we like but I don’t see any sign that the Wilpon’s are leaving or looking to invest more money in this team. So while it is awfully tough to stomach, patience is the only place where we can find solace. We just have to trust that Sandy knows what he is doing.

MMO footer

]]> 0
My National League All Star Team Thu, 03 Jul 2014 12:00:56 +0000

Yesterday, you (hopefully) read my picks for the American League All Star team. If you haven’t, give it a whirl and let me know what you disagree with. Before I get to my NL picks, a few notes for your information if you haven’t read my AL picks: In the case where good arguments can be made for more than one player, I lean towards the player with the more established career. This is the All-Star game, not the All-Good-For-Three-Months game. After that, I lean towards the player whose offensive contributions are greater. This is not how I would choose my roster for a real team, but as the saying goes, “Chicks dig the long ball,” and so do most casual fans, and this game is merely a fun exhibition. So let’s score some runs.

As I run through each position, I’ll highlight my top three candidates, and the first name listed is my choice for starter. In the end, I’ll have rounded out a 34-man roster with eight starters and thirteen each of reserves and pitchers, keeping in mind that every team has to be represented. It’ll make for a fun debate. So here are my choices for the National League:

CatcherJonathan Lucroy, Evan Gattis, Yadier Molina. Pretty easy choice. Lucroy and Gattis are killing the ball. There’s a cluster of catchers with comparable offensive numbers for that third spot, which include Russell Martin, Carlos Ruiz, Miguel Montero and Buster Posey, but Yadi is easily the best defensive catcher out of the bunch and perhaps the biggest star, too. However, this is the first year in a while he isn’t the best.

First BasePaul Goldschmidt, Anthony Rizzo, Freddie Freeman.  I would listen to arguments for Matt Adams, Justin Morneau and Adam LaRoche, but I think the numbers speak for themselves, and also playing time keep them off the roster.

daniel murphySecond BaseChase Utley, Daniel Murphy, Scooter Gennett. Utley has really turned back the clock this season. He’s a shoo-in to be voted in as the starter and deservedly so. Scooter Gennett of the Brewers has been the best offensive second baseman, and his name is “Scooter.” Points. Dee Gordon warrants consideration, but Murphy is having a slightly better year and also has to go as the only representative of the Mets. Neil Walker might have gone if the game was three weeks ago, but he missed time due to injury and hasn’t come back strong.

ShortstopTroy Tulowitzki, Troy Tulowitzki, Troy Tulowitzki. That was easy. Seriously, though, Hanley Ramirez and Starlin Castro get the nod here. Jhonny Peralta’s defense and home run total shouldn’t go unnoticed, but aside from that, he’s been a huge disappointment considering the contract he signed with the Cardinals. A rare mistake from the best organization in baseball. Brandon Crawford has had a nice season, but not nice enough.

Third BaseTodd Frazier, Aramis Ramirez, Anthony Rendon. Frazier and Ramirez were fairly easy choices. Rendon was a tough pick over Casey McGehee. The offense was a toss-up. McGehee has a better average and OBP, but Rendon slugs better, and is a better base runner than McGehee. He also plays better defense. There’s also the matter of Rendon’s pedigree and star power compared to McGehee, whose lackluster career forced him to play in Japan in 2013.

OutfieldYasiel Puig, Andrew McCutchen, Giancarlo Stanton (left to right), Carlos Gomez, Seth Smith, Hunter Pence.  Cutch and Puig are playing a different game right now and Stanton’s power is not of this world. Puig starts in LF because I think he’s a better athlete than Stanton and would adapt better in a different position. I’ve been impressed with the plate discipline Gomez has finally developed, and he’s on pace toGiancarlo-Stanton-Marlins1 shatter his career high in home runs, too. Smith has had a very good season and deserves to be here, even though he may strike some as the “pity” pick from the Padres. Pence just beat out Michael Morse for the last spot, though he should be the comeback player of the year. Remember Charlie Blackmon? Since his 9-for-10 stretch over two games, he’s been the picture of mediocrity. Justin Upton has had a nice season, but not nice enough. Ryan Braun has comparable numbers to Pence, but an injury cost him time while Pence is dependable.

PitchersJohnny Cueto, Stephen Strasburg, Adam Wainwright, Jeff Samardzija, Zack Greinke, Jordan Zimmerman, Clayton Kershaw, Madison Bumgarner, Craig Kimbrel, Huston Street, Steve Cishek, Pat Neshek, Tony Watson. This was tough. I only chose three closers for the NL because of the wealth of starting pitching. I also included two middle relievers because they have both pitched much better than most closers. Zach Duke and Joaquin Benoit have had tremendous seasons. Jason Hammel, Tim Hudson, Cole Hamels and Michael Wacha got long looks and could have made someone else’s team.

35th man vote – Jason Hammel, Dee Gordon, Adam LaRoche, Justin Upton, Cole Hamels

What say you?

]]> 0
Prediction Audit: Hits and Misses…Mostly Misses Thu, 12 Jun 2014 16:55:06 +0000 David-Price

So here we are, 40% of the season is done and the Mets are 61 games away from the 90 win bar set by GM Sandy Alderson before the season started. So the Mets only need to play .628 ball the rest of the way to achieve their 90 wins, totally do-able (crickets).

So, Sandy wasn’t the only one who swung and missed on his 2014 prediction, before the season started I gave you my predictions too. Let’s look at my hits and misses thus far.

AL East: Tampa, Boston, New York, Toronto, Baltimore – Swing and a miss! Tampa’s offense has made the Mets look like the Big Red Machine, and Boston’s luck appears to have run out. Toronto has had a pretty red hot last 30 days and has the rest of the division in the rear view mirror. You know it’s bad here when people actually wish they had an injury prone .735 OPS hitter as their SS again. As for the Yankees? Nailed it.

AL Central: Detroit, Cleveland, Kansas City, Minnesota, Chicago –   Well, I guess I was right so far with regards to the Tigers. But seriously, anybody who picked against Detroit this year was just playing the odds. I think one big miss I had was Jose Abreu – that guy is scary. Still, the rest of the division is hovering the .500 mark so I think it’s too early to tell what was right and what was wrong. Xtreem’s MVP pick has been terrible huh? Where did you go Eric Hosmer?

AL West: Los Angeles, Texas, Oakland, Seattle, Houston – Right now, you can put LA, Texas and Seattle in a hat and draw two names and you’ll be just fine. I feel okay about my predictions for those 3 teams. What still gets me is Oakland. At the next Sandy lover meeting, I’m probably going to have to do push ups when they re-read my Oakland prediction. I don’t know what it is about that team, but they defy “on paper,” so magnificently. Their critics over the last twenty years point to the lack of World Series championships – but this is a team on its way to their 9th 90+ win season in the last 15 years, second only to the Yankees who have 11. It baffles me that people do not respect that.

NL East: Washington, Atlanta, New York, Miami, Philadelphia – You know what I find funny is when people excuse the Nats current lack of a big division lead on “injuries.” Meanwhile Atlanta is thinking, “um hello?” The Braves, like Oakland just continue to defy logic it seems. It’s really telling what a well-run organization can do when faced with great challenges. Atlanta pretty much started the whole Tommy John epidemic conversation, and they have not looked like a team that lost anybody. Miami is somehow still hanging tough without Jose Fernandez, probably thanks to that Giancarlo fella everybody talks about. I totally crushed my awards though right? Harper-Colon-DiceK. That’s what horse racing fans call a Trifecta!

NL Central: St. Louis, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Milwaukee – Crushed it! Man those Brewers are terrible right? Probably something like 10 games out of the…what’s that? Oh they are the 3rd best team in the sport? Oh, that’s my bad. But seriously, isn’t that pretty much everybody’s bad? Is somebody going to comment that they saw this coming? Fun fact, Ryan Braun’s OPS is EXACTLY the same as it was when he was suspended last year. Weird. Still, I think the Cardinals can take this division and I’m okay with sliding Cincy and the Buccos down a slot to make room for the Brew Crew in 2nd. Before anybody does it, the fact Carlos Gomez is good now – doesn’t mean the Mets should have not acquired Johan Santana. So don’t even bother typing it. Speaking of Carlos Gomez (I know my most loyal “fans” won’t like this) but whenever a player in their late 20’s suddenly becomes a power hitter, don’t we usually have a habit of questioning that? 44 HR in 2,130 plate appearances through the age of 26, now 36 HR in 858 appearances at 27 and 28. No biggy, probably special vitamins or something. I guess I just find it odd that a guy who was never seen as a power threat is suddenly becoming one late in his career. (And here they go!)

NL West: Los Angeles, Arizona, San Diego, San Francisco, Colorado – Seems like the answer to my question “Can anybody stop the Dodgers?” is yes, “themselves.” I couldn’t have been more wrong about San Francisco and Arizona though, jeez. Back to LA, it’s amazing that a team with so much talent can be such a mess. They can’t even be looked at like the Marlins a few years ago – because this team is pretty much the same roster as last year with some minor tweaks. I saw manager Don Mattingly blame chemistry – and I hate to tell ya Donny, but that’s on you. Colorado started to play really well, but they are starting to come back to reality. This division is a two team race between San Francisco and Los Angeles – and I myself would love to see the Giants take it.

So what does this all mean?

Clearly, I am going to blame the unpredictability of the sport and ignore the fact that with 40% of the season completed – my pick average is somewhere between the batting average of Travis d’Arnaud and Ruben Tejada.

So what has surprised you about your own predictions as we head into the dog days of summer?

]]> 0
Collin Cowgill – A Mets Offensive Measuring Stick Thu, 12 Jun 2014 15:00:58 +0000 collin cowgill sage

Collin Cowgill, remember him?

Cowgill was the starting Met center fielder for a brief time last season– the opening day starter who hit a grand slam home run. I noticed a headline in the MLB Morning Line Up the other day, “Cowgill’s Walk-off in 14th Gives Halos Fifth Straight W” and wondered what was going on with the gritty Cowgill.

A check of Cowgill’s statistics proved amazing. So far in 2014 Collin Cowgill is putting together a career year. Who’da Thunk? In 162 plate appearances, Cowgill has a .289 batting average. Not bad. 16 base-on-balls have helped Cowgill amass a .369 on-base-percentage. Not too shabby. Tack on five home runs that help give Cowgill a .437 slugging percentage.

Put it all together and Cowgill’s .806 OPS bests every position player on the Met roster. Say what? That’s right, through one-third of the 2014 season former Met Colin Cowgill’s OPS bests that of any New York Met position player.

Ouch! I knew things were bad but this seems more than ridiculous.

Thoughts from Kirk C.

It’s great to see Cowgill playing well, as I’ve always liked him as a player. However, I don’t think a good 56-game stretch is enough to make me think he’s anything more than a part-time/platoon type player. I think as the season progresses you’ll see those numbers come down. His current BABIP of .388 would be more than 50 points higher than his career norm, and his 14.3% HR/FB is well above his career mark as well. So while it’s encouraging, and all together possible that the 28-year old is coming into his own, I would bet against it carrying forward. That said, it would be nice to have had the 1.7 WAR (which would be 2nd on the Mets) he’s contributed to the Angels thus far.

MMO footer

]]> 0
Syndergaard To Miss 5-7 Days With Sprained AC Joint Sat, 07 Jun 2014 00:50:22 +0000 syndergaard

June 6 – Updated 6:30 pm

Mets announced that further x-rays conducted on Syndergaard were all negative with no broken bones.

The officially, the Mets are saying it’s a sprained A/C joint in his left, non-throwing shoulder.

He will refrain from throwing for five to seven days and as long as the pain subsides he can resume pitching in the Las Vegas rotation.

Sounds like he’ll be missing just two or three starts..

June 5

Top pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard left his start tonight in Las Vegas with an apparent injury to his collarbone and non-pitching shoulder.

After Syndergaard threw a wild pitch, he attempted to cover home plate to make a tag play and tumbled over the baserunner, falling hard to the ground.

After the play Syndergaard threw two warm-up pitches and grimaced in pain while grabbing at his left shoulder/collarbone area. He was removed from the game.

The Mets are initially calling it “left shoulder discomfort” and he’s on his way to get X-Rays.

Syndergaard was making his first start since being placed on the disabled list with a minor elbow strain. For the night, he lasted just 2/3 of an inning while allowing three runs.

More information to come as news filters in.


]]> 0
Bring Out The Tiger In Granderson Thu, 05 Jun 2014 03:05:56 +0000 curtis granderson

Tuesday night’s game really got me thinking about the future of Curtis Granderson. He played exactly how I would like to see him play moving forward. He had three hits, all of which were singles and also stole a base.

The amount of pressure on Granderson’s shoulders goes beyond the $60 million dollar contract he signed with the Mets this offseason – the offseason fans had been anticipating for years. It was the Winter the Mets would finally cleared enough cap room thanks to expiring contracts from Jason Bay and Johan Santana among others.

The Mets were a team desperate for a power hitter to protect David Wright, and Granderson seemed the answer to GM Sandy Alderson. Grandy’s two 40+ homerun seasons for the Yankees and one lost season due to injury set him up for a nice payday and the Mets made him their centerpiece of the offseason.

I believe that Granderson’s success on the Mets hinges not on his ability to try and duplicate a similar level of production he had with Yankees, but instead produce as he did with the Detroit Tigers earlier in his career.

Anyone who thinks Granderson is going to hit 30, let alone 40 homeruns while playing half of his games at Citi Field is not thinking this through. Granderson’s career line on the Tigers was .272/.344/.484 compared to his .245/.335/.495 clip on the Yankees. He averaged around 22 homeruns per season with the Tigers as opposed to his 40+ with the Yankees. However, he also hit for a higher batting average and used his speed to generate 25-35 doubles, 10-12 triples, and 15-20 stolen bases per season. He was a catalyst.

I believe that the Mets need to move Granderson out of the four-hole in the lineup and stop putting any added pressure on him to pull everything and hit home runs. It works against his offensive aptitude and doesn’t allow him to better utilize the potential that Citi Field can afford him. The wide gaps and characteristics of Citi Field seem perfectly suited for the type of player Granderson once was in Detroit; spraying doubles and triples, utilizing his above average speed, hitting for a higher average, and still clubbing 20 homeruns.

Lucas Duda, whether he is the future for the Mets or not, is a projected power hitter. While he is on the team and playing everyday, he should be batting fourth. He leads the team in home runs anyway, and I wouldn’t mind moving Granderson to the six-hole for a while until he can straighten out his swing and revert back to his pre-Yankees form.

Granderson is here for the long-term and it might be best for all parties involved if Granderson embraced his former self and stop thinking of himself as the 40-home run hitter he once was and the Mets thought they were getting.

Of course, the Mets still need to add another bat in their lineup, whether it be a corner outfielder, shortstop, or first basemen. But for now, batting Duda fourth and moving Granderson down the lineup can be a positive for Curtis’ long-term production.


]]> 0
Bunting Is Making A Comeback Mon, 02 Jun 2014 04:14:57 +0000 Bobby Parnell

In the yesteryear of baseball, bunting was an art form. Every bunt type employed by a batter bunting the ball; the sacrifice, the squeeze, the drop bunt or drag bunt were part of the arsenal a batter brought to the plate.

The advent of baseball’s sabermetric era and the analytics it provides have almost delegated bunting to the scrap heap of baseball strategies. Analytics and their expected run differentials build a strong case that the sacrifice bunt, in particular, is statistically self-defeating. Common modern baseball wisdom says utilizing all three outs by swinging the bat trumps giving up an out to move a baserunner by utilizing a sacrifice bunt.

In minimizing the positive effects of the sacrifice bunt, baseball has seen a steep decline in every type of bunting. And, with bunting becoming a sparsely used offensive tool, the bunting skill set of professional baseball players has visibly fallen making those times a manager employs a sacrifice bunt to advance a runner as a late inning one-run production strategy, an arduous adventure at best.

But, with baseball’s defensive shifts becoming more and more pronounced in the game, maybe bunting, specifically, bunting for a base hit will make a comeback. The bunt hit is actually a pretty good baseball bet, an offensive ploy rewarding batters with their highest average on balls put in play. Batters who bunt for hits at the highest averages are successful near or better than one-half of their bunt attempts.

Watching Lucas Duda bat against exaggerated defensive shifts in recent Met games got me thinking ‘why not bunt?‘ Everybody knows on-base-percentage is a baseball analytical golden ticket. It makes sense to me, that situationally driven, bunting for a base hit against drastic overshifts maximize a batter’s chances of reaching base safely with a hit.

No, it doesn’t make sense to see Duda drop down a bunt with two outs and the bases cleared or even a single runner on first, but when the big guy leads off an inning or comes to the plate late in the game with a tie score and less than two outs, why not use one-half of the field manned by a single defender to drop down a bunt to reach first safely?

To his credit, Duda is not adverse to situational bunting. When Duda bunted for a hit in the opening game of the current Philly series, the Met broadcast team chatted about the fact that Lucas has recently spent additional time in the batting cage working on his bunting skills. Apparently, it was bench coach Bob Geren who suggested to Duda that at certain times during a baseball game bunting might be a winning strategy for the big guy.

Baseball dinosaurs like me still consider bunting a valued part of the game, a ploy that can confuse an opposing defense and win games. I loved Texas manager Ron Washington’s take on bunting when recently asked at a press conference whether anyone had ever shown him the analytics that show bunting might not make sense.

“When I feel it’s necessary, not when the analytics feel it’s necessary, not when you guys feel it’s necessary, not when somebody else feels it’s necessary,” Washington sputtered. “It’s when Ron Washington feels it’s necessary.”

Washington was referring simply to the sacrifice bunt and his explanation shows just how complex that form of bunting can be. “I look at the opposing pitcher, the guys at the plate and the situation and I’m saying, ‘How can I give us an opportunity to get this runner where I want to get him?’ If I’ve got the right person at the plate, I’m going to make him bunt. If it’s a situation where we have runs already and we’ve got a decent lead early in the game, I’ll probably let him hit. But if we’re in a situation where the game is close … I’m going to make him bunt. It’s simple.”

To my way of thinking, Washington has analyzed the analytics well. There’s room for argument on both sides of the sacrifice bunt issue. But, with lopsided defensive baseball schemes becoming more and more common in the professional game, the time could be ripe for a ‘bunt for a hit’ bunting comeback.


]]> 0
Dr. James Andrews Explains Spike In Tommy John Surgeries Fri, 30 May 2014 13:29:51 +0000 dr. james andrews

With the news this past week that yet another NL East pitcher, Henderson Alvarez, may be headed for Tommy John surgery, I decided to update my previous piece on what is a full-epidemic at this point, with some definitive information from the horse’s mouth himself, Dr. James Andrews.

The noted surgeon put out a comprehensive statement just this past Wednesday illustrating, in detail and with remarkable conviction, his position on the rash of UCL injuries. With sweeping clarity the good doctor all but puts to rest several raging debates on the causation and risk factors, admitting, that we are currently in the midst of an “epidemic.” He makes several remarkable conclusions:

On the epidemic itself:

“During the past few years there has been an “epidemic” rise in the number of professional pitchers requiring ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction (“Tommy John surgery”). This is like déjà vu, as a similar sharp rise was seen in adolescent pitchers near the turn of the century.”

“These two rises are indeed connected; that is, today’s pro pitcher in his 20’s was an adolescent pitcher a dozen years ago. Thus in many cases, the injury leading to Tommy John surgery in today’s young pro pitchers actually began while they were adolescent amateurs. Observations by orthopedic surgeons support this link, as the torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in a pro pitcher usually looks like it has worn out over time.”

On risk factors for young pitchers:

Research has shown that the amount of competitive pitching and pitching while fatigued are strongly linked to injury. Other risk factors may include pitching on multiple teams, pitching year-round, playing catcher when not pitching, poor pitching mechanics, and poor physical conditioning.”

On the perception that some pitchers come back stronger after TJS:

“Not true. performance usually decreases over time for MLB pitchers after Tommy John surgery (similar to the typical decrease over time for healthy MLB pitchers).”

Dr. Andrews essentially attributed any incidental increases in velocity to:

“The pitcher working intensely with the physical therapist, athletic trainer, strength coach, and pitching coach.”

On breaking pitches as a risk factor:

“Not true. Too much competitive pitching and pitching while fatigued are the biggest risk factors.4,5,6 While biomechanical research and epidemiologic research have not shown a strong connection between curveball and elbow injuries, a young pitcher may not have enough physical maturity, neuro-muscular control, and proper coaching instruction to throw a curveball with good mechanics. The first steps should be to learn, in order: 1) basic throwing, 2) fastball pitching, 3) change-up pitching.”

On lowering the mound to reduce the stress that leads to TJ injuries:

“Not true. Elbow torques during full-effort pitching on a mound and full-effort throwing on flat ground are about the same. The real solution is for young pitchers to do less full-effort pitching and more throwing (practice throws, playing other positions, playing other sports). “

On Latin American pitchers suffering fewer elbow injuries:

“Not true. A recent survey showed that 16% of U.S. born-pitchers and 16% of Latin American pitchers in professional baseball have a history of Tommy John surgery.”

Dr. Andrews also goes on to list 9 specific recommendations for pitchers and baseball organizations wishing to reduce the incidence of these injuries.

Notable in the recommendations are four items of interest:

  1. Do not always pitch with 100% effort. The best professional pitchers pitch with a range of ball velocity, good ball movement, good control, and consistent mechanics among their pitches. The professional pitcher’s objectives are to prevent baserunners and runs, not to light up the radar gun.
  2. Be wary of pitching in winter league baseball. The UCL and body need time to recover and build strength, so the concept of annual periodization should include adequate rest from full-effort pitching.
  3. Exercise, rest, and nutrition are vital for a pitcher’s health. Performance-Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) may enable the athlete to achieve disproportionately strong muscles that overwhelm the UCL and lead to injury.
  4. Pitchers with high ball velocity are at increased risk of injury. The higher the ball velocity, the more important to follow the guidelines above.

You may read the full transcript here.

May 21 – The Alarming Spike In Tommy John Surgeries

It’s almost become not so much a matter of “if” but “when” for young pitchers needing Tommy John surgery. This season alone, Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy each required a second elbow reconstruction, while Bobby Parnell, Oakland’s Jarrod Parker, Arizona’s Patrick Corbin, Detroit’s Bruce Rondon, Pittsburgh’s Jameson Taillon, Tampa Bay’s Matt Moore and most recently Florida’s Jose Fernandez will be going under the knife for the first time.

As Mets fans we’re well aware of the anguish having watched our very own Matt Harvey succumb to the dreaded ulnar collateral ligament tear. The UCL is a thick triangular band on the medial (closer to center) side of the elbow which connects the humerus to the ulna.

The act of throwing involves advancing the torso ahead of the arm followed by rotating the shoulder internally and (the acceleration phase) thrusting the humerus forward with the forearm trailing which results in the commonly described “whipping” motion. This puts tremendous tensile strain on the UCL at the elbow, particularly if you twist the elbow in a medial rotation to effect the spin you need for a breaking pitch.

We’ve all heard about how throwing is an “unnatural” act. There is some truth to the way the humeral head (the near end of the upper arm bone) fitting into something called the glenoid fossa (the “hole” in the scapula at the center of the shoulder) results in an awkward inversion when throwing overhand. Now this seems odd to me because when I look at cavemen in places like the Natural History Museum they all seem to be throwing spears and rocks overhand. Somehow I don’t think they suffered from UCL tears, “Hey Ugg, I think I tore my UCL with that last spear chuck at that bison.” “Ehh, rub some mastodon poop on it and call it a day Groog.”

But there’s nothing humorous about tearing a ligament, and the fact is humans have been throwing overhand to gain accuracy and power for over a million years and we clearly have a biomechanical adaptation for it. The problem with pitchers is the number of repetitions over time. I think there were only so many bison and only so many spears back in Groog’s day.

jose fernandez

Eno Sarris of Fangraphs recently looked at some numbers that supported the notion that breaking pitches contribute to injury. He observed that Jose Fernandez threw more curve balls than anyone in 2014. He also linked to a Jeff Zimmerman article from March of 2012 that looked at 43 pitcher seasons where the pitchers threw sliders more than 30% of the time. Of those pitchers, over 46% of them ended up on the DL the following season. For curveballs he moved the percentage even lower to 25% of the time (to get enough of a sample), and of these pitchers (which included names such as John Lackey, A.J. Burnett, Josh Beckett, and Jonathan Niese), 51% of them ended up on the DL. I asked Zimmerman about Harvey and he said he couldn’t look at him because it was his first full season and he had nothing to compare it to, but to me it sure seemed like Harvey was using that devastating (in more ways than one) slider with more frequency than the previous year.

Over at Sports Illustrated, Tom Verducci, of now debunked “Verducci Effect” fame, chimed in with his own article this past April. He changes his tune somewhat from increases in yearly innings being the biggest culprit, to pitchers throwing more and harder at increasingly younger ages. He quotes:

“Major League Baseball gets the blame for pitchers getting injured,” said Glenn Fleisig, research director at the prestigious American Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham, Ala. “But the fact is these pitchers definitely have some damage in their arm when they get them.”

Rate of Top-30 High School Draft Picks to Undergo Tommy John Surgery:

2002-09  •  39 Pitchers  •  5 TJS  •  12.8 Percent

2010-12  •  16 Pitchers  •  5 TJS  •  31.3 Percent

2013-14  • ???

Mark Mulder even tweeted on the subject with this:


You want to stop TJ injuries—-then don’t play baseball. Kids pitch year round and don’t play other sports. Arm only has so many bullets.

Verducci, however, seems to heap the most blame on velocity, again quoting Fleisig:

“Velocity is the word of the day,” Fleisig said. “The pitcher in 2014, or say 2012, is different from the pitcher from just five years ago. Back then, with the increase in travel ball, you had to start worrying about pitching too much. Now you have to worry about pitching too much with more velocity. That’s not a good combination.”

You have to admire Verducci for trying. He’s been on this topic from day one, but like his year-to-year innings limits I think implying that UCL damage results from pitchers with too much mileage who throw too hard too often is probably an oversimplification.

rafael montero debut 2

Watching Rafael Montero the other night you somehow got the sense that although his stature is relatively diminutive he doesn’t run the risk of a Wheeler or Harvey because of his free and easy delivery. “Easy gas” they call it. I think mechanics are certainly a factor, but beyond that, there is also the fact that Montero didn’t start playing professionally until he was 17 — not a lot of mileage there.

As Fleisig said in the Verducci piece, there’s some truth in the “only so many bullets” hypothesis when you add high velocity to the equation. He offered the example of a rubber band stretched close to its limit 8 , 9, 10 times then it snaps, whereas you can stretch it to 50% it’s limit almost indefinitely. Fleisig seems to believe that pitchers who repeatedly give max effort are the real reason why so many youngsters are breaking down. The easiest way to get noticed after all is to blow a scout away with a 94 mph fastball. Montero in this respect is also interesting as a guy with pinpoint command who doesn’t necessarily have to rely on velocity. This is why I think Montero is going to win an awful lot of games for the Mets.

In the end, the jury is still out and studies are forthcoming. The complexity of the throwing motion combined with individual anatomical differences and minute idiosyncrasies in deliveries make a standardized approach to prevention almost impossible. As is the case with many complex issues, causation is likely the result of some combination of factors. I’ve always suspected the breaking pitch myself because it is so awkward to throw.  If I had to give an answer I’d guess the problem lies somewhere in the confluence of tensile damage brought about by throwing too hard followed by the twisting and contorting of the breaking pitch motion. Stress + torque + too many reps = a visit to Dr. Andrews.

The velocity trap that many young pitchers fall into however can’t be dismissed. People always talk about pitchers back in the day who threw 150 pitches routinely and never missed a start, but we really have no idea how many of them broke down. It would be interesting if we could get some data on how often they threw breaking pitches but I think it’s already more or less understood that they didn’t throw as hard. You can see that just by looking at old film, short quick windups, snap deliveries, and lots of contact.

Nobody is going back to that any time soon. Pitchers love blowing batters away with gas and the fans love watching it. What might be interesting is the possibility of instituting specific controls that teach pitchers to hold back and live in the 89, 90, 91 range (when you can get by with it), only bringing 94 and 96 mph heat when you really need it. learning to pick your spots a little better with breaking pitches might also be a good idea. You hardly ever see this sort of variability these days, and most Mets fans have a hard enough time with our batters taking too many pitches — limits on velocity and breaking balls might just send them over the edge! Pitchers seem to get into patterns where they stick with what works — heat followed by a killer breaking pitch — and yet, teaching this sort of variability might go a long way in extending careers and preserving arms.

*As I finished writing this I checked my twitter feed one last time and wouldn’t you know it, add Martin Perez to the list of young starters going under the knife for Tommy John surgery.


]]> 0
Two More Talented Cuban Players Appear On The Market Tue, 20 May 2014 13:00:35 +0000 alfredo-despaigne

Aroldis Chapman, Yasiel Puig, Jose Abreu, Yoenis Cespedes, and potentially Jorge Soler have made significant splashes, and have continued to give credibility to the already booming Cuban Market, and more are coming.

Recently, two more top-tier Cuban Outfielders have left their homeland to get signed by the Major Leagues. Alfredo Despaigne and Daniel Carbonell have popped up onto the MLB radar as two potential impact bats for clubs willing to take a risk and sign them for millions.

Despaigne, 27, who is a multiple Serie-Nacional MVP Recipient, was originally loaned to the Mexican League by the Cuban Government, but Baseball America has recently discovered that he has now acquired a Dominican Passport, possibly making him eligible to be signed by a major league team willing to take a risk on an incredibly talented bat in Despaigne.

What puzzles many, however, is the fact that the Dominican Republic usually makes it very difficult for Cuban defectors to acquire new residence, and instead they go to Haiti. If he has in fact acquired a passport, he also cannot leave the Mexican League, as he is under contract, and players cannot be signed into the American professional leagues until their Mexican league contract runs through, or if the team waives their right to block a signing.

Alfredo Despaigne is very talented, and Baseball America wrote a scouting report on him during last year’s Caribbean World Series:

Despaigne has more bat speed than fellow Cuban slugger Jose Abreu, who signed with the White Sox last year, but he’s more unconventional and takes a lot of all-or-nothing hacks. He’s an aggressive hitter who, in the first two games, swung at the first pitch in seven of his eight plate appearances, with the lone exception when he flew out to right field on the second pitch of the at-bat. He has some funkiness to his stroke, takes a big cut, bails out with his front leg and can get caught off balance on swings in the zone or chasing. He does keep his front shoulder in, though, and with 80 raw power, he’s been one of the most dangerous hitters in Cuba and a player some scouts project as an above-average big leaguer.

Some teams look at Despaigne as a bad-bodied, unathletic guy who would be a defensive liability, but in the Caribbean Series he got good reads off the bat and played the position well. He showed scouts a 55 arm from right field with good accuracy on multiple throws, including against Venezuela on a one-hopper from medium-deep right field on a sacrifice fly that barely missed getting Lew Ford tagging up from third. He’s not a great runner but even with 40 speed he’s faster than he looks, which he showed by beating out an infield hit to the shortstop against Puerto Rico.

Another option would be 23-year-old outfielder Daniel Carbonell, who has recently defected as well, and has established residency in Mexico. Carbonell is known for his speed and power, and throwing arm, and projects to be a pretty solid 5-tool player.

MLB Trade Rumors has recently reported that the switch-hitting Carbonell is looking for a 4-year deal, and the Yankees and Blue Jays are now very hot for him, as well as the Twins and two other teams. If Carbonell is not signed by July 2, he then falls under the Collective Bargaining Agreement’s new rules, and subsequently will count against an MLB team’s international Free Agent Pool.

It’s important to note that the Yankees are frontrunners to sign Carbonell, and are rumored to be ignoring the limit next July and are willing to spend more than seven times their international free agent pool allotment. They intend to be in on every 16-17 year old top-ranked prospect available in the 2014 class. This will subsequently deny them from signing anyone else for more than $50,000 in 2015, but they are very high on this year’s class.

If the Mets were to make a splash, it could be for Despaigne, once he gets his contract and residency information sorted out.

For those who don’t know, 80 power is top-of-the-scale, 40 home runs or more, but the report of a tough swing and unathletic figure could deter them from running the risk of signing him.

A 4-year contract, however, would give the Mets his peak years of 27-31, and a potential cleanup hitting bat. But the Mets haven’t had the a top International signing since Kaz Matsui, and have never made any significant signings in the Cuban Market, despite the advancements. It will be interesting in the future to see who will sign these latest Cuban talents; Despaigne and Carbonell.


]]> 0
Emerson, Jackson, and Baseball Statistics Thu, 01 May 2014 13:00:02 +0000

Our age is retrospective. It builds the sepulchres of the fathers. It writes biographies, histories, and criticism. The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs? Embosomed for a season in nature, whose floods of life stream around and through us, and invite us by the powers they supply, to action proportioned to nature, why should we grope among the dry bones of the past, or put the living generation into masquerade out of its faded wardrobe? The sun shines to-day also. There is more wool and flax in the fields. There are new lands, new men, new thoughts. Let us demand our own works and laws and worship.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nature” 1836

Ralph Waldo Emerson was  one of the leading figures in the Transcendentalism movement of literature and philosophy. Transcendentalism was a smaller part of a larger cultural era in American history known as the Second Great Awakening, a religious revival that defied economic and social structures. Advocates for the common man sprung up throughout the countryside, pleading the case of the poor yeoman farmer or the landless laborer. Andrew Jackson, among other political leaders, took this to heart, bringing then-revolutionary ideas, such as universal white male suffrage to the frontburner in what would later be thought of as the golden age of American politics and society.

What made this era so great was one key characteristic: it challenged the status quo. While there were still, of course, was economic stratification, previously held economic and political beliefs were turned upside down in a way that changed American history forever.

The idea of challenging the established order is not a new idea. Even before these heralded figures, the United States was a country of firsts, one that went against the grain in almost every respect. That attitude spread to much of the rest of the world, and today is prevalent in every scientific, mathematical, and philosophical field you can think of.

Times have certainly changed since the 1830s, and the demand is now for empirical evidence. This evidence has revolutionized biology, medicine, technology, you name it. Hard proof, not just logic or rhetoric, needs to be there to prove something to be true.

This has more recently been applied to Major League Baseball front offices where, like it or not, people were forced to look at new, statistical-based ideas about how the game is played.

Every single MLB front office has some form of an advanced statistical analysis department at the moment, yet there is still a large segment of fans and those who cover the game who are holding out, refusing to even acknowledge that this new set of beliefs are relevant. Many say teams still don’t use them, when in fact, the Cardinals and Red Soc have each attributed their recent success to an ideal combination of scouting and advanced statistics. It’s here to stay.

This last but still significant segment of baseball followers is not going to affect the way executives run their organizations anymore, but they, especially the writers who still have major influence, still need to be convinced. It’s always difficult to cast aside long-held beliefs and to find new perspective, especially after decades of being convinced something is superior.

The biggest barriers for many are the thoughts of current and former players on sabermetrics. They played the game for sometimes as much as 20 years. Shouldn’t they know more than anyone else? One would think that an experienced professional would know the trade inside and out, but baseball is a unique case in which there are two distinct jobs: evaluating talent and playing. The former players know how to play the game, but not necessarily evaluate it. They may know what worked for them or what worked for others they knew, but that doesn’t mean their way is the best way. That is where the people who have done hardcore research and analysis come in.

We have seen a huge influx of Wall Street GMs, and for good reason. While they are not former players, they both love baseball and can apply their statistical expertise to it. They are able to cast aside their predispositions far easier than players can.

Bill James is credited as the creator of the sabermetric movement in baseball.

This is a touchy subject, but education is an important factor as well. So many professional baseball players never went to college, and many more from foreign countries left home at 16, never even completing high school. In contrast, the analyst-types who didn’t play often have undergraduate or graduate degrees in mathematical fields, which will help them look at that data objectively. Bill James, the grandfather of sabermetrics, has a phD in statistics. Who would you rather hire to build a team, someone who both never got a college education and relies heavily on their personal experience or a highly-educated person who is able to take an objective look at things? The answer should be obvious.

Now, that’s not to say former players don’t have a place in the game, because they absolutely do. They often make great coaches and can relate to players like no other non-baseball person could. If a former player is able to combine their knowledge of the grind of a baseball season as well as knowledge of mechanics with objectivity and data interpretation, that’s even better, but it’s also uncommon. When it comes down to running a ballclub, the best person for the job is often someone who never played baseball professionally, as that combination in a player is so hard to come by.

The revolutionary figures in history are those who stood up to challenge traditions. New may not always mean better, but doing research and thoroughly examining an idea is always beneficial. Baseball is one of the few areas where new ideas are frowned upon by fans. The common “baseball card stats” were created in the 19th century, long before computers could crunch data in seconds, even before the rules of baseball were even set.

I am not demanding those holdouts to “convert,” only to acknowledge that there is some validity to applying empirical evidence to baseball. As the old saying goes, you never know until you try it.

]]> 0
MMO Morning Grind: The Insurance Run Epidemic Wed, 23 Apr 2014 11:56:27 +0000 jose valverde

Good morning, Mets fans!

Let me set the scene. The Mets head into an important inning, late in the game. It might even be the 9th. It’s usually the 9th. They’re down by a run, or maybe 2. Whatever the deficit is, it’s usually larger by the time the inning ends.

The Mets hand out so many insurance runs that Mr. Met should probably be replaced by a sassy gecko by the end of the season (No word on whether the sassy gecko has Super-2 status, which would be a game-changer).

Take Opening Day, for example. The Mets allowed the Nationals to take the lead in the 10th, then let Washington tack on a few more runs before getting out of the inning. David Wright hit a 2-run home run in the bottom half of the inning, but thanks to the insurance runs, it didn’t matter.

Or why don’t you take Saturday night’s game, when Jose Valverde ket a 1-run deficit become a 4-run gap, which wasted the impressive rally the Mets would put together against Craig Kimbrel in the bottom of the 9th.

Even last night’s game would have looked a bit different if Valverde hadn’t given up a run in the top of the 9th to make it a 3 run game. In a 2-run game, maybe Curtis Bay Granderson is more aggressive with a runner on base once he gets into a hitters’ count. Maybe David Wright and Daniel Murphy take different approaches at the plate.

Whenever the Mets dig themselves into a hole, they  have to try and see if they can pull out one last rally. But when one of their relievers deepens that hole right before the Mets get set to make their final push, it makes the comeback attempts harder (obviously) and can have a demoralizing effect on the hitters. Imagine running out onto the field for the top of the 9th knowing you’ll just need 1 run in the bottom half, but being down 4 runs by the time you get back in the dugout.

Relievers are most often criticized when they blow leads (you have ONE job!), and they take a good amount of heat when they can’t maintain a tie. But when a reliever enters a game with his team trailing by a run or 2, he has to bear down and keep it that way. Keep your team in the game, give your team a chance to win. That’s what you have to do if you’re a reliever, and our bullpen’s current inability to do so has cost us early in the season.

Let’s hope the bullpen can stop handing out insurance runs. Or better yet, let’s hope we can hand our relievers leads, and render this entire discussion moot. A nice, relaxing, blowout victory today would be nice. Have a good day, Mets fans!

Presented By Diehards

]]> 0
Jose Abreu Proving Doubters Wrong Fri, 11 Apr 2014 17:44:38 +0000 jose abreu

During last night’s game against the Cleveland Indians, White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu continued his tremendous start to the season. He smashed two more home runs during Chicago’s 7-3 victory, and he currently leads the AL in Home Runs (4) and RBI (14). Many experts and fans alike considered Abreu an excellent option this offseason for the Mets, but the front office never showed any serious interest.  Abreu would have solved the team’s ongoing problems at first base, and passing on him may end up being a move they will regret for years to come.

Abreu would have provided the Mets with a feared power hitter that they have desperately needed. He was regarded as an elite hitter coming out of Cuba, and he has incredible and unquestioned raw power at 6’3” and 255 pounds. Those 30 home runs projections seem to be spot on, and his terrific performance so far shows he can handle major league pitching as many expected he would given his bat speed. Considering the Mets’ struggles offensively the last few seasons, adding Abreu would have dramatically strengthened the lineup.

For a team that is trying to build for the future, Abreu also made perfect sense. He is in the prime of this career at 27 years old, and he would not have cost the Mets any draft picks. Abreu was also not as expensive as other top free agents like Shin Soo Choo and Jacoby Ellsbury, who both signed for well over 100 million dollars. All of these factors limited any risk surrounding Abreu.

With the Mets now employing some bizarre platoon at first base, it is clear they may have made a severe miscalculation regarding Abreu. After several seasons with Ike Davis and Lucas Duda, the Mets first base situation is still a mess that could have been avoided had they aggressively pursued Abreu. This whole situation was poorly managed by the Mets, and it is another example of the Mets ineptitude in the front office.


]]> 0
Our Annual Opening Day Reading: Casey At The Bat Mon, 31 Mar 2014 04:09:43 +0000 casey-at-the-bat-story-1

It has become something of an Opening Day Tradition here on MMO; our annual reading of the great baseball classic Casey At The Bat. As we prepare for the Mets to return to action, please enjoy this legendary 1888 ballad that describes everything we love about this great game:

Casey At The Bat

By Ernest Lawrence Thayer, San Francisco Examiner – June 3, 1888

The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day;
The score stood four to two with but one inning more to play.
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought if only Casey could but get a whack at that–
We’d put up even money now with Casey at the bat.

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
And the former was a lulu and the latter was a cake;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey’s getting to the bat.

But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despis-ed, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and the men saw what had occurred,
There was Johnnie safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from 5,000 throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It knocked upon the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile on Casey’s face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt ’twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt.
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance flashed in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,

And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped–
“That ain’t my style,” said Casey. “Strike one,” the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore.
“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” shouted some one on the stand;
And it’s likely they’d have killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the sphereoid flew;
But Casey still ignored it, and the umpire said, “Strike two.”

“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered fraud;
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn’t let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip, his teeth are clenched in hate;
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate.
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville –mighty Casey has struck out.

casey 2

And as I added last year, please enjoy a recording of James Earl Jones reading Casey At The Bat complete with dramatic musical accompaniment.

]]> 0
AL Central Preview: AKA Tiger Town? Sat, 29 Mar 2014 15:00:26 +0000 The AL Central is a division that has been owned by the Detroit Tigers since 2011, and it won’t be easy to take that crown away from them in 2014.

5th Place: Chicago White Sox

In 2012, Robin Ventura’s White Sox looked like they might actually be more of a force in the near future than perhaps many of us thought.

Then last year, the White Sox showed their true colors.


A huge factor in whether this team succeeds in 2014 will be Jose Abreu, and whether or not he can be the superstar caliber 1B that some people thought he could be. I know Abreu is dealing with an ankle issue right now, but assuming he is healthy – he is the player to watch here.

Abreu to me isn’t surrounded by a lot of dynamic talent on offense.

As for the rotation, Chris Sale and Jose Quintana are clearly the two pitchers in this rotation that hold the key to any success they may desire. Quintana is probably lesser known than Sale, but he might be more important than Sale.

Sale is nasty, but I like Quintana this year to take his game to the next level.

Overall though, there just is not enough talent here and I think Chicago will have a tough year.

4th Place: Minnesota Twins

The Twins are that team that baseball fans are almost expecting to just come out of nowhere sometime soon.

They aren’t there yet though.

On offense, their fans are excited about Brian Dozier and Oswaldo Arcia. Arcia is a guy you may want to pay attention to in 2014.

mike pelfreyOn the mound, most New York fans may take note because this rotation features not one, but two “rushed” or “failed” prospects from NY in Mike Pelfrey and Phil Hughes. Ricky Nolasco might actually have a solid year in Minnesota quietly, but I’m not sure he’ll stay in Minnesota all year – buyer beware!

Overall, I’m not too impressed with Minnesota either, I just think they might have slightly more to look forward to than Chicago.

3rd Place: Kansas City Royals

This team is one I’d love to see return to the playoff scene, but I just cannot see it in 2014.

I’ve never been a big James Shields fan, and last year to be honest, Shields shocked me last year. I don’t think he’ll do it again in 2014.

Last year, the Royals won 86 games and in my view, they didn’t get better in 2014 and honestly, they probably got a little worse.

On offense, I’m not sure the addition of Norichika Aoki is really going to make that big of a difference. So the Royals are in a situation where their offensive improvement is really about whether or not guys like Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas can take their game to the next level at 24 years old.

With the rotation, you’ve basically replaced Ervin Santana with Jason Vargas and I don’t know many who would suggest that makes your team better.

So while, I do think guys like Hosmer might improve, I don’t think it will be enough for the Royals in 2014. I see them closer to .500.

2nd Place: Cleveland Indians

I kind of thought I’d go into this picking Cleveland as kind of an “upset” pick to win the division. However, the more I look at things – I just can’t do it.

On offense, they have a great sleeper candidate in catcher Yan Gomes. Gomes will take over the full time catcher duties in Cleveland, and I think everybody should pay close attention to him.

Nick Swisher is the veteran that hopes to yet again lead this team to contention, but I have to think at some point he starts to decline, and I think we’ll see that in 2014.

When you take an honest look at their lineup, unless becoming a full time DH helps Carlos Santana become a 30+ HR hitter, you can’t really find a power threat in this lineup.

The rotation is still lead by Justin Masterson. Ubaldo Jiminez left a void in the rotation, and it was filled by – well I don’t know. I guess maybe Carlos Carrasco? Carrasco was once a highly touted prospect involved in the Cliff Lee trade with Philadelphia, but he just has not lived up to it.

I’m not the kind of guy who minimizes a great manager. Terry Francona is a great manager and he’ll get every ounce of talent out of his team just like he did in 2013. I just don’t think it’s enough to take over the division.

1st Place: Detroit Tigers

I’m starting to feel like the guy who takes all #1 seeds in his NCAA bracket.

But, in reality – unless you can predict catastrophic injuries, I’m not sure why you’d predict them to not win this division.

On offense, you know the usual suspects. Miguel Cabrera (the $300 million man), Austin Jackson, Alex Avila, Victor Martinez and Torii Hunter. Now, you can add in Ian Kinsler…an angry Ian Kinsler.

The offense is loaded, and is far and away better than any other team in the division.


If that wasn’t enough, you have Max Scherzer, last year’s Cy Young winner who isn’t even the best pitcher on this team.

Justin Verlander enters 2014 looking to prove his critics wrong. There was some that thought perhaps last year was a sign that Verlander was hitting a wall. I don’t think that is the case.

I mean, look at Verlander’s strikeout totals last year. In a “bad” year he struck out 217 batters. That’s ridiculous.

Verlander is going to bounce back, and that is how Detroit will replace the loss of Doug Fister. They will have a two headed cy young monster.

The addition of Joe Nathan gives them a regular season closer they can trust – I just don’t trust him in the playoffs (at least DET is used to that).

Overall, I can’t see how this team would be considered a 2nd place team (or worse) in this division.

AL Central MVPMiguel Cabrera – When in doubt, go with the guy who can win the triple crown.

AL Central CY: Justin Verlander – Motivated by his critics and Scherzer winning the award, Verlander returns to dominance.

AL Central SleeperYan Gomes – A full time catcher in Cleveland, if he stays healthy, I think he could be an all-star this year.

XtreemIcon’s Picks

This division is definitely more wide open than my colleague thinks, in my opinion, but gun to my head, the Tigers win again. I have KC second and Cleveland third, but agree on the Twins finishing fourth and Chicago last. There’s really not much of a future in Chicago, but the Twins have something to look forward to. Aside from Arcia, Byron Buxton is omnipresent and there’s a good crop of kids a little further away. None of that helps now, however. I just like the Twins offense much more than the Sox.

I’m not on the Indians bandwagon at all. They won 92 games last year, turning around a miserable 2012, but I give them almost a zero chance to repeat. Granted, I gave them the same chance of being a contender last season, and that blew up in my face, but I stand firm. They had great pitching last season, helped by Scott Kazmir and Ubaldo Jimenez, both of whom have moved on. Their four and five starters are now their two and three starters, and although I liked the progression of Corey Kluber and think he’ll continue to improve, I feel they lost too much. Danny Salazar has a lot of potential, but will need a real come-out-of-nowhere season to replace either Jimenez or Kazmir. But he can’t replace both.

The Royals will finish second and I’d bet they finish closer to the Tigers than they do the Indians. Aside from the best bullpen in the AL, and maybe all of baseball, Hosmer and Moustakas are primed for a break out. They have a stud catcher in Salvador Perez, a center fielder that has all the tools and ability you could ask for in Lorenzo Cain and Yordano Ventura could be this season’s Jose Fernandez is he harnesses his secondary pitches.

The Tigers need to win the World Series this year, because the Cabrera contract has basically ensured they won’t have any more chances past this season. He’s already started breaking down and is about as nonathletic as a professional athlete can be, which does not bode well for the Tigers as he ages. But that’s about their doomed future.

This season, they probably still have enough to win the division, but not easily. Consider this: despite being the most talented team in the division by a wide margin recently, they only won the division by three games in 2012 and one game last year. And this year, the margin isn’t as wide. Cabrera is breaking down and Scherzer will decline (no knock on him, but he can’t actually get better). Verlander declined significantly in 2013, and for the Tigers’ sake, I hope it’s a down year and not the start of a decline. He has about a million innings on that arm. The infield defense is atrocious and the bullpen is a strong breeze away from the first ever group Tommy John surgery.

If Cabrera and Verlander really are in the beginning of their decline, and with Scherzer leaving via free agency after this season, the Tigers absolutely have to win this season. This is their swan song.

AL Central MVP: Eric Hosmer. It’s his time.

AL Central CY: Chris Sale. Won’t do them any good, though.

AL Central Sleeper: The Royals. 90 wins wouldn’t shock me at all.


]]> 0
NL West Preview: Can Anybody Stop The Dodgers? Mon, 24 Mar 2014 15:00:49 +0000 The National League West showcases the team that many believe are the favorites to win the World Series heading into 2014. How often though do we see a team that “everybody” agrees is the team to beat slip to reality when injuries and such come knocking on their door? Are the Dodgers going to fall into that same story line?

In your comments, we’d love to hear your predicted standings, your NL West MVP, NL West Best Pitcher, and NL West Top Sleeper.

5th Place: Colorado Rockies

As many Mets fans know, Dexter Fowler was sent to the Houston Astros this off-season, and while many Rockies fans may not have liked the moved then – I think they will really dislike the move when they see the negative defensive effects of the move.

This is a team to me, that is going to have trouble with their arms. So when you essentially diminish the defense by giving away Fowler, you’re not doing your pitchers any favors.

troy tulowitzki

The addition of Brett Anderson could prove to be a good move for Colorado, but he isn’t a “save the day” type starting pitcher.

Also, adding Justin Morneau to replace the Rockies legend Todd Helton should at least prove to be a somewhat lateral move in terms of production.

This is a team that will have trade rumors swirling about Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez all season long. If you’re paying attention to the Rockies in 2014, it’s because you’re curious where or if they end up being traded.

4th Place: San Francisco Giants

I understand this is likely not going to fly with many of you. But hear me out.

Everybody knows that in the NL, if you have pitching, you’re in good shape. The problem I have with San Francisco is I believe their rotation is relying on two big IF’s.

The first is whether or not Tim Lincecum can return to his winning ways, and if you have seen him this spring, you have your doubts. The second is whether or not Tim Hudson can stay healthy and be the guy this rotation needs on a consistent basis. If Hudson stays healthy, then yeah, I would say this team could fight for 3rd place or maybe even a wildcard.

The offense is still very bland. If there is any positive, it’s that Pablo Sandoval may be motivated by a new contract this year. I’m not a big Mike Morse fan, so I don’t even consider his addition as anything to really think about when predicting their offensive performance.

To me, this is a team that tries to do “just enough” at the plate, and I don’t like that. I think last year they showed that the model they’ve gone with can backfire tremendously. I’m expecting them to finish closer to .500, but not to be in any sort of playoff discussion.

3rd Place: San Diego Padres

I was a bit high on them last year, and I’ll stick with my positive outlook for this franchise. I actually really liked the decision to sign Josh Johnson here – I don’t think Johnson was a good fit for any team, but in San Diego, he may actually work. We’ve all seen what Johnson can do on his best days, so if he can find his winning ways again – he could be dangerous in San Diego.

chase headleyAndrew Cashner to me is a guy who could be a recognizable name by many come All-Star break. He’s got the stuff to be a solid #2 type starter, and if he comes into that role, the Padres could be in real good shape.

Of course, there are negatives. The offense isn’t really too good, and if Chase Headley doesn’t find his way back to 2012 form, they could be in trouble at the plate.

I think this could be one of those “fun” teams to watch all year, but it’s going to take a little bit of luck and a lot of health in order for that to be the case.

2nd place: Arizona Diamondbacks

Without many paying attention to them, Arizona has suddenly become a top wildcard contender for the last two years now.

mark trumbo

They made two significant moves as they head into the 2014 season that could make or break their playoff chances.

The first was adding Mark Trumbo to the mix. Now, they are gambling on Trumbo being able to power his way through the NL West (especially in Arizona), and have his strikeouts be worth his production. It’s a gamble, but it’s one that could pay off for this team.

The second was adding Bronson Arroyo. Arroyo is a guy many Mets fans are familiar with due to some recent desires to add him to the rotation. He’s a pretty consistent starter, and gives the team a 200+ innings guy that they can rely on. However, he is a guy that if you look at advanced metrics, he is sometimes more lucky than good. Will his luck run out?

The recent news that Patrick Corbin is likely out for the entire year doesn’t help this prediction for sure. However, as bad as that news is, I don’t think it kills their year as much as some think. This team has proven to be resilient and has an MVP candidate in Paul Goldschmidt, I think they can overcome the loss of their 24 year old starter and contend for a playoff berth.

1st Place: Los Angeles Dodgers

There is nothing I’d like more than to see my prediction be wrong, but I just cannot see how that might happen without catastrophic injuries.

This team is loaded, there is no other way to put it.

The Dodgers rotation is as nasty as you’ll find in the sport today. When you have the best pitcher in baseball pitching AHEAD of a former Cy Young winner in Greinke, paired with Hyun-jin Ry, Dan Haren and Paul Maholm or Josh Beckett, I’m not sure how your offense goes into any game thinking they have to overachieve for a victory.

yasiel-puig-blogTheir bullpen is also pretty filthy. Brian Wilson, Kenley Jansen and Chris Perez give this team so many late inning options that it’s scary.

The offense is as loaded as the rotation, and everybody is waiting to see how Yasiel Puig does with a full year under his belt, not only in terms of production – but in terms of maturity as well. He is probably the most entertaining player to watch in baseball today, and if he can back up his 2013 campaign with a better 2014, he could be an MVP candidate.

Speaking of MVP candidates, the Dodgers in reality, probably won’t have one because their lineup is filled with guys who could win an MVP.

Matt Kemp may be the key to all of the Dodgers success or failure though. If Kemp can get healthy, and stay healthy, I don’t see how this offense isn’t the best in baseball.

This team is not only good on paper, they are as deep as any team in baseball. They will be able to overcome an injury or two (so long as it’s not Kershaw), and that makes them a no brainer 1st place pick to me.

NL West MVP: Paul Goldschmidt – Mostly because I think if Arizona is in the mix, it’s in large part due to his production and he isn’t surrounded by studs like Dodger hitters are.

NL West Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw – He’s the best there is.

NL West Sleeper: Andrew Cashner – He had a decent 2013 campaign, but it was highly under the radar. I think he breaks out this year to become one of the NL’s best starters.

XtreemIcon’s Picks

Jessep did a great job detailing his picks, so I’m not going to reiterate everything he said, I’ll just point out where I disagree. From last to first, the division shapes up like this for me: Colorado/San Diego/San Francisco/Arizona/LA. The reason I have SD behind SF is not because I think SF will be any good (they spent an insane amount of money simply to bring back the same 76 win team they fielded last year), but because Headley will be traded at some point this season, which will decimate their already weak offense. And with Johnson and Cashner being question marks, they fall to 4th place. Not fifth, though. Colorado is that bad.

What I would like to add is that even though I chose Arizona to finish second, I don’t expect a good year out of them. Jessep think they will contend, and I most certainly do not. The second place finish is more like an indictment on the rest of the division than it is a vote of confidence for Arizona. Corbin hurts bad and Arroyo was a terrible signing. His ERA will likely hover around 4.50 and could be traded at the deadline, probably back to the Red Sox. I think LA will be the only team above .500 and will win the division by 20 games

NL West MVP: Paul Goldschmidt – His numbers will tell their own story.

NL West Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw – Period.

NL West Sleeper: Brandon Belt – He’s going to hit in the middle of the lineup and have the chance to do some real damage. He fixed a mechanical issue with his swing and tore it up in August and September. He’s going to challenge Goldschmidt for the division MVP.


]]> 0
Success and Lineup Consistency Sun, 16 Mar 2014 11:30:00 +0000 During the MLB Network broadcast of Reds, Brewers game, the color commentator suggested that in order for a team to be successful, they need consistency in their lineup. The commentator insisted that a lineup must include a leadoff man who maintains that slot in the lineup every day. He went on to mention that for a team to win, slots 1-4 in the lineup must be filled with non-platoon players. If you have a platoon in the leadoff spot, things can go wrong. “Your first four hitters in your lineup have to be in there pretty much every day. You don’t want a platoon time player as your leadoff guy”. The comment was given regarding the Brewer’s lack of a true leadoff hitter. Scooter Gennett is the closest thing they have with Jean Segura batting second.

I can’t help but think that lineup consistency is simply a result of overall team talent. If a team has four players who are so good that they belong in the lineup every day, then they will play every day. A consistent lineup will result from the desire to get the best players out there every day. If a team has significantly less talent, their lineup will not be as consistent and will include more platoons. The players that make up the starting lineup of the less-talent team will more closely preform at replacement level than the more-talent team whose players play every day. If a starting lineup includes replacement level players or players within a win or two of replacement level, there will be more platoons and swaps between bench players.

Lineup consistency is not a measure that must be achieved in order for success to be attained; it is a byproduct of a team with plenty of talent who doesn’t need to tinker with its lineup. Lineup consistency and winning do not directly affect each other.

Joe Maddon

Joe Maddon of the Tampa Bay Rays is known both for being one of the best managers in baseball and for often shuffling his lineup around. Maddon clearly does not subscribe to the rule of consistency, and just has plenty of talent to work with. Maddon’s method provides an example in which talent is isolated and lineup consistency is thrown out.

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times detailed Maddon’s strategy:

“Maddon was at his best — or worst — using a majors-most 151 batting orders for their 162 games, and no one more than three times.”

That stat refers to the 2012 season in which only three Rays exceeded 575 plate appearances. In 2013, as pointed out by Rob Rogacki of SB Nation, five Rays exceeded those 575 plate appearances, the most by a Joe Maddon coached team since 2010.

Maddon has earned himself a reputation as a man who tinkers with the order of his lineup, yielding a batting order described as anything but consistent. Despite this well-documented strategy, the Rays as a team, remain quite consistent, winning 97, 84, 96, 91, 90, and 92 games in each season since 2008 respectively. Maddon has managed every one of these teams.

The Tampa Bay Times’ Gary Shelton provided the totals as far as different lineups were concerned.

“For each of the past five years, Maddon has started an increasing number of lineups. In 2008, it was 115. The next year, it was 123. In 2010, it was 129. In 2011, it was 130. Then last year (2012), with Longoria hurt, it was a whopping 151 lineups in 162 games.”

There are three factors at work here and this announcer was looking to thread them together when in reality, correlation does not imply causation. The three factors are lineup construction, talent and winning. Talent and winning always belong together, lineup construction proves to just be the third wheel.

Why have Maddon and the Rays been so successful despite notoriously tinkering with their lineup? Talent. Is manufacturing a batting order with the same team members slotted in their respective places a plausible strategy or a oft occurring result of a talented team that does not directly influence success?


]]> 0
Oldies But Not Goodies: Discarding RBI, Runs Scored, and Pitching Wins Thu, 06 Mar 2014 18:00:17 +0000 While most traditionalist stats are all but completely gone from most Major League Baseball front offices, the casual fan and the older generations of die-hard fans have stuck with the statistics. Classic and easy to remember, a century of celebrating records has some people holding on to these numbers for good. Sometimes, classic theories and ideas can still be relevant, but in this case, that isn’t true.

baseball glove benchI have nothing against people who like these stats. Many of them have spent their entire lives having RBI records, batting average records, win-loss records, and other statistical feats drilled into their heads. These were the only options, so people didn’t question them.

There are three stats in particular, however, that need to go. This may be obvious to many fans but they can’t hold a candle to some of the new metrics that have popped up in recent decades. RBI, runs scored, and pitching wins and losses are arguably the most irrelevant and useless popular statistics.

Before diving in to each one, consider one thing. What is the goal of using statistics for individual players? The answer is simple: to isolate production. Simply, to tell how talented a player is. In theory, the best statistics are affected only minimally by other players, otherwise a statistic can be as much a measure of a team’s ability as the individual player’s. If you were a general manager signing a player from the Red Sox for $200 million, given only statistics that are significantly affected by other Red Sox players, would you consider making the deal.

Runs Batted In (RBI)

The Goal: Runs Batted in has two joint goals (or at least it is perceived to have two): to evaluate how good a player is in important situations and how productive he is overall.

The flaws: This statistic rose to mass use in the 1920s. This is not a problem, but it shows that the statistic was created before baseball was understood as much as it is today.

RBI is as much of a team statistic as it is an individual one, it’s main problem. There is only one method of getting an RBI without any baserunners and that’s hitting a home run. Say two hitters each hit home runs, except the second hitter did it with a runner on first base. Does the second batter deserve twice as much “credit” as the first? No, not at all. The second home run hitter probably had little to no effect at all on whether that runner reached base, but he still gets credit for “driving in” that person. Not only that, but players on better teams tend to get more opportunities to drive runners in. Two players may be driving in the same percentage of baserunners but one may have far fewer RBI than the other.

One more thing to consider about RBI is that it treats every situation equally. What good is a second inning RBI single when your team is down 9-0? Which leads me to…

Alternatives: There are a number of different alternatives for RBI but the most popular is probably Win Probability Added. Remember how every RBI is treated the same regardless of situation? That is where WPA comes in. Baseball has been played for over a century and almost every situation imaginable has repeated itself over and over again. One thing is certain: there are always calculable odds of who is more likely to win. Every action affects a team’s odds of winning a game, whether it is small or large. A walk-off home run obviously has a bigger impact than a one out single in the third inning with nobody on. WPA uses linear weights, a complex way of saying the odds of winning added (or lost) from each action. Players with a higher WPA tend to have had bigger impacts on games (although it is not predictive), specifically in high-pressure situations, which statisticians have debated the effects of with no real consensus yet. This is still a stat where a team must put a player into position to have a bigger impact, but it certainly quantifies that impact far better than RBI. (To read my article from last summer going in depth on WPA, click here.)

Runs Scored (Individual)

The Goal: This stat is rather murky in its presumed goal. Really, it is likely meant to measure both production overall and baserunning.

The flaws: Again, this is a stat in which it depends so much on the surrounding team, probably even more than RBI. A player can bat 1.000 and still never score a run. Of course, these theoretical situations aren’t relevant to the real world of baseball, but the idea holds true: teams set you up to score a run. Sure, the player may have successfully made it to home plate without falling flat on his face, or he could have even dove into home plate well. However, the hitting  team still had to do something to allow him to cross home plate and even the team in the field often time chooses not to throw to home, instead opting to hit the cutoff man and settle at that.

Alternatives: There are a ton of alternatives to Runs Scored, satisfying both purposes. Getting into them could take another thousand words, but there are plenty of viable alternatives. For overall production, OPS, OPS+, all the way down to wOBA and wRC+ do the job better than runs scored as they isolate that particular player more. For baserunning, there are complex metrics like UBR out there, as well as some of Baseball-Reference’s statistics that even include a player’s ability to avoid getting thrown out at first on a double play. There is some very interesting stuff out there that can even break down the type of baserunning a hitter is good at.

Wins and Losses (For Pitchers)

The Goal: To evaluate the performance of an individual pitcher

The flaws: Where to begin? There are so many flaws with wins and losses. As a general rule, I say that wins and losses are half affected by the offense and some by defense as well. A pitcher can be on his game striking batters and getting weak ground balls and still get the loss. In order to get a win, the offense of the pitcher’s team must score more runs than the other. Say what you will about pitching to the score, but that’s what it comes down to.

Additionally, a pitcher’s defense behind him can let him down, whether measured in errors or not. Even if the pitcher allows only unearned runs, the loss is still given.

There are also plenty of situations where the pitcher throws a great game but leaves tied, giving a reliever an opportunity to get credit, even if he comes in only to pick off a baserunner. It has happened before, and it is so often the pitcher with the best night that gets cheated.

Alternatives: Rate stats are the way to go here. Looking at game logs is fine as well, but not all wins and losses are created equal, but even an undeserved win will show up in rate stats. Specifically, FIP and xFIP are great alternatives as they take out the fielding aspect as well as the hitting aspect, which ERA does not completely do.

*   *   *

There are a number of statistics like these that are very flawed and should be essentially discarded from use by the average fan. As someone who’s skeptical of almost anything, I noticed early on that there were flaws. With baseball especially, it’s important to not let tradition get in the way of realizing the flaws of the different ways people analyze the game.


]]> 0
Could Matt Harvey Become A High Maintenance Super Nova? Mon, 24 Feb 2014 12:39:55 +0000 Could the New York Mets have a potential problem with Matt Harvey?

There are already signs of him being high maintenance … signs he enjoys the trappings of New York too much … signs he doesn’t handle injuries well … signs of being too sensitive … signs he knows he’s good and isn’t afraid to let you know.

Harvey has never pitched a complete season and is 12-10 lifetime. While we’re not talking about the second coming of Tom Seaver, Harvey seems to be carrying himself with a sense of entitlement and a “you can’t touch me’’ aura.

The latest is his reported reluctance to want to undergo his rehab in Port St. Lucie, which the Mets prefer, and desire to work out in New York.

After Harvey threw for the first time Saturday, general manager Sandy Alderson backed off saying where the 24-year-old 2010 will rehab, but made clear his preference.

“As a general rule, our players rehab in Florida,’’ Alderson said Saturday. “But that’s not a decision we’re going to make or mandate [now]. When we get to the end of spring training we’ll see where he is, and I’m sure there will be discussion between now and then.’’

MattHarvey1For somebody with 36 career starts, why should there even be discussion? If Port St. Lucie was good enough for David Wright and Pedro Martinez to rehab, it should be good enough for Harvey.

In fairness, we haven’t heard Harvey’s reasoning for his preference of New York, which leads to speculation, with little of it showing him in a good light.

Making this more touchy is this could go before the Players Association, as the collective bargaining agreement mandates a player can refuse his rehab in a spring training locale during the season for longer than 20 days.

“The CBA imposes limitations. Yeah,’’ Alderson said. “But in the past, for the most part, our players have been here and it’s been a good situation.’’

We know New York is Harvey’s home, has superior Italian food and a better nightlife than Port St. Lucie.

But, what’s the purpose here?

New York’s nightlife makes one wonder, as Harvey clearly enjoys the perks of being a star – even though that might be a premature characterization of his professional status. Harvey likes the clubs and openly spoke about his drinking in a Men’s Journal magazine piece.

“I’m young, I’m single,’’ he was quoted as saying. “I want to be in the mix. … I have a 48-hour rule. No drinking two days before a start. But, those other days? Yes, I’m gonna go out.’’

The bottom line: If you’re 24 and a high-profile figure, you shouldn’t need a rule about drinking. If he finds it necessary to have a rule, he shouldn’t be drinking in the first place.

Everybody these days has a phone with a camera. Harvey has already been caught several times in incidents of public displays of affection with his former supermodel girlfriend, Anne V. at Rangers and Knicks games, where he is gifted the tickets. More trappings.

He’s now seeing another model, Ashley Haas, which has his comments of wanting to be like Derek Jeter resurface. Of course, It is doubtful Jeter would have ever posed nude.

“That guy is the model,’’ he said. “I mean, first off, let’s just look at the women he’s dated. Obviously, he goes out – he’s meeting these girls somewhere – but you never hear about it. That’s where I want to be.’’

New York’s nightlife has burned out dozens of athletes. Look what it did for Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. Imagine what Mickey Mantle would have been able to accomplish with a little less drinking and womanizing.

And, as for Jeter, he’s not the Teflon he’s made out to be. Stories of sending his conquests home with a gift basket of memorabilia and forcing house guests to surrender their cell phones don’t portray him in a flattering light. Mom must be so proud.

Shortly after the magazine piece came out, Harvey complained about being misquoted and taken out of context. A reporter for a magazine profile records everything, so it is doubtful the quotes were manufactured. Backing off his comments shows a lack of accountability.

Harvey also got into it with WFAN talk-show host Joe Beningo, ripping him on Twitter and then deleting the post.

When it comes to fighting with a radio personality or the media in general, it is futile as it comes off as petty and unprofessional, plus, he’ll never have the last word.

The media isn’t as easy to bully as was former teammate Jon Rauch, whom Harvey forced out of town after challenging the former Mets reliever to a fight because he didn’t appreciate the rookie hazing, which included getting doused with water while sleeping on the trainer’s table.

If Harvey had a problem he could have confronted Rauch in private rather than making for a very uncomfortable clubhouse scene. That’s something somebody with a professional grasp on things would have done. Instead, he came off as behaving like Jordany Valdespin.

That’s not the only thing Harvey hasn’t handled well. Twice he wasn’t immediately forthcoming in disclosing injuries to the training staff, and arguably it led to his elbow surgery.

I want the best for Harvey. I want him to have a long and brilliant career. However, he has a long way to go, on and off the field. He hasn’t always shown good judgment and a case can be made it cost him this season.

He needs to reign himself in off the field, and that includes not making a big deal about where he rehabs. If reflects poorly on him and makes one wonder if this isn’t about carousing the bars with Haas and watching the Rangers.

If he maintains this course, instead of a franchise pitcher, he could end being a high maintenance super nova.

]]> 0
MMO Review: Ken Burns’ The Tenth Inning Sun, 23 Feb 2014 19:32:25 +0000 burns tenth inning

Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby was once asked what he does all winter. The great 2Bman replied, “I stare out the window and wait for spring.” I am just like Hornsby. No, I don’t have a career 358 BA but I do the same. Unlike most of you, I don’t follow other sports. One tradition I have is viewing Ken Burns’ Baseball to help me survive the endlessly boring winters. A few years back I purchased the “The Tenth Inning,” but hadn’t watched it–until recently.

Hard to believe I was disappointed. True, even a bad Baseball documentary is still good. But this felt more like an ESPN show, not a creation by an award-winning documentarian.

There are several familiar faces that return from the original. Doris Kearns Goodwin, Daniel Okrent, Gerald Early, Thomas Boswell and Bob Costas are back sharing insights. Newcomers include sportswriters Marcus Breton, Howard Bryant, Gary Hoenig, as well as great tales from Keith Olbermann and Mike Barnicle. Chris Rock supplies a few laughs. Bud Selig and Don Fehr are interviewed.

In one of the Special Features both Burns and co-prouder Lynn Novick are interviewed. Burns is a die-hard Red Sox fan, Novick a Yankees fan. Burns stated after his Sox reversed the curse in ’04, he formulated the idea to update the original. And therein lies the problem. This episode covers 1992-2009. However, about 2 ½ of the 4 hours is devoted to only two topics: The Red Sox/Yankee rivalry and steroids.


Granted, these were huge topics over the last 20 years. But as a result numerous other subjects and high points were glossed over or ignored completely.

I’m not downplaying the long lasting effects of the Steroid Era. But I felt far too much emphasis was focused on this topic. The steroids issue was presented in such a way I thought I was watching Dateline.

“The Tenth Inning” was little more than a MLB highlight reel. Gone were the personal stories from those in the game. The only ballplayer interviewed was Pedro Martinez. Felipe Alou appeared briefly in addition to Yankee skipper Joe Torre who received approximately 25 minutes of airtime.  

The earlier innings were, by and large, centered on the individual player and his significance to the game. Rarely was a section focused on a ‘team.’ Much of The Fourth Inning, A National Heirloom, was centered on Babe Ruth. A good portion of the Sixth Inning, The National Pastime, was focused on Jackie Robinson. This tenth inning, as a result of overkill on two topics, left many important issues not covered.

After 86 years, Boston finally won the World Series and received endless coverage. On the flipside, the White Sox ended their 88 year drought in 2005 but it was not even mentioned.

In 2003, the Cubs were 5 outs away from returning to the Series for the first time since 1945, possibly winning their first Championship in 95 years. Yes, there was poor old Steve Bartman again. But no time was devoted to the long storied history of Cubs futility. A brief recap of their century long slump would have brought into perspective the fan interference call.

The overkill of Yankees/Red Sox and Steroids left much on the cutting room floor.


The first 9 innings covered the 20th Century. Yet, one of Baseball’s most glorious moments, the 1999 All-Star Game when yes, The All-Century Team was introduced, was not examined.  Ted Williams at Fenway. How much better does it get?

The influx of Latin players received a good amount of air-time. Yet, there was no mention of the decline and almost complete disappearance of African-Americans from the field. I found this interesting, especially since, and rightfully so, so much focus throughout the original was paid to Jackie Robinson’s arrival, the fading away of the Negro Leagues and the horrors that black ballplayers such as Hank Aaron and Curt Flood endured decades after the end of The Gentleman’s Agreement.

Two of the most popular broadcasters in history, Jack Buck and Harry Caray, adored by generations of fans in Chicago and St. Louis, died in 2002 and 1998 respectively. Yet, they were omitted. There was nothing said about Baseball returning to the nation’s capital after almost forty years. Nor was the addition of teams in Tampa Bay, Colorado, Miami or Arizona discussed. The D-backs only got mentioned when Burns turned his focus to the 2001 Yankees.

As the bulk of the 4 hours centered on the big market Yankees and Sox, the fact that small market clubs on a shoestring budget, such as Oakland, Minnesota, Tampa Bay and Miami remained competitive, was again barely discussed. The Twins, Rays and Marlins with their 2 titles received no air-time.

With the exceptions of the Braves dominant Big Three and the high profile trio of McGwire, Sosa and Bonds, many other great players from the last 20+ years were non-existent.

Ken Griffey Jr, one of the most loved players of his generation appeared on the cover of the DVD but only was briefly mentioned in the opening minutes. Admired Kirby Puckett, who retired early due to injuries, became one of the youngest players enshrined in Cooperstown and tragically died at 45 years old, was absent. Tony Gwynn’s 338 career BA may have been the highest of the last half-century but apparently that wasn’t worthy of being highlighted. One glaring and unbelievable lapse relates to the greatest lead-off hitter ever. Rickey Henderson is the all-time leader in SB’s (1406), runs, (2295), lead-off HR’s (81) and unintentional walks (2129.) He was rarely out on the bases but he was out of The Tenth Inning.

How can you discuss the last 20 years without including Trevor Hoffman, Robby Alomar, Jim Thome, Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Chipper Jones, Craig Biggio and the man who hit more HR’s than any other catcher in history, our own Mike Piazza.

When Aaron Boone, Scott Brosius and Kevin Millar get more attention than Pujols, Cabrera and Alomar, somethin’ aint right.

ichiro_suzuki_catch_seattle_mariners - Copy

One part of The Tenth Inning was almost laughable. Burns and Novick highlighted the arrival of Ichiro Suzuki, the first Japanese position player. It underscored the fact that in the midst of balls flying out of ballparks, a slap hitter won the admiration of fans coast to coast. They made mention of his All-Star game appearances, numerous Gold Gloves and Batting titles. However, while praising Ichiro, they completely failed to include the fact he set the record for most hits in a season (262), a mark that had stood for 84 seasons. To discuss Ichiro without acknowledging his crowning achievement was a monumental blunder.

As for our beloved Mets? Well, let’s be honest. The period 1992-2009 wasn’t a great run for us. However, we were ignored entirely. In the Seventh Inning, The Capital of Baseball (1950-1959), that entire episode centered on New York’s dominance and that seemingly every October there was a Subway Series. Yet, in 2000, when the first Subway Series occurred in four and a half decades, this too was omitted.

Being a New Yorker and Mets fan I was greatly disturbed about the way 9/11 was portrayed. After the Towers were shown on fire and crumbling, the next baseball scene was the Yankees playing the White Sox with Chicagoans holding ‘We Love New York’ signs. There was no mention of the first post-9/11 game in New York, which happened at Shea and not even a mention of Piazza’s HR that healed a city. To add insult to injury, in one of the special features, Joe Torre was talking about how he and some of his players visited families of numerous victims. I’m not playing one-upmanship with regards to a horrific event. But I found it slightly appalling that a filmmaker with the credentials of Ken Burns would emphasize the role of one NY team while completely ignoring the other. A casual fan would think the Mets went the way of the Washington Senators after 1986.


To illustrate the above point, one part focused on how the game got away from the cookie-cutter stadiums of the 60’s and 70’s and built new parks with a retro field. 19 of 30 teams built new homes starting in 1990. If you recall the original documentary, much emphasis was placed on the lore and homey feeling of Ebbets Field. Yet, when the Mets build a retro stadium with an exterior that replicates the Dodgers home, that too, is avoided.

Interestingly, one problem the game has faced over the last generation is the widening gap between big markets and small markets. Yet, Mr. Burns perpetuated that in ‘The Tenth Inning’ by focusing on Boston and New York while largely ignoring everyone else.

the tenth inning

]]> 0