As It Should Be

News broke this morning that as part of the new collective bargaining agreement between MLP and the MLBPA the All-Star game will no longer determine which leagues representative in the World Series will have home field advantage as it has for the last 14 season. The rule was established to make the All-Star game more competitive but it was a silly rule to have in place for an exhibition game. Home field advantage in the World Series will now go to the pennant winning team with the better regular season record.

This actually fixes two bad rules in one move. First, obviously, the relationship of meaningful games being determined by an exhibition game. But second is the determination of home field advantage in the World Series.

Even before the All-Star game rule the rule for determining home field advantage in the World Series was broken. Through 2002 home field was rotated between both leagues (American and National) every year. This is almost as silly as the All-Star game rule and was actually unfair to teams that achieved better win-loss records on their way to the World Series.

With this rule change home field advantage in the World Series will go to the team that actually earns it. This move is good for competition and good for the game.

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Welcome Back, Cespedes

The signing of Yoenis Cespedes signals the start of the 2017 season. With this signing the Mets are saying they are looking at this season as one in which they will try to win as opposed to one in which they will rebuild.

Cespedes gives the Mets the heavy bat in the middle of the order that’s needed to compete but also gives the Mets flexibility with which to make a deal for another need due to a glut of outfielders. Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson, Michael Conforto and Juan Lagares are the other outfielders the Mets have that are of starting quality. It appears the Mets would be most likely to trade Bruce or Granderson. Both are entering the walk years in their contracts and could fetch some value on the market. The Mets could use some relief help so this could be how they get it.

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Mets Rotation Inexperienced

An important thing to remember with regard to the Mets starting pitching heading into the 2016 season: this rotation is still very inexperienced on the Major league level.

Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler both pitched parts of 2 seasons (albeit large parts) before succumbing to Tommy John surgery. Harvey is only one season into his post surgery career and Wheeler isn’t even scheduled to return to game action until July. Jacob DeGrom has been great but is coming off his first full season. Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz are both headed into their first full season. Bartolo Colon has a wealth of experience but the rest of this rotation will still be learning about themselves throughout the season.

Last season was great for all of these pitches (except, of course, for Wheeler) and is certainly reason to be excited and optimistic for 2016. And the Mets seem to be optimistic enough about their prospects for success this season to bring back Yoenis Cespedes to start the season instead of waiting for the trade deadline to see if it’s worth it to bring in a big bat.

There’s reason to be optimistic but let’s not get over confident.

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Utley Play Hard But Clean

As a Mets fan I hate what happened to Ruben Tejada on Saturday night. Tejada was taken out on a hard slide by Chase Utley. Utley was trying to break up a double play but slid into Tejada’s plant leg and not only took him out of the play but took him out of the season. Tejada suffered a broken leg.

After some deliberation Utley was suspended for 2 games (games 3 and 4 of the NLDS to be played tonight and tomorrow night). Utley is appealing the suspension and MLB is hoping to hear the appeal today so they can finalize a decision before game time.

I’m going to take what will probably be an unpopular stance as a Mets fan and say that Utley should not be suspended. Was the slide hard? Yes. Was it against the rules? No.

I don’t like that Utley slid so hard. I don’t like that Tejada got hurt. But these kinds of slides have been happening since the game was created. There is nothing in the rules that prevents them. As long as the runner is in the baseline, which at second base is defined as being within arms reach of the base, the runner can do what he wants. There is an exception when there is intent to injure but I don’t think this was Utley’s intention. The fact that Utley didn’t end up touching the base does not prove intent to injure. Utley mere meant to take Tejada out of the play.

Though I don’t think there was anything against the rules with the play I do think this case should lead MLB to reexamine the rules for plays at second base this offseason. Considering the possibility of injury on such plays it is comparable to plays at home plate. When San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey was injured in a home plate collision the rules for those plays were reviewed and revised. I would hope that MLB will likewise review the rules at 2nd base (and even 3rd base) and revise them if necessary.

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Still No Expectations

Matthew Cerrone at Metsblog wrote a post this morning that I had intended to write. The gist of the post is that the season is fraught with challenges and losing two of three to the Yankees over the weekend presents one such challenge. That challenge is: how will this team rebound from the adversity of underperforming against the Yankees?

On the plus side for the Mets is that they have a 4.5 game lead in the division and are 9 games over .500 at this early stage of the season. These are accomplishments that nobody expected and likewise nobody expects them to hold onto as the season continues. This lack of expectations removes much of the pressure first place teams normally experience. It enables the team to band together with a “let’s prove them wrong” rally call.

Another advantage is playing a three game set against the Marlins this week before squaring off against the Washington Nationals next weekend, a team with big expectations that has struggled early this season. The Marlins provide an opportunity for the Mets to rebound and regain their confidence before the Nationals raid CitiField.

I’m still optimistic for this team. But, as always, cautiously so.

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Optimism After 10 Games

I know it’s only 10 games into a 162 game season but I must say that it was nice waking up this morning in a world where the Mets are in first place. Starting the season winning 2 out of 3 from the Washington Nationals (who are 4-4 since that series) was exciting for Mets fans considering the Nationals are odds on favorites to win the division. But even with the drop in competition since that series – the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies and Miami Marlins – the team put together a 5-2 stretch that is rare for recent Mets teams. And with 6 more games against Marlins and Braves over the next 7 days things are looking good for the team for another week before meeting the Yankees next weekend.

It hasn’t come without it’s negative repercussions. Injuries to Jenrry Mejia and David Wright will make the next few weeks more challenging. Mejia’s role as closer will be capably filled by Jeurys Familia, who may be the better choice for the job anyway (but that’s a different discussion), and will be up for a challenge later in the season when Bobby Parnell returns. The loss of Wright will be of obviously bigger impact. His replacement, Eric Campbell, will be hard pressed to replace the production of Wright. (Yes, I know he doesn’t really have to.)

But despite these negatives I’m still optimistic, a feeling Mets fans have already abandoned 10 games into the season in recent years.

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Lineup for Opening Day 2015

Here’s the lineup for today’s opening day game against the Washington Nationals:

3 Curtis Granderson RF
5 David Wright 3B
21 Lucas Duda 1B
23 Michael Cuddyer LF
28 Daniel Murphy CF
12 Juan Lagares CF
15 Travis d’Arnaud C
4 Wilmer Flores SS
40 Bartolo Colon P

Is it just me or is this a very odd lineup?

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The ARod Apology Letter

Much was made out of Alex Rodriguez‘s handwritten apology letter to Yankees fans earlier this week. Everything I read about it was negative. Many called for ARod to have done an apology press conference instead of a letter. But while a press conference would have been better do you really think it would have turned out much differently?

Picture this: ARod comes to press conference, reads prepared statement and leaves without answering any questions. How would that have gone over with the critics?

Or this: ARod comes to press conference, reads prepared statement and answers questions evasively. How about that?

No matter what ARod did here it would have been the wrong thing. Would I have liked to have seen him talk to the media? Yes. Would I have liked to have seen him fess up to what he did? Yes. But we all know that he never would have done this. Considering there would be backlash regardless of what he did or said I don’t blame ARod for taking the easy way out.

But let’s get to the reality here. In sports all that matters is on field performance. If ARod gets it done on the field this season then all those Yankees fans who have been upset with him for the last couple of years will become his biggest supporters. Some may even become his biggest defenders. All will be forgiven and (mostly) forgotten. Of course it goes the other way too. If he doesn’t get it done on the field then he’s in for a very long year.

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More Fun

I wrote a post last season when the Mets played the Yankees last year abut how baseball was fun again for at least a couple of nights. That’s how I feel about the two game set the two teams just completed at Yankee Stadium. Curtis Granderson returned to Yankee Stadium and belted a home run in each game and the Mets scored a total of 21 runs in both games. Just plain fun for Mets fans. With the Subway Series continuing with 2 games at CitiField starting tonight I fear we’ll be going back to our regularly scheduled Mets heartache so enjoy it while you can.

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Can’t Criticize Murph

Daniel Murphy missed the first 2 games of the season to witness the birth of his first child and spend a couple of days on paternity leave. Yesterday he took a beating from Boomer Esiason, Craig Carton and Mike Francesa for doing it. All of them basically saying “you’re a professional so go do you job”. I don’t blame them for their opinions but strongly disagree with them.

In Esiason’s sport, football, it’s much easier for an expectant father to schedule around a game. Although teams practice all week there’s only one game a week. Sure missing a day of practice is not a good thing but it’s not as bad as missing a game. (I won’t discuss Carton because, honestly, I don’t listen enough to know where he’s coming from.)

And don’t get me started on Francesa, whose ideas about almost everything are archaic and often times contradictory. I still can’t understand how a guy like that has managed to stay on the air this long but that’s a different discussion.

Regardless of these points we live in times where this is how paternity is done. Most companies have policies that allow new fathers some time off upon the birth or, at some companies, the adoption of a child. This is a common thing. If I would expect to take some time off for a child how could I criticize Murphy for doing the same thing? Why is his team any different than the team I work with? We both work with teams trying to get a job done. Finances aside (as Murphy is obviously being paid much more than I am) why is his team any different than mine?

Esiason, Carton and Francesa are off base here. The only thing appalling is that Murphy needs to defend himself in the face of this sad criticism. As annoyed as I may have been that Murphy wasn’t available for the games he missed (simply because you don’t want to be down a player) I don’t blame Murphy a bit for taking the time off.

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