Rockie Start

Somewhere in Denver, a witch stumbled drunkenly into Coors Field and cast a spell that said the Colorado Rockies will be a good team every 10 years. And poof! Here we are in 2017, just a decade after the Red Sox swept them in the World Series. It was such a sweep, that I didn’t even remember that the Rockies were the other team that went to the World Series in 2007. 

The Rockies were off to a great start this year. A start that maybe we’ve seen a handful of times before, but as my friend and Denver native always said about them “it never lasts.” And so I watched the NL West, waiting to see if and when the Rockies would take their eventual tumble. But it never came. They’ve battled it out with the Diamondbacks, another team that’s been a surprise for the season, and now are nearly in a three way tie for the top with the Dodgers too. 

Much like the Mets of 2015 the Rockies are blessed with a young pitching staff. Kyle Freeland, Antonio Senzatela, German Marquez and Jeff Hoffman have a collective ERA of 3.66. But unlike the Mets of 2015, they’ve always had the offense ready to go. 

I’ve always said that the Rockies would never have a young successful pitching staff considering Coors Field is such a hitters park. In fact it has to be the ultimate hitters park. The mountain air is so thin, you could sneeze and hit a home run out there. Yet here are the Rockies, currently posting a record of 46-26. 

If you’re still not convinced this is going to be a magical season for them. Look no further than Nolan Arenado’s walk off home run yesterday to beat the Giants. A walk off that was also the last piece he needed to hit for the cycle:

Now, I don’t know if this means they’ll make it all the way back to the Fall Classic. But the signs are there, and they have more than enough pieces to battle it out and win the NL west. 

The Impact of the MLB Draft

Draft days for professional sports are made into quite the production. The MLB draft however fun and interesting to watch, doesn’t usually have a huge impact on the drafting teams. Yes. It’s very exciting to see young talent drafted right out of high school. And in the days leading up to the draft, sports analysts and broadcasters will debate which teams will pick which top prospect, and all that I can ever think about this is “does it really matter?” 

Sure the Braves drafted a top pitching prospect Kyle Wright from Vanderbilt. He’ll stay in their minor league system anywhere from 3-5 years and then maybe make an appearance for the team. The truth of the matter is most of these young prospects won’t even end up playing for the team that drafted them. At some point some of these top guys could be used as trade bait if a particular team should fall into a “win now” situation in the next two or three years. 

I think about the Red Sox last season. Tossing all of their young talent to the highest bidder to boost their chances at another World Series. Mocada, Kopech, Basabe, and Diaz all went to the White Sox for Chris Sale. Mocada and Kopech were two young talented players I thought for sure we’d see playing for Boston in the coming years. I remember particular fanfare being made around Mocada and his abilities at the plate. And then just like that he’s off to play for a different pair of Sox. 

There’s of course absolutely nothing wrong with this trading process. It’s all part of the game. As for the teams that do develop and hold on to their first round picks, I salute you. There’s nothing more magical that watching a player develop through a teams farm system and then eventually make his debut for them. My point here is that because of the way that this usually plays out, is not to put such weight and over analyzation on what teams selected who and when durning the draft. 

The NFL draft is really the only case where drafted players have the option to make an impact on the team that drafted them right away. So it makes sense to have all that coverage and daily updates. But it’s clear that the MLB draft never has that immediate of an affect of what ever team drafts a particular player. To the point where one broadcaster even said “I guess will see how this pick works out in 5 years.” 

All of this aside, I can see how it’s still fun to watch. In fact, one of my favorite things is just seeing the reaction of the players once they’ve been drafted. Celebrating with their families, that reaction of pure joy on their faces knowing this is everything they’ve worked so hard for, and at the same time, that there’s still so much further to go. 

Dodger Blues

As of next month, for the first time in my life, I will be living outside of the city where I grew up. Not just a few minutes away, but across the country in Los Angeles. Aside from the difficulties of leaving friends and family behind, I will of course be leaving behind my beloved New York Mets. In the past four years I’ve lived just a half hour train ride from Citi Field. If I went to my roof at night and the Mets had a home game, I could see the faint stadium lights in the distance while listening to the game on the radio. Citi Field has always been one of the places that has felt like a second home to me, and leaving it behind is going to be like saying goodbye to one of my best friends. 

LA. My new home on the west coast is a 10 minute drive from Dodger Stadium. A beautiful ballpark in it’s own right. Home to the team that I probably would have grown up loving if they hadn’t done exactly what I’m doing now, trading New York for sunnier skies and the hope of better things. My great Uncle Nick was a huge Dodgers fan back in the day, and once they left for California, he was one of many who jumped on board to love this new team they called the Mets. And so started one half of the line of Mets fans in my family. 

I love baseball, I’ll still be able to watch Mets games on MLB.tv, and I have no doubt that living so close to Dodger Stadium I’ll attend plenty of games. Especially on those days where LA feels a little lonely. And yet, I’m oh so hesitant to say that I’ll be a Dodgers fan. It all goes back to the 2015 NLDS. Mets/Dodgers and of course the Chase Utley slide that broke Ruben Tejada’s leg.

As a die hard Mets fan, it’s difficult to not have this still leave a bad taste in your mouth. Though the truth is this dislike is more for Utley than the team as a whole. It’s hard to say whether or not these teams have a real “rivalry” going since they only met the one time in that very intense post season series. 

There are things I enjoy about the Dodgers though, one of them being Justin Turner. Forever the Met that got away. I adored him and at the time felt as though I was the only one who saw his potential to be a great player. But of course those were the days when David Wright could still stand and we thought we wouldn’t need Turner. He’s fun to watch and a class act both on and off the field. 

I suppose if I look at what I like about the team, and hope that I don’t have to see Chase Utley’s face after this season. There could be potential there to say that the Dodgers could grow into my second favorite team. A home away from home. Something I would probably say about any other team, in any other city (EXCEPT THE NATS) until the Mets come to town. Then, I’ll be decked out in orange and blue, screaming for New York. 

The Dodgers left New York in 1957, and 60 years later, I’m doing the same. 

Bay Area Brawl

It’s unseasonably cold in New York but I had the pleasure of spending Memorial Day at Citi Field watching the Mets beat the Brewers. The Mets are now 3-0 in games I’ve attended this season. (One of them being a road game in Philly) And if I was planning to be in New York for the rest of the season I would make a healthy case for someone to buy me a season ticket plan. (More on my move away from NY in a later post.) 

But the more entertaining story of the day was out in San Francisco, where everyone’s favorite bro-y baby man Bryce Harper chose to charge the mount after Strickland nails him in the hip with a 98 mph pitch. Now, as much as I love a good fight in hockey, I do not love a fight in baseball. Hockey lends it self to violence, where as in baseball, it just seems unnecessary. The Nats were up on the Giants, and they would go on to win the game 3-0. There was absolutely no reason for Harper to react the way he did. Also, the man clearly cannot throw a helmet at someone the right way. 

Strickland isn’t totally innocent here. Some were wondering if this was a revenge throw for Harper hitting two home runs off him back in 2014 during the NLDS. I highly doubt that was the reasoning behind the throw. As if Bryce Harper doesn’t give everyone in the MLB a new reason to hate him every other day. There’s no way the man is holding a grudge from the year the Giants ended up winning the World Series. 

The only fun part about this whole thing were the photos. I mean come on, they look like oil paintings from a war scene:

So much drama. So much bad hair flowing in the wind. Two Giants players collided with each other. I think one of them was Brandon Crawford? Anyway, you can checkout the full video here.

Does Pitching Win Championships?

The Mets losing streak has officially hit 6 games and even though they’re well below the .500 mark the NL east is so terrible that they’ve still managed to hang on to second place. And as I continue to watch their steady decline into a place that’s a bit more familiar for the team. I can’t help but wonder if maybe building around young starting pitching was a terrible idea. 

A couple years back the Bleacher Report put out this article dissecting the anatomy of a championship team. The key here it seems, is to have a majority of your players “home grown” from within the team’s farm system. I couldn’t agree more. It’s just that usually those particular players are a bit more spread out throughout their positions on the field. What the Mets had was a talented crop of young fireballers that all came up around the same time. 

This did two things: it depleted their farm system of most of it’s pitching talent (yes we still have one or two left in low A ball) and it meant that there was a bit less of a focus on the young talent of the position players. 

Sure, it was a dream when all the young starters had just come up and were healthy. 2015 was a great year for the Mets. But two years later we’re seeing just how much of a problem it can be to build a team around just those young arms. It looks like some of those teams mentioned in the article have at least, one or two home grown aces on their staff, but it’s the other home grown position players, putting up those offensive numbers as well that became crucial in winning those championships. That’s why the Royals were able to win it all in 2015. Funny how even that bleacher report article from 2011 mentions young Royal’s stars like Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer. Two players who became main fixtures in that team just 4 years later. 

It’s not all bad for the Mets though. Some may consider this year already lost, but I think going forward that championship window is still open for them. I can’t see Harvey sticking around but they’ll at least lock down DeGrom and Syndergaard. Two pitchers who are more than capable of being aces on this staff and have made it clear in the past that they would be thrilled to be able to stay in New York. We need to throw away that pipe dream of the perfect pitching staff and work with what’s actually in front of us. You don’t need a staff of five flamethrowers, round out the rest with some good pitchers with solid command. By that time the Mets will have officially brought up young prospects Dominic Smith (1B) and Amed Rosario (SS) both of whom are currently excelling in triple A. TJ Rivera will stick around to play 3B (I hope) and Conforto has already shown so much improvement and a key to the future as both a hitter and an outfielder. 

If the Mets do it right, this won’t be the fall of Rome. It will just be a little hiccup in what could be very bright 2018-2019 seasons for them. That window of opportunity is still open, now it’s just a matter of whether or not they’ll throw themselves out of it. 

 

One of the Greats.

If I haven’t made it abundantly clear at this point, from my posts, or the Noah Syndergaard banner on the site, I am a Mets fan. True blue, till I die, most likely from a heart attack that the team will give me. 

I grew up in a house divided. My mother was a Yankee fan and my father a Mets fan. And while she left my father to select my baseball religion, I did end up watching a lot of Yankee games on certain nights. I started following baseball in 1998. Right around the time where the Yankees were on their consecutive World Series runs, and the Mets had one of the best infields in baseball. 2000 was a heartbreak in my home. Watching my mom and sister celebrate their victory over that “other team from New York” when I was 10 years old wasn’t easy. My father kind of just looked at me with a face that said “Yeah, get used to this being a Mets fan.” I was fine with that, and settled nicely into the role of lovable losers with the Mets. 

Since the Mets often missed the playoffs, I found myself watching a lot of Yankee games with my mom in the fall, getting to enjoy Derek Jeter’s classic moments. We stayed up late to see him become Mr. November, and watched in awe at “The Flip” in the 2003 ALDS against the A’s. And even though there were times where my dislike for the Yankees was at an all time high, I always liked and respected Derek Jeter for being a class act, and one of the best in the game. 

I remember jumping up and down in the living room with her on those nights where the Yankees won it all. Those four years (aside from the year they beat the Mets) were nothing if not an absolute thrill to witness. It’s amazing to know I got to grow up in a time where I could watch a baseball legend born on the field. I often think about how it must have been how kids felt growing up and getting to see players like Mantle and Ruth. 

And while my dad made me a Mets fan, it was my mom’s passion for baseball and her team, that made me become that type of baseball fan that I am today. She would cut out the Yankees (and Mets) schedules from the Daily News and attach them to our fridge. Then on the Yankee schedule she would add either a “W” or an “L” within each little box after every game to keep track throughout the season. And I knew that at 7pm each night that it was time for baseball, my mom would settle in with her espresso on the couch and we could watch with her. 

And so because yesterday was mother’s day I wanna say thanks to the woman who gave me so much and is truly one of the greats. Here’s a photo of my mom attempting to make me a Yankee fan at a young age and I guess my face pretty much says it all:

Darkest Before the Dawn…

This is the last bit I will say about this Matt Harvey incident that transpired over the past few days. Harvey is much like a spoiled child that the Mets are now trying to suddenly keep in control. And while he offered an apologize yesterday, the whole vibe seemed to be more so in the vein of “I’m doing this because I have to” but the media and his teammates seem to be satisfied with it for now. 

The reason I say this, is because Harvey was quoted for things like “I will do everything in my power to make sure this doesn’t happen again.” Yeah, I’d hope so. You’re a 28 year old man, and you’re talking about your choice to party and stay out at a club on Cinco De Mayo as though it was a natural disaster that could have been prevented if you would have just put a few more sandbags down at the ocean wall. Act like an adult, and maybe just don’t choose to party two nights before your next start. 

Somehow in the midst of all this chaos though, the Mets are still playing well. Conforto is making sure no one takes his starting job away from him, Wheeler pitched fantastic last night, and TJ Rivera has a major league batting average of .327. They’ve already managed to take 2 of 3 from the ailing last place Giants and can hopefully complete a sweep today with Tommy Milone on the mound. 

So to quote that cheesy but relevant line from what I believe was said in second film in the Dark Knight series: “It’s always darkest before the dawn, but I promise you, dawn is coming.” 

Maybe not for Matt Harvey, but the Mets seem like they can carry on just fine without him. 

Gotham. Is. Pissed.

To say that the Mets are off to a rocky start to their season at this point would be a gross understatement. Injuries plague the team, Syndergaard is now on the 60 day DL, Cabrera is lucky that his thumb injury isn’t worse, Cespedes still has yet to rejoin the line up. But despite all these things, the Mets seemed to be on the up and up these past few games. They came back to win in Miami after being down 7-1, and that’s just the type of teasing hope that Mets fans get right before we are kicked in the face. 

News broke yesterday that Matt Harvey would be suspended for 3 days without pay. The suspension had apparently started the night before, but what this meant was that Harvey would not start the Sunday afternoon game. Instead, Adam Wilk was called up from Las Vegas to pitch in his place. 

Mets fans have pretty much had it at this point with Harvey’s non sense. I don’t doubt of course that if Harvey had been putting up great numbers that this incident may have not been as big of a deal. But Harvey in all aspects seems to have been on the steady decline since 2015 ended. The years of 2012-13 playing the Dark Knight, hero for his team and city seem to be over. And every time it looks like he may turn a corner and head back in that direction, something like this happens, or he says something stupid because of his agent, or he’s hurt again. This is just another awful distraction for a team who for the first time in over a decade could have had a potential shot at another World Series run. 

Some are speculating that the suspension may have had something to do with the clubhouse prank pictured below after the Saturday night game {NSFW}: 

And while crass, it seems unlikely that this would be the case. There’s also no proof that Harvey was behind said prank. Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins were both pretty pissed about what ever the issue actually was and both are determined to try and keep the issue in house. 

The New York media is ruthless, and it’s only a matter of time before we all find out what it was that got Harvey suspended for “a violation of club rules,” and for three days without pay it must have been something that really upset the organization. 

To add insult to injury, instead of acting like an adult about the situation Harvey is instead fighting the 3 game suspension. My guess is that Harvey won’t be a Met much longer after this. The past season and a half Harvey seems to be more trouble than he’s worth. The Mets organization and fans are getting frustrated and tired of waiting for him to grow up. 

Late in the Game

Baseball fans! I know, I’m super late writing my first post of the 2017 season. We’re already through the month of April and to say baseball’s first month was interesting would be an understatement. I’ve been going through some big life adjustments so hence the quiet April on my end, but I’m back and officially off the DL. 

Speaking of the DL, that’s where most of the Mets have been living. Syndergaard, Cespedes, Matz, Duda, Flores, am I missing someone? Probably. Because that list is already far too long for my liking after one month of baseball. At the Mets home opener this year things seemed hopeful. They beat the Braves 6-0 and as usual for a brief shinning moment Mets fans felt that “this would be the year.” It’s still very early of course, too soon to really say that it’s absolutely not going to be the year, but losing to the Nationals 23-5 after your ace pitcher is injured, doesn’t exactly leave anyone with an air of confidence. 

It hasn’t just been the Mets though, April shattered everyone’s expectations of who would be at the top of their division. Both Colorado and Arizona sit at the top of the NL West standings and the Giants are dead last. The Cubs have a hold of the NL Central but are still only one win over .500, and in the AL East, Boston and Toronto can’t seem to get their offense going. Although Chris Coghlan flipping over Yadier Molina was absolutely spectacular:

I can watch that video a hundred times and still can’t believe he managed to pull that off. But despite where things stand at the end of April, there’s still a lot of baseball left to play. My hope is that things will start trending upward for these teams with high expectations. But if not, it will have been the year of the upset from the moment the season has started. 

If The Knight Never Rises

I read an article the other day making the case that March baseball is the absolute worst. I’d never thought about it too much before but it was actually making a great point. February baseball is exciting because everything is just starting up again, but by the time those first few games of March roll around, you’re already tired of seeing your favorite players leave the game after two innings. It slowly settles in that there are no stakes to the game and you’re just praying to every god above that no one important sustains a crazy injury. 

March baseball is also a great time to send yourself into a panic over players that you think should be performing better after having a 4 month vacation. As a Mets fan, I’m surprisingly blessed this Spring Training. Everyone has been looking fantastic offensively from the Triple A regulars, to the big guns like Cespedes. He’s made hitting home runs look so effortless that I’ve come to expect it every time he’s at the plate. The Captain, David Wright, is forever going to be dealing with what ever his back injury wants to do, but you can’t help but appreciate the positivity he brings to that clubhouse. Lucas Duda has gone back to being the Hulk, launching doubles to centerfield, something I hope can carry into the season itself. And then of course, there was the Dark Knight. Matt Harvey, who has been looking more and more like Harvey Dent than Bruce Wayne in these past two seasons. 

With the exception of the norse god Noah Syndergaard, the Mets pitching staff had quite the round of surgeries last season. At one point it was mentioned that Noah had a bone spur as well, but, I’m assuming it just turned into a bolt of lightening and he launched it at the Empire State building one muggy summer afternoon in August. 

Matt Harvey was once that hero that Mets fans looked to to “save our city.” But to say last season was a fall from grace would be an understatement. Matt went 4-10 with a 4.86 ERA before they were able to diagnose that he needed surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome which was causing numbness in his pitching arm. 

It was a genuine relief, only because you’d rather know it was something causing such a poor display rather than just the simple fact that Harvey “lost his stuff.” But despite the injury, I do think the dynamic of the pitching staff may have messed with his head a little. New York isn’t an easy town to be a professional athlete. The media is ruthless. And Harvey rode that wave well when he was the sole savior of the franchise in 2012 and 2013. Prompting covers such as this one which famously cemented his nickname:

But once Syndergaard, Matz, and DeGrom came up and proved to be just as good, if not better at times, I think it upset something in Harvey’s balance on this team. This isn’t to say that there’s any dislike or animosity towards his teammates. I don’t doubt that this rotation does nothing but support each other and offer that type of competitive atmosphere that’s healthy to have on a staff with so many aces. But it doesn’t mean that those little demons still don’t get to Harvey in his head. 

We’ve been waiting patiently to see Harvey “good as new” on his first Spring Training start, which took place this past weekend. He cruised through the first inning. And like a fool I was screaming “He has risen!” as if it was Easter Sunday. Then came the top of the second and it was like a carbon copy of so many games I’d watched last summer. A solid start, followed by and immediate implosion. 

Now, I know it’s only his first start back since July. It’s still Spring Training. But the numbers aren’t great for pitchers returning from this surgery. Most of the time they never return back to what they were before. I mean the surgery itself includes having a rib removed. Some Mets fans would soon call to have more ribs removed before fully admitting that Harvey won’t ever return to what he once was. 

But say he never really does return to that form. The Mets never get the Fab Five they’ve been dreaming of since 2013. It’s going to be okay. For once, the Mets pitching depth is still pretty solid. And after seeing Lugo and Gsellman carry them into the post season last year, having Harvey not at his best won’t be as much of a crushing blow as it may have been two or three years ago. 

The truth is only time will tell. Right now it’s still only early March, there’s a full month of games left to play, and Spring Training is making me twitch.