It Will Be Different, Not Easy

With baseball summer camps opening up today, there have been a few stories coming across my feed about how different everything looks with the safety protocols in place. Baseball as we know it won't exist in 2020. It has been replaced by Pandemic Baseball, where everything looks different, sounds different, and can be taken away from you at a moments notice on the whims of a virus that only creeped into our consciousness about 6 months ago.

Jeff Passan had a piece at ESPN today about some of the challenges ahead. According to Passan, at some point today MLB will announce the number of positive COVID-19 tests from all of the teams around the league. However many there are, these players, coaches and other support personnel will all start off the festivities quarantined. There will undoubtedly be more positive tests as the season goes on.

Note: As I was writing this post word has come out that there have been 31 players that have tested positive, along with 7 other staff members. Th…

Rob Manfred Inserts Foot Firmly in Mouth

Rob Manfred went on the Dan Patrick radio show yesterday and essentially admitted that MLB never negotiated in good faith regarding the length of the season. So, basically, Manfred is letting us know that the excruciating weeks we just lived through, where MLB was constantly leaking offers for longer slates of games but included such poison pills as revenue sharing, drastic pay cuts beyond prorated salaries, and lower regular season pay if the playoffs were cancelled, was all just a huge waste of everyone's time.

We'll let Manfred's own words from the interview speak for themselves:
The reality is, we weren't going to play more than 60 games no matter how the negotiations with the players went... We're playing sixty games in sixty-three days. I don't see, given the reality of the health situation over the past few weeks, how we were going to get going any faster than the calendar we're on right now. Of course, once the feces hit the fan, Manfred had somewh…

Questions Answered, Answers Still to Come

I had questions, he had answers. Specifically, a mailbag column from Anthony DiComo at today answered a question that I had on yesterday's post. I wondered whether reliever Dellin Betances had recovered enough to give the Mets a dependable bullpen option. DiComo quoted GM Brodie Van Wagenen on Betances' progress:
We are extremely excited about where he is physically. He's been one of the players that has been off a mound and able to face real hitters here over the course of the last couple weeks in live batting practice, simulated games, however you want to describe it. He's had multiple sessions where he's faced Major League hitters over the course of the last couple weeks, and he's encouraged. Our performance staff evaluated him over the last couple of days, and we're ready to see what he looks like when we start going here. So, while I won't presume to guess what success Betances might enjoy this season, it does sound as if he's going t…

Some Thoughts As Summer Training Looms

It's good to be back writing today. There's a lot to talk about with summer training starting this week. I think a good place to start is with Joel Sherman's article in the New York Post yesterday. Sherman voices a dilemma that I've been dealing with as a a startup becomes reality: while he believes that baseball should attempt to play a season, he still has doubts about it. I feel the same way. Baseball is by far and away the sport I care about. Any of my other sports allegiances are quite minor compared to how I feel about Major League Baseball and the Mets. I do want it back very much in 2020, but I do have some worries about the players and others involved in the sport.

The conventional wisdom seems to be that young, healthy athletes have little to fear from a COVID-19 infection. While they certainly have less reason to fear than a 61-year-old geezer like myself, the truth is that young, healthy individuals can die from the disease, or suffer debilitating lung dam…

More Opportunity for Platoons in 2020

In writing my piece about Mike Vail yesterday, I noted the success Vail enjoyed in a platoon situation while with the Cubs. It called to mind a time when you were much more likely to see two players share a position in a platoon.

It definitely was a part of Mets history, including both world Series winners. In 1969, manager Gil Hodges utilized platoons at first base (Ed Kranepool and Donn Clendenon, second base (primarily Ken Boswell and Al Weis), third base (Wayne Garrett and Ed Charles) and right field (Art Shamsky and Ron Swoboda). In 1986, manager Davey Johnson used platoons, also. Wally Backman and Tim Tuefel shared second base, Hojo and Ray Knight at 3B (not a strict platoon as Knight enjoyed a solid offensive year), and, particularly after George Foster was released, Davey Johnson mixed and matched in LF with Danny Heep, Kevin Mitchell and Mookie Wilson. Wilson would also spell Dykstra in CF occasionally against lefties.

The reason both managers chose to utilize platooning was…

The Six Week Superstar

Following their improbable trip to the 1973 World Series, there was very little that was memorable about the 1974 season for the New York Mets. They lost over 90 games for the first time since 1967. They still featured a strong starting rotation headed by Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and John Matlack, but fourth starter George Stone had come back down to earth after tearing his rotator cuff, the bullpen wasn't great, and the offense was terrible.

They made a couple of deals after the season to try and improve their offense. The big one saw the club ship 1973 hero Tug McGraw along with Don Hahn and Dave Schneck to Philadelphia in exchange for John Stearns, Del Unser and Mac Scarce. The other shipped out backup infielder Teddy Martinez to the Cardinals for utility infielder Jack Heidemann and a well regarded OF prospect named Mike Vail.

The 1975 season was a bit of a bounce back for the Mets, finishing 82-80 in third place in the NL East. Tom Seaver rebounded from his worst season as a…

Baseball: Bruised, But Back

Ken Rosenthal had a nice piece in The Athletic today looking at some of the implications of the 60-game 2020 season. Rosenthal sees the chances of blockbuster trades as being less likely this year, given the threat of COVID-19 cancelling the playoffs, and the likelihood that many of the races will still be close by the August 31 trade deadline.

While I mostly agree with Rosenthal, I think the chances of a blockbuster trade will be tied to how many teams decide they just want to dump all of the payroll they can this season. I'd be surprised if no team decided to do a good old fashioned salary dump, particularly if a team considering the move got off to a bad start. Revenue sharing has pretty much put a stop to this over the past few years, but there is unlikely to be any revenue sharing in 2020. There will also be plenty of uncertainty over exactly how 2021 might go down.

I wouldn't at all be surprised if some teams decide to save money for this year and next, targeting 2022 f…

How Not To Take Responsibility

One of the lessons I had to learn for myself in life was about personal responsibility. It wasn't an easy lesson. While I was basically an honest person when I was younger, if I found myself in a tough spot through my own fault, all too often I found myself looking for any kind of loophole to escape personal responsibility on my part. It didn't matter if it involved lying my way out, I was quick to abandon my personal principles if it got me out of something that I didn't want to deal with.

What I learned the hard way over time was that the cost of evading responsibility in this manner was often higher than the cost of just admitting that something was my fault and dealing with the consequences. Plus, I could look myself in the mirror afterwards without cringing. It's never any fun to take personal blame, and it's not something I look forward to, but in the long run I think it matters. For one thing, you can't fix a mistake that you're not willing to admit…

So We Begin

After weeks of endless posturing and little accomplishment, we now find ourselves at the dawning of something new and almost unfathomably different: a 60-game baseball season beginning near the end of July, played in empty stadiums with a slew of odd health and hygiene rules and some basic changes to the structure of the game itself. I've been a baseball fan for over five decades, and nothing that I've been through in the past will in any way prepare me for what is to come.

There have been work stoppages and curtailed seasons before. Hell, there was a time when it almost seemed weirder to have a season unaffected by labor/management strife. Even when there weren't actual strikes or lockouts there always seemed to be the imminent threat of one looming over the summer game. That feeling that baseball was always on the precipice of being yanked away from us eroded our love of the sport.

What we have now is many times worse. First it was the coronavirus that stole the end of …

Everyone Gets Their Blocks Knocked Off

So, the empty suit that carries the title of Commissioner of Baseball has decreed that there will be a 60-game season this year, provided MLB and the Players could agree on safety protocols this week. There was a genuine opportunity to come to some sort of negotiated agreement between MLB's 60-game proposal and the MLBPA's counter of 70 games, but that was just a bridge too far for MLB to travel to possibly erase a bit of the stain that baseball carries for staging an ugly 6 week dust-up over money.

We came close to real negotiating last week when Rob Manfred flew out to Arizona to meet with Tony Clark. Inevitably, however, there was a dispute over whether the fruits of that meeting was a definite agreement or the framework of one, and the idea of one last negotiation over the number of games played was the almost farcical immovable obstacle to being able to get some positive PR by actually coming to a mutual agreement.

MLB said the owners were "disappointed" when t…

Alex and Jennifer Still in It

A new report out today indicates that Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez have found a billionaire to back their play for the New York Mets. Citing a tweet by Darren Rovell of the Business of Sports Betting, the billionaire's name is Mike Repole, described as a lifelong Mets fans and a native of Queens, and he has joined the group that Rodriguez and Lopez are putting together.

It's funny, but the way this has been reported on, every time a week goes by without a mention, Alex and Jennifer are written off. It takes some time to put together the type of money that they're looking for, particularly since their vision is more ambitious than just owning the Mets. Their idea is to turn Citi Field and the area surrounding into an entertainment venue along with local shopping and dining options designed to make the area a "sticky" type of place where people would look to spend the day rather than just shooting in and out strictly to watch games.

I was a little skeptical o…