Archive for the ‘New York Mets’ Category

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Kansas City Royals

Despite all the rainouts and postponements, the baseball season is a week old. Most teams have six games under their belt, some seven, and the poor old Tigers have played just five.

It is obviously way too soon to draw any grand or sweeping conclusions about the year. There are hot starts and cold April slumps well under way, but nothing one good day at the dish can’t fix. Any time a couple base hits can raise your batting average by 50 or 100 points, you know it’s early.

It is not a time for making bold pronouncements about the season but there is no reason we cannot shine a light on some of the early season quirks and oddities.

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MLB: New York Mets at Arizona Diamondbacks

There is nothing glamorous about rehab. Coming back from Tommy John surgery is an arduous, painful, agonizing process. Players who make that journey describe the isolation from the world they know – convivial flights, meals, and general bro-ings on – as the worst part. Worse than the surgeon’s scalpel and worse than the slow process of teaching an old ligament new tricks.

It isn’t difficult to understand why Matt Harvey wants to spend as little time as possible in Port St. Lucie, Florida in 2014. By virtue of its location in Florida, it is automatically disqualified from a “places you want to be for more than a few days” list.

Matt Harvey is unlike most baseball players. Most of his New York Met teammates make their homes on Long Island, closer to the Flushing, NY, home of New York’s second team. Harvey was well-known for his preference to stay in Manhattan, embracing the role as “swaggering New York superstar” and/or “frat god” that his unbelievable performance affords him.

Now on the mend from a blown UCL, Matt Harvey is pushing back against the Mets stated preference for him to stay at the minor league complex for the duration of his rehab stint. A whole year in Florida? I don’t think that suits Matt Harvey one bit.

Of all the things to make a big deal about, this issue seems like the most inconsequential. “Young star gently pushes back against team wishes, tabloids spill ink.” But there is a greater point at play here. If, as the CBA dictates, a team can only require players spend 20 days at the Spring Training complex without the player’s consent, then Matt Harvey isn’t really doing anything wrong. His recent comments show the 2013 Cy Young shoo-in is keenly aware of the sensitive nature of his request.

“After talking with my agent and the Players’ Association and going over the CBA rules, as a player you have rights,” Harvey recently said. “I want to do what’s best for the organization and best for the rehab process. For me, I’ve made it clear where I stand.

“I think everybody knows I want to be with the team and be with the guys. New York is my home. I love being there. I love showing up to the ballpark every day. If I have that opportunity, then that’s where I’d like to be.”

There is an element of employee satisfaction at play here. Making players feel valued and that their opinions matter is probably a decent strategy, no? Not every player is as magnanimous as David Wright and happy to sign away their peak years to a club stuck in the middle of a long ice age between periods of competitiveness.

If the Mets cling to their belief that the distractions of big city life will slow the progress of Harvey…are they not paying attention? Harvey, who would return to PSL when he is ready for game action, repeatedly states a desire to pitch this season, less than one calendar year after his Tommy John. That’s crazy, and hardly consistent with a guy who would blow off his rehab commitments in exchange for late nights at the 40/40.

It might run counter to about 50 years of Mets tradition, but working with players and making them comfortable and accountable is not a bad strategy. Giving the athlete the benefit of the doubt as far as what they can do to better prepare their bodies is something other players tend to notice. Cautious as the Mets might be in allowing Harvey favors that Dillon Gee just isn’t going to get, there is an element of degrees here. Matt Harvey is one of the most dynamic Mets pitchers since Dwight Gooden. Keeping him happy and healthy (and out of pinstripes) should be goal #1.

So long as Matt Harvey makes it back to the mound at Citi Bank Ballpark, fans don’t care where he does his rehab. I assume the Mets feel the same. If Matt Harvey believes sleeping in his own bed and spending time with his teammates will facilitate better healing, who is to object. Understandable as the Mets’ need to control this situation might be, staying on the same page as their ace is just good business.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at New York Yankees

Spring Training is probably twice as long as it needs to be. The players universally arrive to camp already in peak physical shape, such that a player who comes to camp out of shape is mocked and derided and roundly questioned.

But the owners like selling tickets and the players like all the off days so, for now, it is a six-week odyssey. All anybody in uniform wants from Spring Training is survival. Just head north (or west) in one piece and the spring is officially a success.

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The Joke’s On You

MLB: Washington Nationals at New York Mets

The headline says it all. “In the Mets Clubhouse, An Old Slur Resurfaces.” There is no room for equivocation. There is no way to get around the reality that a member of the Mets coaching staff thought calling a Japanese translator a “Chinaman” was funny. There is no denying pitching Dan Warthen regretted what he said, as he apologized to Daisuke Matsuzaka‘s translator Jeff Cutler for his insensitive remark.

It is with that apology that this story begins. It was the apology that Wall Street Journal reporter Stu Woo overheard the slur in question. It is at this point that Woo leapt to action, his cheeks flushed with righteous anger and his reporter sense for a solid story tingling somewhere in the background.

There is a story in this seemingly innocuous utterance. There is no place for it in a modern workplace. Full stop. Despite the monolithic nature of a baseball clubhouse, jokes like this have no place there. The Mets organization rushed to make the requisite apologies and no doubt, Warthen feels awful. If you asked him, I hazard a guess he would vehemently disagree that he’s a racist. That’s probably because he isn’t.

But the time when folks who are the subject or target of these “jokes” should turn the other cheek passed long ago. Expecting Woo and, to a lesser extent, Cutler to just laugh off these comments is unfair and unrealistic. The onus does not belong on the shoulders of those not in positions of power, as Woo states, to be strong.

There can and should be no more excuses. No more excuses of age or upbringing. No excuse flies. Just don’t do it. Think about who you are and where you are and tailor your comments accordingly. Period. It is not complicated. For a sport that twists itself into knots demanding a nebulous brand of professionalism on the field, a few moments of self-awareness in the clubhouse or on a flight is NOT too much to ask.

All manner of frat boy nonsense takes place in a big league clubhouse on an average day. This does no preclude big league players and coaches from the turning of the earth. It’s a different world, one where Japanese American translators and Chinese American reporters need not bristle when thoughtless comments are cast within their earshot.

I don’t know Dan Warthen. But if he is anything like most reasonable people in 2014, he is probably quite uncomfortable right now. He meant no malice and simply took good natured clubhouse ribbing a step too far. Hopefully, he doesn’t feel persecuted or as though he is the victim here. He isn’t. He is a 61-year old man with a chance to learn something. Even if his only lesson is “don’t make insensitive jokes in front of this minority fella”, it’s a start. Expecting a wave of enlightenment to wash over the baseball culture is foolhardy.

But demanding the end of “boys will be boys” and shrugged shoulders is not too much to ask. It is the bare damn minimum. Hopefully the fraternity of baseball can show some professionalism and respect for the game by uniting to raise the bar slightly above “know your audience.” Dare to dream, I know.

Yankees pitcher  Mussina pitches against Toronto in New York

Hall of Fame ballots, hypothetical or otherwise, are subjective by nature. The list of ten players from this year’s ballot who I deemed, in my infinite wisdom, to be worthy of Hall support was subject to my own whims and shifting criteria.

As has been discussed ad nauseum, there is 15 pounds of Hall of Fame meat on this year’s 10 pound ballot. Multiple worthy candidates will find themselves off the ballots of many voters, who take the seemingly clear edict from the governing body and twist and contort it to their own agenda.

Or maybe different people just value the contributions of given baseball players differently. Using what I believe to be important indicators of pitching prowess, I arrived at a slightly controversial conclusion that Mike Mussina was a better pitcher than Tom Glavine. This aspect of my personal (fake) ballot attracted its fair share of attention.

Mike Mussina has become something of a cause célèbre among baseball writers of a certain vintage – and rightfully so. Mike Mussina is a Hall of Famer. Full stop. And here is why he looks better than a player sure to far more support from the voters at large.

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John Munson/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports

John Munson/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports

David Wright is really good at baseball. If you’re reading this, you probably knew this already. For whatever reason, I feel like this fact gets lost in the shuffle from time to time. “Getting lost in the shuffle” is pretty much what playing third base is all about, but it is important to take a moment or two and recognize that, yes, David Wright is really good.

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At least, that’s what it looks like in this video clip. Sure, they came from behind to beat the beleaguered Yankees in a go-nowhere season but man, at least they had some fun with it. Scratching out two runs against Mariano Rivera on three consecutive bleeders? Whatever. There are no pictures in the box score and this win might well be the highlight of their season.

As was repeated ad nauseum last night, this was the first time in his career that Mariano Rivera blew a save and failed to record an out. Just the third appearance in which he failed to get anybody out of the 1072 career appearances.

So celebrate, weak sisters of Gotham. Last night was your night, you deserve to whoop it up a little bit.